Unfortunately it wasn't my experience.
My brother was a delegate and stopped by at our house on Ottawa on Saturday night before driving the rest of the way to the GTA. He brought some nice CPC and Harper buttons for me and some Canada flags for the kids - the one year old made short work of a couple of the paper flags. I had watched a lot of the CPAC coverage so I had a few questions for him. After dinner we talked as we watched the CPAC replay and the network coverage.
The first thing Harper said in his closing speech was a joke about the media coverage. He said an advisor told him the media coverage would go one of two ways. If things went bad the headlines would read 'Party divided'. If things went well they would say 'Harper paints over cracks'.
It is natural for the media to highlight expected clashes and torque divisions, and my brother indicated the atmosphere at the convention wasn't as divisive as some made it seem.
He agreed that resolution C-11 was the most talked about issue. C-11 would have given ridings with less than 91 members less delegates at future conventions. Basically it proposed 1 delegate for every 10 members (rounding up). Supporters argued it promoted grassroots growth by encouraging riding leadership to grow membership and it would discourage 'country club' ridings where 10 or 20 members would control the riding and continually be delegates.
Peter MacKay was strongly against the proposal arguing it was contradictory to the 'all ridings equal' principal of the former PC party that was one of the founding principals of the CPC.
The resolution was defeated but according to my brother many delegates were disappointed with MacKay's approach. He was too eager to threaten a split in the party and was quick to use the media - tactics that many felt were over the top. I think my brother's words were - Peter the Princess - if I don't get my way I'm going to cry and go home.
From my perspective, other delegates gave reasoned, substantial arguments why the proposal should be defeated and MacKay's talk of voting against it because the party should come out of the convention unified did seem shallow and threatening. This would have been no western takeover - Ontario and Quebec had almost half the delegates and if it was to pass, it would have had their support.
On the other controversial issues, the traditional definition of marriage easily passed and the first abortion resolution passed meaning a Conservative government will not introduce any legislation.
They used electronic voting for those two votes and it provided some interesting breakdowns.
On traditional marriage 75% voted in favour of the resolution including a majority of the delegates from Quebec and Ontario.
On the abortion resolution, which was a resolution not to support any legislation, 55% voted in favour including the majority of delegates from Quebec and Ontario. Watching the coverage, it struck me that Elsie Wayne, one of the two speakers opposed to the resolution, was so emotional and was attacking Morgentaler. She might have polarized the delegates and allowed that resolution to pass meaning P-94, a late term abortion resolution, did not see the floor. For people wanting to see some abortion legislation, having Elsie speak might have been a big mistake.
My brother was sitting beside Bruce Montague at the plenary session - not knowing until near the end that he is the man charged and fighting bill C-68 - the firearms act. At the next table was Randy Hillier, the president of the Lanark Landowners Association. Hillier must have been proud to get the Property Rights resolution passed - that is basically the end goal of the Rural Revolution that Hillier basically leads. Those two guys are holding a rally in Perth this week.
Property Rights and Gun Registry RallyI also heard from my brother that for hospitality suites, the ones that charge over $6 for a drink tend not to be as much fun as those that give it away. He tended to be at the latter.
Wednesday 23 March 2005, 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Guest speakers: Bruce Montague & Randy Hillier
The Canadian government has set its sights on turning law-abiding citizens into criminals. The injustice is clear and evident and threatens all peaceful gun owners. These crimes will not stop with Bruce Montague, until rural citizens stand up and speak out against injustice. Come and hear more about Bruce Montagues story, the Lanark Landowners, and the Rural Revolution.
186 Gore Street (Farrell Hall) Perth Ontario
All in all, he was glad he went - it was his first convention. He paid over $500 to attend plus travel and other costs. He was also slightly energized by Harper's mention that he has instructed all riding presidents to speed up the nomination process and be ready for an election.
I believe Martin has presented his last budget.