With just minutes to go before the meeting is scheduled to wrap up, the excitement is palpable! If by palpable, you mean non-existent, that is, and it’s actually half an hour to go, but I’m trying to keep our collective spirits up. Check back at around twent after three unless you’re compelled to read every one of my idle musings.
And Brad Wall wins the coin toss backstage and gets to be the first premier at the mic after the meeting wraps up – right on time, incidentally, like – to the minute – and says that this was, of course, a “preparatory meeting” for the upcoming *real* first ministers’ meeting which will be held early in the new year – you know, the one that nobody has heard of until right this second. He then goes on about progress and labour shortages and aboriginal workers, and assures Canadians that their leaders want to work together.
You’ll be pleased to know that there was a “cooperative tone” at the table – no bickering between premiers, possibly because there were also no specifics being discussed from what I can tell. There’s also a lot of impatient fidgeting amongst the media as we’re all trying to figure out how long we can put off trooping upstairs for the PM’s press conference at 3:20.
Gordon Campbell was equally impressed by the good will shown at today’s meeting, given the “unprecedented” circumstances that the country is facing. Whether it is an auto worker in Ontario or a forest worker in BC, we have to do “everything we can” to work together.
So – why do they have to wait until January, wonders a reporter. Apparently, so the PM can “move from talk to action” starting with the upcoming G20 meeting.
Scene change – I’m heading upstairs to liveblog the PM and Charest. I know, I know – what about all those poor abandoned premiers, whose words will go unliveblogged? Unfortunately, that’s what happens when nobody can cooperate. S
Okay, so apparently Gary Doer is gone, Danny Williams is gone – and the rest, we don’t know if they’re going to bother scrumming or not. The PM is late – I know, we were shocked too – but Dimitri is here, taking names for The List, which should, in theory, signal his imminent arrival.
Dimitri is staring intently at his Blackberry, the cameras are jostling purposefully into position, and an air of anticipation has filled the room.
And there he is – Colleague Mia Rabson spotted him outside the press room, surrounded by serious-faced aides, just before Dimitri issued the two minute warning. He’s now shooing said aides away from the door through which the PM will soon enter – in sixty seconds, in fact. Ten minutes late – that’s practically early by PM standards.
And — here he is for real! Wearing the shiniest shoes I’ve ever seen on him – admittedly, I’ve not paid that much attention to prime ministerial footwear, but these are practically patent leather – and accompanied by Josee Verner – the intergovernmental affairs minister – who is decked out in a fabulous black pantsuit, but appears to have misplaced her poppy.
Oh, what’s he saying? Pretty much what you can expect – this was the first meeting, not the only one; he achieved his objectives, including briefing the first ministers on Canada’s position at the G20 summit, but whatever happens at that meeting, he’ll work with the provinces to help Canadians.
First question from CFRB – how will what was decided today help the average family? Beyond infrastructure spending and changes to the rules for RRSPs, what was accomplished? According to the PM, investing in infrastructure will help the economy as a whole – which means average Canadians as well. He then conflates the question of RRSPs with pension security, which are related but not identical issues, but he goes ahead to clear up the “misunderstanding” that converting RRSPs requires liquidation, which it doesn’t.
Josee Verner is smiling and nodding behind the PM; apparently, the role of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister has expanded to include acting as a one-woman greek chorus. I can’t imagine Rona Ambrose pulling that off; no wonder she had to be shuffled.
A question about the equalization formula, which wasn’t on the table, as far as I know, but the PM rolls with it; he assures everyone that he wants to work with the provinces to ensure that money keeps flowing. As for equalization payments, they will grow only at the rate of the economy – no more, no less.
David Llundgren is the first to ask about the auto sector, and the PM tells him that he was primarily in “listening mode” at this meeting, which – no, I won’t be unkind.
Also, a report from downstairs: Apparently Danny Williams did scrum after all, but failed to “blow a gasket”, to use the technical term employed by one of my colleagues who shall remain nameless.
McGuinty still hasn’t taken the mic.
Okay, so apparently, the downstairs microphone stopped working completely, right in the middle of Danny Williams’ scrum, which I’m sure was just an unfortunate coincidence, and not a preemptive strike by the Council of the PMONation. Anyway, the rest of the media contingent is now drifting into this press conference, just in time to hear the PM spend a very long time to not give a yes or no answer to the question of direct aid for the auto sector.
And a surprise twist ending – CTV asks about the report that two Taliban prisoners were released in exchange for Mellissa Fung, and the PM denies that this was the case; there was no ransom paid, he reiterates, and all the laws of Canada and Afghanistan were followed. So – uh, that’s that? I guess we’ll see.
I nearly made it out of the room before Charest turned up to close the meeting down — so close, and I would have had the perfect excuse for missing it — but unfortunately, I missed my chance. He’d better be quick – or, if not, more interesting than the PM and preceding premiers.
So far, he’s not saying anything new, and no, I’m not just assuming that because he hasn’t spoken a word of English yet; I checked with someone wearing headphones with simultaneous interpretation.
And — questions. Even the French reporters sound bored. It really does sound as though this entire meeting could have been conducted by email.
You know who I haven’t seen this afternoon? Kory Teneycke. Where are you, Kory?
Okay, pleasant meeting, productive, good vibes, everyone working together for the good of the nation – I think we’re done here, as far as squeezing any morsel of news out of the post-meeting buzz. I miss the old days, when you could count on at least one premier storming out midway through, or at the very least, a protest by First Nations leaders outraged at being excluded. This is just – dull.
Hey, a question in English! About … The Quebec election? Really? Apparently he’ll be chatting with the Quebec press afterwards, and doesn’t particular want to discuss the campaign at this exact moment. With a last shoutout to the PM for appreciating the importance of the pension system, and a brief recap of his priorities, he winds down – and so, too, does ITQ. We’ll see you at the real First Ministers Meeting in January – but as far as we can tell, this round is pretty much over.
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