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Alliance refuses to take back dissident Pankiw

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Date: Wednesday Jul. 10, 2002 4:28 AM ET

OTTAWA — Controversial MP Jim Pankiw will not be allowed back into the Canadian Alliance caucus, leader Stephen Harper has decided.

Party president George Richardson said Harper made the decision this week because he and a majority of national council members "were not confident it would be in the best interests of the party for Mr. Pankiw to be back." "The leader decided that we've given long enough to this, and we've got other things we need to do as a party."

Pankiw is the last of seven dissident MPs who sought to return to the Alliance this spring after former leader Stockwell Day was voted out at a party convention in March.

The Saskatoon-Humboldt MP has made headlines for an incident in which he allegedly shouted profanities and made lewd gestures at a native man in a Saskatoon bar.

He was also known for controversial remarks such as a statement in the House of Commons that Canada's policy of bilingualism for civil servants amounts to "systemic discrimination."

Pankiw has denied the accusations about the Saskatoon incident, which are laid out in an affidavit by native lawyer Darren Winegarden.

Richardson said reports of the incident likely influenced the decision by party brass.

"I expect that may have been a factor in some people's minds . . . especially those councillors that are from Saskatoon," he said. "Those councillors would have analysed those incidents very closely."

Pankiw said he had discussions with the party brass over several months, but he wouldn't reveal details, saying they were confidential and he didn't want to breach that.

"I'm not interested in trying to inflict harm on the party or the leader," he told a Saskatoon radio station.
But he said it's party policy, not him, that's controversial.

"It's weak-kneed politicians who don't have the guts to stand up and tell it like it is that is the real problem in this country," he said.

Richardson also said Pankiw had failed to meet a series of conditions at the riding, council and caucus levels the dissident MPs were asked to meet before being accepted back into the Alliance fold.

"We'd given him three months, which was a lot longer than it took any of the others," he said. "We knew it wasn't going to be open forever; three months is a long time to keep that (offer) out there."

Thirteen MPs left the Alliance last year and formed a coalition with the Conservatives under Joe Clark to protest Day's leadership, but six rejoined in the ensuing months.

Deb Grey, Chuck Strahl, Val Meredith, Grant McNally and Jay Hill were re-admitted to the caucus in April.
Only one of the 13, Inky Mark, opted to stay out of the Alliance.

Pankiw did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday. Some reports quoted a spokesman as saying he planned to stay on as an independent MP.

Harper did not want to comment on the matter, said spokeswoman Carolyn Stewart-Olsen.

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