Saturday, November 13, 2004


'A huge disappointment': Paul Martin's first year in office has left many observers less than impressed
The Ottawa Citizen’s Mark Kennedy reports:

“For a decade, Paul Martin was Canada 's political prince, awaiting his coronation as king. Over time, a myth emerged: Pass him the crown, and all the nation's troubles would disappear. If only politics were that simple.

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of his victory as Liberal leader. After a tumultuous year, Mr. Martin is saddled with a new and unflattering image that, unless reversed, could doom his minority government.

Among the complaints: He is indecisive, unfocused, error-prone, unsure of his fundamental purpose in politics and surrounded by aides in the Prime Minister's Office who can't shoot straight.

It's a rap those aides firmly reject. They insist he already has a strong record of accomplishments and is on track for more. But no matter how many achievements they tick off so far, there's no denying the obvious -- there is some unease about whether the prince truly has the royal jelly.

You can find the disquiet among Liberals themselves and among a range of others -- from historians to public-policy experts.

"Few leaders came to office surrounded by higher expectations than Martin," University of Toronto historian Michael Bliss said.

"He was to be everything that Jean Chretien was not, and he was going to solve all of our country's problems. But in the first year, he has been -- even by normal expectations -- a huge disappointment."

Mr. Bliss says Mr. Martin's approach to governing has been characterized by remarkable "incoherence" and that while he can be given credit for how he reacted so openly to the Quebec sponsorship scandal, his handling of other files -- from health care to national unity -- has been a disaster.

"They do everything fitfully and in a confused way. Confusion seems to be one of the hallmarks of the Martin regime."

He says all this now seems to lend credence to the warnings critics made a year ago -- that he lacked vision, only cared about achieving power, and would end up perpetually reacting to "hot-button" issues identified by his pollsters.

"It now appears that Chretien's reasons for trying to keep Martin out of office were more based in a measure of the man than we had thought. We had thought it was just egotistical petulance. But maybe Chretien understood that Martin had some problems."


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