A cranky, divided land
A cross-country sampling finds voters fed up with old-line parties and wanting change
In September, Maclean’s correspondents visited five ridings across the country to test the mood, From rural Nova Scotia to the hillside vistas of Vancouver, voters were angry over high taxes, worried about jobs, fearful about social programs and cynical about the whole political process. Last Week, with the campaign winding down and the witches of Halloween waiting in the wings, Maclean’s reporters returned to the streets of the five ridings to measure the impact of the nationally televised leadership debates. Their reports:
SOUTH SHORE (NOVA SCOTIA)
Focus on hard times
The harbor at Lunenburg, made legendary by the exploits of the Grand Banks fishing fleet, used to be depicted on the back of the $100 bill. On new banknotes, the harbor has been replaced by geese. For the 2,800 people who live and work in the \JJJI ] I ; rambling wooden homes and 19th-century comi^T ■ fa mercial buildings of the *11 storied and once-prosperous rpg j seaport, much of the money has vanished as well. Overfishing has wrecked the fishing industry and residential tax rates have begun climbing. Even the symbols are disheartening: in the waterfront dry dock sits the Bluenose II, a replica of the fabled North Atlantic racing schooner, rot eating at her hull. Uptown, video store owner George Follett,
58, says: “The news just keeps getting worse and worse.”
Hard times, not politics, preoccupied townsfolk last week and few admitted drawing comfort from the nationally televised leadership debates, cast as the centrepiece of the campaign for the Oct. 25 federal election. In fact, it took 40 interviews to find 20 people who had actually tuned in. “Who has time for that?” demanded Paul Smith, who watched for IM \W/ only a few minutes. The owner of a 97-year-old y store selling trophies and jewelry, Smith said: T; j “We’re all too busy trying to earn a living.”
Most people who did watch said the debates lacked substance and did little to resolve their uncertainty. “There were no clear winners and they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know,” said Cynthia Clark, 45, who owns and runs a floor covering store. Added Susie MacDonald, who manages a yachting supply stop: ‘The alternatives still aren’t that clear.” Others, already cynical because Nova Scotia’s Liberal government recently broke a campaign promise not to raise taxes, now seemed even more skeptical. Declared Jim Myra, 48, co-owner of a men’s clothing store: “Let’s face it—they’ll tell you anything and then break their promises as soon as they’re elected.”
Although the debates might not have made the top of the charts, the participants did register with some viewers. Potter Jan Ferguson, 42, was impressed by Preston Manning—so much so that she said she may vote for the Reform party candidate, Anne Matthiasson. Photography studio owner Wilfred Eisnor was disenchanted enough by Jean Chrétien’s performance that he is re-thinking his decision to vote for Liberal candidate Derek Wells. Echoing that view was Lisa Joudrey, 26, a restaurant cook; as a result of the debate, she said, “I’m leaning towards Kim Campbell.” However, along Lincoln and Montague streets, there is the glum conviction that no matter who wins, nothing much will change. As Follett put it, “there’s nothing in the kitty for any of them to do anything substantial.”
ATLANTIC PROVINCES TOTAL SEATS: 32 Newfoundland-7 Nova Scotia-il New Brunswick-lO Prince Edward Island-4
Newfoundland—5 Lib., 2 PC Nova Scotia—6 Lib., 5 PC New Brunswick—5 Lib., 5 PC Prince Edward Island—4 Lib.
RACE TO WATCH: Halifax riding, which traditionally follows the national trend, and, in Atlantic Canada, that Is decidedly Liberal. Incumbent Liberal Mary Clancy, a feminist lawyer, is at war with street-wise, old-style Tory challenger James Vaughan, who compared Clancy, who has lost more than 100 pounds, to a SCUD missile.
Last week, Magnolia’s restaurant tallied the votes cast by customers given a ballot when they bought a hamburger. The result: Liberals, 80 votes; Tories, 68; NDP, 34, and other parties, 64. “The owners are Liberals,” confided waitress Rosie Roberts, “so the numbers might be a bit suspect.”
Nationalism and history
Jocelyne Roy carefully wrapped another bright green tomato in old newspaper and pondered the question. “I was torn between Kim Campbell and Lucien Bouchard before I watched the debate,” she replied at last, glancing across the tomato pyramid rising from her kitchen table in the town of Verchères, 25 km down the St. Lawrence River from Montreal. “I’m now leaning more towards Bouchard,” said the 54-year-old mother of four, grandmother of three, widow and proprietor of a tidy two-storey retirement home on Verchères’s main street. “As for Kim, I found her somehow a lot less sure than I wanted her to be.”
Not many of Roy’s neighbors on Rue Marie Victorin shared that view last week—or, indeed, any other opinion about the televised leadership debates. In fact, most of the people who work in the businesses on both sides of the street did not watch the debates—in either French or English. The gas station attendant next door did not see them, nor did the waitress at the coffee shop, the cashier at the video store, the hairdresser at the beauty salon, the supervisor at the day care centre nor the young woman tending bar at Le
Vieil Hôtel-The Old Hotel.
Typically, the owner of the dépanneur, or convenience store, across the road from Roy’s place dismissed the entire affair with a contemptuous wave. “It’s nothing but politics and I never pay any attention to politics,” she sniffed, declining, like many of her neighbors, to be identified.
It was a different story in the dépanneur at the other end of Rue Marie Victorin, where the road leaves town to become, once again, provincial Route 132. Both store owner Francine Delarosbil and her husband, Romuald, closely followed the French-language portion of the debate. For the 47-year-old Francine, Lucien Bouchard’s performance reinforced an inclination to switch from the Conservatives, who won her vote in both 1984 and 1988, to the Bloc Québécois. Romuald, also 47, is not so sure. Although, like his wife, a convinced Parti Qué1 bécois loyalist provincially, he i admitted harboring “fears about the economic impact of separatism.”
Although anxiety is commonplace in Verchères, the signs point to a Bloc Québécois victory on Oct. 25. The town, with 3,318 voters, has always been a stronghold of Quebec nationalism. The very name of the place, which is also the name of the federal riding encompassing it, summons distant patriotic echoes. The town was built on the site of the fort where 14-year-old Madeleine de Verchères held off an Iroquois war party for eight days in 1692, aided only by two soldiers, her two younger brothers and an aged servant. Madeleine is still in town, immortalized in a huge bronze statue. She stands in a riverside park, hat on head, rifle in hand, stern gaze fixed forever on the horizon beyond the St. Lawrence.
Few enemies lurk nearby these days. The town’s voters have, in fact, consistently supported Quebec’s contemporary brand of nationalists. Tory nationalist MP Marcel Danis resigned last September and Bloc contender Stéphane Bergeron,
TOTAL SEATS: 75
LAST ELECTION: 63 PC, 12 Lib.
RACES TO WATCH: St-MauriceLiberal Leader Jean Chrétien tries to regain his old seat in a close race; Quebec—neophyte Bloc Québécois contender Christiane Gagnon may upset Tory Finance a 28-year-old former aide to PQ MNA François Beaulne, enjoys a huge advantage over Liberal Benoit Chiquette and Conservative François Leduc; he is a local boy, and ever since Madeleine laid the foundations of the town, Verchères’s residents have been hostile to intruders.
Dissension by the lake
The shopkeepers along Toronto’s Queen Street East, the main drag of a trendy, affluent neighborhood called The Beach, tend to specialize in frills, not essentials. They are more likely to offer out-of-print books or European magazines than winter coats or fertilizer. The street is lined with an eclectic mix of gift shops, art galleries and designer clothing outlets that cater to a young, well-educated, upwardly mobile clientele. Even on a chilly afternoon last week, Queen Street was busy. Young mothers walked their babies in Perego strollers or shepherded preschoolers to the local library. Couples browsed in the bookshops or sipped cappuccino in the coffee shops.
It is, in short, a tranquil street, located near the bottom of the federal riding of Beaches/ Woodbine which runs from Lake Ontario north to the city limits. But in the aftermath of last week’s televised leaders’ debates, the conversation among voters in Queen Street’s parks and cafés reflected doubt, disenchantment and anger and did little to clarify the future of the NDP’s Neil Young, who has held Beaches/Woodbine since 1980.
On one table in a cozy little restaurant that sells sandwiches, pastries and half a dozen different varieties of coffee, sat Ken Shields, a 48-year-old computer systems analyst, who can find only occasional work. At the next table was Nigel Rhodes, 44, a mortgage broker who admitted that he was in the coffee shop because business is slow. They struck up a conversation about the debates. Said Rhodes: “I think it was the biggest farce to allow Lucien Bouchard up there to advocate the destruction of Canada.” Shields replied that he usually voted NDP but will vote this time for the Reform party’s Hugh Prendergast, a Bank of Montreal analyst. “I like the fact that Preston Manning has come up with sensible principles like accountability in government. He’s the only one discussing medicare in this election. Everyone else is avoiding the subject.” A few doors down the street, Sandy Day, 33, co-owner of a clothing store and a new mother, sat in the late afternoon sunshine with her baby on a bench outside a coffee shop. “I usually vote NDP but now I’m thinking there’s no point, although I really like Audrey McLaughlin,” said Day. She trusts Liberal leader Jean Chrétien, whose candidate
Minister Gilles Loiselle; Beauce— disgraced Tory Gilles Bernier, forced out of the party after police charged him with fraud, is running as an independent and appears to be winning. Mercier—Tory Carole Jacques, facing corruption charges, is running as an independent against the Bloc’s Francine Lalonde, a former PQ cabinet member.
TOTAL SEATS: 99
46 PC, 43 Lib., 10 NDP
RACES TO WATCH: Simcoe North—Public Security Minister Doug Lewis, who has represented the riding since 1979, is in a three-way fight against Reform candidate Ray Lyons and Liberal Paul DeVillers; Oshawa— the NDP is in its toughest battle since 1968, when former leader Ed Broadbent first won the riding, but incumbent Mike Breaugh is expected to hold on; St. Paul’s—Reform candidate Paul Chaplin, a retired IBM executive, is supposedly gaining on Tory Isabel Bassett and Liberal Barry Campbell in this riding held by retiring Tory cabinet minister Barbara McDougall. The Liberals are heavily favored in the province, but Reform is showing new strength. is Maria Minna, a public policy consultant, but was not impressed by the party’s program. Day reserved her harshest judgment for the Prime Minister. Said Day: “Kim Campbell was like a little white mouse skirting the issues, but saying, ‘I have an answer for everything.’ ”
The Tory leader fared no better with Sanda Morrison, a 35year-old mother of two. She was at a picnic table in Kew Beach Park, a slice of green space stretching from Queen Street to the lake. The grass is littered with acorns and the air is filled with playground sounds. “Kim Campbell reminded me of a terrier,” declared Morrison. “She’s a very aggressive woman. She said she’d eliminate the deficit in five years but I don’t believe that.” On the other hand, Morrison said she was “totally flabbergasted” by McLaughlin’s strong performance, but would not vote NDP because of the party’s policies. With resignation and reservations, she added, she was leaning towards Chrétien and the Liberals.
Tories under siege
It is high noon in High River. To the west, the foothills of the Rockies reflect the bluish heat haze of a classic Indian summer that has sent the mercury into the mid-20s. At the century-old Bradley’s Western Wear and Saddlery, owner Bruce Stephenson fitted a customer with a finely tooled western boot. Nearby, on a wooden display case was a battered leather suitcase used by the great uncle of Joe Clark, hometown boy and ex-prime minister. “Lots of tourists ask about Joe,”
PRAIRIES AND TERRITORIES
TOTAL SEATS: 57
Manitoba—14 Saskatchewan—14 Alberta—26 Yukon—1 N.W.T.-2
Manitoba—7 PC, 5 Lib., 2 NDP Saskatchewan—10 NDP, 4 PC Alberta—25 PC, 1 NDP Yukon—1 NDP N.W.T.—2 Lib.
RACES TO WATCH: Calgary Southwest—Reform Leader Preston Manning confronts incumbent Federal Energy Minister Bobbie Sparrow; Calgary Westincumbent Tory Jim Hawkes grapples with critics after supporting a ban on election ads; Yellowhead—someone will inherit former Prime Minister Joe Clark’s realm. In the latest poll, Reform leads in Alberta, the Liberals in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. said Stephenson, “this is traditional Tory country.” But for Stephenson and many others in this town, the time may have come for change.
“Most of the younger people seem to be going to the Reform party,” Stephenson said, having watched parts of last week’s TV debate. “Campbell was the loser. The alternative is Reform.” Stephenson admitted that nothing he saw on TV had changed his mind. “I’ll vote for Grant Hill, he’s capable and has character.” Hill, a well-known doctor who lives in nearby Okotoks, is the Reform candidate in the sprawling Macleod riding that runs west and south of Calgary almost to the Montana border.
High River’s ranching soul was on display at the Museum of the Highwood, formerly the sandstone Canadian Pacific Railway station. “There was so much wrangling I turned off the debate,” said Bob Eadie, a retired sign painter and museum board member, as he guided a bus load of students through the museum’s exhibition on chuckwagon history. Eadie, 65, has voted Tory in recent elections but remains undecided this time. “The only person with any composure was our guy Preston Manning.”
But museum director Lynn Cartwright remains a Tory believer. A former aide to incum-
TOTAL SEATS: 32
19 NDP, 12 PC, 1 Lib.
RACES TO WATCH: Skeena— Teacher Joe Barrett 37, son of Dave Barrett, former NDP premier, is trying to throw back a strong Reform challenge; Vancouver Centre—Prime Minister Kim Campbell will likely still be Kim Campbell, MP, after the election; Vancouver Quadra—John Turner’s old seat where Liberal candidate Ted McWhinney, 65, a law professor, is in a close battle with Reform physician Dr. Bill McArthur. bent MP Tory Ken Hughes, she said: “Nothing I saw in the debates changed how I will vote. Campbell is trying to deal with problems differently.” In the museum’s Whistle Stop Cafe, a converted CPR dining car parked on a siding, waitress Jill Worsnop, wearing hot pink Bermuda shorts, served a tomato and couscous soup. “Little old Preston Manning held his cool,” said Worsnop, who watched the debate while doing the family wash. “But I’m not changing. I’ve always been a dyed-in-thewool Tory.”
Across the railroad tracks in 3rd Avenue’s Ranchland Mall, Evelyn Seymour, who with her husband, Scott, owns the Work World clothing store, complained of “senseless” Tory spending. Initially she supported Campbell. Now: “I’m thinking towards Reform.”
Neighbor Lynn Marshall, a secondhand furniture dealer, said the debate held no surprises. “I’m leaning towards Chrétien. They might have a plan to rid us of the GST.” What
rankled Marshall is “Kim Campbell’s inability to say how she will run this country.”
Janet Nash and husband, Lyle, own the Quill office and art supplies store and watched every minute of the debate. Three years ago, after hearing Preston Manning talk on minority government, she joined the Reform party. “The deficit is killing us,” said Nash. “The old-line parties don’t have a solution.” In an editorial in last week’s High River Times, founded in 1905 by Joe Clark’s grandfather, publisher Bill Holmes wrote: “It’s time for change but don’t look for the Grits or Tories to deliver it. What the government needs is reform.”
NORTH VANCOUVER (BRITISH COLUMBIA)
Liberals versus Reform
In a dory suspended from davits overlooking a wharf, the pea-jacketed old sailor seems blissfully unaware that a sour political season has overtaken the nation. But then, the mannequin decorating the boardwalk of North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay does not have to cast a ballot on Oct. 25. That chore falls to the thousands of people who daily stream past on their way to and from the ferries to downtown Vancouver. And few of those interviewed by Maclean’s said that the leadership debate made their choice any easier. All that Peter Michelson, an industrial chemical salesman, would say was: “I now know who will absolutely not get my vote.” Off Michelson’s list after the debate: Prime Minister Campbell and Reform’s Preston Manning.
But Michelson’s judgment was far from universal. Retired Saskatchewan farmers Edward and Martha Krell, who left the prairie for the terraces that climb from Burrard Inlet towards the distant summit of Mount Seymour, came away more convinced than ever that Campbell will get their support. Observed Martha: “I would like to see her get in. Then, maybe the West would get something.”
Still, it seems unlikely that North Vancouver’s 65,000 voters will send another Tory to Ottawa, although they have done so in four elections since 1979—and enjoyed substantial prosperity under the Conservatives. The workshops of the former Versatile Pacific shipyard, visible from Lonsdale Quay, are shuttered and idle but unemployment locally is below the provincial average and incomes are above.
Even so, local voters have flirted with other parties in the past. The riding was one of 72 contested by the fledgling Reform party in the 1988 election when it got almost nine per cent of the vote. This time, Reform and the Liberals are clearly the main contenders. Montreal-born Roberta Tanguay, who manages the information and lottery kiosk | at the Lonsdale Quay Market’s £ north end, sought reassurance z from the debate for her decision « to vote Liberal. “After two hours of watching,” she said, “I hate Kim Campbell even more.” Other reactions were often contradictory. Carolyn Little, who manages a bakery, was impressed by Manning but plans to vote for Jean Chrétien’s Liberals. “For the last couple of years, I felt like Canada was slipping away,” she said. “He reminds me of Canada.” Accountant Brent Petterson was unimpressed by Manning’s TV performance but plans to vote Reform anyway. “It seems like the only party that wants to make a real change,” he said.
For a few of those shopping, strolling or waiting for a ferry at Lonsdale Quay last week, the real significance of the debate lay in who was absent. Newlyweds Thomas and Karen Long wished that National Party of Canada Leader Mel Hurtig had been included. Without him, said Karen, the debate simply “confirmed our opinion that they’re all bums.”
Alienation was widely shared. Robert Stan, marketing director for a B.C. mining company, said of the candidates: “They stand up there and say, Trust me.’ But I don’t have any faith left.” It was a widespread and revealing sentiment, as bleak as the grey drizzle falling on the carved form of the sleeping sailor.
in High River and
in North Vancouver