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By Les Perreaux

MONTREAL (CP) - Women and men flock to touch the garments of Justin Trudeau whenever he walks into a room at the Liberal convention.

At a packed soiree organized by Gerard Kennedy's leadership campaign, it was Trudeau with his pint of beer who was the real star of the show. Mischievous Tories at the convention are gleefully pointing it out, too. "Justin Trudeau wows convention, thanks leadership contenders for keeping the bench warm," said a headline in The Liberal Observer, a faux newsletter handed out by Tories.

In a fake quote attributed to Trudeau, he thanks the important placeholder who is taking care of the party in between Trudeau dynasties.

"Without your noble and fruitless efforts, my triumphant future entry into national politics wouldn't be nearly as grand," the newsletter says in a pretend Trudeau quote.

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Bob Rae seems to have a little trouble letting go of his New Democrat links. The NDP? Well, it's just greedy.

The former Ontario premier, who is running second in the race for the Liberal leadership, signed up just last year for an NDP mass e-mail list that solicits donations from party supporters.

Just a few days ago, Rae sent a polite e-mail to an NDP organizer declining to donate to a New Democrat ad campaign aimed at the Liberal leadership convention.

"You will forgive me if I don't make a donation to this effort," said Rae's e-mail, passed along by NDP insiders. "Best regards, Bob Rae."

Rae didn't seem to rule out a donation for other efforts down the road, however.

It's not unusual for political rivals to sign up for such lists to keep an eye on what their enemies are doing. But it's a job usually best left to campaign or party staffers.

It's even more unusual for wannabe prime ministers to answer automated mass e-mail appeals themselves.

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Liberals love to brag about how open they are toward homosexuals.

Tough to explain, then, the printed gay joke some are handing out at the expense of George W. Bush and Stephen Harper.

Riffing on a poster promoting "Brokeback Mountain," a movie about two cowboys who fall in love, the small sticker shows the U.S. president and Canadian prime minister striking lovelorn poses in cowboy hats.

Under the title "Brokeback Conservatism," the sticker describes "a story about two friends who share ideas, ideologies and long walks on the beach."
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Hiking from one end of the cavernous Palais des congres to the other to kibitz with delegates can be a feat of stamina.
Montreal delegate Jan Davis has his own distance buster - a personal Segway machine.
The two-wheeled, stand-up scooter helps Davis glide through the crowds effortlessly. Walking can be difficult for Davis who has multiple sclerosis.
The high-tech contraption always attracts the curious.
"People are kind of surprised," Davis says, as a passerby gives him the thumbs-up. "I hear the word cool about 30 times a day, which is great, because I've never been that cool."
And with the Segway's riding platform several inches off the ground, Davis has an excellent vantage point for the drama that's unfolding on the convention floor.
"When I'm on it I can see over everything, and when I'm off it, people say, 'Why don't you sit here?' Last night I sat in the front row and shook (Democratic National Committee chairman Howard) Dean's hand."
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Every fashionista attending the Liberal convention knows red is the new black - at least until a new leader is crowned.
But a few die-hard supporters went a step above packing every red sweater, tie, pair of socks and jacket in the closet.
A few visited the hair salon in advance of the gathering to have their hair dyed red.
Lise Talbot of Quebec City added bright red highlights to her usual blond style.
"I was coming here so I put a little extra red for the event," she said.
Winnipeger Bronwyn Lawton went a little further dying her entire head a bright shade of Liberal red.
"I thought this would be a nice symbolic gesture," said the 23-year-old. "It's a little less permanent than a tattoo but I think the tattoo is pretty much coming too."
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A turf war seems to be breaking out at the Internet cafe, a quiet space where delegates can surf for free.
Staff from Yahoo Canada, the room's sponsor, say they've noticed "guerrilla marketers" sneaking in and out of the area just down the hall from the convention floor.
The sneaky campaign workers then change the web browser's homepage to the website of their favoured leadership candidate for a little free advertising.
Front-runners Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff and Gerard Kennedy were the main ones jockeying for homepage position. Trailer Joe Volpe also made a brief appearance.
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Anais Guenette was born Liberal.
Only 12 days old, the tiny baby girl already has her very own pretend Liberal delegate pass.
She's spent much of the convention asleep or sucking on a soother and swaddled in a Michael Ignatieff fleece scarf big enough to be her baby blanket.
Proud papa says Young Liberal and Mother Liberal are doing well.
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Old Liberals love to reminisce to the youngsters about their days as young Liberals.
Prime Minister Paul Martin waxed on Thursday about his days as a young red activist years ago.
With the eight leadership candidates sitting on stage beside him, Martin enthused: "If you take a look at the people who are around us today, most of them started as young Liberals and none of them accepted that their future was tomorrow. They said, my future is now, now is when I'm going to influence the party."
In his youthful exuberance, Martin brushed over the real past political allegiances of the potential Liberal leaders.
Bob Rae only joined the party in April, one week before throwing his hat into the leadership ring. And Scott Brison was a young blue Tory long before donning Liberal Red.
Ken Dryden? Well, he was playing hockey, not politics. Martha Hall Findlay? No young Liberal was she.
Joe Volpe was a young Grit. Michael Ignatieff, often scorned as the 'outsider' trying to take over the party, is another one of the few former young Liberals on the slate. He was an organizer for Pierre Trudeau in the 1968 election.
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Bob Rae seems to like being the butt of jokes.
At a forum with all the leaders, Ken Dryden was attempting to inspire Liberal youth delegates to maintain their sky's-the-limit disposition.
He urged them to forget about the "buts" that tend to bring an end to most creative ideas in politics.
"You have not learned the buts, don't ever learn the buts," Dryden said in a rather lame rallying cry.
Speaking next, Rae couldn't resist a crack about his skinny dip on the Rick Mercer Report.
"You may not have learned the buts, but you've all heard about my butt," he said.
In the cringe-inducing episode of the satirical newscast, a pasty Rae jumps in a lake with Mercer.
Speaking of Rae's bum, the Royal Canadian Air Farce is planning an episode where comedian Don Ferguson plays a nude Rae tickling the ivories on a baby grand.
The sketch is called "Liberal Leadership Idol."
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Every tourist needs a map.
Young New Democrats are handing out guides to delegates at the Liberal leadership convention. Instead of the usual tourist hot spots like Notre Dame Cathedral or the Bell Centre hockey arena, this map guides Liberals to their recent past with a tour of the sponsorship scandal.
Entitled "Map to the Scars," the pamphlets give directions to key locations in the city linked to the sponsorship scandal.
They include the site of Justice John Gomery's hearings into the affair and Restaurant Frank, the joint where key players in the program exchanged envelopes of cash.
The map in Liberal red complete with logo says "No Liberal visit to Montreal is complete without dropping by the offices of Groupaction Marketing Inc. - the home of 'money for little or no work' ."
Most of the hot spots are within a few blocks of the Montreal convention centre, where the Liberal gathering continues through the weekend.
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Martha Hall Findlay may be in last place in the Liberal leadership race, but at least she's a good sport about it.
During a forum with youth delegates, Hall Findlay was the last of the eight contenders to speak.
While the order was chosen at random, the only female candidate put her own spin on things.
"That was an age before beauty thing," she said. "Sorry guys."





Copyright 2006 Canadian Press