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Liberal Caucus showdown?

By MARK BLANCHARD, United Press International   |   Aug. 16, 2002 at 9:39 AM
It's hot, it's hazy and there have been more prime ministerial photo-ops than you can count on a spin-doctor's hand in Canadian politics this week.

But let's talk about next week and the summer caucus meeting that could rival the showdown at the OK Corral.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien is holding a Liberal caucus meeting in northern Quebec next month. Trouble is, the man who wants to be prime minister will be there, too.

Former Finance Minister Paul Martin (his initials are just a lucky coincidence) has confirmed he plans to attend the retreat.

It will be the first face-to-face encounter between the two since Martin was unceremoniously fired by Chretien over the phone almost three months ago.

No one knows what will happen, but the stage is set. There are already dire predictions if the prime minister doesn't use the occasion to unveil his plan to step down.

"If he doesn't go by October, we're in for a bloodbath," said backbench Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis.

Like many, he still hopes Chretien will quit before the party's mandatory leadership review next February.

"I certainly would not want the prime minister to get embarrassed," he added.

To avoid any awkward situations, Chretien's handlers are pressuring cabinet ministers who have, so far anyway, kept a low profile on the leadership issue.

It seems they want the suspiciously quiet Liberals to openly support the prime minister at the caucus meeting.

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Meanwhile, there's more fighting of a different kind on the right side of the political spectrum.

Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper pitched the Progressive Conservatives on running joint candidates in the next federal election.

The theory -- doing so would put end to the vote splitting that's defeated both parties' candidates in ridings, or electoral districts, across the country.

Last week, Harper proposed his Alliance and the Conservatives hold a joint leadership convention.

That suggestion came days after Tory leader Joe Clark announced he planned to step down, but it -- like the joint candidates idea -- was quickly trounced.

Conservative insiders say they're more opposed to cooperating with Alliance, now that they know they're about to get a new leader.

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And finally, the photo-op that left at least one man speechless.

The PR gurus who carefully planned an announcement by the country's gas companies and the federal government had more than just a prop to help tell the story.

They hired a pantomime.

Yes, Roger the mime sniffed a car fresher and pretended to turn off some imaginary car keys -- all to help promote a new anti-idling campaign.

Industry Minister said he was pleased with the environmentally friendly initiative.

Roger refused to talk with reporters.

© 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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