- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

TORONTO Canada's troubled Conservative Party is in turmoil again, after a parliamentary coalition it hoped would "unite the right" against the Liberal government collapsed.

Reports say party insiders spent the weekend questioning leader Joe Clark's abilities and put out feelers for candidates to replace him.

"Things are obviously volatile," one unidentified source told the Ottawa Sun newspaper.

Another told the National Post: "Somebody has got to take him out before he does further damage."

The move to oust Mr. Clark comes just days after the Conservative leader failed to strike a deal with the Canadian Alliance, the main opposition party.

An agreement would have seen the two organizations cooperate on the campaign trail in the next election.

Mr. Clark also lost the support of six former Alliance members of Parliament who worked alongside the 12 Conservative lawmakers in the House of Commons, but kept their own identity as the Democratic Representative Caucus.

The dissident lawmakers abruptly returned to the Canadian Alliance last week, just six months after they left.

They cited pressure from their constituents and a friendlier atmosphere under new Alliance leader Stephen Harper.

But the coalition's demise has upset die-hard conservatives such as Alberta Premier Ralph Klein because it only helps the ruling Liberal Party.

Currently in its third term, Prime Minister Jean Chretien's government must call an election by 2005.

"The conservative movement won't gain any ground in this country until there is a solid, unified conservative movement," Mr. Klein said. "As long as it stays as it is, I don't think one faction has a hope of forming a government in this country."

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