Chrétien urged to leave `with dignity and glory'
The Toronto Star Saturday July13th 2002
Avoid convention bloodbath former loyalist tells PM
By Tim Harper

OTTAWA — A Toronto MP who was instrumental in organizing Jean Chrétien's Liberal leadership victory 12 years ago is now telling the Prime Minister to step down while he still has his dignity.

Jim Karygiannis said he told the Prime Minister it was time to go when Chrétien called him this week asking for help as he tries to fend off a challenge from former finance minister Paul Martin.

"I told him it was time to go out with dignity and glory instead of in the middle of a bloodbath at a convention," said Karygiannis (Scarborough-Agincourt). "I think Jean Chrétien is a man of high integrity and a man of high morals, but there comes a time in every family when the father has to say it is time to pass the reins on to an heir; to pass to the next generation."

Karygiannis said he received the call after he declined a request from Transport Minister David Collenette, a Chrétien loyalist, to help organize in the GTA. The Prime Minister even called Karygiannis' ailing father, but the MP said he couldn't help him politically.

Karygiannis, who spent more than a decade in the Prime Minister's corner, said he could see no sign of any organized pro-Chrétien team operating in the GTA, but Collenette said there will be an organization that can ensure the Prime Minister wins a mandatory review of his leadership next February.

"There is an organization being put into place in the GTA and across the country," Collenette said. "In Toronto, the Prime Minister has the support of all ministers. As I talk to the rank-and-file of the party, I believe most Liberals are very uncomfortable with what is happening and they don't like the idea of a sitting Prime Minister being dislodged."

Collenette said even those who would support Martin in an eventual leadership will back Chrétien's right to decide on the timing of his departure.

"This is not a leadership campaign," Collenette said. "It is a review of the Prime Minister's performance and, as part of that performance, he has delivered three consecutive majority governments. It's on that basis that I believe people will vote."

One key Chrétien strategist, however, said he realized there was no apparent organization underway in Ontario.

"We don't have a lot of time, but we do have time," the strategist said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He also denied persistent rumours that Chrétien loyalists are trying to broker a deal with the confident Martin team, seeking a means of allowing the Prime Minister to depart the scene without the two men meeting head-on in February.

Martin backers in the GTA, however, maintain they are being deluged with membership applicants who want to vote for a review in February.

"The back of my car is full of membership forms from people who believe Paul Martin should lead this party," one MP said.

Martin was making more campaign-style stops in New Brunswick last night as Chrétien's side tried to keep pressure on him to declare who is backing his run for the Liberal leadership. Martin said Thursday he would not reveal his donors because he feared they would be punished by Chrétien and his team, but Peter Donolo, a Chrétien loyalist, said those backers would be better protected if Martin put them out for public scrutiny.

"That would be the litmus test of whether these people are punished," he said. "I think while Mr. Martin is out there flipping burgers this summer, he's going to be asked by reporters what he has to hide."

Such is the state of speculation in Ottawa that a rumour of Chrétien's impending resignation yesterday spread so quickly that a national wire service dispatched a photographer to his Quebec cottage.

Martin's loyalists pointed to a contract prematurely terminated at Earnscliffe Strategy Group, home to a number of those loyal to the former finance minister, as proof there is vengeance afoot.

But Elly Alboim, an Earnscliffe partner, said he accepted that the contract was terminated because new Finance Minister John Manley decided he didn't need the work done.

Donolo said Martin is not alone in evading the transparency that Canadians demand. He said former industry minister Brian Tobin was also an officer of the government when he was accepting donations to his leadership campaign before quitting politics last January.

Meanwhile, in Hartland, N.B., last night, Martin insisted he's not trying to oust Chrétien.

"What I'm doing is preparing for an eventual leadership race," Martin said.