Canada Notes

May 15 2000

Canada Notes

May 15 2000

Canada Notes

A Tory ultimatum—or maybe not

It was enough to make some Tories see red. Last week, the National Post ran a story saying that members of the Conservative party had given leader Joe Clark an ultimatum: turn around the party’s flagging fortunes in the face of the new threat from the Canadian Alliance party, or face a full-scale revolt. Nonsense, said Conservative MPs as they held a news conference in Ottawa. “Were mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore—there was no ultimatum, there was no dissension,” declared caucus chairman Rick Borotsik. “That is an out-and-out lie,” said deputy leader Elsie Wayne of the newspaper story. National Post editor Ken Whyte, who has been one of the main forces behind the unite-the-right movement, acknowledged that his paper had made a slight error: the ultimatum was, he claimed, presented to Clark—but not at last Wednesday’s caucus meeting, as the paper had reported. “Substantially,” Whyte said, “the story is correct.”

Even if it wasn’t, Clark’s Tories continue to feel the heat. The Alliance, now in the middle of a high-profile leadership campaign, has been actively raiding Conservative ranks, and last week Clark himself acknowledged that

his party’s hemorrhaging of members is likely to continue even as another prominent Tory, former Mulroney cabinet minister Jake Epp, jumped ship. “I’m sure there will be more members of the Progressive Conservative party that will be going off to support one or another of the leadership candidates,” he said. Those candidates were out in full force last week at a fund-raising dinner for Premier Mike Harris’s Ontario Tories. Former Reform party leader Preston Manning worked the crowd, along with Stockwell Day, who is on leave from his job as Alberta Treasurer and last week got Epps support. But the warmest welcome was reserved for Tom Long, the former backroom Tory who helped orchestrate Harris’s rise to power and is now mounting an Ontario challenge to the two western front-runners.

Critics said Clark should have attended the dinner as well—to show the federal Tory flag and face off against the men actively trying to decimate his ranks. But the former prime minister passed on the opportunity, preferring instead to attend a function in Ottawa mounted by the writers’ group PEN to raise funds for imprisoned journalists.

Jail time for Ramsay

The Court of Queens Bench in Saskatoon sentenced Alberta MP Jack Ramsay, 62, to nine months in jail after he was convicted of attempting to rape a 14-year-old girl in 1969. Ramsay was an RCMP officer in Pelican Narrows, Sask., when the assault took place. Ramsays lawyer filed a notice to appeal, and Ramsay said he will continue to sit in the House of Commons as an Independent.

Former foster mom spared jail

Valerie Hetu, who was convicted in March of sexual exploitation after she romanced a 16-year-old girl in her foster care, received a six-month conditional sentence and 100 hours of community service. Hetu, 32, has separated from her husband and lives with the former foster child, now 18, in Kamloops, B.C.

Pushing through Bill 1 1

Alberta Premier Ralph Kleins Conservative government voted to end debate of Bill 11, the provinces controversial health-care legislation that proposes to expand the private sectors role in providing surgical services. Klein now says he expects the bill to move into third and final reading this week and be fully implemented by fall.

Deadly play

Three children—two girls and a boy between two and seven years old, from two different families—died after they accidentally locked themselves in a storage trunk, apparently while playing hide-and-seek, in Barrie, Ont., 85 km north of Toronto. Police do not suspect foul play.

Recognition for Clayoquot

Clayoquot Sound, a spectacular area of old-growth forest on the west coast of Vancouver Island, was declared a United Nations biosphere reserve, a place for sustainable economic development, research, education and training. The designation was celebrated as a victory by environmentalists, who vigorously protested logging there in the 1980s and early 1990s, culminating in the massive civil disobedience in 1993 called the War in the Woods.

A rare smuggling

Canadian and U.S. law-enforcement officials say they were shocked to discover Canada has been at the centre of the largest firearms-smuggling operation in North American history. And in a reversal of the common trend, the guns were being smuggled into the United States from Canada. In Toronto last week, police from both sides of the border displayed samples of the nearly

23,000 vintage U.S. military firearms seized from Toronto and Montreal gun shops. The guns, which included 1,700 rifles similar to those used in the Korean War, were destined for Reno, Nev. (The vintage guns are legal in Canada, but illegal in the United States.) Ira Mieteen, 38, of Toronto faces several charges, including firearms trafficking. Police also issued a warrant for Melvin Bishop, 63, of Reno, a U.S. air force veteran.