A Paul Martin-led federal Liberal party will form the government again after the next election, predicts one Prince George riding association president.
That statement wouldn’t be surprising coming from a Liberal riding president.
It is a fairly honest admission, however, coming from Dan McLaren, president of the Prince George-Bulkley Valley Progressive Conservative riding.
“The great debate in the next election will be, Who’s going to form the next opposition?” said McLaren after returning from his party’s convention in Toronto where Peter MacKay was elected its new leader.
McLaren suggested the likelihood of either the Canadian Alliance or the Tories rebounding enough to form a government within the next two years is slim.
The government will be formed before the votes are even counted west of Ontario, he predicted. The fight in places such as Prince George will be between the two right wing parties to decide who will represent the region as the Official Opposition in Ottawa.
And McLaren says a MacKay-led Conservative party, a party that has been climbing in the polls, stands a much better chance than the languishing Alliance.
He dismissed as a “tempest in a teapot” speculation that MacKay had shot himself in the foot by making a last-minute deal with David Orchard to secure the weekend win.
Orchard, a Prairie farmer, is a fierce opponent of the free trade deal and adamantly opposed to any coalitions with the Alliance. He is seen as an “outsider” by many traditional Conservatives.
MacKay offered him a seat on a committee that will review the free trade agreement as well as on a party agricultural policy committee.
“If the deal was to let Orchard sit on a committee with a dozen other guys, that was kind of easy to give up,” said McLaren. “As time went on we realized it really wasn’t the deal with the devil it frankly could have been.”
At a debriefing meeting of the party’s governing national council Sunday, MacKay managed to calm most of the fears of those opposed to the deal, he said.
McLaren himself was opposed to the move initially, but said it was because he didn’t have the full details.
He doesn’t think Orchard’s involvement will substantially change the direction of the party.
McLaren, who ran as a Tory in the 1997 election, said it is unlikely he will run in the next election, expected in 2004 after Jean Chretien steps down as prime minister.