By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister has named the government’s first ambassador for religious freedom. Here is the official biography for Andrew Bennett. And here is Mr. Harper’s response this afternoon when asked about whether the office would also concern itself with the freedom of atheists.
This is an office to promote religious toleration and religious diversity. And, in fact, as president Malik himself said, people who choose not to believe, that’s a valid religious and democratic perspective that we all must also accept and promote. We’re not trying to impose, we’re trying to respect peoples’ own religions, their own faith choices. Not impose those faith choices or non-faith choices on others. And so just as it is important that religion be respected in a pluralistic and democratic society by those who don’t share religion, it is likewise expected in a very religious society that those who don’t share faith will be respected as well.
Here is John Baird’s speech last year on the importance of religious freedom.
The New Democrats have responded with congratulations and a couple quibbles.
The Office of Religious Freedoms, as introduced today, represents both a broken Conservative promise and a missed opportunity. Conservatives had repeatedly promised a democratic development agency, but they broke that promise and now they’re moving forward on a much more limited and narrow approach.
That much is reference to the Conservative party’s 2008 platform, which promised a “new, non-partisan democracy promotion agency that will help emerging democracies build democratic institutions and support peaceful democratic change in repressive countries.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 10:16 PM - 0 Comments
Mitchel Raphael takes in the Speaker’s second annual celebration of the Scottish bard
Speaker Andrew Scheer hosted his second a Robbie Burns dinner on Wednesday evening on Parliament Hill.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 11:54 PM - 0 Comments
Mitchel Raphael celebrates the season with the Opposition
The NDP held their annual holiday party in the Hall of Honour. Great lighting, booze bars, an oyster bar and food stations were spread over the Hall and and adjoining meeting rooms. It was one of the best parties held on the Hill.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 5:08 PM - 0 Comments
After QP today, Paul Dewar, who can be seen on the video walking over to intervene, explained to reporters what, from his perspective, happened between Peter Van Loan, Nathan Cullen and Thomas Mulcair.
It was very simple. Mr. Van Loan was saying some things at his desk and then he started across the aisle and he was looking very aggressive and he was wagging his finger and continued to say some very aggressive things and threats and that was unprompted and unbecoming any member of the House, let alone a House Leader and he continued to do that. I saw him coming across. I could see in his face that he was very upset and in a very aggressive kind of mode and so I’ve seen that before in men and I know it’s the best thing to do is to get people away from each other and that’s what I did.
In terms of his apology, frankly, I think it’s unbecoming a minister or a House Leader. And I’m not sure if I was the Prime Minister I’d still have him as a House Leader. I just—yeah, I don’t know how you can have your House Leader, you know, after a point of order is made, behave like that. And that was entirely something he did. No one else did anything. No one said a word to him. It was totally unprompted. He did it all by himself. So the only person who should be apologizing and maybe taking a timeout for a while is Minister Van Loan, no one else.
He was then asked if Mr. Mulcair said anything inappropriate.
He said something that I think most people would say and is that don’t threaten my House Leader and that was totally appropriate.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 8:04 PM - 0 Comments
A sufficient number of Conservatives voted against Bill C-398 tonight to defeat the private members’ bill that was intended to make it easier to send generic medicine to developing countries.
A previous version of the bill passed the House in March 2011, but failed to pass in the Senate—Tony Clement set out the government’s objections in a memo to Senators—before the government was defeated in the House. Seven Conservatives voted in favour this evening, but 14 who had supported the bill previously voted against it.
Paul Dewar to MP across aisle after CPC defeats Drugs for Africa bill, “what church do you go to? Got a confessional? You’re gonna need it.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 8:25 PM - 0 Comments
Jer’s Vision, Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative, held a special reception on the Hill for…
Jer’s Vision, Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative, held a special reception on the Hill for parliamentarians to raise awareness about bullying and diversity. Pink cupcakes were served.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 5:01 AM - 0 Comments
A star-studded photo gallery by Mitchel Raphael
The 2012 Press Gallery Dinner was a night of glamour and mock awards.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 2:58 PM - 0 Comments
Omar Khadr’s lawyer talks to the Canadian Press.
Meanwhile, Khadr’s lawyers told the Canadian Press that they are surprised by Toews’ statements regarding continuing concerns over the case. ”We’re at a loss to understand why the government continues to demonize Omar and to stoke public opinion against him,” said lawyer John Norris. “We know him to be a kind, intelligent thoughtful young man who has tremendous potential and we know that he will live up to that.”
Norris said that the 26-year-old is happy to finally be back on Canadian soil. ”He’s finding it hard to believe that this has finally happened,” Norris said after speaking to his client by phone. ”His spirits are good. He is very, very happy to be home.”
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae has released a statement.
“Omar Khadr’s return to Canada is long overdue. Mr. Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was a child soldier. It is extremely unfortunate that it took the Conservative government this long to fulfil its responsibility to bring him back to Canada.
Now Mr. Khadr will serve the remainder of his sentence under the supervision of the Canadian correctional system, and we can ensure that he receives proper treatment and rehabilitation.”
And a statement from the NDP’s Paul Dewar and Wayne Marston.
Today, the Conservatives ended nearly a decade of unnecessary delays and allowed Omar Khadr to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Canada. Canada is the last Western country to repatriate their citizens from the discredited Guantanamo prison system.
Mr. Khadr’s return to Canada was inevitable, yet the Conservatives chose to drag this process out for years at great cost to taxpayers. Their mishandling has hurt our relationship with the United States, our closest ally, and tarnished Canada’s reputation on the international stage.
Both the Supreme Court of Canada and the U.S. Supreme Court, based on the full facts of this case, have found that the military commission proceedings in Guantanamo violated both U.S. domestic law and Canada’s international human rights obligations.
Conservatives have previously faced court judgments against them for their mishandling of the case and failure to respect human rights.
The government should now allow Mr. Khadr to be handled by Canadian authorities in accordance with Canadian law, free from interference.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 5:25 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. John Baird stood and waved to the crowd. The Prime Minister had just identified Mr. Baird as the Canadian official who will be addressing the United Nations this week and the Foreign Affairs Minister—with Mr. Harper still speaking, mind you—rose in his spot and welcomed everyone’s recognition and adulation.
Alas, Thomas Mulcair was not reassured by the promise of Mr. Baird’s presence. “Mr Speaker, he’s busy photocopying his speech at the British embassy,” he chided.
Once more, the NDP leader pressed this matter of the Prime Minister’s agenda for the week. “Two years ago, the Conservative government lost Canada’s bid for a seat at the UN Security Council, a first in Canadian history,” he continued. “This week, the Prime Minister turned down an invitation to speak at the UN general assembly, even though he is already scheduled to be in New York. Has the Prime Minister given up on Canada’s role at the UN? We are merging our embassies with Great Britain, is our delegation to the United Nations next?”
This did not quite convince the Prime Minister to reschedule. “Mr. Speaker, as I just said, never under any government has it been the practice of Canadian prime ministers to speak every single year at the United Nations general assembly,” Mr. Harper offered. “The Minister of Foreign Affairs will be speaking this year. I am sure he will do a very good job.”
Mr. Baird put his hand on his chest and mimed as if flattered.
“That said,” Mr. Harper said, “nobody in Canada doubts, whether they agree with us or not, that the government takes strong, clear and independent decisions on foreign affairs.”
So there. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 11:25 PM - 0 Comments
One of the unnoticed footnotes to the crisis in Libya and Egypt that threatens to rock the U.S. presidential election is the reaction of Canadian political parties to the events of Tuesday and Wednesday. From the government: John Baird says Canada “strongly condemns and deeply regrets yesterday’s senseless attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.” From the NDP: Paul Dewar says New Democrats “unequivocally condemn this brutal and senseless act of terrorism.” From the Liberals, over the signature of Bob Rae: “We condemn this violent attack against the American mission, and support the Libyan government in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
There is nothing in any of the three main parties’ statements to match the subordinate clause that begins this sentence from U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement today: “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”
An NDP spokesman was cross with me when I pointed out today on Twitter that there was no reference to “efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others” in the NDP statement. Nobody’s statement included such language, a transparent reference to the amateurish film that many rioters in Benghazi and Cairo are citing as a provocation. The NDP guy meant the NDP statement was identical to the Liberals’ and the Conservatives, and that’s true. But indeed I cannot find any such reference to denigrating others’ beliefs in the statements from David Cameron, François Hollande, and Germany’s foreign minister. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 4:10 PM - 0 Comments
A few minutes before 11, the Parachute Club’s Rise Up began playing over the speakers that had been set up in front of the steps that lead to Centre Block and the Peace Tower. A poster of Jack Layton—leaning forward, looking out intently, shirt and tie, but with the top button of his shirt undone—had been set up on an easel. A small crowd had gathered, some wearing orange shirts or carrying orange signs or clutching orange flowers. Two smaller photos of Mr. Layton adorned the steps, each adorned with a bottle of Orange Crush.
The song ended and the Peace Tower clock rang 11 times for 11 o’clock and the crowd of 200 or so got quiet and a fellow from the Broadbent Institute stepped to the microphone. “We were all moved by the outpouring of affection that followed Jack’s passing last year,” he said. “There was something comforting about so many people talking openly about love. But that was Jack’s greatest strength, his ability to pull people together.”
Next was Nycole Turmel, the Hull-Aylmer MP who stepped in for Mr. Layton last year. “On the first anniversary of Jack’s death,” she said, “we remember him as an exceptional man who fought with hope, love and optimism to make life for every Canadian.”
Finally, Paul Dewar, the Ottawa Centre MP who ran to succeed Mr. Layton as NDP leader. “I remember last year … talking to a couple of young people who had read the letter and then decided that they would leave their imprint. And they put in chalk, just across the way, because security wouldn’t let them do it here, the last paragraph of the letter. And it remained there for a couple of days, just by the bus shelter. And I thought, you know, that’s really what Jack was about, inspiring young people. And talking about, yes, love in politics. Talking about hope and optimism. And it’s really difficult to find politicians who talk about those ideas and sincerely mean it. Jack meant it.”
Love, hope and optimism. These are matters of faith. Which might make them hard to fathom in this context. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
It is probably worth noting that, while the government operations committee has recommended further study of whether or not to make the Parliamentary Budget Officer a full officer of Parliament, a private member’s bill that would make that change already exists: C-381, tabled last December by Peggy Nash. That bill was actually first tabled by Paul Dewar in 2010 and, while it never came up for a vote, the Conservatives said they supported passing the bill at second reading so it could be studied at committee.
Indeed, when Mr. Dewar’s bill was debated, Conservative MP Andrew Saxton actually expressed a great deal of pride in the existence and admiration for the work of the PBO.
I would also remind the members of this House that it was this government that established the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer in the first place. It was a key element in the Federal Accountability Act, which demonstrated our commitment to accountable government. In fact, strengthening accountability and increasing transparency in our public institutions has been one of the hallmarks of this government. We promised during our campaign to improve government accountability. And when we took power, that is exactly what we did…
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 2:54 AM - 0 Comments
Columnist Richard Gwyn took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for…
Columnist Richard Gwyn took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867–1891. The prize was awarded by the Writers’ Trust at the Politics and the Pen gala held in the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier.
- Richard Gwen, Laureen Harper and Sen. Pamela Wallin.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
Here again is the roster for Thomas Mulcair’s shadow cabinet. What to make of it? Here are several observations.
-First, the obviously big promotions go to Megan Leslie (who stays with environment, but becomes a deputy leader) and Nathan Cullen (who becomes House leader). Both are confident, impressive, fresh-faced MPs who are quick on their feet and under the age of 40 (Mr. Cullen’s 40th birthday is in July). Very interesting to see them put not just in prominent positions, but positions of leadership. Your premature, baseless, futile, wild-eyed “next leader of the NDP” speculation probably starts somewhere here.
-That’s a rather large number of people with titles: 78 out of a caucus of 102. Granted, the Conservative cabinet numbers 39 and the Prime Minister named another 28 parliamentary secretaries, so the sides are somewhat close to even. Put the two teams together and they represent just less than half of the House.
-The shadow ministers of finance, justice, human resources, transport, aboriginal affairs, public works, industry, immigration and the environment—nine of the top files—are women.
-All of the elected leadership candidates—Niki Ashton, Paul Dewar, Mr. Cullen, Robert Chisholm, Romeo Saganash and Peggy Nash—were placed in prominent spots. Of the 13 NDP MPs who endorsed Brian Topp, 10 of them—Charmaine Borg, Jean Crowder, Libby Davies, Chris Charlton, Yvon Godin, Francoise Boivin, Jinny Simms, Jasbir Sandhu, Kennedy Stewart and Alexandre Boulerice—were put in critic roles. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:09 AM - 0 Comments
It’s easy to remain neutral when you don’t know who you are voting for
New leader, old pic
The photo of newly elected NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair that appeared on the NDP leadership convention screens and the flyer for his after-party is the same one he’s been using since his 2007 by-election win. One Mulcair campaign worker said the new leader actually hates the picture and is tired of seeing it. Mulcair hired Kumpa’nia, a drumming band from Montreal, for the convention. The group drummed him in with the Cuban song Comparsa, chosen “because it’s groovy,” said one drummer. To help kill time between votes, Mulcair supporters used several of his signs to build a model of 24 Sussex Dr., much to his delight. One young Brian Topp supporter built a Topp restaurant out of the candidate’s materials, with a walk-up window but no drive-through.
The button factor
Some people did not make up their minds until the first day of the convention. MP Mylène Freeman said, “It’s easy to remain neutral when you don’t know who you are voting for.” Before the final vote, Freeman had a Mulcair button, which pleased her boyfriend, David DesBaillets, a volunteer on Muclair’s campaign. One delegate, Rob Shostak, quipped that he had a few specific criteria in terms of swaying his vote: candidates had to be bilingual, which he says eliminated Paul Dewar, and they had to have a button at the convention, which eliminated Niki Ashton. Bonus points went to Peggy Nash for having the biggest button.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 11:17 PM - 0 Comments
At 7:49pm Eastern Standard Time in Toronto, Thomas Mulcair had to use the facilities. One last bathroom break before destiny.
On his way to the men’s room, down the second-floor hallway strewn with the bodies of the faithful, everyone so very tired, Mr. Mulcair passed within maybe three feet of Brian Topp, the only other remaining candidate conferring then with his campaign manager in a relatively secluded corner. The two contenders did not appear to acknowledge other.
A necessary amount of time later, Mr. Mulcair emerged from the bathroom and proceeded back down the hallway. Once again the two candidates passed within feet of each other. If they acknowledged each other, it was fleeting. Mr. Mulcair went on back to his headquarters. Mr. Topp sat on a table and talked with one of his aides for awhile. No jacket, right hand resting on hip.
At 8:02pm, from the far end of the hall, the sound of drums rang out and a clapping, gyrating throng of supporters from Team Mulcair emerged. Dancing their way down the hall, they proceeded to the escalator positioned in front of the Team Topp headquarters and then down to the subterranean convention hall on the basement floor. A smattering of Mr. Topp’s supporters watched the heaving mob. Some raised their hands and clapped along as the likely victors marched towards the final confirmation.
The moment was soon at hand. And then, of course, it was announced that the results would be delayed by an hour. Continue…
By John Geddes - Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 11:44 AM - 0 Comments
After his attempt at rap last night as part of the Paul Dewar showcase, Charlie Angus might not appear like quite so serious a figure in the NDP as before. But the Northern Ontario MP—scourge of Conservatives on robocalls, champion of Attiwapiskat on the reserve’s abysmal housing—is still a big name as his party’s best Question Period performer.
And that counts for enough to make Angus’s decision to throw his support to Thomas Mulcair, after Dewar dropped out following his terrible showing on the first ballot here at the NDP convention, a significant move. I was struck by the nuance in Angus’s response when, just seconds before stepping into Mulcair’s section in the bleachers, he answered reporters’ questions.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 10:49 AM - 0 Comments
His statements to reporters after the first ballot.
I just told my team, that are by far the best team, that I’ve made a decision. That we’ve seen the results. That I’ve decided that I am actually going to drop out at this point. I say that with absolute pride in my campaign, what we have done. I was so proud of our team yesterday. The results of the showcase were fantastic, but there comes a time when you have to make a decision. I am making that decision. I am dropping out of the race. I am not going to any other candidate. This is about our party staying united. I’m so happy with what we did, our message. And I’m just so proud of my party and we’re going to stay united. Thank you so much.
He was asked about endorsing another candidate.
This is a democratic process. People will go where they choose to go and I’m not telling anyone where to go. I’ve always been straightforward about that. I’m a very open guy, very honest about that, and I’m not changing my mind about it at all.
I then asked him if he was surprised with the result.
Well, you know, we ran a really good campaign, I’m so proud of that. And we knew from the beginning that this would be wide open. We were hoping to, obviously, do better, but this a democratic process, members have decided on this first ballot result and so I’m happy with what we did. And I leave it at that.
Asked about his personal vote, he declined to specify.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 10:26 AM - 0 Comments
By virtue of first ballot results, Niki Ashton has been eliminated. Martin Singh has dropped out, having already identified Thomas Mulcair as his second choice. Paul Dewar has dropped out, but without directing his supporters how to vote. That leaves four for the second ballot: Mr. Mulcair, Brian Topp, Nathan Cullen and Peggy Nash.
Two of Mr. Dewar’s endorsers, Claude Gravelle and Charlie Angus, have thrown their support behind Mr. Mulcair.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 23, 2012 at 2:31 PM - 0 Comments
Charlie Angus strolled out on stage, waving one arm in the air, with a rapper in tow. The duo proceeded with a half-rapped, half-sung tribute to Jack Layton. Mr. Angus made an attempt at swaggering. Two politicians then bounded on stage to enthuse of Paul Dewar. Then a video of the candidate doing good things: being hopeful, being good-natured, playing hockey. Then two more politicians with more enthusings. Then another video, this one from Maher Arar, who duly imparted his endorsement.
Only then did Mr. Dewar make the long walk down the long stage, waving and smiling as his supporters made the necessary show of being supportive. Why was here? He was here because of something Jack had said. About how we need to take better care of each other. This was not about left or right or whatever it is New Democrats have been debating these last few weeks. This was about those factory workers who’ve lost their jobs. And the kids in Attawapiskat who don’t have homes. And a particular woman in Brandon who doesn’t think she can afford to retire. This was about the real majority.
He had his lines for the evening newscasts. “We won’t win trust by throwing away our principles” and “We may have lost Jack, but we must not lose our way” and “I will take him on and I will take him down.” That last one was in reference to Mr. Harper. And on that count, Mr. Dewar demonstrated he could raise his voice.
But then that’s not been Mr. Dewar’s appeal. When he was a kid, he said, there was always an extra seat at the table for dinner. And now, he mused, the party must do the same, for all those who’ve not voted with them in the past.
He finished with the idea of a future “to believe in” and then he hugged his wife and two sons and then Mr. Angus was singing again as Mr. Dewar left the stage.
By John Geddes - Friday, March 23, 2012 at 2:04 PM - 0 Comments
1. B.C. MP Nathan Cullen went first at the NDP convention’s afternoon showcase for leadership contenders. This was, I would say, unfortunate for most of the rest of the field. Cullen is arguably the most natural performer of the bunch. True to form, he was energized and upbeat.
Some will be surprised by Cullen’s decision to start out on a
strictlysomewhat (comments caught me showing my central Canadian bias) regional issue—his opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would cut through his riding. (Check out Paul Wells for the oil-and-politics context.) But this might well have been a smart move—reminding British Columbia’s 39,000 NDP members, close to a third of those eligible to vote for the late Jack Layton’s successor, where he hails from.
On his controversial proposal for NDP cooperation with Liberals and Greens in ridings held by the Conservatives, Cullen promised an “open, democratic” conversation on the matter. “There are some that like it and there are some that don’t, and that’s cool,” he said. To my ear, that was too light a touch for a pretty weighty proposal.
2. Ottawa MP Paul Dewar just exited the stage. Unlike Cullen’s solo show, Dewar started out with a bunch of endorsements and a longish video presentation. In the Youtube era, that seems to me like the sort of stuff you go online for; when you show up at a convention, you want to see flesh-and-blood politicians up there sweating.
Once Dewar stepped to the podium, though, he wasn’t half bad. He unabashedly invoked Jack Layton repeatedly (odd to hear the Toronto Convention Centre’s south building called “the House that Jack Built,” but we took his drift). He dismissed the rifts that have largely defined the race, without naming names, as irrelevant. It’s not about left (Topp) or right (Mulcair), Dewar said, or about cooperating with other parties (Cullen). “It’s about the real majority of Canadians who have been left out by the Conservatives,” Dewar said.
Dewar’s core message sounded full of anxiety about the party’s future. “We won’t win the trust of Canadians by throwing our principles aside,” he said. Which makes you wonder, is there a risk of that abandonment? “We may have lost Jack,” he added even more darkly, “but we must not lose our way.”
3. Brian Topp, backroom boy turned leadership aspirant, started out by showing his polished video, narrated by Gordon Pinsent, no less. It ended with a stable of NDP luminaries—Ed Broadbent, Roy Romanow, the whole bunch—looking resolutely into the camera and intoning, “He’s ready.”
It hasn’t always seemed to be so. Topp was uninspiring for much of this race, picking up steam only lately. It’s not clear how many NDPers who took in the early word that he was stiff caught wind of his more comfortable stretch-run performance. He might have benefited from lowish expectations among some delegates when he took the podium this afternoon and seemed instantly at ease there.
“I’m a proud New Democrat,” Topp said, “and an unapologetic social democrat.” In case you missed it, that last part was a jab at Tom Mulcair, whose detractors say the former provincial Liberal cabinet minister isn’t a real man of the left. But Topp was also careful not to leave the impression that he might somehow be, by comparison, a risky left-wing choice, framing his approach “one practical step at time.”
4. Manitoba MP Niki Ashton won’t be posting big numbers when the first ballot is tallied tomorrow morning. At 29, though, Ashton should be interesting the voice of audaciously ambitious youth in the race. But her speech just now sounded, to me at least, entirely within the safest zone of traditional NDP thinking.
If she represents the next wave of New Democrats, they sound a lot to me like their elders. “I am proud to be part of the Jack Layton generation,” she said. A warm sentiment, but Layton imbibed the ideas that grounded him in politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Ashton even resorted to a retro slogan—“Liberal, Tory, same old story.” She lamented income inequality, the erosion of collective bargaining rights, corporate tax cuts. No doubt these preoccupations are perennials in the party. But shouldn’t a candidate not yet 30 bring something novel, even controversial, to a leadership debate?
5. On Montréal MP Thomas Mulcair’s performance, a bit first on convention craft. Mulcair entered with his cheering section entered from the back of the hall behind a troop of drummers, moving slowly. You could feel the vibrations coming up through the floor. You don’t get that from a video. And you can’t replicate the experience online.
Unfortunately, the effective setup obviously took longer than planned, leaving Mulcair rushing at an auctioneer-like verbal pace to get his speech out in the allowed total time for the entire presentation of 20 minutes. After that, his microphone would have been cut off. Reading so fast robbed him of the chance to use what is, I would argue, one of Mulcair’s underrated assets—that mellifluous voice of his, which sounded far better in the video part of his show.
What came across despite the haste? This line: “My only adversary sits across from me in the House of Commons.” Mulcair was making two points here: that his much-discussed rivalry with Topp isn’t his ultimate battle, and, by the way, he sits in the House while Topp has never been an MP. He also alluded to his victory in Quebec as a provincial Liberal, of all things, over the Parti Quebecois. “We won there and we’re going to win here,” Mulcair said, raising the question of how the word “we” is understood at this NDP gathering.
6. Toronto MP Peggy Nash’s fate was worse by far than the mere rushed delivery of Mulcair. He pre-speech presentation went way too long, leaving her without nearly enough time to get through her prepared speech. From the media area, we would see her text, up on the big teleprompter screens, scrolling rapidly, apparently as someone on her team tried to get her to jump ahead.
She didn’t catch on, improvising at points, then reverting to the text. In the end the convention organizers gave her perhaps a minute of extra time, then turned on the music, cutting her short. “So never ever underestimate the determination and the tenacity of a woman leader…” she was saying as the music drowned her out.
It would seem churlish to focus only on the abrupt end, but no doubt many NDPers will. Thus, this might be an appropriate time to remember that most New Democrats who plan to cast their ballots already have: 55,659 (as my colleague Aaron Wherry reports here), at least 60 to 70 per cent of the likely final vote. So Nash can take solace from the fact that her more than respectable campaign will matter more than what just transpired.
7. Nova Scotia pharmacist Martin Singh is surely the oddest choice on the ballot, in that he’s never stood for public office. By comparison, Ashton is seasoned veteran.
Yet it fell to Singh, of all candidates, to be the first to invoke NDP icon Tommy Douglas, whose name is typically dropped with great regularity at any NDP gathering. (Layton has now supplanted him.) Singh cited “Tommy” as an inspiration in his guise as the sainted father of universal medical insurance.
Overall, Singh’s delivery was rousing in an old-timey way. Nothing wrong with that. However, his lack of any credentials whatsoever for the leadership of any party makes his candidacy strange at best. At worst, he will be seen bringing a block of South Asian votes to Mulcair, whom he’s picked as his second choice, which is an awkward sort of political gambit whenever it happens.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 23, 2012 at 11:55 AM - 0 Comments
Paul Dewar’s showcase will apparently include a song written by Charlie Angus in tribute to Jack Layton. Audio is here. Lyrics below.
“Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
When the night is dark
There’ll always be the dawn
Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done
This is the House that Jack Built
And it’s standing proud and strong
Gotta Have a dream
That’s longer than a lifetime
Doing it our time
We’re making the change
Gotta Have a dream
That’s longer than a lifetime
Doing it our time
We’re making the change