Clark rides debate high

Globe and Mail Update
Friday, November 10 – Online Edition, Posted at 1:23 PM EST

Progressive Conservative Leader Joe Clark appeared confident Friday that he had breathed new life into the sagging Tory performances in pre-election polls during Thursday night's leader's debate.

Speaking in Toronto Friday morning, Mr. Clark said expected the profile of the Progressive Conservatives to rise in the next two weeks.

He said that parties that are viewed to be in the lead typically get more media attention.

"I guess we didn't fall into that category [before the debates]. I think we do now. We'll see if the polls pick up."

Mr. Clark said the Conservative Party learned their lesson after the 1997 federal-election debates, in which then-Tory Leader Jean Charest performed well but the election team didn't follow up with enough ground crew to gain more attention for the Progressive Conservatives leading up to the election.

He said they would "maintain a very active, vigorous campaign."

He also remarked on the lack of trust he had for Liberal Leader Jean Chrétien, saying: "There is also an issue of trust. Jean Chrétien has been taking Canadians for granted. He has lost his way."

Mr. Clark portrayed his party as the one that would safeguard public health care, lower taxes and would offer a "balance of critical issues."

He reiterated a point he made during Thursday's English debate, that Mr. Chrétien "could not identify one defining decision" he had made during the seven years he has been in office.

When asked whether he thought the prospect of Mr. Day in power would be "scary" Mr. Clark said he didn't think that an Alliance government would become a reality. He confidently predicted that the Conservatives would benefit from increasing distrust of and uncertainty in Alliance policies and positions.

Mr. Clark also attacked Mr. Day's inexperience as a leader and his flip-flopping remarks on the issue of two-tier health care.

"That's not a party you can trust. It creates a very real question of what it is they would do with power if it ever came [to them]."

He criticized Mr. Day's performance in Thursday evening's debate, referring to the Alliance Leader's hand-scrawled sign that read: "No 2-tier health care" as a "kindergarten placard."

Mr. Clark said he has a feeling that Conservatives who jumped over the Canadian Alliance are having a change of heart.He said he hadn't received any calls from Conservative MPs who had crossed the floor to the Alliance.

"Do I have names? No. ... It's just a sense that there's a movement in our direction."

Mr. Clark said for the remaining two weeks of the campaign, he plans to show Canadians how a Tory government would improve the quality of the government's record on health care and its decorum in Parliament, and said a Tory government would improve Canada's record globally.

"We have to make this country a leader in the world. We are falling behind other countries."

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