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The Daily News (Halifax), May 20, 2005

Nasty, nasty, nasty. Stronach's defection brings out worst in some

by Rick Howe

New lows were reached this week with reactions to the year's biggest story so far: Belinda Stronach's defection to the Paul Martin Liberals.

Most Canadians have been shaking their heads at the recent antics of our federal politicians. The heckling, jeering and name-calling, in and out of Parliament, have been relentless. It's been downright embarrassing.

But the trash talk coming from the mouths of some after Stronach's stunning announcement crossed the line, and bordered on hate speech.

Sexist and misogynist were words deputy minister Anne McLellan used to describe it.

"She's sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick," Ontario Tory Bob Runciman told reporters. "An attractive one, but still a dipstick with what she's done."

That comment was mild compared with what others said.

Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott suggest Stronach had "prostituted" herself. Others called her a political harlot. Alberta Tory MLA Tony Abbott stooped the lowest by describing Stronach as a "little rich girl who is basically whoring herself out to the Liberals."

Abbott, an evangelical preacher, later recanted his comments, saying they were made in the heat of the moment. But the damage was done. Comments like this confirmed for many Canadians that extremists are still alive and thriving within the "new" Conservative party.

I'm sure they were chomping at the bit to let loose a verbal volley when Scott Brison crossed the floor and joined the Liberals. Hate-crime laws may have been a factor in their restraint that time.

Their true colours showed this week as the muzzles came off for Stronach. the old boys' network couldn't handle an ambitious woman with more balls that they have. Their reaction showed us all just how ignorant they are.

Crocodile tears

As for Stronach's now-apparent ex – please, Peter MacKay: spare us the crocodile tears.

I nearly gagged the other night watching MacKay's first public reaction to his girlfriend's defection, unceremoniously dumping him in the process. MacKay tried his best to look the part of a jilted lover for the TV cameras.

"It tries your soul," he told the media crowd that was hanging on his every word. "It was a blow. I didn't see it coming." Concerning his former girlfriend's decision to become a Liberal, MacKay talked of betrayal and said, "Never turn your back on your friends and your family and your colleagues like this. It's not in the way you conduct yourself in an honourable fashion."

A name came to mind as I heard MacKay use the words "honour" and "betrayal." But David Orchard wasn't trash-talking when I contacted him on his farm in Saskatchewan.

"I don't have many words of wisdom to say about that," he told me on the MacKay-Stronach relationship. On the future of this country and the role being played by the new Conservative party, he did offer a few choice comments.

"Harper's playing dangerous games, getting in bed with the Bloc," Orchard said. "I am worried about this country. I don't want to see us absorbed by the United States or broken up over Quebec. I predicted this from the beginning. This new party is not the broadbased, national party Canadians were led to believe it is, and was an Alliance takeover."

Stronach suggested as much in her stunning announcement this week. She also expressed concerns about Canada's future and said, "The country comes first."

All of us should heed these words.

Rick Howe writes a weekly column for the Halifax Daily News and is the host of Halifax Radio CJCH's morning phone-in programme, "Hotline." He can be reached at

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