The Liberal Party of Canada in Alberta wrapped held its convention this weekend. I’ve been going to these things for a long time and this one was one of the most interesting in years because of the intense policy debate. The convention went off very smoothly so I tip my virtual blogger’s hat to the organizers for a job well done. You can read about separatist night in Calgary here, and I’ll now continue with the recap of Saturday and Sunday.
After breakfast and a less than inspiring speech by party president Mike Eizenga (elected last year over the far more deserving and more pompous Aakash Maharaj), the policy workshops got underway. There were over 90 resolutions up for debate, so you had to pick and choose which topics you wanted to go see. This led to some workshops drawing over 100 delegates and the less sexy topics (I’m looking at you, “seniors tax credits”) gathering very little interest. With so many different topics up for debate, I got to listen to many well thought out arguments for valuable policy…and many arguments by people who clearly had no idea what they were talking about. The hot workshop of the day was Justice B which featured pro and anti-Same Sex resolutions, a pro-Euthanasia resolution, an anti-abortion resolution and…the release of 92 year old Census Data. Over 100 delegates streamed into the room and, my hunch is, very few of them were there to passionately argue about the 1911 Census. I’ll give the “2002 traditional definition of marriage” proponents credit for passionately arguing their case even if their arguments were ridiculous and centered mostly on the fact that gay couples can’t naturally create children. Ironically, many of those arguing this case were post-menopausal women. Thankfully, not a peep was whispered about religion. In the end, the sinners wanting to destroy the institution of marriage and the very fabric of our society won, in a 90-35 vote.
Saturday night Stephane Dion spoke. While I was a little distracted by the blaring ABBA music from the room next door and the gargantuan heaping of mashed potatoes on my plate, I must say I was impressed with his speech. He doesn’t have a great command of the English language, or the fiery charisma we saw from Jean Lapierre the night before, but you can tell that Stephane is genuine and brilliant. The most notable aspect of his speech was that he said the government was ready to lay out their Kyoto plan shortly. He also tried to dispel the belief that the government had a thin legislative agenda. Of course, when a company says “we’re not your father’s car”, it’s because they’re worried you think they’re “your father’s car”. So when every Minister who spoke this weekend said “we’ve got an active agenda”, it’s because there’s a huge perception they don’t have an active agenda.
Sunday morning featured breakfast and the “three amigos”, our newly elected Liberal MLAs from Calgary: Dave Taylor, Harry Chase, and David Swann. I must say, I was surprised by the amount of hype the provincial party received at this convention. Almost every speaker made reference to them, and the delegates I talked to seemed genuinely excited by the provincial Liberals, whereas in the past, they were sort of treated like a mentally challenged cousin of the federal wing. Regardless, the “three amigos” (at least it beats “three stooges”) spoke and…sang (with David Swann on guitar). While this blog, rarely gives music reviews, I’ll just say that I’ve resolved to volunteer for all three of them next election because not one has a promising back-up career in music.
Then it was time for the voting among the 16 policy winners from Saturday who advanced to Sunday’s championship match. The top resolution would be sent directly to a vote at the national convention in Ottawa, with the next 4 being sent to the convention for debate. The winner was a pro-water resolution slightly beating out the pro-puppies, and pro-sunshine resolutions. Kidding aside, the resolution said water was a basic human right and should not be treated as a marketable commodity. With the exception of a poorly written CBC miniseries starring Paul Gross, the issue of water gets very little attention so I gladly voted for this resolution.
Finishing second was the pro-Same Sex marriage resolution. While I would have liked to see it finish first, the fact that Alberta of all provinces is sending a pro-Same Sex marriage resolution to Ottawa is a great accomplishment. I’m sure some of you may have heard the little known rumour that Albertans are a bit more right wing than the rest of Canada, but this weekend confirmed for me that the Alberta Liberal Party’s social conscience is still very much alive and well.
In third place was a pro-health care resolution. And, this being Alberta, we saw an agriculture resolution finish fourth. In fifth place was the legalized marijuana resolution that the Young Liberals voted for en masse. This surprised me somewhat since when I was a young Liberal, I was always either too hung over (or, somewhat ironically, too stoned) to vote in the Sunday sessions. Finishing in sixth and just missing a chance to be fired to Ottawa, was the anti-missile defense resolution. But from what I hear, there have already been several anti-BMD resolutions sent to Ottawa, no doubt making Paul Martin’s March quite stressful.