Liberal convention 2014: Back to Montreal

Justin Trudeau’s party throws a party for itself

Richard Lam/CP

Richard Lam/CP

Four years—three years and 11 months to be precise—ago, the leader of the Liberal party convened a remarkable conference in Montreal. Some of the nation’s most worldly were gathered in a nice-looking ballroom to hash out the fundamental quandaries and possible aspirations of the country. Similar convenings in 1960 and 1991 had been credited with refreshing the most successful political institution of the 20th century. At the end of those three days four years ago, the man who had brought together the thinkers looked upon them and pronounced something like success. “We changed Canadian politics this weekend,” he said, “and it will never be the same.”

A year—14 months to be precise—later, Michael Ignatieff lost his seat in the House of Commons and resigned as the leader of the Liberal party, Canadian politics having experienced a change, however lasting, but not of the sort that conference in Montreal was supposed to signal. If you go looking for the website for that gathering now, you’ll find a page with tips on home improvement.

Once again a year short of another election, the Liberals return to Montreal both better and worse off. They have about half as many incumbent MPs and they are another three years removed from government. In the House of Commons, they are the third party and the old third party (the NDP) now has a hundred seats and the title of official opposition. To get back to government the Liberals would need now to double their popular vote of 2011. That said, the Liberals are now led by a young man that people seem to like and they have led the polls, however up and down the red line, for 10 months and their fundraising is newly strong.

So what to expect of this weekend in Montreal?

The leader, Justin Trudeau, will have two speeches—one tonight and another on Saturday afternoon. Perhaps he might add some colour to the rough sketch of an agenda he’s offered so far. At the very least it will be another opportunity for amateur and professional analysts to take his measure and guess at his future.

The Conservatives, as set out in their leaked memos, might attempt to make trouble for Mr. Trudeau, in keeping with the long tradition of trolling your political rival’s attempt to have a good time (the New Democrats will also presumably be about, maybe just to roll their eyes and sigh and groan at various points).

The policies to be debated are varied and variously interesting—a national transportation strategy, democratic reform, a national energy strategy, a basic-income supplement, physician-assisted suicide and maybe legalized prostitution. Ahead of this weekend, Mr. Trudeau sent out a video to explain his thinking on the economy—see Stephen Gordon and Mike Moffatt for expert consideration—and presumably the Liberals might want to use this weekend to continue the work of demonstrating their leader’s seriousness. Unlike Montreal in 2010, this is a conventional affair, which is perhaps in keeping with the very real work the Liberal party must do.

The stage will serve as well to showcase the sorts of people a Prime Minister Trudeau would surround himself with. Newish Toronto MP Chrystia Freeland will open the convention in conversation with American worthy Lawrence Summers. Equally Newish Montreal MP Emmanuel Dubourg and retired general Andrew Leslie, the latter capping a perfectly brutal week-long introductory seminar in politics, will speak on Friday afternoon and at other points there will be the debut of even newer stars. (Mr. Leslie’s speech will, of course, coincide with the first period of the hockey semi-final between Canada and the United States, so he might end up addressing an empty room.)

One should obviously avoid putting too much stock into a single weekend. At best it will be a small step forward for a party that still has a long way to go. Whether it will be remembered as a small step toward the grand rebuilding of the Liberal party, a small step toward the ultimate death of the party or a small step in the long exile of the party will not be known for at least another year.

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Liberal convention 2014: Back to Montreal

  1. Libs are up 8 points going in….Cons are on the edge of their seats with big magnifying glasses looking for a fault, a gaffe, a sneeze out of place….trying to hold back their sense of doom…… having cellphone cameras at the ready, handsful of memos and scavenger hunt lists from HQ…..

    And they’re off!!!

  2. Should be interesting to see how many Liberals spark up joints on the convention floor when Trudeau delivers his speech.

    • Cons looking to sell some are they?

      • Are you not paying attention again? It’s Justin Trudeau who’s spent the better part of the last 6 months trying to sell dope to Canadians.

        • You must be hearing those voices in your head again Rick….you’re the only one that’s heard him saying that.

        • You are the best parody account ever!

          • Maybe he had the same person hack his disqus

  3. Larry Summers well-known misogynist (Harvard) and women bullyier (hounded Brooksley Born out of the Clinton Administration, when she opposed his efforts to lay the groundwork for the destruction of the world economy and the Western middle class, with the repeal of Glass-Steagal, and the complete non-regulation of derivatives).

    And in the Obama Administration, he and his pal Geithner bailed out the banks, but did piddly little to bail out Main Street.

    No respectable progressive Democrat in the US Senate would permit Obama to nominate him to replace Bernanke.

    The guy is one of the four horsemen of the global economic apocalypse, and this warrior for the banks and for 1%’ers is the headliner Trudeau and Freeland bring to the Liberal policy convention.

    • Wow…..your conspiracy theories are getting more complicated by the minute.

      7 bankers have died in the last couple of weeks in mysterious circumstances….waddya make of that?

      • There is no conspiracy theory here.

        At Harvard, Summers said women weren’t smart enough for math and science. From Wikipedia, //he suggested that the under-representation of women in science and engineering could be due to a “different availability of aptitude at the high end”, and less to patterns of discrimination and socialization.//

        Brooksley Born, form Wikipedia

        //Brooksley E. Born (born August 27, 1940) is an American attorney and former public official who, from August 26, 1996, to June 1, 1999, was chairperson of theCommodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the federal agency which oversees the futures and commodity options markets. During her tenure on the CFTC, Born lobbied Congress and the President to give the CFTC oversight of off-exchange markets for derivatives in addition to its role with respect to exchange-traded derivatives,[4] but her warnings were opposed by other regulators.[5] Born resigned as chairperson on June 1, 1999, shortly after Congress passed legislation prohibiting her agency from regulating derivatives.[6][7]//

        Go watch The Inside Job, or any of the numerous lookbacks at the causes of the global economic crisis and the repeal of Glass-Steagal by Clinton, Summers, Rubin, and Geithner.

        A brief summary:

        • Betcha he offed those 7 bankers too eh?

    • Hey, he’s got a famous name. Liberals love that kind of thing. Accomplishments? Totally irrelevant.

      • Up against Harp from the mailroom?

        • I don’t even have a clue what you’re trying to say.

          • You never have Rick……and you never will.

          • Every time he posts I’m reminded how happy i am that I changed banks

          • LOL

  4. Harper is such religious righteous guy. He desires profit at all costs, he is giving up reindeer land and our rivers and air for oil profits and he is standing firm with money money money from the Oil Sands – he is unshakeable. I am sure when Warren Buffet meets him at the golden gates he will be overjoyed at his rate of returns on earth.

    • Your psychotic ramblings are becoming rather disturbing. Please listen to your family and seek help. Immediately.