A tough ride for the Alliance party

April 17 2000

A tough ride for the Alliance party

April 17 2000

A tough ride for the Alliance party

Canada Notes

For a party trying to establish a favourable profile in Ontario, it proved to be a rough ride. Last week, Frank Klees, a junior member of Premier Mike Harris’s cabinet and an aspiring leadership candidate for the fledgling Canadian Alliance party,

said he was withdrawing from the race. But Klees’s stated reason for his decision sent shock waves through the Alliance, formerly the Reform party until members decided in a March referendum to change the name in an attempt to

forge a conservative coalition. Klees said that a donor, whom he declined to name, had asked him to ultimately throw his support behind another candidate—in return for a hefty campaign donation.

Indignant party members who support either of the two front-runners, former Reform leader Preston Man-

ning and former Alberta treasurer Stockwell Day, demanded that Klees reveal the identity of the anonymous donor. Some observers, meanwhile, said the incident showed that while the largely western-based Alliance may want Ontario votes, it has no

intention of letting Ontarians figure in its key decision-making processes.

In the middle of the uproar, another candidate, B.C. MP Keith Martin, announced he was throwing his hat into the leadership ring. Martin, a physi-

cian of Irish, Portuguese and East Indian descent, has a reputation as a moderate—especially compared with Day, whose social conservatism has already raised controversy. Then, at week’s end, Klees said he was reconsidering his decision to pull out because of an outpouring of support for him from across the country.

A horrific death in Toronto

A mother of three died after being struck by a car and dragged nearly a kilometre near her Toronto home. Beth Kidnie, 42, was taking her regular evening walk when she was run down while crossing at a traffic light. Her body became wedged under the car and wasn’t dislodged until the driver turned into a driveway. Pilar Hicks, 84, has been charged with failing to stop after an accident causing death and careless driving. The accident has renewed debate about mandatory road tests for elderly drivers, which were eliminated in Ontario in 1996.

Back to sovereignty

Visiting France, Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard served notice that he will revive the debate over sovereignty for the province, and has abandoned his strategy of waiting for “winning conditions” before holding a referendum on the issue. In his strongest statement since winning re-election in 1998, he said Quebec’s economic progress means the focus can shift to

winning a vote on sovereignty, which he said should take a form modelled on the European Union.

During a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, Bouchard also criticized Ottawa’s so-called clarity bill, which sets out rules for a referendum, calling the law “null and void.” Chirac, however, did not go beyond France’s long-held position that the country would support Quebec if it gained independence.

New rules for refugees

Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan introduced a revamped Immigration Act that would crack down on human smugglers and refugee claimants who are criminals. The tough new rules include life in prison or a $ 1-million fine for people found smuggling illegal immigrants into the country. “Our priority is the safety and national security interests of Canada,” Caplan said.

Bernardo’s letter

Justice Patrick Gravely ruled that private discussions between convicted sex-killer Paul Bernardo and his former lawyer Ken Murray will not be protected by solicitor-client privilege and can be used in Murrays defence during his obstruction of justice trial. That led to release of a handwritten note Bernardo sent to Murray from prison in 1993, telling the lawyer how to find videotapes hidden in Bernardos home. Murray is on trial for suppressing the tapes, which show Bernardo and his former wife, Karla Homolka, sexually assaulting southern Ontario teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

A former minister lashes out

Former health minister Diane Marleau blasted her own government for not doing enough to defend health care. Marleau, who held the position from 1993 to 1996 before being demoted to Public Works, said she is “frightened” by the rise of for-profit medicine, especially in Alberta and Ontario, and singled out her successor, Allan Rock, for failing to stand up to those provinces.

Fewer charges for Ludwig

In Edmonton, Crown prosecutor George Combe wrapped up his closing arguments in the oilpatch vandalism trial of Wiebo Ludwig and Richard Boonstra by dropping four of the remaining 18 charges against them (another 10 charges had been dropped during the course of the trial). Combe also conceded that while taped conversations entered as evidence didn’t actually reveal Ludwig and Boonstra agreeing to bomb an oil well, they did imply such a plan. Justice Sterling Sanderman of the Alberta Court of Queens Bench said he will rule on April 19.