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web posted May 29, 2000

Tories sue Alliance over party name

The Canadian Alliance may be stealing Conservative party members across the country but federal Tories took steps on May 23 to prevent the fledgling movement from taking their name as well.

The beleaguered Progressive Conservative Party of Canada filed suit against the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance and its predecessor, the Reform party, alleging the new name violates the Trademarks Act.

"The basis of the lawsuit is that the PC Party has continuously used the word Conservative since the formation of the party before Confederation, including in conjunction with other words such as the word Progressive," said a Conservative party statement.

The Tories, battered by defections to the Alliance, are seeking a permanent injunction from the Federal Court to prohibit the new party from using the name in English or French.

"Our members have free will and they can go or not go as they see fit," said Susan Elliott, national director of the Conservative party.

"But the name is something that we have to proactively protect."

The suit argues that in choosing the word Conservative as part of its new name, the Alliance has attempted to pass off its "wares, services and business" as being those of the PC party.

Further, adopting a name that includes the words Conservative, Reform and Alliance is a "calculated and deliberate attempt" to give the false impression the two parties have formed a political alliance, says the suit.

"We believe that they are trying to obtain through stealth that which they were unable to obtain directly, which was a merger with our party in order to benefit from the goodwill that we have in parts of the country where they have none," Elliott said.

A Canadian Alliance spokesman had little to say on the issue.

"We're in receipt of the paperwork from the PC party," Tony Gronow said from Calgary. "We're well aware of their concerns.

"We are currently looking at our options with our legal counsel."

Tory Leader Joe Clark has steadfastly refused overtures from the Alliance to unify Canada's right wing. Clark has predicted the exodus from his party will cease after next month's Alliance leadership vote.

The Tories have retained Smart and Biggar, a law firm known for arguing intellectual property cases. The party, already millions in debt, will not be required to spend much on the legal action, said Elliott.

The case, which seeks no financial damages, could take six months to two years, she added.

It's not the Tories' first attempt to block use of the Conservative label.

The chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, rejected a Tory objection in April and ruled the name could stand.

"I have concluded that the proposed name Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance does not so nearly resemble the name of any of the parties in our registry so as to likely be confused with any of those parties," he said.

The Tories have filed for a judicial review under the Elections Act.

Liberals try to sneak in big MP perk

The Liberal government has drafted secret plans to pay a select group of government MPs -- including senior cabinet ministers such as Anne McLellan and Jane Stewart -- up to $35,000 in severance if they lose their seats in the next election.

In a bid to secure Opposition co-operation to quietly push the deal through Parliament, the Liberals are offering dozens of Canadian Alliance MPs a one-time opportunity to opt back into the controversial MP pension plan.

That has caused suspicion among some Alliance MPs who fear the Liberals are setting up the new right-wing party for political embarrassment by trying to get them to join a plan they campaigned vigorously against in the last two elections.

Chuck Strahl, the Alliance House leader, confirmed on May 23 that Don Boudria, the Liberal House leader, has drafted a proposal that would allow government MPs elected in 1993 and aged under 55 to collect the severance in addition to their parliamentary pensions.

The final details of the severance plan are still being worked out, but one source said Boudria's offer hinges on Opposition agreement to pass the perk package without debate before the Commons rises for its summer recess in June.

At the very least, the Liberals want the changes approved before the next election.

"Under the current system, some of these MPs get no severance and what they want is some severance," Strahl said. "It's people who are pretty motivated because they either aren't planning to run again, or they think they may be on their way to defeat."

Boudria's decision to seek the enriched severance package follows complaints from several Liberal MPs who believe they were financially shortchanged when Parliament agreed in 1995 to trim down the MPs' so-called "gold-plated pension plan."

Under Parliament's current rules, MPs who are not collecting pensions when they leave office -- either because they opted out of the plan or because they do not have six years of service -- are eligible to receive six months' worth of severance pay, roughly $35,000.

This provides a financial safety net for any MPs elected in 1997 and Alliance MPs elected in 1993 who opted out of the pension plan.

The 1995 changes to the pension plan saw MPs agree to become eligible for smaller, but still generous, pensions after six years of service. Those new pensions are only payable once they turned 55.

The complicated revisions created a group of MPs who, if defeated, immediately qualify under pre-1995 rules for modest pensions of about $5,600 a year, but do not receive severance. They must also wait until they turn 55 to collect payments from the revised pension plan.

Boudria's plan would see those MPs receive six months of severance, minus any applicable pension.

The MPs eligible for the new severance package include, Ms. McLellan, the 45-year-old Justice Minister who narrowly won her Edmonton seat in 1993 and 1997, and Ms. Stewart, 46, the beleaguered Human Resources Minister, who has been under pressure over $1-billion in questionable job grants.

Strahl said the Alliance is prepared to consider the severance package revision if the Liberals can show the current plan is unfair.

"They can argue that it takes them seven years [of a modest pension] to get as much as I get in one [severance] paycheque," said Strahl. "But the truth of it is that when they turn 55, their pension jumps to $22,000 and when they are 65, it is fully indexed. So they are doing just fine and I don't have a lot of sympathy for them."

Some Alliance MPs fear Boudria's real motive is to set a political trap for the party during its leadership race.

The party split into angry factions in 1998 when Boudria last offered then-Reform MPs the chance to re-enter the pension plan. At the time, 34 Reform MPs elected in 1993 opted to remain out of the plan, but four opted back in.

"The timing for them to once again examine the pension is too coincidental ... while the Liberals have a serious threat on their hand from the emergence of the Canadian Alliance," said Rob Anders, the Canadian Alliance MP for Calgary-West. "Since when does Don Boudria shed a tear for the backbenchers in the Liberal caucus? I just can't believe that is the primary motive in this."

One Alliance MP, who asked not to be named, said several members of the party are welcoming the offer to re-enter the pension plan because they realize now it was a mistake to stay out.

They received little political credit for remaining outside the plan and, inadvertently, gave up generous medical and dental coverage at the same time.

Strahl said the caucus has not yet taken a final decision, and further negotiations with the Liberals are expected.

"As far as opting back in, I just don't think that is in the cards. That's just a political firestorm," Strahl said. But he acknowledged several Alliance MPs "have raised a concern that they are not allowed to purchase the medical coverage that other guys are entitled to."

Walter Robinson, national director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the Liberals' plan is a clever political ploy.

"It's a very encouraging enticement for the Alliance," Robinson said. "The people who will be judged to a higher standard will be the Alliance guys."

Democrats net $26 million, set fund-raising record

The race for campaign cash smashed all records the night of May 23, with Democrats and Republicans raising a combined $40.5 million at rival galas in the nation's capital.

The Democratic rally brought in $26.5 million, surpassing the previous $21.3 million record set by the GOP recently in a salute to its presumptive presidential candidate, Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

President Clinton told about 13,500 cheering Democrats what he has accomplished with the help of donors, while former President George Bush told congressional Republicans at a black-tie dinner that their opponents would need "extra cots in the Lincoln bedroom."

As Clinton began to speak, a few demonstrators began chanting, "Stop the corruption!" They apparently were referring to the role that money plays in politics.

The president replied: "I don't think it's corruption to take money to pass the Brady bill, to pass the family and medical leave bill, to pass the patients' bill of rights, to reduce the deficit and get rid of the debt instead of giving big breaks to special interests."

Vice President Al Gore, the likely Democratic nominee, told the crowd he joined Clinton in calling for campaign finance reforms. He said he wants to ban the use of unrestricted "soft money" that the event was raising.

That money could go to promote the party but not directly to candidates.

At the GOP gala, former President Bush boosted his son's candidacy. He made fun of Democratic campaign finance scandals, ridiculed Gore's claims about pioneering the Internet and referred to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, a U.S. Senate candidate in New York, as an "itinerant carpetbagger."

The former president was a featured guest at the dinner, in which corporate executives and lobbyists gave as much as $100,000 each to sit alongside congressional leaders and committee chairmen who are considering legislation affecting their businesses. The event raised $14 million.

"It burns me up every time President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore try to take credit for what this Republican Congress has done," Bush said. "Shameless!"

George W. Bush did not attend the fund-raiser. He was back in Texas after a campaign appearance in Detroit, where he talked about education at an elementary school.

The National Tribute to President Clinton, held at the MCI Center in downtown Washington, featured entertainment from singers Stevie Wonder; LeAnn Rimes; Lenny Kravitz; Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish; and comedian Robin Williams.

The president has raised almost $60 million for the Democratic National Committee in the past three years.

While the party touted the event's populist flavor -- some 13,500 guests spent $50 apiece to eat barbecue and hear the entertainment -- a substantial number of big-buck "soft money" donors were treated to a private dinner with the president and other perks. The top ticket price was $500,000 per person.

Bush says list of VP prospects doesn't include Powell

Republican presidential contender George W. Bush says his long list of vice presidential prospects doesn't include Colin Powell, a potent political figure who says he doesn't want the job.

"People who don't want to be considered for vice president are not going to be considered for vice president," Bush said before a meeting with the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on May 25.

The same goes for Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Texas governor's vanquished primary rival who says he doesn't want to play second fiddle at the White House.

"They have told me, they have said publicly, they don't want to be vice president," Bush said. Polls show McCain and Powell are popular with voters and would enhance the GOP ticket.

That may be why the Texas governor seemed to leave the door open for both men, saying with a grin, "If they ever change their mind, I'll let you know."

Bush met with Powell, who was in Austin to promote his nationwide volunteerism campaign. But the governor says he has no plans to broach the vice presidential topic.

"I know I'm not going to talk to him about him being vice president," Bush said in an interview with The Associated Press aboard his campaign plane.

He said he knows what Powell would say if asked to be considered. "The answer," Bush said, "is no."

Powell has not ruled out a Cabinet post, if offered to the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the likely nominee's advisers say Powell is a formidable prospect for the secretary of state post.

Bush offered a rare glimpse into his decision-making process, saying he was actively considering "a couple dozen" vice presidential prospects. He said he talks frequently about the choices with Dick Cheney, the former defense secretary heading up his search.

The prospects cut a wide swath throughout the GOP ranks -- "I'm looking at everybody," he said -- with each candidate undergoing an initial background review. Bush said he is being updated by Cheney as the reviews are processed, and is informed whenever important information crops up about a prospect.

"I'm watching it very closely," he said.

The night before, Bush told reporters in Ohio that Rep. John Kasich and Sen. George Voinovich, a former governor, were under consideration. Both men are from Ohio. In Michigan, he said governor John Engler is a prospect.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge is said to be a top candidate.

Bush said he is considering an earlier-than-usual unveiling, noting that recent vice presidential candidates have been announced at or near the GOP convention.

Still, with the convention opening July 31 in Philadelphia, Bush said he could not imagine making his selection in May or June.

Tom Long denies campaign foundering on socially conservative opposition

Canadian Alliance leadership candidate Tom Long denies his campaign is foundering on socially conservative opposition that sees him as betraying supporters of the anti-gay, anti-abortion movement.

"I simply will not tolerate discrimination of any kind," Long told a lunch crowd at the Empire Club of Canada on May 26. "I'm a pro-family, pro-life guy. (But) you don't have to tear anybody else down in order to support the things you believe in."

Long was responding to the sometimes nasty backlash that has sprung up against his social philosophy, which he summed up as "mind your own business and keep your hands to yourself."

But the Web site of the anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition is making Long's bid its business. It denounces the former Ontario political strategist as a gay-friendly hypocrite.

"There are Ontario conservatives who do care about restoring protection for life and family but they do not seem to be the ones who are in the forefront of the Long campaign," says a statement on the Web site.

The site offers only lukewarm support for Long's rival Preston Manning, and a stronger endorsement of Alberta candidate Stockwell Day, who "has shown his willingness to listen to the concerns of pro-life Canadians."

Long dismissed the criticism.

"When you put those views out on the table, you find out how little support they actually have," he said after his speech.

In Edmonton, Day distanced himself from the controversy over sexual orientation.

"I believe in limited government and what people do in their private lives is their private business," he said.

"It is completely wrong to personally attack somebody on the basis of their sexual orientation."

Long also denied his vaunted telephone drive to sign up new members has fallen short, dealing a serious blow to his leadership aspirations.

While he refused to say release the number of memberships his campaign has gathered, he denied his campaign is in trouble with just three weeks to go before voting day.

"I'm know I'm running uphill (but) we're going to cross the finish line first," he told reporters.

But he acknowledged time is running out and urged his well-heeled audience to fill out the membership forms left on their tables.

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