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What Sheila Copps, Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien Should Do

(As published in The Toronto Star September 24; The Montreal Gazette, September 25, 2003 with emendations.)

Dear Sir

Sheila Copps has announced that she is not withdrawing from the Liberal leadership race and she is to be congratulated. Even those of us who support Paul Martin, believe that the Federal Liberal Party (like all political parties) should have periodic debates on issues, which debates the public can witness and form an opinion on. Thus the Party Convention in Toronto on next November 15 could be a moment of reflection and renewal. Thirty-five years ago in 1968 at the Liberal Convention in Ottawa, which eventually elected Pierre Elliott Trudeau on the fourth ballot, there were two days of debates on the major issues of the moment and this resulted in the Party coming up with a new programme for the election, which came soon after.

At that Convention, the retiring Party leader and Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson graciously confirmed his resignation, leaving Mr. Trudeau with a free hand. Mr Pearson's considerable achievements and legacy were left unsullied and intact. In its wisdom the Party gave Mr. Pearson a puppy as he stood on the platform and Mr. Pearson whimsically noted that he at least had a dog for his retirement. He was also wearing a bow tie for the first time in ten years. The Party, also in its wisdom, had not considered his bow ties were statesman-like enough, when he became Party leader in 1958.

Mr. Chrétien need not wear a bow tie and they could give him another Inuit sculpture instead of a dog, but like Mr. Pearson he should resign on the spot. In particular, he should not do as Mr. Trudeau did, when he retired in 1984 and left a long trail of questionable paybacks and nominations, thus embarrassing John Turner, the new Liberal leader, in the election which followed.

William Tetley
Professor McGill Law Faculty