Canadian Networking Conference and Exhibition

Blogging has been light recently as the Manning Centre for Building Democracy (where I am a Fellow) held its annual Canadian Networking Conference and Exhibition in Ottawa this weekend. Here’s how the Hill Times reported on it this morning,

“Meanwhile, a whole slew of Conservative heavy-hitters attended the Manning Centre Conference, including former Alberta premier Ralph Klein and former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord who spoke about his early days as political leader. Health Minister Tony Clement also delivered a speech on his election experiences, while former Ontario premier Mike Harris participated on a panel discussing the Conservative movement and health care. Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor made a presentation on social networking and Richard Ciano, who runs the Conservative Campaign University, spoke about campaign technologies and techniques. Former Nova Scotia premier John Hamm introduced former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, who gave the closing address.”

The conference kicked off with a reception held on Thursday evening which was attended by the Prime Minister, Preston Manning and a handful of cabinet ministers including Jim Flaherty and Monte Solberg. Preparing for the conference all day, I had not been able to evaluate the gravity of the Cadman-related allegations (I had only been peripherally aware of some Cadman-related story in the news) and greeting the Prime Minister, I cheerfully told him of my optimism related to recent events. In retrospect, I’m thankful that after this potentially disastrous declaration I referenced Dion’s deflation over the budget and the Liberal leader’s general troubles. That night, after getting home very late, I got caught up on the news and knew that it would be unsettling for my Conservative friends in Ottawa for some time.

The conference however soldiered on and the mood was generally upbeat. I got to catch up with a number of Blogging Tories and met a few of them in person for the first time. Dr. Roy, Steve from OfficiallyScrewed.com, Luca Manfredi and Sara Landriault were there among others. Even former BT “alumnus” Monte Solberg hung out for most of Saturday’s speeches. A quick poll that I took during my Saturday talk indicated that Blogging Tories was known to almost all of the attendees of the conference but many were surprised as to the depth and utility of the website; I took the opportunity to launch new features of the website from the stage including aggregated columnists, the aggregated conservative movement and the new version of Blogging Tories television. I’m also planning on launching a new feature on the website today so watch for it.

For all of those that came to the conference, thank you! For those that were unable to attend, we’ll be aiming for an even larger gathering of the conservative movement next year.

On this day in history…

…a woman named Deb Grey became the first elected Reform party MP. On March 13th, 1989 Grey was elected by the constituents of the federal riding of Beaver River in Northern Alberta.

Affectionately called the “Iron Snowbird” by constituents and supporters Grey won the 1989 by-election just months after finishing fourth place in the previous General Election. The riding was vacated due to the death of John Dahmer, a PC MP in the Mulroney government.

At the time, she was described as a better communicator than most politicians by Preston Manning, the leader of the new Reform Party which had only formed 16 months earlier. Her common sense communication style likely rooted from her profession as a school teacher, her job before being sent to Ottawa to represent Beaver River.

Her campaign reflected much of the populism for which the party became famous, including taking a letter from the residents of Beaver River to the Central Bank over inflation caused by overspending in Central Canada. Particularly memorable for people that worked on her campaign was the “cavalcade of cars” dressed up in Reform colours which assembled from all points in the riding, from neighbouring regions and indeed from all corners of Alberta to distribute literature throughout the riding to promote their candidate. Grey also took advantage of growing Western anger with Mulroney’s government and famously warned Mulroney “beware the Ides of March, because Beaver River has a surprise for you.” She was also able to gain support by attending the PC nomination battle and introducing herself between the ballots of that contentious meeting. Logically, some supporters of losing candidates saw a better choice in Grey.

After carrying the Reform banner to Ottawa, Grey served as deputy leader, interim Opposition leader (only female leader of the opposition in history). She also had the pleasure of having her coffee made and office plants watered by the current Prime Minister; Stephen Harper was her first legislative assistant.

The next Governor General?

The PMO has announced that Paul Martin will be naming the next Governor General tomorrow. I’ve started a pool of candidates (both good and bad) and I need your help adding to them. Please add your candidates for Governor General in the comments and evaluate the odds that I (and/or others in the comments) have placed on their candidacy. I’ll add the best good/bad/funny suggestions below.

Bob Rae – 10:1
Preston Manning 25:1
David Frum – 300:1
Ezra Levant – 450:1
Lise Thibault – 5:1
Monique Begin – 5:1
Naomi Klein – 100:1
Wayne Gretzky – 50:1
David Suzuki – 20:1
John Manley – 10:1
Peter Mansbridge – 20:1
John Ralston Saul – 100:1
Warren Kinsella – 32,146,547:1

Comment submitted:
Carolyn Parrish – 32,000:1
Dave Nichol – 560:1
William Shatner – 7,000:1
Brian Mulroney – 200:1
Ralph Klein – 300:1
Ken Dryden – 12:1
Celine Dion – 150:1

Personally, I’d give Shatner better odds.

Appointments this week: Senate and GG

Paul Martin has appointed five new senators to the Upper Chamber this week. Three Liberals and two Conservative received their golden tickets and will sit in the Big Red Room when the Senate sits resumes later this year.

The new Senators are:
Larry Campbell, Vancouver mayor (Liberal)
Hugh Segal, former PC leadership candidate, Policy CEO and Queen’s prof (Conservative)
Andée Champagne, PC cabinet minister (Conservative)
Dennis Dawson, non-remarkable MP (Liberal)
Rod Zimmer, businessman and Liberal fundraiser (Liberal)

This group is pretty much as expected (disappointing and satisfying at the same time). It’s good to see Mr. Segal in the Senate.

I’m glad to see that Martin is appointing Conservative senators (Chrétien appointed about 50 senators, (almost) all Liberal (save 3 ind)). The Conservative senators that he just appointed are good choices. Yet, aside from Campbell’s celebrity (he’s an annoying character, in my opinion), the Liberal picks fall short of remarkable.

I’d also like to point out that there haven’t been any senators from the old reform/alliance tradition. This is disappointing. The senate could go far to reduce western alienation and perhaps the only solution in the end is to elect it as a provincial check on federal power.

Next up is Martin’s choice of a Governor General. His decision is to be announced tomorrow. I’m hopeful that perhaps we’ll see some balance here as well. It’s likely that Martin will appoint a francophone to follow the general pattern, but it’s also likely because the Liberals desperately need to curry favour in Québec.

However, I think that either Preston Manning or Deb Grey would make a great GG.