a month later
Two weeks after that meeting, I had received a phone call from Bob Savage saying, "well are you serious, you've got to put your name in today if you want to be on the ballot?"
I said, "sure, why not, we're gonna lose no matter what, I might as well save those other two fellas the heartache."
"That's the spirit. Don't let Annie hear you talking like that, she'll whip your ass."
"I would want to avoid that," I agreed.
The meeting day was a Sunday, timed for one o'clock, some sort of muscle memory of times when a CPC nomination meeting would follow church, I suppose. That might still be the case in some parts of Canada, but this was progressive and trendy greater Vancouver. How much greater was it with Sleeping Lakes added on? Not much, but I wasn't going to say that today. This was politics, and so the truth was left at the door.
Bob Savage took the podium as a huge throng of about five hundred people milled around the two hundred seats, overflowing the school gym into the gravel soccer field outside. Why kids had to play soccer on gravel, I did not know, thankfully I had played all of mine on grass, and make of that what you want.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me extreme pleasure and a sense of civic pride," (to many guffaws and blank stares from gentlemen with turbans all standing in a row near the exits), "to call this meeting to order and to introduce three men who would like to be your next Member of Parliament for the great riding of Sleeping Lakes."
Boisterous applause greeted this boilerplate statement for no obvious reason.
"First of all, we'll be hearing from our 2004 candidate, Jerry Dawson. As you know, Jerry just competed in a very close race in the provincial election out in Aspen Hills, and for no apparent reason, the good folks out there declined the opportunity to be represented by such a worthy gentleman as himself. He owns his own drainage business, has a lovely wife and family who I see in the front row, and he did a very able job for us all in '04, but you recall the Martin juggernaut that swept through here," (many groans and guffaws), "and it was not meant to be."
"Right after Jerry, we'll have some remarks from a newcomer to politics in this region, but a seasoned political participant," (many looks of confusion and dismay, including from me, as I had not anticipated a fourth contestant), "who is a regular contributor to the popular conservative website Fresh Domination, and a self-employed businessman as well as, I am told by friends, an avid golfer. You're going to enjoy hearing from him, I can tell, he's Peter O'Connell."
I gave a perfunc-tory wave to nobody in particular, catching the encouraging eye of Rick Shaw, who had phoned me a few nights ago to pledge his support, saying in passing, "those other two guys are muppets, they can't debate a doorknob, you should go for it, at least we'll have some fun for a change."
"With Anathema? You're kidding, right?"
"Yes, I guess so. But the old dame knows a lot, she's been around since Stanfield was alive."
"Well so have I, buddy, but a lot of people think I'm younger, I just haven't accumulated stuff like most old people do."
Of course, Bob Savage was droning on about the third party in our monumental meeting of the minds. "Last, and certainly not least, our 2000 and 2006 candidate, we all know what he can do, he's a busy executive and a leader of his community, Jag Dhaliwal."
Applause was fervent for this man, although more fervent from the back row than anywhere else. Beyond the back row, mainly outside the building, were about two hundred other Indo-Canadians who, as rumour had it, were members in good standing of our esteemed party since noon Thursday or thereabouts, and knew two things about our philosophy that appealed to them: we had family values and with Jag Dhaliwal in office, they might stand a chance of getting somwhere with concerns close to their hearts.
In other words, they were here for the same reason as all the longer-standing members.
This was good-good, I said to myself, wondering who the living ___ was going to vote for me, other than Rick Shaw and perhaps half a dozen other people who liked what I might have to say.
And that time was quickly approaching. I half listened to Dawson droning on about law and order, the wonderful work we were doing in Kandahar, and the prime minister's devotion to family values. I knew that he could ride around the room on an elephant and not get the votes of anyone behind my wife, who had arrived to take in this exotic moment wherein I would actually say something in public without typing it out on a keyboard.
Dawson proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was well suited to hide in the back row of parliament and serve out some number of years in Ottawa, for sins not disclosed. He was a masochist, obviously, because that's clearly what he wanted to do. I had the luxury of knowing that I could stand here and deliver the most astonishing political oration since Meighen was in his prime, and still walk out with a bronze medal. This was keeping me loose.
Dawson concluded with the rather feeble appeal to the default voting bloc at his disposal (but not firmly committed, his ethnicity was not going to deliver automatic support, he had to earn it, some relic of the Protestant ethic at play ...) that was as unsubtle as it was unconvincing, "Cabinet member John van der Batzen, this province's most recognizable Tory," (there it was, the T-word), "wanted to be here today to address you on his concerns that Sleeping Lakes should be represented in the government, but he was called away at the last minute to be at the airport to greet the trade delegation from China." This met with a very feeble round of applause and much public chattering.
So, it was my turn. I said that I remembered a day when the members of parliament had some power in our country, when they weren't just directed where to go and what to say by party executives and the ever-present staff of their leaders. I mentioned that I had nothing against the leadership of Stefan Doolittle, but that many things were happening in our country that concerned me, and I wondered if these things concerned him, and more importantly, concerned all of the people present "here today." (gone tomorrow?)
I made particular reference to the decline of free speech in Canada. Perhaps the most obvious example was the lack of real discussion of the fashionable topic of the time, climate change, to give it the cleaned up name that global warming now had. "Please remain seated, if you are seated, but you have before you a man who does not think that today's rainy eight degrees is some sort of cause for alarm, or indeed, that our fellow citizen Doctor Slowski is something less than a demigod."
A ripple of applause grew slowly with these remarks as people seemed to emerge from a long slumber and in some cases, they half connected with my train of thought, and rode it to the next station. The Kryzouts, matriarch, daughter, and evidently patriarch as well as possibly daughter's hippie boyfriend, all scowled and talked amongst themselves rather obviously deflating my balloon. They were big believers in global warming, had been from the very start when it was so warm in 1998. With the El Nino. I still remembered it, legendary stuff, golfed in my shorts at the Mountain on February first, owner of the course made a fortune, greens fees all through the winter. We would be boring our grandchildren with stories of it long after Doctor Slowski had been put into an institution.