Under the Maple Leaf: Mending fences

By MARK BLANCHARD, United Press International  |  May 23, 2003 at 11:58 AM
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Told you so.

That's essentially what Prime Minister Jean Chretien is saying about Canada's decision to stay out of the war with Iraq -- and Washington's failure to find weapons of mass destruction there.

"They didn't find (any) so far, and we did not participate either, so it is for the people to pass a judgment, it is not for me," he told reporters in Ottawa Thursday. "I was of the view that there was a need for more time."

Chretien has been lambasted in and outside the country for insisting Washington get U.N. approval before carrying out an Iraqi war, and blaming the United States and other nations for not being willing to compromise.

"Perhaps if there had been a bit more flexibility not only on the part of Americans, but others, we might have succeeded. But we have done our best."

Still, the prime minister isn't expressing any displeasure brought about by the U.S. action.

"Of course, the departure of Saddam Hussein, we are not unhappy about it. But it was not the normal way to change a regime there," he said. "That was the position of the Canadian government and it's still the same."

Meanwhile, Chretien says G-8 leaders will have to put aside their disagreements over Iraq when they meet next month in Evian, France.

It'll be his last such international summit before he retires next February, so he clearly wants to make it a friendly one -- and hopefully reduce some of the post-war chill.

To that point, he says Canada and France must work together to restore trust with the United States.

Chretien told a dinner to honor visiting French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin that tensions between Europe and the United States must not be allowed to weaken trans-Atlantic relations.

Canada and France aren't exactly in Washington's good books these days because of their war stance.

The U.S. ambassador to Canada, former Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci, was in the audience. But there's no word yet whether he has relayed the prime minister's thoughts to the White House.

Even though Cellucci doesn't speak French, he would have at least heard the prime minister make a toast by saying: "Vive la France. Vive le Canada."

Drive-through politics.

Yes, a Conservative candidate in the Manitoba provincial election has opened what is likely Canada's first drive-through campaign office -- making it easier for voters to hear her views.

"It's convenient, it's friendly -- it's service with a smile," Joy Smith says of the take-out order window she opened at her campaign office in Fort Garry.

The building used to be a Burger King restaurant.

But today, motorists can pull up in the drive-in lane, press a buzzer, and order from four items on the menu -- property tax, income tax, health care and preserving government-controlled corporations.

"The drive-through has a practical function," Smith explained, "but it's also fun."

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