Federal election within 15 months; Chretien says he'll run
Prime Minister Jean Chretien addresses delegates at the closing of the
Liberal Biennial convention, Sunday.(CP/Fred Chartrand)
by STEPHEN THORNE
OTTAWA (CP) - Prime Minister Jean Chretien says he'll lead Liberals in a
federal election within 15 months, when Canadian values like universal
health care and public pensions will be at stake.
"There should be no doubt in the mind of everybody that I will be there,"
Chretien told delegates Sunday at the close of the party's biennial
About 2,500 Liberals weighed contentious issues like gay marriage and
legalizing marijuana during the four-day convention, but leadership was the
main topic outside the meeting rooms.
Finance Minister Paul Martin, considered the top contender to replace
Chretien, put on a brave face, enthusiastically applauding Chretien's every
declaration. But it appears likely his leadership hopes are dashed, at least
"It's over, this problem," Chretien told a news conference following his
closing speech. "He said he is supporting me.
"The election will be within 15 months."
The leadership question, given new life by some outspoken MPs in the week
before the convention, overshadowed some high-profile policy resolutions.
Delegates defeated a proposal from the Liberal youth wing urging the
government to recognize gay marriage. While rejecting outright legalization
of marijuana, they approved decriminalizing possession.
They endorsed extension of hate crime legislation to include crimes
motivated by sexual orientation and rejected removing the GST from essential
goods and services.
Delegates also imposed spending limits on nomination campaigns, a move
backed by the party women's commission, which says females have a harder
time raising campaign funds.
But leadership was so prevalent an issue that party president Stephen
LeDrew, acclaimed to his second term, was moved to remind delegates that "a
hallmark of the Liberal Party is that the party supports its leader.
"We are united. Unlike the right, we will go into the next election as a
united Liberal Party, solid in its commitment and solidly behind the
Buoyed by chants of "four more years," the 66-year-old Chretien repeated
reminders of Liberal accomplishments but, mindful of criticisms that
Friday's keynote speech dwelled too much on the past, he quickly turned to