BTC: Morning in Toronto - Macleans.ca

BTC: Morning in Toronto

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Another town hall, this one in a rather cavernous movie studio in east Toronto, Jack Layton’s riding and, once, the riding of Reid Scott, an NDP MP from 1962 to 1968.

Mr. Scott’s appearance this morning had been quietly mentioned the night before. So that he took the stage and offered an endorsement of Mr. Dion and the Green Shift was of no surprise. But that this endorsement took a full 32 minutes was quite unexpected and altogether inconvenient in light of the fact the entire event was scheduled for about an hour.

The 81-year-old Scott, wearing a Canadian flag tie, was not without his charms, mind you. “I knew Tommy Douglas,” he said at one point. “And I can assure you that Jack Layton is no Tommy Douglas.” But it’s been a century since the Lincoln-Douglas debates and, unfortunately, a half hour is a bit much for an introduction in the ADHD era. Finally, mercifully, with Scott still only hinting at a conclusion, Mr. Dion just sort of appeared, walking to the front of the room up the middle aisle to applause.

Taking the stage, he thanked Scott for his kind words, lamented the state of the NDP and presented the newest Liberal with a membership card. “I had a speech of 25 pages that I forgot at home. So my remarks will be shorter than your introduction,” he joked.

He proceeded directly then to questions. About air travel and industry costs and aboriginals and an airport in Pickering and arts funding and all those mean things the Conservatives keep saying. Pressed for time and asked to discuss public policy, he was smoother (though not smooth, an adjective that might never be applicable in his case). He was confident, again. He made jokes (some of them rehearsed, some of them off-the-cuff) and people laughed. At one point he nearly managed to link the music of Verdi with the taxing of carbon. His English even seemed to clear up. It was not quite Obama-esque. But he was decidedly not terrible. And what seemed moments earlier to be a total loss in the making was now, at worst, a draw.

All of which makes the night before all the more unfortunate.