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Contenders for top Tory job attack MacKay -- Front-runner accused of policy flip-flops


Contenders for top Tory job attack MacKay
Front-runner accused of policy flip-flops

Thursday, April 24, 2021 - Page A12

OTTAWA -- A rather tame Tory leadership debate was spiced up yesterday when two candidates accused front-runner Peter MacKay of flip-flopping on issues relating to the gun registry and a merger with the Canadian Alliance.

Calgary lawyer Jim Prentice accused Mr. MacKay, a Nova Scotia Tory MP, several times of saying one thing in one part of the country and something else in another. He was referring to Mr. MacKay's attempts to reconcile Canada's right-wing parties.

"During this campaign you've campaigned in Western Canada and you've said that the Canadian Alliance is radioactive, and then you've gone to St. Catharines, Ontario, shortly thereafter and said that we should run joint candidates," Mr. Prentice said.

Mr. MacKay denied that. "I know you are trying to score points here, James, but that's not the way it happened. I have always consistently said we have to rebuild the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and I have worked on that," Mr. MacKay said, adding that he has friends in the Canadian Alliance.

Nova Scotia MP and leadership candidate Scott Brison also took on Mr. MacKay over what he called flip-flops on issues such as gun control.

"I think that's your problem, because we don't know and Canadians don't know what you stand for, because you flip-flop on issues depending on the time of day and depending on where you are in the country," Mr. Brison said.

This year, Mr. MacKay had said he would not register his shotgun under the new firearms legislation, but he changed his mind the next day.

"This is obviously an attempt to score points," Mr. MacKay shot back at his opponent. "I haven't been anything but clear on where I stand on issues."

Mr. MacKay was clearly the man to attack during the 50-minute debate, broadcast on CBC Newsworld's Politics with Don Newman.

Five of the seven candidates were invited to participate.

Prairie farmer David Orchard and Quebec Tory MP André Bachand joined Mr. MacKay, Mr. Brison and Mr. Prentice.

Ontario Tory Craig Chandler and Heward Grafftey, a minister in Joe Clark's government, were not invited because of their limited support. The decision angered Mr. Chandler.

The candidates differed on policies regarding regional-development programs, Canada-U.S. relations and whether Air Canada should be bailed out.

Mr. Brison said regional-development agencies do not work, and he proposed a tax-based strategy that would allow "markets to pick the winners and losers," rather than the government.

Mr. MacKay disagreed, arguing that disbanding the agencies would be "devastating" to regional economies.

Mr. Prentice said the Liberal government had made the agencies too political and regional-development dollars should be channelled toward infrastructure.

On Canada-U.S. relations, Mr. Orchard argued that the free-trade agreement has made trade less free with the United States, a theme he has repeatedly emphasized. He is fearful that Canada's sovereignty is at risk from the United States.

On the issue of an Air Canada bailout, Mr. Bachand advocated a national-airline policy that would address the concerns of workers in the industry and its services across the country.

The Tory convention to elect a new leader to replace Mr. Clark begins at the end of May.

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