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Under the Maple Leaf: Martin v. Chretien?

By MARK BLANCHARD   |   June 28, 2002 at 7:05 PM   |   Comments

Goodbye, G8. Hello, barbecue season.

Now that leaders of the world's most industrialized nations have cleared out of Kananaskis, Alberta, Canadian politicians can get down to business -- and start their summer glad-handing.

The circuit this year may be more interesting than those gone by because of an emerging race to replace Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Yes, former Finance Minister Paul Martin is starting to outline his platform for a Liberal leadership campaign.

So far, he's refused to say if he is actually campaigning for the PM's job. But Martin is keeping up a steady pace of public appearances, speeches and meetings in several provinces.

"I'm going to be going across the country talking about where I believe the Liberal Party has to go," a coy Martin told reporters this week in the province of Ontario.

Among those beliefs, passionate calls for more health care funding, financial independence for Canada's cities and more power for parliamentary backbenchers.

The media may be closely following his every move, but Martin says he is merely honoring speaking engagements made before being fired by Chretien a few weeks ago.

Still, all the signs are there. Even Liberal caucus Chairman Stan Keyes has been introducing Martin as "the next prime minister of Canada."

Partisan crowds cheer when they hear predictions like that --- and Martin supporters are grateful for the warm welcome on the summer circuit. Some people are paying $250 a ticket to hear Martin speak.

The Liberals must hold a leadership review next February.


While the federal Liberals grapple with the makings of a leadership crisis, Canada's Progressive Conservative leader is trying to take advantage of the situation.

Tory leader Joe Clark said Friday he wants to take party into the next election.

Clark is expected to face his own leadership review in August, but his political future could be in just as much jeopardy as Chretien's --- if he doesn't get a strong sign of support.

"We would become the fifth party beset by internal difficulties, rather than the only one to be moving forward," Clark said.

"I think it's in our best interests to be the only one moving forward," he added. "But that's a party decision and this is a pretty adult party."


The Canada-U.S. border may now be "smart," but the photo op was stunning.

Deputy Prime Minister John Manley and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge signed an agreement to manage cross-border traffic with a sun-drenched Niagara Falls behind them Friday.

Under the deal, Canada could turn back refugee claimants seeking to enter through the United States -- and vice versa.

Washington long resisted a so-called "safe third-country" accord, but that stance changed after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The agreement meets U.N. conventions that say no country is obliged to accept asylum seekers arriving from a nation where they face no persecution.

Manley says it will help make what's being called a "smart border" a reality.

Ridge calls the accord "a model for the world," even though his government may be stuck with the bill.

Almost three of every four refugees who arrive in Canada come through the United States.

- O-

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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