I had written a long, verbose article on why the Martin government has lost the moral right to govern this country (included below), but then one thing happened which meant that I didn’t need to. The final confirmation, the icing on the cake, comes from this e-mail exchange between Warren Kinsella (see April 24th entry) and a Paul Martin supporter:
You never were a Liberal, were you? You would rather see Liberals lose the next election just so you can have some sort of satisfaction. Selfish to the end, eh? I guess the rest of us who are trying valiantly to get rid of the religious fundamentalist scourge that is the Alliance, can just suck wind. Thanks abunch, Warren.
There are so many things wrong with this statement, I don’t know where to start. Fundimentally, I am offended by the suggestion that voters or party workers owe loyalty to a political party and not the other way around. Any party that starts to think in those terms has become so out-of-touch with the electorate that they need to be slapped down, hard.
Ah, but who to put in their place? Who…
Unthinkable though it would have been for me to say this at the beginning of this year, in four short months, Paul Martin’s Liberals have lost the moral right to govern this country. They no longer deserve victory, and the sooner they are relegated to the opposition benches, the better for this nation.
This isn’t about the sponsorship scandal, it’s about Martin’s inability to govern. Since hesitating on calling a spring election, it has become clear that Martin did not intend to govern this country until after a presupposed election victory. Now his legislative agenda is anemic, his departments are scrambling for issues to bring before parliament, and bad news hits the front page again and again. Martin’s team has shown no ability, or interest, in healing the rifts with the Chretien Liberals, and the party’s civil war has been allowed to take centre stage.
What’s even more telling is that there are issues for Martin to take up, and he hasn’t run with the ball. Early in his takeover of the Liberal party, he spoke well on the need for a new deal for our cities. He disagreed publically with the Chretien administration on the need for a transfer of the federal gas tax. For this reason, political commentators with an interest in urban affairs were looking forward to his election so that urban issues could finally be addressed, but since becoming prime minister, Paul Martin has moved slowly on the urban affairs portfolio. He has not put forward a bold vision for urban Canada, suggesting that he was waiting until after his election/coronation in order to come up with ideas.
There are many issues that Martin could have made his own: the reinvestment in Canada’s military, bold steps in Canadian healthcare, Senate reform. He and his cabinet have talked about these ideas, but they’ve been unable to commit to details. They are hemming and hawing and being timid for fear of offending someone. This has worked in some ways (Martin managed to put forward a budget which, while uninspiring, was at least lauded as prudent), but combined with the anemic legislative schedule this suggests that the Martin Administration has no clear idea what to do. Canadians, who were leaning towards Martin because they were waking up from the decade-long sleep of Chretien’s fairly prudent management, have come away disappointed.
And, yes, despite what I said, this does have a lot to do with Martin’s handling of the sponsorship scandal. The scandal may have been something he inherited from the Chretien administration, but it’s his responsibility now, and Canadians aren’t impressed by what they’re seeing. The constant revelations and the scramble by the Martin Liberals to assign blame mask any attempt to really clean up the mess and show that the Martin Administration can govern effectively. Chretien would have handled this mess better, even if he himself had created it. I realize that this comes down to a debate over style, but since Martin has shown himself to be a leader without substance, for style to also fail means disaster.
No wonder the revitalizing opposition is realizing that the emperor is naked.
Paul Martin, the Fearmonger
Finally, remember when I predicted that McGuinty would win the Ontario election because Eves was campaigning on fear? This was a litmus test because it showed that Eves had nothing of his own worth running for. Harris’ record? Tarnished. Eves’ policy? Mouldy leftovers from the Harris years. Solution: Dalton McGuinty is a reptilian kitten-eater from another planet! Result: Eves has his backside handed to him by the Ontario electorate.
The federal Liberals should be disturbed by comparing the recent advertisements and other campaign strategies of Paul Martin and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. Paul Martin, once the brightest light in government, comes across in his rambling monologues with rent-a-strangers as a deer caught in the headlights. Then Martin’s Liberals made the serious mistake of categorizing the Conservative party as “un-Canadian”. All of this suggests that, in the next election, the Liberal Party won’t be running on Chretien’s record (Martin’s already tossed that out the window) or on Martin’s policies (he hasn’t formed any, yet), but that Stephen Harper is a reptilian kitten-eater from another planet.
Stephen Harper, on the other hand, is coming off as thoughtful and intelligent. His speaking style still smacks of patronizing arrogance, but compared to Martin’s fumbles, Harper looks remarkably self-assured and rational. His policies are not formed and haven’t been given the scruitiny they deserve, but he is speaking out to Canadian’s desire to vote not out of fear, but for something better. In this undeclared election campaign, Stephen Harper is becoming the new Dalton McGuinty.
Ah, But Who… Who?
It’s important to note that although Stephen Harper is doing all the right things in terms of campaigning, he has not opened up a McGuinty-sized lead in the opinion polls; he’s still ten points behind Martin in national support. He too has a lot of history behind him and Canadians, especially those Liberals who are holding their nose and clinging to their party, remember it. The Conservatives’ (and, to a lesser extent, the NDP’s) strength that’s so wowing commentators these days is remarkable only in the context of the political wilderness the Conservatives and the NDP were relegated to for the past decade. Had this been 1984, the next election would be a slam dunk for Harper, but it isn’t. Canadians are facing the very real possibility that the next election will result in no clear winner.
The Liberals may have lost the moral right to govern this country, but nobody else has won it, yet.
Erin is settling into her freelance life, and has continued to work on poetry for various projects and her blog. Her most recent post is a powerful poem that has actually generated a bit of hate mail (she’d had a rash of e-mails criticizing her for her “blasphamy” a few months ago, but they had seemed to have faded… until now).
Geez, overlong tirades against the president of the United States get me nothing but rational agreement and disagreement, but one powerful poem gets my wife hate mail. It’s easy to see who has more power to move people and frighten people in this relationship.