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Joe Jumps in PM's Lap - Monday, April 05, 2004 at 10:31

PUBLICATION:  The Calgary Sun
DATE:  2004.04.05
SECTION:  Editorial/Opinion
PAGE:  15




Will Paul Martin stick his thumb in Alberta's eye by appointing Joe Clark to the Senate? It wouldn't be a surprise. After all, during Alberta's historic Senate election of 1998, Jean Chretien interfered by appointing another Red Tory, Doug Roche, to the Senate right in the middle of the election campaign.

That was not just an insult. That was vote-tampering, democracy-smashing, Trudeau-salute-style contempt for the West.

So of course it appeals to Martin.

Martin vigorously approved of all of Jean Chretien's abuses of the West during his nine years as a Chretien cabinet minister. He voted for every one of Chretien's laws, applauded all of his speeches and even crafted a few of the worst himself.

What is odd about Martin's brief tenure as PM so far is that, other than his belief that he should be PM, it's tough to figure out what he believes in.

Every single question he is asked elicits the same answer: That the subject at hand is "very clearly" one of his "top priorities." Really? Well, if everything is a priority, nothing can actually be a priority, can it? Especially if mutually exclusive goals are both priorities. Like Martin telling David Suzuki that Kyoto is a clear priority but telling Premier Ralph Klein that protecting Alberta's oil patch from Kyoto is a clear priority.

Martin likes to say that Western Canada is one of his clear priorities, though he refuses to end the monopolistic Canadian Wheat Board, the wasteful firearms registry or make ending the U.S. ban on Canadian beef a clearer foreign affairs priority than criticizing the U.S. for deporting Canadians linked to terrorism.

But how will he handle the two vacancies in Alberta's Senate?

Albertans know how it ought to be done. In that 1998 Senate election, held pursuant to Alberta law and certified by Alberta's chief electoral officer, Bert Brown and Ted Morton were elected Alberta's two choices.

They each received about a half-million votes -- many times more than Paul Martin has received in all of his own elections combined.

Already the West is greatly under-represented in Parliament, because the tiny Atlantic provinces and Quebec have artificially guaranteed numbers of MPs.

Rumours abound that Clark would be one of Martin's choices.

And Clark -- ignored by his own party, which voted en masse to join with the Canadian Alliance -- is warming to the idea.

"There will be a national question on which leader is worse for Canada, Mr. Martin or Mr. Harper," Clark told reporters.

He said that Martin was a better PC than Harper. "He is probably more attuned to those issues, even on social equality or on questions of federalism, than Mr. Harper is."

Some might think that attacking his own Conservative Party is an unseemly last chapter in Clark's political career. But if that is the entrance fee required to join the Senate as a Martin acolyte, Clark is willing to pay it.

And as for Alberta's dream of Senate reform? Well, it was never Clark's dream. In fact, according to Bert Brown, during the Charlottetown Accord negotiations of 1992, the 10 premiers had agreed to a Triple-E Senate -- but it was Clark, then the Constitutional Minister, who scuttled that deal.

Like Martin, Clark likes to awkwardly wear a cowboy hat and chortle "howdy" for the cameras -- that's what he thinks it means to be pro-Western. But it was he who killed Senate reform in 1992.

Sounds like a perfect Martin Senator after all.