What do you do with a gum chewer in the front row of your human backdrop?

September 20, 2015

This afternoon I watched a live stream from CBC of Justin Trudeau’s speech in Halifax before an enthusiastic crowd on Pier 21. Initially I was worried if he could follow his warm-up act, Premier Stephen McNeil, who gave a barn-burner of a speech in the old evangelical style. Great big guy, excellent speaker, quite appealing. Would JT look pale by comparison?

Not to worry. Trudeau began quite formally, riffing on Halifax’s history as a destination for a million immigrants to Canada and the port of departure for a half million military personnel during the two world wars. Then came a segue into his announcements of day, commitments to military renewal and the accommodation of twenty-five thousand Syrian refugees.

The backdrop of supporters ranged from a babe in arms to old codgers like me, but the one individual who drew my attention away from JT’s speech was an attractive young woman in the front row on my right. She was absolutely chomping on a mouthful of gum.

This wouldn’t do, because this was a serious speech and nobody watching on TV would be able to pay attention. I wondered how well organized Trudeau’s staff was, and how they would deal with this distraction.

Unaware, JT responded to the Premier’s fulsome introduction and then went on into his speech, but McNeil strangely didn’t leave the stage. In fact, he took a position directly in front of the gum-chewing belle, blocking her with his bulk.

My attention returned to the speech. By the time McNeil eventually drifted away during a simultaneous translation, the gum chewer had been replaced by a young guy with a slightly restless toddler in his arms. Crisis averted.

My questions: 1. Was McNeil wearing an earbud and received instructions to stay on stage, or was his move just dumb luck? 2. Did anybody think to remind the members of the backdrop not to chew gum or make other distracting moves during the speech?

Anyway, Trudeau ran through the speech and then welcomed questions from the national media for about another half-hour and everybody seemed happy when the broadcast ended.


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