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Grits Go With the Status Quo

Maharaj is considered by many as one of the most articulate political activists in the country


by Michael Coren
22 November 2003


TORONTO - I have enormous respect for Irish rock star Bono's wonderful social conscience. Unlike most of the other celebrities with a cause, he genuinely understands most of what he supports. But oh, my goodness, he doesn't get Canada at all.

Bono said he was almost killed with niceness when he arrived at Toronto airport. Really? Good for him. If, however, he was a mere mortal and had to go through the now notorious lineups and pay the ridiculously high prices for food and drinks, he might reconsider.

Pearson airport has an international reputation as being staffed by some of the rudest officials in the democratic world. But then, Bono is not a visiting grandmother from Italy, Portugal or Britain being bullied by pointless questions, or a Jamaican tourist treated with suspicion simply because of his place of origin.

Bono's still looking

Brian Mulroney made Canada one of the greatest opponents of apartheid, Chretien shook the hands of most of the world's dictators. Evidently Bono still hasn't found what's he's looking for.

And if anything epitomized the Liberal hypocrisy it was the disgraceful way in which one of the finest minds in the party was treated during an internal election. Akaash Maharaj was the party's national policy chair.

Raised in working-class Parkdale in Toronto and of South Asian heritage, this extraordinarily impressive young man went to Oxford University and is considered by many as one of the most articulate political activists in the country.

He had campaigned for the position of president of the Liberal Party of Canada for more than a year without any serious opposition. Suddenly, very late, a candidate with Paul Martin's tangible backing entered the race. Not that Maharaj was not a Martin man. He was. Just, it seems, not sufficiently passive. He has an independent mind.

One more thing. He would have been the first person of colour to be Liberal party president, a position that involves plenty of schmoozing up to old Canadian money. A brown president, who has said the party has to remember Main Street as well as Bay Street?

This, it seems, was a little too worrying for the hacks around Paul Martin. Rumours abound that riding leaders were told from on high to abandon support for Maharaj if they wanted a future in the party.

The man chosen by Martin's office was Mike Eizenga, a white lawyer from London, Ont. White. A lawyer. London. Ontario.

I'm sure he is a fine man, but he could not be safer and more establishment if he tried. The Liberals will not give out the exact voting figures, but we know that the race was very close indeed.

We also know that Martin's people had worked tirelessly to push their man to the front, ignoring all of the loyalty, the travel across the country and the dedicated work of Maharaj over the years.

It is hardly a secret that the Martin backroom wants to parachute rival nomination candidates into ridings where the Liberal MPs are not supporters of their leader. More than this, word is that rivals may appear even where the sitting MPs are Martin supporters, but not quite pro-Martin enough!

I admire and respect Paul Martin, but I fear his staff might be mediocre and mean-spirited. Unless he realizes this quickly, we'll have another Jean Chretien on our hands. Canada deserves a little better.

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