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Early political reactions to PPCC

Martin Cash — June 1984

Among its other objectives, the Peace Petition Caravan Campaign (PPCC) will try to promote the discussion of peace and disarmament issues by candidates in the upcoming federal election.

The specific tactics on how to address the candidates have not yet been finalized. However, Matthew Clark, a member of the Toronto PPCC steering committee, says, “We don’t plan to be antagonistic. We don’t want to box anybody in. We want to encourage candidates to take a stand we think is the right one.”

As opposed to single-issue lobbyists in the US, who raise large sums of money and actively endorse of condemn specific candidates, the PPCC is a grassroots project whose impact will come primarily from its national scope and the numbers of Canadians who have signed the petition.

According to Clark, “We’re going to get as many people as possible to sign the petition, then go to the candidates in each riding and say ‘This is what the people feel about cruise testing and nuclear weapons in Canada. What do you say?’ That’s a very democratic way of going about it.”

Although things may change as the campaign grows in strength over the summer, early reactions from political strategists of all three federal parties to the demands of the campaign are, at this point, fairly predictable.

A spokesperson, from the Tory foreign policy planner’s office, who asked that his name not be used, says, “Our policy to continue testing the cruise missile is not going to be altered by public opinion. A Tory government is not going to be influenced by public demonstration. If we win the next election, we will have the responsibility to govern responsibly. You can’t lay policy on public petitions.”

A senior member of the Liberal Party policy committee says that “Peace is a very serious issue, but when party policy is decided upon, it will probably not be as important to us as questions of the economy. Also, the Liberal Party does not demand that its candidates stick to the party line as strictly as the NDP does. I’m sure there will be some Liberal candidates who support these issues and some who will be opposed to them.”

Steve Lee, Secretary of the NDP policy committee, says, “At our national convention in Winnipeg last July, Tommy Douglas said it best in a speech, that the three major issues in the next election will be jobs, medicare and disarmament.