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Martin, Harper fellow travellers

Canadian Press

Ottawa — Paul Martin and Stephen Harper will fly together to the Pope's funeral on Friday, but indications are they won't be swapping stories about what the passing of John Paul means to them.

Instead, the political rivals leading the Canadian delegation to St. Peter's Square are expected to keep to themselves on the Canadian Forces jet they'll share.

An aide summed up Mr. Martin's mood after Mr. Harper's sustained attacks on the sponsorship scandal.

Asked what chance there was the two would speak to each other, Melanie Gruer said: “Not much.”

The Prime Minister has his own private cabin on the government Airbus with a work table, she said, and he intends to use it.

“He usually spends the time on the plane working — so he'll be working on various documents and speeches and whatever he needs to be working on,” Ms. Gruer said.

“So it gives him a bit of privacy to be doing that — a bit of quiet space.”

In Mr. Harper's latest sponsorship attacks Wednesday, he accused Mr. Martin's party of moral bankruptcy, and taunted that the best the Prime Minister seemed able to say about ad money going to the Parti Québécois was that “separatists are just as big crooks as Liberals.”

Hardly words that might lead to friendly bantering over the Atlantic a day later.

Mr. Martin might take comfort in Mr. Harper's assurance that he had no immediate plans to take down the Liberals over the sponsorship scandal.

Still, the Prime Minister might prefer to chat up any number of other guests who've been invited to share his airspace.

The Canadian delegation to Rome will include Mr. Martin's wife Sheila, Quebec Premier Jean Charest, 10 federal MPs, Liberal Senator Marie-Paule Poulin, and native chief Phil Fontaine.

The MPs — mostly Liberals — include cabinet ministers Joe Volpe, Albina Guarnieri and Ethel Blondin-Andrew.

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