Monday, May 04, 2009


First off, I apologize for my sporadic posting and lack of insight during the convention, but I found blogging to be a bit of a distraction. Anyways, a few thoughts on the convention.

Given this was my first convention, I really have no basis in comparison, in terms of mood or substance. However, and I believe this a non-partisan observation, it is fairly inspiring to see so many people actively involved in our political process. This convention seemed quite a healthy exercise, maybe not in terms of big picture policy, but with the exchange of ideas and perspectives, mostly through idle conversation. My pre-conception was a gathering of "backroom" types and "elites", but I came way with a visual of mostly ordinary people, made up of every race, ethnicity and regional background. I was also thoroughly impressed with how approachable and down to earth all of our elected representatives are, there was no "air" to anyone and that was refreshing. If the Liberals are some supposed amalgamation of arrogance, entitlement and detached operatives, I didn't see it. What I saw was engaged Canadians, within an inclusive entity. Every once in awhile, you need to dispense with the cynicism (hello in there media class!) and appreciate an organic expression of democracy.

A few highlights:

-IMO, Canada's national embarrassment is how we have mistreated aboriginals, how we have failed to deal with root causes, how we just passively accept obvious problems, mostly lip service and avoidance. I was quite impressed with the opening remarks from Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation, even moreso when I realized we were standing on his peoples traditional land. After a great speech, it occurred to me, that despite the Liberal failures on this file, there was a great deal of goodwill extended, Chief Campbell addressed us as friends, which was an interesting perspective. Later, we heard the Nisgha performing traditional songs. This was a moment for me, because the lack of familiarity brought something spontaneous. At one point, there was a extended pause in the very rhythmic presentation. We Liberals rose to applaud, but the song then continued. What could have been slightly awkward turned into applause morphing in unison with the drumbeat. I loved every second of it.

-I attended the Dion tribute, and put up a small sum to help him pay off his debt. It was very well attended, and it was great to see Dion feel some love. Dion is such an honorable man, everything about him oozes integrity. I also listened to his speech and the great video that preceded his appearance. I thought the proceeding were a microcosm of his reign. While I watched the video tribute, it rekindled some of my conviction that Dion would have made a great Prime Minister, a man of ideas, forward thinking and principled. When Dion spoke, I confess to yawning several times after the halfway point, which also reaffirmed my former resignation that despite his strengths, there was always something lacking in his leadership, the ability to inspire. When the speech was over, any sense of "regret" had pretty much evaporated.

-Having media accreditation was a pretty cool gig and it's also a testament to the direction of the party, that they gave us grassroots bloggers, with no real status in the party, access and a level of respect. What I found noteworthy, was watching the "real" media and how they conducted themselves. I witnessed a couple of hissy fits (won't name names) over god knows what, but the real contrast came from watching the disconnect between reality and "spin". Now, we normally think "spin" is the domain of partisans, but in reality, everyone has their own agenda and I found the too clever distortions of the proceedings to be disappointing. I read one column that said "many Liberals are calling this the Seinfeld Convention", but the REALITY is those words were never uttered a Liberal, the characterization was a media frame, so the idiocy of the reference was striking. Another broadcast made mention that the convention wasn't media friendly because it lacked a "story", which was really a testament to media failure. I guess people getting along, joined by common purpose and genuine optimism, due to improved fortunes doesn't sell copy but really that's more a "story" about the messenger. Acrimony, angst and backroom nonsense, that's what they crave. I come away with one clear thesis, the media, in it's current state and focus is PART of the problem with our political discourse, not part of the solution. The Liberals need to reform, so too other parties, but for cripes sake, it's time for some introspection from the media class. Small.

-Somewhat related, but I had an epiphany of sorts while at the convention. I won't say who, but I was taken aside by a pundit, who was actually quite nice, pleasant and respectful. One limitation or pitfall with this medium, or maybe more accurately, one failing or "glitch" on my part- the way in which we tend to dehumanize, the way we argue as though in the lion's den, the lack of decorum. I confess, over recent months, I've allowed myself to get dragged down into the gutter, less high signal, less tolerant. I won't rationalize or justify, but said pundit wondered why I had been so venomous in my criticisms, beyond just a philosophical argument. After I got over my initial surprise that my musings actually mattered, or where read, I felt somewhat embarrassed at my behavior. I apologized for my past attacks. Coming home on the plane, I actually considered giving up blogging or commenting, because it can be a nasty affair and there is a real disconnect with how I act in the "real" world and this online one. Anyways, I was confronted with my own hypocrisy for acting like the low rent characters that I can't stand within this medium.

-I heard Ignatieff speak three or four times, do a couple scrums, so I feel I have a better sense of the man. Again, this speaks to inherent cynicism, but I think the detractors need to cut Ignatieff some slack. Policy differences aside, not to mention a penchant for platitudes, Ignatieff is a serious person with genuine desires for the country. This isn't a ego gratification exercise for Ignatieff, although it's also true that EVERY politician has a sense of SELF. Ignatieff cares about our country, rather than fixating on the details, I was struck by the inflexion in his voice, the passion and the resolve.

-If I don't smell beer for a week, it will be too soon :)


Joseph said...

Really good observations. Sometimes it's better to reflect upon the events you are observing rather than just respond to the need to produce. The on-the-spot reporting has its place, but so does some reflective overview.

Your observations about the media are particularly interesting. It would be nice to think the media will scrutinize itself, but I wouldn't get my hopes up.

Regarding the pundit, I think its wise to consider their observations. But I also think it is important to consider the source's motivations and past behaviour. It's all fine and good to make sure you are projecting your thoughts with the respect you feel your subjects deserve or, frankly, that you want to honor them with - deserving or not.

But unless the subject pundit is willing to accept scrutiny of the own politics of personal destruction - or at least personal degradation - that they or their party participates in, they really shouldn't be out giving admonishment to any others.

Perhaps they just consider you an effective communicator and would love to tune your message down a bit? It's a very real possibility, particularly if they sought you out for a "heart to heart, can't we all just be friends" message.

A cynical take, perhaps, but one worth considering as you reflect on the whole.

Having said that, it would be good indeed to keep in mind the shared interest all parties and all partisans have in doing the right thing by each other and for the country. Part of the problem is when the well becomes poisoned, everyone suffers. All you have to do is look down south and see where that gets you, sadly.

Steve V said...

You were a highlight too ;)

Möbius said...

IMO, Canada's national embarrassment is how we have mistreated aboriginals, how we have failed to deal with root causes, how we just passively accept obvious problems, mostly lip service and avoidanceInteresting comment, and one I completely agree with. Unfortunately, I don't think anything will change, and this point of view will still be valid 20 years from now, no matter who is governing.

liberazzi said...

Great post..

Here are some of my observations:

- i was at the montreal convention, so the contrasts were very striking, basically the passion of Montreal was replaced by the general good nature of this event.

- overall this event was poorly organized in some areas especially friday night and that was the general feeling of the people i was hanging with

- as far as friday night chretien of course rocked the house, PM was stumbly as always, iggy was mr. smooth throughout. yes the dion cocktail tribute was well done, but he should have saved his cocktail speech for the real deal. the debacle of dion rambling on for a half hour and everyone leaving before arbour came on was a shame

- the policy think tanks and the plenary sessions were great

- finally, three days of drinking all night takes a toll

Steve V said...

I agree with the keynote speakers, that was a bit of a disgrace for sure. People had to vote, so I don't know how you expected everyone to sit there for hours and hours.