POLITICS

Would-be NDP leaders run afoul of time limits during high-tech showcase

03/24/2012 04:30 EDT | Updated 05/23/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - The sonic boom heard from the convention floor might have come from Tom Mulcair's speed-of-light reading of his convention speech.

The consensus front-runner was preceded on stage by pounding drummers that slowed Mulcair's ascent to the stage to a cacophonous crawl. The Quebec MP, who is considered the best orator in the contest, was forced by the 20-minute limit to hurtle through his text at ramming speed after his parade ate up much of his speaking time. Laugh lines, applause lines — all became obstacles to be leapt over.

Mulcair was not alone in bumping up against the time limit.

The finale of Peggy Nash's address was almost drowned out by the swelling of her exit music as she was given the musical nudge familiar to Academy award winners. She would undoubtedly take the indignity of a hasty speech exit if it meant she collected the leadership prize.

It's worth mentioning that would-be NDP leaders aren't the only ones to run afoul of time limits. Liberal hopeful Stephane Dion had his microphone switched off unceremoniously during his leadership pitch in 2006 — and went on to claim the top job.

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Music wasn't used just to shove candidates off the stage.

Each of the aspirants for Jack Layton's job made their way to and from the podium to a tune meant to convey something about their candidacy.

Brian Topp, whose platform includes a plank calling for a tax on cars heading into the downtown cores of Canadian cities, left to the strains of Arcade Fire's No Cars Go. British Columbia MP Nathan Cullen might have been referring to a pact he's pushing with Liberals to run joint nomination in some ridings when he picked Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed, Delivered as a musical escort off the stage. Peggy Nash, who served as the NDP's finance critic before running for the leadership, opted for Florence + The Machine's Dog Days Are Over.

But only Ottawa MP Paul Dewar opted for an original composition. A brave rap duet by Ontario MP and caucus supporter Charlie Angus and Sudbury miner-cum-hip-hop performer OB. Angus was an accomplished musician and member of folk-punkies, the Grievous Angels, before entering politics. Many members of the Twitterverse suggested he stick to politics or folk-punk after taking in his performance.

"I volunteer to be the Simon Cowell of this episode of NDP Idol," tweeted Maclean's magazine's Scott Feschuk.

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Simon Cowell would have loved the razzle-dazzle set-up at the convention even if he might not have liked who was on stage.

Instead of a traditional rectangular platform, candidates had the option of strolling along a 35-metre runway before arriving at a podium placed under a five-metre-high circular LED sign adorned with whatever slogan the candidate chose. From a distance, it looked like a winking space ship hovering silently over the stage.

Candidates opting to use a teleprompter had their remarks appear above the crowd.

And the best news for the NDP? All of it worked.