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Telegram from Calgary II: psychoconventionadelica


 

I hail you again from my first federal political convention. I have haunted a few provincial ones, and have covered many other kinds of political event, but I was unprepared for the hallucinatory quality of the clan gathering of a party that holds national power. The formal part of the convention involves a series of fights over elements of the party’s constitution; the fights over procedure have high stakes, but are mostly stage-managed in advance, whereas the fights over the electoral and legislative principles can be open and bitter, though they matter little. At the end of the day’s crafting of legislative argot, the formal convention crumbles into an archipelago of parties in hotel suites, bars, and restaurants. Here, the real power is expressed and exercised—or maybe the right word is “flexed”, to denote the way a bodybuilder shows off. (Key gun show this weekend: Jim Flaherty’s.) At the heart of it all is the leader’s keynote, to be applauded unconditionally in public and questioned endlessly in the heart of each delegate.

One of the secrets of political reporting, not that I am doing very much of that this weekend, is that a reporter’s leverage is never higher than after the keynote. The party rank and file already knows that their leader is the ultimate tonic for national greatness; they have nothing to learn talking about the speech to each other, not even if they could be totally honest and open. Even Conservatives need some semblance of a mirror of objectivity on a day like today.

It’s hard not to do more talking than listening in a situation like that. I gave delegates the Paul Wells line (you can’t go wrong!): the Senate material in the speech was paradoxically strong, in the sense that Harper offered no hint of remorse and pretty much invited critics of his conduct to smooch his big heinie, and weak, in the sense that he seems to have given up hope of Senate reform and doesn’t seem to have any other ideas about the Other Place. The word “abolition” is not in the speech, any more than it is on the agenda.

The funny thing is that delegates were mostly quite willing to accept this. The ones who liked the no-nonsense tough-guy stuff have to agree that no one really knows what to do with the Senate, and the Leader isn’t pointing the way. The ones who wanted to see more contrition know that Harper’s sadistically taciturn style of governing has a lot to be said for it, if only strategically. They will get over not being apologized to, even for appointing Wallin, Duffy, and Brazeau to the Senate. (Is that why the press is getting the “Tough darts, you’ll have to dry-swallow that medication” treatment this weekend? Are we paying for the naughtiness of trusted media pets?)

The more panicky Conservatives were complaining before the speech that they had nothing at all to take back to their ridings. The Prime Minister was careful to hand them a few zingers (Justin as “Canadian Idol”, etc.), and the value of this shouldn’t be underestimated. Harper’s keynote was successful to at least this extent: as I slouched around from party venue to party venue last night, I met civilians, ordinary Calgarians and visitors not wearing convention badges, who were talking about the speech in the street. Some were incredulous; a couple were slightly impressed; but they were all quoting the self-conscious flourishes to one another.

Some of you will not have read my column last week about Alberta’s Wildrose Party getting ready for the acquisition of power by “Echo generation” youngsters. If I hadn’t written those ruminations a week ago I might be writing them now, and about some of the same people, too. The federal Conservative Party has begun to identify a little more openly with the Wildrose; its leader, Danielle Smith, has been in Calgary as a badge-wearing delegate, as are many of her party’s most important younger workers and potential future candidates. Some of these late-20s and early-30s operatives, it turns out, were also part of Don Iveson’s crushingly successful Edmonton mayoral campaign.

Iveson’s victory last month was in many respects more impressive than Naheed Nenshi’s flood-assisted one in Calgary; there were 279 polling stations involved in the vote, from the suburbs to Skid Row, and Iveson was beaten in precisely three of them. The Wildrose-Iveson links may seem paradoxical, since Iveson’s goofball undergraduate flirtations with leftism briefly surfaced as an issue in his campaign. But grown-up 2013 Iveson was able to reassure Edmonton business interests pretty convincingly, and with the Wildrose heading toward the political middle, there exists the hypothetical possibility of an anti-PC popular front on big-city tax fairness issues. Watch this space.


 
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Telegram from Calgary II: psychoconventionadelica

  1. OK, be honest. You wrote those last two paragraphs on the bus down before the convention so you could get out early Saturday for wings and beers :)

    • Could you blame him if he had? I hope the media bosses are giving out bonuses to the unlucky journalists sentenced to cover this dog.

      • Two days extension and complementary trip for two to Wadena. Seems fair.

        I dunno. Shmooze during or after the actual convention? I’d go for the post convention, liquor induced, lips loosened dirt, myself. But, what do I know?

        • The downside – chance of having to hear Harps singing the Hockey Song.

          • Yeah, but could shout out request for Margo’s Cargo.

          • Sorry for the delay – I’m still trying to calculate how much alcohol I would need to consume in order to do that – I can’t locate my calculator…

          • Number of shooters. Or shotguns. More bang for your buck.

      • Hahaha! You old babes have probably never been to a party in Calgary. If Colby and Paul imbibe like many journalists are known to do, they didn’t have to be “bribed to cover this dog.” Calgary has a reputation for its ability to put on a good party. There is a reason the stampede is infamous and it has nothing to do with the rodeo.

        • Your diagnosis is wrong on two levels. Too many nights at Mad Trappers, I figure.

          • Never been to Mad Trappers but I would recommend The Atlantic Trap N’ Gill. No better party to be had in Calgary than with the Maritimers away from home.

          • Yeah, had my 80’s Electric Avenue bars mixed up. Was thinking of Banditos. Made Trappers is in Golden BC, a necessary pit stop on the way to Three Buoys, Shushwap.

          • Yes apparently you did. Any smart Calgarian avoided Electric Avenue in its glory days before it was shut down in the early 1990’s as it was swarming with police with zero tolerance for anyone stepping out of the line. There is a great article about 11th avenue aka ‘Electric Avenue” in July 2013 Avenue Magazine online. There are almost no bars on that strip now.

          • Come Out – no irony there.

          • ♫Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows,
            Everything that’s wonderful is what I feel when we’re together,
            Brighter than a lucky penny,
            When you’re near the rain cloud disappears, dear,
            And I feel so fine just to know that you are mine.♫

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM-Vn_IZHx8‎

    • Colby could because the grey man gave all journos his script prior to him giving it and if there is one thing we can all agree on the guy never deviates from a carefully formulated message. He has no idea how to think on the go after all.

  2. How’s the Milewski line doing compared to Paul’s? Compared to anyone’s ?

    • What line was that?

      • If i know Terry, it wasn’t a pro Harper line.

  3. Boy those Tory delegates are a tough crowd. Harper merely has to polish a bit of a turd like, behold my Canadian idol competitor in the librul camp, to keep them chuckling all wknd and beyond.
    Jeez, I was naive enough to think these guys might at least go… ‘Lol…really, great line boss. But about that Nigel thing, couple a quick questions for ya…hey! Who cut my mic off?’
    For some reason I had a forlorn hope the party faithful, while not demanding his head, might at least complain about the hair, just a bit. I even wrote somewhere that if Harper were ever to get turfed before his appointed time, Conservatives absolutely would have to put their shoulder to the wheel, as well as the opposition.
    I’ve since purged myself of this craziness by forcing myself to watch a whole episode of coronation street for my sins. There’s a show to drain hope and illusion from any hope besotted fool, as surely as the leaf do their fans. At least I didn’t have to go to plan B – Canadian idol.
    I am now a man newly shorn of any pretension or illusion as to hope ever springing out of the barren ground of any party that chooses to Canadian idol[ize] SH.

  4. Journalists belong to Unifor union, maybe Cons dislike msm because journos $$$ goes to left wing parties as membership dues. It is astonishing how Canadian journos never mention that they belong to typical left wing union and Cons have good reason to be suspicious of msm.

    Cosh and Wells should talk to their union reps and find out what union wants them to write about Cons. Jerry Dias will protect you, Macleans staff, he is left wing kook and is keen to mix it up with the federal Cons.

    Why are Canadian journos so listless and obsequious – do they learn it at journo school or does it come naturally to them?

  5. So he compares J.T. to a Canadian Idol star while delivering a speech described by Andrew Coyne as a “parody of a parody of an empty cliché”–and then does a 5th-rate lounge act? No wonder his base loves him.

    • Most delegates travelled a long way just to hear a speech they’ve heard many times before, and to see Larry the Lounge Lizard again.

    • Does anyone with brains would consider Andrew Coyne’s words consequential in any way?! I think NOT.

      • Well, you sure cut him down – he`ll have to retire NOW.

        • I sure wish he would.

      • Re-read what you wrote, then hide your head in shame.

        • No, you should. Anyone with brains would perfectly understand and appreciate fair and constructive criticism,with depth and insight not the kind of silliness that doesn’t please his way of thinking. Only a moronic partisan would applaud his blatant opinions.

      • It’s funny that when he was endorsing the crook Harper I heard nary a tweet from the knuckle dragging segment of society.

      • Here are some more of Coyne’s words: “When your only principle is paranoia — when your central organizing proposition is that ‘everyone is out to get us’ — when every criticism is merely confirmation of the essential rightness of that proposition, and every deviation is evidence of disloyalty, then you are less a party than a cult.”

        • The spirited defenses and apologies for the PMO/CPC senate scandal that pop up here are assuredly more cultish than mere party loyalty.

        • Oh silly faceless and nameless person you. AGAIN, no one with a brain takes Andrew Coyne’s word in any way shape or form, only anti-harperites like yourself.

          • That’s why Coyne was invited to speak to the Law Faculty at the U of A today.

    • The one thing I’ve realized about Andrew Coyne is that he inevitably turns against any politician who actually wields power. Political realities revolt him. Of course, having learned more about his family background, one can understand that there’s some psychological foundation for his outlook.

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