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Debate turns into freeze-for-all

Gary Marchant — September 1984

VANCOUVER – Three highprofile representatives from the major federal parties all called for a bilateral and verifiable nuclear weapons freeze during a televised debate on disarmament in Vancouver, August 7th. This agreement emerged even though the positions advocated by Liberal candidate Iona Campagnolo, and Conservative candidate John Fraser, contradict existing party policies.

Campagnolo and Fraser, along with Pauline Jewett of the NDP, were selected by their parties to participate in a two-hour debate jointly organized by TV station CKVU, the Vancouver chapter of the United Nations Association, and the End the Arms Race Coalition.

The debate was divided into three sections dealing with different aspects of the arms race and disarmament. In each section, the candidates gave a short prepared statement and then were questioned by an audience of 80 delegates from different endorsing organizations of the EAR coalition.

Along with support of a freeze and a call for a full parliamentary debate on arms control, Campagnolo reaffirmed her personal opposition to cruise missile testing in Canada. She acknowledged, however, that the testing of weapons under the umbrella agreement (induding the cruise) would continue if the Liberals are returned to power. Campagnolo went on to promise that all nuclear weapons would be out of Canada by 1985, and that the Liberals would reduce military spending once existing capital needs had been met.

John Fraser, who served in the Clark cabinet, was a last minute replacement for Pat Carney. Fraser stated that although he perspnally opposes cruise missile testing and supports a freeze, his party has made no decisions to do likewise. Fraser seemed to imply dissatisfaction with his party’s lack of policy on these vital issues, a party position complicated by the Conservatives refusal to release the report produced by former Prime Minister Joe Clark on disarmament. (See Dr. Donald Bates submission to the Clark commission in the April 1984 Issue of The Peace Ca/endar.) Fraser affirmed his party’s position to continue NATO involvement and ,substantially increase spending on conventional arms.

NDP External Affairs critic, Pauline Jewett, made a strong case for her party’s position in support of a freeze and against cruise testing. She was clearly the crowd’s favourite, pointing out inconsistencies in the policies of the other two parties. Her personal view was that the NDP should look at disarmament policy when deciding whether or not to support any future minority government. She called for full public disclosure or and parliamentary debate on all testing agreements, and advocated a more independent foreign and disarmament policy for Canada.

Throughout the debate, the three candidates clearly demonstrated their genuine personal commitment to nuclear disarmament. But the fact remains that the personal views of Campagnolo and Fraser contradict the policies of their parties.

What is clear is that disarmament is a political issue in this federal election due to the pressure of individuals and the Canadian peace movement.