- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

It's blunt advice, but offered in a neighborly way.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is telling Americans they should not go it alone by launching a war on Iraq without the support of the United Nations.

Decisions made now will have "profound consequences for the future," the Liberal prime minister warned in a speech Thursday to the Council on Foreign Relations in Chicago.

"The price of being the world's only superpower is that its motives are sometimes questioned by others," Chretien said.

"Great strength is not always perceived by others as benign," he added. "Not everyone around the world is prepared to take the word of the United States on faith."

The prime minister's remarks are seen as a sign that Canada is joining several European countries in pressuring the United States to wait for a second U.N. resolution on the matter before possibly declaring war on Iraq.

Chretien reminded his American audience just how close relations between Canada and the United States have historically been — and, he hoped, would continue to be.

But it's that very relationship that Chretien's critics charge he is jeopardizing by not publicly committing Canadian troops to a possible war with Iraq.

"The prime minister must stop playing diplomatic tiddlywinks with our allies," opined Canadian Alliance foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day. "Decision time is here. Canada must take a stand now."

"We must support our allies and enforce the U.N. resolutions, by helping disarm this threatening dictator," he added. "Either we stand for what's right or we will stand on the sidelines."

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The race to replace Prime Minister Chretien is now an actual race.

Heritage Minister Sheila Copps is the first Liberal to officially toss her hat in the ring and is positioning herself as the candidate for the party's left wing.

The 50-year-old Member of Parliament wants the party to push for more minority rights, legalization of same-sex marriages and tuition grants to assist students with paying for university education.

Copps is no stranger to leadership campaigns. Her first bid for the party's top job fell short in 1990.

The smart money says she won't win this time around, either. Maybe that's why she staged her campaign kick-off news conference in a doughnut shop.

Former finance minister Paul Martin's raised enough money to splurge on Starbucks lattes, to be sure, but he's not expected to launch his campaign for another month.

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Prime Minister Chretien, meanwhile, has sparked a heated debate with his plan to "make Canada a model for democracy."

He wants to cap political donations from unions and corporations in order to lessen the perception that such contributions can lead to inappropriate influence with political parties such as his.

The proposed new legislation would limit business contributions to $1,000 a year and cap individual donations at $10,000 a year. Taxpayers would pick up the slack and fund both political parties and candidates' campaigns for office.

The plan has sparked a firestorm of criticism, not just from opponents but from within the party's own ranks.

Some MPs are pressuring Chretien to raise the proposed corporate limit to $10,000, the same amount that would be allowed for individuals.

Other Liberals suggest they'd be happier with the plan if it went into effect over two or three years rather than the proposed Jan. 1 start date.

Chretien says he wants Canadian politics strengthened after he retires in less than a year.

Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper thinks otherwise.

"For a man who claims there is no problem at all with corruption or undue influence in his government, he's surely making an awfully big deal about fixing it," he said.

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Deputy Prime Minister John Manley may have to juggle some numbers to pay for the new political donation plan when he tables his budget in the House of Commons Feb. 18.

"The minister of everything," as he's fondly called, is also Canada's finance minister.

Manley vows he won't break the bank to pay the government's bills, but he certainly has his work cut out for him.

Ottawa recently agreed to pay the provinces another $17 billion or so to increase health care funding over three years. The government also announced a $1 billion investment in what could be the making of a national child-care program.


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