Pubdate: Fri, 13 Dec 2002
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Beacon Herald
Author: Paul Cluff


Former leader on hand to help open campaign offices

Stockwell Day joked that Thursday's proposal to lighten up the laws on
marijuana possession is not surprising coming from the same Liberal
government that has fiscally fumbled the gun registry.

Political punches from the Canadian Alliance senior foreign affairs critic
brought cheers and laughs as he spoke at the official opening of the
Perth-Middlesex Alliance byelection headquarters at 684 Ontario St. last
night. Marian Meinen, the Alliance candidate for the upcoming byelection in
Perth-Middlesex, said those issues are no laughing matter to the people who
have been affected by the Liberals' decisions.

The election for a Liberal candidate for the byelection had started across
town 90 minutes before Ms. Meinen and Mr. Day began to voice their concerns
about holes in the federal leadership.

Guns, marijuana hot topics

As the Alliance allies used the Liberals as a punching bag, guns and pot
were two of the hot topics. Ms. Meinen said the gun registry is a disaster
and that it's the Alliance party which has been saying for nine years that
the program would run over budget.

"People can't visualize how something that was supposed to cost $2 million
became $1 billion," she said. "It has really got rid of the Liberals'
reputation for being fiscal managers.

"We believe in firearms safety; we believe in safety courses for people who
are handling firearms, but this is a runaway billion-dollar fiasco that we
warned about right from the start," said Mr. Day, the former Alliance
leader. "We've been saying it for years now. We have the auditor general
saying it (and) now we have the RCMP saying it doesn't even work properly.
It was just not the right way to do it."

The Liberals have proposed upping the amount of personal marijuana a citizen
can have on their person without being charged with possession to 30 grams,
an amount that seems high to the Alliance. Mr. Day said anything over five
grams should lead to a charge. The Liberals have proposed a fine for
anything under 30 grams. "It should still be illegal," said Mr. Day. "But we
are not asking for jail time for a couple of joints."

Mr. Day said that while guns and drugs have been in the news of late and
have added fuel to Ms. Meinen's run for the vacant seat in Perth-Middlesex,
the Alliance has other issues that are still in the picture. One of those is
the Liberals' handling of the Kyoto accord.

"They don't have an implementation plan. They don't know how much it's going
to cost."

'Paying and paying forever'

"If it's anything like the gun registry, we'll be paying and paying
forever," said Ms. Meinen. "I am very much in favour of the environment. But
I have read a few books on it. I'm not the sort of person that if (Alliance
leader) Stephen Harper said he doesn't like it, then I don't like it. I go
out and I look and see why he says that. And to me, I know many Canadians
who don't understand the accord and if they really look into it, they will
see that scientists are not in agreement. It's difficult to stake our
economic future on something that scientists are not really sure about. It's
pretty hard to predict the weather a week out, let alone 50 years from now."

"We proposed an actual plan," said Mr. Day, "something that gave some idea
of what it's going to cost consumers. How much is your gas going to go up?
How much is your home heating bill going to go up? There are ways of
approaching it that would have been far better than just blindly and
recklessly signing this."

Meinen already campaigning

Ms. Meinen has already started campaigning and will soon be talking with
voters about the latest issues.

"I will be talking about the gun registry, but I will be talking about the
tax system too. I want people to have tax relief that they can feel, that
they can see on their paystubs.

"And I want some of the poorest of the poor to be taken off the tax rolls.
We need a justice system that has justice for the victim. We need to be
concerned about victim rights and raising the age of sexual consent (which
is currently 14)." The Alliance introduced a private member's bill to raise
the age to 16, but it was defeated.

"There has been so much wasteful spending," added Ms. Meinen. "They have
talked about eliminating the budget deficit, but they have done that by
raising taxes like EI(Employment Insurance). They have done it by cutting
transfers to the provinces. They have stopped taking out of one pot and
(started) taking out of another."

An issue the Alliance, NDP and PC parties would all like addressed is when
the prime minister will call the byelection. Tory Leader Joe Clark has
criticized the federal government for calling two Quebec byelections while
leaving Perth-Middlesex unrepresented. Voters cast their ballots in
Berthier-Montcalm and Lac-Saint-Jean-Saguenay this week. Both ridings were
formerly held by Bloc Quebecois MPs who opted to leave federal politics to
run in provincial byelections.

There was no other option politically for Mr. Richardson, 69, who resigned
Oct. 11 for health reasons. Opponents to the Liberals have contended that
Perth-Middlesex has not had proper representation in the House of Commons
for the past two years because of Mr. Richardson's frequent absences from

"From talking to people in the constituency, I believe people feel sorry
that he has health problems but the concern is that they knew beforehand and
the Liberals didn't want to risk losing the seat by not having an incumbent
running," said Mr. Day. "People, as I hear it, wish Mr. Richardson all the
best as far as his health problems, but they are very upset that the
Liberals pushed him into doing this and the Liberal machine was not up front
with the constituents."

'Not going to get better for Liberals'

The prime minister has six months from the time of Mr. Richardson's
resignation to call a byelection. Despite lobbying from opposition parties,
Ms Meinen said the byelection likely won't be called until spring.

"I think (Jean Chretien) will hang on as long as possible because they have
done polling here and I think they sense weakness.

"I talked to (Alliance leader) Steven Harper about it last week in Ottawa
and he said things are simply not going to get better for the Liberals. As
long as they keep Chretien around they are going to stumble from one thing
to another. It will become more and more difficult for them to keep this
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