(This column was published in the North Shore News on Oct. 18, 2000)


Election call saves Liberals embarrassment

By Leo Knight

ON the eve of a federal election, hastily called by a prime minister who may well be more mistrusted by this nation than Brian Mulroney was at his lowest ebb, Canadians are faced with a choice between the same old thing or a chance for something new.  


There seems little doubt the upcoming election will be won or lost in rural Ontario. This stands true for both the Liberals of Jean Chretien and the Canadian Alliance of Stockwell Day. Equally clear is the battle the Libs will have for the few seats they currently hold in Western Canada.  


Nowhere is this more likely to be a bloodbath than in the riding of Edmonton West, fertile Day territory, currently held by Justice Minister Anne McLellan, whose record of inaction is really quite stunning.  


McLellan has established herself as a loyal Chretien lapdog and her only accomplishment in office, if indeed it can be called an accomplishment, is her nurturing into life Allan Rock's hated gun control legislation. At a cost to the taxpayer of $547 million and counting, the legislation does precious little to actually control illegal use of weapons and everything to increase an already bloated bureaucracy.  


It also, incidentally, requires almost 500 RCMP officers to work it. Considering the shortage of RCMP officers on the front lines, this merely compounds the lunacy of the legislation.  


If it is this record she will go to the voters with, her 1,100 seat majority is in trouble. Indeed, the newly-nominated Alliance candidate in her riding, Betty Unger, said at a rally Saturday, "I'm a little surprised at their arrogance.  


"Do they really think people have such short memories," she asked. Yes, Betty, I'm afraid that is exactly what the Liberals are counting on.  


But what is really striking about a fall election is that it is totally unnecessary just over three years into a five-year mandate. The Liberals leave their much-vaunted new Young Offender's Act on the order paper. Then there is their claimed tough stand on organized crime.  


Last year, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights formed a sub-committee on organized crime in response to things like the biker wars in Quebec among other areas of concern. They travelled all around the country hearing from police officers and others who investigate organized crime. They even, smarmily, asked for protection from the RCMP in the wake of the shooting of Montreal crime reporter, Michel Auger, so sensitive, they claimed, their hearings were.  


They were supposed to hear from Brian McAdam, the former Foreign Services officer whose investigations were the impetus for the Sidewinder probe, inexplicably killed by the brass of CSIS despite the protests of many CSIS and RCMP investigators involved. The same investigators later accused the Prime Minister's Office of stepping in and ordering the investigation shut down. But he has been cancelled for some reason. Also scheduled to present to the sub-committee is Vancouver Police Officer Jim Fisher, who has just returned from a three-year secondment as the Asian Crime intelligence coordinator for Criminal Intelligence Services Canada.  


But, with an election call, the sub-committee, which was due to report to the House of Commons on Oct. 31, dies a slow death. Along with it, so does all the information it collected. No report will ever be written. It will be like it never happened.  


By calling an election this fall, Chretien accomplishes several things. He forces Day to the polls before the Alliance is ready with a full slate of nominations and before the new leader of the Alliance gets to make his mark in the Commons.  


He kills the Young Offender's Act, which was heading for a showdown with Bloc MPs and the government of Lucien Bouchard. He gets to capitalize on the better-than-expected surpluses by introducing a so-called "mini-budget" stealing the Alliance's thunder on tax cuts.  


He also minimizes the expected damaging Auditor General's report on the so-called billion-dollar boondoggle by the HRDC ministry. An election call so soon after the report is released, means neither the PM nor Jane "Dough" Stewart will have to face the Opposition's withering daily fire in the Commons. Chretien is also betting the election will focus the media on other matters. Tragically, he is probably correct.  


But, most importantly, he silences the sub-committee, the only remaining entity which could damage him, in the face of the allegations of political interference in the Sidewinder fiasco.  


Le 'tit Jean, the little guy from Shawinigan, has done it again. But unlike his so-called political mentor, Pierre Trudeau, Chretien has no vision for this country. His only raison d'etre is power at all costs.  


All that remains is to see whether the country decides that cost is too high.






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