Aboard the Liberal Express
All this week, I'm riding on the bus with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, or not, as he launches his summer-long tour of Canada.
As anyone saw from the news reports, it was an inauspicious start. First, it was the torrential rain, which began precisely as Ignatieff pulled up to Parliament Hill. By the time we got on the bus for the first time, we were all drenched and moderately cranky. It was incredibly crowded in the bus for the first day too -- as well as media (about a dozen of us, I estimate), there were also MPs, staffers, and of course, Ignatieff and his wife, Zsuzsanna, as well.
The mood, among a bunch of drenched reporters shivering in an air-conditioned, then broken bus, is about what you'd expect, but perhaps somewhat better. There's no beer -- by official OLO command -- but there are Timbits. After the bus thudded to a halt, everyone was still able to laugh - and, file stories too, thanks to some cars and volunteers quickly rounded up as we sat at the side of the road outside Hawkesbury yesterday. For a while, we worried that a singsong might start again. While this was jolly fun for most people aboard the bus yesterday (and as Rosie Barton pointed out, better than vuvuzelas) spoilsports such as myself complained that we couldn't hear our tapes as we were trying to transcribe what Ignatieff had said in his speeches and interviews along the way. Damn media. Always complaining.
Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc was among the MPs commandeered for this first week, as well as Ralph Goodale and Mark Holland. Future candidates such as Steven MacKinnon and Scott Bradley also were in our midst. LeBlanc -- you'll remember him from his brief foray into the non-race for leadership a couple of years ago -- is looking tanned and fit. Several reporters commented on it. LeBlanc said the tan comes from driving his convertible, and then he went on to talk about the great time he's having at home this summer in New Brunswick. "But I woke up this morning with an urge to tour a cheese factory in Ontario," he said. "So here I am."
The bus, now in purgatory, or wherever they put buses that misbehave so publicly, is (was?) reasonably well appointed. It's not the grand, luxury model of Liberal yesteryears, but it does have a small kitchen, working tables for most journalists and wifi aboard. Or it did. I'm assuming we're getting a lesser bus today. There will be fewer media hacks. I'm staying aboard, as is the Globe and Sun Media, but the TV folks have mostly skedaddled back to Ottawa. So don't look for any reports of the tour on your nightly news, unless you're watching local newscasts.
Deciding how often and where to file is an ongoing challenge -- a preview, perhaps, of the next election campaign. Now we print folks have Twitter, blogs, filing to the web, and of course, the old-fashioned newspaper. I've been finding that I can only manage two of these at once, and Twitter's immediacy makes it easier to file small bulletins, as opposed to longer posts such as this. You can find my Twitter updates, and the others from the bus, under the search #lpcx (that's the short form we've chosen). I will try to keep this blog updated too, but the fastest bulletins come from Twitter. You can also find some "twitpics" here.
Ignatieff, in case anyone's curious, seems in good spirits, despite the bus breakdown and the weather yesterday. Last night, after the sodden day, he and his wife were enjoying a glass of wine in the Best Western here in Cornwall, and laughing about it all. Today, it's Kingston, Napanee and Peterborough.