Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The chair had it coming.

Anyone who attended last weekend's convention in Montreal and didn't come away a proud and re-invigorated Conservative, is a Liberal. In fact, Liberals were conspicuous by their presence. The likes of Stephen LeDrew (without a bow tie), Ruby Dhalla, Scott Reid (the other one), Young Liberal Communications Chair, Corey Pike, and many others prowled the convention floor, bars and hospitality suites, looking for free booze and hidden agendas. They came away with free booze and their hands full of clear and unambiguous Conservative policies and a preview of their future demise.

The media were there en masse, poised and ready to pounce on any massive crack that was sure to open up over some critical issue. They were getting cranky and desperate on Friday, until Peter MacKay let his Irish get the best of him (his words). Ahah, they knew it was all a sham and that the new party would disintegrate before their poised Blackberrys and microphones. Many of them made light of what was one of the finest political speeches that any of them had heard. While Stephen Harper waxed very eloquent, the media frothed excitedly about how the conflict between Peter MacKay and Scott Reid (the other, other one) would end it all.

Imagine their disappointment on Saturday when Mr. MacKay calmed down and delegates collectively made the mature decision to take away any potential disagreement over Constituency representation. It was a pattern that would repeat itself many times, as the Conservative Party of Canada showed that it has gelled very quickly into a credible government-in-waiting.

Oh well, they always had Elsie Wayne who was either ranting enthusiastically against baby-killers or baking cookies for our troops. Every party needs one. Elsie, that is.

There was lots of debate and discussion, on the floor and in the corridors, over many items of policy and constitution. At times, it was passionate and it was always interesting. And it always ended in a conclusion that almost everyone could accept. Like any union, no one got everything that they wanted, but everyone got a package that they could support. Civil disagreement and rational debate is the prerequisite for progress. Some media pointed to debate as a sign of division; while others pointed to agreement as a sign of weakness and capitulation. I guess that means that we can't ever win some things, and that we probably got it about right.

Delegates were progressive enough to take away many of the issues that the Liberals had successfully lied about in the 2004 election, such as abortion, euthanasia and bilingualism. I'm sure they'll still find something to lie about, but that's just who they are. There are many social issues on which Canadians will never reach consensus in a thousand years. Politically, we simply need to disagree respectfully and move on to things that will have more impact on Canada's future.

Delegates from the West and Ontario reached out to Quebec and the Maritimes on several issues and stood fast on others. For the most part, both sides seemed happy with what they'd been able to win or conserve.

The tightest vote of the convention was the one that rejected a separate youth wing for the Party. It had been the most spirited sideshow of the weekend, befitting the energy and passion of youth, and a lot of elbows were bent and arms twisted before the decision was made. In my view, it was a good decision and will mean that young members are given all the same rights, privileges and status as older members. True to form, young Liberals were circling like vultures and pounced with pre-prepared propaganda inviting young Conservatives to defect. Hopefully, our younger members will appreciate that when you win a vote, democracy works and, when you lose a vote, democracy still works.

I came away with a deepened appreciation of the quality, dedication, tolerance and inclusiveness of the new Conservative Party of Canada. At the end of it all, most media had to admit that the Conservative movement in Canada had come a long way. We have the courage to debate difficult issues in public and the maturity to accept compromise. We have a leader at full throttle; backed up by a young, smart and diverse Caucus; and working with a solid policy platform and constitution that will appeal to Canadians, if not Liberals.

We also elected a strong National Council to administer the Party under the leadership of a strong President. Some media even tried to portray the latter internal Council vote as a division between East and West, which is rubbish.

The long and short is that we're ready. The parties were good and the Party is strong. But wait, dammit, I forgot about the most important and devastating moment of the whole affair. Just when we thought we were out of the woods, the shocking truth was revealed that Stephen Harper kicked a chair. I'm not sure that I have the strength to carry on. Or maybe, like the Liberals, the chair just had it coming.


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6:21 PM  

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