Saturday, May 06, 2006

Blogging the LPC(O), Night One: Leadership

Well, it’s 12:20 am-ish and I’m back from the first night of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario)’s annual convention in Toronto. I’m also pretty tired and a little tipsy, so forgive me any typos or meanderings; they’ll be corrected in the morning.

Tonight’s highlight was the leadership forum where all 11 or so (who can count that high?) candidates got a chance to strut their stuff. It was a good night, and went a long way to solidifying my choice in my mind. I’m not quite ready to write an endorsement post yet, but probably will be tomorrow. My shortlist is down from three people to two, and I’m 95 percent sold on my top pick.

The main ballroom was packed for the evening’s agenda, and so were the hospitality suites. More on those later, but the organizers announced 1200 delegates in attendance. Not too bad. I also met up with Libloggers Cerberus, Cherniak and Shoshana and had a good chat with them about the leadership candidates.

The Leadership Forum

On to the main event. All 11 candidates were there, even the newest, Hedy Fry. I’ll comment of their three-minute or so opening remarks in the order they spoke, and to be fair to those who say coverage of female politicians always includes what they’re wearing I’ll include what the guys were wearing too.

Scott Brison: Scotty was up first looking dashing as always, wearing a suit and blue stripped tie. He railed against Harper’s budget for the first half of his remarks, and then said just attacking Harper won’t cut it. He said he would move Canada not left, and not right, but forward, causing me to fight the urge to yell “forward, not backward, upward, not forward, and always twirling, twirling twirling toward freedom!” French was awkward.

Maurizio Bevilacqua: He wore a suit with a red tie, and his hand motions were impressive.

Stephane Dion: He went for the casual look, suit jacket and open collar blue dress shirt. He started off slow with slightly awkward English and stepped on a few of his applause lines, but built steam and passion as he went on. He talked about Laurier’s unifying vision, the Liberal Party’s two pillars of social justices and economic management, and the need to add a third pillar, environmental sustainability. He returned to the three pillars often during the night. Good audience reaction by the end of his opening. And his French was excellent.

Martha Hall Findlay: A jacket and white blouse, French was fluent. Talked about the need for leadership from a new generation, and new blood.

Hedy Fry: Wore a red blouse of some sort and a broach, passable French. Spoke about the need to restore our values and lots of boilerplate Canadiana. Had some good lines that got a good reaction though. She called multiculturalism our secret “weapon of mass inclusion", and made one of the few specific policy commitments by promising to reinstate the Kelowna Accord (to strong applause), and ended with a reference to her defeat of Kim Campbell in 1993 that the crowd lapped-up: “I defeated the last Tory Prime Minister, I can defeat this one too!”

Gerard Kennedy: Suit with the requisite blue dress shirt and a red paisley (I think) tie. French seemed accented but perhaps passable. He seemed very low energy; I remarked to a few people it was like the room deflated when he took the mic. A friend organizing for Kennedy told me he’s not feeling at all well, so that could be it. Style aside, content-wise he didn’t grab me. He talked about the country he wanted his daughter, now age 8, to have in 10 years at age 18. He called Canada the “world’s first international country.” I don’t know what that means. He made the Stephen Harper is Mike Harris argument, and took an amusing shot at Jeffrey Simpson in French.

Carolyn Bennett: Violet? jacket, blue blouse, pearls. Carolyn wasn’t on my shortlist and still isn’t, but I was so impressed with her I considered for a little bit giving her my vote on a first ballot before moving to a candidate with a chance on the second. She was my surprise of the night. Her theme was what she called “democracy between elections” and empowering the grassroots, and it really resonated with me and spoke to a lot of what I feel is wrong with the Liberal Party. I’d like to delve into the grassroots disconnect more fully in a later depth, but tonight Carolyn said while the Liberals have a record of achievement, how we did it was disastrous. Canadians believed we stopped listening to them and so we lost the activists, and we need to get them back. She also said we need to empower the members, and not just during campaigns but between them too, and that the culture of the party needs to change. I couldn’t agree more, and dido much of the attendees tonight, judging by the applause. And her French seemed good.

Michael Ignatieff: Like Dion, went with the casual look, suit jacket and open collar blue shirt. Kissed up to the audience a bit then talked about Canadian values, social equality, financial management and national unity. We need to be the party of equality of opportunity. Brought up the credentialing issue, getting a good reaction with the line “I’m tired of talking to cabbies with more degrees than me, we need to get them from the cab to the lab.” Took some shots at Harper, good French, clenched first hand motion off-putting.

Bob Rae: Suit with blue shirt and red patterned tie. With a very serious demeanor, he started off attacking Harper for killing the Kelowna Accord and gave kudos to BC Premier Gordon Campbell for denouncing Harper for it. He also attacked what he called Harper’s “focus group budget” and got a laugh with the line that having $10 billion to give away was an experience he’d never had. The passion started to come at the end as he said the battle with the Conservatives is not a tea party but a political campaign, offering two stark visions for Canada.

Joe Volpe: Casual look, suit with blue open collar shirt. Talked about nation building and how the world envies Canada, his voice dropped to nearly a whisper before he switched to what seemed like passable French for at least a third of his speech.

Ken Dryden: Bucked the trend with a suit and red/blue stripped tie but with a white dress shirt. In his low key-speaking style, I thought Ken really connected and had some good lines. He has an honesty that’s compelling. “Losing stinks” he said, and his thesis was “we need to win.” I agreed with him when he said “you win together and you loose together, but for too often we won apart.” That’s very true. He was also the only candidate to get some shots in at Jack Layton, saying parents, aboriginals, and others can’t be too happy right now, adding they’re probably saying “thanks a lot Jack.”

Questions and Answers

These were written and submitted beforehand. There were two rounds, each time three questions were read and each candidate had 90 seconds to respond to one, two or all three. Nothing too eventful here, a few random thoughts:

  • Rae compared Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Pact/appeasement of Nazi Germany with Stephen Harper’s surrender to Bush on softwood. I thought that was over the line, you can do better than that Bob.
  • Ignatieff said Canada needs to be a leader in “clean coal.” What, prey tell, is clean coal, besides a coal industry marketing buzzword? It’s like “healthy cigarettes” or “exploring for oil.” (ed. Actually there is such a thing as clean coal, my bad. Forgive me Iggy?)
  • Martha Hall Findlay drew a gasp when she stated the obvious: Kyoto is flawed and we need to acknowledge that, but its still the best bilateral agreement we’ve got, and so we should work with it and build on it.

Hitting the suites

The formal activities over for the night, I met up with the other Libloggers before hitting the hospitality suites organized by some of the leadership candidates. First off was Brison, on an upper floor far from the other ones (24th to their 4th). Still low key at this point, no sign of the man himself, sparse food selection, small room.

A glass of cabernet and I headed down to the 4th floor and the main hospitality suite row, bigger suites here and it was jam packed, elbow to elbow, hard to move. Stopped in Kennedy’s suite for another cabernet and chatted with my Kennedy supporting friend, giving him a chance to sell me on his man, who wasn’t there yet.

Then on to Dryden’s suite, where the food assortment was more varied, with Smarties and M&Ms, among other things. I finished my wine to try one of their watermelon martinis, wasn’t that great. No sign of Ken, but their hockey-card themed invite cards are a keeper.

I went looking for the Dion suite next but was disappointed not to find one, maybe he’ll have one Saturday night. Stopped quickly in the Rae suite for another drink, didn’t see Bob, and the Volpe suite for some chicken wings. Joe was there but I didn’t speak with him, Joe isn’t on my shortlist.

Stopped briefly in the Ignatieff suite before heading to the subway, the windows were steamy. Read into that what you will, I draw no metaphorical conclusions myself.

I’m off to sleep but I’m bringing the laptop down with me tomorrow in the hopes of blogging from the convention itself tomorrow if I can get online. More big picture thoughts tomorrow I hope, and my leadership endorsement.

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Mark said...

No sign of Ken? You must have come early. We'll fix that tomorrow!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the shortlist is Dryden and Dion.

Dion was brilliant on Duffy Live yesterday - showed his thoughtful approach.

Dryden is a nice guy.

Anonymous said...

Clean coal is what they use, I think in nuclear power plants.

MississaugaPeter said...


Good commentary for those not there.


es said...

You are right about Kennedy being sick. He had the flu. Stay tuned. He will come back swinging once recovered.

Dan McKenzie said...

I just watched the video on and thought Gerard was good. Of course I'm biased but if that's how good he is when he's sick he'll be great otherwise. There were a couple stumbles but he was fine.

Ken Dryden was also really great.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Talking with someone last night I'm told there is such a thing as clean coal, it involves something like planting trees to offset CO2 emmisions or something like that. Anyway, I guess it is an actual thing after all, so my bad.

Duke said...

“Loosing stinks” he said, and his thesis was “we need to win.” I agreed with him when he said “you win together and you loose together, but for too often we won apart.” That’s very true.

Loose means not tight
Lose means didn't win

A BCer in Toronto said...

Yes, right you are, my bad. I blame Ken's watermellon martinis for my mind being a little loose as I typed that, causing me to lose my spelling ability. :)

Michael Watkins said...

It figures that Ignatief would promote clean coal - this is one of the US's big initiatives, for they are well and truly hooped if "peak oil" is anytime soon (and there is reason to believe that this is so).

The US has lots and lots of coal, but not all of it easy to get at. However they have more coal than they have oil, thus the interest in "clean coal".

Clean coal refers, generally speaking, to particulate matter reduced but very little, if any, actual reduction in greenhouse gas output from the processes.

GHG like CO2 is a real issue, and one of the reasons why the US doesn't want to sign on to Kyoto.

Imagine you are a policy maker and you know that sometime over the next 20 years - perhaps as soon as 2 - 4 years - that your country, the USA, can't meet its massive energy consumption needs through current imported energy or domestic production. Pumping more oil is an impossibility. But you've got all this nasty dirty coal and states that want to dig it (and also BC, ALberta and Saskatchewan, where almost all of Canada's coal lurks).

Voila, thus began the multi-year dual-focussed marketing plan "Clean Coal" and "Kyoto Stupid/Global Warming a Fallacy" to prime the public.

Only problem: global warming is proving not to be a fallacy. Uh oh.

Chris from Victoria, BC said...

Ignatieff is right and you are wrong.

If you believe coal is akin to a cigarette other than the fact that both can be burned, you should shut your computer off now, because we can't keep Canada running without it.

Clean coal is a marketing buzzword... and also a statement of fact, using techology to burn coal more completely and scrub waste gas emissions.

In the 1970s, air quality, due to "dirty coal", became a major crisis in North America, which is why we had so many smog days in major cities in the 70s and 80s.

Government and industry acted to reduce coal-burning emissions with great success. There are cleaner alternatives, of course: windpower (noise pollution, dead birds), solar power (which heats the surrounding environment due to absorbing the Sun's rays, itself a type of pollution), hydro power (impacted ecosystems, damages or destroys spawning grounds e.g. reduces salmon runs), nuclear power (clean, yet with safety concerns and a small amount of dangerous radioactive waste pollutant and hot waste water released back into streams and lakes), natural gas (cleaner than coal, rarer, still produces burning waste products), etc., but each are not without its concerns.

To make an off-the-cuff remark disparaging Ignatieff demonstrates your ignorance and his understanding.


A CPC supporter who really doesn't care who you pick, but will laugh heartily if it's Bob Rae

A BCer in Toronto said...

Sroll a little further up Chris and you'd read where I said:

Talking with someone last night I'm told there is such a thing as clean coal, it involves something like planting trees to offset CO2 emmisions or something like that. Anyway, I guess it is an actual thing after all, so my bad.

Thanks for visiting.

Anonymous said...

Lets not compare the US president to Nazi Germany. That is bad form and bad politics, and it looks crassly superficial in rural Canada, where the LPC is on the precipice, being propped up only by a biased media. These are strong remarks from Rae. If they came from any other party the press would be burying him. Isn't it great to be coddled so warmly by the MSM. It is an advantage that the NDP and the Tories must envy. Why isnt the CBC all over this? Comportement Bizarre!

RP. said...

OMFG TEH NAZIS LOLWTFBBQ!!!11! Way to Godwin the leadership, Rae.