First impressions of the 2009 Ontario PC Convention in Niagara Falls... I was pleasantly surprised. Turnout was significantly higher than the projected estimates, the atmosphere was for the most part positive and upbeat, and John Tory was, during his speech during Saturday night's dinner, definitely on his game... almost Premier-esque. Honestly, I'd have to give him an 8.5 out of 10.
Okay, now down to the details. I only showed up mid-Saturday afternoon, missing out on all the policy resolutions and votes, so I don't really have much of anything to say about that. I had only really planned to show up for the suites afterward, hang out with other Federal folks and such, since I'm pretty much uninvolved on the Provincial level... apart from my occasional and well known criticisms of Mr. Tory, that is. But there's a bit of an irony to that, because my past public stance on Tory may have actually helped me out yesterday.
Because I was just crashing the party, I hadn't pre-registered or anything. So I figured I'd give things a shot, and went to the registration table, and asked if they were credentialing any bloggers. Well, one of them asked me which blog I ran, so I told her. There was instant recognition, and to make a long story short, various people made a few inquiries, and I was very shortly issued my first ever media pass, which allowed me into Mr. Tory's speech during dinner. I've been noticing regular visits from Queen's Park lately, so it looks like I've got the attention of a couple of folks down there. As such, and based on the rumour that John Tory wants to reach out to bloggers like me, it looks like they jumped at the chance to do so. Anyway, with my press pass in hand, it was time for dinner.
Funny side story about dinner. Of the 1000 people there, at the random table which I happened to sit at, I ended up sitting next to a guy who I'd never met before, who used to go to the church where my sister-in-law grew up, and has known her for pretty much her entire life. Talk about a small world!
So, for my first "press" related gig, I figured I needed some of the tools of the trade. So I snagged a pen and a pad of paper provided by the hotel, and jotted down a couple of notes during the dinner. The first set of notes I took dealt with the applause levels that the various MPP's and "special guests" received from the crowd. Of the MPP's that got introduced, Tim Hudak got by far the loudest round... probably due to the fact that we were in his home riding. Frank Klees, Christine Elliott, Elizabeth Whitmer, and Bob Runciman all got great responses. By comparison, Randy Hillier was somewhat, okay, significantly lower on the list of applause levels. Hopefully, that will throw a little cold water on any ideas folks might have about taking a hard right turn, or even starting up a new hard-right party, as some on the fringe have been suggesting.
Then we were told to turn our attention to the video screens to watch a brief address from someone who couldn't make it this weekend... and a BIG round of applause was given when the video started off with a Canadian flag, a photo of Parliament Hill, and the seal of the Prime Minister of Canada came on screen. The Right Honourable Stephen Harper passed on some brief remarks, specifically thanking everyone in attendance who helped out during the recent Federal Election. Got another big round of applause at the end of the message.
Laurie Scott, who stepped down to allow John Tory to run in her riding for this by-election, got a one minute standing ovation upon her introduction. She's definitely a rising star to watch, who's stock has gone up within the Party by stepping aside. John Tory got about the same duration of a standing ovation, though you could tell there were still a few who held back somewhat.
But the he got going into his speech. Now remember folks, I'm a known critic of John Tory. Like I said at the beginning of this post, he did really well. He really spoke from the heart, making significant eye contact with the crowd, it appeared that he was barely even using the teleprompter. He had a couple good shots at McGuinty, of course. He channeled Obama in talking about all the red tape facing small business in the province, saying "While small business owners say 'Yes we can', the government of Ontario says to them, 'No you can't'."
He also took a shot at McGuinty, who said that the reason he didn't sound the alarm about the current recession months ago was because he didn't want to frighten business in the province. To that, Tory said, "It's like a ships captain, who refuses to change course when heading for the rocks ahead because he doesn't want to frighten the passengers."
Towards the end of the speech, he wrapped up with the following appeal to the membership, regarding our Province that's lost it's way as Canada's economic engine under the McGuinty government... "We've got to reset the compass... we've got to reset the compass. This government, the McGuinty government, they don't even have a compass, he's a weather vane."
That one got a loud round of applause, he was bang on with that one. The current Liberal government IS like a weather vane, pointing wherever the wind is blowing, and not providing any sort of direction, not having a ideological compass to guide them during these stormy times. His analysis was right on the money, and if he keeps talking like that, and if he can start taking control of the media agenda with that message, and not let the Liberals continually control the media agenda, then he might actually have a chance... and might even be able to win folks like me back.
Of course, once that got wrapped up, it was off to the hospitality suites.
Time to critize the Sheraton on the Falls Hotel
here... two of four elevators going to the 22nd floor were down, so it was a mess trying to get upstairs. Come on guys, call in the repair crews already!!! You've got 1000 people for a Convention, and you've got a whack of elevators down? You've got to be kidding me!!! And of course, I have to take a shot at the impatient party members on the third floor of the Convention, who in order to go up, got on the elevators that were going DOWN to the ground floor, and loaded them up, so by the time the elevators got down to us in the lobby, they were already full. Thanks guys, thanks a whole heaping bunch. We had to walk 22 freaking flights of stairs. Got some video of that, haven't decided if that rant is going to get posted to YouTube or not. Stay tuned.
Anyway, after making a stop in a friend's room on the 19th floor, we finally made it to the 22nd. I'd have to say that the best room was put on by the eastern Ontario MPP's, including Bob Runciman. Well done guys, yours was the room we kept floating back to all night. Ken Zeize had a good one too when there wasn't too big a crowd, we stopped in there for a bit. Is always nice to bump into lots of folks you know and who know you, including bloggers like Darryl Wolk and Stephen Taylor, various current and past members of the OPCYA, various Federal and EDA folks, and other contacts that I've built up over the two or so years I've been involved. Not a bad evening over all, lots of good conversation, analysis of the current Federal and Provincial situations, and the all important collection of the business cards that will come in handy later. (which reminds me, I have a couple e-mails to write...)
Anyway, I'm sure there's more I've forgotten, and more I'll follow up on tomorrow, but since I only got about four hours of really interupted sleep last night (totally wasn't thinking when I had that large coffee after 9pm...)
, I have got to get my butt into bed.
Would love to hear further anacdotes from others who were there, what did you guys think of the weekend? Let's hear from you!
Labels: John Tory, Queen's Park