<a href="http://www.macleans.ca/xta-asp/storyview.asp?viewtype=search&tpl=search_frame&edate=2001/11/19&vpath=/xta-doc1/2001/11/19/columns/59999.shtml&maxrec=257&recnum=2&searchtype=B ASIC&pg=1&rankbase=160&searchstring=Stockwell+Day">ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM</a>
We sit in the magnificent corner office on Parliament Hill, 409-S, that the taxpayers provide for the Leader of Her Majesty's Almost Loyal Opposition. Stockwell Day has orange juice, apple juice, coffee and muffins waiting.
What is your mood at the moment? How would you describe it?
I feel encouraged by the fact we finally have a caucus in place where people are focused, are disciplined, staying on topic. I think both our caucus and party have learned a brutally painful lesson they should have known beforehand. That publicly fighting about stuff that should be debated internally does nothing but hurt everybody. The team we've got in place now and have for about five months, people are acting like grown-ups. So I feel good about that. I think July was a key point with me putting the leadership question back into the hands of our members -- taking away from any elite group to decide. And then caucus laying out an ultimatum to the so-called dissidents. Five of them have returned.
Do you think the Central Canada press -- Toronto media and National Press Gallery -- is inherently prejudiced against an outsider, someone from the West?
It was a journalist who put it best talking to a group of young Alliance activists about a year ago. He said, "In Ottawa, here's how we do it. We sit up in the gallery in Question Period. We watch to see who's been wounded. And then when they come staggering out of the House, we circle around them with our spears and finish them off." Coming from a journalist, I thought that was a reasonably fair estimation.
So they haven't finished you off?
To me, that's been the exciting part. It was Churchill who said, after his experience in the Boer War, "There's nothing quite as exhilarating as being shot at and not exactly being hit." So I think I've learned some lessons, and some hard ones, and our caucus has. As I think there is that tendency towards group-kill to set in, I do think there is a grudging honesty that will surface even among that pack and, over time, if you do a good job they will grudgingly begin to report that. And it's begun to happen now.
Do you think Preston Manning has quietly sandbagged you?
I wasn't pausing to think. I was sipping my coffee, so I know you won't write that "he was pausing to think." I'm not going to publicly speculate on my private feelings. I know this, that when our leadership race is over, if it goes in March as I think it will, if I decide to run, and if I win, I will expect to call for full support from all leadership candidates.
You've talked about the "elite." That would suggest Mr. Manning would be one of them?
As you know, a former MP signed an affidavit in August saying after the first vote of the leadership race, a year ago, a meeting was held of all 30-some strategists of the opposing camp and a clear plan was articulated to cause the leader and/or the party to implode -- they said it might take up to a year. But they had to work towards that plan. So this was someone who was on the call. A former MP, feeling badly about it I guess, and wanting to expose that. And a week after that, a national councillor who was also on the call was reported in the media as saying that call indeed took place and, yes, that plan was put in motion. Those are things we know publicly, who was behind it all. But I'm too focused on things Canadians want us to focus on -- terrorism, etc. -- to do the Sherlock Holmes routine on that. If others want to do that, that's fine.
Do you talk to Joe Clark?
I do, in passing. We talk socially.
But you don't talk about "Unite the right"?
My formal approach is, "Joe, I'm willing to have an open leadership race. What do you think about it? Either jump in or bow out. Let's make a bold move, to unite conservatives." And each time, Joe has decided to step back.
Does your wife want you to get out of politics?
Depends on which day you ask her. Today is Tuesday. The answer is No. Ask her last Friday, you'd get a different response.
She's your chief adviser, and always has been?
My final question, and I know you will answer it honestly: are you going to run?
I've made up my mind and Allan, you'll be among the first to know.