So long, Paul. It's been nice... actually, no it hasn't.


The photo to my right was borrowed from this website. Haven’t heard much about this guy, but he has an interesting set of links, so why not pay him a visit? This is another site of a person I hadn’t heard of before, but should have.

The fate of the Paul Martin government appears to have been sealed. By turning down Jack Layton’s request to amend the budget in the NDP’s favour, Martin has probably lost the support of the only remaining opposition party willing to give this minority parliament a chance.

You can push back the “Opposition Days”; you can shift around amendments, but sometime soon the 2005 budget — as clear a vote of confidence on the government as any in parliament — has to come up for a vote. The NDP are surely against it. The Bloc will be too. The Conservatives who could only muster an abstention when the government was in better days, may not be willing to prop up the Liberals any longer. The numbers are grim: 132 on the Liberal side, 176 for everybody else.

So ends one of the shortest, most pointless reigns of a prime minister in Canadian history. Paul Martin, for all his promise, joins the ranks of Joe Clark, who won one election, and then lost it all less than a year later. And, frankly, Joe Clark has one thing Paul Martin will never have: boldness. Joe Clark lost his minority because he reached too far. Paul Martin lost because he did not reach far enough. Martin tried hardest to offend no one, and ended up disappointing us all. Even U2’s Bono.

Frankly, he deserves the harsh judgement that will befall him. This government has accomplished little since Chretien left. No increase in foreign aid. No movement in the new deal for cities outside of BC. No movement on same sex marriage. No addressing the democratic deficit. About the only decision Paul Martin has made which has been popular with Canadians is opting out of George Bush’s foolhardy Ballistic Missile Defence program — and that wasn’t a decision so much as a prolonged waffle so embarrassing, it sickened even BMD’s worst detractors.

This is what comes when somebody’s political ambition is not to lead the country, but rather to become its prime minister. There is a difference. Martin spent seven years conniving to reach the top job. He and his supporters carefully orchestrated the takeover of the Liberal party, booting out Chretien supporters, and raising a war chest when there was no official campaign. Every word out of Martin’s mouth was vetted, focus grouped and preened. And as a result of being so focused on the goal of getting Paul Martin into the Prime Minister’s Office, no one had the slightest idea of what to do once he got there.

And, frankly, Martin can take this humiliating defeat and choke on it. I don’t have time for people whose naked ambition for power pushes out all, including a persuasive vision for where to take the country. It’s clear that Martin expected the promise of a Diefenbaker-style majority to sweep him into office, and he felt no need to justify my vote. He promised me brilliance. He delivered dithering. He promised me leadership. He delivered nothing.

My only regret was that I didn’t realize sooner that the emperor was naked. I desperately wanted Chretien to retire and I saw Martin as a saviour. I thought that Chretien was arrogant, but I see now that he governed without fear of offending some of the people some of the time. I disagreed with Chretien vehemently on some points, but at least he raised points for me to disagree with.

By failing to show real leadership; by failing even to latch on to leadership ideas presented to him by other party leaders like Layton, Martin bears the responsibility for the failure of this minority parliament. His departure is imminent and, like it or not, the next prime minister will probably be Stephen Harper.

I’m not too enthused about Harper’s style, either, but if Harper tanks, it will be Chretien I’ll be wanting back, not Martin. You can’t be as empty a leader as Paul Martin and expect to be prime minister. You simply can’t. No matter how unpalatable the alternatives, there comes a point where one has to admit that this prime minister has failed, and that it is time for him to go.

I’m still voting Green.

Update: Martin and Layton Reach Deal

Well, twenty-four hours later, it looks like I got this one way, way wrong. Ah, well. If you don’t risk failure, you won’t ever succeed.

It’s a big win for Layton, and a big win for the NDP. They’ve been given a lot of publicity and have shown themselves boxing way above their weight. Recent polls suggest that Layton’s popularity is on the way up as a result.

How’s Harper feeling? Well, if some Conservative supporters, pissed and angry. Layton’s getting in bed with crooks! Layton doesn’t care about integrity! Sheesh. I suspect what these supporters really mean is that Layton “stole” their opportunity to waltz into the governing side of the house early, so wah, wah, wah.

But Harper himself? I don’t think he’s thinking that. He was in a frustrating position: as the man with the momentum, he stood to gain the most from a government collapse — but he was stymied by the fact that most Canadians don’t want the government to fall just yet. With the numbers as close as they are — nearly a statistical tie, in fact, every little bit counts. He had to hope that the government would fall, and he wouldn’t be seen as the man responsible.

Well, Layton has spoken out for Canadians’ desires to make this parliament work. And he’s put forward a concrete plan to get some business passed at last. No real skin off of Harper’s nose. Moreover, Layton’s maneouver looks good for the NDP, but it’s a wash or worse for the Liberals. Sure, Martin gets to keep his government afloat for a few more weeks… maybe. But he had to beg for help from the NDP in order to do it. That doesn’t make him look all that strong, and Harper’s got to smile at that.

Moreover, if and when the government falls, it’s more likely now that it will be because of something Martin has done, not Harper. Layton has removed one of Harper’s obstacles in the coming election, and Conservatives should be thanking the NDP for that.

That is, assuming that the Conservatives don’t get greedy and try to bring down the government anyway. Doing so would cement their reputation of being the obstructionists who made this parliament fail.

I think Harper’s a smarter man than that but, hey, I got this prediction wrong, didn’t I?

blog comments powered by Disqus