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Canada's Most Vulnerable Ministers

[PoliticsWatch posted 2:00 p.m. April 15, 2005]

Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan won her Alberta riding by just 721 votes in 2004. 

Liberal fortunes have taken a turn for the worse in the wake of Groupaction executive Jean Brault's testimony at the sponsorship inquiry earlier this month.      

Three polls released this week all show the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals with the NDP closing the gap with the natural governing party. 

The drop in Liberal support may have cabinet ministers Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Liza Frulla Pierre Pettigrew and Anne McLellan asking the same question. Will I be able to hold on to my seat? 

You don't have to go too far back in Canadian history to see a large number of cabinet ministers being wiped out in an election. Even though they finished third in the popular vote in the 1993 election campaign, Jean Charest was the only Progressive Conservative cabinet minister left standing after the votes were counted. 

While a similar fate may not be in the cards for the Liberals, an examination of the 2004 election results show that clearly some cabinet ministers are at risk if an election comes this spring. 

Ethel Blondin-Andrew 

Blondin-Andrew was first elected to the House of Commons for the riding of Western Arctic in 1998. She has been in cabinet since the Liberals came into power in 1993 holding junior ministers portfolios for youth and now northern development. 

Blondin-Andrew won by margins of 2,425 votes in 1997 and 2,985 votes in 2000. But in the June federal election, Blondin-Andrew won her seat by 53 votes. Her swearing into cabinet was postponed due to a judicial recount of her riding.

Based on the last election results, she is considered the cabinet minister whose seat is most at risk. 

Liza Frulla 

The Liberals took their biggest hit in the 2004 election campaign in Quebec and Frulla, the Heritage minister, came within 72 votes of being knocked out of the House. Frulla has only been in Ottawa for three years, after being elected in a 2002 federal byelection. 

If a sharp Liberal drop in the polls in Quebec isn't enough to damage Frulla's re-election chances, her office recently became embroiled in Adscam. Brault testified that after being pressured by Liberal party officials, he hired John Welch to work for $80,000 a year at his ad firm, but his real job was to work for the Liberals.

Welch had been hired as Frulla's chief of staff in January but took a leave of absence the day Brault's testimony was made public. Welch is denying Brault's claims. 

Pierre Pettigrew 

Pettigrew came to Ottawa in 1996 as part of then prime minister Jean Chretien's efforts to strengthen his cabinet representation from Quebec, which was part of his unity strategy. But Chretien's sponsorship portion of his unity strategy backfiring nine years later could spell the end of Pettigrew's federal career. 

Although he is a senior cabinet minister, Pettigrew won his Papineau riding by just 468 votes in the 2004 federal election. Pettigrew's name hasn't come up in testimony at Gomery, but he could well be one of the innocent bystanders swept away as Quebec voters try to wipe the Liberal party off the map. 

Anne McLellan 

McLellan is currently the deputy prime minister, the minister of public security, the only Liberal MP in Alberta, and a long-time supporter of Prime Minister Paul Martin. Despite the impressive resume, she once again won her riding by less than 1,000 votes in the 2004 election. A spring election fuelled by anger about the sponsorship scandal could finally bring McLellan's time in Ottawa to an end. 

In 1993 she won her Edmonton riding by one vote, which was later changed to 12 after a recount. Last June, McLellan had another close call, winning her riding by just 721 votes. 

But sponsorship anger in Alberta has already made the only other Liberal MP to be elected in Alberta in June, David Kilgour, opt to leave the Liberal party and sit as an independent. 

Kilgour now says he has no plans to run again but if he ran as a Liberal in Alberta this time he would have lost. "I have no desire for people to throw me out on my ear," he told Canadian Press

Kilgour's departure now means McLellan, who once repeatedly said in the House that the Liberals had "nothing to hide" sponsorship wise, will be the sole Liberal MP that Albertans can make an example of. 

Note: PoliticsWatch was able to write about McLellan's close election victories without once using the words "Landslide Annie."

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