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BTC: Peter Van Loan’s father-in-law wore red pants


 

An hour north of Toronto, past the townhouses and the amusement park and the construction and the bales of hay, there is Bradford West Gwillimbury. And down a winding country road, along a creek dyed green with moss for the occasion, past Wanda Street and Tornado Drive and over a small bridge, there is Bradford’s Portugese Cultural Centre, beige walls, brown hardwood floors and passably decorated with red balloons and a Canadian flag out front.

I arrived a little late and thereby missed the ten-year-old girl in cowboy hat, western jacket and cowboy boots who sang country songs to warm up the crowd of 200 or so. By the time I got there, Mr. Dion was in mid-lecture, pacing the stage in brown shoes, beige pants, blue shirt and navy jacket, microphone pinned just below his collar. “You came because you care about your country,” he told the crowd. Which was flattering, if not verifiably true.

When he was through with his opening remarks, the local candidate opened the floor to questions. A balding, middle-aged man who introduced himself as Steve was first to thrust his arm upwards. What are you going to do for those who’ve lost their jobs? What about senior citizens? Then Linda. What are you going to do for those who are disabled, disadvantaged and in need of social services? Then a woman in a blue boa. What do you plan to do for Lake Simcoe?

Next was Keith, with a suggestion. Mr. Dion, he advised, should call the CBC forthwith and ask for airtime so that he and the Prime Minister can thrash this out before the collective eyes of the nation. Keith wore red pants and a Liberal logo’d hat. Dion readily accepted this advice, noting he had indeed already taken it, challenging Mr. Harper to a debate wherever and whenever. Keith, the local candidate announced, had a son-in-law named Peter. Last name, Van Loan.

Then Steve was back up with a question about federal seat distribution in Ontario. He was quite adamant that Dion make an issue of it during the next campaign. A woman presented Dion with a giant, neon green card. Then asked him about universal dental care and nursing home safety. A declared member of the Green party stood up. “How are you going to assure us that your words aren’t just words?” he begged.  A man with wavy grey hair asked about oil producers and free trade. Someone asked about Kyoto. Another about Bill C-51. Another about the U.S. presidential election. Another about the Russian invasion of Georgia. Another about the greenhouse industry. Another about Dion’s preferred role for the Canadian military. The vice-president of a local school’s student council wondered what young people could do to help. “That was a very articulated question,” Mr. Dion complimented.

Mr. Dion was not terrible at any of this. He meandered at times, dodged at others, seemed generally too adamant that the conversation stay on the topic of his choice. But he looked relaxed, or at least noticeably less neurotic than he often appears in the presence of the Ottawa press gallery. He cracked jokes that people seemed to be genuinely interested in laughing at. His prickliness flashed only once—when a woman suggested that government support for families was tantamount to discrimination of the childless. On several occasions he was commended on his “courage.”

The local candidate thanked him for coming and Mr. Dion received a standing ovation and then, while everyone was still standing, he offered a few final words. “On a personal note, I’m a Quebecer and in some ways I chose twice Canada—when I was born and when I decided not to be a separatist. And many of my friends are still separatists. I came into politics at the request of Mr. Chretien to be sure that Lake Simcoe would be part of my country as much as Lac-St-Jean is part of your country. And now I want to be Prime Minister of our great country to be sure that these two lakes and what they represent, in terms of communities and quality of life and strong economies and strong agriculture will be there for our children and grandchildren. And if Lake Simcoe and Lac-St-Jean remain part of the same country and if we do the right choices, especially at the next election, I’m very confident that we will succeed in English et en Francais.”

It was not entirely eloquent. The rhetorical stretch—from healing our greatest national division to reconciling humanity’s position in the global ecosystem—weakens the more thought you give to it. And his mention of Lake Simcoe was surely the political equivalent of the rock star who declares himself happy to be back in Buffalo.

But this was also, almost definitely, as potentially endearing a case he has yet made for himself. Which is, perhaps, something.

On his way out he posed for pictures and shook hands and listened to still more advice. The Liberal camera crew made sure to get a shot of their leader shaking the hand of the government house leader’s father-in-law. The last person to get Mr. Dion’s attention before he was whisked out the door to scrum with local reporters was an excruciatingly earnest young man who declared, “This is the most excitement we’ve had in this town. Ever.” Which, in fairness, likely says more about the this part of the country than this man who stubbornly seeks to govern it.


 

BTC: Peter Van Loan’s father-in-law wore red pants

  1. “It was not entirely eloquent. The rhetorical stretch—from healing our greatest national division to reconciling humanity’s position in the global ecosystem—weakens the more thought you give to it.”

    Sheesh Aaron. Could you be more cynical?

  2. In a word, yes.

  3. Well at least you are honest about it.

  4. Uh Oh! A politician being complimented for his courage is definitely not a good sign.

  5. Because it’s better to be complimented for cowardice?

  6. Uh Oh! Wayne mincing his amateurish proverbs without the tinfoil! That’s definitely not a good sign…

    It’s refreshing to see some journalism that isn’t grounded completely in the vinyl-like mantra of ‘election’ and ‘not-a-leader’ songs spun by so many rehashers. Dion’s communication style in english does require the listener to be attentive and somewhat in-tune. He’s working at it, but as noted it sometimes has too much professoral pomp to it.
    But the integrity is there.

  7. Was that the father of Wife #1, or Wife #2?

  8. I missed the part where he answered the questions.

    What did he say about universal dental care? My Canadian friends are always astonished that I insist on paying for my own. Interestingly, dental costs are much higher in Canada than they are in Europe. This is possibly because so many people have employer plans, which is quite uncommon overseas. Useful to compare to the situation with HMOs in the US.

    It’s also entertaining when politicians start talking about how they are going to “create” jobs. Did he have an answer for that?

    Dan, what do you mean by integrity? Evidence is always appreciated.

    Words are just words. How can anyone assure us otherwise?

    Anyway I’m rooting for him.

  9. Perambulator, integrity often feels like an artificial ‘New Improved!’ advertisal tag for a politician. But having met the man and watched him in action, I do think he operates at an honest and purposeful level. He isn’t a true political animal – as evident in the leadership debate when he whinged ‘Do you think it’s easy making priorities?’ (a statement that a well-formed politician would have avoided, but a truthful admission)…
    During the Climate Change Conference he muscled through some very difficult negotiation with parties that were almost completely at opposite poles. Upon getting concessions that made a fairly strong agreement, he really looked relieved and proud.
    And take his period of adjustment as a neophyte politician. Thrown to the wolves, sort of speak, against Quebec sovereigntists, Dion constructed a crucial stance against Bouchard’s insistance of unilateral declaration of independence — and he faced incredible heat in his own home province over what some saw as raw stubbornness. However, he never lowered the argument to namecalling, nor wavered from using an open, intelligent debate on the issue.
    From what i see, he still insists on framing his leadership around those ideals.
    But i’m not saying he’s perfect. But certainly those who argue against him could frame their reasons around ideas and choices, rather than how he sounds or what he looks like in a cowboy hat.

    Integrity 1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

  10. He seems- earnest. Endearingly so. Mostly because he has a tendancy to be… awkward… you never feel like yhe’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

  11. Courageous…Stephane Dion shows he went to the “Sir Robin” school of courage.

    “When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail, and fled…”

    With apologies to the Pythons.

  12. Whatever John G. You know full well that Dion didn’t bring down the govt in the past year because his own caucus didn’t want him to.

    The man has been accused of cowardice when everyone knows that he wanted to bring down Harper but was forced to stand down because of his own caucus and because the Quebec wing of his party refused to cooperate.

    The only time that Dion actually refused to bring down Harper of his own volition is when Bob Rae joined the caucus and pushed for an election in the Spring and Dion wanted the summer to introduce the Green Shift.

    This here is no secret so save your talking points for you so-called Tim Hortons crowd.

  13. where did this tim-hortons-crowd thing come from? i love tim horton’s. am I in the wrong spot?

  14. Sophie In boudica’s world only knuckle draggers go to Tim Hortons. If you are a lefty, you should be going to Starbucks.

    Courageous is one way to describe Dion, that’s for sure. I would say he has a brass neck to sell himself as an environment, green person when he spent 18 months as environment minister and all he did was chair an international meeting and name his dog ‘kyoto’. And now his green plan seems to be more about raising funds for social programs than doing anything for the environment.

  15. I don’t go to either Tim Horton’s or Starbucks. I make cappuccino at home. That’s the libertarian way. :)

  16. But I just read in another thread that Dion will appear on Michael Coren tonight for a full hour.

    In all seriousness, that’s showing a bit of courage. Coren is pretty tough and sympathetic to conservatives so full props to Dion for appearing there for a full hour.

  17. “Sophie In boudica’s world only knuckle draggers go to Tim Hortons. If you are a lefty, you should be going to Starbucks. ”

    Excuse me, jwl? That definition belongs to none other than your party. I’ve been mocking those labels since I’ve heard them. Please don’t ascribe that nonsense to me.

  18. “Excuse me, jwl? That definition belongs to none other than your party.”

    When did Warren Kinsella become a Conservative?

  19. john g, enough with the lies. You know full well that Flaherty has been quoted left right and centre, referring to “conservatives” as being middle-class people who go to Tim Hortons and not Starbuck.

    I understand your need to disown such stupidity, though.

  20. boudica, first of all, why would I lie about such an inane topic as who coined the “Tim Hortons vs. Starbucks” metaphor for the last election.

    But since you’ve called me a liar, and since Warren nukes his blog content every year, I guess we’ll have to rely on BCer in Toronto’s blog for evidence. I won’t post the link to avoid the moderators, but found this relatively easily on google.

    “Warren Kinsella blogged during the campaign on his theory that the Conservatives ran a campaign for the Tim Hortons-crowd, while the Liberals appealed to the Starbucks swilling elite.

    Said Warren:

    “It was about us (the people at hockey rinks, holding cups from Tim’s or Coffee Time) versus the elites (the ones who have never been on public transit, and who read the Sunday Times at Starbucks). “”

  21. John G – according to some more embittered Liberals, sometime around the time that he all-but-endorsed (actually, *did* he explicitly endorse? It’s tough without being able to go back through the archives) Stephen Harper during the last election. However, he’s back to being an edgy, outsider Liberal now, I think.

    More importantly, though, I agree that the Tim Horton’s/Starbucks analogy is wildly overrated, and of dubious legitimacy. (Perhaps someone should commission a poll!) Then again, I say that as a Second Cup girl, who doesn’t drink coffee but bemoans the fact that neither of the big two offer date squares, the quintessential Canadian snack.

  22. “Then again, I say that as a Second Cup girl, who doesn’t drink coffee but bemoans the fact that neither of the big two offer date squares, the quintessential Canadian snack”
    Tim Horton’s has fantastic apple fritters, though.

  23. Kady, Kinsella hates Martin with a passion for his war with Chretien. And he respects Harper for having the decency to have phoned him and his mother when his father passed. Neither of those things make him a Conservative.

    I don’t recall him actually endorsing anyone, but I believe he claimed to have voted for the Liberal candidate in his riding (a case of supporting the candidate, not the leader).

    But I agree completely. The metaphor is overrated, and I only drag up the quote because I don’t appreciate being called a liar.

  24. PS – It’s definitely fair to say, however, that regardless of the Kinsellian origin of the Tim Horton’s metanology, the Conservatives have gleefully adopted it as shorthand to describe those potential voters that, to their minds, are the only ones who can lay claim to the title of “ordinary Canadian” (or sometimes “taxpayer”). Anyone else is an atypical aand anomalous aberration, so enjoy that caramel latte, freakshow!

  25. john g, enough with the obsfucation, ok?

    Are you saying that the CPC (not some blogger, the actual Conservative Party) have not described their base as middle-class people who prefer tim hortons to starbucks and shop at Canadian Tire?

  26. “- according to some more embittered Liberals, sometime around the time that he all-but-endorsed (actually, *did* he explicitly endorse? It’s tough without being able to go back through the archives) Stephen Harper during the last election.”
    I think he did. That said, i know many a Liberal who endorsed Layton or Duceppe.

  27. Kady, what about Nanaimo bars?

    I’m no market researcher, but it seems to me that any party would be stupid to diss the Tim Horton’s crowd. You can’t get in there.

    However dissing Starbucks people is something I can agree with, especially if it gets the milkshake-swilling pram pushers out of the queue so I can get myself a decent cup of espresso.

    Anyhow, Starbucks in Canada sucks without free wifi. Blenz is much more friendly to Internet addicts.

  28. Kady I like to read Warren’s site because he is so bolshie, he makes me laugh. I don’t think he ever endorsed Harper but says lots of good thinks about the pm because he reached out when Warren’s father died. However, he is very embittered about the Martin crowd and what they did to the Liberal party.

    And if you are ever in a little town called Rockwood (near Guelph) there is a bakery there that makes the best date squares ever.

  29. Kady, the first time I ever heard of coffee shops used as labels to decribe political leanings was during the Bush/Kerry election. I remember GOP strategists referring to “Liberals” as Starbuck drinkers.

    Not sure what the Tim Hortons equivalent would be in the US.

  30. boudica, I never claimed anything of the sort.

    You claimed that the metaphor belonged solely to the Conservatives. I pointed out that Kinsella was one of the bloggers/pundits who coined that metaphor. You called me a liar, which I don’t appreciate, and I produced evidence that refuted your claim.

    And you say I am the one obfuscating?

  31. Err… Dunkin’ Donuts?

  32. “I think he did. That said, i know many a Liberal who endorsed Layton or Duceppe.”

    And I’ve never voted Liberal in my life but most certainly plans to do in the next election. I hate Starbucks coffee but drink Second Cup lattes and Tim Hortons double and have accumulated over $100 worth of Canadian Tire currency.

    According to the CPC, I am an aberration.

  33. “You claimed that the metaphor belonged solely to the Conservatives.”

    I made no such claims. I just said above that I heard it for the first time in the US.

  34. “comment by boudica on Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 10:14 am:

    “Sophie In boudica’s world only knuckle draggers go to Tim Hortons. If you are a lefty, you should be going to Starbucks. ”

    Excuse me, jwl? That definition belongs to none other than your party. I’ve been mocking those labels since I’ve heard them. Please don’t ascribe that nonsense to me.”

  35. “According to the CPC, I am an aberration.”

    It sounds like you’re taking this coffee metaphor a bit too personally. Did someone slip you a decaf this morning?

  36. Typical attitude from a “oh my god I’m the centre of the universe torontonian”. If I may be allowed to set the record straight:

    45 minutes north of Toronto in one of the Province’s fastes growing communities (pop. 30,000), one enters the bustling town of Bradford West Gwillimbury by exiting highway 400, driving through multimillion dollar employmant lands where Toronto Corporate head offices will soon re-locate because of lower taxes and lower crime, past the Home Depot, the Walmart Superstore, still under construction and a new houseing development which will see the Town’s population double over the next 15 years – after which time one takes a turn to an older, quaint part of town, near the border of lush farmalands which is home to the vegetable growing capital of Ontario – the Holland Marsh. There you’ll find the Portuguese Cultural Centre, where the heritage of a significant portion of this Town’s population is celebrated.

    As for the rest, you spin it the way you want – you are, (apparently) the political ‘expert’. Except ‘the local candidate’ has a name and it is Judith Moses http://www.judithmoses.com

    You were probably late because you had to stop and deal with the nosebleed you suffered driving north of the 401.

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