CANADA

NOW WHAT?

Greys gone, Days reeling from the drip-drip of defections. Is this any way to unite the right?

John Geddes July 16 2001
CANADA

NOW WHAT?

Greys gone, Days reeling from the drip-drip of defections. Is this any way to unite the right?

John Geddes July 16 2001

NOW WHAT?

CANADA

Greys gone, Days reeling from the drip-drip of defections. Is this any way to unite the right?

John Geddes

The question to ask about the beleaguered Canadian Alliance has changed. Ever since eight MPs fed up with Stockwell Days leadership formed a rebel faction on May 15, speculation has been all about who might be next. Would respected MP Monte Solberg join the revolt? Would party icon Deborah Grey? Solberg waited until June 17 to make his exit, and Grey finally got out last week. “Stock,” she advised in her den-motherly way, “there is no shame in admitting you are not a leader.” He kicked her out of caucus, just as he did Solberg and 10 other MPs who had previously gone public with their view he had to go.

The next day, Manitoba MP Inky Mark followed suit, becoming the 13th member of the dissident group. More might join them over the coming weeks, but the serious

damage has been done. So the focus now switches from who next to what next.

After all, the rebel Alliance now has more than the dozen MPs needed to qualify for party status when the House returns in the fall. But according to anti-Day strategist Rick Anderson, “Expanding the caucus of independent Alliance MPs is not the goal.” That may come as a surprise to many inside the Alliance who see Anderson, a former key adviser to Preston Manning, as the dark mastermind behind the dump-Day movement. They’ve assumed the rebels would try to keep up the pressure by orchestrating a steady stream of defections. Following

1 Grey’s departure, however,

2 both Day loyalists and § those who want to end his I troubled year-old tenure as I leader began musing about § a quite different scenario.

If even Deb’s departure did not shake Stock’s determination to cling to the job,

maybe the way to get to him was from within. Under this approach, some of the 53 MPs remaining in the Alliance caucus, along with some members of the party’s national council, would now begin urging Day to resign—without adding to his embarrassment by any further displays of public disapproval.

So far, though, Day has betrayed no hint of being open to such implorings. He calls the rebels “sore losers” and “promise breakers.” He capped a belittling description of Grey as a pawn of powerbrokers (few would question he mainly meant Anderson) with a patronizing expression of forgiveness towards the veteran Alberta politician. “It wasn’t really her fault,” Day told a news conference. “She’s just been overwhelmed by it, and I forgive her for her decision.” One might suppose it is Day who has reason to feel overwhelmed. Support for the Alliance has dropped to 10 per cent or less in most polls, leaving even some MPs who have stood by him searching for routes to political salvation.

The route Day dramatically announced just last month—a party-wide referendum on holding formal merger talks with the Tories—appears to have been abandoned. The Alliance’s so-called unity committee decided last week not to conduct Day’s proposed formal vote among members. Instead, it plans to send a non-binding survey on the crucial subject in a regularly mailed-out bulletin to the membership.

But if Day’s bid to take charge of the latest unite-the-right thrust has been downgraded, others are pressing hard—even desperately—in the same direction. Bob Dechert, a top Alliance organizer in Ontario, is trying to set up a fund-raising team that would gather firm corporate commitments to give $ 10 million to a united rightleaning alternative to the Liberals—an incentive for a Tory-Alliance merger before the next election. And a group of Alliance and Conservative MPs are planning a meeting later this month in Halifax to seek common ground. Notably, the get-together is likely to include not only prominent Tory MPs like Peter MacKay and veteran Alliance MPs like John Williams, but also Solberg of the anti-Day splinter. “By the time the next election rolls around,” said Newfoundland Tory MP Loyla Hearn, who will attend the Halifax meeting, “there must be one united conservative party on the ballot.” It’s hard now to imagine Day playing much of a role in malting it happen. ES]