Volume 92, Issue 2

Friday, May 22, 1998

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Reforming politics

Gazette Staff

London will soon be in the political spotlight as the Reform Party of Canada will hold its biannual assembly at the London Convention Centre next week.

The three-day convention, which begins May 28, offers Reform delegates from constituencies across the country the chance to vote on the constitutional issues and party policies which govern the Reform party, said Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, Reform media officer. The assembly will also hear a speech from party leader Preston Manning.

Stewart-Olsen said the assembly is being held in London because of the solid base of Reform support found in the city and its outlying areas. "Our decision is based on which constituency can put together the best show – Ontario West is an excellent spot for Reform."

She added she would not be surprised if there was a motion on the floor to start a provincial Reform party. "It's been voted down in the past but there's been talk about it again," she said.

Terry Biggs, president of the London West Riding Association for the Reform party, said the result of this assembly will be a blue book outlining the principles of the Reform party and the direction they think the country should move in.

London Mayor Dianne Haskett was happy the conference is being held in the city. "This will be a real boon to the city – it's a positive opportunity to show London off."

London is prepared to welcome any convention of this sort and there is a strong group of Reform supporters within the London area, Haskett added.

Western political science professor Ian Brodie said London is an especially important location for the Reform party to expand support into. "It's a part of Ontario where they have to make a breakthrough to win seats," he said. "If they can't win votes here, they can't win votes in Ontario."

Brodie said it is unlikely the party will go provincial at this time because Manning has continually dodged the issue. "This discussion goes on every time. There is pressure on the party to do this but Manning has been able deflect this pressure because he does not want to spread his resources too thin."

Biggs said the party feels their focus needs to be on the federal level where most of the damage is done. "It's not to say provincial problems are unimportant but we feel it's best to be focussing on correcting national problems."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998