Monday, June 18, 2001
‘Back-of-napkin’ kind of thought - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER -- I joined the rank and file membership of the Canadian Alliance just over one year ago. I was taken aback by this new character named Stockwell Day. He looked fresh and appealing to a wide range of Canadians. Sure he held beliefs that would render one easy to vilify in mainstream Canada, but I had thunk Canadians ready for the ‘right’ guy. I also believed, rather naively, that free speech was a two way street. I digress.
The Canadian Alliance’s roots were from a gimmick called the United Alternative. With UA’s arrival, I was intrigued at the possibility of a party that would house Reform rabble-rousers with those of the Big Blue Machine in Ontario and of course, hopefully, the Progressive Conservatives. See, Reform on its own could not break into Ontario because the Tories seemed to split votes. Well, UA would fix that with the creation of a new party. Sadly the Alliance didn’t live up to its promise and Canadians looked on the Alliance as merely the Reform Party in a different guise.
The leadership race of a year ago looked to change that. There was genuine excitement at the prospect of a new party -- the Canadian Alliance -- breaking new ground and at the minimum reduce the Liberals to a minority. Somewhere between then and now something happened.
Stockwell Day seemed bright and articulate. We were warned then that perhaps it was just style, without the all too important substance. See, Preston Manning -- his chief rival -- was substance. Far too much substance perhaps and thus the rank and file were wooed with Day. They still are it seems. All this while the caucus could have no part of him, yet the “grassroots” are boundless in their fervour for Stock.
The ends remains now, as it did then, the hope there be an alternative to put in place of the tired and tyrannical Liberals. The means to achieve such a challenge then, was the success of the Canadian Alliance. Now, the means to having a true ‘government-in-waiting’ is far from grasp. Collective breath must be drawn and the sobering reality of the failure of Stockwell Day must be accepted. A man of so much possibility has been reduced to some sort of role apt in the legitimate theatre, rather than in the political. Stockwell Day is truly the victim of passion. (That adage Trudeau always invoked about ‘reason before passion’ is apt for use here.)
As reports indicate, Day acts on the whim. Day goes more often for what’s in his heart than what’s in his head. He won’t take advice from those that know a speck more than he; and to those that he takes guidance from (Ezra Levant and others) nothing but pratfalls and tension abound.
With this latest outburst as to ordering his party to undertake a referendum on a full fledged merger, Joe Clark is right that this is all a ploy to divert attention from the acrimony plaguing the Alliance. It also, too clearly, indicates his ineptitude with leadership as his party knew nothing of his grand plan. With Joe Clark’s rebuff, Stockwell Day’s plan is dead. I smell his career too, if it isn’t already.
There was a point in this exercise where Joe Clark was the baffoon. Joe Clark, through forthright thought and perseverance has the upper hand. Stockwell Day thinking he calls the shots is absurd. Joe Clark does. The Alliance and its leader are spent forces. No longer have they any credibility in being any sort of cross-Canadian political force. Small-c conservative minded Canadians need a home. They need a party in which the ideals that are workable and sensible for Canadians can flourish and attempt to pose a sincere threat against the Chrétien Liberals.
Joe Clark may call the shots in a Tory/Alliance merger. However the man calling the shots all along was Jean Chrétien. Stockwell Day for all that he was cut out to be has turned out pathetic and wasted. Perhaps it was through his tongue, but really it was bad luck. He was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Jean Chrétien is to be blamed for that. Jean Chrétien isn’t the most articulate Canadian. He is however a master politician. Conniving, shrewd and calculating -- Jean Chrétien is the supreme benefactor of luck, pure and simple.
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