MPs ready to go to the polls
February 25, 2004) OTTAWA
Liberal MPs put a brave face on as they left their caucus meeting on the same day reports appeared in the newspapers suggesting that some MPs have lobbied the party to put off a federal election for this spring while the sponsorship scandal swirls around them daily.
The game plan for Prime Minister Paul Martin all along was to introduce a throne speech, pass a few key pieces of legislation and table a pre-election budget before calling an election in April while he was still in the midst of his honeymoon period with the media and the public.
But the sponsorship scandal appeared to change all that, with Liberal polling numbers dropping 12 points to 36 per cent, below what is needed for a majority government.
However, media reports suggest that the early spring election may still be in the works, as the Liberals hope to catch the Tories flatfooted a few weeks after they select their new leader and to avoid any bombs that could come from two public inquiries which could delve into the inner workings of the Liberal Party.
All MPs who stopped to talk to reporters after the caucus meeting said that they were ready for a spring election.
"Whenever the prime minister calls it I'm ready," said Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis.
"I'm ready to go."
The Toronto-area MP appeared particularly miffed about a new series of Tory radio ads attacking the Liberals for the sponsorship program and Martin because his family shipping company
flies flags of convenience in tax havens.
"I'm ready. I'm going to kick their butts (in an election)," he said.
"Damn right I'm in a fighting mood. I'm sick and tired of listening to their agenda. They want an argument. They want a fight. Absolutely, let's talk issues."
Manitoba Liberal MP John Harvard said that he is confident whenever an election is called the Liberals will have a positive result, but he would like to use the next few weeks before deciding whether or not to go to the polls.
"This is a rolling story. Everyday there's something else," he said.
"I think there are a number of Liberal MPs who want to see a better perspective on these issues that emanate from the Auditor General's report, that's why I think it takes time."
But Harvard said he doesn't know if MPs or Canadians will get all the information they want about the scandal in a month or in six months from the two inquiries set up to examine it.
Other MPs said that the scandal, which has been the top story on network newscasts almost every night since Auditor General Sheila Fraser tabled her report two weeks ago, is not a big issue with their constituents.
"This is not a big issue in my riding," said Liberal MP Paul Steckle. "I'll be honest with you.
"Is this the greatest scandal to ever hit Canada? I don't think so."
And New Brunswick MP Charles Hubbard also said that the scandal is
not the dominant issue in his province.
"There are different parts of the country that have different attitudes toward it," he said. "This is a concern, but it's not the dominating front-page articles in the newspapers in the province of New Brunswick."
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