Friday, April 21, 2006

Volpe: Il Capo

Joe Volpe may be an intellectual lightweight and administrative bumbler, but when it comes to playing the Liberal Party's favourite game of divide and conquer the ethnics, he has few peers:

Joe Volpe, the former immigration minister, will announce his candidacy for the Liberal leadership today at a community centre in Toronto's Little Italy.

The prospect has yielded snorts of derision from supporters of some of the candidates already in the field and derogatory comments about the Liberals' so-called "spaghetti caucus."

But those who think that leadership campaigns are fought in the realm of ideas should go back and read Lawrence Martin's Iron Man, about the scrap between the Chretien and Martin camps in 1990.

The author recounts how Mr. Chretien picked Scarborough MP and Greek immigrant, Jimmy Karygiannis, to sign up ethnic members. He enlisted 9,500.

"We were getting Greeked," complained one Martin campaigner. "And if we weren't getting Greeked, we were getting Sikhed."

"I signed up anything that moved back then," Jimmy K, as he is widely known, told the author. He travelled to Peterborough at one in the morning and signed up a family of 15 Sikhs living in a shack. At a delegate selection meeting in Kitchener, he ran around sticking bubble gum in pay phone slots so that the Martin organizers couldn't call in last-minute recruits.

Jimmy K is now Joe Volpe's national organizer. Meanwhile, Mr. Volpe himself is no mean operator. He was heavily involved in Mr. Martin's campaign for the Liberal leadership, and insiders whisper that Judy Sgro's fall from grace as immigration minister, courtesy of friendly fire from within the party, and Mr. Volpe's ascendancy to her former job were not unrelated events.

Volpe can get boots on the ground and delegates on the floor, but that's the extent of his political abilities. That might just be enough for him to come up the middle of this pack of second-stringers.

Say this with a straight face, though: Prime Minister Joe Volpe.

You can't.


Go Joe Go!

Source: National Post

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