Monday, April 11, 2005

"The Problem is Paul Martin"

In the comments to an earlier post below, friend and fellow Dal Law classmate Jason Cherniak (who is in the midst of exams - good luck!) asked for my real complaint about the Liberal party, sponsorship scandal aside. As a left-leaning politico, I certainly do not relish the opportunity of a Harper Prime Ministership, but have begun toying with the thought that it might be the least worst of disappointing alternatives. I did take a stab at outlining some of my misgivings with the Liberals in those comments, but just came across a column by Susan Riley in the Ottawa Citizen (thanks again to Norman Spector for getting us around the registration requirements) that captures the essence of that criticism. In brief, the problem is Paul Martin:

"Next election, however, the problem for many voters may not be Harper -- or not Harper exclusively. The problem is Paul Martin. He hasn't shown the courage or instincts of a strong leader. He has let bad situations slide. He has presided over the increasing privatization of medicare, because he is afraid to stand up to Quebec. He is expected to produce a Kyoto plan this week so undemanding we will never meet our targets, because he is afraid to confront Alberta . He only endorsed missile defence and same-sex marriage when backed into a corner by forces within his own party. He has apparently forgotten the "democratic deficit -- he appointed discredited
Chretien minister Art Eggleton to the Senate and is giving failed Liberal candidate Glen Murray a
profile-boosting environment job after a Commons committee rejected Murray as unqualified.

Martin can still save his government if he takes the focus off corruption with some inspired and brave policy. But that would require a miraculous transformation in a man who often looks more like an eager apprentice than a confident leader. Harper, though, is dead sure of where he is going."

So add to my previous comments points the status quo Senate appointments, and also the failure over the years to come up with any coherent idea on the direction of Canadian foreign policy, as Paul Wells keeps documenting. I guess I would just like to see some fresh blood in the front ranks of the federal Liberals, sooner rather than later. Speaking frankly, a Harper minority might be the best way to ensure this.


Blogger Jason Cherniak said...

So you're basically saying that a few years of Harper will be worth forcing the Liberals to find new leadership. I understand what you are saying, but I am still convinced that Martin is not getting a fair chance.

The Liberals are bringing the country in the right direction. The complaint seems to be that Martin does it too slowly and without charisma, so let's give the guy who wants to go in the complete opposite direction a couple years of minority and hope that he doesn't screw up too much before we replace him.

Frankly, I think this is a dangerous proposition. What happens if Harper gets a majority? What happens if the Liberals end up with a leader WORSE than Martin? Will Harper then get two majorities?

I'll tell you what I expect. If Harper gets a majority, the Libs could well pick a dud and Harper will have two terms with the second ending horribly. If he gets a minority, Martin will start to look good in opposition and people will realize (as they did with Trudeau in 1980) that they really do prefer him as PM.

The only thing that could throw this off is an unexpected person like Ignatieff, Scott Brison, or someone yet to be determined. That however, is about a 10% chance.

2:58 PM  
Blogger James MacDuff said...

But do you really think that Harper "wants to go in the complete opposite direction"? One of the reasons the Liberals have been effective in stifling the opposition is to co-opt many of their policies in the past. I guess I just don't think Harper and the Conservatives really pose the great threat the Liberals would have the country believe, especially given the fact that a majority (let alone two!) remains highly unlikely at this point.

I take your concerns, and might end up ultimately regretting these words. Fair enough, and if so, the pints are on me. But for too long we have seen the Liberals operate on the federal scene with little worry of being held politically accountable. It's not a healthy position for a democracy. We don't need election campaign ads of teenage girls in hospital waiting rooms with ominous voice-overs, or guns being pointed at us. The Liberals can do better.

And hey, maybe Martin isn't getting a fair chance, maybe John Turner never did, maybe we need term limits for Prime Ministers. But both Martin and Turner (and Clark) certainly had their opportunity. Such is politics.

So I guess I'm not only saying that a "few years of Harper will be worth forcing the Liberals to find new leadership" in that sense. I think the federal Liberals as a party could do with a shake-up, one that reminds them above all that they are not infallible. For me, Martin and his "politics of achievement" at the top just encapsulate that sense of malaise.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Jason Cherniak said...

All I can say is that I hope the central campaign focuses on Liberal policies. I believe that there is a big difference and I think that can come through with a well organized campaign.

For the most obvious, consider that a Con government will, at the very least, make gay marriage wait another 3-5 years until the SCC has a chance to overturn Harper's Bill C-1.

11:00 PM  

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