COVER

TIME FOR REAPPRAISAL

THE OPPOSITION PARTIES REGROUP

BRUCE WALLACE December 5 1988
COVER

TIME FOR REAPPRAISAL

THE OPPOSITION PARTIES REGROUP

BRUCE WALLACE December 5 1988

TIME FOR REAPPRAISAL

COVER

THE OPPOSITION PARTIES REGROUP

The message from a distraught Raymond Garneau in Montreal was relayed to John Turner’s suite in the Hotel Vancouver at 7:45 Pacific time on election night. Garneau, Turner’s chief Quebec lieutenant, was about to concede defeat. But first he wanted to know if Turner was going to refer to the federal Liberal party’s support for the Meech Lake constitutional accord in his concession speech later that evening.

Against fierce internal opposition, Garneau had pushed Turner to support Meech Lake—a historic reversal of the federal Liberal party’s opposition to special status for Quebec. But now, with his federal political career shattered— and the Tories sweeping Quebec—Garneau learned that Turner did not plan to even mention the policy that the Quebecer had promoted so diligently.

Defeat: Turner’s decision to omit mention of that controversial stand may be the first sign of a new path for the Liberal party in the wake of the Conservatives’ resounding victory. Many Liberals blame Garneau for many of the party’s problems over the past four years, and few mourned his defeat. As well,

Garneau was Turner’s staunchest defender from internal attacks on his leadership and, without such allies and burdened by two crushing defeats to Brian Mulroney,

Turner is expected to resign from the leadership before the next election.

Similarly, few New Democratic Party activists expect Edward Broadbent to return to lead the party through a fifth federal election. The NDP entered the 1988 campaign with great expectations. Although it elected 43 MPs—a record for the party—the NDP once again has become a party of the West with a leader from Oshawa. The dashed hopes of forming the official opposition to the Tories also has left many party members disillusioned with Broadbent. “The party has to

rethink its proper role in Canada—whether going for power is the only useful function for socialists,” said Gerald Caplan, a former NDP federal secretary. “I have always thought that our primary function is to influence public opinion in progressive ways.” And Broadbent’s defeat, which has discredited the political professionals who have tried to drag the NDP toward a more pragmatic style—and electoral success—opens the way to a challenge from those members who want the NDP to remain

the political conscience of the country.

In the wake of their parties’ defeats, neither Broadbent nor Turner would speculate about their political futures. But associates said that Broadbent, who mused openly during the campaign about some day retiring to a desert island to write a book, may give up his political life to devote more time to his wife, Lucille, and 16-

year-old daughter, Christine. Said one of Broadbent’s longtime aides: “I do not think Ed wants to face four more years of the same thing.” Meanwhile, most of Turner’s friends and associates expect the Liberal leader to announce his personal intentions in January, before the party’s national executive meets to determine whether to proceed in April with a convention that would consider, among other things, holding a vote on whether to have a leadership review.

But few Liberals expect that Turner will stay. Even his closest friends doubt that, after being buffeted by internal revolts over the past four years, Turner has the determination—or the capacity—to fend off further challenges. By the end of the campaign, with the party dropping a point a day in its own polls, Turner knew that his goal of holding the Tories to a minority was out of reach. Still, he expected to win at least 100 seats, and friends said that he was dismayed by the extent of the Tory victory. “He will want to stay on for a while so the party can start to rebuild,” said one friend. “But he will have to give an indication that he will go before the next election or else the party will spend all its energy trying to get rid of him.”

Backlash: The caucus over which Turner presides is regionally unbalanced. The party elected 12 MPs in Quebec, down from 17 in 1984. But it now has 43 from Ontario, an increase of 29. The 20member Atlantic contingent is disproportionately strong 1 compared with the poverty of “ Liberal representation in the West—five MPs from Manitoba, just Turner from British Columbia and two from the Northwest Territories. Although Turner had promised to rejuvenate the party in Western Canada, its gains in Manitoba were all in the Winnipeg area. Those victories were largely the result of an antiTory backlash over such decisions as the awarding of the CF-18 fighter maintenance contract to Montreal’s Bombardier Inc. ahead

FEW EXPECT EITHER BROADBENT OR TURNER TO LEAD ANOTHER CAMPAIGN

oí Winnipeg-based Bristol Aerospace Ltd.

Many Liberals also credit provincial leader Sharon Carstairs with helping the federal party’s renewal in Manitoba. Still, Carstairs could do little for the party farther west. Said John Harvard, the newly elected Liberal from Winnipeg St. James: “We have a Manitoba team with a Manitoba agenda. But I would be less than naïve if I said we were not disappointed that we failed to win more seats in the West.”

Fighting: Until Turner announces if—and when—he will quit, the party is likely to undergo further factional fighting as prospective contenders try to build support for their future leadership runs. Last week, Jean Chrétien was already publicly offering his candidacy, while privately boasting to colleagues that he was the only candidate who could re-establish links between English and French Canada. Said one Chrétien supporter, welcoming the defeat of Meech Lake proponent Garneau: “I have watched Garneau change what my party has stood for and I have watched Turner bleed because of it, all for no political gain.”

Chrétien, a high-profile former Trudeau cabinet minister who did not run in this election, would be best served by an early leadership race—before other contenders have had a chance to heighten their profiles in the House of Commons. But Chrétien is also being advised that he needs time to meet the thousands of new Liberals who joined the party before the last election and who would be electing delegates to a leadership convention. Chrétien would also have to battle his image in Quebec as a ghost from the Trudeau era, ready to rekindle past confrontations between Ottawa and Quebec.

Rivalry: Among Chrétien’s most obvious rivals for the job would be Lloyd Axworthy, the left-leaning Manitoba MP who drafted the party’s free trade criticism. But many Liberals believe that the party must rebuild its traditional Quebec base and should continue its tradition of alternating between francophone and English-speaking leaders. If that is the case, and party members are looking for an alternative to Chrétien, they might compromise on the bilingual English Quebecer Paul Martin Jr., a Montreal businessman who beat Tory Claude Lanthier in a bitterly fought contest in the Montreal riding of LaSalle-Emard.

Martin may benefit from the presence of those Quebec provincial Liberals who fear the return of Chrétien and who view the Quebec caucus as a weak collection of anglophones and Trudeau-era federalists such as André Ouellet, who held his seat in the Montreal riding of Papineau-St-Michel. Still, rival politicians, both Liberals and Tories, have tried to undermine Martin’s credibility with a whisper campaign in Montreal political circles aimed at portraying him as “a wimp” who lacks the

required toughness for federal politics.

At least for now, Martin is being careful to avoid appearing eager for Turner’s job. Clearly aware that he needs national exposure, he says that he will not push for an early leadership convention. Said Martin: “It is very evident that first we have to reach out to a whole new generation of Quebecers who are outwardlooking and who do not identify themselves

with the Liberal party of today.”

As much as the Liberals are concentrated in Eastern Canada, the NDP strength is now almost entirely based in the West, with Broadbent in Oshawa representing the party’s easternmost riding. Top party officials will meet in Ottawa on Dec. 17 to review what went wrong in the campaign and to begin discussions on what direction the party should take over the next four years. But already many longtime party activists were blaming Broadbent’s inner circle for the campaign’s flaws. Said Stephen Lewis, former leader of the Ontario NDP: “Several people within the party had stars of power

dancing in their head. The party exists primarily to shape public policy, not to govern.” Much of the internal dissent, said NDP executive member Clifford Scotton, is aimed at deputy campaign director Robin Sears, whose high public profile—he was the party’s designated spokesman during the campaign—was resented by some grassroots workers. Those at the core of the NDP campaign, said Scotton, “will be hoping that their peers will forget some of the things they have said and done during the last seven weeks.”

Most of the NDP leader’s closest associates over the past four years—including chief of staff George Nakitsas, principal secretary William Knight and Broadbent’s longtime executive assistant, Anne Carroll—have indicated that they may leave their current positions in the months ahead. While Broadbent himself has said only that he is considering his future, close associates expect that he will step down before the next campaign. Many possible leadership contenders are not bilingual, a crucial—if not essential— component of national leadership. And some of the most attractive candidates, such as B.C. NDP Leader Michael Harcourt and Saskatchewan NDP Leader Roy Romanow, are committed to running in their next provincial elections.

Charming: Among the other names mentioned in party circles: former B.C. premier David Barrett, who won a federal seat in the new B.C. riding of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, and the articulate Lewis, now a political science professor at the University of Toronto. But, said one senior NDP insider, “Barrett is funny and charming but cannot be a leader, and Lewis has unequivocally said he is not interested in the job.” And, he added, other possibilities, such as former Manitoba premier Howard Pawley—defeated last week in the Manitoba riding of Selkirk—are tainted by having lost elections.

Should the current opposition leaders retire, whoever succeeds will face a massive rebuilding job. Remy Trudel, who ran second to Conservative winner Gabriel Desjardins in Temiscamingue riding in western Quebec for the NDP, will likely play an active role in trying to establish the party in Quebec. And the Liberals—still heavily in debt—must conduct the thorough rebuilding job that they failed to do between the 1984 and 1988 elections. Said Senator Alasdair Graham, the Liberals’ national campaign co-chairman: “This is no time to go for the quick fix.” Not until that catharsis is complete will the Tories know the nature of the political forces that may confront them when Canadians next go to the polls.

BRUCE WALLACE

MARC CLARK

THERESA TEDESCO

MARY JANIGAN