What Was Old Is New Again

by Jeremy Baillie

canadian Politics, so boring for so long it seems, is becoming interesting again. It is no wonder, Jean Chretien has had any easy time of it. What challenge have Preston Manning (leader of the Reform Party), Elsie Wayne (interim leader of the Progressive Conservatives), Gilles Duceppe (leader of the Bloc Quebecois) and Alexa McDonough (leader of the NDP) really been for Chretien? Oh sure, Chretien has lost a few ministers to resignation along the way, the most recent being Solicitor General Andy Scott, but that has been more each minister shooting themselves in the foot rather than any threat posed by any of the opposition parties.


like the energizer bunny, Joe Clark keeps coming back

But who is riding in on his horse from the west? Why its Joe Clark. "Joe Who"? Yes, Joe Clark has returned. Clark, the only former Progressive Conservative Minister to escape the Mulroney era untainted, has returned to Canadian politics after almost a six year absence. The joke about Clark was, and always has been, "Joe Who". Yet, like the energizer bunny, Joe Clark keeps coming back. Has Joe Clark returned at the right time? It's an interesting question. He is returning at a time when alienation in the west is high, and also at a time when the west is making its voice heard.

      Interestingly enough, Joe Clark is returning at a time when Jean Chretien is looking more and more out of touch with everyday Canadians as the APEC scandal has demonstrated. Instead, of confronting matters head on, Jean Chretien has made one careless and inconsiderate "pepper" joke after another. Yes, Chretien will safely lead his party into the new millenium, but what then? He has said in the past that he will not seek a third-term has Canada's Prime Minister. So what happens to the Liberal party when the leadership contenders start rending the party apart and who will be these leadership contenders?

      The everyday Canadian figures Finance Minister Paul Martin is a shoe-in to replace Chretien when and if he steps down as leader of the Liberal party. However, what the everyday Canadian does not know is that the Liberal party has always had a tradition of rotating between French and English born leaders. Naturally, Jean Chretien is French,

Somewhere on the eastern shores of Canada, there is a man biding his time, honing his skills and distancing himself from Chretien

but the fact often forgotten is that Paul Martin also was born in Quebec. So the question becomes do the Liberals follow or turn their back on almost a century of tradition? If they do, who else is out there that might reach for the brass ring? Alan Rock is one possible candidate, but Chretien sealed his fate by making him health minister and leaving him out to dry during the Hepatitis C compensation debates. Sheila Copps, perhaps? Copps is a possibility, but would have to overcome the still lingering promise she made to get rid of the GST. So who is left? Somewhere on the eastern shores of Canada, there is a man biding his time, honing his skills and distancing himself from Chretien, and that man is Brian Tobin. Tobin should be or probably will become the front-runner to replace Chretien. The question is does the man from Newfoundland have the political power base to appeal to the west, and to the financial interests in Ontario?

      Let's not forget the next election is still more than three years away and a lot could happen between now and then. Nor can we forget that Jean Charest, although down, is not dead politically yet. One wonders where he might be in three to four years time.

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