For one night this week, it felt as if I were back in pre-Harper Canada, that place where people mattered more than political ideology.
That defining Canadian feeling came from the fleeting, but nonetheless inspiring, gallop-by appearance of an old liberal warhorse, Lloyd Axworthy, during the home stretch of a Manitoba provincial byelection race where Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister must feel as if he's already crossed the finish line.
Coincidentally, it happened Thursday evening, on the same night Mitt Romney -- an American conservative leader who really did cross the finish line long ago -- was declared the Republican nominee for president of the United States at his party's convention in Tampa.
Way up here, it was a smaller, slightly lower-key, Cabota Centre wine-and-cheese gathering in support of his kid brother, Bob Axworthy, that brought Lloyd Axworthy out of his barn at the University of Winnipeg. Lloyd, of course, is president of the University of Winnipeg and, as such, hasn't been permitted to campaign door to door for Bob, the way the other Axworthy brothers, Trevor and Tom, had done in the lead-up to voting Tuesday. But Lloyd was able to attend the gathering Thursday as a family member. Which allowed him the opportunity, as he phrased it, to say a few words about liberalism that sounded like a lament for the Liberal party. And, of course, a few more words about his brother.
"I just wanted to say I'm very proud of Bob," Lloyd said.
In part, what Lloyd was proud of was Bob's decision to run and give the voters of Fort Whyte a choice.
"There's nothing more important in a democracy than to make sure there is a choice," he said. "And a choice that doesn't simply pander to either the left or the right, but actually tries to work out solutions, to find some bridges to build on."
Then Lloyd moved back to something he suggested was more personal. He said every year he sponsors a little occasion at the house called the Cigar and Whiskey Night. It's a gathering of the old political friends from his campaigning days, and he recalled one night when they reflected on "the importance of liberalism as a fundamental force of positive development for the country."
Which prompted Lloyd to recall what it was like to be a Liberal MP in the day, and how they were allowed their various and diverse views within caucus. …