October 18, 2015

Tom Mulcair in Vancouver: The Last Rally

Saturday, October 17th, and one last rally on the west coast for Tom Mulcair. Hundreds of people arrived early, before the doors opened at Convention Centre in downtown Vancouver.

Candidates, like Constance Barnes, chatted with people in the crowd. She told me she had had five hours of sleep last night, and that was great!

In the last few days of the election campaign, all the parties are putting up grand displays of their leaders, and the NDP is no exception.

Finally, the doors opened and hundreds scrambled for seats. Our seats ended up being behind the stage, in the area near the giant poster and flag that serve for props at every rally.

When I first started attending political rallies as a teenager, no one gave much thought to the backdrop. Stages were often used, usually with a flags and posters, and the crowd sat out front, along with the media, TV and journos. Politicians spoke at podiums, many reading from written notes, or for some of the better speakers, rambling free-form from the notes in their heads. Things have changed.

At today's rally only about twenty-five percent of the crowd actually sat in "the front" where they could actually see the speaker's face. Most of the 5000 in attendance sat, or more likely stood, on the extreme sides or at the back of the "stage." The backdrop, where the large flag and poster are located is an important area. Signs were distributed to all sitting in the immediate backdrop.

A campaign worker then came along to yell the rules: No phones are to be used. No picture taking. No texting. No staring off into space or yawning. Attention must be focused on the speaker at all times, and when others are applauding, we are to wave our signs. When Tom asks a question, we are to shout out the answer. We are the backdrop for television, the internet, the event itself, and the entire world! Expectations were rather high.

Those rules and expectations didn't suit Jeem and he went off to find his journo friends, or wander through the crowd. His people apparently.

First up, the colourful Constance Barnes, without much sleep, candidate for Vancouver Centre. If there is a god in heaven, let a sign of her almighty omnipresence be Contance's victory over Hedy Fry on Monday. Constance introduced Dan Mangan, alt-pop-singer-songwriter star, who entertained with three songs. Jeem helped by tweaking the sound.

Our very own candidate and Vancouver Granville's Mira Oreck, and the candidate for Pitt Meadows-Meadow Ridge, Bob D'Eith, had the honour of introducing Stephen Lewis.


Mr Lewis gave a fantastic speech that eloquently showed the campaign as it really is, without the filter of handlers, message consultants or a teleprompter. Highlights included the on-going incompetence of the Liberal Leader and the buffoonery in evidence as the Conservative Leader, and our nation's prime minister, now holds rallies with Doug and Rob Ford. It was classic Stephen Lewis and a delight to hear.

When Tom Mulcair took the stage the crowd was ready as were the security agents.

Despite a seemingly never-ending campaign, Tom was clearly energized by the enthusiasm of this crowd. And it was a different kind of speech for Mulcair; more emotional, more personal and intimate. There was the call and response, the questions from Tom and the answers from the large crowd. The one that stuck, that resonated, was the one referring to the scandals and the old ways of the Liberals and the Conservatives. "We're not going back!" echoed through the Convention Centre.

The backdrop performed well. Signs went up on cue, lights dazzled and questions were answered. It was great theatre.

The spectacle was impressive. Campaign organisers were pleased with a turnout of 5000. People were happy; they were entertained and involved. Taking photos and sending them off instantly is an important part of any campaign now, be it political or commercial.

Being props in a backdrop is important too. And it can be fun.

We don't have to go back.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

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