Thoughts and observations on my journey to, from and at the Conservative leadership event at the Burlington Convention Center yesterday:
1. On the GO bus to Burlington, I spotted at least three trucks from Bison Transport on the QEW. As I’ve said before, the SPRM continues to follow me around.
2. Seated across from me on said GO bus were a couple in their early 20s. Like, I don’t know if they, like, could finish a sentence without, like, saying “like.” Needless to say, I was, like, happy when the bus, like, pulled into the Burlington GO station.
3. I really wish they’d finish the work on the Burlington GO station so that I could use a proper washroom there instead of an outhouse.
4. To get me to within a mile of the place, I took Burlington Transit for the first time. On board was a sign, “No smoking, no food, no radios.” Once again, this is not the Old Country.
5. Walking south along Burloak Drive towards the Burlington Convention Center, I passed by Bronte Creek Provincial Park. That looks like a place I’ll want to visit.
6. I wouldn’t have minded the long walk except for what was, by Ontario standards, the miserable weather. I really have become acclimatized in more ways than one.
7. As is normal operating procedure for me, I was plenty early and had a chance to walk around and get some pictures.
There were tables from each candidate who appeared, staffed by campaign volunteers. I spoke to a member of Pierre Lemieux’s campaign, but no others. At each table were brochures outlining each candidate’s platform, but as a party member, I’ve been getting inundated with emails, so I was well aware as to where they stood. I was there to see them in person.
8. I was disappointed to see so much activity around the tables of Kevin O’Leary and Michael Chong. Those two are Liberals masquerading as Conservatives and, as far as I’m concerned, can’t drop out of the race fast enough. On a more positive note, Lisa Raitt had plenty of support in the room.
9. The crowd, estimated to have been between 800 and 900 people, were regular working-class people, many of whom were wearing suits and ties. Shabbily dressed, I almost felt a little out of place.
10. A photographer working the room had a piece of paper with “FUN” printed on it taped to his lens hood. Did he find his job so unfulfilling that he had to remind himself to think happy thoughts?
11. 10 of the 14 candidates were there and nine of them stood for a photo op before the speeches began.
Kellie Leitch, the first speaker, was running late and didn’t get there until just before she was called on stage.
12. Though I liked some of the things she had to say, I hadn’t been impressed with Leitch personally and nothing I saw from her speech convinced me otherwise. She is still not on my ballot. And not because she was, like me, born in the capital of the SPRM.
13. Pierre Lemieux, the third speaker, won some major brownie points with this voter. He got some serious applause for denouncing the carbon tax, and spoke of the need for stricter immigration and fighting against political correctness. He also had an easygoing manner about him that I liked.
14. Erin O’Toole made much of his support for the military, but there’s more to being a future prime minister than supporting the troops. Coming in, he was on my ballot. After his six minutes on stage, he wasn’t.
15. After O’Toole was the faux Conservative Michael Chong, who spent most of his allotted time on his poor immigrant story. It reminded me of listening to Devon Clunis, the ex-chief of the Winnipeg non-police, who bored me and the rest of his audience at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate some years ago repeating his “poor immigrant boy from the North End” story. Clunis turned me off with his self-serving oratory that night and Chong did likewise yesterday afternoon. As I’ve said before, somewhere, there’s a Liberal Party membership card with Chong’s name on it and I hope he avails himself of it.
16. Rick Peterson, perhaps the biggest unknown among the group, followed Chong and boasted, “I’m in it to win it,” yet only today would reveal his platform, months behind his rivals. To borrow a line from Rambo III, before continuing in the race, maybe he should go back home and think it all over again for a very, very long time.
17. Lisa Raitt followed Peterson and, like Lemieux, was impressive. She described herself as “smart, prepared and ruthless.” I like that. Coming in, she wasn’t on my ballot, but with her speech, she got her way back on it and likely in the top five. Maybe even higher.
18. Thanks for coming Chris Alexander, Steven Blaney, Kevin O’Leary and Andrew Saxton. Now please drop out.
19. On the return trip to St. Catharines, I was seated behind an older gentleman exchanging life stories with a 15-year-old girl. After he talked about his 14 grandchildren, she mentioned how her sister, who was 15 at the time, got pregnant and still doesn’t know who the father of her child is. In addition, someone else in her family got pregnant at 13. Try birth control. Better yet, try abstinence.
19a. This 15-year-old is from St. Catharines and spoke about “how bad it was there” because there had been a couple of stabbings of late. People who have never lived outside this part of the world have absolutely no concept of how bad things can really get and, for their sake, I hope they never have to find out. There’s a reason I picked up and left everything I had ever known and came here more two and a half years ago.