- The federal Liberals' senior statesman, Tom Kent, is urging the
party to end history political donations, daring Jean Chrétien
to make it the centrepiece of his "legacy" project.
"It would be the firmest and finest of
legacies," Mr. Kent said on the eve of today's throne speech,
which is supposed to spell out Mr. Chrétien's legacy.
Mr. Kent's advice was greeted with a standing
ovation at a conference on "new Liberalism."
Paul Martin, the former finance minister, was
among about 50 Liberals who jumped to their feet to applaud Mr.
Kent's speech. Later, speaking to reporters, he stopped short of
endorsing the idea to end history donations to the party.
"That's obviously something that people
have got to obviously consider," Mr. Martin said. "The
major issue is we've got to enhance individual giving and I think
that we've got to ensure that there is openness and transparency."
Speaker after speaker took the podium at this
weekend's conference to lament the state of the party after nine
years in office under Mr. Chrétien's rule.
One of the most eloquent laments came from the
party's policy director, Akaash Maharaj, who is angry that all the
leadership jockeying and Mr. Chrétien's long-exit plan have
once again delayed a policy convention for the party.
"The party has become complicit in its
own emasculation," Mr. Maharaj said.
He intends to establish a series of policy conferences
across the country over the coming months. It's an idea that appeals
to Mr. Martin.
"Today is certainly part of the solution.
There have to be a lot more todays. They have to be right across
the country," Mr. Martin said.
Senator Jerry Grafstein also intervened several
times over the weekend to complain how the Liberals had lost their
way while in office. He said that there's too much emphasis on power
and playing to polls or special interests.
Tom Axworthy, a former Trudeau aide who organized
the conference, said there was no mistaking the message the conference
sent to the central Liberal party establishment.
"Underneath everybody was a feeling
of exclusion," Mr. Axworthy said. "That was a very clear
message for the months ahead and for new leadership of the party
that it has to open the doors, open the windows -- we're asphyxiated."