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Live from Vancouver: The night (and early morning) that delegated Liberal conventions died Add to ...

At the 2006 Liberal convention, when "One Member, One Vote" came up for vote, it had no chance. The reason was pretty simple: The convention was too exciting, too much fun. The delegates who were being asked to vote were never going to say "No, I never want to do this again - this system is wrong." If there was any doubt left whether OMOV is going to pass today, it ended last night. While I am sure I could imagine a worse night at a political convention - I have a fairly vivid imagination - I've just never seen one. First off, the timing of the night was destined for problems. The official program was intended to run from 7:00-9:00 p.m. pacific time. It started a bit late, ensuring that the big speeches (Louise Arbour) were going to take place well after 1:00 a.m. in Atlantic Canada and past midnight in central Canada. That, of course, turned out to be optimistic. As it also turned out, the fact that nobody was watching the evening was probably a good thing. Jean Chrétien spoke first. Chretien at a Liberal convention is like Zac Efron at a slumber party of 12-year-old girls (in the most wholesome sense possible). Lots of shrieking, photo-taking, jumping up and down, the occasional pillow-fight (the man can still really swing a pillow) - his actual performance doesn't really matter. Others have reported that it was vintage Chrétien. No argument here - Jean Chrétien is still the most popular living figure in the Liberal Party of Canada. He had some great lines, wonderful lines. It wasn't his best speech of the last four years. There was nothing wrong with it - it just needed a good edit and went on for far too long. Not that anybody minded coming from him - he could have spoken for another hour and nobody would have complained. It was just what came after that magnified it. Next up came a video tribute to Stéphane Dion. The nicest thing I can say about the video is it worked, there was lighting, it wasn't filmed in Kabul, yuk, yuk, yuk. Actually, it was part one of two videos. There is just so much to fete, you couldn't possibly have fit it all into a single video. Then came Paul Martin. Not to introduce Dion - no, no, still way too soon for that - but to talk, in part about Dion and more about other stuff, boilerplate all. Martin was fine. Long. Very Long. The tone had been set. Then came another video. It was long as well. It added nothing to the evening. Then Michael Ignatieff spoke. If a test of leadership is to realise when things are running painfully long and speak for only 30 seconds, then Ignatieff is the next Paul Drucker. The winner of the night - a few nice words about Dionm and then he sat down. Up came Dion. This was his moment. He could have been poignant. He could have been funny. He could have simply said thank you. He could have cursed at the audience and then sat down. Any of those options would have been better than the speech he gave. The length was striking only because the evening was so long. But frankly, his speech could have been edited in half and it still would have been a disaster. The speech was a policy rant of his vision for Canada, including eco-tourism and national parks. I have no doubt Dion sees eco-tourism as a key part of his legacy, but Canadians don't and won't. Stephane Dion is a fine guy - lots of integrity, great minister - but the total lack of political judgement that went into this speech when it came to who his audience was and what he was trying to achieve is the number one reason (far more than the poor delivery) that he failed as leader. Of course, the night wasn't over. Not even close. There were still five more speeches to go. This is apparently traditional in tribute evenings - that the honoury speaks mid-way through the proceedings. By the time Louise Arbour came up to speak (by this time, it was 3:30 a.m. in Newfoundland), she started her speech "dear Liberal" presumably because that was roughly the crowd she was speaking to. As they say, today is another day. Last night was bad.

 

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