Le ciel est bleu: liveblogging Stephen Harper's first Quebec City event of Campaign '08

2:41:18 PM

So here’s the thing. I don’t actually plan to do a lot of liveblogging during this campaign, because that’s ITQ’s thing and I’m not so much the blackberry-typing guy. Thumbs hurt. But two things happened on the way to the Quebec City Hilton (official motto: “Since We Renovated, The Decor Sucks A Lot Less”). Here are the two things:

1. ITQ told me how to do the datestamp thing, so now I can datestamp at any time. Look: 2:44:07 PM

2. When we landed at the airport, they told us the dogs would be sniffing the bags when we get back on, and while I have nothing the dogs will find suspicious, it got me thinking about lugging my backpack all over Quebec’s half acre, and I thought, why bother?, so I left my backpack on the plane. This seemed clever until I realized we have 2 hours of filing time after the event here, and I got nothing but my berry.

So I might as well use it. Hence: a liveblog! Translated from French, in part! Steve Blaney is here, so you know it’ll be a party. The fun starts in about 15 minutes.

3:08:44 PM small delay. I had imagined a bigger room and a bigger crowd, and apparently when the plane left Ottawa the Conservatives still weren’t sure whether they’d hold the event indoors or out. (Just as the PM wasn’t sure whether he’d walk or drive to Rideau Hall. Harper ’08: it’s highly improvisational, you just can’t tell from the visuals.) In the end, we’re in a room just off the lobby that’s designed to handle 200 or 300 people, which is handy because that’s what we’ve got.

There is milling. I spotted a familiar Quebec City Conservative face and asked him how it looks for the party here. “Around Quebec City? Solid,” he said. “Making gains in the city itself?” He puffed out his cheeks and rolled his eyes: it’ll take hard work if it can be done.

And still there is milling.

3:38:36 PM
So much has happened, including my blackberry crashing. Josée Verner introduced the boss while the Quebec City region MPs and candidates cheered her name as they would have if they were actually excited to see her, an unlikely prospect as she is not really a roof-raising kind of lady.

Now Harper’s up. He made a point of introducing his candidates. By name. Something he was rather famously unable to do when he came to Quebec City on the second day of the 06 campaign. So, progress.

And no sooner had he completed that exploit than he’s lighting into the Bloc, hammer and tong. This is the Message of the Event, and I’m not just guessing, because we’ve been handed press releases with the headline, “Quebec Must Choose Between Harper and Dion.” The Bloc? “As their slogan says, they’ll be present” — not deciding or running things, Harper says.

3:44:08 PM
It’s the Harper government that lowered taxes and recognized Quebec — Oops! The Québécois — as a nation, “Not the Bloc or the Liberals,” Harper says.
And a small thing, but striking to me at least: just as, at Rideau Hall, he made a point of saying how much he had appreciated even having the job, he hits hard here on the part of his speech where he thanks Quebecers for their support while he’s been PM. “It’s true that not everyone in Quebec agrees with everything I’ve done — but you know, not everyone in Alberta agrees with everything I’ve done either.” But he tries to deserve Quebecers’ support, including by “speaking your language.” He allows as how his French isn’t perfect — in fact today it’d been a little shakier than I remember it, without being a real problem; nerves, I suspect — “but I hope that every day it’s getting better.” Warm applause at this. “Because a prime minister must be able to transmit your pride to the world.”

And with that, the event, mostly just a rally, is over. Mme Verner is gonna scrum in a couple of minutes, but unless she says something surprising, I’ll sign off.

Flying to Vancouver tonight. For now, two hours filing time with nothing to do but flâner dans le vieux-Québec. Boy I love campaigns.

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