My first real political convention was the LPC leadership race of 2006, That convention was wild, crazy and ultimately very divisive and angsty due to the length of the race. Some people say that the OLP leadership convention will be the last great delegated convention. I would hope not, as I found that it was an exciting ride from start to finish. This is my view of the Convention and lead-up from my own personal view point. This is the Convention through my eyes, not my brain. That's the disclaimer! Also, I am not going to name any of the people who I interact with, So organizer and supporter will suffice.
Before The show
This time around, I was attending the convention as an Ex Officio delegate. I am the President of the Pickering Scarborough East Provincial Liberal Association. I am very lucky to be involved in a great Association with the wonderful Tracy MacCharles as my MPP. Being a riding President got me personal calls from almost all the candidates running. I had chats with, Hoskins, Sousa, Wynne, and Gerard Kennedy. I never received calls from Takhar, Murray, and Sandra Pupatello (told a volunteer on their campaign to have her call me, never happened). From the basis of these calls, I was able to start my own selection process for who I would support.
I know this sounds strange to some, but I think it really shows how well organized a campaign is, by the level of personal touch it has in dealing with people like myself, grassroots Liberals who work hard to ensure that our riding organizations are strong, organized and well funded. Also, I think anyone would agree, that the easiest way to get delegate support is to work on the super delegates first. It shows an organization is serious about winning if they are working on the Riding Presidents, as they often have their ear to the ground of what the members in the riding are saying.
I was pulled essentially in 3 different directions, to Kathleen Wynne, Gerard Kennedy and Charles Sousa. Each of these candidates had Political friends supporting them, and they all had compelling arguments for their support. I was a Kennedy supporter in 2006, Kathleen Wynne really made an impression on me by appearing at my Riding's AGM just a week into the campaign, and Charles Sousa was a great listener and made time for my concerns with the Education issue.I agonized for a few weeks over my support, but eventually I found that the candidate that spoke to me and my views the most was Charles Sousa. Charles' suburban view is very similar to my own, and I knew that he would be good on education. This from a story he told me about having a close family member who is a teacher. I also thought the idea of bringing the TTC under metrolinx is a great policy plank, that would help for a true regional transit system. I put out a tweet, stating my endorsement of Charles in December, and from there I was able to try and rally support in my riding to Charles' campaign.
Leading up to the convention, I continued to stay in contact with people from the other camps. I had phone calls with both Wynne and Kennedy organizers. I often told them about members of my riding executive who would be good delegates, and I also wanted to know how many members they signed up in my riding. I was amazed to see my association grow in membership from 90, to almost 400 members in less than a month. The LEM meeting was something that I had to take on as President, and I was lucky to have a great Returning officer, and amazing volunteers, which I got from the school I work at. The LEM went off without a hitch, and we had the delegates chosen by 11pm. Charles Sousa won the riding with 4 delegates, which showed how split the vote was in the riding, and how close it could have been if someone signed up a hockey team to vote or something along those lines.
How important were these contacts with the other camp. Extremely important. From my discussions, I already had a convention plan based on conversations, friendship, and smart politics. After the LEM, I knew Charles' chances of winning were not the best. So I was ready to throw my support to Gerard or Kathleen based on the circumstances, with the hope that they wouldn't end up against each other on the final ballot. The biggest impact on came in a phone call, it was Kathleen Wynne, who called me last Tuesday, and our conversation which lasted about 15 minutes really left me with the impression that if it was the final ballot between the 2 front runners that I would be much more confident in Kathleen Wynne as our Premier. Her candor, and honesty really made my convention decisions easy under the circumstances, and by last Thursday I knew I wouldn't be swayed by the emotion of the Convention floor. I would be supporting Wynne in these circumstances.
I arrived on Friday morning at the Convention to get accreditation as a delegate, and the rest of my day was free after that to talk with friends and meet up with out of towners who I see maybe twice a year at these events. I got in touch with Team Sousa, and started to make potential deals and alliances in terms of convention strategy. The Friday schedule was only in the evening, and I was invited to a Wynne event at a bar for Ex officio delegates. I made some more contacts, and had some great discussions with other presidents about what they were hearing and went from there into the evening session of tributes and hospitality suites.
Let me say this about the hospitality suites, what happens at Hospitality suites, stays in Hospitality suites. Club Sousa was rocking, and it was a successful Robbie Burns night!
I woke up around 10 am, and got to the convention in time to see the GK speech, though this time I wasn't on the floor like in 06, I had a great view from the Sousa area, where i got all decked out in Sousa swag, and met with organizers to see if they needed me to talk to anyone. After that I was able to watch the Wynne speech, Kathleen's speech was amazing, I felt that she gave the perfect convention speech, it had a wonderful tone, and an extremely positive message. I was honestly blown away, despite the flash mob glee dancing which had me giggling.
I was then pressed into the mob for Charles's speech, and to my dismay was feature on tv several times, despite looking a little "tired" from the night before. Charles's gave a great speech, talking about his heritage, and hitting the right messages, and I felt he had a great tone. Being on the floor made it hard to really analyze as I was virtually right by the stage staring up at the podium as he delivered his stump speech to the packed arena.
After Charles's speech I went for a walk, and saw parts of Sandra's speech. It didn't really resonate with me as much as Kathleen's or Charles, but nonetheless she had run a front runners campaign.
After the speeches I was cornered by a fellow riding president supporting Sandra, cornered and asked to support her on a second ballot. I told her about my story of never being contacted by the candidate. 5 minutes later I got a profuse apology from one of her organizers. This apology was in a phone call form. I answered the call as a courtesy, I could have chosen to ignore it. I told the Sandra organizer that I was leaning 2 other ways, and gave my explanations (communications, and personal touch) and that was the end of that. 10 minutes after that, a GK operative started pressing me to support GK, I gave him my answer, I am with Charles, we are going from 5th to first, if not I will get in touch with you. The first ballot results were announced and Kathleen's totals were neck in neck with Sandra's, Sousa had bled some exofficio support to her and Hoskins, and we were behind Takhar. I was still optimistic, but we would need a miracle to win this thing. My next interaction with Sandra's camp came with a Federal friend from the Golden Horseshoe who was shocked, and a bit angry that I was leaning towards Wynne, but I was in no mood for a heated discussion and said it was great to see them and walked away with a smile on my face to defuse any animosity.
Second ballot came and went, voting was quick and easy, and thats when things got strange. I was having a discussion with a close friend in the Kennedy camp, when we were aggressively cornered by 2 mpps. Both these MPP's were very overly friendly. Much more than at Provincial Council or at regional meetings, and they proceeded to overly aggressive sell us on Sandra. A third MPP then joined them, and effectively cornered us from escape. I was a bit shocked by this to say the least, that they aggressively pitched 2 education workers on Sandra, basically offering us swag and pushing her on us hard. Their tone was disappointing, and they didn't have any of the answers we needed regarding the education system, which is my most important issue right now. The McGuinty/Broten alliance has done enough damage with their outright fabrications and tone. We were both turned off, but managed to deflect the conversation to other issues. I decided to tell one MPP from the north how much I liked Ontario Northland and their rail service, and he went on some tangent about its costs. That worked well as politicians love to go on and on about politics and easily distracted by issues. I was struck by their tone, and it gave me a sense that they were desperate as a camp. We ended that conversation as the politicians moved onto some other delegates.
The next thing I saw would be a total game changer. In the back hallway of the concourse, I saw the agreement happen that changed it all. The Kennedy Sousa alliance. I won't say how it happened or who made it, but I saw it. Let's just say that 2 very important organizers made an agreement that would change history. The third ballot results came out, and the first person I saw was an MPP supporting Wynne who was very confident in their chances to win despite being in second. I said hi, and wished them well.
In the next 5 minutes after this, I quietly talked to some Wynne supporters about my final decision to reassure them, they were much more worried than I was about the outcome. This was done through, bbm, twitter direct messages, email, and in person. I also had an awkward bbm conversation with a Sandra supporter who is a friend of mine, who was surprised with my decision. I had a very 06ish sense on the final result, thanks to my discussions with other Sousa and Kennedy delegates. The feeling was Deja Vu.
I decided to go for a walk, and ended up with my friends at the blogger table, I gave them some interesting information and gossiped on the rumors and goings on for the convention. I also did an interview with Nancy Leblanc (you can find it at her blog Im Political), where i gave my thoughts on the proceedings. I always feel at home on blogger row, as I have been there for the past 2 biennial conventions of the LPC, and felt welcome there on this occasion despite being an ex-officio delegate. While i was talking to the bloggers, Sousa made his move, as Kennedy had just finished his pow wow with his supporters. With Charles officially going to Wynne, and Gerard subsequently going to Wynne, my last ballot support would be for Kathleen.
When I was walking over on the Wynne side, I was hugged, thanked, and felt like I was helping make history by grateful, friendly Wynne supporters. I was also looking for Tracy MacCharles my MPP, to tell her about my plans, but alas I didn't find her till after I voted and had to settle with a quick email as a courtesy. From here the voting seemed like a mere formality, and my cell phone died. I knew the results before they happened but I won't go into the details. This convention, I had so much inside baseball, and this definitely made things way more interesting. I am glad to be a part of history, and I will give a deeper analysis of the convention soon. But I think this pretty much sums up how I saw the convention. Basically, I was cool, collected and had a feeling on the outcome. It was a long, wild historic day!