*Refresh this post regularly for frequent updates throughout the evening convention program.
7:36 PM: Signing on from the back of the convention hall for the tribute to the Right Honourable Paul Martin. Sorry I'm a bit late signing-on, I leveraged my all access media pass to get up front with the TV types as the dignataties came in, got some great pics of Paul and some others, they'll get posted online when I get back to the hotel tonight. Saw John Turner with a good seat up front.
7:40 PM: O Canada is sung and we're underway, with Lucienne Robillard and Ralph Goodale as our masters of ceremony. Walking around the hall earlier it's clear that, while this is a tribute to Paul Martin tonight, the real goal is party unity. In addition to Martin signs left amongst the seats for the delegates there are also many Chretien signs, and I think I even saw a few Pearson signs too. The hall is packed, there's barely an empty seat and people are still tricking in. Those that were concerned about turnout have been proven wrong, it's standing room only and the crowd is pumped to give Paul a fond farewell, and to demonstrate we are a united party. It's a night to put the past behind us.
7:47 PM: OK, my bad, Lucienne and Ralph weren't the masters of ceremony. That's to be Mark Tewksbury. He was, what, a swimmer, right? Wikipedia......yes, he was indeed. And to a standing-o Mark comes out and declares...."I am a Liberal!" Mark is very enthusiastic to the delight of the young folks and the perhaps the befuddlement of some of the older folks in the room, but I say we need some enthusiasm and fun here. And I think he's winning them over. He's bringing the French too, bit of an accent but sounds good.
7:52 PM: He's working pretty close to his notes as he talks about Paul and his legacy. But first he introduces the singer, who I think before going into French, brings a little Italian. So now we're trilingual. Her name is Natalie Choquette. Mark's intro was in French but I think I caught the word "diva". Here's her site.
Oh boy, it's opera! What was that Kinsella likes to say about Starbucks vs. Tim Horton's? I need to keep my head up, was she trying to give Paul Martin a lap dance? Interesting. Anyway, what's the name of this musical piece. It's darned familiar, it's like one of those pieces that everyone has heard even if this ain't her thing.
And there's the highnote, yowzza. Kind of fun I guess, she gets a standing-o, she's quite the show-woman. More Italian than English from her so far though.
7:59 PM: It's not just music, she's doing a skit or something. Ordering dinner an an Italian restaurant or something. I recognize this piece too, very familiar. I like it actually, it's a nice piece. But now she's gargling the opera or something? And she ends by stuffing a bunch of spaghetti in her mouth, mmmkay.
I want Paul!! I want Paul!! Paul Anka that is.
8:04 PM: It's a testimonial video, with Robert Rubin paying tribute to Paul, a "good guy to have in a foxhole." Robert Rubin? Wikipedia....OK, he was Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary. Taming the deficit is clearly the theme here, at least for a bit, as Tweksbury talks-up just how bad things were and how important it was to get the fiscal house in order before he brings up three "distinguished businesspeople." I caught the name Wallace McCain (it may be healthier but baked french fries just don't taste the same), didn't catch the two others.
8:12 PM: This is Wallace McCain now paying tribute to Martin. He seems to be very happy with our pension system and the personal and corporate tax cuts, which got lukewarm applause from the crowd. Pension reform, yeahhhh! Improving the child tax benefit though, that got a little better response. As did Paul's continuing work to support entrepreneurship and job training for First Nations people.
Did he just say "Paul is firmly grounded by his baggage?" Holy freudian slip Batman!
I know, I'm sorry. :)
Wallace, by the way, is a billionaire and #335 on the Forbes World's Richest People list.
8:17 PM: Now the third businessperson is talking about Paul's drive to create the G-20, and he's talking about interest rates and inflation, and you could hear a needle drop everyone is so enthralled. Here's a line you'll never hear at an NDP convention:
"The anti-globalization militants..."
8:19 PM: Mark Tewksbury is a beaver, and he does the beaver call.
8:20 PM: OK, now we're talking. It's This Hour has 22 Minutes clips with Pail Martin. Funny anecdote: while covering the budget for the Charlatan in the late 1990s I stepped on Greg Toomey's foot in a scrum. Pretty hard too, he winced. Anyway, more This Hour clips now, funny stuff, and the crowd is waking-up.
Marge Delehanty: "If the Prime Minister's not doing it to his wife, he's probably doing it to the country..."
You want to take that one Sheila?
8:28 PM: Unidentified singer now, doing a fair bit of screaming. Ok, it's Linda something, she's a First Nations winger from the NorthWest Territories, and she's encouraging audience participation for her second song.
I hear the organizers wanted to get Celine to sing tonight, but Michael Ignatieff felt it would be an unfair conflict to have Stephane's sister centre stage. Also, I hear he also tried to get Montreal theaters to stop showing the movie Bobby during the convention, but Gerard and Rae intervened...darn you Iggy!!!
8:35 PM: Tina Keeper was proud to run as a Liberal under Paul Martin, and she speaks passionately for the Kelowna Accord. Marc Garneau, another of Paul's star candidate recruits, pays tribute to Paul's commitment to Canadian unity. Paul "couldn't imagine a Canada without Quebec."
8:40 PM: It seems Mark Tewksbury's parents live in Stephen Harper's riding in Calgary, and awhile back Mark says he asked his Mom if she'd be voting for Harper in the next election, and, after Mark remarked to the audience on how "redneck" Calgary is, he said she replied: "I would never vote for that redneck."
Ouch! Que Blogging Tory outrage in 5...4...3...2...1...
8:43 PM: Mark introduces a "true Canadian hero" to strong applause, Senator Romeo Dallaire. He talks about the crisis in the Sudan and the Darfur, and how Paul Martin, without much support from the usual suspects, said that Canada has to do something, to support the African Union, that Canada has a "responsibility to protect." A good speech by Romeo, and the crowd likes it too. Definitely more than the business stuff.
8:46 PM: Anwar Ibrahim in a testimonial, likes Paul and his concern for the poor countries. Paul is a friend, he says. A Prime Minister from a distant land that showed so much concern and sympathy...he wrote Anwar a letter that he really liked. Wikipedia....here his is.
OK, Kofi Anan I know. Well, not personally, but yeah. Kofi is paying tribute to Paul's commitment to global and African development. At work the other day my colleagues and I were talking about favourite UN secretary-general names. Kofi was second, but how can you not go with Butros Butros-Gali?
8:52 PM: More singing now. He wants to rock my gypsy soul. Next song is fun though, we got the sax going and now we're rockin!
9:10 PM: OK, that was Colin James. That was fun, I liked the second song.
And now Mark is ready to introduce the headline singer...she's a Cape Bretoner, which elicits a cheer...and it's...Natalie McMaster. She begins with a slow, traditional sounding violin piece that's very nice. Second piece is a bit faster and we've got the hand clapping happening now. Wooh now she's kicked it up a notch. Some fancy footwork now too, fun stuff.
I have to say though, two nights of music with a ton of Maritimes content and no Barret's Privateers? Come on convention organizers, let's get it together!
9:13 PM: Speaking of things and people you wouldn't see or hear at an NDP convention...James Wolfensohn. He talks about marrying fiscal responsibility with ideas, values and beliefs, and how Paul Martin was committed to seeing a world with equity and social justice.
9:17 PM: "Dignified. Graceful. Composed." That's how the voiceover lady described Paul's election night concession speech from January. She's exactly right, there were a lot of ups and downs but he did us proud that night.
Now we're focusing on the Kelowna Accord, and Paul's commitment got a thumbs-up from Phil Fontaine, and a strong applause from the audience. So did the Liberal child care plan that Paul and Ken Dryden championed and the Conservatives killed.
Paul on same sex marriage:
"We are a nation of minorities and you can't cherrypick rights. A right is a right."
Dammed right Paul!
9:23 PM: Voiceover lady: "Paul Martin came into office as juggernaut and quickly became...a jugger-not-so-much." Somebody owes Susan Delacourt a dollar, I think. When is she writing the sequel?
Back to balancing the budget now and elimnating the deficit. Paul on setting on the road to balancing the budget:
"And we will get there come hell or high water!"
Now that's the Paul Martin I knew and loved!
9:30 PM: The crowd erupts in prolonged thunderous applause and a standing ovation as Paul makes his way to the podium. Clapping and PAUL PAUL PAUL PAUL!! "We love you Mr. Martin!" One girl yells. Paul warns her to be careful, or she's going to get him into trouble. He looks good.
9:37 PM: "In 1993 Canada wanted change, and Jean Chretien delivered change. And I am proud to have served in his cabinet." I think it's time to bury old hatchets, and we should all be incredibly proud of the record of the Chretien government, and the pivotal role that Paul Martin played. They were a great team.
9:42 PM: Paul made his name as the budget balancer, but talk to those that have known him for years and you'll learn he's really a social Liberal. For him, balancing the budget and getting the fiscal house in order was the means to securing our social safety network, to building the foundation for being able to help the poorest among us. That's the difference between Conservatives and Liberals. What's more, we'll both agree on that, and we'll both think we're right and the other is wrong. That's what makes politics great.
9:45 PM: Talking about the Kelowna Accord now: "We set out to address the shame of Aboriginal poverty, and We're Not Finished!"
9:48 PM: Talking about minority rights, and how standing up for minority rights is standing up for all of us. And he mentions the Conservatives killing the Charter court challenge program:
"We are the party of the charter, and under a Liberal government your rights will never depend on the state of your pocketbook!"
He doesn't step that applause line, the crowd comes to their feet with more passion we've heard tonight. He's really going after the Conservatives now, getting off a good line on child care. It's time, Paul says, to send a message to the Conservatives:
"Progress and fairness may be delayed, but they will not be denied!"
9:53 PM: A touching, and funny, windup as Paul send out the thanks and talks about what he'll remember from his time in public life. He pays special tribute to our military members who have fought, and given their lives for Canada, and particularly to their families, whom he's had the honour of meeting across Canada.
9:58 PM: Paul says: "Some people say we tried to do too much. I would rather have tried to do to much then be guilty of caring too little." Strategy aside, it's hard to argue with that sentiment.
10:03 PM: It's some 33 minutes into his speech and Paul finally mentions his father for the first time. If I'd bet on the over/under at Vegas I'd have gotten killed!
10:06 PM: Before Paul's family joins him on stage he ends: "Now is the time to lead, not to withdraw. Now is the time...for Canada!" Yes!!
10:12 PM: In a fun moment, Paul's banner is raised to the rafters to join the banners of the past Liberal leaders, and the night comes to an end. Blogger is starting to act up so I'll leave the big picture thoughts and impressions until tomorrow, but it was a packed, standing room only crowd of united, enthusiastic Liberals here to say thank-you to Paul Martin. Ups and downs aside, it felt good.
Now it's back to the hotel to change and off to the parties. I hope to make stops at the Young Liberals party and Martha Hall Findlay's before ending up at Stephane's hospitality suite.
Tomorrow, the voting begins!
Thursday, November 30, 2006
*Refresh this post regularly for frequent updates throughout the evening convention program.