Liberal rule in Canada
The Wheel Has Turned
by Paul Albers
Thursday, April 7, 2005
It has been nearly 16 months since Paul Martin was first sworn in as Prime Minister and 10 months since he squeaked though an election with a minority government. The Liberal's anaemic victory was a clear signal that Canadians have put the party on probation, but the government utterly failed to take the hint. No winds of change blew in through the window of the Prime Minister's office. The style and direction of government is unchanged to the point that it feels as if Martin has governed Canada since 1993.
The democratic deficit created by Jean Chrétien remains unaddressed, just ask Sheila Copps, or any of the locally nominated Liberal candidates that were rejected in favour of Martin's hand picked cronies. Just ask Albertans who elect Senators only to have the Prime Minister decide who will represent them, and assigns their senators sit as members of a political party that no longer exists.
Liberal anti-Americanism remains barely concealed and long standing trade issues continue to go unresolved. Carolyn Parrish remained in the Liberal caucus in spite of her continuing anti-American antics. It wasn't until her criticisms focused on Paul Martin that she was shown the door. Just last month Marlene Jennings, the parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations, suggested that the way to get action on the mad cow and softwood lumber disputes is to fuel the fires of American hatred in other countries by running the kind of attack ads they usually save for election campaigns here.
Relationships between Ottawa and the provinces continue to be rocky. Martin's attempts to back out of his offshore oil promise provoked Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams to order the removal of the national flag from provincial buildings. A deal was eventually reached, but government plans for implementing Kyoto (plans that were not known during negotiations) gives the government the power to claw back a significant part of the gains. Alberta would also be hard hit by what some call a second National Energy Program. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is also demanding a new deal with Ottawa and the sponsorship scandal has revived the Bloc.
Then you have budget surpluses hidden from view until it's too late for Canadians to have a say in how the money is used, no meaningful response to the death of Zahra Kazemi while in custody in Iran, terrorists dropping in for free medical treatment, a military on the verge of collapse, the loss of nearly all international clout, a standard of living that continues to fall relative to the United States and Strippergate.
The Prime Minister has had ample time to make good on his promises and deliver the change Canadians hoped for but, Mr. Dithers' can't muster the will or competence to do so. Instead, the Liberals have focused their attention on same-sex marriage, decriminalizing pot, reviewing prostitution laws, and getting U2 to perform in Ottawa. Peace, order and good government have been traded in for sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. No wonder they want to lower the voting age.
However, some things have changed in the past year. The Gomery Commission has given Canadians good reason to question not just the competence of the government, but the integrity of the Liberal party itself. Panic erupted in Liberal circles when a summary of Jean Brault's first day of testimony made it onto the Internet in spite of a publication ban. Commenting on the testimony the American blogger responsible says: "If the Gomery Commission can corroborate Brault, then the reek of corruption goes through all levels of the Liberal party".
At this point none of the opposition parties want to take the risk of forcing an election and that is a shame. The Conservative Party is no longer the unfamiliar, fragile coalition it was in the last election. The recent policy convention cemented their position as a credible, mainstream government in waiting. Just don't ask me what it is they are waiting for.
As Canadians file their tax returns they should not have to wonder what portion of their money will be used for illegal activities intended to keep Liberals in power. It doesn't require a single big issue or a court conviction to justify bringing a minority government down, all there needs to be is a genuine and widespread lack of confidence in the government. The mantra of Canadians don't want an election right now' is wearing thin and Canada is reaching the point where it needs an election whether it wants one or not. The wheel has turned and it is time for them to go.
Sooner or later the full details of all testimony at the Gomery Commission will be made public, and even though election conditions are not ideal for the Liberals now, the expectation is that the situation will only get worse for them as time goes on. The day may soon come when this government forces an election so they can get one last shot at a majority before the Gomery Commission finishes its work. If they do that however, they will only show that they lack confidence in their own self-proclaimed innocence.
Paul Albers is a freelance columnist living in Ottawa