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The bard continues to shape the Canadian Alliance plot
By Jackson Murphy
As Progressive Conservative members and dissident Canadian Alliance members met last week in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec to discuss unity new battles were waged over the future of two of Canada's right wing parties.
Stockwell Day who has been under siege for months now seems to have stopped putting his foot in his mouth. He is the Katherina, or Kate, character from Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Somehow his handlers have tamed, beaten, or trained him to act more like a leader and less like an idiot. If he is Kate then Petruchio, the tamer, must be John Reynolds-who appears on TV with a shiny red face that denotes the attitude more of a riverboat gambler than a politician.
When Petruchio suggests that the sun is in fact the moon Kate answers, "The moon? The Sun! It is not moonlight now." But Petruchio insists that it is indeed the moon, "It shall be moon, or star, or what I list." One of the other characters exclaims to Kate, "Say as he says, or we shall never go." And this is the Taming of Stockwell Day at the hands of Reynolds et al where he is finally saying what the party wants him to say-just not what the rest of the nation wants.
Day has prevented all Canadian Alliance non-dissidents from attending the meetings. He has denounced the latest meetings as "exclusionary" and described them as a "side-bar" that is not of any importance to Canadians. Really?
The National Post reported last week that Andre Turcotte, the pollster for the rebel Alliance, conducted a poll with Joe Clark's conservatives that found that 70 per cent of Canadians would never consider supporting Stockwell Day's party. Turcotte also found that 40 per cent of all Canadians are ready to support a party that demonstrates a capable and strong opposition-those qualities both beyond the reach of the Alliance party.
Organizers of the event have now accused Day forces of waging an all out war against the unity talks. Five defeated Alliance candidates in the Mont-Tremblant region have written a letter, published in Le Devoir, where they paint the dissidents as "extremist, anti-French, and vicious."
The members of the Canadian Alliance who voted in caucus to stay away from the meetings in Mont-Tremblant must be asked one simple question. Do they want to work to provide an alternative to the Liberals and to hold them to account for their mediocre governance?
Day's former rival, Preston Manning, after months of silence finally put his cards on the table. He writes a blistering Op-ed piece entitled "My blueprint for uniting the right" in the National Post backing Mont-Tremblant and siding with the dissidents. It is a guide for those wanting to unite the two parties immediately to combat the Liberal government-if anyone is listening anymore. Instead of "grand schemes" or new parties Manning calls for "modest initiatives".
"When Canadians look at their federal Parliament, what do they see? A lame duck Prime Minister, a lackluster government, a divided Alliance/Progressive Conservative opposition and the Bloc and NDP sinking into irrelevance. No wonder Parliament, and federal politics generally, command so little respect and attention," said Manning.
He suggests a "principled co-operation" between the two parties. This is not to simply unite the right or to defeat the Liberals as he quite correctly points out Canadians simply won't buy. But instead it asks what Manning and Canadians in general want to know: whether the cooperation between the two parties will offer them anything.
It is clear that the Alliance, under Day, is incapable of doing even the smallest of things to offer Canadians some hope. They have deliberately forced the rebels into a union with the Tories. And they are now attempting yet another leadership race scheduled for March 2002 that so far has two likely candidates-Day and former Reform MP Stephen Harper. That is kind of like the choice between Coke and Pepsi-who cares.
There is no doubt that the Reform, then Alliance; parties have done wonders for Canadian politics. With a small base of western support the two parties have shaped the agenda of politics in the last decade to tax cuts and balanced budgets.
What has the Canadian Alliance under Day done to advance the prospects of cooperation with the Conservatives? They have accused dissidents of conspiracy, denounced the latest meetings as exclusionary, announced then stopped a party-wide referendum on the issue, and spent a year doing nothing.
If nothing else Day and the Alliance have captured the imagination of comedians and humorists, and created an entire cottage industry for pundits and commentators-imagine what we would have written about since November if there were no Stockwell Day. On the downside as much as it has been fun, the distraction has allowed the government to run virtually unopposed.
Why, there's a wench! Come on, and kiss me, Kate.
Jackson Murphy is a young independent commentator from Vancouver, Canada writing on domestic and international political issues. He also writes weekly at suite101.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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