THE WEEK

Politics

Growing numbers of Liberals start to rain on Chretien’s parade

August 5 2002
THE WEEK

Politics

Growing numbers of Liberals start to rain on Chretien’s parade

August 5 2002

Politics

THE WEEK

Growing numbers of Liberals start to rain on Chretien’s parade

It should have been a good week for Jean Chrétien. His meeting with Pope John Paul II is the sort of prime-ministerial photo op his rival Paul Martin has no way to match. And despite a turbulent week of economic news, the Canadian dollar showed resilience and the markets signs of life. But the drumbeat of pressure for the Prime Minister to step down refused to let up. The core group of Liberal MPs calling for Chrétien to signal clearly when he will retire before a leadership review vote at a February convention is growing bolder. Meanwhile, Martin’s loyalists are planning to unveil a package of proposals to strengthen the role of backbench MPs at the annual Liberal summer caucus gettogether in Chicoutimi, Que., on Aug. 5.

That bid to cast Martin as a parliamen-

tary-reform visionary is emerging as his key policy calling card. He has used the term “democratic deficit” to describe the way MPs are often relegated to marginal roles in Ottawa. For Martin, this theme has two great appeals. First, championing the ordinary MP contains a strongly implied criticism of Chrétien’s centralized governing style—without forcing Martin to openly attack the Prime Minister. Second, it counterbalances Martin’s image as a millionaire businessman, and a lifelong political insider, with a more populist message. For Chrétien’s forces, the signs of organizing momentum and policy savvy in the Martin camp can only be frustrating. If even papal commotion and economic optimism can’t lend the Prime Minister a mid-summer respite, he’s in trouble.

“I’m almost afraid of the emotionalism. Will all this lead to a meeting with Jesus? Will they discover their individual conscience and be with the poor and the weak?”

JEAN VANIER, Canadian founder of an international community of homes for the disabled, questioning the hoopla surrounding the Pope’s visit

Refugee pipe dreams

Three Americans living in British Columbia, who were being prosecuted in the U.S. for various crimes associated with the trafficking and cultivation of marijuana when they fled, have filed refugee claims. They maintain they were growing pot for medical purposes, and were being prosecuted unfairly. “It’s a political war against people who are sick,” said Renee Boje, who fled Los Angeles where she was charged with growing and possession with the intent to traffic. But observers say their refugee claims will likely be denied, because upholding them would invite a flood of claims from Americans facing drug charges.

Matchee returns to court

Clayton Matchee was a strapping paratrooper when he was accused of killing 16year-old Somali teenager Shidane Arone in 1993 while on a peacekeeping mission in the African nation. But when Matchee, 37, appeared in a Saskatoon court last week, his hair was flecked with grey and he didn’t seem to know where he was. Matchee suffered severe brain damage when he attempted to kill himself after he was charged with murder. To maintain the charges, the military must hold a hearing every two years. His father, Leon, said he brought his son to the hearing for the first time because he feels the public believes Matchee is faking his injuries. But it’s plain, he said, “he doesn’t understand anything at all.”

Canada’s still third

A year after losing its long-held position as the most desirable place to live, Canada remains No.3 on the United Nations quality-of-life index, behind Norway and Sweden. The Human Development Report 2002 ranks 173 countries by measuring such things as life expectancy, education and income. Belgium finished fourth and Australia fifth, while Sierra Leone maintained its position as the worst place in the world to live.

To spray or not to spray

Residents of a well-to-do neighbourhood in Winnipeg lost their battle to prevent the city from spraying mosquitoes with

pesticides they say cause respiratory problems. Some homeowners circulated petitions demanding the city abandon the program, while others organized to prevent their opponents from blocking the spray crews’ work. In previous years, residents could ask crews not to spray within 100 metres of their homes. But when authorities confirmed that a dead crow found in Winnipeg in early July was carrying the potentially fatal West Nile virus, provincial health officials ordered the spray crews to proceed.

Tightening the net

Canadians donating money to the alQaeda terrorist network could face up to 10 years in jail—but it’s all right if they give to Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based terrorist group responsible for hundreds of bombings and murders. As part of a crackdown, Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay banned al-Qaeda and six other extremist groups allied with it from operating in Canada. The U.S. has banned Hezbollah, but MacAulay declined to say why he exempted the group. In April, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said Canadians could give money to Hezbollah because it was also involved in charity work.

Layton goes national

Toronto City Councillor Jack Layton, 52, outlined a sweeping social agenda as he announced his bid for the leadership of the federal New Democratic Party. Layton, a 20-year veteran of municipal politics, said in Ottawa that he would “reenergize” the party with a platform calling for more social housing and curbs on pollution.

Privatizing B.C. booze

British Columbia will close 224 provincially owned liquor outlets over the next three years, and small retailers will be allowed to sell alcohol. Competition Minister Rick Thorpe said a privatized liquor industry will offer consumers more options. But the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union said the sale was bad public policy because the government will lose control over alcohol, “which has very serious social consequences.”

Judge quits biker trial

The complicated trial of 17 Hells Angels in Montreal that was expected to last nine

months was thrown into confusion when Justice Jean-Guy Boilard of the Quebec Superior Court suddenly quit the proceedings, claiming he had been undermined by the Canadian Judicial Council. A new judge is expected to replace Boilard, 65, after the council sent him a letter of

reprimand in which it maintained he had abused his power and showed a “flagrant lack of respect towards an officer of the court.” The reprimand was in response to a complaint by defence lawyer Gilles Doré, who is representing Daniel Lanthier, one of the bikers in the trial, which is now in

its fourth month. Doré had complained about comments Boilard made to him following a bail hearing for Lanthier on June 21, 2001. When Doré continued arguing after Boilard refused his client bail, the judge told him, “an insolent lawyer is rarely useful to his client.”

Britain vulnerable to terror

Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to strike a balance between national security and personal freedom as the country beefs up security in the wake of a parliamentary report that says Britain is extremely vulnerable to terrorist attacks like the ones on

New York City on Sept 11. To quickly repel an attack by air, the report said the Royal Air Force should move some of its bases closer to London. The report also called for a review of lax security at the country’s ports which could allow terrorists to plant bombs in shipping containers, leading to “catastrophic” results.

Alzheimer’s economic toll

The cost of Alzheimer’s disease to the economy is massive and growing. According to new research by the American Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is already costing U.S. industry more than US$61 billion a year. (Using the same analysis, that suggests almost $9 billion annually in Canada.) The association says that the cost, which includes absenteeism, insurance and training replacement workers, is expected to soar as the population ages and the number of cases increases dramatically.

An orca’s new mom?

Springer, the orphaned killer whale, may have finally found a new mom. The twoyear-old orea appears to have struck up a relationship with a 16-year-old female.

Springer was captured and moved from Puget Sound, near Seattle, where she had strayed after her mother died. While there, she lost her fear of boats and people. She was released into the ocean off Vancouver Island on July 14, but when she attempted to break away from her adopted pod last week and start approaching boats again, the older whale kept her swimming with the group. “It is clear that she is looking out for Springer,” said Dr. Lance BarrettLennard of the Vancouver Aquarium.

Victory for Canada

The World Trade Organization drove a spike through U.S. claims that Canada unfairly subsidizes softwood lumber producers. The world body ruled against the United States on eight of nine important points involving preliminary duties that Washington applied last spring on Canadian softwood imports worth about $10 billion annually. Because the ruling is preliminary, Canadian lumber producers will be forced to continue paying the 27 per cent duty, but Ottawa hopes the findings will finally force Washington back to the bargaining table.