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Under the Maple Leaf: No Liberal apology

By MARK BLANCHARD   |   April 4, 2003 at 3:22 PM   |   Comments

We're sorry, but we can't -- and won't -- apologize.

That's essentially what Canada's Liberal government is saying to Washington, after some of its own members made anti-American comments about the war with Iraq.

The Canadian Alliance introduced a motion in the House of Commons this week meant to apologize for "certain offensive and inappropriate statements made against the United States of America" by Liberal members of Parliament.

But the Liberals aren't supporting the motion. Instead, they introduced one of their own.

It reaffirms Canada's stand that Washington should have had U.N. backing before going to war.

The Liberal motion also expresses Ottawa's "hope that the U.S.-led coalition accomplishes its mission as quickly as possible."

"Canada stands with its friends, even if we cannot engage with them in this conflict," Deputy Prime Minister John Manley told the House.

"We mourn the losses of their sons and daughters in war. We pray with them for a swift end to the conflict and, yes, for a swift victory."

The Canadian Alliance motion likely won't be passed. Liberals MPs will simply be told to vote it down and support their own motion.

But that didn't stop Alliance leader Stephen Harper from criticizing the Liberal position on the war as "idiotic" and "cowardly."

"One cannot sit smugly on the sidelines, avoiding difficult moral choices that one's friends must make in this troubled world," he said.


A planned trip by President Bush to Canada next month may be delayed.

U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci admitted as much after a speech in Montreal this week.

The visit has been scheduled for May 5.

But it's been suggested White House staff are worried Mr. Bush would get a hostile welcome from Canadians opposed to the war.

Several Liberals have voiced anti-American remarks recently. Among them a cabinet minister who called Bush a "failed statesman."

Ambassador Cellucci obviously won't admit such comments are to blame for any delay.

"If the war is still pretty strong," he said. "We don't know how long it's going to take. I think we're talking about a different day."

The presidential visit was apparently planned to thank Canada for its role in the war against terrorism.


In another sign of growing cross-border bitterness, an influential Bush adviser has called Prime Minister Jean Chretien a "lame duck."

Richard Perle, the former chair of the U.S. Defense Policy Board, made the comment in an interview with the Toronto-based National Post newspaper.

Yes, Chretien is stepping down next year. But he can't disagree with the description more.

"Everybody says I've never been more active," the prime minister said, laughing off the "lame duck" label.

"They're disappointed, of course," he noted of Washington's reaction when Canada decided not to support the war in Iraq.

"Me, too, I'm disappointed that we decided ... that we could not agree," Chretien added. "But between friends, we can disagree."

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