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Boredom and loathing at the NDP convention

by Archives October 11, 2006

That day I spend getting interviews. I get Jack Layton and miss his wife Olivia Chow. I talk to a bunch of people within the party and they’re all pretty enthusiastic about their rising support. Cindy goes around getting shots of people doing things (which at a convention is basically voting, talking to people and drinking coffee) as I interview the candidate who ran against Michael Ignatieff. He had very few kind words to say about the man.

I meet some guys from the “Hands Off Venezuela!” organization. One of its revolution youth argues me into a corner on the subject of constitutional change in Venezuela (bravo). I also meet a Bloc Quebecois member who is working at the Greenpeace table. I ask ‘What would it take to get her to start voting NDP?’ She didn’t know.

In that morning’s Globe and Mail, there was a fairly negative story about the NDP. Just for fun, I ask the writer, Bill Curry, (who sits behind me with columnist Jeffrey Simpson, who stole my seat) about the article. He is suspicious and defensive.

“What IS the Concordian?” he replies.

Steven Lewis, the United Nation’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, introduced by a video greeting from Noam Chomsky, gives a very moving speech. I almost started to believe in something. He tries to explain why we should care about others (and Africa, AIDS and democracy). He uses no fewer than three words that I do not understand: turpitude, splenetic and panoply. This is why they don’t win elections: advanced vocabulary.

I instruct Cindy to take pictures of good-looking people, so that people (you) will associate the NDP with sex. She informs me that there are a few good looking guys in the crowd but not that many good-looking women. She’s right. The entire time I’m there I meet maybe three women I would pursue. Not that, as any sensible Liberal, Conservative or CSU politician will tell you off the record, the other parties are better looking. The political world is as full of ugly people as a shopping mall food court. We all, I believe, try to work out our sexual frustrations in some self-destructive way. Why not politics? There’s money in it, too. On top of that, people who don’t have sex have more time for abstract causes, such as care and compassion for the unwashed masses.

Later we are all invited to attend a party at the Museum of Civilization. We take off from the convention centre to drink in Chris’ hotel room. Completely wrecked by the lack of sleep, I am belligerent and not walking straight. For the sake of the story and the fact that neither my girlfriend nor I have a place to stay tonight, I grab a couple of Grolsch (David claims that they are hangover-free) and head for the Holiday Inn. We sit and drink beer while watching Musique Plus until we’re sick of it (it takes about 20 minutes). Drunker, we take the bus to party with the NDP.

The press pass gets me and Cindy through the door. There was a Quebecois fiddle-rock band and terrible, terrible finger sandwiches and dark chocolate. My notes on the event are sketchy at best but I do remember drinking smuggled beer in the bathroom.

We head back to the hostel, on a bus with lefty Concordia politician Noah Stewart Ornstein. We get into the standard conversation about Concordia politics, the arguments, the wishing things were different and who we hate. Once at the hostel, Cindy and I find the room that some random guy had given us at the party.

Naturally, everything goes wrong. Not only was the room full (we found that out when a confused Manitoban woke us up) but the people in it had no idea who gave us the room. Or how that person had gotten the key.

Through her good looks and charm, Cindy managed to get us a place to stay in the games room of the hostel.

We arrive late to the final policy debate; I take my place on the journalists’ platform while Cindy looks for NDPers who are both good looking and doing stuff. After the debate, which is technically the important part that I should be talking about but can’t remember, David comes by with a crushed hotdog that he picked up from a greasy Quebec snack bar for 50 cents. It was good. Just as I finish it, the lights go down and on comes a highly-produced propaganda video for Jack “Jack!” Layton, talking about how great he is.

As the video goes on, the energy in the room becomes stronger, people cheer louder. By the end of it, there is a dull roar that turns sharp as the door opens and, amid the flashes of light from cameras, Jack “Jack!” comes bursting through a door normally reserved for fires. He walks through the cheering throng to a blaring Quebecois rock song (by Les Cowboys Fringants, I think).

The spectacle of his smiling face shown on the screens above contrast sharply with the reporters’ faces, silent, dour and uninterested (except, oddly, for Bill Curry). He asks everyone, in French, to vote for an NDP Government. Then he attacks the three other parties starting with the Conservatives,

“Has Steven Harper governed according to Canadian values?” he asks.

“NO!” the crowd yells back.

“Why do you think that the Canadian people gave him one of the thinnest minorities to ever govern this country?”

He eventually moves on to the Liberals, taking shots at them, calling the current leadership candidates “opportunistic” and “lacking in everything that a good human being should be.” He says Michael Ignatieff “just decided that he would pop up to Canada from Harvard to see if he could be crowned prime minister,” and “failing that he’ll go home. to Boston.”

He calls St

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