Jean Chretien

Liberal Party

Pierre Trudeau

Canadian Alliance

Liberals enter election bruised by controversy

Date: OCT21-00
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
Keywords: election, Liberal arrogance
Posted: OCT25-00
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Liberals enter election bruised by controversy
Joan Bryden

Liberals remain optimistic as they head into an election campaign tomorrow, despite a bruising few weeks of controversies and missteps that left Prime Minister Jean Chretien looking irritable, his caucus divided and his government facing accusations of being cynical, arrogant and manipulative.

Strategists acknowledged yesterday that the governing Liberals haven't had the smooth couple of weeks full of good news that they would have liked leading into an election.

But they predicted the "minor" controversies that have gripped Parliament Hill won't have any lasting impact.

The only event voters will remember, the Liberals fervently hope, is Wednesday's mini-budget, packed with $100 billion in tax cuts.

"I think in terms of things that really matter, in terms of the economic statement, that's very positive," said David Smith, co-chairman of the Liberal national campaign team.

As for the rest, "I think those aren't stories of lasting significance."

So far at least, public opinion polls show the Liberals maintaining anywhere from a 19- to 33-percentage-point lead over the Canadian Alliance. They have registered no significant drop in support over the past few weeks, despite a barrage of opposition and media criticism over Mr. Chretien's "cynical" decision to go to the polls only three-and-a-half years into his second mandate or the public outburst against the "arrogance" of renaming Mount Logan after former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

But the polls have not yet taken into account the past week of controversies, including:

- Mr. Chretien's decision to appoint former Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin to his cabinet without waiting for the election.

- A scathing report from the Information Commissioner accusing the Prime Minister's Office of excessive secrecy and intimidation of his staff.

- Auditor General Denis Desautel's report rehashing the government's mismanagement of job creation grants.

- The failure of Liberal MPs to show up for a committee hearing with Mr. Desautels and Mr. Chretien's terse command to "get out of my way please" when a reporter asked about the no-show.


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