Iggy’s water and everybody else’s
As delegates entered the room for Michael Ignatieff’s big speech at the Liberal convention in Vancouver, songs from the ’60s, such as (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave by Martha & the Vandellas played over the speakers. After he was officially crowned Liberal leader and people were leaving, the music at least made it to the ’70s with Cheryl Lynn’s Got to Be Real. Justin Trudeau, who was one of the convention co-chairs along with Vancouver MP Ujjal Dosanjh and former Manitoba Liberal MLA Bobbi Éthier, introduced Iggy after speeches delivered by, among others, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc. Both Rae and LeBlanc dropped out of the leadership race. Beside the podium were several glasses of water, two of which had sticky notes identifying them as Ignatieff’s, noted Trudeau. The rest of the speakers and introducers were on their own to figure out which glasses had been sipped from. During the video lead-up to Iggy’s big speech, the loudest applause came when the Liberal leader appeared on the screens with Barack Obama. A photo of Iggy and Rick Mercer also got a noticeable increase in cheers. Nova Scotia MP Mike Savage liked that the Iggy placards people held simply said “Michael” on them. “I’m gonna take a bunch of these home for the next election,” he quipped. As Iggy spoke, several placard-carrying youth delegates who had marched to the front of the stage got down on their knees. While they did so to ensure the view was not obstructed, it also added a touch of regality to the coronation. Iggy’s brother, Andrew Ignatieff, was there, but Iggy’s son, who lives in Toronto, and his daughter, who lives in Edinburgh, were not. Among the familiar faces were Bill Graham, whose stint as Liberal interim leader lasted almost half as long as Stéphane Dion’s entire leadership tenure. At the Dion tribute the night before, the recently departed head of the Liberal party sat between Montreal MP Marlene Jennings, one of the first MPs to back his leadership bid, and Aline Chrétien, who helped bring him into politics. Dion received a First Nations drum from an Aboriginal leader. Noticeably absent from the convention and Dion’s tribute night was his wife, Janine Krieber, and daughter Jeanne Dion, who were at his side throughout the last election. For the tribute, Bob Rae’s wife, Arlene Perly Rae, wore a dress with green in it, which she said was in honour of Dion. Dimitri Soudas, Stephen Harper’s press secretary and an observer at the convention, joked that he came to the Dion tribute to see the quality of the video homage, whether it had graduated from cellphone quality to BlackBerry quality. Memories of Dion were shared in the halls. One MP recalled that when he was in Winnipeg, the former leader ordered a hot dog in a bun and requested a fork and knife. But over and over again, two words about Dion were repeated in all sorts of casual conversations: “integrity” and “honesty.”
Zsuzsanna’s B.C. side trip
When folks registered at the Liberal convention they received a black bag that Cape Breton MP Mark Eyking called his “murse” (male purse). Inside was a small bottle of hand sanitizer, a stain-removing stick, and the program guide, which when Newfoundland MP Siobhan Coady opened it triggered her asthma. One journalist at the convention had a name similar to a person involved in the sponsorship scandal. When he tried to register, an alert popped up on the computer to say that he was banned for life from the Liberal party. Security was called and the mess was sorted out. The convention was held in the newly expanded Vancouver Convention Centre, built along the waterfront with a stunning interior of glass and woodwork and a spectacular view of the mountains. Iggy said he liked the serenity of it; his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, said the facility needed more colour. While she was in B.C., Zsohar stopped by the cat breeder from whom she got her first cat, who now lives at Stornoway, to inspect the second one she plans to buy.
Her MP husband’s barn duties wake her up
Mark Eyking held his first meeting at the Liberal convention as chair of the rural caucus. Eyking is a farmer who doesn’t do as much as he used to on his farm since becoming an MP. Still, says his wife, Pamela Eyking, when he is home she can count on being woken up every morning at 6 a.m. to the sound of her husband shovelling horse manure out of the barn. Eyking brought his wife and three of his kids to the convention. Also on the kid front, Vancouver MP Joyce Murray brought her son, rapper Baba Brinkman, who has been touring his one-man show “The Rap Guide to Evolution.” Murray wants to bring the show to Ottawa. “We think Gary Goodyear needs to brush up on Evolution 101,” said Murray, referring to the minister of state for science and technology who caused a dust-up when he would not say if he believed in evolution.
Belinda and the buttons
Former MP Belinda Stronach was very happy to see the “one member, one vote” motion pass at this convention. This time many Liberal heavyweights, such as Bob Rae, were pushing hard for it and they had huge buttons. “Last time we had these mini-buttons,” quipped Stronach. “No wonder it didn’t pass.”
Why Paul Martin told everybody to call her
Toronto MP Martha Hall Findlay, who represents Willowdale, was flashing her Willowdale T-shirt at the convention and on TV. Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett flashed her “Keep calm and carry on” T-shirt. Many were asking Bennett about the H1N1 virus (formerly known as swine flu) because she’s a doctor and in 2003 became Canada’s first minister of state for public health when the SARS epidemic started. At the convention, Paul Martin, who created that position when he was PM, said to Bennett: “I’ve been telling everyone to call you.”
You call that a playoff beard?
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was at a few events at the convention. In honour of the Vancouver Canucks, who were in playoff games during the gathering, he sported a playoff . . . goatee. Yup, a goatee. The tradition is a playoff beard. Toronto MP and hockey legend Ken Dryden just shook his head and said: “No self-respecting hockey player would have a ‘beard’ like that.”
Wonder Woman ties up delegate
The highlight of the convention was the closing party. Thanks to Vancouver MP Hedy Fry and her B.C. team, the biggest cheers of the weekend, not including those aided by noise-making blow-up thunder sticks, went to an outrageous and hilarious lineup of talent in a big tent set up in Stanley Park. Fry sang a duet with local drag queen legend Bill Monroe, who proudly showed off his “Tina Turner” legs. Drag queen Carlotta Gurl did a number as Wonder Woman and tied up MP Rob Oliphant’s aide with a golden lasso. The show also included saucy burlesque performers who stripped down to their pasties, and the folk-rock band Spirit of the West. Fry said this is the first time drag queens have performed at a Liberal convention. Noted Carlotta Gurl, “It could be the first of many performances or never again.”