Anti-Martin Web site branded Layton gimmick

Mr. Layton launched an interactive Web page focusing on Mr. Martin's former company, Canada Steamship Lines. The page says CSL does not pay Canadian taxes and wages and avoids Canadian environmental standards by registering its vessels outside Canada.

The Globe and Mail
October 15, 2003

Anti-Martin Web site branded Layton gimmick
Kim Lunman

OTTAWA — A spokesman for Paul Martin accused federal NDP Leader Jack Layton yesterday of stooping to political "circus acts" by launching a cyber campaign against the front-runner for the Liberal leadership.

"Jack Layton is well known for gimmicks, gadgetry and circus acts," Scott Reid said. "If that was the way to get ahead in Canadian politics, Stockwell Day would be prime minister. People aren't looking for stunts. They're looking for credibility."

Mr. Day, the former Canadian Alliance leader, lost the party's leadership to Stephen Harper after a series of political blunders, the most infamous his arrival at a news conference aboard a personal watercraft while wearing a wetsuit.

Mr. Layton launched an interactive Web page focusing on Mr. Martin's former company, Canada Steamship Lines. The page says CSL does not pay Canadian taxes and wages and avoids Canadian environmental standards by registering its vessels outside Canada.

Mr. Layton unveiled the Web site, flyourflag.ca, on Thanksgiving weekend. The New Democratic Party is targeting Mr. Martin in the month leading to the Nov. 14 Liberal-leadership contest. Mr. Martin is expected to win the race easily over Heritage Minister Sheila Copps and become prime minister when Jean Chrétien retires in February.

Mr. Martin transferred ownership of the shipping company to his three sons, but Mr. Layton said the transfer does not put to rest conflict-of-interest questions.

"All we're doing is laying out facts," Mr. Layton said in an interview yesterday.

"That is rather different than circus acts… . We're packaging it in a way to educate Canadians on these issues."

Visitors to the site are asked to vote on the question: "Which flag do you think Paul Martin will fly from the Peace Tower when he becomes prime minister?"

The choices include the flags of Panama, Malta, Liberia, the Bahamas, Cyprus, Vanuatu and the United States.

The site, which portrays Mr. Martin as a business-friendly right-leaning Liberal, also attacks a range of policies from child care to the environment.

Mr. Layton said the NDP is trying to hold Mr. Martin accountable and generate debate in an otherwise lacklustre leadership race that is limping toward a coronation.

But Mr. Reid said the attack suggests that a negative campaign is planned against Mr. Martin in the runup to the election expected in April and is a cheap attempt to grab headlines that could backfire.

"I don't think Canadians are going to elect anyone because of the crummy things they say about their political opponents."

The NDP has 14 seats in the House of Commons and hopes that Mr. Layton will revive the party during the election campaign.

The former Toronto councillor was elected leader in January and does not have a seat in the Commons.


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