When a referendum-battered Jean Chrétien plucked Stéphane Dion out of academia in 1995, few would have predicted that the Montreal university professor would one day become the lead contender for the title of Energizer Bunny in the House of Commons.
Almost two decades later it seems he will not call it quits until he has outlasted all his political contemporaries. Dion is already the second-longest serving Quebec MP in Parliament, after the Bloc Québécois' Louis Plamondon.
The two prime ministers he served under have retired, as have his most notable former leadership rivals.
The sovereignty movement he came to Parliament to fight after the 1995 referendum is in disarray. Dion's former Bloc detractors may be on the verge of parliamentary extinction.
In the same circumstances, most other politicians would declare their mission accomplished.
And yet Dion, who first ran in a 1996 byelection, is poised to stand as the Liberal candidate in the Montreal riding of Saint-Laurent-Cartierville for an eighth time next year.
If he is re-elected next year he will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the last referendum in Parliament.
Some MPs stick around because they have nothing better to do but with two independence votes coming up in Scotland and Catalonia this fall, Dion's expertise is in demand at home and abroad.
He also is the Canadian politician most identified to the climate change issue on the international environment circuit these days.
What could possibly keep him on the political treadmill?
When I caught up with a vacationing Dion earlier this month, he noted - with a smile in his voice - that he would have left a decade ago if Paul Martin's team had not tried to use the prospect of a nomination challenge to rush him out the door.
He adds that had Justin Trudeau been keen to use his relatively safe riding to bring in new blood, he would not be running next year. He says Trudeau thought the experience he brought to the Liberal mix was worth keeping.
On balance, Trudeau is better off with Dion in his lineup. So far, his Quebec election slate is challenged for gravitas.
In Quebec, the Liberal leader has his work cut out for him convincing many francophone voters that his party is not just that of his father. Dion's presence reinforces that message.
Over his decades in federal politics, he has consistently defended the Quebec language laws. In his previous academic life, Dion was a supporter of the Meech Lake Accord. Pierre Trudeau fought tooth and nail against both.
And then over the past few years the terms of the Quebec conversation have changed for the better for Chrétien's post-referendum champion.
In 2004 Martin wanted Dion out, the better to woo nationalist Quebecers. A decade ago, the Bloc was Quebec's dominant party and Dion's clarity act made for cumbersome baggage for the Liberal party to carry in nationalist territory.
That load is lighter today and not just because Scotland's straightforward approach to an upcoming independence referendum is bringing leading sovereigntists around to the virtues of clarity.
The sovereignty movement's failure to adapt to a generational change has it running on empty. That same generational change has benefited Dion. For many younger Quebec voters, the referendum and the constitutional wars are ancient history. In their eyes, Dion's climate change credentials are more relevant than his federalist battle scars.
Dion says he is staying in the game to participate in setting the country in another direction, under a "better" prime minister. Almost 20 years on, that has him running to the beat of the same anti-Conservative drummer as an overwhelming majority of his fellow Quebecers.
They are as united in their wish to turn the page on the Harper era these days as they used to be divided over their political future.
But there is also a personal side to Dion's resolve to be part of the next election fight. In the same way that the prospect of taking on a Trudeau son (and beating him) is one of Stephen Harper's incentives for seeking a fourth mandate, little would give the former Liberal leader more satisfaction than seeing the Conservative team that so vilified him defeated.
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer.