Updated Tue. May. 3 2005 3:18 PM ET


Push for quick election risky, Stronach says

CTV.ca News Staff

Despite boasts of unanimous support for plans to topple the government, some high-profile dissent is being heard from within the ranks of the Conservative party.

Hours before Conservative leader Stephen Harper emerged to declare his whole party backed the push for an early election, Belinda Stronach told The Globe and Mail it's risky and could backfire.

Stronach told reporters that parts of the budget -- especially the billions earmarked for municipal infrastructure -- are very important to voters in her riding north of Toronto.

"I do have a concern that voting against the entire budget will impact negatively in my riding," she said.

"However, I think it's important to say that if this government is serious about doing some good and doing what's right in the public interest, they could pull out certain elements of the budget that all parties could move forward on and agree to."

The former Conservative leadership contender stopped short, however, of telling the paper whether she thought a quick election is necessary.

Watching developments in Ottawa, CTV's Mike Duffy said the comments nevertheless betray a rift made clear during the day's proceedings in the House of Commons.

"Neither Belinda nor Peter (deputy Conservative Leader Peter MacKay) were up there leading the applause as their colleagues got up. They're disenchanted," he said. "They're not a hundred per cent behind Stephen Harper."

But rallying their support is crucial, Duffy says, if the party wants to present the united front needed to quiet the charges of in-fighting and poor party discipline that have hurt them in past trips to the polls.

Within the Conservative campaign office, Duffy says there is a fight between those who want to soften Harper's image versus those who are convinced voters simply have to get to know him better.

"That's the war being fought inside," Duffy told CTV's Canada AM early Tuesday.

"Do we get on our knees to beg Belinda and Peter to join the choir, or do it on our own by finding innovative things like Stephen Harper clowning with reporters and throwing a snowball at Craig Oliver."

Stronach, a former auto parts executive entered politics as a challenger for leadership of the newly-merged Conservative party, is viewed by many as representative of Ontario MPs wary of a quick return to the campaign trail.

Unlike their western counterparts, candidates in the voter-rich province are still unsure of winning seats from the Liberals.



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