"In any campaign, there will be different messages. An angry message, for example, attracts an angry voter."
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, taking a thinly veiled poke at Reformers while endorsing Jean Charest
THE POLICY: With the exception of the separatist Bloc Québécois, the major parties have policies that would alter the balance of responsibilities between Ottawa and the provinces. The Liberals would recognize Quebec as a distinct society—and allow regions to veto constitutional changes that affect them. The Tories would use constitutional clout to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers, and transfer federal funds for health care and education to the provinces in return for a commitment to national standards. Reform would ensure that the provinces assume sole control over social spending, language and culture. And the New Democrats would increase federal transfers to the provinces for health, education and welfare—in return for tough new conditions on the use of those funds.
THE REALITY: The Liberals are perhaps the most cautious in their promises—although their pledges may be unrealistic. To constitutionally recognize Quebec as a distinct society would require the approval of seven provinces with at least 50 per cent of the population—but populous Ontario and British Columbia oppose the concept. Worse, the Liberals’ plans to change the
amending formula would require unanimous provincial consent—which is highly unlikely. In either case, the debates would be endless—and acrimonious.
Although they would also recognize Quebec as a distinct society, the Tories would concentrate on the division of powers. And their solutions could spark considerable turmoil. The Conservatives would transfer federal tax points to the provinces, allowing them to raise their
own funds for health and postsecondary education. In return, Ottawa and the provincial governments would forge a socalled Canadian covenant to set national standards. But it would be difficult to get such agreement—and even more difficult to enforce it. The Tories would also establish an interprovincial trade commission, invoking Ottawa’s powers over trade and commerce to break down provincial trade barriers. But many trade barriers—such as the conditions that govern the licensing
of professionals—are areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. The trade commission itself could exacerbate tensions.
Reform’s plan to leave social programs to the provinces would almost certainly mean that Ottawa would no longer enforce the Canada Health Act, which bans user fees and extra billing. That controversy would pale beside Reform’s plans to grant powers over language and culture to the provinces. That would likely require individual constitutional amendments with each province: Quebec, for one, would assume those powers while Ontario might decline. Although each province is already treated differently in the Constitution, the result could be a patchwork of varying powers across the nation. And there could be an outcry from minority-language communities, fearful for their rights.
The NDP would raise federal cash transfers to at least $15 billion from $12.5 billion. In return, it would impose national standards on provincial welfare programs, demand low tuition fees, and strictly enforce the Canada Health Act. If provinces wanted funds, they would be forced to comply with rules that would massively intrude on their powers over social programs. It is unlikely that they would easily accept this return to 1960s-style federalism.
The woes that would accompany each party’s platform are not reasons to oppose change. The federation clearly requires adjustment. But no party, in turn, can pretend that those changes will be painless and pleasing for all.
CALLING ALL HANDS
Many of Jean Charest’s chief advisers trace their political roots back to the Conservatives’ “Red Tory” days under Joe Clark’s leadership. Chief strategist Jodi White and prominent adviser Nancy Jamieson, for instance, both cut their teeth in Ottawa on Clark’s staff.
Calgary consultant Jock Osier was his communications expert. Campaign co-chairman Senator David Tkachuk also cemented his links to the federal party while Clark was leader. A concerted bid by the Charest campaign to put the Brian Mulroney years behind them? The Tories say no—even though the former prime minister's name has seldom passed Charest’s lips on the campaign trail. The party’s Quebec campaign chairman, after all, is Pierre Claude Nolin, who was a special assistant to Mulroney before his ex-boss appointed him to the Senate in 1993. And a prominent figure in the Tory war room
is Marjory LeBreton, perhaps Mulroney’s fiercest remaining defender in Ottawa, who served as his deputy chief of staff before also going on to the Senate.
The 1993 election, of course, left the party in ruins—with only two MPs in the House of Commons and senators like Nolin, Tkachuk and LeBreton as the main Tory standard-bearers on Parliament Hill. So the Tories had to call out all available hands, including communications director David McLaughlin—who toiled as a senior adviser during the 1993 campaign. There have been some new faces, most notably Alistair Campbell and Leslie Noble, who wrote the party’s "Let the future begin” platform and were part of Ontario Tory Premier Mike Harris’s campaign team—although the emergence of the Clark veterans appears to be behind reports of growing tensions with Noble. Still, declared one senior campaign adviser, “We are all Charest people now.” Until June 2, anyway.
"Preston Manning, who goes around the country like a political arsonist, seems determined to light fires and then present himself as being the fireman. "
Progressive Conservative Leader Jean Charest
"I think it's absolutely clear that where Preston Manning's policies would lead us is straight into a civil war. "
NDP Leader Alexa McDonough
"These leaders deflect attention from their absence of a plan by directing attacks at all those who question their strategy. "
Reform Leader Preston Manning
Hamburgers and the Elections Act
Elections Canada is not fooling around. The law says it is illegal to broadcast, publish or disseminate the results of an opinion survey within three days before the polls close. That used to apply only to surveys by scientific pollsters like Angus Reid and Environics. But now, the Elections Act is being more broadly
interpreted to include informal burger polls by restaurants like Hungry Jack’s in Dartmouth, N.S. The news was enough to give owner Jack Helmkay indigestion. “I can’t see how they can classify it as scientific,” Helmkay said. “We’re just having a bit of fun.” Elections Canada spokesman John Enright says the federal agency is determined to investigate written complaints, although “we won’t have people on every street corner.” But it has also cast its gaze towards the Internet. For example, operators of ,y; the Yahoo! Canada Web site— I which provides electronic links to ï The Globe and Mail News Wire and I Maclean’s—have been told they § must ensure that no one can access I even previously published articles ¡j containing poll results. Says War3 ren Caragata, Yahoo! Canada’s ex> ecutive producer: “Canadians don’t ° have any right to see their history during the blackout period.”
Disunity in the television studio
Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps and Reform Leader Preston Manning have often hurled verbal barbs at one another across the floor of the House of Commons. During The People’s Debate, a televised election forum sponsored by Global TV and Maclean’s and aired on May 25, things were no different when the topic turned to national unity. Manning wants to shift some powers from Ottawa to the provinces in the hope of appeasing Quebec. But he has also adopted a tough approach.
“The separatists need to be told some hard truths, but no one will tell them but us,” Manning told the forum.
Manning’s position was hotly rejected. At times he was shouted down not only by Copps but also by Jack Layton, who is running in Toronto for the NDP, and by Ottawa lawyer Peter Annis, a Tory candidate in the nation’s capital. Copps said that his approach will lead the country “down the path of war.” While Manning countered that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien had almost lost the country in the last referendum, Copps defended her par-
ty’s position, which calls for recognition of Quebec as a distinct society. “The only person who is rejecting distinct society out of hand is Preston Manning,” said Copps. “He is spreading separatism across the country.” Layton, who was born in Quebec, also claimed that Manning was “driving a wedge between Canadians.” Annis charged that Manning had failed to recognize that many soft nationalists were shifting away from the Bloc Québécois. “Rather than you working to bring the country together,” he said, “you are trying to divide it.”
REFORM UNDER FIRE
A controversial anti-Quebec TV advertisement by the Reform party drew a flurry of harsh criticism. The ad suggests Canadians need a prime minister from outside Quebec and calls for “a voice for all Canadians, not just Quebec politicians.” Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said Reform was being extreme while Tory Leader Jean Charest described it as a new low, and NDP Leader Alexa McDonough called the ad ugly and destructive. But Reform Leader Preston Manning defended the advertisement. “The separatists are doing damage by what they do, the old-line federalists do damage by what they do not do,” he said.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in British Columbia raised politicians’ hackles by unveiling a series of billboards skewering MPs. The campaign targets Liberal MPs who voted against a private member’s bill that would have repealed the so-called faint-hope clause, which permits some murderers to apply for early parole. Minister of Transportation David Anderson, one of the targets, said he was “outraged.”
VOTING BEHIND BARS
Voting by about 15,000 federal inmates began last week, just as Ottawa tried to block them from doing so. Justice Minister Allan Rock said the government is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to stay a Federal Court of Appeal ruling that gave prisoners under federal jurisdiction the right to vote, and to rule that last week’s prisoners’ votes not be counted in the final tallies.
HOW RICH IS RICH?
NDP Leader Alexa McDonough faced a barrage of difficult questions in Halifax at an all-party debate. Her opponents were particularly tough on her stand on taxing the rich. “Who are the big guys and who are the little guys?”
Tory candidate Terry Donahoe asked. Liberal incumbent Mary Clancy demanded:
“How much do you make to be rich?” McDonough’s answer: someone earning over $100,000 a year “should pay a higher percentage of taxes than someone earning $20,000.”
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