Sunday, December 12, 2004

A Year Old, a Year Wiser

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:

Paul Wells

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.


  • I think a lot of people are being very hard on Mr. Martin, he is not nearly doing as bad as everyone thinks he is. Let us look at a couple of truism about Paul and his situation

    1) He is following the greatest PM in the history of Canada, anybody following the magnificant Jean Chretien would pale in comparison
    2) Paul is surrounded by incompetent psychofants, who get up everyday ready to praise his name and exhalt him on high. When you have people who are unwilling to tell you the truth or what they think you should do, but rather walk on eggshells hoping to stay in ones good graces, you get this result
    3) Further to point two, these guys in the PMO are realizing that there is a big difference between a department (Finance) where they have to work three months a year and spend the other nine stabbing the great one in the back, and actually governing. I do not think they know how to govern, that is a problem
    4) Back to Paul's problems, it appears that this democratic deficit thing was not such a good platform. He booted Parish out for doing the same thing that McTeague did for years, who is contributing to the democratic deficit now?? The problem for Paul is that he looks like a hypocrite on so many issues, democratic deficit being one of them.
    5) Further to point four, Paul is unable to make decisions quickly unless someone tells him that is what he should do. He has that leather couch syndrom, he will listen to the last person who talked to him and make his decision accordingly. I think he lacks independent thought capabilities at times
    6) Process rather than progress. This going to be the mantra for the Libs under Paul, and it is a slow and grinding mantra. Lets look at what Paul is doing in the winter session. Gay Marriage (Chretien initiative), Marijuana (Chretien initiative)and possibly but not likely missile defence. If he does not get the last one in, it will be 1 and a half years of not doing any of his own policy proclamations (except the blank cheque thing in health) Paul needs to come up with some of his own ideas.
    7) Asymetrical federalism, what a disaster, I have nothing more to say on that subject.
    8) Paul needs to rebuild the party, it is fractured and they need everyone pulling in the same direction. All Liberals will get on side, even if they think the current guy is no Chretien, because it is probably better than Harper.
    9) As to point 8, to facilitate this Paul needs to develop an exit strategy in the coming months. I propose a retirement date of April 2006, with a leadership convention for Sept 2006. This will do much to heal the party.
    10) Despite all these criticisms, please keep the faith Liberals, it could be worse (please read Revelations to discover how much worse). And remember the old Liberal saying that Paul shouted from on high "Long Live the Leader of the Liberal Party" and adhere to this saying in much the same way that Paul did.

    By Blogger CDC for Life, at 12:17 p.m.  

  • "Team Martin" and the Federal Liberals have a lot to prove if they ever hope of earning my trust and my vote.

    Anyways, hey Calgary Grits! The Alberta Liberals have announced their caucus critic portfolios!

    Of interest to Calgary:

    Dr. David Swann - Environment Critic
    Harry B. Chase - Infrastructure and Transportation, Parks Critic
    Dave Taylor - Deputy Leader, Advanced Education Critic

    Wow, I didn't really expect Dave Taylor to be IMMEDIATELY named Deputy Leader, but I guess I shouldn't be too surprised: he is a very strong, likeable politician who'll obviously be a major voice for the Alberta Liberals in Calgary.

    By Blogger Jim, at 11:07 p.m.  

  • Yup CDC - I think Paul would want all Liberals to be as loyal to him as he was to the previous leader. It's the least that he's owed.

    I do take issue with your 8th point. I believe Martin is trying to let the Liberal party rebuilt in the same fashion they did in the 80s. Like the Phoenix, he is intent on allowing the party to burn and then letting a new leader rise from the ashes.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:59 a.m.  

  • Courtesy of John Ivison today:

    “Back in the real world, tough love demanded that someone shake Mr. Martin gently and point out that writing cheques to the provinces for health, daycare and cities is hardly the stuff from which prime ministerial legends are made.

    "The role of the federal government is to establish national objectives and build the consensus behind them," he said defensively at one point, which would be fair enough if that's what he'd been doing. In fact, as Bob Fife pointed out, Mr. Martin has introduced a new vision called asymmetrical federalism, which allows provinces to strike separate deals. "Critics say that will lead to a checkerboard Canada and that you, in essence, are the head waiter for the provinces," the reporter said, to be greeted with an icy retort.

    "Let me just tell you that's just -- that's just sheer nonsense. I have and I always will defend Canada. That's my role as prime minister and it's one of the reasons I wanted to be prime minister."

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:08 p.m.  

  • well at least Paul said he will stand up for Canada. That is good enough for me. Much like in 1990 when he stood up for Canada, or 1995 when he did so much, or in the debate on the Clarity Bill when he was right there shoulder-to-shoulder, Paul has always been there for Canada. And he will be again.

    By Blogger CDC for Life, at 10:45 a.m.  

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