In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Vancouver Convention - April 28 to May 3, 2009

Posted 5/4/2009 by Grant Mitchell


The Liberal Party convention this weekend in Vancouver was exciting, important and productive.

It was to be our standard biennial policy convention. Then, the leadership race began in November so it became the next Leadership convention. Then, Dominic Leblanc and Bob Rae dropped out of the race and it became a convention to endorse Michael Ignatieff’s leadership, to develop policy and to train volunteers in the fine art of political campaigning.

The kick off was Thursday afternoon with Mr. Ignatieff speaking briefly to the Council of the 308 constituency presidents. This was followed by a National Executive accountability session. Then, we moved on to a series of election-related, organizational workshops and training sessions. Friday was dedicated to more election-related workshops and, in addition, to policy think tank sessions on rural issues, the economy and the environment, Canada and the world, and social justice and multiculturalism.

Friday night was an appreciation event for Stephane Dion. There is great respect for him in the party. He is an immensely committed politician, scrupulously honest and driven by debate, not acrimonious name calling. In fact, he really gave people the kind of politics they always say they want: high road, positive, policy centered, respectful and oriented to substantive debate. Ironically, Canadians did not vote for all of that.

Saturday built to the Leader’s compelling speech in front of over 3,000 people. Michael Ignatieff followed speeches by Bob Rae and Dominic Leblanc who spoke very well. He spoke of the need to bring the country together; to ensure that we are a people who take care of one another; to regain Canada’s place and leadership in the world, and much more. It was one of those moments in life that you don’t ever forget. It was very clear that something special is happening in the Liberal Party.

We had a Liberal Senate caucus meeting followed by a full national caucus meeting.

One of the important features of these gatherings is the renewal of friendships and the many, many conversations that take place in the halls and in the policy sessions and over dinners and drinks. Ideas are developed and refined, MPs get the measure of issues across the country, they give party members a chance to have real input into the political process.

I am always struck by how much ordinary people invest in the party. They give so much of their time and their energy and often their money without expecting or getting anything in return, except the chance to participate in something important and bigger than each of us. It is truly a very satisfying and gratifying thing to do.

What do we take away from this weekend? The policy debate will inform the policy process in this country and in Parliament. It will not bind the Leader or the MPs whose primary responsibility is to represent all Canadians. The focus on electoral work will contribute to a better and more competitive electoral process. Party members will be invigorated in their commitment to the political process. Yes, there was some entertainment, hospitality suites and a party in Stanley Park, but this was very focused and serious group of delegates.

All this is very good for a stronger democracy and Canada.

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