unlike most canadians, i have an aversion to the liberal party. partly, it's because, before i defected, i was raised in a family that favoured the conservatives, so i developed an early distaste. mostly, though, it's because i have always disliked organisations that try to be all things to all people. in modeling themselves as the natural governing party, the liberals have shown little political consistency, notwithstanding the fact that they have produced some impressive leaders. one of the only observant comments to come out of the mouth of stephen harper was during the 2004 english language debate, where he told jack layton that he might not agree with him, but he at least knew where layton stood. with the liberals, the answer to the question of where they stand on a particular issue seems to be "where would you like me to stand"?
however, because i've been a political junky since childhood and because closely contested leadership conventions are like the china white of politics, i have been following the current campaign to replace milksop paul martin as the leader and potentially next prime minister. although it's sadly outdated, i like the fact that the liberals chose one last time to go with the old fashioned format that requires delegates to show up. i've always felt that the sort of concentrated passion you witness at this sort of gathering can do nothing but good for a political party. by comparison, the rather sedate affairs one sees around phone-in or electronic votes lacks pizzazz.
in a way, i make a good observer, because i'm unlikely to ever vote liberal, no matter who wins the party leadership. this, in theory, makes me objective. that said, frontrunner michael ignatieff is the personification of nails on a chalkboard to me, so i'm not entirely neutral. i don't think i could handle seeing his face on the news every night.
soon enough- within the hour- we should know what the status is from the first ballot. we already know that joe volpe has dropped out of contention and moved to bob rae. it remains to be seen whether or not that helps the ndp turncoat, since volpe is the one candidate from whom the others might have liked to distance themselves.
the speeches were typical politics for the most part. does anyone else find all of this hand-wringing over the environment just a little ironic, considering the party's record in twelve years in power? ken dryden warmed me a little because, unlike what i have come to expect from the liberals, seemed sincere in his convictions. he won't win, but he seems like a decent person. stephane dion fell well short of what he needed to overtake gerard kennedy, whose speech and video presentation were slick but well-done. bob rae managed to upstage everyone by speaking "off the cuff"- 25 minutes without notes or a podium, going for the down-home, straight-talking appeal. while he didn't speak enough french and almost came off the rails at one exceedingly long pause, the gimmick was very effective, and became the performance to which all the others were compared. ignatieff's video presentation was repetitive and felt at times like it was never going to end. while almost painfully stiff at first, he did gradually hit his rhythm and delivered a polished, typical front-runner speech, designed, like the liberals, to offend no one and say nothing.
rumour has it that we are going to have another election in the spring, because, having had te same government for twelve years, we now feel the need to change every sixteen months. so whoever wins this weekend is not going to have a lot of time to get comfortable. alternately, whoever wins is not going to have a lot of time to gets his bearings before having to hit the election trail. good luck buddy, you're going to need it.
reluctantly, i have to admit that, seen at their best moment (and the speeches likely do show their best moments), the candidate field is impressive. the talk was articulate, at times inspirational. but this is the liberals. they've been in power for a huge majority of canada's history. they've had the time to lead us to the brave new world. it's all well and good to talk about inclusion, the environment, the greratness of canada and our role in the world, but when you've held the reins of power for as long as these guys have, someone needs to stand up and say "that's great, but what the hell were you doing when you had the opportunity to work on a lot of these things?" i'm not denying that the party has accomplished some important things (sometimes borrowed from their competitors). but seriously, name one thing in the chretien years that made you feel proud to be canadian. something that the government did.
fact is, these guys always sound great when they're making their sales pitch, but they're a little less inspiring once you've bought in. whatever happens tonight and tomorrow, caveat emptor.