There were just enough skirmishes in Canada’s midsummer election campaign last week for it to escape the “phony war” label—but there were no pitched battles and only minor casualties. The heavy action was expected to begin this week, with two crucial television debates among the three major party leaders: Prime Minister John Turner, Conservative Leader Brian Mulroney and New Democratic Party Leader Ed Broadbent. All three men considered the prime-time debates as critical to their parties’ chances in the Sept. 4 balloting. But each camp took comfort in the knowledge that, with almost six weeks until the election, there was time to recover from a poor showing.
With the debates out of the way, Turner’s slow-starting campaign was expected literally to take off—in a chartered Air Canada DC-9 jetliner.
By contrast, the Conservatives’ chartered 727 has been flying since July 12, and the NDP’S chartered DC-9 made its inaugural flight last week with Broadbent taking a turn at the controls. His aides promptly dubbed the plane “Ordin-Air” because of Broadbent’s repeated claims that his is the party of ordinary Canadians. Reporters travelling with Mulroney, on the other hand, dubbed his aircraft “Millionaire”—a reference to the wellheeled Tory campaign.
Indeed, it was aboard Mulroney’s jet that the the Tory leader committed his first major gaffe of the campaign. In a late-night flight to Montreal from his home riding of Manicouagan, in northeastern Quebec, Mulroney joined the press in the rear cabin and indiscreetly chatted about what had been the election’s most contentious early issue: Liberal patronage. Mulroney had been scathing in public about the appointment of 17 Liberals MPS that coincided with the transition from former prime
minister Pierre Trudeau’s administration. But on the plane Mulroney, discussing the appointment of former Liberal cabinet minister Bryce Mackasey as ambassador to Portugal, said, “There’s no whore like an old whore,” and added that if he had been Mackasey he would “have been right down there in the trough, too.” Late in his remarks Mulroney said he hoped he was speaking off the record. But on July 16, the Ottawa Citizen quoted him extensively.
For two days, while controversy con-
tinued to mount over the apparent differences between Mulroney’s public and private views of patronage, he remained silent. Then, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., he read a five-paragraph statement in which he described the remarks as “casual and bantering” and added that he was “mistaken to treat so important a matter in a way which might be misunderstood, and [I] very much regret having done so.” But Friday night in Vancouver Mulroney returned to the issue and again denounced Liberal patronage to cheers from 1,000 partisans. Still, as one of his aides said, “He has learned his lesson. He knows now that as soon as he steps out of his hotel room, he is on.” Despite the lapse by their leader the
Tories continued the appearance of dominating the Liberals in election organization. On July 15 Mulroney released the names of 59 candidates, including nine women, who will run in the Liberal stronghold of Quebec, where the Tories hope to make a breakthrough. Among those recruited: Gabrielle Bertrand, 61, widow of the former Union Nationale premier Jean-Jacques Bertrand, who will run in Missisquoi; and Robert René de Cotret, industry minister in former prime minister Joe Clark’s
short-lived administration, who will contest Berthier -Maskinogé - Lanaudière. With candidates already nominated in about 250 of the 282 federal ridings, the Conservatives began wooing voters with special mailings and telephone canvasses, part of the drive to capture the vote of “switchers” (page 10). At the same time, Mulroney and his wife, Mila, who is on her way to becoming a political star in her own right, campaigned in Winnipeg and Vancouver before flying back to Ottawa.
Broadbent, with his wife, Lucille, was also in Vancouver last week, where he began a crucial, four-province Western tour. The NDP, which held 31 seats at the dissolution of Parliament July 9, is un-
der pressure in British Columbia, Sasktachewan and Manitoba, where both the Liberals and Tories expect to win seats at its expense. Although opinion polls place the NDP’S popular support at its lowest point in 21 years, Broadbent insisted that his party would hold most of its seats. Broadbent led the other two leaders in offering concrete proposals. In Vancouver, after touring the New Dawn Out-of-School Day Care centre, where 23 children, aged 2 to 5, greeted him with chants of “Mr. Ed, Mr. Ed,” Broadbent promised a women’s rights package. He declared access to day care facilities to be a fundamental right, said he would insist on equal pay for work of equal value in both the public and private sectors and vowed to provide women with improved educational and job opportunities.
When Broadbent launched his campaign tour at the corner of King and Bay streets, in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, Turner was a continent away. He told voters in Vancouver Quadra riding that he would seek to represent them in the next Parliament, thereby fulfilling his pledge to seek a B.C. seat.
The Prime Minister had no sooner returned to Ottawa when yet another senior member of Trudeau’s adminis-
tration, Finance Minister Marc Lalonde, announced his long-expected retirement from public life. Turner paid warm tribute to Lalonde, calling him “an outstanding public servant” and wishing him well. The following day Turner travelled to Montreal to introduce Lalonde’s most likely successor as a Liber-
al finance minister: Raymond Garneau, 49, chairman of the Montreal City and District Savings Bank. Garneau is a former provincial finance minister who sought the Quebec Liberal leadership, won by Claude Ryan in 1978, before moving to the private sector. He was a Turner supporter during the Liberal leadership campaign.
At the same meeting, Turner introduced another star candidate, Lucie Pépin, who resigned her position as president of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women in order to seek election in Outremont, the riding Lalonde has represented since 1972. The Prime Minister also used the occasion to honor a commitment to Garneau that he would consider giving Quebec the power to veto constitutional amendments if the provincial Liberals win the next election.
Turner’s trip to Montreal came perilously close to causing him embarrassment as severe as that suffered by Mulroney. The reason: the Prime Minister landed several friendly slaps on Lise St. Martin-Tremblay’s rump during a reception for the new Liberal candidates. St. Martin-Tremblay, co-chairman of the party’s Quebec election team, was more surprised than miffed. “It is the anglophone way of backslapping,” she said, smiling. But Pépin, with an eye on the women’s vote, was less amused. Said she, of her new leader: “I don’t think he will do it again. He will have to cut that out.” But Turner was unrepentant. “I touch people,” he said. “I’m a very tactile politician. ”
With Jane O’Hara in Vancouver, Terry Hargreaves in Winnipeg, Ann Walmsley in Toronto, Lewis Harris in Montreal and John Hay in Ottawa.
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