Has it only been a year? A year ago that Paul Martin took over as Prime Minister? My how time has gone by, what with the ambitious legislative agenda, the politics of achievement we’ve seen, and the thundering 200 seat election vic…uhh…never mind.
The marks are in, and they’re not flattering. I do like the hit the guy around a lot, but he hasn’t been a complete disaster yet. Here’s my take on his first year.
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.
Here’s what the Press has to say:
The party-wide uprising of 2002 which sought to depose Jean Chrétien represented a kind of contract. Liberals could indulge the mess of kicking out a guy who'd given his life to their party because they could expect to do better — electorally, morally and in terms of policy ingenuity and boldness. Especially boldness. Liberals were finally rejecting a baby-steps, managerial government for one that represented "transformative change" on more than a dozen fronts.
How far they've fallen. The label on Paul Martin, circa 2002, read "Because We Can Do Better." The label on today's model says "We Suppose He'll Do."
The stunning lack of imagination in Martin's Ottawa — these are essentially the Brezhnev years — is impossible to overstate, but that doesn't mean it isn't fun to try.
Lorne Gunter (via Norman Spector)
There is no question Martin has failed to live up to his advance billing. The expectations created for him before he became Liberal leader and prime minister were impossibly high. Admittedly he and his handlers created those expectations to hurry Jean Chretien out of office. So now Martin is being hanged with his own rope.
And there is no doubt the PM seems incapable of pulling the trigger. His government has no goals and 100 goals all at once. He and his team seem to have spent 12 years plotting to make him prime minister, but not 12 minutes wondering what he should do once there.
And he is lousy at handling scandals; downright awful. He neither squashes them hard, as Chretien did, nor gets to the bottom of them meaningfully, as he continually pledges himself to do. Instead he merely apologizes for them endlessly.
Chretien would never have allowed Judy Sgro's favours-for-strippers scandal to fester for three weeks. He either would have defended her so forcefully that the opposition and media gave up on the subject, or he would have appointed her ambassador to Denmark .
Historian Michael Behiels (via the Toronto Sun)
"Non-accountability makes a sham of federalism," he said.
Behiels said Martin has failed at managing the federal government and has sidelined the Commons by focusing his efforts on provincial jurisdiction instead of legislation.
"I'm being generous ... I could give them a D+, really," he said.
Warren Kinsella (also via the Sun)
Liberal operative Warren Kinsella, who worked closely with former PM Jean Chretien, gives Martin a C. "The student showed a lot of early promise, but it has become apparent that he may have been promoted too soon to a higher grade," Kinsella said.
And, to be fair, I looked far and wide and did find this mixed, yet mostly positive review of the first year. It ain’t glowing, but it’s something
Martin deserves top marks for weathering a tough election and implementing many of his promises.
"It's been a tough year but it's been rewarding as well," Reid said. "I think we're making the minority parliament work."
That’d be Scott Reid, who works for Martin.