November 02, 2006

 

Ontario Liberals fight the dirty fight...

Carville tells Liberals to put interests of people over interests of power
By KEITH LESLIE
October 28, 2006

TORONTO (CP) - The man who ran Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign and gave political advice to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former South African president Nelson Mandela is lending his expertise to Ontario's Liberals.

James Carville, the man known as the Ragin' Cajun, spoke to 1,200 Ontario Liberals at their annual general meeting in Toronto Saturday, the last such gathering before the party tries for re-election next October.

Carville opened by joking that based on U.S. talk radio, he expected to find the Canadian audience freezing to death while waiting in line for health care.

He then launched into a defence of Liberals, who are now going by the moniker "progressives" in the United States.

"The Conservatives are always willing to take on people in the interests of power," he told the audience.

"We should never fear to take on power in the interests of people."

Carville, who refused to allow reporters to record his speech, peppered the 18-minute address with Canadian references, talking about Molson's and Labatt's beer, the Dixie Chicks' appearance in Toronto this weekend, and about how an H-bomb dropped on Detroit would also hurt Windsor, Ont.

He earned huge laughs and applause for an impression of U.S. President George W. Bush as a reformed drunk who loved Jesus Christ "and was going to fight terrorists in Iran and homos in Hollywood."

Carville also explained his defence of Clinton at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, saying it was the right thing to forgive a friend who did a bad thing and to stand by him.

But it was Carville's message about standing up for the little guy in the face of the powerful that Tourism Minister Jim Bradley said hit home with him and other Liberals.

"His resonating message with the audience here would have been that we as Liberals, and as progressives, have to be always cognizant of the needs of less advantaged people in our society, and that we should continue to work towards that and not apologize for that," said Bradley.

Ontario's opposition parties saw a more sinister message in Carville's appearance before the governing Liberals, especially at a meeting where planning for next year's general election is so high on the agenda.

"I think this is just more fear and smear, teaching Liberals how to campaign negatively," said Conservative critic Lisa MacLeod.

"They're talking about choosing the high-road, but they obviously took it with low intentions, and they're here today convening with James Carville, probably one of the nastiest back-room strategists in all the world."

New Democrat Cheri DiNovo, who survived a Liberal smear campaign to win a recent Toronto byelection, said Saturday that the appearance of Carville meant the Liberals had learned little from their loss to her.

"I'm the perfect example of the Liberals trying U.S.-style electioneering in a byelection and it blowing up in their faces," said DiNovo.

The Liberals said Carville's contract stipulated that his price for his Toronto appearance not be disclosed, but one estimate had the party paying $50,000 for the speech and an autograph signing session for party members.

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