Liberals take no prisoners
By JOHN IBBITSON
Wednesday, May 5, 2004 – Page A4 Toronto Globe&Mail
The Paul Martin election campaign team is without shame. And no, this
column is not about those nasty television attack ads the Liberals are
preparing for use against the Conservatives. The Martin Liberals are
actually far more vicious toward their own than they are to the
opposition. As proof, consider Brampton-Springdale.
This riding, an enlargement of the old riding of Brampton Centre on
the northwest corner of Greater Toronto, is affluent, urban, ethnic
and Liberal. Its incumbent MP is Sarkis Assadourian, a worthy but
pedestrian MP who was appointed to the riding in 1993 by Jean
Mr. Assadourian is opposed by Andrew Kania, a lawyer who campaigned
for John Manley as Ontario co-chair during the phantom Liberal
leadership race last year. Mr. Kania alleges that, back in January, he
was warned by Karl Littler, Ontario Liberal campaign director, that he
would never be allowed to run in Brampton-Springdale, because he was a
Manley supporter. Nonetheless, Mr. Kania appealed to Mr. Martin and
the national executive, and was duly approved as a candidate for the
Mr. Kania claims, and other sources confirm, that he has signed up
more than enough members to win a nomination meeting against
Mr. Assadourian in a fair fight. All that remains is for Mr. Littler
to call a nomination meeting to settle the issue. For months, the
riding association executive has been told the meeting will be held
soon. But soon was a long time ago.
When asked about Brampton-Springdale back in March, Mr. Littler
explained that the nomination meeting promised to be controversial,
and the Liberals didn’t have sufficient staff to manage it.
That can no longer be a problem, since Brampton-Springdale is
reportedly the only contested riding left in Ontario that has yet to
hold its nomination meeting. So why the delay? Mr. Littler has stopped
returning calls. However, Mr. Littler reportedly told the Liberal
caucus several weeks ago that he was delaying the nomination meeting
in Brampton-Springdale because he suspected that — horrors! — there
might be Conservative Party members who had also taken out Liberal
memberships in the riding. To which Mr. Kania replies that, if this
is true, a nomination meeting is the best place to challenge a party
For weeks, according to caucus sources, Mr. Assadourian has been
pleading with Prime Minister Paul Martin to protect him from
Mr. Kania’s challenge by appointing him to the riding, as Mr. Chrétien
so faithfully did. However, it appears that Mr. Assadourian may
himself be a victim of Martinite machinations.
Mr. Kania reports that, on Monday, Mr. Assadourian was asked by the
Liberal Party brass to step aside, so that Mr. Martin could appoint a
female candidate. Mr. Kania says Mr. Assadourian initially refused,
but discussions continued. A spokesman for Mr. Assadourian said
yesterday that the MP did not wish to comment on the situation. But
other sources are hearing the same story.
Needless to say, Mr. Kania is pretty angry.
“I think there is a concerted effort to ensure that I cannot win the
nomination because I was John Manley’s Ontario co-chair,” Mr. Kania
concludes. “The Liberal Party infighting is continuing.”
There may be another explanation for this delay, although no one in
the Liberal Party who could provide it is prepared to offer
one. (Liberal Party President Mike Eizenga and national campaign
director Michele Cadario did not return calls.)
And Brampton-Springdale is not alone. In Calgary South-Centre, an
approved candidate is being shunted aside for a local star, and the
same thing has already happened in British Columbia and is happening
Brampton-Springdale is different because a riding is being held in
suspended animation, not just to let a star candidate in, but to keep
a Manley candidate out.
The Martin Liberals can be pretty ruthless toward Conservatives. But
when it comes to party infighting, they really show no quarter.