Vancouver Sun

July 23, 2002

Fry calls on Chretien to resign

PETER O'NEIL
Vancouver Sun

Former federal cabinet minister Hedy Fry on Monday became the first B.C. MP to call on Prime Minister Jean Chretien to retire.

Fry said the Chretien government is devoid of fresh ideas and has allowed power to be concentrated in the hands of only a few people.

The Vancouver Centre MP, a supporter of former finance minister Paul Martin's leadership bid, is the seventh Liberal MP to publicly call for Chretien's resignation.

The prime minister has served Canadians well but it is time for him to retire, she said.

"I think it's time for him to go," she told The Vancouver Sun.

"I like him and I think he did a great job. I think he has left a great legacy for Canada. And I would particularly hate to see him lose that legacy and be remembered only as somebody who divided the party."

Fry said she is responding to a wave of public opinion in her downtown Vancouver riding that she said has been building since Martin was removed from cabinet in the spring after refusing to dismantle his leadership organization.

"Over the period of time since this all started we've had hundreds of calls to my riding. I have had one asking me to support Mr. Chretien," she said.

"I have been elected by my constituents. I have to be sensitive to what my grassroots are saying."

Fry, fiercely criticized last year for wrongly stating that racists were burning crosses in Prince George, was removed from her post in January as secretary of state for multiculturalism and status of women.

But she said her stand has nothing to do the demotion, pointing out that she defended Chretien when the prime minister was criticized after the shuffle for not having more women in cabinet.

Fry said she will vote in favour of forcing a Liberal leadership convention during the two-step leadership confidence vote process that begins with party-wide voting in November, culminating in a national convention in February.

Chretien has to win a majority of votes from party members voting at constituency meetings, and from delegates attending the convention, or a leadership convention would be triggered.

Fry said Canadians share the concerns of many Liberal MPs that decision-making in Ottawa has become too centralized.

"There is a clear small group of people that have been deciding where the country's going to go, a very small group."

Fry also said Canadians want a leader with vision.

"The party is not coming forward with anything new. There are no new ideas. And there is a risk that we will trump up ideas, we will come up with policies just to prove there is fresh thinking. But there isn't a lot of fresh thinking."

She praised Martin for criticizing the "democratic deficit" in Canada and supporting the expansion of the rights of ordinary MPs to influence policy-making.

Martin's call for a "new deal" for Canadian cities by expanding municipalities' ability to raise funds also appeals to Fry, whose riding borders Vancouver's miserably poor and drug-plagued Downtown Eastside.

"Cities are crying out for some sense of an ability to govern their destinies."

The Hill Times, a weekly parliamentary newspaper that has been tracking the Martin-Chretien battle for caucus support, reported Monday that six MPs have publicly called for the prime minister's resignation.

They are: Tom Wappel (Scarborough-Southwest), Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough-Agincourt), Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener-Waterloo), Helene Scherrer (Louis-Hebert), Reg Alcock (Winnipeg South), and John Efford (Bonavista-Trinity-Conception).

poneil@sns.southam.ca

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