Hammers and hospitality at the Liberal convention

Mitchel Raphael on hammers and hospitality at the Liberal convention

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Sheila Copps boogies

As Liberals descended on the capital for their biennial convention, tables were filled with Grit souvenirs including red foam hammers for “rebuilding.” When interim leader Bob Rae and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty spoke to delegates in the main hall, the jumbo screens happened to feature Justin Trudeau when each mentioned the future of the federal Liberal party. And while there was much talk at the convention about the prospect of Rae staying on as permanent leader, the buzz about Premier McGuinty going for the job increased dramatically after people checked out the party he had that night at Daly’s in the Westin Ottawa. The feast included a huge leg of meat, poutine, as well as mac and cheese with bacon. “With that kind of spread, he must be running for leader,” quipped one delegate. There was a constant lineup to get into the premier’s bash, which went late into the night. But the best party moment at the convention happened the night before when Sheila Copps held a shindig at the hip Mercury Lounge where she joined well-known Ottawa drag queen Dixie Landers on stage and boogied to Bette Midler’s version of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Copps was running for party president and lost to Mike Crawley.

Merger fashion statement?

On the first day of the convention, NDP MP Olivia Chow, an official observer, sported a red and orange scarf, which got much attention from Grit delegates. When asked if this was an attempt at a merger through fashion, Chow replied the scarf was simply showing “respect.” Also getting other party attention was former Montreal Liberal MP Marlene Jennings, who lost her seat in the last election and is considering running provincially for the freshly formed Coalition Avenir Québec. The CAQ’s leader, François Legault, approached Jennings, who noted that several high-profile federal Liberal staffers are already working for the new party.

A last beer for Iggy

When former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff arrived at the convention, an aide who hadn’t seen his old boss in awhile said, “I think he is getting less grey.” At Iggy’s hospitality suite, they served Red Leaf beer, made by Great Lakes Brewery, Toronto’s oldest craft brewery, located in the riding Ignatieff represented. The owner has been sponsoring his events since 2006.

Are you Zach’s dad?

Journalist Steve Paikin was beaming proud as his son Zach Paikin ran (unsuccessfully) to become Liberal national policy chairman. He said it felt good to have so many people come up asking, “Hey, are you Zach’s father?” rather than asking if he was the host of the TVO political show The Agenda.

From India and Panama

Some delegates came a great distance to the convention. Former Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla got back from three weeks in India where she was working with a charity to help children in slums. Liberal MP Mark Eyking and his wife, Pam Eyking, had just returned from Panama, where 15 years ago the MP had helped build two greenhouses. The project was to help the farmers grow vegetables and several of them had visited his farm in Nova Scotia.

Former MP pumped

Former MP Rob Oliphant has found that post-MP life means having the time to work out four to five times per week. This has resulted in him losing 22 lb. Oliphant is now the CEO of the Asthma Society of Canada. He has had asthma for 20 years but only received a proper diagnosis four years ago. Until then he was told he had bronchitis or the flu. Before entering politics, he worked full-time as a United Church minister.

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