By Toby White
Just one week after a visit from a former American President, Calgarians received a visit from a former Canadian Prime Minister.
Joe Clark, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and MP for Calgary Centre, was in town on Wed., Nov. 14 to speak at a Tory fundraiser dinner for Calgary Centre and the upcoming by-election in Calgary Southwest. To the disappointment of many, Clark’s daughter Catherine was not in attendance.
"Catherine is working and can’t prop up her father tonight," joked Clark.
The evening began with Clark dedicating a plaque for the mountain formerly known as Chinaman’s Peak. Due to efforts by the Alberta Chinese community the mountain was recently renamed Ha Ling Peak in honour of the first man to scale it, a Chinese immigrant.
Clark’s address attacked the federal government for their lack of leadership and initiative, especially since September 11. Clark expressed the belief that he is the man to lead Canada in the future.
"I am a parliamentarian," stated Clark. "I am able to win an occasional debate–en français, en anglais–a parliamentarian and a patriot."
Clark touched briefly on post-secondary education, focusing on investment in education and on tackling student debt.
"I’d like to see incentives for individuals and corporations to contribute to education," said Clark. "I’d also like to see students being able to claim 10 per cent of their debt as a tax credit."
Clark claimed that the Liberals have been complacent and now must be held accountable.
"The Liberals got away with it because times were good and the opposition was divided," he said. "The last eight weeks have demonstrated to Canadians how badly prepared the Chrétien government is to take Canada into the future."
Clark discussed the Tories’ recent alignment with the Canadian Alliance dissidents, the Democratic Representative Caucus lead by MP Chuck Strahl. He suggested that members of other parties need to pool their resources to create a strong opposition.
"While others talk about coalitions, we’re making one work," said Clark.
He did, however, stress the importance of a nationally-based party to take on the Liberals.
"The experiment that started with Reform–and ended with the Canadian Alliance–could not compete beyond the region where it was born," he said.
Clark also discussed the possibility of a conservative coalition to take on the Liberals in Calgary Southwest. Preston Manning, who will soon vacate the post of MP in that riding, has urged the Tories and the Alliance to run a joint candidate in the riding.
"Our party’s constitution spe-cifies that we’ll field candidates in 301 ridings across the country," stated Clark. "And those candidates will bear the name Progressive Conservative."
Clark did not discount the possibility of working with the Alliance and the DRC, however, and proposed a joint nomination process for the Tory candidate.
"That means a nomination process that embraces members of the DRC and members of the CA committed to coalition building," said Clark. "This yields a candidate who is committed to both the broad coalition idea and to the principles of democratic reform."