In the footsteps of a Tory delegate
This is a journey of the Battleship Life. Our four day mission is to venture amid the illustrious whitewashed – to enter the Great Hall in search of the “elusive” truth.
June 10, 1993
Leaving Lotusland in the still of the morning, we prepared to meet the uncertainties ahead. Upon arriving at destination Ottawa, the great change in temperature was immediately apparent. Obviously, the excessive clothing of the cool West must be discarded.
There has been a breakdown in communication. The Edwards camp had promised transportation from the airport, but were nowhere in sight. (Was this an omen of things to come?)
Fortunately, a driver for Jean Charest spotted me, and beckoned me to climb on board. We proceeded to the convention site for registration. Formalities over, I headed to my room at the University of Ottawa, relieved to finally shed my western garb.
After checking the itinerary, I headed to a Salmon BBQ hosted by Campbell’s B.C. delegates in the East Block courtyard, House of Commons. It was by now 8:30 p.m. Apparently, the organizers had miscalculated the number of people attending and it was turning into a scene of mass confusion. Reluctantly pulling away, I left. Heading to the National Arts Centre Café on the banks of the Rideau Canal, I planned to enjoy a feast of Prime Alberta Beef, courtesy of Jim Edwards. Alas, the beef had already been consumed. Darn!
While there, a young woman named Tanja Zientara, from London, Ontario approached me. Evidently, she had been awaiting my arrival as her family are regular readers of the Interim. She assumed she would find me in Edward’s camp because of his pro-life stance. She talked enthusiastically and, anxious to help, decided to become one of Edward’s camp because of his pro0life stance. She talked enthusiastically and, anxious to help, decided to become one of Edward’s campaign workers.
Would I ever get to eat at this convention? It was now around 11:00 p.m. Sauntering back to my room, I enquired at the desk if there was a restaurant nearby. Directed to Laurier St., I bypassed the Pizza Place and stumbled upon Anthony’s Grill. There in this small, tidy restaurant I was served the special – a delectable meal including soup, Caesar salad, French fries, charbroiled steak and rolls and butter for an incredible $6.99. Fantastic! On this note, the evening ended.
June 11, 1993
With two days until the vote, delegates are carefully tracked. From herein there would not be a minute to waste. Even the pancake breakfast took on strong political overtones. As candidates flip pancakes for many of the over 3,500 delegates, their supporters parade around the site. While eating (I learned my lesson yesterday,) a voice calls, “Paul, do you mind if we join you for breakfast?” Looking up I greet Senator Pat Carney and her assistant. Not indicating whom she was personally supporting, she inquired, “How is it that you haven’t climbed on the Kim Campbell bandwagon?” I said that I wasn’t used to climbing on bandwagons and I felt Campbell was not the leader the party needed. The conversation continued and she indicated that she was aware some other Vancouver delegates were not supporting Campbell either.
Most of the day was spent talking to delegates. At 2:00 p.m., I returned to my room to gather research, put things in perspective and prepare for the evening’s activities.
Climbing aboard the bus, I joined other delegates going to the Civic Centre Arena for the 7:00 p.m. start of what was billed as a Tribute Gala to Brian Mulroney (It’s amazing what $300,000 can buy.)
The sweltering heat inside the arena didn’t make this overplayed event any easier to swallow. Consequently, I escaped a half an hour early, anxious to return to reality.
At 10:00 p.m. I stopped briefly at Campbell’s Buffet reception at the National Arts Centre Terrace (I had to eat somewhere). Later, “An evening with Jean Charest” at the National Gallery of Canada was another overcrowded success. The live entertainment and cheering delegates created a real party atmosphere. There I ran into former Saskatchewan Premier Grant Devine, only one of the many politicians in attendance.
With this event concluded, an unscheduled event seemed to be gathering a crowd a few blocks away. On the street corner, North Vancouver lawyer John Lakes, a Campbell supporter, was involved in a heated argument with Ted Schellenberg, a former B.C. Tory M.P. and strong Charest supporter. The argument was suddenly interrupted by a delegate, who had obviously been celebrating, extolling the virtues of John Crosbie whom he seemed to think was running for the leadership. However, he intimated he could be silenced if only someone would give him a smoke. It was one of the more amusing street performances of the convention.
Enough frivolity for one evening. It was time to retire.
June 12, 11993
Rising early in the day, my feet were starting to feel the effects of the long, hot hours in pursuit of the unknown. A perfect day, I traveled to Parliament Hill in my quest of souvenir photos. As I approached the front entrance of the Parliament Buildings, I noticed a large display booth with an enormous sign spelling out the name “Jesus.” A band was tuning up for a march and I commented to one member, “It’s about time you brought Jesus here. Perhaps, He can clean out the sinners from these buildings.” The group immediately responded with a loud “Amen, brother” and a thumbs up sign. It felt good.
Walking through town, I arrived at Jean Charest’s headquarters in plenty of time for a 1:00 p.m. meeting of delegates. It was upbeat and positive.
Later in the afternoon, I returned to Parliament Hill and was amazed to witness thousands and thousands of Christians in their “March for Jesus.” (What a difference they could make if they brought their enthusiasm to the political arena.”
There was still time for a quick trip to the Don Mazankowski barbeque in the East Block courtyard. (These quick food fixes were starting to affect my thought processes.)
Back at the Civic Centre Arena, delegates listened to the candidates’ speeches. Garth Turner captured the audience with a sparkling speech. Jim Edwards seemed overly concerned with securing some French delegates. Patrick Boyer, well…let’s just say he had a good writer. Jean Charest pushed all the right buttons. Kim Campbell showed no style, no substance, just a lot of noise.
Fleeing the sauna-like Civic Centre, we were taken to Campbell’s Much Music Party at the Congress Centre Ballroom. I was beginning to notice how well Campbell’s delegate-tracking worked. Any Campbell delegate who showed even the slightest interest in listening to other candidates or their delegates were immediately surrounded and spoken to (re-education time?).
At one o’clock the next morning we found ourselves at the Museum of Civilization, across the river in Hull, Quebec for what was billed as Jean Charest’s “Festival of Festivals.” Entertainers from across the country kept us there until 3:00 a.m. (By the way, the Museum is awesome.)
Back over the bridge, I was convinced to stop at Dunn’s twenty-four hour restaurant in Ottawa for one of their famous Montreal smoked meat sandwiches.
It was 21 hours since I left my room and I limped back with ankles swollen and feet feeling like they were ready to fall off.
June 13, 1993
This was it! The big day had arrived. By evening Canada would have a new leader. I could hardly walk and was not adjusting well to the what felt like white heat in the arena. Nonetheless, duty called and I proceeded to finish my agenda.
Everyone was anxious to get the voting over. Emotions ran high and speculation continued to grow. In the Edwards’ camp, I met Tanja again. This time, her enthusiasm for Edwards seemed almost contagious. “Why do you think Edwards should win?” I ask. She replied, “He’s the best candidate, he’s the most solid. He has the most loyal supporters. He has character, he stands firm, he hasn’t wavered. He hasn’t changed his mind or opinions and he says what he means and means what he says.” That view was shared by many of Edwards’ supporters prior to the voting.
A friend of mine, Prince George lawyer, Charles Lugosi, met with Edwards just hours before the balloting and he was assured by Edwards that when time came to support another candidate, Edwards would officially back Jean Charest. Many supporters, including myself, were led to believe the same.
One had to wonder whether there was a deal (financial settlement? Cabinet post?) with Campbell months or even weeks before the convention to deflect valuable delegate votes away from Jean Charest? Were we duped by a political machine that could spend over $4,000,000 to buy “democracy” without even batting an eye?
So Kim Campbell won, but at what price to the Conservative Party?
At Jean Charest’s party that evening at the Chateau Laurier, he still looked like a winner. Interestingly, I discovered that even some of Charest’s workers were duped into giving Edwards their first ballot vote to put him in a better position.
Poor Tanja, she learned a valuable lesson in this political game.
June 13, 1993
Mission complete, I begin the journey home. So that was Ottawa, eh?