For any political party, the final convention before an election campaign is all about firing up the troops. And the job for B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark in her keynote speech at her party's annual convention Saturday was to do just that.
But Ms. Clark's task was more complicated than simply psychologically arming the thousand delegates in attendance for next spring's campaign. She first had to convince them that they had a fighting chance – despite the doomsday polls and the steady drumbeat of dreary predictions by the B.C. commentariat.
If the B.C. Liberal Party is in its death throes someone forget to tell the delegates who attended convention here. There was a defiant tone in the air, one that was set on the opening day by the Premier herself when she urged her followers to focus on the days ahead and the increasingly bright future her government's job agenda has created.
As expected, there was lots of talk about recent job-creation numbers that ranked B.C. first in the country. Ms. Clark has been hammering hard on the notion that the province is on the precipice of an economic roll that will make it the envy of the country. She has effectively staked her future, and the future of the Liberal Party, on the belief that when British Columbians step into the voting booth next May, jobs and the economy will be the number one factor on their minds.
For the Liberals to win, it will take a turnaround of historic proportions. The party is anywhere from 14 to 29 points behind the opposition New Democrats depending on the poll to which you subscribe. Ms. Clark's primary mission at this convention was to convince delegates that gaps between political parties, even ones as large as the fissure that has opened up between the Liberals and NDP, can be overcome.
And as I say, I think her keynote address and her cameo appearances throughout the convention likely went a long way towards accomplishing that goal.
Ms. Clark's speech, while certainly devoid of any news, was optimistic and upbeat. Her strongest moments, however, came when she talked about issues closest to her heart; bullying and the death of Amanda Todd, how she coped with the slow death of her mother from a brain tumour.
That is when Ms. Clark summoned all of the consummate communication skills honed as a radio talk-show host. There were times during the speech when it was so quiet you could hear ants chattering. And when the Premier abandoned her sensitive side to launch into a fiery attack on the New Democrats you could barely hear anything above the piercing yowls of approval from the crowd.
Of course, there are always lines in political speeches that produce some eye-rolling. When Ms. Clark attacked the NDP for its ever-evolving stand on the Northern Gateway pipeline, one couldn't help but recall that the Premier's own position has gone through a few iterations itself.
If you listened closely, however, you could hear the general outline of a campaign stump speech, one that chastises the NDP for its modest vision for the future compared to the bolder dream for the province that she is mapping out. One that holds that her party believes in creating jobs, while the NDP believes in destroying them.
Ms. Clark's speech was interrupted on more than a few occasions by standing ovations. She left her prepared text several times to ad-lib her way her way through the nearly 40-minute address. The Premier needed one of her strongest podium appearances ever and she delivered.
Delegates seemed happy with the message. And most left the hall holding on to something they couldn't have imagined possessing even a month ago – hope.