Wednesday, November 17, 2004

One Year Later

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.

8 Comments:

  • well, it's certainly the prevailing trend these days to bash martin. however, i'm a little more sympathetic because he had that little thing called the SPONSORSHIP SCANDAL to deal with. it probably tempered his agenda somewhat. he went from "politics of achievement" to base survival. somewhere along the way, i think he dropped what "vision" he had, and i like to think that he had one. he gave a great speech when he was made PM

    By Blogger DJC, at 5:32 AM  

  • Bart,
    that is one of the finest summaries of the current Martin malaise I have read anywhere. True, he did surprise me today with two rather uncharacteristically decisive moves. Perhaps he has turned over a new leaf. I doubt it.

    "he had that little thing called the SPONSORSHIP SCANDAL to deal with

    DJC
    He most certainly did have the sponsorship scandal to deal with - his staff has been determined to shift any sniff of responsibility away from Martin since the day he assumed the leadership of the Party instead of focussing on the electorate and the agenda of being PM. He still isn't looking too far removed from it all which suggests incompetence from his staff or involvelment. You can decide.

    He has had a few good speeches and plenty of bad advice along the way to offset them. His staff is more capable in areas of manipulating party rules to stifle internal opposition than they are in guiding a PM to govern a nation. Martin's rise to power and some of the tactics used to take control of the Liberal Party might make Plato blush.

    Martin, for his part, has been obsessed with doing what his father never did: become PM. A whole lot of energy was put into getting into the PM's chair by whatever means could be contrived and little thought to what they might do when they actually got there.

    Ask Premier Danny Williams about the Prime Ministerial skills of Martin and his PMO.

    By Blogger treehugger, at 8:46 PM  

  • Even if Martin had the sponsorship scandal thrust into his lap, he could have handled it better. For starters, the government line changed every day that first week: first it was rogue beaurocrats, then there was political direction.

    It also was likely a bad idea to go on the "Mad as Hell" tour. Generally telling the public that your government is corrupt is not a great election issue to talk about.

    And finally, calling the judicial inquiry wasn't a wise move because the scandal will be in the paper every day for the next year.

    If anything, Adscam should have motivated him to push forward an agressive agenda. What better way to make people forget about scandal? If the Martinis had any great ideas in the shed, they would have brought them out to try and take Adscam off the front pages.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:31 AM  

  • Everyone has been pooping on Martin, as it's his first anniversary. Poor guy. 50 is gold, 25 is silver, 15 is crystal, and 1 is dung. So I may as well have my kick at the can.

    I'm both sympathetic and frustrated with Martin. He has had instant legacy in multiple areas thust upon him upon election. And he froze in the headlights. I can't say that I wouldn't as well. But, I wasn't elected, I didn't spend 15 years in public life and 10 years plotting for the top job. No excuses, not even the sponsorship scandal.

    All is not lost. He hasn't been run over yet. He can move.

    First, he appointed some admirable jurists. He'll have another chance soon with Major. And can take the principled if half-assed mechanism, dust it off, flesh it out, make it real and take some credit. Legacy item number one.

    He can do the same thing for the Senate. Get provincial involvement in there somehow. The current judge selection process has a judicial commission pass a list and discussion to the PMO, and out of the 20 names for any given CA/SCC appointment magically comes the PM's choice. So here's an idea, for *interim* Senate reform. Duplicate that for Senators. Have a government committee strike up a big shortlist. Make it public. Get provincial input; places like Alberta will likely make that public as well. Then appoint someone; politely say why. As to regional differences, a quid pro quo where one listens to the Atlantic premiers a little less than others given their overrepresentation might just make things work. As an aside, I really like the German Bundesrat. There the upper chamber is comprised of senior 'provincial' bureaucrats, at a province's pleasure (Länder), in somewhat representative numbers. Legacy item 2.

    Gay marriage. Do it. Fast. Make up for the wasted time. Legacy item 3.

    Polygamy. Send that question to the Court. Stay ahead of the curve. Legacy item 4. (but only if he has the political capital).

    US Relations. Well on their way. Be upfront and trade missle defence for softwood lumber and madcow, if you can get it (i.e. we stop losing billions in exchange for enraged New Democrats: it's a good deal). Maybe throw in some 'net pharmacy crackdown to sweeten the deal. Legacy item 5.

    Universal daycare. Don't build, regulate. let private capital build the infrastructure. Analogous to medical clinics: one price fits all. Everyone pays $8/d and each daycare gets a cheque per kid, varying depending on the region. One big interprovincial/federal roundtable figures stuff out. And throw in lots of auditors to keep it tight. Steal them from the gun registry. Legacy item 6.

    Kyoto: will not work. Given the targets and their dates, it's stillborn at a global level. Say so, but simultaneously come up with a smart surrogate plan that can be adapted to the next global initiative (i.e. as Alberta, sort of, did) that will stimulate environmental technologies and reward efficiency. Use the tax code carrot, not the crim. code stick. Legacy item 7.

    By Blogger matt, at 2:19 PM  

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