Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Short One

Must sleep. Tomorrow's the big day. I wasted all my spare energy in the Atlantic hospitality suite with three Dion delegates and Ashley MacIsaac. More later.

For a brief intro into tomorrow's hell, read this.

In the meantime, these two pictures are for Kendra:

One Member, One Vote

There's a lage debate going on right now about abolishing leadership conventions and giving every member a party a vote on issues and leadership candidates. Both sides make good arguments, and there's a lot of yelling. Best part? I'm watching it on TV from the cafeteria where it's cool and there's a veritable Horn of Plenty of coffee.

There's not much point in being in there, as the line-up to speak for or against is longer than the MacDonald's breakfast line at 10:55 am. Still, the vote's coming up so I'd best get inside.


I just came from a morning of Ignatieff campaign meetings, followed by a "youth" ralley (apparently I look young enough), a lunch, and then the Biggest Damn Ralley you've ever seen. I'll upload some pictures later (although I suspect that you can watch the news tonight or check out the papers tomorrow).

Now, I'm taking a moment to do this and maybe sleep a little. It's going to be a long day yet.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Summary of Tonight

Hey all, it's late and I have an early meeting so I won't write a lengthy entry.

Tonight was the opening speeches, complete with one from Howard Dean. It was interesting, but not really worth waiting two hours to hear. I missed half of it because Kennedy and Dion had way more kids with signs in the room than we did, which is the convention equivalent of... I dunno. Poor planning. Anyway, I ended up in hallway waiting for some guy to show up that could unlock the room with more signs in it. He eventually showed up, and there were no signs in the room. Poor planning.

However, I ran into John McCallum in the hall and thanked him for calling our fundraising party. Oh, and Bill Grahm liked my 80 gallon-cowboy hat.

There's quite a bit of media in the hall, and it's kind of cool to see their booths looking over the floor. I'll try to take some pictures of it later to post here. That, or you could just watch it on TV. I ran into my buddy Aaron Wherry who's now writing for Macleans. I hadn't seen him since I was running for President, so that was pretty sweet.

Turns out that another old Gazette guy--Tait Simpson--is working for the Liberal party at the convention. I was trying to track him down, and ran across his dad, noted political author and Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson. I stopped him in the hall and he turned around with a look that screamed "Oh god, another person about to ask me about my opinions on the convention." I don't think he took well to my stopping him and saying "Excuse me, aren't you Tait Simpson's dad?" and asking if he knew where Tait was.

Most of the night was spent at hospitality suites (the good one's, with booze. Not the online kind) trying to convince other delegates to vote for Michael. It was... Interesting.

There was one Kennedy delegate, though, that had attended Western as an undergrad and who's only memory of Western's student council was Operation Massive.

And that was before he knew who I was.


My buddy Brett from Edmonton insisted that the best Montreal smoked meat to be had could be found in a nice little deli called Ben's in downtown Montreal. I just happened to be walking past it today.

Now, an apt aside: when my friend Danna was in France a while back she told me how everything was closed because everyone was on strike (museums and whatnot). Everything. Me? I thought it was hilarious, in an "it's funny because I wasn't there" sort of way.

Ben's? On strike.

Gender Equity

I think I'm the only person sitting in this policy session that thinks that requiring 52% of Liberal candidates to be women is a bad thing. I mean, who are we to say that one cannot stand as a candidate just because one's a man? This isn't admission to an American university. This is choosing who represents us in an election.

There are clearly reasons why there are more men in politics--both elected and as candidates--and those ought to be studied and addressed. However, benchmarks and standards are not the answer.

I just don't know what is. Now, let's see if I get yelled out of the room.

Running Into People

I'll do a more detailed post later with my experiences in the policy sessions and how my meeting with the prospective PhD supervisor went.

For now, consider this:

I was talking down the street trying to find the convention centre, listen to The Killers on my iPod and just looking around at the architecture when I almost run into someone on the street.

It was Michael Ignatieff. Whoops. We talked for a few moments (he seemed to remember be from the few previous meetings we'd had) and then we went our seperate ways.

Later, I was sitting in a policy session on social issues. I eventually got bored and started to look around (periodically posing for the video cameras that are ubiquitous here, taping the events for a "best of" DVD and recording the votes) when who do I find sitting behind me?

Bob Rae.

I didn't see how he voted on the resolution to decrease the age of consent for anal sex, though.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My First Day In Montreal

First off, I'm really sorry for the email that everyone's gotten. I hit the wrong button on my mac, and next thing I know it sends an email to eveyone that's ever sent me an email.

I really feel like an idiot. Whoops.

That kept me up most of the night and, as a result, I slept pretty well on the flight to Toronto. I had a two hour lay-over, which was extended by an hour because the flight to Montreal was delayed. That would have been annoying, except that Kendra (my finacee, for those that don't know me) was there to meet me, which made it all manner of fantastic.

When I arrived in Montreal I went straight to the convention centre via my small knowledge of the French language ("Parlez vous anglais?") and the good humor of taxi drivers. Upon arriving, I was told that the Liberal party was--as far as it was concerned--missing $400 of my delegate fee.

Right. That's a problem.

Turns out that there's a "delay" in the Ignatieff team getting its forms processed by the party, so I'm told that we ought not to fret. I'm heading back to the convention tomorrow morning to sort everything out. Needless to say, if that doesn't happen there will be a ruckus raised. A mighty ruckus, indeed.

Erin (whom I'm crashing with) took me around and we bought wine, drank it in an Indian restaurant and then wandered through The Plateau (?), eating bagels, drinking coffee and looking at expensive clothes and kitchen furniture.

Tomorrow, I'm off to sort out this fee business, meet with a prospective McGill PhD supervisor, attend some policy sessions and maybe go for a run.

Tonight, I sleep.

And don't bother telling me about the emails. I already know.


Monday, November 27, 2006

I'm An Idiot

I was watching the lastest episode of Heroes (which, by the way, is amazing) and a commercial came on for Global's coverage of the Leadership Convention. Quick cuts, suspenseful music, pictures of... old men sitting in chairs. Granted, that was kind of anticlimactic.

But still, it looked pretty badass. It ended with Keven Newman in front of his newsdesk and an announcement that the coverage would start at 7:00am on Saturday.

Damn, I thought. I'm going to miss that. That would have been cool to watch.

Seriously. I'm an idiot.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I'm Told It's Not This Cold in Montreal

If Hoth had apartment buildings, a post-industrial system of highways and the odd conifer, it would look like this.

You'll notice that in the picture, there is little actual snow. That's because it's currently -22ยบ right now in Edmonton, and it's too cold for snow. Whatever ambient moisture that exists in the atmosphere has touched the ground, frozen into ice, and now lays buried beneath a thin veneer of white powder.

I think scientists call the ground in Edmonton "permafrost".

If understand the process correctly--and I like to think that I do--the ice, dirt and hares that have been flash-frozen overnight will turn into oil. That oil will then be converted via an enormous device of Rube-Goldbergian proportions into "Prosperity Cheques" that the Government of Alberta will send to me just for living here.

Apparently in Montreal it's going to dip down to just below zero as we approach the Leadership Convention. And I will take solace in the fact that no matter how snowy, drizzly or cold it gets in the land of smoked meat and gendered nouns, it will still be about twenty degrees warmer than it is in Edmonton.

Unless, that is, it gets unseasonably warm in Alberta and climbs above zero.

Which I'm pretty sure is exactly what will happen. And then the Snow Troopers will just look stupid.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Academics in Politics

There are people that are worried with Ignatieff being an academic. Now, I don't want this blog to be a sycophantic fanboy list of reasons why "my guy is the bestest." No, I'll try and keep this about me and politics. But this one cuts right to the heart of it, because I'm also an academic, and I worry about this whole line of reasoning.

Here's why.

Ignatieff is an academic; no one's denying that. I don't think that's the issue: the idea that university professors are incapable of forming broad policies or working within reality is a stereotype that isn't apt in this instance. And I won't even get going on what's wrong with a society that thinks that they can have a leader "too smart" for them. Intelligence cannot be the issue. I refuse to believe that we've become that conditioned to distrust the Academy, and would rather have someone "we can relate to", like George W Bush, whom I'm sure is a lovely man to drink with, except that he doesn't.

The real issue, I think, is that academics, by virtue of being academics, not a seasoned politicians.

And therein lies the best thing about Ignatieff from a marketing standpoint. In fact, I think it might be the best thing for the Liberal party (see post below for why that's important).

The Conservatives have done a great job of "branding" the Liberal party as a corrupt, out-of-touch party whose goals amount to little more than staying in power or, now, getting back into it. And if that happened, say the Tories, it would only consist of "more of the same": patronage, old ideas, and not looking out for average people. Just look at their slogans: "Canada's New Government" and "Getting things done for all of us". All government press releases begin the same way: "Canada's New Government to VERB ----> ELECTION CANDY ---->NOUN".

Rest assured, the next election will not be about what the Tories have done; it will be about what their new government has done that the Old Government didn't do for average people. Worse still, the concept of the LIberal party has been turned into a general pejorative: people don't need to have reasons for not liking the LIberal party, they just don't. Liberal=Bad/Old. That's what the Tories have done. And that's what we are up against.

In order to even start, we cannot have a leader that can easily be painted with the traditional Liberal brush. They can't be an institutional politician. They can't be dismissed with a "more of the same" attack. Worse still, they must be radically different. The corrupt Liberal image has, in my opinion, become such a basic assumption that the best way to fight it is to do so radically.

Who better than a leader that is not a seasoned politician? A leader that has the intellect and the vision to guide the country, and the support to do so effectively? With our neighbours to the south it's easy to assume that any lack of experience will manifest as verbal fumbling on the order to Bush-esque quotes that involve sentences without nouns. Clearly, that's not the case.

Instead, we have someone that give us the greatest chance to saying to the Canadian people "we are a new LIberal party. A party driven by vision and a goal for the country, rather than simply staying in power. We are the apotheosis of what it means to be Canadian: a party driven by the desire to do well by one another. Driven by ideals. By reason. By passion. And by vision. That, and budget surpluses earmarked to debt-repayment."

To dismiss this possibility because a man might be too much of an academic?

That would be worrying.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

You're so cute, Justin Trudeau

One of the things I liked about Ignatieff was his take on nationalism and Quebec. Long story short: there's a difference between a state and a nation. Canada's a state, with many nations inside of it. An anglo nation, a french nation, an aboriginal nation... You get the idea.

Now, as nationalism theory goes, that's pretty standard. Most scholars just take it for granted.

But not Justin Trudeau. Justin, son of Pierre Elliott, had this to say when asked what about Quebec nationalism: nationalism is "based on a smallness of thought."

Now, Trudeau's chestnut locks certainly entitle him to his opinion, and his pedigree guarantees a degree of media coverage. However, I'm not as sure that the boy's prognostications on matters of academic and sociological theory ought to be weighted equal to a human rights scholar, given that the formers experience in the matter stems from research pertaining to his Masters thesis in Geography.

Alas, it's gotten quite a bit of play in the media. There have been retorts, such as Alfred Apps cogent arguments--couched within an 11000 word tome--in favour of the Ignatieff position supporting a multi-national Canada. And the Prime Minister's actions intended to undercut the upcoming Bloc motion have taken most of the wind out of the debate.

Still, the whole thing annoys me. The fact that people equate "nation" and "state" annoys me. What gets to me even more than that conflation is the fact that people insist that the two words "effectively mean the same thing in English". Well, really they don't. People just think they do. And what would you rather have: politicians who make policy based on the misconceptions of the public? Or rather on the actual meanings of terms?

See what you've done, Justin Trudeau? You've forced me to pen a political rant! And be slightly alliterative!

Oh, I'm sorry, Justin. I can't stay mad at you. Every time my icy heart gets close, it's melted by your radiant curls.

Also: Booyah.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

T-Minus One Week

Buried within a Globe and Mail article about Michael Ignatieff's unfortunate run-ins with the English language of late, was this:

"At his last public event in the city before the Dec. 2 Montreal convention, the first-ballot front-runner delivered a rousing call to his party to make Canadians believe again that governments and politics can build a better country.

The purpose of politics for Liberals, he declared, is not self-interest but “hope, faith, belief, patriotism. ... We don't do this for ourselves. We do this for our country.”

And that's why I'm going to this convention. It's why I've asked my friends to give up money they don't have; to participate in a system a lot of them aren't fans of. It's why I'm heading to Montreal and missing the Calgary Deal or No Deal auditions (not that I've been invited to participate... yet).

This man is offering me something to believe in.

I'm left of centre, ideologically. There's enough out there that I believe in that could be considered "right-wing" that I essentially end up in the middle. That either makes me a Liberal or a Progressive Conservative. But that's always been a default assumption on my part. It's not like I "believed" in the Liberal party--or any party, for that matter. It's pretty tough to do when they don't actually offer anything positive, and instead either coast from policy to policy or just snipe at the opposition.

Maybe it's Ignatieff's background as an academic, a profession that constantly demands the formulation of opinions and encourages the development of overarching theses. Maybe it's because he's written books that stem from a common centre: human rights and respect for others. I don't know what it is.

But he offers something; something to believe in. And he could make the Liberal party something I could believe in; and if, with any luck, such a party were to take power in this country... well then.

That would be a country that stood for something. A country fueled from coast to coast to coast by hope, faith, belief, patriotism.

And people call me cynical.