Live from Rideau Hall: Liveblogging the last moments of the 39th Parliament (and the first moments of the Campaign of the Century(tm))

Seriously, would it have killed him to wait until, oh, say, noon to make the block-and-a-half trek to Rideau Hall? What with this, and Team Tory’s threat to hold daily 6am. briefings out in the industrial hinterland, by the end of the campaign we’re all going to be operating on Vampire Standard Time.

Anyway, check back here for updates, probably starting around — oh, let’s say 7:30ish.

UPDATE: For the official ITQ photoblog of this event, click here.

7:17:05 AM
Or, as it turns out, 7:17:05, since as usual, I am absurdly early – and this time, it’s not even to make sure I get a good seat. At the moment, it’s pretty much just me and the camera crews, since there’s no point for anyone else to be here. Apparently, there was much last minute debate over whether he should walk or drive to Rideau Hall, but a hastily assembled focus group made up of random pedestrians snatched off Sussex Drive assured Patrck Muttart that they wouldn’t hold it against him if he bucked tradition (which Colleague Wells will surely point out has not been tradition since Paul Martin’s drive-by writ-drop of Aught Four)

Okay, it’s possible I might have made up some of that last part.

7:25:25 AM
Oh my. I’ve finally made it up the driveway at Rideau Hall, and it is a carnival of television coverage! There are little white tents housing every network, and awkwardly besuited talking heads — talking … headily — and a flurry of suspiciously well-rested-looking staffers. It’s all so exciting!

7:31:30 AM
The last time I was here, it was for the least exciting cabinet shuffle in parliamentary history. So far, this is already way better – and yes, I’m taking berrypics, but probably won’t be able to upload them til later.

I’ve staked out my turf just behind the cameras, right smack in the middle of Stand Up Alley.

Hey, look, there’s Dimitri Soudas! A daring bit of haberdashery with the lavender tie, but it’s a marked improvement on the last one he wore to Rideau Hall.

7:36:40 AM
Oh, guys with earpieces speaking in low but intense tones into cell phones. You always know how to set the perfect tone: cautious but unmistakeable anticipation.

I should note that there is a steady stream of reporters trudging up the hill – as opposed to the Hill, where Stephane Dion will be holding his campaign kickoff at 9am.

7:42:24 AM
You know, we’re not even sure whether he’s going to stop for a post-writ-drop chat. This could well end up being a shaggy blog story.

In fact, now we’re hearing that he won’t be leaving by the front door after all, which means – I don’t know what it means. Probably a frantic scramble for the back exit so TV reporters can yell questions at the car as it disappears over the electoral horizon. I hope Kory will be here, at least.

If worse comes to worse, we can just interview each other, right? (Speaking of which, I’ll be reliving this whole magical experience on Newsworld at 11:15ish, along with Susan Riley, in case anyone wants to tune in.)

7:47:20 AM
Ten minutes to go! Places, people.

Colleague Wells is here! Looking campaign-ready in olive green.

You know, the fact that there’s no microphone set up outside the entrance to Rideau Hall bodes ill for the prospect of a scrum.

7:53:03 AM
I just attempted to snap a picture of Colleague Wells filming CBC’s Paul Hunter doing a live hit, thereby meta-ing myself right out of existence.

Yes, it’s that dull. I’m sorry. I promise it’ll get more thrilling once the PM rolls up.

8:00:27 AM
Well, if he’s on schedule, the PM is right this minute looking for his car keys, putting on his sweater vest (winter weight, I hope – it’s cold out here), giving the kids a last handshake and preparing to head out the door to meet his destiny.


Meanwhile, I can hear Craig Oliver and Bob Fife whipping the CTV Newsnet early bird viewers into a frenzy of excitement.

8:04:22 AM
Update! The PM will, in fact, be talking to us — he’ll be taking eight questions against the scenic backdrop of the rose garden. Yes, a rose garden. Because if I were a PM remotely concerned about comparisons to a certain soon to be former president, that’s exactly the kind of freebie I’d give to snarky livebloggers.

8:06:55 AM
And – he’s off! Well, I assume he is – we’re not within sight of the front gates, but he’s usually fairly punctual.

Wait, no, he’s not. But I bet he wants to get this over with as swiftly as possible.

8:10:49 AM
Still no sign of the PM.

8:11:59 AM
Well, Kory is here, at least – with an enormous blue media pass around his neck. I wonder if he’d give me a lanyard. I’m not going to get to go on tour, but I do like collecting lanyards.

8:14:14 AM
And another PMO staffer just strolled up the drive — the one and only Mike White, best known for his starring role at the Liberals’ Atlantic caucus, as documented by Jane Taber. He’s cut his hair! Now it’s not gelled, moussed, urbane or cosmopolitan at all. Damn focus groups.

8:16:04 AM
Apparently there are protesters in front of 24 Sussex, which might explain the delay.

8:17:25 AM
He’s here! A full convoy of him – “four cars to get across the street,” notes one of my colleagues.

He’s in a suit – not a sweater vest. “Mr. Prime Minister, how do you feel?” Bob Fife bellows as he strides past. We can’t make out the answer, but Bob Fife assures Canadians, “He’s feeling good, Craig.”

Yeah. This is why they mock us.

8:20:41 AM
And now we’re — walking through a forest. Which is not the worst way to spend the fifteen minutes before he emerges from Rideau Hall, but is a little unexpected. Thank goodness I’m wearing sensible shoes.

We’re now at the Rose Garden, and the sound checks are coming fast and furious.

8:24:06 AM
Breaking-er news! This election “represents a choice between certainty and risk”, according to HARPER LEADERSHIP 08. Really? That sounds oddly – abstract.

8:28:15 AM
Everyone seems to be in a shockingly good mood. Even the staffers who have been up since dawn are smiling and chatting amongst themselves — and even with reporters! Kory let me take a shot of his oversized pass! There is actual laughter being heard! Well, that and the seemingly interminable “Testing, Testing.”

8:33:14 AM
We’re not sure exactly how he’s going to arrive – or when, for that matter – but presumably, they’ll give us a two minute warning before he looms out of the darkness.

8:36:09 AM
Okay, not darkness. I was being poetic, people. Also, I’d like to lodge a formal complaint over this change in locale for the press conference: it is discriminatory against the less height-gifted amongst us, since there are no risers, which means we can’t stand on them and see over our colleagues. Not to mention Kory Teneycke, who is approximately seven feet tall.

8:41:06 AM
Two minute warning! The PM, we’re told, is walking over from the house.

Apparently, according to the very first press release of the campaign, Stephane Dion hates seniors, and wants them to freeze in the dark. Soylent Green Shift is people!

8:45:52 AM
Whee, there he is! Has he gotten a haircut? Like, in the last ten minutes? It looks oddly sleeker than when he went in.

He’s at the mic. Here we go — blah blah, something that initially sounded like, and was clearly intended as, but wasn’t actually a mild joke about the media — laughing with us, not against us! — and then he gives his statement.

8:48:25 AM
Canadians, you will be fascinated to learn, know that he isn’t a “big slogan” guy, and to his credit, Patrick Muttart actually manages to keep from snorting at the line. Yes, he’s here, by the way. They’re *all* here. UPDATE: I may have mistaken another tall, dark and sinisterly brilliant PMO staffer for the Force of Muttartian Darkness.

The PM is going on and on, listing his accomplishments, but since I’m sure the full statement is probably already up on his website, I’m not going to recap it, but will wait for the questions.

8:52:18 AM
This is a really long statement. Well, it feels long, anyway. At least he won’t deliver the whole thing in French afterwards – he’s switching back and forth.

Aw, that was sweet – he just added a concluding paragraph about what an honour it has been to serve as prime minister. See, that’s the humility we haven’t seen since quite literally the night he accepted victory.

8:54:06 AM
Canadian Press wants to know if he’ll resign if he doesn’t win a majority, or ends up with a smaller minority, which he calls “premature”. He’s “a very young man” who isn’t thinking about losing or resigning as leader.

8:55:19 AM
David Akin wonders why voters should think about the fact that Harper is a “family man” – and is Dion a “family man” too? Well, he does have a family, but somehow, I’m thinking there’s more to it than that in the cold, calculating world of psychographic marketing.

It’s fascinating to watch the Muttartian-induced reaction to Harper’s response. He’s going on and on and on about family, and ends by saying that he “presumes” that Dion, who has been married “a long time” also “has children”, which makes him a family man too.
He presumes? Doesn’t he know?

9:01:01 AM
Asked whether he plans to go negative, the PM tries to turn the question around, and predicts once again that the Liberals will go negative, since they don’t want to talk about the carbon tax. Which they cunningly disguise, presumably, by having the leader mention it constantly after spending the *entire* summer trying to sell it to Canadians.

9:03:02 AM
More questions about minorities, and the inevitability thereof. Really, I doubt the answer is going to change. NOTE: Uh, I meant parliamentary minorities, not – any other kind. I just re-read this line while going through the post to put in proper bolding and italics, and realized that it was kind of ambiguous.

A change of topic: the US government taking control of federal mortgage agencies. Are we facing a similar crisis? (Answer: No, according to the economist PM who would rather we all forgot that fact and concentrated on his hockey dad status.)

Now he’s condemning the opposition for “procedural wrangling” over the Supreme Court appointment process, and describes this parliament as “at its useful end.”

9:07:17 AM
Last question, for La Presse, and I missed the first part because I was distracted by the two Public Works guys on bikes at the back of the scrum, but it sounds like it was along the same lines as the last one – why an election, why now, etc. His answer, not surprisingly, is the same in French as it was in English.

9:08:42 AM
Peter Harris asks about the Dreaded Hidden Agenda, and the PM points out that the Liberals have an entirely out in the open tax and spend agenda. So there! Big spending and tax increases, or fiscal responsibility and certainty? Death or cake? Cyanide or kittens?

9:11:19 AM
The PM warns Canadians – well, not directly, but it is a warning – that they can’t vote for a minority – they only have one ballot, and have to cast it for a government. Actually, the inexplicable thing about the Canadian electorate is that they sort of do, even though it totally shouldn’t be possible in a parliamentary system.

And with that, he’s done. He closes by telling us that he won’t say goodbye, and something about seeing us in “five weeks”, and has anyone broke the news to him that there are going to be reporters on the tour?

Back through the forest we go – and I’ll take this opportunity to sign off, since my fingers are freezing. I’ll be back later today, in a fresh post, but for now – Happy Writ Drop Day, everyone!