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Globe reporters unwired

Follow our writers on the campaign buses

Globe and Mail Update

From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives) Sent: Sun 6/27/2004 9:01 PM
Subject: Highway Two Revisited

Normally the bus drivers who commandeer the vehicles that carry leadership contestants, their staff and the media around the country are a pretty amiable and reliable lot. Every once in a while though, there's a little slip-up, and so it was on Stephen Harper's excellent adventure on Alberta's Highway Number Two on Sunday. Mr. Harper's officials had organized a convoy down the spine of Alberta in six campaign buses that had the words Conservative plastered across them. Everything had gone well until the buses were scheduled to pull into a whistle-stop on the side of the highway near Bowden, Alta. There, the five buses not carrying the leader pulled off the side of the road at the front entrance of a small park to be greeted by about 25 individuals. While the media waited for Mr. Harper's bus, someone spotted the big blue machine about 500 yards down the road. Much to the chagrin of the assembled group, the bus missed the turn-off and ended up flying past the well-wishers. It returned about 10 minutes later, having had a little tour of the local area. Perhaps, one wag said, Mr. Harper was trolling for votes at a medium security prison located near Bowden. (For the record, Mr. Harper is opposed to giving prisoners the right to vote).

From: Clark, Campbell (With the Liberals)
Sent: Sunday, June 27, 2004 11:39 AM
Subject: Exhaustion

After five weeks of rainy days, buses, and dingy hotel ballrooms from 7 a.m. to midnight, the Liberal campaign tour has set down in beautiful Chester, N.S. A revolt is brewing. We don't want to go.

The exhaustion has set in for real this week. One reporter forgot Paul Martin's name this week as he went to ask a question in the press scrum. The next reporter called upon had forgotten her question, and had to look through her notes. Paul Martin got the names of Liberal candidates mixed up twice yesterday. Today he called Stephen Harper "Joe."

Today's schedule, changed to add a last-minute mad dash for votes, includes touring towns in Nova Scotia until 4 p.m., then travelling to Gatineau, Que., before moving on through Toronto and Winnipeg to Vancouver for a barbecue and rally tonight. We are to fly back to Montreal by 7 a.m. Monday.

But the campaign has come to Paradise for 30 minutes. On the rocky beach at Chester Front Harbour, the sun is blazing, and most of Paul Martin's staff and the travelling press corps are standing out in the sun, or lounging in Adirondack chairs, listening to the speech with one ear. Mr. Martin's press secretary is throwing sticks into the water for two Gloden Retrievers to chase.

"I'm not leaving," one of the PM's staffers says. Several reporters echo the same sentiment.

One reporter comes up with an idea: take a picture of Paul Martin in front of the harbour, then aim the cameras in the other direction and take a picture of him in front of the trees, pretending it's Stanley Park in Vancouver. Then we can sit on the waterfront for the rest of the day.

"You'd all have to be in on it," one of the staffers notes. But it turns out media conspiracies are harder to organize than most people think, and the dream dies.

So we're leaving. But first, Paul Martin dips his toes into the Atlantic, rolling up his pant cuffs to stand in the water. A nervous Mountie scrambles up to Mr. Martin's aides, noting that there is no towel to dry the prime ministerial feet. Speechwriter Scott Feschuk offers the shirt off his back -- ot least the shirt he had been wearing over a T-shirt until we arrived in sunny Chester. The PM apparently has now qualms about wiping his tootsies with Feschuk's shirt, which is graciously returned afterward. Time to go.

From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
Sent: Sunday, June 27, 2004 2:19 AM
Subject: When The Moon Hits Your Eye ...

NDP leader Jack Layton received an unusual West Coast welcome in Victoria Saturday night.

A lone, cheeky protester mooned the Layton plane as touched down on the Victoria airport runway at 6 p.m. local time.

He slapped his bare bottom three times and then yanked up his blue-and-white bermuda shorts immediately before fleeing.

The normally talkative NDP campaign team had nothing to say about the incident.

"No comment," NDP press secretary Karl Belanger said. "I haven't seen any tape or evidence of it and as far I am concerned, it didn't happen."

From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
Sent: Saturday, June 26, 2004 1:15 PM
Subject: We can get along, after all...

The heat of a campaign can cause understandable strains between media and the party officials whose job it is to do deal with them. The relationship is by necessity adversarial. We want information and, quite often, they don't want to give it. But, usually at the end of business, the two sides respect each other and even enjoy each other's camaraderie. It might surprise members of the public, but when you share space with anyone over five weeks, the devils horns usually fade wear away.

And so it was, on Friday, that reporters happened upon Stephen Harper's press secretary, Caroline Stewart-Olsen, in a hotel lobby tending to a head gash suffered by a news photographer at an event in Regina. A former nurse, Ms. Stewart-Olsen was pressed into service after the photographer accidentally pulled the camera down on his head, opening a substantial wound on the top of his scalp. The photographer is said to be fine. No stitches required.

From: Leblanc, Daniel (With the Bloc)
Sent: Thursday, June 24, 2004 7:09 PM
Subject: Full-court press?

Today was a day of basketball, music, handshakes, kisses and pictures for Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe.

He went to five neighbourhood parties to celebrate the St. Jean Baptiste Day, known as the Fete Nationale in Quebec. With the reception he received, Mr. Duceppe cemented his reputation as one of Quebec's popular politicians, with people of all origins and backgrounds coming up to him to shake his hand, get an autograph or have their picture taken with him and his wife, Yolande Brunelle.

Campbell Clark
with the Liberals

Brian Laghi
with the Conservatives

Steven Chase
with the NDP

Daniel Leblanc
with the Bloc

People who were on the Bloc campaigns in 1997 and 2000 say he's getting a much better reaction from the crowds, partly because of his strong performances in this year's debates.

He showed this afternoon that he's intensily competitive during an event where there was a basketball net. He took off his jacket, grabbed a ball, took a jumper -- and missed. The second shot came and went astray. He went for the third shot and finally nailed it. It wasn't enough and went for a fourth shot that also went in. Then came Ms. Brunelle's turn. She went one-for-one.

When a journalist teased Mr. Duceppe on his wife perfect performance, he pointed that he still holds the record for points at his college.

From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
Sent: Thursday, June 24, 2004 12:19 PM
Subject: Will the joke stick?

Those of us who haven't had the pleasure yet of utilizing the bathroom on the Conservative campaign bus found themselves in for a surprise recently. A recent trip into the loo brought shock from one reporter who looked out the window, only to see a massive eyeball filling the glass. The blue-colored peeper belonged to one Stephen Harper, whose face happens to be plastered across the back half of the bus.

Much hilarity, of course, about that grand visage. Yesterday, some troublemaker decided to paste his or her gum on Mr. Harper's front tooth. Proof, perhaps, that press-party relations have crested on this tour.

From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 7:19 PM
Subject: Campaign fatigue

Jack Layton fumbled a prop stunt Wednesday -- unusual for the media savvy NDP leader once dubbed "Live shot" by Toronto reporters.

His staff put the word out that the NDP had a neat gimmick to frame Mr. Layton as he launched a fresh attack on Liberal leader Paul Martin's credibility.

They'd erected a large red backdrop for the news conference -- festooned with Liberal Party logos and the cheeky phrase: "Broken promises" repeated across it.

TV reporters tried to get Mr. Layton to talk about the prop first thing during a press conference, even prompting him by asking "tell us about your backdrop."

But Mr. Layton was off his game, missing the cue.

"We had some kind of a foul-up and it will be corrected in future backdrops, that's for sure," he answered.


He was thinking of something else entirely and didn't realize his gaffe until his press flak signalled him in the middle of a second question on the subject.

"It's a mistake and we apologize," he said again of the backdrop -- just before being hauled back on message.

"Oh, the message ... it should have been bilingual is my concern, so I am sorry."

Reporters hadn't even considered the lack of French on the backdrop, especially since the announcement was taking place in Halifax.

From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2004 4:17 PM
Subject: The seatbelt sign is off!

Is he the boy in the bubble? Broadcast outlets were stupified yesterday when Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper refused to emerge from the party's campaign plane after it landed in Sault Ste. Marie for a short stop. Camera operators were at the ready when staffers told them at the bottom of the stairs that Mr. Harper would not get off until the crew boarded a nearby bus preparing to take them into the city. They did as asked, but reporters were left to wonder why Mr. Harper would eschew a free photo op. Then a smart producer noticed the Air Canada logo on the campaign plane and surmised that, given Mr. Harper' stance on moving the airlines headquarters, perhaps being associated with the airline wasn't the kind of publicity he needed.

From: Clark, Campbell (With the Liberals)
Sent: Monday, June 21, 2004 10:30 PM
Subject: Snap election

Does Paul Martin expect more than one election this year, or is he just too busy with other things to remember when the election will be?

The Liberal leader's trouble with recalling the election date has become chronic. In Thunder Bay tonight, Mr. Martin capped some Laurier-esque flights of rhetoric about the next decade belonging to Canada -- "Now is our decade" -- by asserting "that's why we're going to win on the 28th of October."

That might be a little disconcerting to Liberals who are still hoping to win on election day, June 28th.

It could be a slip of the tongue, but Mr. Martin began his campaign with a speech on the steps of Rideau Hall where he said the election would be January 28th. That time, he corrected himself, but this time, the crowd gave him a big cheer. Desire for a rematch, perhaps? Does Mr. Martin secretly hope to win a minority government this time and go for the majority in a snap election four months later?

More likely, Mr. Martin is exhibiting further signs of Chretien syndrome, which have plagued him throughout the campaign. The former PM, of course, was famous for such statements as "I don't think children should play with nuclear weapons" -- a fairly unassailable political stand -- and the slightly more alarmist "There are 20 million land mines in the basement." (Both were French-language word slips). Now, Mr. Martin seems to be catching the ailment. In the first week of the campaign, he told an audience in Surrey, B.C., that Canada's coasts are separated by "hundreds of millions of people," for example.

Mr. Martin's lapses seem to result more in an odd choice of a mistaken word, rather than the completely indecipherable sentences that Mr. Chretien sometimes let loose on the world. He called Stephen Harper's economic plan "the culmination of nonsense" yesterday, which might sound colourful on the lips of say, Rex Murphy, but somehow doesn't strike the right note in a speech to Liberal partisans in Bracebridge, Ont.

It is important for a politician to choose words carefully, however, to avoid sending the wrong impression. As Mr. Martin trumpeted his call for a federal-provincial first ministers conference in public, in front of TV cameras, a skeptical reporter asked: "Is this anything more than a publicity stunt?"

"It certainly is not," he replied.

We're pretty sure that's not what he meant.

From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
Sent: Monday, June 21, 2004 9:53 AM
Subject: Bandwagon empty...

Oshawa, Ont. -- Everybody loves a parade, but few watching the Fiesta Week procession in Oshawa Sunday appeared in the mood for politicians of any stripe.

There were smatterings of applause for NDP leader Jack Layton, his wife Olivia Chow and local candidate Sid Ryan as they rode in the one-hour parade.

But there were also awkward moments of silence where Mr. Layton's car drove by people who may as well have been asleep - or watching a funeral procession.

Conservative candidate Colin Carrie, following in a separate car, didn't fare any better.

Onlookers seemed more keen on floats such as the Caribbean dance band -- which played a steel drum version of ABBA's Dancing Queen endlessly -- than the candidates.

While one man heckled Mr. Layton -- suggesting he was a loser -- most disgruntled onlookers simply muttered cynical comments to their friends.

"It's about time to give another guy a chance to rip you off," one parade watcher said.

Griped another: "You see them once a year and then they vanish."

One eldery man watching the procession said he had no opinion on Mr. Layton or the election.

"I'm 80 years old and I'm too old for this bullshit," he said.

From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2004
Subject: Run for your lives!

Holyrood, Nfld. -- He's not as young as he used to be, but John Crosbie's sense of timing is as strong as ever. His sense of time, however, may need a little work.

Mr. Crosbie delighted a Newfoundland audience yesterday with a Liberal-bashing address while introducing Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to a group of locals. The Liberal roasting, however, went on for a substantial period, leaving many to wonder when the former finance minister would cede the microphone.

Even a strong hint -- the Harper campaign team started blasting the leader's campaign theme song 13 minutes through the remarks -- couldn't dissuade Mr. Crosbie, who went on for about two more minutes after the music died down.

Herein is a sampling, somewhat loosely translated, of Mr. Crosbie's better lines.

On Canada's depleted military
A man without a stick will be bitten even by a sheep. We better hope we don't get invaded by sheep.

On Paul Martin's effort to oust Jean Chretien from office.
After having screwed his own leader, he's attempting to screw ours.

Again on the military
Here, in Newfoundland, we worry when we go to bed that St. Pierre and Miquelon will have taken us over by morning.

On local Liberal MP John Efford's recent suggestion that he could win the local riding as a Green Party candidate.
There but for the grace of God, goes God.

Finally, Mr. Crosbie's nicknames for NDP Leader Jack Layton
Little Cock Robin. Little Jack Flash.

From: Leblanc, Daniel (With the Bloc)
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2004 5:55 PM
Subject: Run for your lives!

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe toured a kite festival in the Saguenay today. Like any good politician, he tried his hand at an acrobatic kite that is controlled by two strings, which can be used to make it twist and turn in the sky. It wasn't very windy, and Mr. Duceppe had a few problems getting it up in the air - or keeping it there. After the kite finally lifted, it quickly crashed on the ground, almost falling on a little girl. Giving it another shot, Mr. Duceppe almost hit a guy in crutches.

Remembering that it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye, Bloc handlers finally convinced Mr. Duceppe to move on and resume shaking hands.

From: Leblanc, Daniel (With the Bloc)
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2004 9:52 AM
Subject: Healthy eating

Ever since Pierre Trudeau in the 1970s derided then-Quebec premier Robert Bourassa as a "hot-dog eater," Quebec politicians have avoided the public consumption of a chien-chaud like the plague. But Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe indulged in not one, but two, hot-dogs at a campaign stop in Gaspesie on Saturday. The Trudeau curse lived on in today's papers in Quebec where the picture of Mr. Duceppe chomping on the fine delicacy was a turnoff for anyone eating breakfast. The saving grace for Mr. Duceppe was that in Le Soleil, the picture on the opposite page showed Liberal Leader Paul Martin at work on a fatty poutine.

Can the leaders please stop eating on the campaign trail?

From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
Sent: Sat 6/19/2004 4:10 PM
Subject: Jack Blows His Stack at Media: "That is absolute bullshit"

NDP leader Jack Layton lost his cool with reporters Friday night in Regina, swearing in language hardly befitting a potential prime minister about what he considered unfair treatment from some media.

"We've got to put an end to this bullshit right now," he told journalists in a scrum.

Mr. Layton launched his salty tirade after reading newswire reports of his position on co-operating in Parliament with a minority Conservative government. The headline of one story began with the phrase "Jack Layton suggests dance with Harper."

The NDP leader twice during a one-minute rant on the headline called this "bullshit."

He said the fact he's said he'd work with any party in a minority Parliament to produce legislation cannot be construed as a commitment to "prop up Conservatives."

He was red-faced and angry during the outburst -- a marked departure from the trademark grin and peppy comments Mr. Layton normally offers to media and voters.

  • Audio clip of Mr. Layton's scrum with reporters on June 18 - Windows Media file.

    The episode left Parliamentary reporters temporarily speechless. "Bullshit" is not a word used on the Hill and MPs could get tossed from the House of Commons for using it.

    It also raised questions about Mr. Layton's temper and readiness for the hurly-burly of politics. He will face a lot more aggravation than pesky headlines if he wins a seat in Parliament or a role in the next government.

    On Saturday morning one NDP handler, half joking, urged reporters "Please don't antagonize the leader."

    A much calmer Mr. Layton joked about the incident with journalists while touring Thunder Bay June 19. "I was in cow country," he said of invoking the swear word which also refers to cattle manure. "It was a technical term."

    (Layton tour journalists had already responded with a statement of their own by Saturday, affixing "No Bullshit" stickers to their NDP press passes.)

    Mr. Layton, whose party could end up holding the balance of power in the next Parliament, did give the strongest signal to Friday that New Democrats are open to working with a minority government led by Conservatives or other parties.

    But he's still refusing to make declarative statements of support for other parties -- or to divulge detailed conditions for NDP support. He says he's not going to concede the shape of Parliament before Canadians decide it in the June 28th election.

    It's no surprise Mr. Layton is reluctant to be seen prepared to support the Conservatives, given that his candidates are in tight seat battles against Mr. Harper's party in Western Canada, Northern Ontario and Southwestern Ontario.

    From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
    Sent: Friday, June 18, 2004 9:13 PM
    Subject: Another candidate won't go on message...

    Stephen Harper was expounding during a news conference Friday when the unmistakable, and overwhelmingly annoying sound of a cellphone went off. Reporters, convinced they were the culprits, began rifling through their pockets, but to no avail. The phone just kept on ringing. Finally, a reporter looked up to the podium, where candidate Real Leblanc stood beside Mr. Harper. Finally the sheepish Mr. Leblanc looked over at Mr. Harper, whose news conferenc he had just interrupted, and acknowledged that it was his cellular that was causing all the trouble. Mr. Harper took it in his stride, promising Mr. Leblanc that all would be forgiven, provided Mr. Leblanc wins his riding.

    From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
    Sent: Friday, June 18, 2004 1:46 PM
    Subject: Jack Be Quick

    After four weeks of election campaigning, NDP leader Jack Layton's tour plane has logged enough kilometres to have circled the globe -- and more.

    By Saturday, June 19, the New Democratic Party jet will have logged 46,818.5 kilometres in campaign flying.

    (By comparison, circumnavigating the Earth by airplane is a trip of as much as 40,000 kilometres.)

    Mr. Layton has visited 23 Canadian cities during the campaign so far and he's racked up 74.1 hours of flight time in the air.

    From: Leblanc, Daniel (With the Bloc)
    Sent: Friday, June 18, 2004 1:32 PM
    Subject: A sad day

    Things are not always cheery on the road. Today, a radio reporter from the CBC's French-language service learned through a broken-up cell phone call on Highway 20 that her mother, 96, has passed away. The Bloc kindly provided flowers to the reporter, who is stuck on the bus until we arrive in Quebec City tonight.

    From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
    Sent: Fri Jun 18
    Subject: It's deja... whoops

    Sometimes a boy just can't help himself.

    When Stephen Harper learned Thursday that the newest slogan of the Liberal Party was 'think twice' he immediately took it upon himself to broadcast it far and wide. The slogan, Mr. Harper told a crowd in Montreal, happened to be the same one used in the dying days -- and we do mean the dying days -- of Kim Campbell's disasterous 1993 election campaign. We have to wonder though, who Mr. Harper thought he was getting his laughs from, given the fact that those in the crowd were probably Campbell supporters themselves. Moreover, some of the campaign team on the bus have been long-time Tories who worked for Ms. Campbell way back then. Asked for his reaction, one campaign worker could only look down and smile.

    From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
    Sent: Thursday, June 17, 2004
    Subject: Zeroplan

    Disgruntled reporters covering Jack Layton have a new name for the NDP: no damn points.

    Both the Conservatives and New Democrats are flying on Air Canada planes, but only the Tories are granting journalists Aeroplan points for flying on the leader's plane. (Media outlets pay hefty travel bills to place reporters on these jets)

    Aeroplan points are a little-known perquisite of plane travel on campaign tours that leaves lucky reporters with a bevy of free flights after the election.

    But the NDP failed to secure Aeroplan points when negotiating their campaign jet hire. The omission has left journalists gnashing their teeth over the incredible point windfall they are missing. (Quietly gnashing of course so as not to appear petty and small minded in the midst of a potentially historic election campaign.)

    The NDP plane racks up about 12,500 kilometres of air travel per week - a tidy sum when converted into precious Aeroplan points.

    NDP officials have repeatedly answered queries from whiny journalists about Aeroplan with the phrase "We're working on it."

    This week the cause appeared lost when the NDP spokesman's reponse changed to: "I thought we'd moved beyond that."

    Still, there are consolations: orange and silver Jack Layton travel mugs are standard issue to all NDP campaign reporters.

    From: Clark, Campbell (With the Liberals)
    Sent: Thursday, June 17, 2004 9:02 AM
    Subject: Caffeine campaign

    Paul Martin's campaign has become a coffee shop tour. Yesterday, it was the Second Cup in Hamilton. This morning, it was the Tim Hortons in New Hamburg, Ont. This afternoon it will be the Little Red Roaster in London, Ont.

    But the caffeine campaign will probably give the Liberals more jitters than energy. There were barely 40 supporters waiting on a glum rainy day in New Hamburg, where Mr. Martin continued to use the heavy rhetorical firepower, including a promise to fix medicare "come hell or high water." After Wednesday's coffee-shop declaration that medicare is the "fight of our lives," reporters on the bus were wondering whether Mr. Martin would order the coffee of his life, come hell or hot water.

    The Liberal Leader's move for the exits after 10 minutes was halted when a supporter broke into hot water, forcing the prime minister to stop and sing before struggling for the door.

    From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
    Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2004
    Subject: A Twoonie In Every Tin Cup:

    A panhandler in NDP leader Jack Layton's path is like a kissable baby for any other politician.

    Mr. Layton, always quick to remind reporters that he wrote a book on homelessness, has made an election issue of the subject.

    He blamed Liberal Leader Paul Martin for deaths of street people in Toronto, saying the former finance minister is reponsible for a rise in homeless deaths after cuts to affordable housing funding in the 1990s.

    So Mr. Layton couldn't help but stop and fish for spare pocket change when he encountered a beggar during a campaign swing through Ottawa Wednesday.

    As TV cameras rolled, Mr. Layton -- his face emoting concern and empathy -- leaned over and dropped a twoonie and loonie in the street person's cup.

    Then he dashed to his next event.

    The beggar seemed happy with the transaction, telling a reporter: "The NDP - they're my party."

    From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
    Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 6:13 PM
    Subject: Bandwagon barrels on

    More proof positive of just how serious Stephen Harper is about crashing through Ontario is the fact that the Western Tory Bus Fleet has dead-headed its way eastward to ensure Mr. Harper gets to more places, faster. In Ontario Wednesday, the tour went from Ottawa to Hamilton, where three of the buses picked up the team for a dash to Niagara Falls. After heading back to Hamilton, the tour flew to Windsor, where the second set of buses picked up the crew. It promises to be this way for the rest of the week, with buses hopscotching across Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes in a military-style operation that probably requires as much planning as the invasion of Iraq. For the record, the buses and campaign plane are starting to get a lot more crowded, as reporters start smelling a winning campaign.

    From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
    Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 12:46 PM
    Subject: Is He Or Isn't He?

    Overheard at an advance polling station in Ottawa Tuesday: two young women still debating how to vote before they picked up a ballot.

    One woman, a student, opined that Conservative leader Stephen Harper didn't seem scary as critics made him out to be.

    She said she doubted he would move to restrict abortion or gay rights.

    Her friend was having none of that, saying she shouldn't take a chance on Harper and risk the possibility that his critics are right.

    The conversation succinctly captured the should-we-or-shouldn't-we debate taking place nationally among voters.

    Alas, there's no word on how the Ottawa voter resolved her dilemma.

    Globe and Mail reporters come equipped with big ears but they lack X-ray vision to read sealed ballots.

    From: Chase, Steven
    Sent: Friday, June 11, 2004 1:00 PM
    Subject: It's a bird, it's a plane...

    Mild-mannered Conservative leader Stephen Harper has a new, darker alter-ego: Harperman.

    Ahead in the polls, Mr. Harper appears to have inspired hero worship among some supporters. One Carleton University student has created a flash movie that paints the Liberal-Conservative election battle in comic relief.

    "Martin and his goons have been running this town for too long," Harperman growls in the movie's opening scenes, surveying Ottawa from a rooftop as the bells on Parliament Hill toll.

    Harperman later locks horns with Liberal leader Paul Martin -- to the tune of a jazzy, hip soundtrack.

    He first taunts Mr. Martin by windsurfing in front of a Canadian Steamship Line vessel and later ends up kung-fu fighting "Ad Men!" who guard the prime minister.

    Mr. Martin, portrayed as a mob boss, offers the Conservative leader a coalition: "Let me be clear ... the future is with me, Harper."

    But Harperman rejects Mr. Martin's proposal, only to find himself trapped in a burning Ministry of Public Works warehouse.

    "How's that for a firewall!" Mr. Martin laughs.

    The flash strip fades to black with an overtly political message: "On June 28th Help Harper Clean Up This Town."

    From: Galloway, Gloria (With the NDP)
    Sent: Thursday, June 10, 2004 9:40 PM
    Subject: Yoda like, this is...

    Jack Layton was on about the star-wars missile defence thing again tonight, this time at a church in downtown Toronto. He attracted quite a crowd — David Suzuki, Leah Pinsent, Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah Polley among them.

    And this time, in very measured tones, Mr. Layton managed to make it sound like a pretty scary prospect.

    "I read recently Lloyd Axworthy's book on world affairs," he said. "Sure enough, he describes the weaponization of space as having a danger that can only be described as infinite. And for a man who knows Lloyd Axworthy, this is not a man who uses hyperbolic metaphorical flights — like I sometimes do, for example — this is a man who tends to use very measured language. He was a minister of external affairs. To see language of that sort utilized here should give each and every one of us a great deal of pause."

    Mr. Suzuki had not planned to speak but was drawn to the stage, nonetheless. He said he was not there to endorse Mr. Layton, claiming that to do so would bring a federal audit on his foundation. But he too presented a forceful argument against space-based missile defence.

    "When people talk about fool-proof technology, you think about that, what is a fool-proof technology?" asked Mr. Suzuki. "It's a technology free of fools. And what technology do we have that is ever so perfect that we can have fools in it and there's never an accident. That's the great weakness of the whole nuclear power and nuclear weapons, there are always these bloody human beings and they fall in love and lose 50 IQ points. They get the flu and they get drunk and go in the next day. They do all kinds of things to screw up the works. You can't have a fool-proof technology as long there are fools that are operating the system."

    From: Taber, Jane (With the Conservatives)
    Sent: Thursday, June 10, 2004 7:11 AM

    There are several reporters who have been travelling with Stephen Harper for the past three weeks and they've heard over and over again the same stump speech in different venues. In fact if Mr. Harper came down with a cold or flu they could recite it. Yet they maintain their enthusiasm -- if nothing else the staff and Harper troops travelling are upbeat, professional and, actually, lots of fun.

    Still, Mr. Harper has a few favourite jokes and lines that he always uses in his speech, merely tailoring it to make it relevant to the weather or a landmark in the city where he has found himself. In Victoria on Tuesday, Mr. Harper welcomed everyone to his event at the long-term care facility and also acknowledged "Aunt Catherine". Now, Aunt Catherine was a mystery to his handlers -- Carolyn Stewart Olsen, his press secretary, didn't know her nor did Jim Armour, his director of communications.

    After further investigation -- I had to ask Mr. Harper's wife, Laureen -- it seems that Aunt Catherine (and it is with a "c") is the sister of Mr. Harper's mother. She lives in Victoria and came out to see her nephew. At that speech Mr. Harper got a big laugh when he said it's been so cold that even Liberals have their hands in their own pockets. He got a big laugh when he used that line again in Barrie during an environment announcement. He managed to work it is during a question about global warming. His other favourite line is that "You don't have to be a Liberal to be a Canadian".

    Mr. Harper also likes to make fun of the cabinet ministers -- Immigration Minister Judy Sgro and Veterans Affairs Minister John McCallum -- who ambushed Mr. Harper at Toronto area events last week. Those jokes always get good laughs: "I was in Toronto last week and we got Judy Sgro hanging outside my hotel room for an hour like a groupie. Then we went to Markham and we had John McCallum there waving a piece of paper like he wanted an autograph. Maybe if we go to Montreal we can get Paul Martin to come out and start talking like a Conservative again."

    Mr. Harper admitted yesterday that he sees vulnerability in some Ontario; this campaign is shaping up more and more as the battle of Ontario. So today we start out early from our Toronto airport hotel -- on a rainy day in Toronto -- and travel to Brampton. We're also going into Mississauga and then back to Ottawa later tonight. Apparently, it's Caribbean night on the campaign plane tonight -- exotic drinks and music as the campaign plane heads back to Ottawa where it will be resting for several days as Mr. Harper prepares for the crucial leadership debates Monday and Tuesday. Oh, before I go -- one more Stephen Harper joke. It's about gas taxes, which he has vowed to reduce: "Nowadays when a young girl asks her date to bring her somewhere expensive the poor guy is tempted to answer how about the gas station!" The often elderly crowds attending his events like the joke, although these days it could just as easily be a young woman asking a man out for a date and paying the shot!

    From: Fagan, Drew (In Savannah)
    Sent: Wednesday, June 09, 2004 11:12 AM
    Subject: So close, but so far away

    Blame it on al-Qaeda or, for that matter, Canada.

    The annual G8 summit was once an intimate affair. So intimate, in fact, that it began life in 1975 as the G6 -- leaving out Canada, which was inducted into the club the next year, and Russia just a few years ago.

    But now, it's anything but intimate. The leaders' closest aides are with them on exclusive Sea Island. But, as for mid-level officials and thousands of journalists, they're checking out the delights of Savannah — about 125 kilometres away.

    Everything changed with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Now, security demands that the leaders meet in secluded spots, with carefully-controlled access. Sea Island, along the Atlantic coast -- met U.S. needs (and also has the sentimental benefit of having been the honeymoon site of George and Barbara Bush, the President's parents.)

    Canada set the pace in this regard, choosing Kananaskis, in the Rockies, as the site of the first summit after 9/11 in 2002. The hordes remained in Calgary.

    Videoconferencing keeps everyone in contact.

    It is possible, all the same, for journalists to get on to the island. Carefully-organized tours to participate at press conferences live and in person are possible. To get on today's trip, you needed to be ready to go at 4 a.m. -- necessary to get through the multiple levels of security en route to the island.

    Thanks, but cellphone contact will do just fine.

    From: Taber, Jane (With the Conservatives)
    Sent: Wednesday, June 09, 2004 6:54 AM
    Subject: Half full, half empty?

    Conservative leader Stephen Harper has made it through the half-way point of the five-week campaign in good shape. He clearly has the momentum going into the last half and as we approach the crucial debates next Monday and Tuesday. He is running a frontrunner's campaign -- reacting to barbs and criticism from his main opposition, the Liberal leader Paul Martin. The Martin gang has been trying to paint Mr. Harper and his team as a bunch of social conservatives to be feared. Controversial statements by several of his caucus members about abortion, official languages and hate crimes have dogged him this week. Mr. Harper has carefully picked his events, leaving little time for reporters to write about them.

    We've been on an incredible journey in the air, flying back and forth over the mountains but spending little time at actual events. All we do is eat on that Air Canada plane -- cheese, crackers, champagne, greek salads, huge pieces of mango and blueberry cheese cake, designer pizzas, mixed nuts, vegetables and dip and whatever you want to drink. (I've gained several pounds in just a couple of days.) Again, this is a classic frontrunner's campaign -- keep your head down and hope you make no mistakes.

    In Victoria yesterday morning, Mr. Harper and his wife met with residents of a long-term care hospital. He announced his senior's platform to great applause from his supporters. But those same supporters were becoming angry with the national media that kept questioning Mr. Harper about the social issues, booing and reacting when the subject of abortion was brought up. He talked about a big tent and that it is expected that some of his caucus members would espouse those views. He seems unworried and was disdainful of the Liberal attack strategy. But that didn't last long because we were off and running back to the hotel to file our stories and then on to Thunder Bay where Mr. Harper addressed a crowd of between 300 and 350 supporters.

    It was a 20-minute stump speech filled with his usual lines: "You don't have to be a Liberal to be a Canadian." He talked about accountability and health care but received the biggest applause for his vow to scrap the long-gun registry. And with that he vanished again to rest and hop a plane today for Barrie, where the Reform Party won its first and only Ontario seat in 1993. The Liberals own it now but there is some suspicion that it could be vulnerable to the Conservatives. He's also to meet with his former leadership opponent, Belinda Stronach tonight, which could be interesting given her support of same-sex marriage and her pro-choice views.

    From: Galloway, Gloria (With the NDP)
    Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 11:23 PM
    Subject: All in tune?

    The thing I'd missed most during my first three days on this campaign was a sappy theme song. Most politicians have one — original or, more often, borrowed — that they get their sound crew to play when they enter the room.

    Dalton McGuinty had one when he ran for premier of Ontario. I can still hear it … "we want change for a generation" … oh man, stop me.

    Anyway, I was told that Jack Layton had a song and the word was he didn't play it because it was too urban for the rural places we'd been stopping.

    Then, last night in Humboldt, Sask., it started up as he came in the hall. And it was, decidedly a country tune. I'm told that's because I heard it in a country setting which influenced my ear. Perhaps. It's not really to my taste but maybe it will grow on me.

    Mr. Layton also delivered a new speech last night and was decidedly subdued in his delivery. In any case, there were a few good lines. Here is one directed at the Conservative leader:

    "Stephen Harper has delivered a platform based on the belief that Canadians would jump through a hoop in order to get a tax cut on the other side, that our only responsibility to the world is to arm it to the teeth, that we judge the quality of education of our children and the education that they deserve by the size of your line of credit, that you regard difference between people with suspicion and you regard misfortune with contempt. Mr. Harper, how can you say demand better of politicians when you assume the worst about Canadians?"

    From: Galloway, Gloria (With the NDP)
    Sent: Monday, June 07, 2004
    Subject: Puck stops here...

    It's 7 p.m and the Layton campaign has officially ended for the day. We were supposed to be enjoying the Stanley Cup final with NDP volunteers in Prince Rupert but a low-lying cloud put a stop to those plans.

    The campaign plane took off from Vancouver a little late on Monday afternoon and made the one-hour trip up the Sunshine Coast. Unfortunately the sun didn't extend to the runway in Prince Rupert.

    So we did an about face and headed back south where we will watch the game in a terminal of the Vancouver airport.

    And here we are in some cushy lounge, getting ready to watch the game on a big screen TV, taking bets on the outcome and looking at the magnificent panorama of the Vancouver skyline —which is pretty amazing to folks from central Canada.

    But there's a minor glitch. The game is going to last at least two hours (and these teams have been playing well into overtime). Then there's a two-hour flight to Saskatoon. It will be another late night for the NDP tour. But it seems everyone has agreed that hockey trumps sleep.

    From: Galloway, Gloria (With the NDP)
    Sent: Monday, June 07, 2004 8:01 PM
    Subject: Next question... Next question... Next question

    Buoyed by reports that his party could take 10 seats in British Columbia, Jack Layton is playing it safe. Very safe.

    After re-announcing tax measures that his party would implement should it form the next government (and despite hovering at about 20 per cent in the polls, Mr. Layton is still talking about a majority) the NDP leader opened the floor to questions.

    But only certain questions. When asked how he would fill vacant Supreme Court seats, he politely refused to respond.

    "Today we're focusing on childcare and on benefits to families so we'll have more to say about that at another time," he said.

    Same with questions about improving the flow of traffic across the border.

    All in all, the press conference was an exercise in frustration.

    The most interesting answers came when Mr. Layton was asked to provide his definition of the middle class, given that he says the middle class will benefit from his tax policies.

    "I think Canadians define (middle class for) themselves," he replied, adding that it refers to "people who work for a living, people who are on the go with their families. It's really up to Canadians to define who they are. This isn't up to some politician to label people."

    So we reporters are left wondering, if we believe in our hearts that we are middle class, do we qualify for tax benefits under the NDP plan?

    From: Taber, Jane (With the Conservatives)
    Sent: Monday, June 07, 2004 12:44 PM
    Subject: Harper's frenetic tour

    Stephen Harper is trying to rival NDP leader Jack Layton for the prize of ubiquitous politician. The NDP leader flew to the Yukon for an hour yesterday. Today, however, we left Ottawa for Quebec City at 8 a.m. and then turned around about three hours later to fly to Calgary so that Mr. Harper could watch the Flames -- he represents a Calgary seat -- at the Saddledome on the big Jumbotron. There are no hotel rooms to be had in Calgary because of an oil patch convention so it's off to Victoria for Mr. Harper and his entourage of reporters later in the night. We get into Victoria, apparently, around 3 a.m. EST. One plus. Everyone traveling on the Harper plane qualifies for Aeroplan points because the Tories negotiated the deal with Air Canada from whom they are leasing the plane. I will look very tired and very old when we finally get to Victoria tomorrow morning. Go Flames go!

    From: Galloway, Gloria (With the NDP)
    Sent: Monday, June 07, 2004 2:52 AM
    Subject: So, Jack, what do you think...

    Jack Layton admitted he took his plane all the way to Whitehorse on Sunday simply because he loves the place. And it is undeniably beautiful — more so because of the 27 C heat that greeted his entourage.

    But it was a long six hours getting there and the media travelling with Mr. Layton had plenty of time to yak kibbitz about the election, including expressing bewilderment at the fact that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper had said in a condolence message that the late former U.S. presidemt Ronald "Reagan was the Churchill of his era."

    Er, yah. Because the former B movie star was a masterful writer, perhaps. Or because he so skillfully defended the world against encroaching evil. Or, um, because George W. Bush has called him one of his mentors.

    In any case, on a dull day, it would be fun to see what Mr. Layton, no particular fan of Mr. Bush, would say about the comparison. But when reporters had the chance to ask him questions on the plane, he refused to be baited into commenting on Mr. Harper's comparison.

    "What I want to do is share our condolences with the American people, with the family. Whenever someone who has had a leadership position, a president, a national leader passes away, it causes a nation to reflect on the issues that it's grappled with," said Mr. Layton.

    Another messy question side-stepped.

    From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
    Sent: Friday, June 04, 2004 2:37 PM
    Subject: Jack Be Quick II

    NDP leader Jack Layton is maintaining a furious pace on the campaign trail.

    If he keeps it up for the entire five weeks, Mr. Layton's flight miles logged will far surpass a circumnavigation of the globe. (The earth is about 40,000 kilometres round at the equator)

    First two weeks travel, May 23 to June 5, 2004:
    -Distance flown by Layton campaign plane: 24,438.3 kilometres
    -Hours spent flying: 35.6 hours
    -Cities visited so far: 17 cities

    From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
    Sent: Friday, June 04, 2004 12:00 PM
    Subject: Ah, the simple life it is not...

    The Conservatives have learned a thing or two about staging a photo op. The one on Fred Reichild's cattle farm in Jarvis, Ont., however nearly went awry when the Simmentals Stephen Harper and wife, Laureen, were supposed to pose with began walking away to the far side of the field. One of the farm hands was immediately dispatched to get more feed to attract the cattle back to the gate, just before the Harpers were to arrive, saving the shot.

    For the record, Laureen Harper seemed perfectly comfortable in the cow patch, commenting on how cattle love to have their heads scratched. No Paris Hilton, she.

    From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
    Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2004 7:36 PM
    Subject: When the wheels fall off

    You knew it had to happen sooner or later. And I don't mean Stephen Harper getting tagged with being a social conservative. Media 1, the bus which carries The Globe and Mail, CBC and a few other erstwhile members of the fourth and fifth estate gave up the ghost Thursday, at least temporarily.

    The big bus, festooned with Calgary Flames banners and plastered with Mr. Harper's smiling mug, has been a dream of a ride so far. Stocked with fruit, chips, Internet portals and phones, the bus has been a lifeline for reporters who need to do their job. But when Big Blue's alternator gave out, reporters had to scramble onto Media 2 to get their work done. Fortunately, there was room enough for all.

    From: Seguin, Rheal (With the Bloc)
    Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2004 5:23 PM
    Subject: Not if we can only find another one...

    After almost two weeks of campaigning across every corner of Quebec, we finally found one. A true blue anglophone Quebecker who is a staunch sovereigntist and who is actively campaigning for the Bloc.

    James Harbottle is unique in many way. He has known Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe for many years now. He even played foottball with Duceppe when the the Bloc leader was a quaterback for a local Montreal team.

    Mr. Harbottle says he is among a growing number of progressive anglophones who are turning to the Bloc as an alternative to the Liberals. But not many anglophones have openly manifested their new found political beleifs. " You don't have to be a sovereigntist to vote for the Bloc," Mr. Harbottle said. " You just need to be open to dialogue."

    Mr. Harbottle remembers when he was a student at Westmount High where mail boxes were blown-up near his school. But now he says many anglophones have moved-on with their lives and will reconsider their vote.

    " It was scary but it begged the question 'why? Since the 'why?' of the 60s people have moved on. I've always been pro-Quebec. I'm a sovereigntist. But in this election we are not voting Yes or No to sovereignty." he insisted saying that anglophones should stop demonizing the Bloc.

    That is highly unlikely as many anglophone Quebeckers know that a strong Bloc contingent in Ottawa will certainly help revive the sovereignty movement that suffered a major setback in last year's provincial election when the Parti Quebecois lost power.

    Maybe that's why Mr. Harbottle has been the only pro-sovereignty anglophone activist seen on the campaign to this day. But reporters have not despaired. They will continue to look. But if anymore do show-up, then everyone will understand just how bad the situation facing the Liberal has become

    From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
    Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 7:18 PM
    Subject: Swish, there goes the campaign...

    Conservative Leader Stephen Harper hasn't had to deal with many protesters during this election campaign, and the ones that have been nipping at his ankles have been fairly ineffective. Witness the effort of cabinet ministers Judy Sgro and John McCallum recently to confront him at various campaign stops.

    Yesterday, however, Mr. Harper's operatives observed a particularly wacky situation. Just as he was to enter a downtown Toronto skyscraper to make a speech, a group of pro-choice protesters began shouting slogans to call attention to Mr. Harper's health critic, Rob Merrifield, who had, two days before, expressed support for mandatory counselling for women seeking abortions.

    A mouthwash mascot is flanked by his own security near the Tory bus. Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP
    As the protesters were were doing their thing, a man dressed as a blue-coloured bottle of mouthwash saw his opportunity to get a little face time with the local news cameras.

    "Has anybody seen the Evil Gingivitis?" the man growled to no one in particular. "I know this doesn't have a lot to do with what's going on (here), but has anyone seen the Evil Gingivitis?"

    No one, apparently, had seen the villain the Listerine bottle was looking for.

    Nor, alas, did Mr. Harper see the man who was doing the yelling. The Conservative leader slipped in the door before the theatrical walking advertisement showed up.

    From: Seguin, Rheal (With the Bloc)
    Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 5:49 PM
    Subject: Bloc first... of the block

    The Bloc Québécois handlers on the campaign bus have gained a reputation of following reporters around and keeping a close watch in trying to know whom they speak with and what is being said.

    The practice is commonplace in every campaign bus and in every party organization as people carefully monitor everything that is written and is said on television and radio. And sometimes it can pay big dividends for a party.

    When a popular Montreal radio station, CKOI called on its listeners to sign a petition demanding that gas companies bring down the price of gas, more than 15,000 people responded. The radio hosts then called on the leaders of the political parties to support their campaign against the multinational gas companies. Then said the first leader to call back would get their support in the campaign.

    The next day Gilles Duceppe was the only leader to respond. Paul Martin's organizers had the Competition Bureau call the station.

    Today the radio hosts were on hand to support the BQ and greet Mr. Duceppe at an independent gasoline distributors' office in Joliette accompanied by a mascot dressed in tiger's suit who wore at-shirt bearing the slogan: 'Down with big petroleum companies"

    Because of the BQ's quick reaction, it has gained some free publicity for its campaign....Meanwhile the Liberals were left out in the cold, missing another opportunity to connect with the voters.

    From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
    Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 2:23 PM
    Subject: Go Calgary Oilers!

    NDP leader Jack Layton is obviously not much of a hockey fan. He had trouble remembering the name of Calgary Flames general manager-coach Darryl Sutter when asked about his party's slim chances in Alberta.

    Here's his answer:

    "If someone had asked Darryl Sittle, Sutt, … Darryl Sutter, excuse me, Sittler, if somebody had asked him 'Do you guys have a chance to be in the fifth game of the Stanley Cup last fall? I think they would have said, 'C'mon. most people would have said not a chance', but look what's happened.

    So I think what we want to do is take the attitude of the Calgary Flames which is that in Alberta, you just might get a big surprise on June the 28. That's our positive attitude."

    From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
    Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 2:45 AM
    Subject: Standup Jack, Part II

    NDP leader Jack Layton is trying out some new jokes and jibes at campaign stops out west. They include:

    NDP Leader Jack Layton visits a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C., TuesdayPhoto: Steven Chase
    -On the resemblance of Liberal promises to items at the Antiques Roadshow: "The old Liberal promises [are] like the political Antiques Roadshow: you can almost hear the appraiser: 'Improving health care, oh, that's a very very old Liberal promise: at least 11 years old.' Your heart begins to soar, imagining the value. Back to the appraiser: 'Sadly, I am afraid it's worthless'."

    -On recent gaffes by Conservative MPs as evidence of a hidden agenda:" [Stephen Harper] repudiated his own defence critic on Iraq, his language critic on bilingualism and his health critic on abortion. Someone remind me: wasn't the idea to unite the right? ... Of course what's really going on is that he wants to keep [his agenda] under wraps. But they keep having these Conservative wardrobe malfunctions. We keep getting glimpses of the dinosaur scales underneath."

    -On Liberal Leader Paul Martin's hand-picking and appointing of Liberal candidates in ridings: "Ask any apple farmer: they'll tell you when you are picking by hand you're not supposed to choose the rotten ones."

    -On the need for Canadians to elect NDP MPs who can call Liberals to account: "You need someone who can hold the Liberals' feet to the fire until you can smell roasting shoe leather."

    Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP
    From: Laghi, Brian (With the Conservatives)
    Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 6:15 PM
    Subject: ...but can he use his head?

    He'll never be confused with Mr. Posh Spice, but reporters hollered out to Stephen Harper to bend it like Beckham when he took to a soccer field in the community of Ajax for a photo-op.

    Mr. Harper, who sometimes pokes fun at his hockey-playing skills, showed more than a little fancy footwork yesterday when he kicked the ball with a couple of local kids.

    He might want to lose the suit, though, next time plays. For that small faux pas, one reporter gave Conservative leader a yellow card.

    From: Seguin, Rheal (With the Bloc)
    Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 5:22 PM
    Subject: Not in a knot

    When he was boy scout Jacques Parizeau was given the nickname "Vibrant Weasel." So what about Gilles Duceppe who recently bragged about being a boy scout himself.

    Unfortunately Mr. Duceppe had to admit that he wasn't in the boy scouts long enough to get his own nickname. He said he had trouble learning how to tie knots.

    That does not bode well for the Bloc, which may find itself tied-up in knots of sorts when he tried to figure out how it can support the right-wing Conservatives if they are ever called upon to form a minority government after June 28.

    Well if that's the case Mr. Duceppe will be able to seek advice from the vibrant weasel himself who will certainly have some astute advice to give him on how to avoid getting tied-up in political knots.

    From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
    Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004
    Subject: Fleeting Rainbow

    Journalists and politicos following NDP leader Jack Layton were temporarily awed Monday afternoon when a gorgeous rainbow appeared over Kamloops, B.C.

    The multi-coloured arc dominated the landscape as Mr. Layton's convoy of cars and buses left town for the Kamloops airport.

    Photo: Steven Chase

    One reporter mischieviously asked Mr. Layton if there were rainbows "in Stephen Harper's Canada too." But instead of a pity comeback from the NDP leader, he got an earnest earful about how the rainbow was an early symbol of the co-operative movement, etc. etc.

    Photographers and camera operators scrambled from the bus on to the airport tarmac to film Mr. Layton against the backdrop of the rainbow but the arc disappeared before they could capture the tableau.

    In photography, as in politics, timing really is everything.

    From: Clark, Campbell (With the Liberals)
    Sent: Monday, May 31, 2004 8:21 PM
    Subject: No kidding around here...

    Paul Martin's campaign wound into Saskatoon today for one of the more cliched political events -- a question-and-answer session with high-school students, this time at Holy Cross high school.

    And Mr. Martin later indulged in the cliche -- often used in similar circumstances by Jean Chretien -- that the kids asked better questions than the opposition do in Question Period. The truth, however, is that the answers were better, and more revealing. Dodging a student's question has to be done with some tact, while it is viewed as sport to stonewall the opposition in the Commons.

    Paul Martin waves to students at Holy Cross High School while campaigning in Saskatoon. Photo: Tom Hanson/CP
    So we learned that Mr. Martin thinks it would be a good thing to lower the voting age. And he thinks the world should intervene in Sudan's civil war -- a question that had him lecturing the students about how the Treaty of Westphalia, signed in 1648, established the principle of the sovereignty of nations, and questioning students on when the world should intervene in another country's affairs.

    When asked what is the most important issue Canada will face in the next four or five years, he didn't say health care -- the central focus of his campaign -- but rather how Canada will cope with the rise of the global economy, and new economic powers like China, India, and Russia. Oh, and maybe Brazil.

    The questions also made Mr. Martin reveal that he doesn't like the fact that he's always surrounded by security, that he hasn't driven a car since he became PM, or that when he goes to church, he sees his security team frisking elderly people as they go in.

    The session also seemed to reveal that the students at Holy Cross don't share their the concerns of their principal. Before Mr. Martin arrived, principal Rick Murzak lectured the students on subjects the Roman Catholic church believes voters should consider at election time -- including a heterosexual definition of marriage and respect for life starting at conception.

    Mr. Martin got no questions on gay marriage, however, although he did get one on abortion. The young woman asked, if abortion could not be stopped, "what can we do to decrease the amount of lives that are lost each year."

    The answer was more reflective of Mr. Martin's own Catholicism than his usual platform answer that he supports a woman's right to choose. And it sounded a lot more like the arguments put forward half a century ago for legalizing abortion:

    "It is a huge problem. The issue is obviously one of consulting and of comfort, of setting example and of essentially, doing all of those things in terms of prevention that I know that here at this school that they are trying to do. It also, in my opinion, means that if it's going to occur, that it's got to occur under licensed circumstances where there's supervision, so that it doesn't take place in back alleys."

    From: Chase, Steven (with the NDP)
    Sent: Monday, May 31, 2004 5:36 PM
    Subject: Scrumbags

    Former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt, known for his dislike of the media, had a few choice words for hacks who approached him yesterday.

    Mr. Harcourt was at a meeting of Canadian city mayors and councillors in Edmonton - the same crowd that NDP leader Jack Layton spoke to yesterday.

    It's the "scrum of the earth," Mr. Harcourt declared as reporters crowded around him, hoping for some choice tidbits on the NDP.

    Alas, that was Mr. Harcourt's best line.

    The former B.C. premier was a casualty of his party's "Bingo-gate" scandal years back.

    From: Clark, Campbell (With the Liberals)
    Sent: Monday, May 31, 2004 3:14 PM
    Subject: What hurts you only makes you stronger

    Paul Martin is clearly the put-down king of his own government. At almost every event where a cabinet minister is present, the prime minister manages to slip in a joke at their expense.

    In Victoria last week, it was Environment Minister David Anderson's turn. As Mr. Martin addressed a group of WW II veterans, he said talking to them was a great honour for someone of his generation -- "or even for someone of the older generation that David Anderson represents."

    Yesterday, in Saskatoon, Mr. Martin visited Holy Cross high school, famed for its great sports teams, "and I'm here with Ralph Goodale, who is not one of Saskatchewan's great athletes," he said.

    Jack Layton at an AIDS benefit in Toronto. Photo: Steven Chase
    From: Steven Chase (With the NDP)
    Sent: Monday, May 31, 12:09 pm
    Subject: Outed

    NDP leader Jack Layton and his wife Olivia Chow ran into some drag queens at an AIDs benefit in Toronto this past weekend.

    After hamming it up with Mr. Layton, one drag-queen, dressed in NDP orange, joked to another: "I've been outed as an NDP supporter!"

    The second replied, "Honey, you were outed years ago."

    From: Seguin, Rheal (With the Bloc)
    Sent: Monday, May 31, 2004 11:30 AM
    Subject: Location, location, location

    You've heard of the expression 'losing the shirt off your back', well that is exactly what a Quebec group that calls itself the "Les sans-chemise" (the Shirtless) claim is what happened to many Quebeckers when the Liberals reformed the employment insurance program and cut back benefits to the unemployed.

    The group has entered the campaign with a vengeance, posting a devastating message along sign posts in many ridings.

    Along one of Quebec City's major arteries called Charest boulevard of all names, the group has strategically placed signs under almost every sign placed by the Liberal candidate. While the Liberal campaign sign shows the smiling candidate's picture with "The Martin Team" in bright red letters visible to all, another sign placed just underneath it by the group asks: "WHO STOLE THE MONEY FROM THE UNEMPLOYED? I'M NOT VOTING FOR THAT!" Ouch!!!

    From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
    Sent: Sunday, May 30, 2004 2:02 PM
    Subject: Look at me!

    A source says a Bloc Quebecois staffer called Radio Canada last week to complain the broadcaster was giving the NDP too much coverage and the Bloc too little.

    The beef was raised during NDP leader Jack Layton's recent swing through Quebec, according to the source.

    The broadcaster's response to the Bloc? Stop running such a boring, do-nothing campaign.

    Mr. Layton, in Quebec for two days last week, has promised to repeal the Clarity Act - hated by French Canadian nationalists.

    It's part of the NDP's push to draw left-wing social democrat voters from the Bloc's base.

    In contrast to Mr. Layton's aggressive "look at me!" campaign, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe is running a very cautious game. That appears to be in order to avoid anything that might upset his party's commanding lead in Quebec.

    From: Leblanc, Daniel (With the Bloc)
    Sent: Saturday, May 30, 2004 3:43 PM Subject: Tilting at windmills

    Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe has been accused of campaigning in a bubble because he has been meeting few people outside of a rigid setting.

    This afternoon was proving to be in keeping with tradition with a visit to a people-less windfarm.

    But Canadian Press photographer Jacques Boissinot-- a known punster -- pointed out: "It's not true that Gilles Duceppe is staying away from real people. He's come all the way here to meet his fans."

    From: Chase, Steven (With the NDP)
    Sent: Saturday, May 29, 2004 5:08 PM
    Subject: Call in the Karma Police

    Jack Layton performs on the NDP plane. Photo: Steven Chase
    The NDP campaign plane turned into the boys' and girls' glee club Friday night when NDP leader Jack Layton pulled out his guitar for a singalong.

    Reporters were issued songbooks of folksy tunes and coaxed into joining Mr. Layton and his 12-string for an hour of crooning that included the crowd favourite, Barrett's Privateers by Stan Rogers.

    Mr. Layton also played requests including Suzanne by Leonard Cohen, The Times They Are a Changin' by Bob Dylan and Yesterday by the Beatles.

    From: Leblanc, Daniel (With the Bloc)
    Sent: Saturday, May 29, 2004 1:17 AM Subject: Blocking the view

    Sharp-eyed TV reporters thought they finally had Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe in a compromising situation. He was off to meet party faithful at a billiard room in Riviere-du-Loup that happened to be atop a dance hall reserved for men over the age of 18. TV reporters were delighted that Mr. Duceppe had to walk in front of the sign for the nude bar simply to go to his event. But the Bloc beat them to the punch, putting a supporter who held up not one, but two, signs one on top the other to hide the naked women on the billboard.

    Globe unwired archive: May 24 to May 28

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