Since Warren sent a load of people here, promising a “one year later” take on Paul Martin, I thought I’d jump into it. Sure, it’s not his one year anniversary as Prime Minister but if recent history is any indication, I think it’s safe to say next to nothing will be accomplished in the next month.
So what went wrong? In short, Paul wanted to please everyone…except the members of his own party. He built up so much hype during his leadership push (or “putsch”, if you prefer) and convinced everyone from Western rednecks to Quebec separatists that he was their man. So what do we get? A government too tentative to do anything for fear they’ll offend people. Kyoto? We’ve signed but we’re not doing anything. Gay marriage? We’ll let the courts decide. Senate reform? Let’s just not appoint anyone. Ditto for the US ambassador. In his effort to appease the separatists, he brought on Jean Lappierre, trashed the Clarity Bill, and brought in asymmetrical federalism, letting Jean Charest meet heads of state and avoid providing the same health standards English Canadian Premiers will be held to. The result? The worst showing for the Liberals in Quebec in a decade. And a lot of alienated federalists outside the province.
So what of the “Politics of Achievement” and “Making History” we were promised on coronation night? Has there been a single piece of “new”, “creative” or “useful” legislation passed since Paul became PM? His advisors point to the health deal (which amounted to Paul writing a blank cheque to the premiers for 48 billion dollars. As if no one else could have “accomplished” this). They point to a very ho-hum budget and a big surplus. They point to an equalization deal (which may have lost them 5 seats in Newfoundland next election). THESE are the shinning accomplishments? Where’s the vision? We were promised the moon. Democratic reform was supposed to be the key plank and yet we saw the most corrupt nomination meetings in party history. Sheila Copps was abandoned because nominations were “a local matter” and yet Bill Cunningham and John Bethel are treated as “star” candidates and appointed. If there are any readers out there who had heard of either of these two guys before the last election and are not Liberal Party of Canada members, I would love to hear from you. In fact the entire election was a disaster – I guess David Herle found out that it’s difficult to win when you can’t restrict the right to vote the way you can with membership forms.
Pierre Trudeau was willing to lay it on the line and piss the hell out of people. He had vision. While both men hit the scene with high expectations (remember those 200 seat predictions by Paul’s people?), the results have been a stark contrast. Why? Because Paul Martin is everything that Pierre Trudeau was not. A dull, cautious, decentralizing politician who wants to please everyone and who puts his political success ahead of the good and the party. And that is why the first year of Paul’s reign has been such a disaster.