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The Globe and Mail

Praising 'high standard' of conduct, Joe Clark backs Scott Brison

Former Tory prime minister Joe Clark takes questions at an Ottawa news conference on June 22, 2009.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Joe Clark laments the tone of public debate in Canada right now and what he sees as a lack of respect for politics and public service. Without taking direct aim at any political party, he suggests the politics in this country is becoming very divisive.

While other former prime ministers are involved in the federal campaign - Paul Martin went out on the hustings with Michael Ignatieff and Jean Chrétien is expected to campaign with the Liberal Leader on Wednesday - Mr. Clark is keeping his powder dry, at least for the most part.

He sent a statement Tuesday endorsing Liberal candidate Scott Brison, noting that Mr. Brison had stepped aside in July of 2000 to allow Mr. Clark a seat in the House of Commons. This was when they were both members of the Progressive Conservative party.

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So much has changed since then. In 2003, Mr. Brison left the Conservative Party and in 2004 Mr. Clark endorsed Paul Martin for prime minister over Stephen Harper.

But in his note to Mr. Brison Mr. Clark makes no other endorsements. He doesn't mention Mr. Ignatieff or the Liberal Party.

Instead, he says, "My only activity in this election campaign will be to cast my private vote."

Still, he can't resist taking some indirect jabs at the divisive and dysfunctional political landscape.

While complimenting Mr. Brison for his "high standard" in the House of Commons, he adds: "That seems to me to be especially important in a period when the general respect for politics, and for public service, is in decline."

"The tone of public debate in Canada is so much more negative now," he writes, noting too that positive conduct "reminds us of how much we can accomplish when we emphasize the goals that can bring Canadians together rather than the differences which can drive us apart."

Mr. Clark mentions in his note that he hasn't been in Canada for much of this campaign. In fact, he was one of the co-leaders of a National Democratic Institute observer team for the presidential elections in Nigeria earlier this month.

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