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Day an 'abomination': Alliance council member
Outspoken Day critic muzzled as party council erupts in acrimony
The Toronto Star
CALGARY (CP) - The schism over the Canadian Alliance leadership moved from the caucus to the party's governing body Friday, with one member ousted for his outspoken criticism of Stockwell Day.
Four councillors abruptly left the hotel meeting room after the 44-member national council decided to temporarily suspend former Reform party strategist Rick Anderson until he agreed to toe the line.
Cliff Fryers, former chief of staff to Alliance founder Preston Manning, raged at the decision, which followed a heated, three-hour debate.
"I believe that Mr. Day is, without a doubt, the worst abomination we could see in politics today,'' he said as he left the meeting with Anderson.
Slightly more than half the councillors present - including Day - voted in favour of the motion.
A shouting match broke out when the motion was presented, with some councillors arguing that Anderson was being unfairly singled out, since others have also criticized Day.
Anderson joins eight Alliance MPs who found themselves suspended from caucus for their attacks on Day's leadership. Anderson said the decision would lead to a deeper split in the Alliance, which would simply degenerate until an automatic leadership review is held at next April's party convention.
"All indications are that over the next 11 months, the completion of that review is going to be difficult - there's going to be a lot of strained relationships from top to bottom in the party,'' said Anderson, a former strategist to Manning.
"Every riding is going to go through its own version of what the council and caucus are struggling with as they come to terms with this over the months ahead.''
At a news conference later, Day said he hoped Anderson could return to the national council as early as its next meeting in four or five months, but only if he curbs his criticisms.
"I hope that between now and the time of the next council meeting, Rick would make a decision to truly become an effective part of the national council,'' said Day.
Council co-chairmen Ken Kalopsis and Clayton Manness both said the Anderson motion "embodied'' the Alliance leadership troubles of the past month.
Councillors, they said, are grappling with how to balance representing the wishes of their members while maintaining a sense of party discipline.
"The Rick Anderson motion was really a surrogate for that larger debate,'' said Kalopsis.
Kalopsis said he did not agree with the decision to suspend Anderson.
"I felt there was an opportunity to reconcile, to build bridges. I think the suspension of Rick Anderson isn't very helpful, but that was a democratic decision that the national council made.''
Kalopsis was guarded with his remarks. His wife and fellow councillor Nancy Branscombe was among the four that stormed out after the suspension passed.
"I'm just so mad I can't even think,'' Branscombe, her voice breaking, said as she emerged from the meeting room.
"If (Anderson) signs an undertaking not to do whatever it is they don't want him to do, then he can come back.''
Branscombe, also a critic of Day's leadership, said she doesn't know if she'll remain a councillor after this weekend.
"If it's (Anderson), then it's me next, then it's others next,'' she said. "If anyone wants to say something, then they'll get kicked off council too.''
Councillor Bob Dechert, who put forward the Anderson motion, said national councillors must be held to a higher standard than regular grassroots critics.
"As a member of the national council you're encouraging people to get involved, to donate to the party and put their personal reputations on the line,'' said Dechert.
"You can't do that and be a cheerleader for the party at the same time as you're saying quite egregious things about the leader.
"I think he crossed the line. I asked him to resign and he chose not to.''
Dechert, a strong Day supporter, has also been accused of throwing mud.
He recently lashed out at Grey and dissident MP Chuck Strahl, calling them "rubes,'' for publicly questioning Day's leadership.
Dechert apologized to Grey at the start of Friday's meeting and thus escaped censure.
Grey eluded reporters after the meeting broke up, but in the morning gave Day a temporary reprieve by saying she'd stay in caucus for the time being.
Grey, the party's longest running MP and former interim leader, quit her position as deputy leader late last month, saying she didn't have enough confidence in the leader.
"I'm a proud caucus MP,'' said Grey, whose riding association voted against an early leadership review for Day.
"You bet I'll be at caucus on Wednesday.''
Fellow MP David Chatters said he also intended to stay on, despite Friday's developments. Their decisions to remain in caucus reduces the possibility of the eight dissident MPs swelling to the 12 they need to form a splinter party in the Commons.
MP Bob Mills, who earlier this week reluctantly agreed to stay within the caucus after his riding association gave the leader a narrow vote of confidence, said Day should have hired Anderson as chief of staff, rather than suspending him.
"Brain drain is a serious problem and you may have just gone after one of the best.''
Across the country, Alliance riding associations are holding votes on whether to hold early leadership reviews, or to show confidence in Day.
The support of twenty-five per cent of riding associations is needed to force an early leadership review.
May. 25, 2001. 09:09 PM
Alliance council explodes in anger
GLOBE AND MAIL
CALGARY -- The Canadian Alliance's ruling council suspended one of Stockwell Day's bluntest critics yesterday, igniting a blaze of angry denunciations and creating a clutch of new opponents to the embattled leader.
Immediately after Rick Anderson, who was a strategic adviser to former Reform leader Preston Manning, was suspended from the party's national council after a close vote, three of his supporters walked out of the meeting. One of them, Cliff Fryers, referred to Mr. Day as an "abomination."
Mr. Anderson must sign an undertaking pledging to cease criticizing the leader if he wishes to return to the 44-member council, a development that enraged a few council members.
Mr. Fryers, who was Mr. Manning's chief of staff, said the decline of the Alliance is directly attributable to Mr. Day. He called Mr. Anderson's suspension an attempt to muzzle critics.
"I believe Mr. Day is, without a doubt, the worst abomination we could possibly see in politics today," he said, noting that he has probably provoked his own suspension with the remarks.
" . . . The forces of darkness took on Rick and refused to back off."
The other two members who walked out of the meeting were Nancy Branscombe and Thompson MacDonald, a former television journalist and public relations consultant who had advised Alberta Premier Ralph Klein in the past.
Mr. Anderson remains a member of the party, but his punishment could further galvanize the opposition to Mr. Day that has been growing over the past several weeks, depending upon how many people quit to support him.
Mr. Day told reporters that being a member of a board of any organization carries certain terms and responsibilities and that suspending Mr. Anderson was emotional for him.
"I certainly hope that Rick and others will respond to what the national council has decided today, in terms of hoping to see him back, as early as the next council meeting."
Asked if he expected a more intense battle over his leadership, Mr. Day said he plans to focus the next 11 months on fighting the federal Liberals.
Party members will vote on Mr. Day's leadership in April.
Mr. Anderson suggested that Mr. Day's supporters on council are trying to muzzle him.
"It turns out we've got a new rule in the party that says, 'Thou shalt not say that the emperor has no clothes,' " he said.
But Manitoba MP Brian Pallister said national councillors have a higher standard to live up to than rank-and-file members of the party, in terms of refraining from criticism of the leader.
"National council is accepting of its responsibility to protect the party for the good of the members of the party, and that's a difficult thing to do."
Meanwhile, Ms. Branscombe, an Ontario real-estate broker who is married to Alliance party co-president Ken Kalopsis, said she is considering resigning.
She said the council went around its own constitution in suspending Mr. Anderson. The leadership body requires a two-thirds majority to expel a member, but Ms. Branscombe said nothing in the rules allows for suspension.
"I am sick. I am just so frustrated," she said.
She said she may be the next to face suspension. "I guess I'm next. I'll proudly be in the company of Rick Anderson when they do."
The party's co-president, Clayton Manness, said the discussion over Mr. Anderson's ouster was the product of a supercharged meeting.
Mr. Anderson said that he believes the party is in a great deal of difficulty. "We've narrowed our base of support. We've narrowed our credibility with the voters. We've lost the enthusiasm of many of our members and supporters and we've got a big rebuilding job."
MP Bob Mills, a Day critic who has stayed in the fold, was also upset with the suspension, although he said the disciplinary action won't change his mind.
"Once you start kicking people out of things, where do you stop?"
This weekend's meetings were billed as an effort by the party to get its act together after eight MPs were suspended from caucus for asking Mr. Day to resign in recent weeks. Indeed, the day began on a positive note for those wanting to turn down the temperature when Deborah Grey, sounding conciliatory, said she intends to attend the party's caucus meeting Wednesday.
"What I hope coming through this meeting is that we are a team and that we're going to figure out how to make sure that our discussions that we're having certainly stay around the family table and figure out how to go after these Liberals."
Mr. Day's troubles burst into the open early last month when Ms. Grey, a respected, long-time member of the Alliance and its predecessor, the Reform Party, and MP Chuck Strahl quit their caucus jobs out of concern over Mr. Day's leadership.
Ms. Grey's riding voted Thursday night against calling for an early leadership review. The results make it difficult for Ms. Grey to leave the caucus and would open her up to criticism that she is not listening to the grassroots. The Alliance has always considered itself a party that is driven by the grassroots, rather than top-level organizers.
Asked if she would remain a member of caucus, Ms. Grey said, "We'll see what happens."
Another concerned MP, Dave Chatters, said he would not call for Mr. Day's resignation, given the results of a poll in his Alberta riding of Athabasca.
"Basically, they're giving me the same advice that Deborah's getting: 'Don't go and step out of caucus and join the dissidents. Stay inside and work to bring some unity to the party,' " he said.
There is no "ringing endorsement of Stockwell's leadership," he added, but there's a desire for him to hang in until next April.
Mr. Chatters and Ms. Grey also said it was not a good idea to get rid of Mr. Anderson and other national councillors who have been vocal on the leadership issue.
But heading into the meeting, some councillors and MPs supported dealing firmly with Mr. Anderson. Bob Dechert, a councillor from Toronto, said he supported temporarily lifting Mr. Anderson's membership. "Suspension is a moderate response," he said.
MP Myron Thompson, who does not have a vote on council but attended the meetings as an observer, said Mr. Anderson should suffer the consequences if he doesn't cease criticizing the leader.
Also yesterday, a motion to strip the membership of the eight dissidents was withdrawn, leaving the eight MPs as members in the Alliance back benches.
Saturday, May 26, 2001
My comparison deals with the suspension of Rick Anderson from the national council of the Alliance party, reported by The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Anderson, an important Alliance strategist, was dismissed because he spoke out repeatedly against Stockwell DayŐs leadership of the party.
It is quite apparent that both papers have a different biased point of view when reporting this event. The Toronto Star reports the event with an aggressive writing style, over-dramatizing and sensationalizing peopleŐs responses to AndersonŐs dismissal. Right up front, the title declares "Day an ÔabominationŐ: Alliance council member. Outspoken Day critic muzzled as party council erupts in acrimony." My immediate impression from this article is that the Toronto Star does not support Stockwell Day. The Star reporter brings out early in the article information about the other members of the party who also do not support Day, including the quotation by Cliff Fryers, calling Day Ô"the worst abomination we could possibly see in politics today." Quite a bit of space and detail is also dedicated to AndersonŐs quotations and opinions, and very little shows support of his dismissal. In addition, the Toronto Star makes a strong point of reporting Bob DechertŐs criticism of Alliance dissidents Grey and Strahl. Dechert is one of DayŐs strongest supporters. The Toronto Star bias on Grey is that she is doing Day a favor by agreeing to attend the next caucus meeting, and that she is a "proud caucus MP." David Chatters and Bob Mills are also shown to be somewhat heroic as MPs who are reluctantly agreeing to remain as party MPs, despite their disagreements with DayŐs leadership. The Toronto Star article leaves on the note that there is still a way of forcing an early leadership review, and in the long run, getting rid of Stockwell Day.
The Globe and MailŐs article seems to be more in favor of Stockwell Day, and reports the facts of the event in a more formal fashion than the Toronto Star. Their title, "Alliance council explodes in anger" gives the impression that the council is angry with the offender Rick Anderson. Although they report Cliff FryersŐ ÔabominationŐ quote towards Day, they report it in a less glamorous way. AndersonŐs supporters are mentioned in a minimal way, with less drama, and there is less focus on Mr. AndersonŐs statements. Interestingly, the Globe and Mail includes additional information about Ms. Grey and Mr. Chatters that the Toronto Star had left out. They report that the polls in their ridings indicate that the members want them to focus on the partyŐs unity and not call an early leadership review. The Globe and Mail suggests that if they do not remain as Alliance MPs, they will not be representing their ÔgrassrootsŐ. The Globe and Mail article ends by indicating that the eight dissident MPs are still going to remain as Alliance members, leaving us with the impression that the party is trying to stay united.