The first political party convention I covered as a reporter was the 2006 Liberal leadership in Montreal when Stéphane Dion came from out of nowhere and beat out heavyweights Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae for the leadership crown. It was fun, exciting and the outcome was far from predetermined. As one delegate I spoke to noted, “It was [my] first and last great convention.”

He may be right.

Each (Liberal) convention after that was less and less must-attend.

Although Liberal members voted on constitutional changes this time around in Winnipeg, the biggest controversy was on process. But despite some drama, everyone here expected the recommended changes to opening up the party, removing membership fees and eliminating provincial and territorial wings of the federal party would pass.

From the multiple looks back to the Liberal Party's successful 2015 election campaign to repeated rallying cries of “better is always possible,” the feeling at this convention was more love in celebration than momentous turning point for a party that—as leader and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a speech to delegates Saturday—was “left for dead” in 2011.

Justin Trudeau, Liberals, Winnipeg, 2016
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses delegates at Liberal party convention in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 28, 2016. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

At least Liberals still know how to party. There were several fun ones on Friday night following a bunch of panel discussions on the environment, diversity and foreign affairs among other policy workshops.

First up: former Toronto Star reporter Susan Delacourt’s launch of the third edition of her book Shopping For Votes. It was held at Hy’s and for all those Ottawa politicos in the room, it was sort of a homecoming. (How Winnipeg still has a Hy’s and Ottawa doesn’t is … slightly strange to me.)

Susan Delacourt, Liberals, Winnipeg, iPolitics
Journalist Susan Delacourt releases her book: "Shopping for Votes" at Hy's in Winnipeg on Friday, May 27, 2016. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

ENsight special adviser Don Newman made opening remarks to the crowd of about 50 before Delacourt rose to speak about her book on political marketing and how ‘niche’ policies get politicians elected, treating voters as shoppers instead of citizens. Newman noted that principal secretary Gerry Butts said in a video during the convention that the Liberals would not win the 2019 election with tactics of the 2015 election. “I saw Susan pick up her pen and start the next edition of the book,” he said.

Mélanie Joly, Liberal Party of Canada, Winnipeg, 2016, convention
Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly was a keynote speaker on Friday. She spoke about the government's plans to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary and taught delegates how to say "sesquicentennial." Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Guests mingled over lamb chops, shrimp, bruschetta and drinks before heading out to other hospitality suites and parties.

The Judy Lamarsh Fund held a fundraiser for women in politics at the Delta hotel in downtown Winnipeg, hosted by Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly and Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef, called Because It’s 2016. Fresh off the plane from his G7 trip to Japan, Trudeau made a short appearance late at the party which set off a flurry of selfie action.

Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party of Canada, Winnipeg, 2016, convention
Guests at the Judy Lamarsh Party take selfies with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Guests clamoured to get in reach of him to take a photo (not me, I was trying to get photos of the selfies, which resulted in a near physical molestation, err, elbowing in my breast, oh... nevermind). In my attempt to get evidence of said selfies, I accidently (not on purpose, very sorry!!) got in the way of one delegate’s photo which led to a very stern, "You ruined my photo!" and a later head shaking with a “that was cheap” comment. I survived.

Anna Gainey, Liberal Party of Canada, elbowgate, Winnipeg, 2016
The "Elbowgate" cocktail at the Alt Hotel, served during The President's Party on Friday night. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

The party died down after Trudeau’s appearance and some went to a crowded Merchant Kitchen (an excellent tapas fusion restaurant in downtown Winnipeg) for the President’s Party, hosted by former Defence minister Bill Graham with Liberal Party president Anna Gainey. There was a long line up with even MPs standing outside waiting to get into the overflow room of the Alt hotel. Once in, guests were treated to a candy bar, dessert and drinks, including a signature drink called Elbowgate which consisted of red wine, Sprite and grapefruit juice.

The Liberals wrapped up their convention on Saturday with a vote on the constitutional amendments, which passed with 1,998 votes. Only 66 voted against.

Here are some of more images from the last two days of the convention.

Christina Topp, Liberal Party of Canada, Winnipeg, 2016
Liberal Party interim national director Christina Topp spoke to members about the success of the 2015 election campaign and thanked volunteers before introducing PMO chief of staff Katie Telford, who served as campaign co-chair. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.
Hunter Tootoo, Catherine McKenna, Liberals, Winnipeg

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo and Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna spoke on a panel called "A cleaner future: How growing Canada’s economy and climate change action go hand in hand." Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Hunter Tootoo, Catherine McKenna, Liberals, Winnipeg

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Jane Philpott, Liberals, Winnipeg, 2016

Health Minister Jane Philpott spoke on a panel about diversity in Canada. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Jean-Yves Duclos, Karen McCrimmon, Liberals, Winnipeg
Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon spoke on a panel called "Platform 2015: How we brought #realchange to Canada." Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould spoke on a panel regarding diversity in Canada. She said she is "incredibly proud to be indigenous and Canadian" and that the two are not mutually exclusive. She said she decided to run in the last election because diversity is needed in politics. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Katie Telford, Liberals, 2016, Winnipeg, convention, Justin Trudeau.

PMO chief of staff and 2015 election Liberal co-chair Katie Telford spoke to delegates on Friday about the party's successful campaign with more than 80,000 volunteers who reached out 12 million times to have more than four million conversations with Canadians. She noted that the Liberals targeted key ridings across the country using big data while knocking on doors on the ground and the result was the Liberals lost only one riding that Justin Trudeau visited during the campaign. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Lawrence MacAulay, Hunter Tootoo, Catherine McKenna, Jim Carr, Marc Miller, Liberals, Winnipeg, 2016

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, Fisheries and Oceans minister Hunter Tootoo, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr spoke on a panel about the environment and the economy, moderated by Liberal MP Marc Miller. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Lawrence MacAulay, Hunter Tootoo, Catherine McKenna, Jim Carr, Marc Miller, Liberals, Winnipeg, 2016
Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.
Patty Hajdu, Liberal Party of Canada, Winnipeg, 2016

Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu spoke on a panel about diversity in Canada. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Liberal MP Raj Grewal, Winnipeg, Liberals, 2016

Liberal MP Raj Grewal moderated a panel on diversity in Canada. He said he's proud to be both Canadian and Sikh. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Anna Gainey, Liberal Party of Canada, Ralph Goodale, Jean-Yves Duclos, Karen McCrimmon

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale spoke on a panel about the Liberal's successful election campaign. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan, Winnipeg, 2016, convention

Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan checks his phone during a plenary session on Friday. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

Justin Trudeau, Liberals, Winnipeg, 2016
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets delegates at conclusion of Liberal convention in Winnipeg on May 28, 2016. Photo by Bea Vongdouangchanh.

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