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Guest blog from Leanne Bourassa; new LPC Nat’l Membership Secretary

Cue the music: Carry On by FUN

The week before convention was a tough one for my team – tempers were running high, work and school obligations were pressing, we were spending more money than we had planned, I was travelling, doing founding meetings and still trying to be a responsible employee and everyone was just plain tired.  So, driving to the airport to pick up Erich was a nice opportunity to shift gears and get into the “Convention mindset”. Things got even better when I ran into a friend from Law school and ended up with two passengers for the long, slow drive downtown. The guys hit it off and I’ve decided to take credit for the friendship, after all that’s a Membership Secretary’s job, to bring people together, right?

I wasn’t expecting day one of the convention to be so busy, but with an invitation to the Council of Presidents meeting and a small group meeting with the Aboriginal Peoples Commission Executive, before the leader’s big opening speech, there was a lot to pack in one afternoon and evening. The Council of Presidents meeting was great as it was the first time I got to meet my opponent Arif, and to actually have the two of us up on stage together was a great chance to see where our priorities differed and how we planned on working on the membership file. The questions were great and it was a shame we hadn’t had more chances to debate a bit before convention, as I think it would have helped both the candidates and the members get a better sense of who we are and what we want to do.

I rushed from CoP to the Hyatt to meet with the Aboriginal Peoples Commission executive, and I can honestly say that the short time I spent with Chad and Cherish and all of the executive gave me energy and momentum that carried through the weekend. I arrived as Tanya the APC Quebec rep was finishing her report and I was so impressed not only with what she had achieved and planned, but with Cherish’s advice to be sure to honour her efforts and the work she is doing. The atmosphere in the room was full of acknowledgement of the path the Commission has covered and respect for the work that is to come. This is a very special group of people who are more aware than most of the challenges of bringing together diverse groups of people. It is going to be such a pleasure to help the APC build on their successes.

After running a few errands, it was time to be in the room for Justin Trudeau’s speech to kick-off the convention. I was surprised the speech was scheduled for the Thursday night when a lot of delegates would not yet have arrived, so anticipated the room would be mostly full of local Liberals as we had encouraged everyone in Quebec to come for the event. Given that demographic, I’m not convinced the half hour discussion only in English before the speech was the best use of the time, but Justin did deliver. The video call with Sophie and the kids was terrific and really brought some charm to the evening.

Thursday night – suite parties. BC Party to catch up with the crew I met and adored in Whistler. Metropolis. Fell into bed wondering how on earth I was going to make it through 3 more days!

Friday – cue the music : Can’t Stop this Thing We Started by Bryan Adams. And then have the music cut to a screeching halt as I wipe out completely on the ice in front the Palais des Congrès. I walked in tights ripped, looking like I’d fought a bear, not at all the competent professional woman I was trying to be. Fortunately, the supportive crew at the Women’s Commission meeting helped me calm down a bit and get back in focus for the day. Then the whirlwind began as I rush from Women’s Commission where I saw the opening of the meeting, to the APC where I watch them vote in a constitutional amendment to welcome the participation of ‘allies’, to the Seniors Commission where they debated a resolution I had helped co-Chair Helene Audren draft. A quick stop at the YLC meeting and then it was back to Women’s Commission before a whip round the Laurier Club lounge before voting started and it was time to shake shake shake some hands and chat with delegates and hope to scoop up some votes. By some quirk of fate, Arif and I ended up going to vote at the same time. Wonder who he voted for? We were into the actual program of the convention now, and it was a bit frustrating not to be able to get away to go and check out some of the panels and policy workshops, but I was there to do a job. And part of that job was to use the 10 minutes the candidates had been given to address the convention to convince people I was the right person for the job. I took about an hour and a half to relax before the speeches, then joined Arif and his team and Brian Rice and his team in the ‘holding room’ for candidates. Brian was practicing his French while the rest of us chatted with the convention co-chairs and our supporters until we were briefed on how the speeches were to unfold. I was speaking first.

Speech time. I was nervous, but not overly so because I had two amazing supporters to introduce me and made a wise decision in asking my friends from Café Politique to join me up on stage. They have been with me since the beginning of this campaign and my Liberal experience is better because of them. I had not told Marc Garneau or Alexandra Mendes what to say, so it was a bit overwhelming to hear two people I respect so much say outright that they support me and the room should as well. I also hadn’t seen the video/photo clip my team had put together and with the music playing – cue Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Fleetwood Mac and my friends with me, it really was a celebration! I had 7 minutes left on the clock by time I took the stage and the time flew by! I ended my speech with 3 seconds left and almost didn’t make it because people were cheering! The convention could have ended right there and I would have been on a high for weeks. There was still work to be done though. A fly by to talk briefly with the Newfoundland delegation (thanks for letting me interrupt your dinner) and then a visit to Anna Gainey and Brian Rice’s suites to meet with more delegates before bed and one last day of campaigning.

Saturday morning music : Burn by Ellie Goulding. One last burst of energy and motivation, greatly needed because some crazy person on my team (that would be me) had decided we should be original, and instead of having a hospitality suite in the evening, we should do a breakfast suite in the morning. At 7 in the morning to be precise. So we reserved quite a comfortable room in the convention center and paid a ridiculous amount of money for pastries and coffee from the convention center caterer. In the end however, I think the endeavour was worthwhile; we had a different crowd from those we met in the evening (including some illustrious bloggers) and the atmosphere was relaxed and conducive to conversation.

The best part was that I had the room all day and could offer it up afterwards to the Queer Liberals who otherwise did not have a space to meet up.  Other than a few minutes popping in and out to see Justin’s Saturday afternoon speech, and sneaking away from my team for half an hour to catch my breath in a secret location (Laurier lounge) it was more hand shaking and meeting new and not so new people. It was great to connect with people I had met on Facebook or at events and felt like I knew a bit already. Before I knew it, they had closed the ballot boxes and two of my closest team members were sequestered for the count. And then….results.

While it was occasionally disappointing that people seemed to be paying more attention to the presidential races than the Membership race, sitting down to wait for the results I did not envy Brian and Anna one bit. The moment Anna walked into the room, she was front and center and a bevy of photographers and camera men plopped themselves down in front of her and her family. Thank goodness her boys are great dancers and kept the mood light! I was just trying to keep my stomach calm and willing time to move faster so the waiting would be over. I could not have been more amazed and thrilled at the results and I am so grateful for all those who supported me! With all the rumours that float around, you are never really certain where you stand, so it was a relief to have the waiting over and especially to get the job! The congratulations from Justin Trudeau was pretty cool as well! It was wonderful to have our new president Anna Gainey invite all the board members up on stage with her and to get a chance to celebrate with my new colleagues.  I had a hard time leaving that room. As much as I was hoping to travel for this convention, having it in my hometown meant that when I won, there were so many friends around to share the moment with and it was fantastic! Eventually, the well wishers were done and the only people left in that giant room were me and my team. And cue the music: ROAR by Katy Perry, which I now declare to be my new theme song. We spent a good half hour just hanging out together as my sequestered team members came back to join us and we got to snap some photos and appreciate each other’s company and what we had accomplished together. Since no one would bring us anything to toast with in the convention center, we wandered over to the bar at the Westin (I admit, partly because we heard Rick Mercer was hanging out there) but I think all of us would have happily kept those moments alive for a few more hours.

And that is where I want to finish this story for the moment. The job is just beginning, there was some lingering effects from my fall on Friday morning and I’m still getting my head around what I’ve gotten myself into! But let’s end on another song: Imagine Dragons – On Top of The World!

Thank you so much Scott for giving me the chance to relive this great time!

(Scott’s note: Leanne Bourassa (as she noted :)) is the new National Membership Secretary of the Liberal Party of Canada. She is also currently President of the LPC(Q) Legal Commission. Leanne has been an ardent supporter of, and dedicated participant in the LPC(Q) Women’s Commission, and has been a long time volunteer for the Liberal Party since she became a member in 1997. My thanks for her writing this guest blogpost reliving her experiences in Montreal)

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