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An offer Day may not be able to refuse
TORONTO STAR NATIONAL AFFAIRS
CALGARY - WITH THE Canadian Alliance sinking deeper into a divisive leadership crisis with every passing day, bailing Stockwell Day out before he takes his party down with him is fast becoming the top priority of a growing number of Alliance hands.
In a bid to avert a total debacle, an informal group of strategists has been looking at throwing Day what it construes as a lifeline for both himself and his divided party.
For the better part of a week, the group - which includes both critics and supporters of Day's leadership - has been scrambling to map out an exit strategy for the embattled leader.
They have concluded that, as long as Day adamantly refuses to consider a swift resignation, the only way out for him and his party is to start thinking outside the claustrophobic box of a leadership debate.
With this in mind, an eight-page proposal has been circulating among a tightly knit circle of Alliance movers and shakers.
The plan would have Day agree publicly to step down next March, as part of a process designed to bring the Alliance and the Tories under the same tent.
Between now and then, formal talks to establish common ground with the Conservatives would be launched under his supervision.
The results of that process, rather than Day's own leadership, would become the focus of the action in the months leading to the next April's Alliance convention.
In the best-case scenario, a joint leadership campaign with the Tories would eventually follow. Day, if he wanted, could run as a candidate.
The notion of handing Day an exit strategy has taken on more urgency over the past few days as it has become obvious that a protracted battle over his leadership would damage the Alliance beyond repair.
Today and tomorrow, the various factions within the Alliance will face off behind the closed doors of its national executive spring meeting.
But the infighting has taken as much of a toll on the executive's capacity to function as a consensual body as it has on the Alliance caucus.
As a result, it has fallen to people outside the party hierarchy to seek common ground between the warring camps.
Among the advantages of secret proposal, as cited by its promoters, are:
*Bypassing the leadership review process that is threatening to inflict irreparable damage to the party. With Day committed to stepping down in the spring to allow the Alliance to once again morph into something else, the issue would become moot.
*Providing Day, albeit in a backhanded way, with the chance he has been seeking to prove his mettle as a leader.
As things stand, he would hardly be anyone's first choice to lead whatever coalition emerged from successful negotiations with the Tories, but, under this proposal, he would have a fair shot at improving the optics on his leadership skills. Failing that, he would still have got much needed time to improve his over-all marketability - all of it on his current leader's salary.
*Restoring the capacity of the Canadian Alliance to act as an effective opposition in Parliament by providing both caucus loyalists and dissidents with a process they can buy into between now and next spring.
*Allowing the party to take advantage of the growing momentum for a coming-together of the Tories and the Alliance, one that has been fuelled by the likes of Brian Mulroney and Preston Manning this week, but that has been stalled by an Alliance leadership mired in crisis.
As of mid-week, the proposal had yet to reach Day or his inner circle although there was talk of trying to put it to him within days. It was unclear whether it would be brought up at today's meeting as there was a sense it might be better to have the plan delivered to the leader by a suitable messenger in a more auspicious venue.
If and when that happens, there is no guarantee that Day would buy into it. While it is clear that he is currently waging a lose-lose battle that would see him prevail only at the cost of permanently dwarfing his party, good judgment has hardly been his strongest suit to date.
But there is mounting evidence that Day is no longer the sole master of his political destiny. Sharing his authority has been part of the price he has had to pay to ensure the loyalty of his new caucus lieutenants.
So far, that has translated into overdue staff changes as well as a commitment on Day's part to rein in the zealous loyalists who have been waging public war on his dissident MPs.
In time, Day may find that he is being made an offer he can't refuse.
May 25, 2001 02:24:56
This article discusses how the Alliance Party is considering having Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day step down from his position before the party crumbles. Party strategists have discussed the possibility of the Alliance Party and the Conservative Party joining together. They hope to have a joint leadership campaign with the Tories next March, and plan to have Day run as a candidate for the leader of the joint leadership campaign. However there is very little chance that he would make it as the leader of any coalition. The Party are trying to figure out a way of allowing Day to step down as leader while still keeping his dignity and protecting his possibilities for a future career.
I believe that Day is putting himself into a lose-lose situation. If he accepts this offer, he will be required to step down from being the leader of the Alliance Party. If Day were to refuse this offer, he would be risking the future of his political career, as well as the future of the Alliance party. So, in my opinion, I think it would be best if Day were to follow the advice of the party strategists and step down from his leadership in a way that would allow him to keep his dignity.