Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Rally to Remember

Last night Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, former Prime Minister Paul Martin and the Edmonton area's slate of Liberal candidates gathered at the Santa Maria Goretti Centre near Commonwealth Stadium to rally their Alberta supporters.

I have to admit that I was surprised by both the size and the passion of the crowd. It's tough for progressive voters in Alberta to feel much enthusiasm for elections, since it seems as though only a handful of ridings offer any chance at victory. But neither the Liberals nor the NDP have written off Alberta, and judging by the roars of the crowd last night in reaction to well-received speeches by Ignatieff, Martin and Edmonton-Centre candidate Mary MacDonald, Liberal voters won't give up without a fight. I'm pretty terrible at estimating crowds, but it felt like there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people jammed into the auditorium; the organizers had to open up another room to allow for the overflow.

As might be expected, both Martin and Ignatieff rattled off a list of Tory sins (taking the country into deficit, contempt of parliament, giving undesirables the boot at Conservative public meetings, spending billions on prisons and fighter jets without engines, throwing Helena Guergis under the bus while defending convicted fraudster Bruce Carson, scrapping the long-form census, etc.). Frankly, any of these reasons should be more than enough to put the Tories back in opposition for a while, but what impressed me most about the night's speeches were the little things - the unapologetic defence of Canadian institutions like public health care and multiculturalism, the peppering of French phrases throughout each speech, and the sincere welcome to any Tories, New Democrats or Greens who might be present. In fact, there was one young man carrying a pretty insulting anti-Ignatieff sign. He wasn't asked to leave, an approach that stands in stark contrast to that of Prime Minister Harper and his Conservatives.

In the end, though, as always, it's a question of values. Harper's elimination of the long-form census and his cuts to science funding and women's groups, his clear contempt for his foes during the TV debates (Harper wouldn't even look the others in the eye, a phenomenon that really turned me off), his attempt to scuttle the gun registry, his far-too-industry-friendly approach to copyright legislation and the internet, the "firewall" letter...taken together, there's no way that I can support this new, Reform/CRAP iteration of the Conservatives. It seems as though the moderate Tories have either left the party or been suppressed, reminding me a little too much of how the Republicans have evolved in the United States. I sure miss the likes of Joe Clark, let me tell you.

I still find it a little hard to believe that Harper wants to steer this country to the right after all the empirical evidence of the damage those philosophies have done south of the border. That, to me, is enough reason alone to get out and vote for whichever candidate has the best chance of defeating a Tory. I hope the response to the Liberal rally last night indicates that enough progressive Albertans will show up at the polls to win back at least a couple of seats from the Tories - just enough to deny Harper a majority, if nothing else.

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I should note that I offered to volunteer at this event, but somehow I got my wires crossed and showed up too late to form part of the rout team. Arrgh! Very embarrassing. I made up for it by stacking a couple of hundred chairs, much to the chagrin of today's aching muscles.


Anonymous said...

What's a "rout team"?

Earl J. Woods said...

I was hoping to find out myself on Saturday, but since I missed it I don't know! From context, however, I gather it's the folks who cheer and wave signs when the leader arrives. It's also possible that it should read "route team;" I'm just quoting the email to volunteers, which may have included a typo.