Sunday, December 03, 2006

Smells, Sights, and Sounds of Liberal Leadership Convention

As I watched Stephane Dion’s speech at the Liberal leadership convention I recalled one of my life’s most embarrassing moments. Watching Liberals often has that effect on me.

Dion’s bile green accent colour seemed appropriate for the occasion. Beneath the shy, slightly nerdy professorial appearance beats the heart of a Chretien acolyte. Dion didn’t disappoint with his quip that there was more culture in a bowl of yogurt than that possessed by Conservatives. Liberals just can’t help themselves when it comes to smugness and sanctimony. This is the party of Rousseau and Mill liberalism.

Dion’s decision to make the environment the core issue of his campaign along with his determination to ignore the issue of renewal in the Liberal Party – something one of Jean Chretien’s (actually it was Aline’s) handpicked subalterns must do diligently – is what transported me back to a cold and wintry doorstep in Saskatoon almost 40 years ago.

After too many beer, Ukrainian sausages and pickled eggs in the Cavalier Hotel pub I was kissing my date goodnight when the pleasant calm of the moment caused me to relax and allow some pent up flatulence to escape, shattering the silence and the mood to say nothing of its impact on greenhouse gas measurements. I reflexively broke off the kiss and began to talk incessantly about a litany of inane subjects, hoping to obliterate the aroma of the elephant on the porch.

With the exception of Gerard Kennedy’s, all the candidates’ speeches could have been delivered on the same cold and unpleasantly odorous prairie porch. The one major distinction was that unlike my date that night (yes it was my last date with Terry K) the rapturous crowd in Montreal seemed oblivious to the smell in the room.

- I was never a Montreal Canadien fan but I always admired Ken Dryden as a hockey player. He is much less endearing as a physically bloated, angry and arrogant politician, insisting that any vision of Canada that is not Liberal is not Canadian. It was almost pathetic to see him hop from losing camp to losing camp until he finally backed the winning horse for the last round of voting.

- Best line from an analyst had to be Rex Murphy’s depiction of Michael Ignatieff’s speaking style as “lethargic fluency”.

- Best television image – Dion in his acceptance speech framed in the background by the godfather Chretien over his right shoulder, arms folded in front of him, a self-satisfied grin on his face; the shadowed jutting jaw of interim leader Bill Graham in profile just behind Dion’s left ear, and the Howdy Doody joviality of the hapless Paul Martin behind his left shoulder. It reminded me of a scene from some old Woody Allen movie but with strong hints of the Grand Guignol. I kept seeing them dressed in polka dot puffy sleeved costumes with jester hats. My imagination is sometimes too vivid!

- Best political self-preservation move - Gerard Kennedy backing yet another Liberal leader from Quebec. He is counting on the pendulum swinging at some point in his political lifetime and he may get another chance at the leadership.