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Gay hopeful can win, Clark says

Gay hopeful can win, Clark says
Tories just want best candidate possible to fight next election, leader argues

Friday, January 24, 2003 – Page A8

VANCOUVER — The Progressive Conservative Party is ready for a gay leader, if he is the best candidate, federal Tory Leader Joe Clark said yesterday.

“Yeah, I think it is,” he replied. “We’re in a very different generation now and a very different age. I think people are prepared to judge candidates on their merits . . . I don’t think that [sexual orientation] will be a determining factor one way or the other.”

Mr. Brison, MP for the Nova Scotia riding of Kings-Hants, is expected to announce his candidacy to replace Mr. Clark next week.

Mr. Brison made no mention at yesterday’s forum of his sexual orientation, which he confirmed in an interview with The Globe and Mail last month.

He called for the Tories to embrace bold new ideas, arguing that controversy is better than not being noticed at all. “Milquetoast, mediocre, bland, pablum policies won’t offend anyone, but they won’t turn anyone on, either.”

Although British Columbia has been barren ground for the Tories since 1988, an enthusiastic crowd of about 150 people turned out to hear the five candidates.

There was recognition of just how far the party has to go for a revival, however, as candidates talked about attending meetings of 100 people in Timmins, Ont., and 60 in Dauphin, Man., as indicators of renewed interest in the party.

“But there were days when we couldn’t put three . . . Conservatives in one room at the same time,” said candidate Jim Prentice, a Calgary lawyer. “Something is happening in this country.”

All candidates rejected the idea of an election arrangement with the Canadian Alliance, or a unite-the-right campaign, in order to topple the Liberals. They said moving to the centre is the only way to win elections in Canada.

“Not unite the right, but unite Canadians to do what’s right,” Mr. Brison declared.

MP Peter MacKay, considered an early favourite in the coming leadership contest, said the polls show that joining with the Alliance to fight the Liberals won’t work.

“Not only would we jeopardize our own base of support, but we would forfeit the support of the broad spectrum of Canadians that we need to win,” Mr. MacKay said.

The Alliance is out of step with Canadians on almost all major issues, he said. He mentioned the Alliance Party’s unquestioning support for the United States on many matters when polls indicate that 60 per cent of voters want Canada to be more independent of the United States.

Candidate David Orchard also rejected narrowing differences with the Alliance. “My goal is to reduce the distance between our party and the Canadian people.”

Quebec political veteran Heward Grafftey, 74, dismissed the idea that he’s too old to run. “I’m a chicken compared to John A. Macdonald when he ran his last campaign. He was 77.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 24, 2003 at 11:46 am

Posted in Assorted

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