By Jason Menard
That’s not the Liberal Way.
It’s a message Prime Minister Paul Martin has hammered home over the past few months, and reiterated ad nauseum during the reveal of the Gomery Report findings. And it’s certain to be a common theme in the upcoming election – a platform built upon the very report the Liberals’ opposition was hoping to bring down the government with.
With Justice Gomery absolving Martin of any responsibility in the sponsorship scandal and placing the blame on the previous regime, the Liberals have been given a new lease on life – and the opposition partys’ golden chance to topple the mighty Grits may have come and gone.
Already Martin is working to purge his party of any ties to the former regime. He’s created a Terrible 10 list, banning a selection of the allegedly worst offenders from the Liberal Party. He’s running as the man who chose to turn the light of introspection on his own party, forcing it to be accountable for the sins of its past. And, most importantly, he’s using this particularly nasty bit of Party history as the launching point for a more successful future.
And why? Because, as he states, corruption, patronage, and underhanded deals are not the Liberal Way.
Far from being Mr. Dithers, Martin has moved decisively and authoritatively during the Gomery report. By announcing that an election would be called within a month of Gomery’s recommendations, Martin not only staved off an election call that his Party could not be sure of winning, he also conscripted the Gomery report as a Party platform.
Obviously the final statements haven’t been written, but common sense dictates that Gomery’s recommendations are going to be for more independent accountability when it comes to doling out funds from the public purse. It’s going to insist on checks and balances, and a transparent tender process for any future contracts.
It’s the way a government should be run, it’s what Martin would have promised anyways, and it’s what Canadians want to hear. Exactly how are the opposition parties going to attack a platform built on truth, especially if they don’t want to come across as petty.
By asserting throughout the process that those responsible will be held accountable – and by following this up with a 10-fold banishment – Martin’s appearing strong before a country weakened by a minority government. By standing up and taking the reins and driving government to a new accountability, Martin may show voters that he has the strength, ability, and conviction needed to steer the entire country to a brighter future.
He added to this impression with the announcement that the Liberal Party itself would be repaying $1.14 million in squandered government funds. And, if that wasn’t enough, by turning the dossier over to the RCMP and requesting that chairs and boards of Crown corporations look at taking punitive action against any employees involved in the scandal, Marin is allowed to come across as the man with the big broom – sweeping corruption from the Canadian government and leading the way for a brave new world of accountability.
But in addition to Gomery, Martin also needs to thank the Canadian media, who has done much to ingrain the concept of a Martin/Chrétien rift over the past few years. While one may have trouble swallowing that a former Finance Minister wouldn’t have an inkling about some improprieties in the spending of federal funds, the fact that Gomery lays the blame at the PMO and its independent spending lends credibility to Martin’s declared ignorance of the scandal. It certainly doesn’t take much suspension of disbelief for the average Canadian to think that former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien would keep his bitter rival in the dark about these activities – especially when the goal was the glory of bringing this country together.
In the end, the opposition parties are left with the option of chasing ghosts. Any volleys lobbed at Martin can simply be bumped to the past. While the Liberals opponents can claim that the sponsorship scandal is indicative of the party itself, Martin can turn around and say that it was the result of the neglect and corruption of a previous regime – issues which the current government tackled head on and with a goal of cleaning up the house.
And maybe, thanks to Gomery, the Liberal Way will once again lead to victory.
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