Greetings from the Conservative Party national convention in Calgary, where everything is slightly screwy and not-so-slightly chilly. The spring floods that delayed the convention necessitated a change of venue from the friendly downtown Telus Convention Centre to the BMO Centre on the Calgary Stampede grounds. This is to say that the convention is happening on the cusp of Alberta winter at an otherwise empty festival site. Readers shall interpret this as a metaphor strictly at their own risk.
The Conservatives have added to the Dawn of the Dead flavour by adding a touch of “A Cask of Amontillado” to the media experience: most of Friday’s convention activity was closed off to reporters, who were dumped into a room unsuitably far from any interesting events or people, hastened along by heavies if they lingered at the edges of any Forbidden Zones for too long, and left with no coffee, water, or free wireless access. I have to interpret this as being another accidental consequence of the flood, because if I suggest that it is deliberate light torture I will be guilty of Media Party vanity or navel-gazing or something.
The atmosphere of torpor and exasperation has been furthered, and not only on the side of the media, by the feeling that the real news is happening elsewhere; delegates to the convention can often be heard trading Rob Ford updates in realtime (“His lawyer says they should show the tape??”). Everyone knew by Thursday night that there are to be no big surprises in the Prime Minister’s keynote speech, barring some off-script excursion. (“I quit. Bye, suckers.”) The question is how well Mr. Harper’s brief (but not perfunctory) defence of his handling of errant senators will play outside the convention hall.
Platform resolutions from the grassroots underwent a sort of playoff tournament Friday, with the “winners” advancing to Saturday hearings in the plenary sessions scheduled for the BMO Centre’s large Hall D. Resolutions favouring the end of odious dairy supply management were stamped out very firmly by no-nonsense senior delegates with seats at risk, and will not be entertained Saturday. (I talked to a few Conservatives who would have liked their party to add a cheaper-dairy promise to the platform. They were, well, cheesed off.) One motion favouring action against “discrimination against girls through gender selection” did advance to the big final. Discrimination against boys? Totally okay and awesome, thanks for asking. I am told the resolution does not explicitly mention abortion; its advocates, of course, talk about almost nothing but.
No Conservative convention is complete without revisionist action against the party’s founding pact which made ridings, rather than individual voters, equal in party leadership contests. The status quo won again this time, with well-organized action by the forces of Peter MacKay suppressing a revisionist “compromise” that would have given ridings with many Conservative members up to twice the weight of those with almost none. I heard contradictory messages from various delegates on the eternal one-man-one-vote controversy. Delightfully ubiquitous right-wing operative Vitor Marciano told me that the revisionist camp pretty much threw the fight this time (having lost one of its traditional corner men, Sen. Doug Finley), but other revisionists seemed more disappointed by the loss. Some Westerners who see themselves as future candidates for the Harperian succession clearly intend to keep this issue alive until the Last Judgment, or Canada’s absorption into the Alaskan Empire, whichever comes second. More to come from Calgary, probably tomorrow. -Yrs, C.C.