Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My First Official Liberal Meeting and I Only Embarrassed Myself Once

I attended my first official Liberal meeting last week, where the guest speaker was Kingston's own Peter Milliken, a man who has not only served our city for more than 20 years, but is Speaker of the House.

I'd never actually met Mr. Milliken before. My husband went to school with him and said that he was always bright; exhibiting leadership qualities even then. I also remember in high school, passing his picture everyday, since he had once been head boy at Kingston Collegiate.

As a cousin of John Matheson, a former Liberal Member of Parliament who is best known for his prominent role in adopting the red maple leaf as the Flag of Canada, patriotism is in his blood.

From his resume, I know that he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Economics from Queen's University, a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Jurisprudence from Oxford University in England, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Dalhousie University.

He was a perfect fit for his current role, since he has subscribed to Hansard since the age of sixteen, so was already well-versed in parliamentary procedure before being elected to the House of Commons.

When he took the podium, he was very relaxed and spoke of this year as being turbulent at best. During the Parliamentary crisis, when the Conservative caucus had reduced itself to a pack of mental patients on day parole (my words), it was very stressful. He mentioned that 'traitor' seemed to be an oft repeated accusation.

I think secretly he was glad it was over, though with another confidence motion possible in the fall, and rumblings of Harper's plan to again prorogue Parliament (meaning they would sit out until January of 2010 if his request is granted), I think he's prepared for another bumpy ride.

I sat at the 'newbie' table, along with others trying to blend into the background, but as each member of the local riding association got up to speak, I felt more comfortable, realizing that we all shared a common goal. Getting rid of the Conservative party so we can get our country back.

We did learn, that Kingston and Islands is a riding that the Conservatives want badly and have pulled out all the stops to get their candidate, Brian Abrams elected. He has apparently, like Harper, hired an American Republican polling firm, so we know what we're going to be up against.

We can expect a little visit from Karl Rove, or one of his clones, and things will probably get nasty soon. Fortunately Abrams can't use our money to run push polls, but he will no doubt try to muddy the waters. Another ex-RCMP to add to Harper's fascist regime, if he 's elected.

Last election he made the mistake of engaging in a public battle with Robert Baker of the tragically Hip, over arts funding. In Kingston you don't mess with the 'Hip'.

My husband used to coach Gord Downie when he played hockey (he was about 10), and Mr. Baker was once a neighbour, so I'm thinking of sending him an email. He's a strong Liberal supporter, and I just want to see if he has any strategies. It can't hurt to try.

Encouraging news was that membership in the Kingston chapter has risen by almost 40% since December, due in part to the campaign of lies launched by Harper and his clan.

The couple I spent the evening with were both retired professionals who joined the Liberal Party after attending the Town hall meeting, with Scott Brison. They were impressed with his presentation and intelligent answers to some tough questions. The husband was currently reading one of Michael Ignatieff's books (I' m on my fifth), so we engaged in a discussion about the attributes Mr. Ignatieff would be bringing to the PMO.

There was a sense of optimism, but also of urgency. We were all grandparents, so were pushed into political activism, because we want our grandchildren to grow up in the same kind of Canada we grew up in. Not the horrendous vision of the Harper government.

Oh, and about that embarrassing moment.

Near the end of the evening, Mr. Milliken joined us, beer in hand, and sat down like we had all been life long friends. Brazenly, I called out 'Peter. Can I take your picture?'

I immediately realized my error, and tried to regain my composure, calling him Mr. Milliken, and maybe your highness; I was too horrified to remember. He just laughed and said that at these functions there were no formalities. He asked my name and extended his hand. He then reminded me of a barbecue at his house on July 12, and settled back to enjoy the positive energy in the room.

A barbecue? ... at the home of the Speaker of the House? ... the House of Commons?... Yikes!!! I just hope I get to report about it and you don't have to read it on the front page of the Toronto Star.

'Crazy lady sets Speaker on fire in BBQ mishap'! I can see it now.

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