Former P.M. Joe Clark is 100% correct when he says people shouldn't vote for Stephen Harper, this party led by Stephen Harper is a exterme right-wing party, in these trying times Canadians need to stand by the excellent leadership shown by Prime Minister Martin and his experienced Cabinet.
Clark backs Martin
'Devil we know' likely a better choice than Harper for PM
Ex-Tory leader says he's supporting best riding candidates
OTTAWA Former Conservative prime minister Joe Clark says he would choose Prime Minister Paul Martin over Conservative Leader Stephen Harper in the next election.
In an interview with CTV's Question Period, Joe Clark said Martin is "the devil we know." Clark, 64, added he is "extremely worried" at the prospect of Harper leading the country.
The former leader of the former Progressive Conservative party, who served as prime minister from June 4, 1979, to March 3, 1980, said he doesn't favour either the Liberals or the Conservatives and advised Canadians to vote for the best candidate in their riding regardless of political affiliation.
Clark served as Minister of External Affairs and President of the Privy Council and Minister Responsible for Constitutional Affairs. He was Tory leader again from 1998 to May, 2003.
Clark, who adamantly opposed the Canadian Alliance-Progressive Conservative merger, quit the party caucus after it went ahead and is not seeking re-election in his Calgary riding. The parties merged Dec. 8, 2003.
Clark said he's working for the Conservative candidate in his hometown of High River, Alta., which he represented in the Commons for years before moving to a Calgary constituency.
But he's also supporting former Tory John Herron (Fundy-Royal), who has jumped to the Liberals, in his New Brunswick riding.
The new Conservative Party of Canada, he said, does not offer a "broad national alternative."
"I served in two Progressive Conservative governments and I know there were two critical issues: One, are there going to be enough people in caucus, around the cabinet table to support initiatives on women, support initiatives on health care, support initiatives on South Africa or the environment?
"The other question is: Who will propose those issues?"
"You look at the gang around Mr. Harper now and ask yourself, `Who's the Flora MacDonald there? Who's the Ray Hnatyshyn there? Who's the Joe Clark there?'
"They aren't there because that part of the party did not go along with the takeover."
MacDonald is a former Tory external affairs minister, and Hnatyshyn held a number of portfolios including attorney-general and justice minister.
Clark said the Liberals have also shut out its progressive old guard, which is why he will not join them, he said.
"This party has become defined by the people it doesn't want to have with them. That again betrays the fundamental nation-building responsibility of national parties. You bring people in, you don't shove people out."
In Toronto yesterday, noting he had received former Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney's support, Harper said, "It's over 20 years that Mr. Mulroney beat Mr. Clark in a race. I think it's time to get over it."
Conservative House Leader John Reynolds dismissed Clark as a "bitter old man," and a "traitor," Canadian Press reports.
Conservative MP Loyola Hearn (St. John's West) said he was "disappointed" by Clark's statement and said Clark could have helped shape the new party if he'd wanted to.
"Instead of sitting back and saying, `I wonder where it's going to go,' he should have been there with the rest of us making sure it went where the people of this country want it to go," Hearn said.
The Newfoundland MP said Clark is unfairly characterizing the party as extremist.
He said former PC MPs like himself, Peter MacKay and Bill Casey support Clark's principles, principles upon which the new party was built, he said.
Clark's message won't hurt the party, he said.
"Not too many people pay attention to what he says."
Not according to Liberal MP Dan McTeague (Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge), who was canvassing in Pickering over the weekend.
McTeague called Clark a respected MP whose words will have a "profound impact on many Canadians." He said Clark may help coax some Red Tory votes to go Liberal.
"I think there are many things that people who supported Mr. Clark are far more comfortable with (in) the Liberal party under Mr. Martin than they are with the Conservative party" under Harper.
Liberals have been trying to capitalize on that perception and will likely use it in the next election campaign, which could come this spring.
Just as McTeague called Harper a "Reform-Alliance" leader, Martin has called his MPs "Alliance-Conservatives" to try to paint the party as too far to the right to represent Canadians.
Meanwhile, another former Conservative prime minister endorsed Harper. In an apparent healing of old wounds, Mulroney praised Harper at a fundraiser in Moncton, N.B., over the weekend.
In his speech, Mulroney urged Conservatives to accept Harper as a mainstream voice for the new party.
"This is the kind of party that Stephen Harper is leading, a moderate, successful Conservative party," Mulroney said.