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Day gets temporary reprieve from turmoil
National Alliance council decides not to revoke dissidents' memberships
The Toronto Star
OTTAWA (CP) - Stockwell Day and opponents of his leadership both caught a break Friday after four intense weeks of Canadian Alliance infighting.
The party's executive council, meeting in Toronto, decided unanimously to dismiss a move by some party officials to revoke memberships of eight MPs calling for Day's resignation.
House leader John Reynolds said he and the council are working at healing rifts, not creating new ones.
''Nobody in caucus wants to see someone's membership pulled,'' Reynolds said.
''That's not what we're all about. We are a grassroots party so we have a few more arguments up front than some people think we should, but I think that's healthy debate . . . .''
Day's caucus officers didn't flinch Friday when MP Jay Hill, a member of the splinter group, asked a question during question period.
Earlier in the week, Day's office warned the MPs in a strongly worded letter that they were losing privileges and perks by boycotting the caucus to protest Day's leadership.
But that tough approach has been linked to Ezra Levant, Day's former director of communications. Levant resigned Thursday, saying his aggressive style was coming between the leader and his MPs.
Day escaped another potentially damaging issue when a judge ruled Friday that the Alberta government had every right to use $792,000 in public funds to defend him.
A group of prominent lawyers argued the government, thus taxpayers, shouldn't have paid Day's legal bills in a defamation suit because Alberta legislators never considered them.
Day also received conditional support from MP Bob Mills, who was also considering abstaining from caucus. Mills' riding association board voted 8-6 for Mills to remain in caucus.
Mills noted in an interview that his office phones were jammed with about 1,200 calls from people identifying themselves as Day supporters and reading a prepared script in support of the leader.
Mills said some of them were rude, and used profanity against his staff and his wife.
''I guess, to me, if you're really sincere about something you can say something without having to be scripted and you don't have to use foul language,'' said Mills, who hired a polling firm to get a picture of the mood in the riding.
The MP from Red Deer, Alta., said his position to stay in caucus was contingent on Day allowing him to give frank advice.
''Better to have the sharks in the aquarium with you than out swimming in the ocean when you don't know what they're doing,'' Mills said.
But Day is far from being in the clear when it comes to his leadership woes, which began a month ago when MPs Chuck Strahl and Deborah Grey resigned their caucus positions, saying they could no longer fully support their leader.
They said poor judgment and a series of high-profile gaffes have been taking the focus off the party's goal of unseating the Liberals.
Grey is still coy about her plans. Her constituency association will hold a meeting next Thursday to address the possibility of holding an early leadership review before the one scheduled for April.
''There's nothing that I rule in or out … I think you know me better than that,'' Grey said as she left the executive council meeting.
''The only thing I ever rule out is being a member of the Liberals, that's for sure, or the Conservatives.''
The party's 44-member national council is set to meet next week in Calgary to discuss a strategic plan for putting the party back on track, but the governing body is divided over Day.
Vice-president Ken Kalopsis would offer only this lukewarm endorsement Friday: ''The national council is united behind the leader that is elected by the grassroots and will continue to be so until instructed otherwise by the grassroots memberships.''
Reynolds acknowledged in an interview Friday that there is still a motion on the table to eject councilor Rick Anderson, an outspoken Day critic.
Alliance MPs will have a week off from their parliamentary duties to return to their ridings, where they'll no doubt get a lot of feedback about Day.
The leader will be in his former provincial riding of Red Deer on Saturday before travelling to his current federal riding in Penticton, B.C.
His office has stopped the practice of distributing his schedule on a regular basis, saying he has been travelling on party funds rather than on the taxpayers' bill.
MP Grant Hill said it's about time people took a breather from Parliament Hill.
''I think they should say thank goodness and get out of Ottawa as quick as they can, to get home to their constituents to give them guidance.''
May. 18, 2001. 05:08 PM
On Friday, May 18th, the Canadian Alliance Party’s executive council voted to allow the 8 dissident MPs against Stockwell Day to remain as Alliance party members. They believe that it is in the best interest of the party to help solve the conflicts between the dissidents, acknowledging that the Party is still in its growing stages and therefore has more arguments up front than others. In addition, the Alberta government received approval by the courts their spending $792,000 of public money to defend Day was not out of line. Other Alliance members voiced their support for or against Day and some are waiting before acting further. Meanwhile, the members will be going back to their ridings for a week from their duties in parliament.
I think that these eight MPs have gotten off easy for what they did. As a Member of Parliament for the Alliance party, they were voted in by the people of their riding. In turn, they voted in their Party leader. It is their duty to support their leader who they voted in. I am surprised that the Alliance council did not revoke the memberships of these MPs. I would have at least put them on a month’s suspension, and as suggested in the article, require them get some guidance from their constituents during their suspension. Party members who do not support their Leaders, put their Party’s stability at risk and go against the country’s democratic process.