The Final Days: Halifax


(From now through the end of the campaign next week, I’ll be with the Liberal campaign. Regular reports should appear here irregularly.)

Despite reports that he had divorced himself of the wretched machine, Stephane Dion has still been using a teleprompter for his major speeches. And around noon in Halifax, his teleprompter struck back against its rumoured demise.

Speaking to a chamber of commerce crowd pausing briefly from its catered lunch, Dion opened with a general greeting. Soon enough though he was gesturing at the glass screens in front of him, apparently begging the text beamed upon them to move. When visual commands didn’t entice the teleprompter to co-operate he tried verbally admonishing it. When that failed, he gave up. 

“I will speak with my heart, ok?” he told the crowd.

He proceeded with a few minutes of small talk. He acknowledged the Liberal candidates in attendance and spoke of his future cabinet. He stated his commitment to see more women in Canadian politics. The crowd was vaguely pleased. Dion seemed not to be totally panicking. And so it was probably not noticed by anyone without the prepared text when the teleprompter began scrolling again and Dion commenced with his actual speech.

What followed was a sort of passive-aggressive public tiff between the Liberal leader and the machine. Dion would read a few paragraphs as prepared, then change a sentence or two. Whole new paragraphs were introduced. Various phrases were edited in real time. All the more so as the speech went on.

(It’s possible the speech was changed at the last minute and the text delivered to reporters was not up to date. But from the back row—mind you, after a 6am wake-up call, an hour and a half flight to Halifax and two bus rides—it sounded like he was improvising much of what wasn’t in the available script.)

Three out of every five changes seemed to count as improvements, even if they cumulatively made for a periodically meandering lecture.

Halfway through Dion’s remarks a press release arrived from the Liberal campaign, informing those here and elsewhere that “Only the Liberal Party can stop Harper’s government” and reprinting some of the pointed attacks he was about to deliver. Considering the questions that followed in a post-speech scrum, no one seemed to notice.

He concluded with a personal appeal similar to that heard yesterday in Toronto (and ultimately derived from one that is not new to his repertoire, but had apparently gone unnoticed until recently). It remains the most appealing part of his pitch.

So choose your convenient symbolism. Either his teleprompter glitch as indicative of a candidate unable to maintain momentum. Or his generally impressive recovery as yet more evidence of an emboldened politician.

For whatever it’s worth, the best analogy might be that of a man with nothing to lose—unburdened in these final moments. Letting it all hang out, in the awkward parlance of professional sports. Bereft of any last reason to be cautious or hesitant.


The Final Days: Halifax

  1. Wherry,

    When his prompter failed, the most obvious conclusion is of a man who can’t communicate in one of our official languages. I realize with your every post attacking Harper or fawning over Dion you’ll have nothing to say on this, but man it must be weird to be further in the tank for the Liberals than MSNBC is for Obama.

  2. Puhahahaha~!

    I suppose each and every CPC candidate including Harper himself are unable to communicate in either official, since none of them are capable of speaking without cards or teleprompters, eh Peter?

    Yeah…I thought so.


  3. Austin – It’s not that Tories can’t speak without a teleprompter. It’s that they can’t speak without permission.

  4. I’m reminded of one of the Kenney pressers held at the Little Shop before those early morning daily briefings bit it a scant few days into the campaign. He was speaking in English that seemed a caricature of Shatner. And that was when he was prepared to speak without the teleprompter.

  5. The poor guy – now that has got to suck! and I mean that … Unlike a lot of Liberal partisans I only let my Conservative partisan side out to play once in awhile.

  6. That being “when I choose to post”, Wayne?

    Peter is rather precisely wrong here. I think the take-away from this is (once again) the improved English. The fact that he can improvise well screams that.

    It goes back to something people said a while back: when he’s nervous or frustrated, his English suffers. When he’s confident, it improves. Well, the English is improved.

    Draw your own conclusions.

  7. “Considering the questions that followed in a post-speech scrum”

    Did any reporter bother to ask why Iggy and Rae want to delay implementing Green Shift while Dion says full speed ahead? I hope they did.

  8. It may not all be sunshine for Dion.  Apparently, he just did an interview for CTV Halifax wherein he was asked the question “What would you have done differently than Mr. Harper over the last two weeks?”  I guess he wasn’t expecting such a question, and he proceeded to meltdown not just once, but three times in the space of the first five minutes of the interview.  He then asked to start over, and CTV Halifax went ahead and showed the meltdown anyways (good for them).

    I’m still trying to find a YouTubed version; if he keeps this up, Dion’s gonna be Harper’s early Christmas present.

  9. Demosthenes, simply put, your logic is horrible. That argumnt likens to saying: “If it’s raining purple giants from the sky, then stephane dion’s english is good. Stephane Dion’s english is good. Draw your own conclusions.”

    You can’t instantiate a necessary condition simply from a sufficient condition alone. You’d think that for a party touting a ‘rational’ policy, its supporters might be able to exude that quality.

    ‘Modus Ponens’; Google it. Or, if you must, Wikipedia.

  10. Vince…you need to try harder. Flailing around doesn’t make a point either.


  11. Granted, the middle section of that post was political invective, and in the eyes of those who disagree; yes, it is flailing and political posturing. But the first part was simply correcting terrible logic.

    Here’s a valid argument:

    If you scare canadians into mistrusting the banks, then the banks will be unstable.
    If Harper loses, it is because the banks are unstable.
    The banks are stable.

    (Hint: you’ll hate the conclusion)

  12. Hey Denosthenes, don’t spin too fast, English comprhension problems are the most charitable interpretation of Dion’s Halifax explosion.

    The fact that he got the first tough question in a long time and whiffed on it three times like a cartoon baseball batter looked alot closer to the truth.

  13. Snap!

  14. (From now through the end of the campaign next week, I’ll be with the Liberal campaign. Regular reports should appear here irregularly.)

    Are you trying to suggest you’ve been “with” anyone else the last few weeks?

  15. Man, somedays there just isn’t enough popcorn.  ;-)

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