COVER

BATTLING THE ODDS

SIX LIBERALS WITH HOPE IN THEIR HEARTS

PAUL KAIHLA February 5 1990
COVER

BATTLING THE ODDS

SIX LIBERALS WITH HOPE IN THEIR HEARTS

PAUL KAIHLA February 5 1990

BATTLING THE ODDS

COVER

SIX LIBERALS WITH HOPE IN THEIR HEARTS

While former Liberal cabinet minister Jean Chretien and first-term MP Paul Martin Jr. are the acknowledged heavyweights in the race to replace leader John Turner, six other politicians have either joined the race or indicated that they might. Thumbnail sketches from the campaign trail:

Sheila Copps: As the most vocal member of the Liberal “Rat Pack”—a small group of MPs known for their aggressive Question Period attacks during the Conservative government’s first term—Copps earned a reputation among her Tory opponents as a shrill firebrand. On the opening day of hearings by the parliamentary committee on free trade in 1987, Copps prevented Tory MP William Kempling, a fellow committee member, from explaining a provision affecting the steel industry by repeatedly talking over him. Frustrated by the interruptions, Kempling muttered into his microphone, “God damned ignorant bitch.” The next day, Kempling withdrew the remark. And more recently, Copps acknowledges, she has been trying to moderate her own approach. She declared her candidacy for the Liberal leadership on Jan. 15 and, last week, campaigned on themes ranging from honesty in government to the elimination of poverty by the year 2000.

Advisers to the 37-year-old MP for Hamilton East say that Copps’s campaign will highlight her youth, gender and populist style. She has proven her appeal once before, finishing second to David Peterson in the Ontario Liberal leadership race in 1982. First elected to the Commons in 1984 after serving in the opposition benches in the Ontario legislature for three years, she shares custody of her two-year-old daughter with her second husband, from whom she recently separated. Copps says that she expects to attract many women delegates—who will cast about half of the convention ballots. But the daughter of former Hamilton mayor Victor Copps faces an uphill struggle against the powerful Chrétien and Martin forces in her home base of southern Ontario.

Still, Copps supporters say that their candidate, an unwavering Turner loyalist during the past six years, expects to inherit many of the younger delegates who supported Turner at the 1984 leadership convention and 1986 leadership review convention. Scott Shepherd, for one, Turner’s legislative adviser, has signed on as her campaign manager. But Copps, who is fluent in French and Italian, has already suffered an early setback. According to members of Copps’s team, Liberal MP John Nunziata had agreed to act as their Toronto organizer—a

claim that Nunziata denies—but then abandoned her campaign last month to enter the leadership race himself.

Donald Johnston: The former Trudeau cabinet minister boasts impressive credentials: he is a founder of the blue-chip Montreal law firm Heenan and Blaikie; he spent two of his 10 years in Parliament in the powerful cabinet post of Treasury Board president; he finished third, behind Turner and Chrétien, in the 1984 Liberal leadership race. For months,

Johnston has privately told associates that he would consider another run at the party leadership if Chrétien failed to articulate a tough stand against the Meech Lake accord. And although Johnston,

53, said last week that he was “pleased” so far with Chrétien’s criticism of the accord,

the former justice minister in Turner’s shortlived government said he has not ruled out running himself because “someone must address the fact that the country is fiscally out of control.” Johnston said that he would campaign on a platform to restructure social programs with an eye to deficit restraint.

Johnston quit the Liberal caucus in January, 1988, to sit as an Independent in protest against his party’s support for the accord, which, he predicts, would turn Quebec into a unilingual Frenchspeaking province and weaken federal spending power. He declined to run for reelection in 1988, rejoined his old law firm and lives in Montreal with his wife and one of his four daughters. Johnston has said that, if he decides to run, he would count on the support of Liberals he met while travelling the country

during the past two years speaking out against Meech Lake. But some of his old campaign hands from 1984 have advised him against running, warning that he could again go heavily into debt. Johnston ended his 1984 leadership bid $300,000 in debt—although he quickly repaid it. Said Johnston: “I’m told that money will be no problem.”

Clifford Lincoln: The former Quebec environment minister has set himself a difficult task: while campaigning for John Turner’s job, he is also running in another political race—the Feb. 12 federal byelection in the Montrealarea riding of Chambly. Lincoln, 61, who officially joined the leadership race on Jan. 26, is presenting himself as a mediator who will be able to heal the growing rift between Englishspeaking and French-Canadians. Indeed, Lincoln’s career seems to bridge the country’s two solitudes. Born in Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean, Lincoln is a native speaker of both English and French. He emigrated to Canada in 1958, then co-founded a successful insurance firm and later won election as a Liberal Quebec MNA in 1981 after selling his business. In 1985, Premier Robert Bourassa appointed Lincoln environment minister—but he resigned that post three years later in protest against his own government’s ban on bilingual signs on storefronts. That same year,

Lincoln’s wife, Lise, died in a car accident in Rome, and he remains a widower.

Lincoln, who sat out last year’s provincial election, also supports francophone aspirations with his strong defence of the Meech Lake accord. That stance has won him allies among Bourassa’s troops—a constituency that Martin is also courting—and many young Quebec Liberals. Even so, Lincoln’s own supporters say that he must win in Chambly to gain the national recognition he needs to do well in the leadership stakes. But according to a poll that the federal Liberal party commissioned for Lincoln’s Chambly campaign in December, he was trailing far behind the NDP’s Phil Edmunston.

Dennis Mills: The rookie MP for Toronto’s heavily ethnic riding of Broadview Greenwood is a millionaire businessman who lives with his wife, Victoria, and four children in the city’s upper-class Rosedale neighborhood. He is considering running for the leadership on a platform emphasizing environmental issues, opposition to Meech Lake and a flat tax that would

close loopholes for wealthy Canadians. Mills, 43, is best known for his organizational prowess, both in business and politics. Between 1968 and 1980, he turned his family’s moderately successful business—Toronto-based Chairman Mills, which rents furniture and other supplies to organizers of special events— into a major enterprise. He still owns 80 per cent of the company, which had revenues in 1988 of $15 million. But, in 1981, Mills turned his attention to politics, signing on as then-

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s communications director and then serving as Chrétien’s convention organizer in 1984. Mills supporters, who say that he will decide whether to run by early February, claim that he would attract young and ethnic Liberals as well as businessmen. Still, Mills is having trouble attracting experienced organizers. Senior Chrétien aides acknowledge that a Mills candidacy could hurt them in Toronto and say they hope that he may join their team if he does not run himself.

John Nunziata: The two-term MP for the Toronto riding of York South-Weston entered the leadership race on Jan. 24 because, he said, the principal candidates are “fudging” their stands on key issues such as abortion, the

Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the Meech Lake accord—all of which he opposes. The former municipal lawyer and City of York alderman clearly has a record of speaking his mind. First elected to the Commons in 1984, Nunziata, 35, was another member of the Liberal Rat Pack. Later, he was one of 22 Liberal MPs to sign letters calling for Turner’s resignation in an April, 1988, caucus revolt. The son of Italian immigrants, Nunziata was bom in British Columbia and last year married

.............................. Caroline Brett, a Toronto

health-care administrator. Nunziata said that one thrust of his campaign will be to call for the phasing out of official multiculturalism, which he calls discriminatory. “Let’s stop hyphenating Canadians,” said Nunziata, who speaks some Italian and French. “It does not serve national unity.” Although he is widely viewed as a dark horse, Nunziata says that his candidacy will be buoyed by Italian, German and Sikh Liberals who agree with his views on multiculturalism. As well, he said that anti-abortion groups are signing up Liberal members across the country and, Nunziata added, he would likely split the support from delegates in that category with the other anti-abortion candidate, Thomas Wappel. Still, Nunziata downplayed the issue in his campaign kickoff, saying that he supported a free vote on abortion legislation. Meanwhile, he faces fierce competition from the well-organized Chrétien, Martin and, to a lesser degree, Copps campaigns in his home base of Toronto.

Thomas Wappel: Wappel has virtually no base in the Liberal party, had never held political office before his election to the House of Commons in 1988, speaks little French and has limited campaign finances. The former civil litigation lawyer was briefly an active Liberal while he attended law school in the 1970s, then rejoined the party only in 1986. But the 39-year-old rookie MPfor the Toronto riding of Scarborough West became the first Liberal leadership contender when he announced his candidacy last June. The reason: he wants to promote his idea of traditional family values because “our society is becoming jaded.” Wappel, who is married and has five children, plans to campaign against abortion-on-demand and for tax incentives to help parents who wish to stay at home to raise their children.

BRUCE WALLACE

PAUL KAIHLA with BRUCE WALLACE in Ottawa