Saturday, January 21, 2006

Me and Paul and 500 of our closest friends...

Thanks in part to the complacency and corruption that infects any political regime which has been in power too long, and in part to the monumental capacity of the Liberal party for screwing up, they've blown a comfortable lead going into the current election campaign and are now trailing the Conservative Party. There is more than a real possibility - there is a likelihood - that Stephen Harper will be the Prime Minister of Canada on Tuesday morning.

This bothers me. If I wanted George W. Bush to be my national leader, I would move to Maine. If I wanted a Little George, I'd move to Alberta. Martin's team has tried to make Harper's neoconservative leanings and his blatent Ameriphilia issues in the campaign to good effect. It was hilarious last night to watch CTV's Mike Duffy, who has come across in this campaign as a shameless Harper toady, apologize to CNN for the Liberals' campaign strategy of framing Harper's ties to the current US regime as a flaw. "It's not working," he assured Lou Dobbs, noting Harper's lead in the polls.

What Duffy didn't make clear was that it is self-evident to us here that if Harper wins it will be in spite of his US ties, not because of them. His worship of and emulation of the neocon Christian right in the US is, make no mistake, the most serious handicap he has to overcome, on the right as well as the left.

But the Sponsorship Scandal and several stupid campaign mistakes appear to have made distaste for the Liberals outweigh fear of the Conservative agenda. As a result, the Liberal poll numbers plummeted as disaffected former Liberal voters said they would instead vote Conservative, NDP, Green or even Bloc Quebecois rather than give them the keys to the Peace Tower again. The press, smelling blood in the water, began to turn on the wounded Martin. An MP didn't show up here. Was he ashamed or Martin? A rally crowd was small there. Were his most devoted followers deserting him?

Annoyed by the negative tone of the coverage, and the sarcastic remarks about 'small crowds' and desertion of the PM, I did something I haven't done since University. I went to a political rally.

Even more surprising, I went to a Liberal political rally.

The PM was in Fredericton last night and I was there, crammed into a too-small lodge with several hundred other people, all of whom had apparently taken amphetemines before leaving home.

I'd persuaded "Molly", a co-worker, and her sister "Anne" to come, too; Molly and I have had many long conversations about our worries about Canada under a Conservative government, our concern for the Fundamentalizing of our country, of the absolutely anti-Canadian concept of reversing, of - imagine! - repealing rights gained by women, gays and lesbians, minorities. We'd talked about how we both desperately wanted to vote our conscience, vote NDP, vote for the fine John Carty, a man who has run the local SPCA for years and who we both personally admire as much as we admire his party's policies. If there was a candidate tailor-made for she and I to vote for, it's John Carty. And how we are afraid to, and are being forced to vote Liberal as the only possible way to stop the election of a neocon Conservative government.

So there we were, the three of us, dazed and confused hard lefties in a sea of Liberal True Believers whose euphoria was touched with just a tinge of hysteria. Thundersticks emblazoned with the Liberal logo were thrust into our hands. Men with earpieces scurried around telling Goldilocks that the way was clear for Papa Bear's entry. Shiny-eyed little girls with "L" and maple leaf tattoos on their cheeks led cheers and chants.

Suddenly, I spotted someone head and shoulders above the crowd - literally. He was standing on a table.

"Oh, my God," I said. "That's Charles LeBlanc!"

Charles is a well-known Character in Fredericton. His story is too long to go into here, but his own blog is absolutely required reading for the politically involved in New Brunswick.

Charles, armed with his ubiquitous digital camera, wasn't about to miss the unfolding events, even if he had to stand on a table to see them.

After much waiting and shifting and chanting in the overheated room (I'm sure the roaring blaze in the lodge fireplace was a great idea when the place was empty earlier that evening...) the PM finally arrived, an hour behind schedule (I am sure that somehow, this is Scott Reid's fault).

The place exploded. I can honestly say I had no idea people could scream that loud, and I've stood in the center of 500,000 people at a Rolling Stones concert. In that case, however, we weren't packed as tightly as last night, which meant they weren't screaming directly into my mic.

I remember wondering half-worriedly at one point whether it was possible to "blow" the Cochlear Implant processor.

The PM moved through the crush shaking hands and looking animated and happy. He may be genuinely optimistic. He may be a remarkable actor. He may have been buoyed by news that the Conservative lead in the polls had stalled and even begun shrinking slightly. Whatever the reason, he was 'on'. With the hysterical screaming, waving and flailing thundersticks, it was impossible to get a clear picture of him, but I did manage to squeeze off a barely-recognizable shot.

A major flaw of the event was the venue chosen. I think the local organizers had believed the negative press themselves. They were clearly expecting about half the group that actually turned out. As a result, the PM's actual speech was given in a room which held only a fraction of the crowd, and those of us on the outside weren't able to hear him. We three shrugged and decided that we had done our part, anyway, and it was time to go home and make a good drink at the end of a hellish week at work. But before we left, I approached Charles and asked to have my photo taken with him. Charles is a hero of mine in a lot of ways. He's overcome some considerable communication challenges to make his case and has always carried himself with dignity.

So we took our leave of the people we'd been talking to throughout the evening and made our way out into the still air. Blog Boy was standing between the Lodge and the Martin bus, Blackberry in hand. I said something clever like "hey, I read your blog, it's great" and he said something like "hey, thanks". So that was a magical moment.

And, you know, we got thundersticks.

We'll gather on Monday to watch the election results together at the pub, as we do every election - me and Husband and C., always, and this year Molly and Mohammed and maybe Anne too. But with just a Sunday now left between now and the vote - a day when few Canadians pay much attention to the news - it's unlikely anything is going to change between now and then.

As my dear Dad would say, it's all over now but the cryin'.



Anonymous Jeane Moore said...

I know what you mean about the frustration of feeling forced to vote for one party because if you vote for the party you really want, the party you really do not want will reap the benefit. There should be a way around this.

Er, what's a thunderstick?

10:06 p.m.  
Blogger Charles LeBlanc said...

I didn't know you had a blog??? Keep up the good work.....Do you blog a lot???

12:34 a.m.  
Blogger Charles LeBlanc said...

ohhhhhh???? one more thing...merci for the kind words of wisdom.....

12:35 a.m.  

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