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Liberal Party of Canada Changes Name to Maple Leafs
Above: When it comes to AdScam, the puck stops here, says PM Paul Martin.

OTTAWA (SP) — In a desperate attempt to reinvent themselves and turn around their sagging political fortunes prior to the upcoming federal election, the Liberal Party of Canada announced that their official party name has been changed to the Maple Leafs. Effective immediately, all official signs, advertisements and campaign literature will refer to the party as either 'the Maple Leafs' or simply 'the Leafs', and will feature the popular blue and white logo familiar to fans of the Toronto-based hockey team of the same name.

The name change is an apparent attempt by the Leafs to disassociate themselves with their Liberal counterparts in Ontario. When the Ontario government introduced so-called "healthcare premiums" in last month's controversial provincial budget, Premier Dalton McGuinty broke a key election promise not to raise taxes, thereby infuriating the electorate. The approval rating of the McGuinty government plummeted, dragging the federal Liberals down with them. Although the federal and provincial Liberals have no formal affiliation with one another, Ontario voters appear unable to distinguish between the two, as support for the federal party suddenly went into a freefall.

Any chance that the Leafs might still have to retain their position of power depends largely on how they fare in Ontario, where in 2000, they captured 100 of 103 available seats. After the release of the Ontario budget, it's virtually inconceivable that the Leafs will manage another clean sweep of the province, but Leafs Captain Paul Martin is hoping that the name change will at least help to stop the bleeding.

Opposition leaders were quick to denounce the move. Conservative leader and Right Winger Stephen Harper had particularly harsh things to say about the name change, calling it misleading, manipulative, and shamelessly opportunistic. "Not only is Prime Minister Martin attempting to exploit Canada's national pastime for the sake of personal political gain, he's also borrowing on the goodwill currently enjoyed by the Conservative Party by adopting our traditional blue and white colour scheme," said Harper. "Clearly, the Liberals realize that they have no chance of winning this election by legitimate means, so they've resorted instead to this feeble attempt to dupe the electorate."

Above: This election campaign has served to remind Paul Martin that politics is a vicious, violent full-contact sport.

On Left Wing, NDP leader Jack Layton questioned the circumstances surrounding the sudden name change. "I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist," said Layton, "but doesn't it strike you as being rather suspicious that Ken Dryden resigned his post as President of the Toronto Maple Leafs in order to run for political office with the Liberals, just before they changed their name to the Maple Leafs? In the wake of AdScam, this kind of corrupt, unethical behaviour is just more of what we've come to expect from the Liberals. It wouldn't have been any more blatant if Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark had suddenly been appointed to the Senate!"

Paul Martin defended the name change on the basis that it displayed his party's commitment to focus on issues that are important to the majority of Canadians. "Politicians have an obligation to stand for the things that their constituents feel most passionately about, and in this country, that most certainly includes hockey," said Martin. "The numbers really speak for themselves: 2.6 million people watched the [English language] leadership debate, which was nationally televised in primetime on every major network. Meanwhile, almost four million people watched Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on CBC. By choosing a name already familiar to most hockey fans, we hope to get many more people engaged in the political process, and we expect to see a dramatic increase in voter turnout."

Martin also defended the particular choice of 'Maple Leafs' as the new party name, rather than some more generic hockey reference. "For the last three federal elections, there has been only one nationally viable political party with support in every part of this country," he said. "The Liberals have truly become Canada's team in the world of politics, in the same way that the Toronto Maple Leafs have long been Canada's team when it comes to hockey. Hence, the Leafs became the obvious choice when the party decided to adopt a new name."

Above: Many regard the Toronto Maple Leafs as Canada's team.

Bloc Quebecois Leader and Separatist Point man Gilles Duceppe regards such rhetoric as proof that Martin's Maple Leafs are completely out of touch with the plight of most Quebeckers. "Why should Monsieur Martin be so sure that the Maple Leafs are any more Canada's team than, say, the Montreal Canadiens?" asked Duceppe. "Especially considering that half the Leaf fans in this country weren't even born the last time the team actually won the Stanley Cup."

But the Leafs' harshest critic remains Stephen Harper, leader of the newly-formed Conservative Party of Canada. "I think it's ridiculous that simply by changing their party's name, they think that they can convince anyone that they stand for anything other than what the old party stood for," said Harper. "The leader of both parties is the same, and the vast majority of MPs running for re-election with the new party were members of the old one. Essentially, by changing its name, this new party thinks that it can avoid taking responsibility for all the controversial things that it has said and done in the past. I'm not buying it, and I can't fathom why anyone else in this country would be."

Above: Martin tried several other party names on for size before settling on the Maple Leafs.
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