CANADA

Lalonde raps John Turner

HILARY MACKENZIE March 3 1986
CANADA

Lalonde raps John Turner

HILARY MACKENZIE March 3 1986

Lalonde raps John Turner

CANADA

It was a private evening designed to mend fences. On Feb. 4, Liberal Leader John Turner invited Jean Chrétien to dine at Stornoway, his official Ottawa residence. Over a three-hour meal the two rivals in the 1984 party leadership contest resolved to unite behind Chrétien campaigner Jacques Corriveau for the vice-presidency of the federal Liberal party’s Quebec wing. Chrétien left Stornoway convinced that both also supported former cabinet minister Francis Fox for the Quebec wing’s presidency in party elections on March 1. But hours later Turner telephoned Fox and persuaded him to withdraw. That call revived tensions between the Turner and Chrétien factions of the federal opposition party and placed Turner’s political judgment in question. Former finance minister and Liberal power broker Marc Lalonde told Maclean's last week: “You don’t put your nose in that sort of game. He’s asking for trouble.” With Fox’s withdrawal, Turner had paved the way for Quebec City lawyer Paul Routhier, 37, a Turner loyalist, to run unopposed at the annual meeting in Quebec City. Some party members said Turner was concerned that a showdown between Routhier and Fox—seen as the Chrétien candidate— would split the Liberals. But one Turner associate said privately that Fox had been wronged. When Robert Bourassa’s provincial Liberals asked Fox to run in the Dec. 2 Quebec election that returned Bourassa to power, Turner’s office had indicated that Fox should decline because he was favored for the Quebec presidency of the federal party. Lalonde, for one, was irate over Turner’s intervention. Said Lalonde: “We are not electing the Queen of Canada. It is not an issue of such paramount importance that the leader of the party should get involved.”

At week’s end, Turner was under pressure to close the rift in the party or else to try to isolate the Chrétien dissidents. Said former party director Blair Williams: “The situation requires cool professionalism from the leader and those around him. They had better get their act together.” For his part, Lalonde last week seemed to be in no mood to accept any offer of reconciliation. Said Lalonde: “I didn’t like what happened but I don’t need a lollipop.”

HILARY MACKENZIE in Ottawa with

ANTHONY WILSON-SMITH