Update: The man I recognized in Joyce Murray’s cheering squad has been identified as Chai Kalevar. Not only does he show up to NDP and Liberal events- but he’s also run as a candidate for the Canadian Action Party, and once for the National Party of Canada. He was also at the ‘Battle of Seattle’ WTO meeting, and at the Summit of Americas– both anarchist heavy protests. The story gets curiouser and curiouser…
Yesterday the Liberal Party of Canada held what they call a “national showcase” of their leadership. The best way to describe the event would be to call it a “pre-convention”- an opportunity for the Liberals to test run before the real convention while at the same time building up some pre game glee. And, considering the number of media in the room, it was also a great opportunity to get some coverage.
My fellow blogger UndercoverKity and I went to the Toronto Convention Centre twice on Saturday. The first time was to cover the militant unions (sprinkled with some anarchists) who were picketing on behalf of Porter Airlines strikers. They complained that the Liberal Party has negotiated discounted rates with Porter.
We came back later in the afternoon to see the Zombie Trudeau demonstration (a great show). When It finished we decided to head downstairs to the convention floor to see if we could pick-up some swag. But instead, using some ingenuity and ethical social engineering (we never lied), we found ourselves on the convention floor within spitting distance of the candidates- close enough to realize we were observing saccharinely rehearsed propaganda.
The way we got into the conference hall was as easy as it was unattended. There was a design flaw in their security setup that made it so anyone who took the escalator down to the bottom floor had to walk through the secured area to take the other escalator up. When the security guards waved us through the barrier we took a short diversion and stopped at a Justin Trudeau swag table.
In addition to the great Justin Trudeau cowbell I got, they had an assortment of red and blue Justin buttons. When I asked if I could take one of them they guy gave an enthusiastic yes. I initially grabbed a blue button- but, as a joke, I kidded that I should probably take a red one- he said ‘take two!’, it seems he didn’t get my reference to Pierre Trudeau’s liberal attitudes towards communist despots.
I asked him if he knew who gave out wristbands (for entry into the convention) he said he was sorry but he was out of them. So I asked him where Joyce Murray’s table was. Murray endorsed the Take Corporate Money Out Of Politics Initiative I was organizing back in 2011. When I got to Murray’s table I explained this to him, said it was great to see she was a candidate and asked if he had any wristbands. He said he didn’t, but to come back in five minutes when his colleague was there. Five minutes later we both had wristbands and had full access to the faux convention.
There was a strange atmosphere when we walked into the hall. The best way to explain the mood would be to call it lacklustre, or somewhat plastic- more like a TV set than a joyous event. Some of the people there were excited and there were a number of true believers but, equally, many of the people seemed entirely blasé- more like they had to be there than they wanted to. Reports on CBC were saying there were about a thousand people there, it looked like only about 600-800 during the two main speeches we watched.
There was plenty of mainstream media present. There were tables setup for individual reporters, CBC and CPAC had large and impressive stages setup to film and commentate from. This sort of a presence would be expected at an actual leadership convention- but, this was only a publicity event and photo op, not really part of the democratic process (though attendees were allowed to vote early). It would be interesting to know how much CBC & CPAC spent on this.
We walked up to the front of the hall, right up to the stage. Undercoverkity met a fellow photographer there who expressed he was surprised to see us inside saying that there was too much media and “even a CBC reporter wasn’t given a wristband”. Next we met Alexander Knight of Poorman’s Media. He was showing-off his badge to us at Jayson Fleury’s cop baiting event earlier in the day and was genuinely shocked to see us. Knight’s also pretty captive to Toronto’s socialist obedience cult scene, so he gave me the obligatory growl and shoulder brush.
A small crowd of about 30 people came up to the stage about a minute before Joyce Murray came to the stage. They were cheering, waving their signs, and expressing their joy and excitement of the upcoming speech- a pep squad. It’s my understanding they’re volunteers.
I looked over at them and was very surprised to see a familiar face, Undercoverkity saw and recognized him too. He also recognized us- the look of surprise on his face when he saw me was priceless.
Here’s a picture of him at the racist anti-police march Cheri DiNovo was the keynote speaker at last month- notice he’s with three notorious cop baiters:
Murray gave the typical type of speech you’d expect at a leadership conference. She talked about her background, how her family came from South Africa, and how she has great respect for the work of Nelson Mandela. Then, when she finished her speech, the show briefly stopped and the audience were left to mull on their own. Murray had a brief interview with a CBC reporter, I briefly said hello when she was finished and we had a 20-30 second reunion.
After a 5-10 to minute (commercial?) break Justin Trudeau’s cheerleading team began to make their way to the stage- it was considerably larger than Murray’s, probably a hundred people. Justin walked through the cheering crowd who surrounded the stage to watch him speak. If you watched the TV coverage it looked like there was a whole convention hall of people surrounding the stage- this was a bit of smoke and mirrors though, the crowd was only about 4-5 people deep and stretched about 2-3 meters around the stage. Everyone else was sitting down in their chairs.
When Murray finished her speech her family came up on the stage for the traditional cheers and hugs. Trudeau did something different though- instead, he walked down to the chairs and sat down with his family. Surrounded by a mob of cameras, his son (I’m presuming it’s his son) looked a bit uncomfortable- it probably would have been better to have them come to the stage.
I was left with three key impressions after having attended the faux convention. First, despite the presence of many true believers, there was a whole lot less people and energy in the room than I would have expected for such an event. It felt kind of subdued overall- more like it was made for TV than for the audience in the room. Saccharine.
Perhaps more importantly, the security for the event was truly horrible. The design where people had to enter the security zone to exit the floor may have helped speed up traffic, but it made it way too easy to slip inside. It was genuinely nice that Murray’s people gave us wristbands- but equally nothing was done to verify my story, I could have made it all up.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen such lax security for Canadian politicians. Back in November 2011 I organized Occupy Harper, a protest that resulted in the Prime Minister being blockaded inside of Vancouver’s Science World. The PM’s security totally bungled that one- they thought they were being smart by driving in on the seawall, but ended up having to drive out through a muddy construction site and in-between a couple of parked bike racks. The story in the Globe & Mail was titled something like “Prime Minister Drives Over A Woman’s Bicycle”.
Security for Canadian politicians is coordinated through the RCMP’s Protective Policing Service. I’m not sure if they were involved with this event, but they are ultimately responsible for the security of Members of Parliament. In this case it seems that they failed at that duty- we strolled in, both carrying backpacks, and made our way to within spitting distance of the candidates. Personally, I’m not sure how safe I’d feel under their protection.
The last Impression of the event I’ll leave you with is about Justin Trudeau. He’s a good speaker, attractive, and bound to pull-in a lot of votes. But, after meeting Zombie Trudeau just a few minutes before, I have to say he was a lot more engaging…