Friday, May 01, 2009

Live from the tribute to a Great Canadian, Stephane Dion

6:56pm: I'm back on the netbook and Wifi in a cavenous hall at the Vancouver convention centre for the evening's main event, including the tribute to our outgoing leader, Stephane Dion. It looks like I have just under two hours battery power, so I'll keep live-blogging as long as I can. So keep refreshing for updates.

Those of you who have followed my blog for awhile will know I was a very early supporter of Stephane Dion. I came to support Stephane at a time I was rather disollusioned as a Liberal, deeply disapointed with my party after its conduct in the 2005/06 election and turned-off the party in general after the petty BS of the years of Martin/Chretien feuding.

Stephane wasn't a perfect candidate, but he was a decent and hobourable man, a fighter for Canada, and someone whose integrity was above reproach. As I wrote at the time, he was a candidate I would never have to apologize for, someone I could be poud to support. And I was.

Once we impobably won, obviously things didn't go as we would have hoped, for a variety of factors. But I'll never forget the emotion of that night in Monteal, when my long-shot came in. When we launched that noble experiment: could a good man succeed in politics? Whatever else happened, Stephane renewed my faith in Liberalism that night, and for that I thank him dearly, and I pay tribute to him tonight.

Merci Stephane.

7:15pm: After a bilingual national anthem from a local children's choir, always a crowd pleaser, the convention co-chairs come out: Ujal Dosanjh, Justin Trudeau and Bobbi Ethier. Uj makes some jokes about the convention centre's green roof and its rooftop bee hives to polonize the plants (no, its true), saying the buzz of the bees will carry Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals into office. While the partisan crowd applauds, Uj needs a better speach writer I think.

7:21pm: Justin is talking in French about Einstien. I'm going to go offline to converrse battery power for a bit, until the opening stuff is done.

7:31pm: Back online to say the chief of the Coast Salish native band, on whose traditional land the convention is being held, is a great hit with the audience. Afte a lenghtly greeting in his traditional language, he switches to English to ask "are you with me so far?" He also jokes this convention centre is the future home of their casino, which gets a good laugh. Now he's singing a traditional welcoming song I rather like, and leaves to a standing-0 from the crowd.

Ujjal says from one Indian to another I understood every word of that song.

7:35pm: Mayor Gregor Robson: We are all Canucks. The mayor, a former NDP MLA, thanks past Liberal govenments for their infrastructure commitments to Vancouver, and thanks Jean Chretien for helping Vancouver win the 2010 Winter Olympics without resorting to the Shawinigan handshake.

Also, he says we have ambitious goals, including ending homelessnes sin the city by 2015 and the greenest city in Canada by 2020.

7:50pm: A great ovation for the Right Honourable Jean Chretien. He's been coming here since 1967, when he came as a junior minister for the centenial. He pays tribute to the amazing job Stephane Dion did as a member of his cabinet.

If today, he says, the country looks at the time when he was PM and looks at it as a great 10 years for the country, Stephane Dion was a big part of that. Thank-you Stephane.

Now, Jean goes into Harpe bash mode, fun. He's talking about the G-20 photo-op. Every leader was there for one, Stephen Harper. And we all know where he was... And these days Harper only talks to American journalists. CNN says he was at the door of the washroom, but this time he wasn't waiting to shake hands with the PM of China. And we don't know who he was waiting for...

The PM was in the same place he always was when the world needs Canada to lead ... missing in action. Jean goes off on a rif now, the economy, China, Africa, developing world, peacemaker in the middle east... where was Stephen Harper.

We know where he is: nowhere. And we know where he'll be after the next election...

Can I go back and write-in Jean Chretien's name on my leadership ballot? Please?!

"I say to Stephen Harper there is no such thing as Liberal values or Conservative values. There is only Canadian values! It's not Liberal or Conservative to help a starving child in Africa. It's Canadian!"

Jean reads some of the Stephen Harper talking-down Canada quotes of the past, and then says now Harper is proud of Canada, and guess what he's proud of: the Liberal economic record. It was Liberals that returned surplus after surplus, it was the Liberals that said no to bank mergers and insisted on stable, well-regulated banks. Thanks to what the Liberals did our banks are standing strong where others have fallen.

"I thought Stephen Harper was supposed to be tough on crime. Well, he should be charged for stealing our record. But I can't blame him. If I had his record, I'd want to steal someone else's too."

I love Jean but I think this is going to be a late night, we've got a lot left on the schedule and we're already one hour in.

8:18pm: Bobbi Ethier kicks off the Dion tribute and launches a tribute video kicked-off by Aline Chretien, who first learned of Stephane and introduced him to Jean to bring him to Ottawa and to cabinet after the referendum.

The video is heaby on the clarity act, fighting the separtists, bringing in more women candidates, his integrity and honesty. Surprisingly, very little on the environment. I mean, the green shift didn't work out, but come on guys: it was a big part of Stephane's legacy.

8:23pm: Paul Martin on the stage now. Paul has been asked to introduce and talk about Stephane. A tad ironic, Paul left Stephane out of his first cabinet. Paul learns from his mistakes though, and that error was quickly rectified.

Paul says lots of people talk about the need for getting more women active in the Liberal Party and in politics, but no one has put it into action like Stephane Dion has, refering to the 33% quota.

Paul says he hasn't been given much time to speak, and on his way up John Turner said to him for god's sake Paul, cut it short! He goes on to talk about the UN climate change meeting in Monteal, and the work of Stephane at achieving a consensus.

8:37pm: OK, I'm back. Second half of the video was all about the environment. Michael Ignatieff is now on stage to intro Stephane, calling him a true Canadian patriot. Michael lauds Stephane's commitment to female candidates, saying he cannot do less and he must do more. And Stephane put environmental sustaniability at the heart of what this party is and will present to the counntry in the next election, and he promises to carry that legacy forward.

Stephane gave every last inch of what was in him to defend the values that we have always presented to this country with pride.

9:11pm: And Stephane's speech is over. I posted a number of tweets on it so I won't rehash all the content. But it occured to me as I listened to Stephane that what he was saying was so remarkably consistent with what he spoke about during the campaign, and what he spoke about during the leadership race.

All along during that time, from his leadership run to his speech tonight, Stephane called it as he saw it. For better or worse, damm the torpedos, he spoke from his heart and stood up for what be believed in, for what he believed was right, and what he believed was best for Canada. And that's admirrable.

It may have been his unwillingness to get dirty, to play the political game, that drew me to Stephane in the first place. And that didn't change. Stephane was always Stephane. While he wouldn't let politics change him, even if he leaves the stage under less than ideal circumstances, he leaves us with his honour and his integrity intact, and my respect for him just as strong. That's not something that many politicians can say.

From here I'll sign off for the evening. Good night.

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sjw said...

And he gets skewered by Jane Taber in today's Groan and Wail for his troubles. Big fricken surprise..

A View From The Left said...

good recap for those of us who can't afford to be there, thanks Jeff

lyrical said...

I can't find any videos posted online yet of St├ęphane Dion's FULL speech. Let us know if you find any. I don't blame him for speaking longer than he was supposed to; at least they didn't cut his microphone like they did in 2006!

From where you were sitting during his speech you may not have seen how many people in the audience were getting choked up; wiping tears from their eyes, including Mrs. Chretien. You could see this on the CPAC broadcast.