London Calling II

I had a pretty good day today, and the end of a pretty busy week. I was down at a professional development day at the Thames Valley District School Board (London and area), and spent the day promoting my books to teachers and teacher librarians, and also meeting up with fellow authors and all around lovers of the written word.

As far as I could see, the event was organized by Marlene Turkington. I managed to gain an invitation after I’d approached her for helping me find someone in her area to do a literature unit for Fathom Five. Unfortunately, that fell through, but while we were talking, I learned about the event and asked if I could participate. She agreed, and I’m glad she did.

Marlene and her tireless team put together a smooth run event that packed in over 500 attendees inside the board headquarters (which is obviously a converted school building. Getting to various venues between events did bring up memories of my crowded high school corridors). There were a number of booksellers and authors at the event, but many came to see the featured authors, including Barbara Reid, Deborah Ellis and, all the way from Australia, the incomparable Mem Fox (author of some of the best selling picture books of all time; if you are a parent, you have probably read Time For Bed).

Mem gave the keynote address and it’s interesting how one’s skills as a teacher and a reader for young children applies to keeping an audience of grown-ups enraptured. It was an engaging speech about the importance of rhythm when reading aloud to our children.

I also had a chance to present, along with seven other authors, at one of the panel discussions later that day, and I had a good response to the five-minute snippet I picked from The Unwritten Girl. But, otherwise, I was in the vendor room, promoting myself and the Authors’ Booking Service, and that might sound boring, but there was a good crowd, and they were more than willing to engage a young author in conversation about his book, about what sort of school readings I did, and what I was working on next. It was a very friendly audience (they bought the six copies of my book I brought and seemed interested in buying more!), and one just thrives on that.

I’d like to thank Marlene and all of the people who helped to bring this event about. I hope it becomes an annual event, and I look forward to next year.

Mr. Harper vs. Mr. Casey

In completely unrelated news, sometimes I really don’t understand Stephen Harper, or even Conservatives in general. Check out this article by Vues D’Ici. Last June, when the Conservative premiers of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland fought a pitched battle with the federal Conservative government about equalization payments and the “Atlantic Accord”, the Conservative premier of Nova Scotia took the bold step (that’s putting it mildly) of asking Conservative MPs in Harper’s government to vote against the budget in protest to the alleged breaking of the deal.

One Conservative MP listened to the provincial leader: Bill Casey. He was promptly thrown out of the Conservative caucus (despite Peter MacKay’s assurances this would not happen), and currently sits as an independent.

Stephen Harper and Rodney MacDonald (premier of Nova Scotia) have finally ironed out their differences and have put together a revision of the Atlantic Accord that both men appear to be able to live with. Good news for Conservatives all round, surely? That is, until the matter of Bill Casey’s status came up. As far as Harper was concerned, Bill Casey was out of the Conservative caucus for good. Another Conservative candidate would be chosen for his riding.

Even if the Conservative riding association disagrees.

Last weekend, Casey met with his local Conservative Party riding association board and they voted overwhelmingly to keep him on as their representative:

“The board of directors supports Bill Casey as the legally nominated candidate for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley Conservative Association in the next federal election, and (that’s to) be conveyed to the party leadership,” the board’s resolution said. The CPC national council wasn’t amused. They unanimously declared the nomination in Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley to be vacant.


The thing is, I was just watching some old videos from The Rick Mercer Report (see February 27, “Rick sleeps over at the Harpers”) where we see a decent attempt by Prime Minister Harper to soften his angry, stand-offish image and show himself to be a gentle man with a good sense of humour. Welcoming Bill Casey back into the Conservative caucus, after an agreement has been reached between the federal and Nova Scotia Conservatives, should have been an obvious gimme. Why didn’t Harper take that move?

Indeed, in one fell swoop, Harper reaffirmed all of those perceived character flaws that make so many Canadians nervous about giving the man majority control of parliament. Petty? Check. Vindictive? Check. Mr. Angry all over again? Check, check, double check.

It becomes clear that you don’t want to cross Stephen Harper, for he never forgets, and he bears a grudge, even when it hurts him to do so. And while this may be admirable qualities for the CEO of a take-no-prisoners kind of company, it’s precisely the wrong qualities to have when you’re supposed to be the leader of all the people, responsible to all the people?

And do I also detect a touch of hypocrisy here? And maybe an inability to learn from past mistakes? I mean, considering how some Conservative supporters chortle or tut-tut over Stephane Dion’s imposition of candidates on local ridings, to bolster the number of women or visible minorities running for parliament, but isn’t this doing the same thing for less noble reasons? And let’s not forget the bad feelings that erupted when the Conservative executive overruled the Conservative riding association in Kitchener Centre.

Despite Stephen Harper’s desperate efforts to retain Conservative seats in Nova Scotia (as evidenced by his willingness to negotiate with Rodney MacDonald when the rest of the country isn’t particularly sympathetic to the Atlantic Accord), he has essentially created his own John Nunziata. Bill Casey will run in the next election as an independent, and by all accounts, he’s going to win.

At least with Nunziata, Jean Chretien was dealing with the impossible position of maintaining the country’s finances while breaking a promise on removing a hated tax. Stephen Harper has missed his opportunity to bring his John Nunziata back into the fold, thus ending the whole story of the Atlantic Accord in Nova Scotia and making the Conservatives look like winners. I suspect Jean Chretien would have grasped that opportunity, if he had been presented with it.

And, before I close, I must agree with Vues about how bad this also makes Rodney MacDonald look. Newfoundland premier Danny Williams has stepped forward to support Bill Casey, as has Nova Scotia Justice minister Murray Scott. Given that MacDonald asked for precisely what Casey ended up doing, he should at least speak up and make peace overtures between Harper and Casey. The fact that he’s staying silent on the issue suggests that Casey stood up for principle, and MacDonald keeps his principle in his wallet.

A few billion dollars is a lot of principle, isn’t it, Mr. MacDonald?

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