CPC ConventionWatch 2008: And now, the policy plenary session we’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for …

Despite every intention of not doing so, I somehow wound up liveblogging the constitutional plenary session this morning , so I figured I may as well just give up on the whole not-liveblogging idea, and start a fresh thread for the far more eagerly anticipated policy plenary, which is scheduled to get started any minute now.

(Right now, CPAC is actually running footage of George Bush’s comments on the G20 summit, but I’m assuming that they’ll switch back to the convention as soon as the plenary gets underway.)

In the meantime, for background reading on the resolutions up for debate this afternoon, check out the ITQ cheat sheets on social policy and democratic reform, health and safety and economic policy.

UPDATE: Check out Dr. Dawg and Danielle Takacs for great on the spot reporting from the convention floor. Also on the scene: Trusty Tory, Christian Conservative, Darryl Wolk, Stephen Taylor and more — check Blue Like You for the full list.

FINAL RESULTS – Constitution Resolutions (updated as voting takes place)

(All three packages available here courtesy of National Newswatch.)

Pre-plenary chatter: Ian Brodie is back, along with his grumpy Francophone sidekick, and they’re reminding the crowd how to work those newfangled electronic vote machines; Grumpy Francophone also wants to remind everyone that they may not like what they’re voting on, but that’s not the point – they still have to vote. Or something like that. Ooh, and now we’re moving onto the first vote.

P-106 – “encourage the provinces and territories to further experiment with different means of delivering universal health care utilizing both the public and private health sectors” – DEFEATED

A delegate from one of the ridings that brought this resolution forward starts out by espousing the importance of “power to the people” and implores the crowd to support the motion, which would open the minds and the imaginations to all possibilities. A big laugh from the crowd when the next person to take the microphone asks if the chair can keep the room up to date on the results of “the football game in Montreal.” Much merriment from the crowd, made moreso when Stephen Fletcher starts his intervention with a hearty “Go Bombers”. He’s also against the resolution – and, as the former parliamentary secretary for health, I think that is the closest we’re going to get to a signal from PMO as to how the government feels about it. “This motion will bring fodder to our enemies when it’s not necessary,” he predicts, and closes with a shout out to the magic fingers of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. The delegate unlucky enough to follow him tries to argue that this wouldn’t change anything — really! — it would just recognize what is already happening in the provinces. A delegate who opposes the resolution reminds the crowd that if they aren’t in power, they can’t put any policy forward – pragmatism! – but is countered by a guy who compares our system to that of Cuba and other socialist enclaves, who is then countered by Stanley Hartt himself – one of the lawyers involved in the Chaloui decision. Which I think I just misspelled.  Anyway, he also points out that if they’re not in power, they can’t do anything.

P-110 – protection for workers at risk of exposure to infectious disease – PASSED

I can’t imagine this will be all that controversial – a trembling voiced delegate describes the horror being a first responder – police, firefighter, military – only to have one of “them” spit at your face, and then spend months – or longer – waiting to find out if you’ve been exposed to an infectius disease. Only one person speaks against, and it’s an odd intervention, but comes down to the argument that this is actually provincial jurisdiction. Spoilsport. The resolution sails through, and then there’s another update on the football game. P-113 – “three strikes clause” – would require crown to seek dangerous offender status for anyone convicted of three separate violent or sexual offences (or “serious” drug trafficking) –PASSED

Well, this is a little awkward – there is no one from any of the supporting riding associations that wants to speak in favour of the resolution, apparently, despite Ian Brodie’s pleas — but there is an opponent, who complains that there is an inconsistency in the French version, and then segues into a vaguely paranoid tangent about the big drug companies. Finally, a delegate who supports the motion finds his way to the microphone and exhorts the crowd not to “coddle criminals”. (Hey, a delegate from Saskatchewan just the same point I did about lumping in all offences – drug trafficking, murder, rape – and reminds the crowd that there is the possibility of redemption.) Then a woman who clearly hasn’t read the motion claims that it only deals with violent offences – which is incorrect – and says she’s sick and tired of people getting out of prison only to rape more children. Suddenly, this has turned into a sort of plebiscite: Crime – bad thing or good thing? A voice of sanity – not the Voice of Sanity – bravely asks how many more jails will have to be built, and provokes boos from the audience when he, too, mentions the possibility of rehabilitation.

P-114 – Removal of the “faint hope” clause – PASSED

Only one opponent, who tries in vain to explain that the “faint hope” clause has been wildly misrepresented – it really is a faint hope, and there are very few cases where it actually applies. “It goes well with the three strikes you’re out law that we just passed,” he concludes. Not surprisingly, nobody seems to buy his argument, but at least he tried. Ian Brodie, by the way, had an expression of utter disbelief on his face throughout the one negative intervention.

P-118 – “diversity principle”, or “expecting Canadians to adopt Canadian common values such as equality, democracy, and the rule of law” – PASSED

A delegate from the sponsoring riding explains how this will just ensure that immigrants realize that this is a country with common values – values that are a ‘beacon’ to the world. “We’re all Canadians, and we should be united,” says an Indo-Canadian delegate from Mississauga, who doesn’t want ot be known as an Indo-Canadian, but a Canadian, pure and simple. He gets a “Whoo” from the crowd, and the motion passes.

P-119 –  Human trafficking – PASSED

Conservative MP Joy Smith speaks on behalf of the caucus members who put the resolution forward, and explains how important it is, and nobody speaks against it. For the first time, a resolution carries unanimously – not a single red card fluttered when it came time to vote.

There is a brief interruption – a point of order, to be exact – by the same Quebec delegate who complained about the discrepencies between the French and English text; in future, he wants resolutions with translation errors held off until the next convention. The chair seems unimpressed, and eventually moves on.

P-202 – Reaffirm support for the Charter, including the Notwithstanding Clause –PENDING

A rousing defence of the Notwithstanding Clause from a Calgary West delegate, who wants it to prevail over the dreaded judicial fiat, and an Ontario delegate complains that the resolution is poorly worded; he doesn’t seem to like the fact that it expresses any support at all for the Charter, which has made Canada less free and democratic. Another delegate gets a round of applause when he calls it a “deeply flawed document” – a statement that he thinks “most people” would agree, and if he means “most people in this room” and not “most people in the country”, that is probably correct. I think he tries to take a shot at Paul Martin – he mentioned someone “whose name begins with P and ends with M” which doesn’t make any sense at all. Another complaint about the translation, which the chair initially tries to dismiss out of hand, but unfortunately, he realizes that the delegate is right –  the French version of the resolution would reaffirm support only for the Not Withstanding clause, not the entire Charter. Then the Calgary West delegate pops up to say that actually, the French version comes closer to what her riding wanted to say, so she’d be happy to use that one. Blue Visored Delegate – who is quickly becoming a favourite of ITQ – suggests that the vote be postponed until the end of the convention, and the chair grudgingly agrees.

P-203 – stripping CHRC of the power to investigate complaints under Section 13 (hate speech) –PASSED

And here we go. The first speaker starts on a dramatic note – “Imagine this…” he begins, before launching into a flowerily ominous description of how the Canadian Human Rights Commission operates, which is, you will be unsurprised to learn, a threat to the freedom of speech of every Canadian. “Arbitrary punishment and censorship are wrong, and cannot be tolerated in a free society,” he says – the chair urging him to wrap it up – and gets a standing ovation from the crowd. The chair asks: “Is there anyone against?” Oh, there’s the Quebec delegate again – “this isn’t a translation error again, is it?” the chair warns him – but it isn’t. He suggests that the section in question will eventually be repealed by the courts. Who let this judicial activist-supporter into the room? One last word from Laurie Hawn, and it goes to a vote – and carries. Surprise, surprise.

P-207 – legislation to make assault causing harm to fetus a separate crime – PASSED

Moving on to the most controversial resolution of the afternoon, we get an impassioned defence of the proposal, followed by notice from Ian Brodie that he’ll be sticking to the most stringent rules for the debate. A delegate from the East Coast bravely makes the argument that this would, indeed, open the door to fetal rights – which gets a cheer, and then boos when she indicates that this would be a bad thing. She does her best to make her case in the sixty seconds allotted to her, and gets a scattering of applause when she sits down. She’s followed by a man who delivers a hard-to-follow rant in support of the resolution, and finally, a very nervous looking delegate implores the crowd not to make life more difficult for the caucus, or the Justice Minister, who has promised to bring in legislation to make pregnancy an aggravating factor in sentencing. Right in the middle of the vote, there is a point of order – a very pointed point of order that takes issue with Ian Brodie’s claim that there was a “full debate” during the workshop. This wasn’t the case, says an unidentified delegate, who claims that the debate was cut off, and that the only recourse for those who weren’t able to speak was today’s plenary. Brodie’s verdict on the sight vote:  it has to go to an electronic vote due to the double majority, and — it passes.

P-213 – removal of support for full gender equality, also equal pay for equal work – PASSED

A bit of back and forth from an opponent – who, bizarrely, sees this as an attack on men, which is a novel reading of the text, and Joy Smith speaks in its defence. A delegate from – I’m not sure where, I missed her riding – sees the proposed change as an attempt to weaken the party’s position on equality; why does it not mention equality in the political realm, or other areas? A good question, but one that will never be answered, as the resolution passes easily.

P-222 – support for temporary workers – PASSED

Newly elected MP John Weston – hey, wasn’t he supposed to be a surefire addition to cabinet? I guess not, huh? – urges delegates to support the motion, which is particularly important to British Columbia, given the coming Olympics. A delegate from Ontario, however, doesn’t think this is in Canada’s best interest; these people are here because they have no skills, and besides that, their command of English (and, presumably, French) is often non-existent. Oddly, the moderator picks that moment ot cut him off – I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that his objections were perilously close to sounding racist – and it passes.

P-223 – audit of aboriginal programs- PASSED

At first, it seemed that this motion would go through without a single objection, but at the last moment, an aboriginal delegate from Kapaskasing begged the room not to support it, although she wasn’t clear why it was such a bad idea; the audience seems to felt the same way, if the overwhelming vote in favour iof the resolution is anything to go by.

P-301 – creation of national securities regulator – PASSED

I have to say that this is a little like removing interprovincial trade barriers; everyone always seems to support it (well, except for Quebec, admittedly) but it never seems to happen. Oh, and a delegate just referred – twice – to Stephen Harper as “our fearless leader.” and I have a horrible feeling that he wasn’t being the slightest bit ironic.

P-303 – capital gains reinvestment – PASSED

The room is temporarily held hostage by a cranky financial advisor and delegate, who tries to explain why this would actually reward “speculating and gambling” – and that would be bad – but he is batted away by an Albertan who reminds him that we are in a “global battle for capital.” Liquidity, redeploying resources, productivity — I’m going to level with you, this is all over my head, so I’m just going to shut up and wait for democracy to make its will known.

P-305 – income splitting for families with children – PASSED

Time is apparently now of the essence, according to the moderator, since they’ve fallen wildly behind schedule. That means much swifter point-counterpoint debate on income splitting for families with young children who play hockey and prefer Tim Horton’s to Starbucks (I may have added that last bit). Most of the speakers are in favour, although one woman points out that it discriminates against couples without children, which is – true, but sort of the point. A single parent delegate notes that she wouldn’t have the opportunity to split her income, what with not being in a couple, but the resolution goes through.

P-306 – Simplify the tax code – PASSED

Does this really have to be debated? I mean, sure, it’s an entirely unrealistic, unworkable proposal, but it’s not like it will have any actual effect on government policy. Nobody objects, so it sails through, and Ian Brodie is starting to sound very much like an auctioneer.

P-308 – anti-union/right to work/support for workers who don’t want to take part in a strike – PASSED

Oh, that’s why he was trying to hurry them along – this is one of the last vaguely controversial resolutions – especially in Quebec, I’m betting – so as soon as it’s off the table, they can relax. They being the party, not the delegates. Hey, there’s Jim Abbott, MP  – and he’s against this proposal. Wow, this is a total deja vu from the last time I watched a debate over labour law at a Conservative convention. He says it’s a bad idea, and will hurt Canada, but he’s the only one willing to speak out against it, and it passes.

AND IT’S A BRIEF TRIP BACK IN TIME TO AN HOUR OR SO AGO – to P-202 – the resolution supporting the Charter, specifically the Notwithstanding Clause, which has now been fixed, according to the moderator. It passes without further debate.

P-321 – support for agricultural sector- PASSED

The first delegate to speak in favour of this bill brings back an old favourite from the early days of the Conservative government – “thirteen long years of Liberals [doing or not doing something unsupportable]’, and closes with a shoutout to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.  There is one intervention against – something about subsidies, and how this may not be the time to cut back – but the resolution passes.

P-101 – study and address climate change in the north – PASSED

Hey, apparently this resolution is actually about how greenhouse gases have nothing to do with climate change, which is actually the fault of the sun. I had no idea! Thank you, delegate from Crowfoot, for enlightening me. Oh, and it passes without even a single speaker against it.

P-104 – energy from garbage –  PASSED

Oh, good heavens, it’s Steve Gilchrist, former Energy Minister in the Ontario government, who delivers a scathing indictment of Toronto for its insidious waste of – well, waste. Even Peel Region has gotten with the program- the time has come to recognize that just because we have wide open spaces doesn’t mean that we should turn them into landfills. Who could argue with that? Nobody, apparently. Look at those green cards wave!

P-105 – offshore oil and resource exploration (drill baby drill) – PASSED

Oh, come on – not a single person willing to speak out against Arctic drilling? Really? Bah. I mean, I’m not surprised it passed, but it would be nice to think there was at least a note of caution amongst the crowd.

P-111 – complementary health care to be covered under Canada Health Act – DEFEATED

They’re just whipping through the list at this point – I get the feeling the crowd has started to thin out now that the headliner resolutions have gone through. Either that, or nobody feels like opposing anything at this point, because it’s been ages since we’ve had more than one. Wait, huh? I spoke too soon – despite the lack of objection from the floor, they voted it down.

P-122 – public awareness and memorials for veterans – PASSED

Joy Smith explains why it’s important to make youth aware of the sacrifices of veterans, but she could have just sung a few lines from a show tune for all the difference it made; the motion passes, probably nearly unanimously.

P-205 – arctic sovereignty – PASSED

Sir John A. MacDonald would vote in favour of this resolution. Should a Conservative delegate do any differently? No; no, they should not: the motion is carried.

P-208 – student loans – DEFEATED

Oh, how far the ITQ standards have fallen, as far as interestingness in resolutions: I was almost looking forward to more points of order on a translation issue – hey, what happened to that feisty Quebec delegate? – but alas, it is quickly cleared up, and we move on to a non-debate on the need to support student, starring a delegate who refers to his father as “Pops”. Wait, it turns out that there are, in fact, people who are opposed to this motion — specifically a now-familiar looking contrarian delegate who worries that this will hurt graduating students who aren’t able to find work, and are consequently unable to pay back their loans. The resolution passes easily using the single majority, but the machine is required for the double majority – and it squeaks by – 52% to 48% on the national vote, and – now the moderators are trying to figure out if it also passed whatever the third test is; I admit that I sort of drifted during that part of the explainer. Wait, it was defeated on the double majority road — six provinces voted against it, and only five in favour.

P-209 – EI for summer students – DEFEATED

Apparently, they’ve managed to “close the time deficit”, so it’s back to the slightly longer format for debate — delegates will get a full minute to make their case. Which they’re doing right now on another student-related motion, which would make summer students eligible for Employment Insurance abolish EI payments for summer students (Note from ITQ: My apologies –  somehow I got that one totally turned around in my head. Thanks to Carl Meyer for correcting me!) Self-described “parliamentarian” Chris Warkentin is against it; he notes that it’s all well and good to support students, but there are limits, and if anyone should benefit, it’s those senior citizens who never withdrew from the fund. Oh, playing old people against students. Nice. Apparently, the football game is now over; one team was victorious, and the other was not, and that’s really all any of us need to know.  Just four more resolutions, y’all!

P-307- innovation and research – DEFEATED

“Is anyone against innoation?” wonders Ian Brodie? Er, yes – over here, at the “Nay” mic, where a delegate makes the case that this resolution is far from innovative, as well as a gentleman from Kelowna Lake county, who points that every time they vote to subsidize something, it requires a tax increase. Well, or a spending cut – or reallocation, but I take his point, which is that this is not the small-c conservative way. It goes to the electronic counters for the vote – that darned double majority – and – wow, is fairly resoundingly defeated. I guess a lot of people are against innovation!

P-311 – Arctic research – PASSED

Ian Brodie desperately solicits supporters or opponents of the resolution, but it’s fruitless, and actually cracks him up when he sees that a few delegates vote against it: “Didn’t any of you have anything to say before?” he wonders. I actually like post-PMO Ian Brodie. He shows signs of having a very pleasing wit.

P-312 – long term energy choices – PASSED

So very close to the end, you can tell the delegates can just taste it. That, and the cold beer (or hot coffee) that they will be enjoying outside the convention hall in just a few minutes, content in the knowledge that they have done their part for party and country, and gossip about the National Council elections, which ITQ has been ignoring completely, mostly because it requires a level of knowledge about internal Conservative politics and dynamics far beyond her ken. Oh, right, the motion: it’s all about uranium, and biomass, and how the latter is causing people to starve in undeveloped countries – I wouldn’t mention that to Kory Teneycke, unidentified delegate – but is carried on a sight vote.

P-316 – support for rural family business – DEFEATED

Aaron Gunn from Esquimault Juan de Fuca – who has been popping up frequently this afternoon – who doesn’t want to “play favourites” by helping some businesses, and not others.  Hah, the pro-simplified tax codedelegate points out that this will actually make it more complicated – touche, Sir, touche! – and wonders why there is no motion to help all family businesses, urban and rural alike. Apparently, his views are persuasive enough to convince the crowd to vote against family farms, which is actually pretty impressive.

Before we close – or at least, ITQ closes down the liveblogging of CPAC that she was totally not planning on doing today – there was apparently a problem with the vote on the innovation motion, so they redo it – and it is still defeated, although the moderator notes that the result is “much different” (well, not really) so it was worth it for democracy.

And now they’re going back to P-202 – the motion in support of the Charter. The delegate from Calgary West – the one who was ready to change the text to make it solely a question of supporting the Notwithstanding Clause, and not the Charter as well – and – really, what is her point? It passed. Anyway, an Ottawa delegate gives a shoutout to his “sweetheart” – which is either adorable, or makes me want to punch a kitten; it could go either way – who brings up the whole “makes us look crazy” argument against the resolution.

Somehow, it turns into an ad hoc session on the history and legal standing of the Charter. “Governments should not be afraid of using Section 33,” says a delegate who is clearly new to politics. A surprise appearance by Jim Gouk, who makes a bizarre comparison between the firearms registry, the Charter and the notwithstanding clause — basically, he doesn’t think they should vote in favour of any resolution that supports the error-filled Charter of Rights. A delegate in a pink tie points out that it is the Charter that asserts the right of free speech that was so stridently reaffirmed earlier in the vote on the human rights commission, and wraps up his intervention with a shot at “the Liberal Party of Toronto”.

Wait, are they voting again? Really? They are, apparently – although the moderator swears that this is the last vote of the day. It passes nationally – 57 to 42 – and carries the double majority as well. There are a few boos in response, but it’s over – really over, but apparently there’s another football game underway, so I doubt they’ll have much trouble clearing out the room.

And that’s all for ITQ. Have a great Saturday night, everyone!

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