I don’t think it is news to anyone who exists in Canada that the Liberal Party was decimated in the May 2011 federal election. But I’d like to thank outgoing Liberal Party President Alf Apps for the reminder in today’s National Post, and for the knowledge that he thinks we’re all a bunch of lazy bums who ruined a once-great institution.
Despite the blanket accusations that Mr. Apps feels it is appropriate to publicly throw at his employees, volunteers and membership, politics is no business for the lazy. Even when you fail miserably, you move mountains if they’re standing in your way. Working in politics is 7:00am to 11:00pm every day of your life, sleeping with your phone next to your face each night, missing out on milestones, not expecting there’s ever truly a time when you’re “out of the office” kind of work. Emotionally and physically draining, for little pay and almost no recognition beyond the knowledge in the back of your mind that some days, you might have done something good for someone, somewhere. Here’s hoping.
And yet I’ve never heard a political staffer or campaign volunteer complain about any of that. It’s what we signed up for. Doing something good for Canadians is what we wake up in the morning to do and what we go to sleep at night thinking about. This isn’t a Liberal trait, by the way. I believe it is universal across all the parties.
But back to our Liberal woes: Maybe folks on the Bay St. cocktail circuit think we’re all an “aging and self-satisfied crowd of insiders preoccupied by long faded glories and still-festering rivalries,” and — even more insulting — “lazy.” Fine. They are entitled to their opinions.
However, all the reasons Mr. Apps cited for our downfall (not reaching out to grow and cement our base, failing to modernize our technology, being terrible fundraisers, not doing the things our opponents have been doing, instituting a cult of leadership, etc.), perhaps these could have been things he addressed during his Presidency? He had two years to change the culture of the party. Two years, and all we’ve got to show for it is 100 pages of recommendations (released to the media before the membership, I’d like to point out) and a bunch of desperate-sounding headlines.
I believe it is possible to have thoughtful, consultative discussions about organizational reform without the overly dramatic flair that only serves to reinforce perceptions that the Liberal Party of Canada is a group of power-hungry headline chasers who have been reduced to self-flagellation to stay in the news. Close the Peter C. Newman songbook, delete next week’s column, stop appearing on TV to tout your renewal plan, roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work.
Ottawa is a different planet. (Not that I have any experience with space travel, but if journalists can drop metaphor bombs at will, consider this my own “Liberal Express breakdown foreshadows historic election defeat.”) Federal politics takes place in a bubble, and I’m still adjusting to the real world. It’s easy to get tangled up inside the Queensway, and then the next thing you know you’re completely unable to relate to the average person and you only have 34 seats in Parliament. That’s someone else’s book to write.
If asked why I’m not working, I usually say I’m taking time to do things I didn’t used to have time to do. This is technically true, since I only recently have time to write several versions of the same cover letter over and over again. On Saturday, that list of things included being an audience member of the CTV show “So You Think You Can Dance Canada” with a friend/former colleague, also new to Toronto.
Here’s my thoughts:
We were the oldest audience members not chaperoning offspring. Expected, sure. It is different to joke how “it’s just going to be us and a bunch of 13 year old girls” and to realize that if this was a party, you’d be the one who has to purchase the booze. I felt old. Everyone else was so happy and so young; their personal and professional historic defeats not yet realized.
The host, judges and dancers were a lot smaller in real life than I expected: shorter, skinnier, more compact and looking less like actual people than I thought possible. Most of my on-air-personality interactions have been with journalists and politicians, whose appearance on television is usually more of a tertiary aspect of their jobs. In Ottawa, you can be tall or fat or ugly or have ultra mega 80s hair and still be allowed on TV if Dimitri gives it the OK.
I never want to be on television. I’m painfully shy and it was drilled into my brain that as a political staffer, I am never to appear on camera. Did you know that if you attend a taping of a television program, you might be on TV? This was an opportunity to bring back my default face. You know the not-angry-but-also-not-welcoming-so-just-leave-me-alone face that prevents strangers from talking to you on the street? It’s also one of those subtle things you can do to encourage a producer to pick a shot that includes not you.
During a commercial break, they played the song I hate the most. Ugh. Too soon.
At one point, two of the judges needed help with what to say about the previous performance. There was a person off-camera to assist them. I’ve been that person before and this was a nice reminder that I have applicable real-world skills. I was impressed that the production assistants were able to get paramedics into the studio and then an audience member out of the studio while cameras were still rolling, and nobody seemed to notice. I don’t think I need to wax poetic on how incredibly frustrating it was to repeatedly hear about the importance of voting for your favourite dancers, so they don’t get sent home.
One of the judges said something awkward to a contestant. I felt uncomfortable for the girl, who stood on stage wearing less than a bathing suit while this old man told the show’s ~800,000 viewers that she aroused him. She’s up there doing her job, which she’s had to work very hard to do well, and he’s being a creep in a position of power. The four other judges managed to compliment her skills and beauty without being crude, so make of this what you will.
I don’t have a lot to say about the dancing part of this experience. I’m short, so I couldn’t really see what happening on stage. I spent most of the time paying attention to the judges, the crew, and the other folks in the crowd. I’ll watch the dancing part when the show airs on Monday and hopefully not see myself in the audience.