Okay, this is interesting: I’m in the National Press Theatre — just a twenty minute cab ride from the heart of downtown Ottawa — and there are a grand total of — let me count — four reporters here, not including cameras, and we’re all female. Not that this is particularly noteworthy, and — well. Fine. Colleague Wells just showed up and spoiled my lede. Thanks, Colleague Wells!
Nobody seems to know exactly which top policy advisor Jason Kenney will be talking about, but the tyrannical majority seems to be betting on Rae. (I’m being contrarian and going for Elizabeth May.)
Colleague Wells, incidentally, is armed with a newer, spiffier camera — a Canon Something Or Other — and is filming the behind the scenes magic.
Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, there’s a hearing on delaying the injunction request by the PM in the Cadman trial, and I’m feeling very guilty for not being there.
He’s here! Or so I’m told by someone who can actually see outside the front doors!
Yes, I can confirm that he is, in fact, here – we have proof of life, in the form of the man himself, scampering to the backstage. I didn’t get to see his face, but it seems to be the real thing, and not a stand-in.
One minute warning. Are y’all excited yet?
“I think we’re ready now, Mr Kenney,” says the moderator, and the man himself responds by appearing.
I’m right! It *is* Elizabeth May! And Bob Rae! Wait, so who wins the bet?
Oh, fine. You want to know what he’s actually saying, don’t you? Today, Dion’s “political ally” Elizabeth May revealed her platform, which would raise the GST – shock! horror – but that’s not all: Dion also chose to underscore the presence on his team of the diabolical Bob Rae, author of the most devastating economic legacy by a provincial premier since the beginning of time. An “unprecedented” economic situation.
You know, I think this is Kenney’s first presser without the Teleprompter in a while, and it sort of shows. He’s a bit stumbly. He’s reading quotes from the 1990s – oh wait, there’s one from David McGuinty circa 2006 – that are less than flattering. He’s also wearing a Bob Rae button, which is a nice touch.
Under Bob Rae, taxes went up and incomes went down, which led to a massive recession – so how, Kenney wonders, can Dion listen to this fiscal fiend on matters of economic policy?
Interesting — for the second time, he refers to Rae as Dion’s “running mate”. He’s also brandishing a chart that looks very ominous — or at least, the headline does; we can’t actually see the numbers, and so far, nobody is handing out copies for reporters.
Why, he wonders, would Dion feature Rae now — at a time of economic uncertainty? Why highlight the premier with “the worst economic record since the Great Depression”?
Bob Rae will do to Canada what he did to Ontario, Kenney concludes – is that Dion wants?
And — questions.
Lina Dib is first up, and she challenges his claim that the Bloc is inciting “intolerance” – and the man whose party kicked off the great veiled voting debacle of 2007 assures her that he’s quite serious; no more blacklisting of religious community, he implores.
Wait, is he talking about the Opus Dei thing? I thought — something entirely different. Generally, when you play reasonable accommodation word association, Opus Dei isn’t the first thing to come to mind.
Manon Corneillier picks up where Lina Gib left off, and she dares him to provide a specific instance of Duceppe spreading intolerance against minority communities — because like everyone else, she had no clue he was referring to Opus Dei — and Kenney won’t do it. “You’re confusing ethnic and religious communities,” says the reporter.
Moving on, the same reporter wonders why Ontario is losing so many jobs *now* – a decade and change after Bob Rae’s departure – which produces a long, boring answer about tax cuts, surpluses, and fiscal prudency. Sorry, but it really *is*. And he dares Dion to make a similar commitment – no deficits! Never forget!
What, CBC’s effervescent Alison Crawford wonders, does Kenney think Rae wants to *do* to the Ontario economy? Well, wreck it, of course. The Liberals “have a tradition”, he says – it was historically a “big tent” that welcomed both the fiscally responsible and the socially progressive, and at that point, Kenney does the incredible: He gives props – not mad, but props just the same – to the Chretien government for its sound fiscal management. Alas, that has disappeared under Dion – and the emergence of Rae as “the big policy brain” – is — bad.
Hee. Crawford closes by asking why he’s here, and not out at the Little Shop, and Kenney – bless his heart – admits it’s to make it easier for us to be here. Aw. He likes us!
Since this is the election of the future and all, we already have a response from Rae, who dismisses Kenney’s diatribe as an ad hominemarific attack by junkyard dogs. Rae assures us all that he’s a big fan of the man – great pianist, heck of a guy – but now Wells is up, and he’s challenging Kenney on the game of pulling out quotes from the past.
He rhymes off a series of policy stances taken by various Tories in the past — flat taxes, that sort of thing — but Kenney reminds him that at the time, they were in opposition, not in power. They couldn’t have put those policies in place even if they’d wanted to!
CTV points out that it’s unusual to hold a presser to “attack one guy” — and Kenney once again raves about how much he likes Rae, and his wife. Why, he even defended them against “extremist attacks” during the convention. Love the man, just don’t lend him money appears to be the upshot.
This is an odd tack.
Oh, and it’s not just a presser to attack Rae — it’s also to go after the Greens, Kenney reminds us. After all, Dion does have an “arrangement” with Elizabeth May, so her position on the GST is obviously completely and totally relevant, and negates entirely his repeated statements that he has no intention of hiking the GST back up.
But are you worried that, by bringing out “popular Liberals,” Dion’s support will increase? No, no. Not at all.
Chris Rand – the moderator – brings up the delicate matter of Kenney’s own reelection campaign. Apparently, he was there last weekend! Doorknocking, even! Does this mean he has an office and everything?
Back to Lina Dib, who continues to hammer him over the Gazette article. Is he really making allegations of intolerance? Not — really, it seems. He’s just a big fan of diversity — and was using the most recent example of a “minority Catholic community.” Dib isn’t letting him get away with this – the word has a very different meaning in Quebec, she points out — just read the Bouchard-Taylor Commission. “As far as we’re concerned, diversity is something good, and something to be celebrated.”
Crawford picks up the issue, and asks for an English response, and Kenney repeats his point: Duceppe went after “a minority Catholic organization.” Why won’t he say the words “Opus Dei”? He also has an even odder point about a poster that “stereotyped” Western Canadians — something about a cowboy hat. Also, Stephen Harper went to the opening of the largest Mosque in Canada earlier this year, so clearly, he loves pluralism and diversity too.
A final question: Manon reminds him that these are “very grave allegations” – we – Quebec – spent a year tearing ourselves up about this, so she wants concrete examples.
Kenney once again brings up that “minority Catholic organization” and seems genuinely unable to come up with any other example of Parizeau-ian intolerance. Manon is getting snappish – she wants an example of the Bloc sowing xenophobia against ethnic cultures.
“Do you have any?” Manon demands. No, he actually doesn’t, but he thinks faith is as “difficult” as culture.
And that’s it. Wow, I wonder how that’ll play in Quebec.