Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Live blogging from the floor--night one

*As long as the laptop battery and WiFi holds I'll be liveblogging the night's convention program, refresh this post throughout the evening for updates.

7:30 PM: Hello from the convention floor at the convention centre in Montreal. The hall is beginning to fill up for the night one festivities. The fun will include a thanks to Bill Graham for his yeoman's services as interim leader and, the event we've all been waiting for, the Howard Dean keynote.

A fun little piece of political theatre a little earlier, before I made my way down to the keynote hall. In the main lobby area, when their candidate came down the escalators, large, vocal, placard-totting groups of Ignatieff and Dion supporters cheered for their arrival. The usual manufactured for TV b-roll type of convention display.

But after their candidates left the scene, the Iggyans (is that right?) and the Dionistas engaged in a little cheering contest with one another for about twenty minutes. I got some good pics, will post them up tonight or in the morning. Was a nice little display, fun stuff.

Anyway, I'm sitting at the back but up front the seats are divided by leadership camp. It seems the Dionistas were overflowing into the largely empty Volpe area and were asked to move. Opps, guess there's just too many Dion supporters here. Sorry Joe! :)

7:45 PM: People are still filing in for the "Red Hot Liberal Convention" as the bilingual DJs called it, but still plenty of good seats here in the back. The Iggy and Rae people just made themselves heard, and hey, there's a Scott Brison sign too.

In fact, lots and lots of empty seats here the back as we open the program with O Canada. And now some young fellow going aaaaaaa a lot. Followed by some kind of rattling briefcase and weird sound effect show. Flip on CPAC, I have no idea guys.

7:50 PM: Now they've added maracas or something. And I think I see Michael Flatley and ZZ Top.

7:52 PM: OK, so they're students at risk or something, so anyway, good for them and nice show. I'm a cultural heathen anyway. But now on with the program.

8:06 PM: Long string of the usual welcome messages and boilerplate from a whole bunch of people, so I'm catching up on my blog reading. Reading Wells at the moment, Paul stopped by the blogger room this afternoon to say wassup. And there's Craig Oliver walking by. He looks a touch lost, I hope he finds his way.

8:09 PM: And now the singing of one Melanie Renault. They need to knock the volume here down just a notch or two, I think.

8:11 PM: Owwww! Esp. on the high notes. Seriously.

8:14 PM: Another song, nooo! I mean, she's a great singer. It's just the volume. OK, do I sound like I'm 68 or something? Anyway, just read Coyne's column. Not sure I agree, I haven't heard a lot of buzz about the nation here except theorizing on how it will move the votes. No one saying it's moving their votes though.

8:18 PM: OK, she's done and hey, who's that guy? Oh, it's Glen Pearson, our new Liberal MP from London-North Centre. He said he just sent Stephen Harper a message. He said the voters said it's time to take Kelowna back, take Kyoto back, take childcare back, to take our country back. Nice little speech from Glen.

Am I sensing a theme for the next election?: Taking the country back. I like it.

8:26 PM: New Brunswick Premier Sean Graham takes the stage. Gives thanks to both Paul Martin and Bill Graham, and elicits a standing-o for each. OK speech, bit I swear he almost lapsed into a Bob Dole-like timbre at one point there: we wiiiilll beee uniited.

8:30 PM: Long speech from Sean, and in both official languages too. I like the message though, he's likening his experience in New Brunswick in the last election now to our challenge today. There's no shortcuts to earning people's trust, he said, and that's exactly right. Trust is won for what we're for, and not what we're against. EXACTLY!

8:40 PM: Didn't catch his name but we've not got another band on stage, they were billed as some sort of maritime group. "Which was does the wind blow?" was their first song. Hopefully, it's blowing our way.

Now it's a second song en Francais, which translated as "Tear down these walls". In case you didn't get the symbolism he explained it for us. He's urging audience participation too. We're all to sing the chorus "wooooh oooooh ohhhhh ohhhhh ohhhh." And now the volume is back up again, ouch. Benefit of sitting on media row: don't need to go:
wooooh oooooh ohhhhh ohhhhh ohhhh.

8:54 PM: OK, after a third song they're done and it's time for the Bill Graham tribute. They're showing a tribute video now...hey, he had dark hair! Don't you wish Bill was just a few years younger? He'd have a real shot at the leadership. A class act all the way.

9:01 PM: Bill's daughter Cathy and his son are up to do the intros and pay a touching tribute to their father. And son takes a little shot at Peter McKay. He also told a funny little story. I guess the son (sorry, I missed his name) is a journalist, and he says Bill used to start his speeches with a little anecdote:

"The only people hated more than politicians are journalists and I know because I have one for a son."

A more partisan speech from the son, not sure if it was quite appropriate but a standing-O because now, here's Bill.

9:05 PM: Bill starts by saying the smartest political speech he could give would be to stop right now. We'll give you one more though Bill.

Nice line from Bill here, as he talks about Stephen Harper and notes the 2.5 sword lengths away he sits from Steveo.

"It's two swords lengths away, and there's days where, if I had the sword..."

Bill moves on to Conservative flip-flops, and there's rich material there. Loud boos great the mention of the names "Emerson" and Fortier".

Referencing the London-North Centre byelection:

"And in that election the Conservatives came third and the NDP, my friends, came fourth. I wonder how Jack feels about that?...Not bad for a party that is leaderless...a fact my wife and kids often remind me of."

9:15 PM: Bill says let's not be afraid of our life in politics, but let's be proud of it. I like that message. Politicians and those in politics often get a bad rap, and while the motives of some may be impure the majority of people in all sides are all about making Canada better for all Canadians, and that's something to be proud of.

9:23 PM: Heartfelt closing words from Bill and a standing-O from the delegates in the hall, and leaves he with a piece of First Nations art. I'm not sure if he's retiring in the next election, but I hope he stays around.

And now more music from a Naomi Streamer before we get to the Deaner. While I appreciate the music to break-up the speeches I think a little less would have been better. It's getting a bit late, and I left the acetaminophens back in my room.

9:30 PM: Just remembered I had foam ear plugs in my bag. Ahhh, sweet relief! I swear, this is louder than the day I went to qualifying for the Montreal F1 Grand Prix.

9:35 PM: And with the video tribute now rolling it's time for the Deaner. He gave a voice to people that lost faith in their leaders, says the voiceover lady. I hear Howard was practicing his speech in the hall this afternoon and was trying, without much success, to bring the French. Will be interesting to see if he goes for the French tonight.

The opening video is still rolling. Very much a "The Howard Dean Story" that kinds of leaves the impression of Howard vs. the world. Holy schmaltz batman. Maybe it's because I'm not a huge Dean fan, and this kind of stuff is common in these kind of videos, but still, pass the rusty fork. On with the speach, please! Howard! Howard!

9:39 PM: Did Howard Dean start coloring his hair? Oh, no, that's Frank McKenna. Hey, does Frank color his hair? Inquiring minds want to know. Anyway, Frank is intro'ing Howard, but first he gives a wassup to:

"My Prime Minsiter forever, whom I was so proud to serve under, Paul Martin."

9:42 PM: Howard takes the stage with a standing-o from the audience. He starts by taking a humble shot at the glowing intro video:

"That's something my father would have enjoyed a lot of and my mother might have believed it."

He says though that the Democratic success in the last election was all about team effort and the cooperation of many, many people working together. And then he breaks out the French and just a few words in he's interrupted by thunderous applause from an appreciative audience, to which he throws back this line:

"Won't Fox news hate this!"

I thought he did pretty good with the French. Howard goes on to talk about the long friendship of the Canadian and the American people, listing examples of cooperation like the ice storm and Hurricane Katrina. Howard says "We're connected by more than shared values. We're connected by shared ideals."

9:50 PM: Getting down to brass tacks, Howard said there are two major lessons of success for progressive parties: the place of power, and how it's practiced. Power, he said grows from the grassroots up, not from the top down. And not just from the areas that have traditionally supported you.

"We should never cede a single state or a single province...never cede a single voter, not a single one!"

"Show up...everywhere. Knock on doors...everywhere. Work hard...everywhere. And do it every day."

9:55 PM: He says there were some in the Democratic Party saying the way back to success was to mimic the Republicans, whose values we don't share, and he said that would be wrong. The path to power is in your values, in articulating them, in standing up for what you believe in, in living them and standing by them.

10:00 PM: Howard wraps it up. I know I said I'm not a big Howard Dean fan, but I have to say I liked this speech. I liked the message. It's a common sense one, and it's a good one. I hope we take its lessons to heart in the months ahead

And now as the hall begins to empty I bid you adieu from Montreal. Off to the parties!

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Anonymous said...

Yeah take the country back. Sure.
The Liberal candidate in Repentigny garnered 6% of the vote and finished fourth. Michel C Auger stated that more people believed that Elvis is still alive than vote Liberal.
Before we take the "country back", how about a strategy to win back French Quebec.

Anonymous said...

Well, except in the case of equating Rae supporters to Nazis. We are against that..I hope.

knb said...

Thanks for this...I appreciate the play by play, from someone who is there.

Ignore the detracters.

BTW...I thought Coyne was arrogant in that piece, but he had some points.

Anonymous said...

Nice report. Keep on posting, BC'er! and thanks

Anonymous said...

Any chance Dean could help Kennedy and Dryden with their French.
I know, I know Dean has a distinct advantage living in Washington,DC USA with its large indigenous French population.
This should go over real well, when Quebec reporters ask why an American has as good or better handle on French than Liberal leadership hopefuls.

Anonymous said...

I honestly think anyone who continues attacks must be THAT scared of his candidate not winning... aka the guy above me

JJ said...

Great living reporting! I was feeling so ansy - sitting in that great big hall and waiting for the Deanster - I wish I had brought my laptop to blog along too... think you did a great job of reporting on the feeling and the mood of the whole build -up to the keynote speech thingy - think the whole waiting for Dean would have been better if we actually all knew what we were in for (ie. the 15 + opening acts)... anyways, keep up the good work! (would be interesting to get you feedback on the Liblogs party too - I had a great time, but almost melted from the heat!)

A BCer in Toronto said...

Thanks all. Dean's French was good but he had to do a fair bit of practice, and he didn't do all that much. Gerard's French is far, far superior, let's be serious folks. And isn't there a decent french-speaking population in Vermont?