Musings —04.15.2013 08:42 PM—
OTTAWA — Observations and glimpses from the Liberal Party of Canada’s leadership announcement:
- New Brunswick Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc — who contemplated again running for the party leadership, but didn’t — looking simultaneously relieved and regretful, as he stood at the back of the Westin hotel’s convention hall. Regretful for what might have been; relieved for having avoided the humiliation experienced Sunday by Justin Trudeau’s leadership opponents.
- Deflated and dejected expressions on the faces of those who supported the also-rans — Deborah Coyne, Karen McCrimmon and Martin Cauchon — who, in McCrimmon and Coyne’s case, received about 1% of the vote. They ran, but they shouldn’t have. Contrary to their expectations, their standing in the party was reduced by the outcome of the leadership race, not enhanced. For those seeking the leadership in coming years, the message was plain:Win a seat in the Commons first.
- A huge number of unfamiliar young faces, outnumbering the old Liberal warhorses, many of whom looked plainly uncertain. If it has done anything that is positive, Justin Trudeau’s candidacy has made many young Canadians more excited about democracy than they have been in a generation. Even if he fails in his political ambitions, Trudeau will have improved the country by making politics compelling to young Canadians. That’s a good thing.
- On the periphery of the hot and overcrowded room, dozens of journalists could be seen perched on flimsy risers, impatient with delay. There seemed to be more media interest in the Liberal party’s unsurprising leadership result than there had been in the New Democrats’ just-concluded policy convention in Montreal. Whether the Liberal party overtakes the New Democrats in the House of Commons remains to be seen — but it appears the parliamentary press gallery considers the Liberal party’s triumphant return to be a fait accompli. When one recalls that most of them have been writing the Liberal party’s obituary for the past year, this is significant.
- When Justin Trudeau is finally declared leader and gives his too long, too windy acceptance speech, he declares an end to “hyphenated Liberals” and the Grit tribal wars of the past. There is much applause from the younger set, but not from the older Jean Chretien folks. “He wasn’t in Ottawa when they tore the party apart, and it shows,” says one. Evidence of this is found in the disproportionate number of former Martinites in Trudeau’s circle. They are back, possibly with a vengeance.
- The Conservatives’ Fred DeLorey issues a release attacking Justin Trudeau’s lack of experience at the exact moment Trudeau — onstage, speaking — predicts they will start to attack him. Trudeau reasserts his pledge to never “go neg.” There is not a political veteran in the room who doesn’t see that as a big, big mistake. Somewhere, Stephen Harper is laughing.
- Afterwards, in the bar, Jean Chretien salutes the many Grits lined up to meet him, or get his autograph. “We’re back, and we’re going to win,” he says. “It feels good to be a Liberal again.”
No one, on this day, disagrees.