Conservatives turned out in force Thursday for a party that was part roast of a former colleague and part celebration for their own good political fortunes.
So many in fact, that Vancouver could have the site of an impromptu cabinet meeting as federal Conservatives gathered on the west coast to honour John Reynolds.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Reynolds, a long-time provincial and federal politician could easily have run for leader of the then Alliance party – and won. “Had John run, we’re under no illusions, neither I nor anyone else would have any chance to beat him . . . So John, you could have been a Prime Minister,” Harper said in his tribute speech.
Harper was in a rare form as he roasted the long-time politician he remembered as his “mentor,” a towering politician who loves red wine – and was a lousy singer of the national anthem during caucus meetings.
“After a few bars, I actually forget the tune. I couldn’t remember. Since John has left our caucus the anthem is actually better,” Harper told a crowd of 800 people.
The Prime Minister noted the diverse crowd that came out to honour Reynolds at the gala dinner at the downtown Vancouver hotel, including Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and cabinet ministers from provinces and territories. “Who could bring together such a disparate group of people like this. The answer is the NDP,” Harper quipped.
The Prime Minister displayed a gag video, produced for the press gallery dinner a few years back, that showed Reynolds refusing to vacate Stornoway for Harper, who was then the newly leader of the official opposition.
“That’s provided thanks to my really good friends in the Ottawa press gallery,” Harper said to laughter.
The Prime Minister said Reynolds, now an advisor to a Vancouver law firm, laid the foundation for the party that formed government in the last election and now, according to one recent poll, could win a majority.
“Of course, the same poll says no one wants an election,” Harper said.
Harper was joined by almost two dozen federal Tories were among the guests, including Immigration Minister Monte Solberg, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, caucus chair Rahim Jaffer, Justice Minister Vic Toews and Treasury Board John Baird.
One Tory official quipped that many MPs scrambled to find some excuse to be out in Vancouver this week just so they could attend the dinner. Reynolds, who served as a B.C. MLA as well as two stints as MP, has represented the Social Credit Party, the Progressive Conservative Party, the Reform Party, the Alliance Party and the Conservative Party.
“He’s been switching parties so often he’s giving David Emerson advice,” said Campbell, referring to the cabinet minister who left the Liberals for the Conservative benches after the Jan. 23 election.