Liberal losers

Rating: NNNNNIt's election time again. Will Ontario keep on marking its X for the flakes, losers and lazy boys and.

Rating: NNNNN

It’s election time again. Will Ontario keep on marking its X for the flakes, losers and lazy boys and girls who make up the federal Liberal caucus?

We don’t have to go far to find examples, since all the MPs from Toronto and area are part of Jean Chretien’s red army chorus. And aren’t they a strange lot. From the incompetent (Allan Rock, come on down) to the bizarre (yes, you, Dennis Mills).

We don’t have to go far to find examples, since all the MPs from Toronto and area are part of Jean Chretien’s red army chorus. And aren’t they a strange lot. From the incompetent (Allan Rock, come on down) to the bizarre (yes, you, Dennis Mills).

Read it and weep. Here are the guardians of our democracy (until November 27 at least).

Read it and weep. Here are the guardians of our democracy (until November 27 at least).

WELL-MEANING BUT USELESS…ALLAN ROCK (Etobicoke Centre) — Tainted blood scandal. Health care cuts. We’re still waiting for tougher tobacco sponsorship laws. Rock’s been this side of dismal as health minister.

Recent federal equalization payments to the provinces should help quiet concerns in a riding with a 15- per-cent seniors vote.

He gets brownie points for gun control laws, but he could do more on medicinal pot. And while he says all the right left-liberal things in public, he keeps getting whipped behind closed doors in caucus. For all his supposed clout, he’s been unable to stickhandle any of his lefty causes through the cabinet.

Leadership aspirations fading fast.

BILL GRAHAM (Toronto Centre-Rosedale) — Pro-choice. Pal of the gay community. Opposes burning nuclear waste in Canada. Supports drug legalization as a way to combat violence and organized crime. Turns up at most events in the riding. Promised the feds wouldn’t turn over responsibility for social housing to the provinces, but did anyway.

He was forced to toe the government line on budget cuts but has managed not to sell his liberal soul completely. As chair of the foreign affairs committee, he could have done more to check Canadian funding for questionable environmental projects abroad.

His private member’s bill that would have made refugees eligible for student loans didn’t go anywhere.

Twice voted top MP by NOW readers, Graham gets high marks for effort but what can he actually accomplish.

CAROLYN BENNETT (St. Paul’s) — Neigbourhood coffee parties. Town halls. Bennett went to Ottawa promising not to be just another cog.

But, alas, Bennett, for all her grassroots intentions, has had trouble getting heard in the face of Chretien’s deficit-cutting agenda. Passionate, but too wingy for cabinet.

Held her nose to vote with the government on the compensation package for Hep C victims and budget cuts. Booo.

TONY IANNO (Trinity-Spadina) — The NDP keeps putting up its best, but Tony the tiger just keeps on winning in the Annex.

He had the right stand on the Adams Mine dump, and he did some commendable work (no, this is not a misprint) as chair of a committee looking into bank lending practices. Ianno has Liberal friends in high places. Could it be that we’ve been wrong about him all these years? Nah. He’s still a little too caught up in playing ethnic politics. Believes anti-Italian sentiment blocked lightweight cousin Joe Cordiano’s bid for provincial party head. Because of his working-class roots, he suffers from an inferiority complex that colours how he relates to people.

MARIA MINNA (Beaches-East York) — Pumps lefty credentials in an area of the city where the NDP rules provincially.

She boasts an extensive record of work with women, welfare recipients and new immigrants, but as party social policy chair has seen holes in the safety net grow.

She defended her government in a newsletter to constituents amid the spending scandal in the human resources department.

As minister for international co-operation, she’s reviewing funding for humanitarian projects abroad. Does that mean even less money for foreign aid from the Liberals, who have yet to live up to their promise to beef up help to developing countries?

Her friendship with NDP MPP Frances Lankin pays dividends. But if Minna’s so left, why isn’t she running for the NDP?


ART EGGLETON (York Centre) — The Grits wanted bland when they appointed Eggleton defence minister after David Collenette was forced to resign. And bland they got — in spades.

Eggs is petrified of losing votes from the sizable Jewish community in his riding over Canada’s support of the UN resolution condemning Israeli violence. He’s sent out a flyer with an endorsement from a Jewish leader and photos of himself sucking up to Israeli leader Ehud Barak and right-winger Benjamin Netanhayu — just in case there’s any question where his allegiances lie.

A major screw-up, the former T.O. mayor has done zip for the city. Eggleton’s made more headlines in Frank than any other politico, for all the wrong womanizing reasons. Thinks sending out fridge magnets at election time is going to win him votes. A major dud.

DAVID COLLENETTE (Don Valley East) — King David, a former insurance salesman and plastics exec, was first elected in 74 and has had a political career marked by ups and downs.

He was forced to resign as defence minister under a cloud, getting out just before the Somalia affair exploded.

He’s supposed to be Chretien’s man in Hogtown. But his rapid-transit link to the airport? Waterfront redevelopment? We’ll believe it when we see it.

As transport minister, he’s hatching plans to burn waste from U.S. and Russian warheads at Bruce and then dump it in the Canadian Shield.

He sat on the fence during the Adams Mine debate, and last week skipped out of a debate at the St. Lawrence Centre on the GTA. Need we say more?

ELINOR CAPLAN (Thornhill) — Former city councillor and long-time Grit MPP who served as chair of management board and as provincial health minister before her jump to the federal ranks, where she’s citizenship and immigration minister.

She was slow to remove the head tax on new immigrants and refugees, and is currently contemplating plans to require AIDS testing for newcomers. She didn’t handle the kerfuffle over the arrival of Chinese boat people on Vancouver shores very well, and her department failed to reach immigration targets for the past three years.

The bright political lights of Ottawa seem to have gotten the better of Caplan.

Now she’s feeling antsy about the Jewish vote in her riding after Canada’s condemnation at the UN of Israeli violence against Palestinians. Gut-check time.

JEAN AUGUSTINE (Etobicoke-Lakeshore) — She’s competent. A woman of colour, she has a grasp of international issues, particularly those related to the Caribbean, but has under-performed during her second term after serving as parliamentary secretary to the PM when she was a rookie MP.

Her hopes for a junior portfolio were dashed, and some are surprised she’s running this time around. Word is, she’s lost her zip. Her Paul Martin affiliation doesn’t bode well for the immediate future.

JOSEPH VOLPE (Eglinton-Lawrence) — He’s one of the frustrated Paul Martin group of Grit T.O. MPs who have cabinet ambitions and spent the better part of the last four years conspiring to topple Chretien.

He served as chair of the justice committee and as parliamentary secretary to the health minister. Speaks his mind, including criticizing the election call, but remains a bit of a mystery after 12-plus-years in Ottawa.

Volpe came out of the weeds recently to condemn Canada’s support of the UN resolution blasting Israeli gun violence against Palestinians, hoping to shore up Jewish support for the Liberals. Voted to weaken gay rights legislation. Defended forest indusrty logging practices.

ROY CULLEN (Etobicoke North) — A former Noranda mining exec, Cullen was one of the Grits’ star candidates last time out, and serves as parliamentary secretary to the finance minister.

He was busy pumping Canadian mining interests as a member of the natural resources committee, and was decidedly wishy-washy on a head tax on refugees. Struggled to prevent local jobs from leaving for neighbouring Mississauga, and failed in his bid to attract a computer-chip outfit to the riding. A cautious, buttoned-down business type. Don’t we have enough of those in Ottawa?

JIM PETERSON (Willowdale) — He’s lived in the shadow of his brother, former Grit premier David, ever since the two entered politics. Nice guy, but hasn’t broken much of a sweat during his 20-plus years in Ottawa. Second only to Art Eggleton on the bland scale.

Serves as secretary of state for financial institutions.

Earlier this year, he was the subject of an embarrassing front-pager over his election spending habits, a sure sign that boredom is seeping in.


JIM KARYGIANNIS (Scarborough-Agincourt) — Anti-choice. Anti-gay. Favours toughening the Young Offenders Act. He has a propensity to play the ethnic card in his immigrant base in Scarborough, and his political resume reads like a Reformer’s.

Karygiannis is known for his nasty temper and has one of the worst House attendance records of any MP. How he keeps getting re-elected is a mystery to everyone but him.

He’s one of the few Chretien supporters among T.O. MPs, which explains why the PM tolerates his antics. Won by an 18,000-vote rout last time. Pity. What is it they say about voters getting the leaders they deserve?

JOHN CANNIS (Scarborough Centre) — Anti-gay. Anti-choice.

Relies heavily on currency with Greek voters. Part of the Scarborough clique of MPs who claim to be Liberals but vote like Reformers.

A former corporate headhunter, Cannis first made headlines when he almost got into a punch-up for calling a Reform MP a racist in the House.

There was also a stink about Cannis exaggerating his education credentials on campaign literature. All of a sudden, he’s parliamentary secretary to the industry minister. Go figure.

TOM WAPPEL (Scarborough Southwest) — The darling of the religious fringe. Anti-choice. Anti-gay.

One of the worst attendance records in the House. Family-values poster boy who’s now separated from his wife. Fringe-oid who raised a measly $5,390 and needed a $49,300 boost from his riding association to win last time. Should be running for Christian Heritage.

JOHN McKAY (Scarborough East) — A former insurance lawyer, McKay’s indistinguishable from his more, er, colourful Scarborough colleagues except for his stands on debt reduction and tax cuts.

A moderator at Spring Garden Church. He proudly mentions in news releases that he got the citizenship and immigration department to reimpose visa requirements on Czech nationals after skinheads demonstrated in front of a motel holding Roma refugees. Huh?

He’s opposed to gay marriages and laws allowing women to go topless. Press eject button here.


DENNIS MILLS (Broadview-Greenwood) — A man with big ideas and no one to listen to them. Originator of the flat tax and a T.O. summit on the environment. Served a spell as parliamentary secretary to the industry minister, and fell out of favour with the party after protesting the expulsion of maverick MP John Nunziata over the GST.

It’s been downhill ever since. He’s still promoting far-flung lost causes like cleaning all the world’s water. He’s the self-appointed spokesperson for Canada’s farmers, few of whom live in his riding, and relies on stunts like BBQ-chicken-cooking contests on the Hill to attract publicity.

Time to ride into the sunset.

DEREK LEE (Scarborough-Rouge River) — Tax cuts and debt reduction. Voted against including sexual orientation as grounds for discrimination in the Human Rights Act. Anti-choice. Sound familiar?

Not a people person — a loner and a mystery. A curious connection to the Church of Scientology, the controversial self-help group he’s been helping to get charitable status in Ottawa. More flake than a box of All-Bran.

JOHN GODFREY (Don Valley West) — A former president of King’s College in Halifax and editor of the Financial Post, Godfrey has attracted some strange publicity.

He was behind the psychological profile of PQ leader Lucien Bouchard compiled by a psychiatrist friend at the Clarke Institute. (Despots those separatists all!)

He has served as children’s commissioner and promoted big plans to turn an industrial stretch in his riding into Silicon Valley north. Fizzle, fizzle.

Opposed making sexual orientation a grounds for discrimination in the Human Rights Act, and abstained from a vote to pay the legal fees of protestors arrested at the APEC summit. Plays to 30-per-cent Tory vote in the riding. Tsk, tsk.

CHARLES CACCIA (Davenport) — Born in Milan. Educated in Vienna. Former forestry prof at U of T. First elected MP in 68, Caccia is a distinguished, but distant, throwback to the Grit glory days under Trudeau.

Served as labour and environment minister back then. Visited China with the former PM. Voted against the Gulf War.

For all his integrity, though, he has little to show for his efforts. A forlorn blast from the past who just doesn’t fit into the tax-cut mould of the current Liberals. Perhaps too eccentric for working-class Davenport.

SARMITE BULTE (Parkdale-High Park) — Junket queen who’s big on arts and culture. Relies on eastern European origins and friendship with former area MP Jesse Flis for votes. Energy and flamboyance are danger signs for this rookie, whose biggest exposure came when she was caught sunning herself on a Caribbean beach at taxpayers’ expense.


JUDY SGRO (York West) — Hasn’t been in Ottawa very long after winning a by-election a year back, but has been keeping busy as a member of numerous committees.

Sgro’s ambitious, but only time will tell if the backbone she showed at the tail end of her municipal political career will follow her to Ottawa. See Carolyn Bennett.

enzom@nowtoronto.comBY ENZO Di MATTEO


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