What a blast! A full house in the elegant setting of the Great Hall of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The food was great, the clothes were elegant, the entertainment superb. Marion and I were in exquisite company, with an excellent table near the center of the action.
The GG skipped because she couldn't take criticism from the Quebecois press about a (quite funny) joke she made about the then-leader of the Parti Quebecois. Steven Harper didn't show because (a) he gets very bad media advice and (b) he takes it. Harper always shone at gallery dinners. It was a great way to show he was an upright guy. Now he looks like an ass and a suck.
Those politicians who did show -- Dion, Layton, May, Belinda Stronach, Lawrence Cannon, Bob Rae, Michal Ignatief -- seemed to be having a good time. A very clean-shaven Justin Trudeau was also there, as was Rick Mercer. Peter Newman showed up in a cape, a la Trudeau 1973 Version. Gen. Rick Hillier, the American ambassador, the British High Commissioner, several other ambassadors, some senior cultural poo-bahs, and every non-Tory political mover and shaker who counts in Ottawa was there, along with senior media executives, a few lobbyists, and some party heavyweights. The only people who stayed away were those who are afraid of the Prime Minister -- the members of the Tory caucus and their staff. The rest of Ottawa and a good chunk of the rest of the Canadian elite showed up.
Anyone who thought the century-old gallery dinner was a goner because of the Tory boycott should remember that politicians are the most transient people in Ottawa. They come, they go, but this city has a culture of its own.
The press has many sins, and I've listed a few of them here. Still, it's one of the bulwarks of democracy, and Harper is a fool to try to undermine it.
And anyone who bawls that Harper is snubbed or somehow frozen out should keep in mind that he was invited, and has always been treated well at these events. Those of you ex-Reformers who believed in empowerment for MPs -- things like recall, referendum, free votes -- should remember how hard the Tory caucus was whipped to stay away from this event. Even the lowliest staffers who, two years ago, would have killed to get a ticket, were too afraid to show their faces. Welcome to Harper's vision of populism.