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Don't expect 'contrarian' Liberals to tilt papers left

The Montreal Gazette office is seen on January 18, 2010.

SHAUN BEST

A troika of well-known Liberals who are bidding for three Canwest newspapers will be bringing in a small-"c" conservative partner in the coming weeks.

Ray Heard, a member of the bidders group, refused to name who that person is. Mr. Heard is a former press secretary to John Turner and has strong ties to the Liberals. Jerry Grafstein, a Toronto lawyer and head of the Liberal ad machine, Red Leaf, during the Trudeau years was appointed to the Senate in 1984 by Pierre Trudeau.

Mr. Heard cautions, however, that he and Mr. Grafstein are Grit "contrarians." (He says Beryl Wajsman, the third partner, who is editor of Quebec's bilingual paper, The Metropolitan, is more of a loyal Liberal.)

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Nor should readers expect Liberal-leaning newspapers if they are successful in their bid to buy the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette. Mr. Heard, who worked for Global TV in a senior role, supported Conservative Peter Kent in the last election, much to the chagrin of then-Liberal-leader Stéphane Dion.

He said he raised money for Mr. Kent, who is now the junior Foreign Affairs minister. "Dion was furious with me," Mr. Heard told The Globe. He said that if Mr. Dion could publicly endorse Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, he could endorse Mr. Kent.

The Liberals did not run a candidate against Ms. May in her unsuccessful bid to unseat Defence Peter MacKay in his Nova Scotia riding. A controversial character, Mr. Heard also went on television to call for Mr. Dion's resignation and later, he called for former Ignatieff chief of staff, Ian Davey, to be fired. Both Mr. Dion and Mr. Davey are no longer in those positions.

As for the former senator, Mr. Heard says he is "way on the right" of the party when it comes to his views on support for Israel. Mr. Grafstein dreams big and his dreams usually come to fruition - he was one of the organizers of the massive Toronto SARS conference, featuring the Rolling Stones.

Mr. Grafstein's son, Larry, is an owner of The New Republic, a small-"l" liberal American magazine.

Mr. Heard, meanwhile, says the National Post cannot be a "pale imitation" of The Globe and Mail. "We would not make any major changes to the Post. … We have to have a position in the market."

(Photo: Shaun Best/Reuters)

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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