Ottawa: Martin criticizes cabinet for split on genocide vote

Globe and Mail, Canada
April 27 2004

Martin criticizes cabinet for split on genocide vote


OTTAWA — Prime Minister Paul Martin has rebuked his ministers for
not respecting cabinet solidarity in opposing a controversial motion
on the Armenian genocide, upset that some of them sat on their hands
or didn’t show up for the vote.

The Prime Minister was not at the vote either. His office said he
does not attend every private member’s vote. Another official said
that there was a scheduling issue and that is why he was not there.

Still, sources say Mr. Martin lectured his ministers at last
Thursday’s cabinet meeting, less than 24 hours after the stunning
vote on a motion in which MPs — including most of the Liberal back
bench — supported recognizing as genocide the mass killing of
Armenians during the First World War.

He wanted his cabinet to know that even if he wasn’t there he
supported the cabinet decision and the cabinet must vote as a block.

The motion passed 153 to 68.

“He was ticked off. . . ,” one senior Liberal official said about Mr.
Martin’s admonishment.

“It [breaking cabinet ranks] won’t happen again,” another said.

The Martin cabinet had decided that it would oppose the motion. But
at least two ministers — International Trade Minister Jim Peterson
and Justice Minister Irwin Cotler — didn’t attend the vote.

Public Works Minister Stephen Owen and Western Economic
Diversification Minister Rey Pagtakhan abstained despite the fact
that Government Whip Mauril Bélanger was seen motioning for them to

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan had to shout at
Revenue Minister Stan Keyes to ensure he stood up to vote. Mr. Keyes
did vote with the cabinet but was heard afterward complaining that he
had to support the motion when other ministers did not show up.

One MP, who overheard him, muttered to some of his colleagues, “Stan
wants the . . . car but not the responsibility.” This was in
reference to the fact that a car and driver come with the cabinet

The confusion and upset among the cabinet ministers show the
contentiousness of the vote.

The back bench was free to vote its conscience and it did, including
many former Jean Chrétien ministers, including Jane Stewart, Stéphane
Dion, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Lyle Vanclief and Maria Minna.

This did not go unnoticed.

“Many of our own Liberals didn’t vote with the government,” the
official said. “Some of them, I’m pretty sure if you see their names,
have an agenda to not necessarily be supportive of the government
right now. All the former cabinet ministers . . . didn’t vote with
the government.”

However, one former minister said that it had nothing to do with not
being in the Martin cabinet.

“But the bottom line is this is that you can’t be a multilateralist
whenever it’s convenient to you. The UN has recognized the Armenian
genocide,” the MP said.