UP FRONT

Politics

Dance time for the wallflowers

JOHN GEDDES October 6 2003
UP FRONT

Politics

Dance time for the wallflowers

JOHN GEDDES October 6 2003

Politics

Dance time for the wallflowers

How quickly the spin changed. When secret merger talks between the Tories and Alliance first came to light, both camps were playing up how scared the Liberals would be at the new face of the right. By late last week, though, insiders had turned their energies to deflecting blame in case the merger push came to nothing. The Alliance version: Tory Leader Peter MacKay was refusing to table clear positions. The Conservative reply: Alliance Leader Stephen Harper was trying to stagemanage the negotiations too much.

When Harper went public to complain about Tory vagueness, he looked barely able to contain his frustration. And in responding, Conservative negotiator and MP Loyola Hearn didn’t bother disguising his annoyance with the Alliance leader either. Yet he didn’t refute the substance of Harper’s gripe—in fact, he confirmed it. Pressed on whether the Tories had put forward a full

set of proposals in the talks launched in late June, Hearn said,

“Clear-cut positions will be put in place at the right time and the right place.”

When that might be, he didn’t say. Whether talks would continue this weekwas also not clear. Harper is against going forward unless the Tories firm up their stance. If it comes to a blame game over who let the talks fizzle, MacKay may have the tougher case to make. After all, his caucus is badly split on merging; Harper’s stood behind him. And if, somehow, the union goes ahead, both leaders might end up out of a job: Mike Harris suddenly made it known he’s interested—and Ralph Klein is already endorsing the former Ontario premier as his favourite choice. JOHN GEDDES

JOHN GEDDES

If it comes to a blame game

over who let

the talks fizzle, MacKay may have the tougher case to make. After all, his caucus is badly split.

OverHeard

Westward-ho and all that

In true prime-ministerial fashion, Paul Martin toured fireravaged B.C. last week, his first trip after locking up the Liberal leadership. Martin longs to forge a Liberal breakthrough in the West, though much will depend on the quality of candidates he can lure to run. Among those he’s trying to recruit: Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray, former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh, a New Democrat, and for ideological balance, David Emerson, head of forestry giant Canfor.

Whither Ben? Canadian Idol emcee Ben Mulroney may be back in Montreal before too long. Word is that father Brian is pushing him to host the Frenchlanguage clone Star Académie. But other friends say Hollywood is calling, maybe even in the form of TV’s ultra-flash show Entertainment Tonight.

Canuckskis?

The Canucks deny it but rumours persist that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is hot to buy the NHL club and GM Place from Seattle investor John McCaw. The Russian mogul recently acquired English soccer club Chelsea, and is a keen hockey fan. The story is he’d like to stock the team with Russian stars.