Tag Archives: Paul Martin

Family Squabbles Threaten to Undermine Liberals

By Jason Menard

Generally, to run a government, you need your finger on the pulse of the populace. However, Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals’ style of governance has seen that same finger used to point out blame at each an every opportunity.

To date, the modus operandi of the Ontario platform has been to find the best scapegoat and deflect criticism. But when you build your foundation on shifting blame, can you really be surprised when the whole house collapses?

Now that the statute of limitations on blaming the Harris/Eves government for all the provinces ills has expired, McGuinty has found a new target towards which to deflect criticism – the federal Liberals. Whether it’s the variance in gas prices in Ontario or the injustices of an allegedly unfair equalization program, McGuinty has worked hard to demonize the federal Liberals and cast them as the source of many of the provinces ills.

While the “I’m doing the best with what I can” platform may work in some cases, it can be a fatal recipe when you’re casting blame within the same family. Like it or not, the average voter sees little difference between the federal and provincial bodies of the respective Parties. And, for the most part, the defining policies and beliefs that guide these Parties is the same.

So, when you’re all painted with the same colour, why would you be surprised when your differences all begin to blend together? Instead of tearing each other apart, Liberal supporters of both the federal and provincial variety need to understand that to ensure the continued strength and political success that the Party has enjoyed, it needs to work to support one another. Essentially, whether you’re on the Varsity squad or in the Juvee ranks, you have to remember that you’re pulling on the same sweater and playing for the same team.

While McGuinty may have able to ride his focus on Ontario’s gap between what we contribute to the nation and what we receive in return to improved short-term ratings, has that been done at the long-term expense of undermining Party credibility?

Of course, this isn’t a one-sided argument. Ontario is arguably the most important province when it comes to deciding who wins federal elections. The composition of the existing minority government just goes to prove the power that Ontario can wield over the nation. As such, it’s imperative for Prime Minister Paul Martin and the federal Liberals to patch up the Party’s differences to present a more unified front going forward.

The federal Liberals can’t afford to look down their noses at provincial politics. They can’t run the risk of treating McGuinty as nothing more than an uppity kid brother who doesn’t know his place in the pecking order. His arguments need to be respected and action has to be taken if they want to continue to obtain the overwhelming support that the province has given to them.

But, while the risk is there, the lack of strong, powerful alternatives in the federal ranks means that there’s a little more wiggle room. At the provincial level, there is no such room. Despite being trounced in the last election, the Conservative party has enjoyed recent support. And the NDP remains a viable choice for those finding themselves on the centre-left range of the political spectrum. In fact, in 2004 the Hamilton East riding went overwhelmingly NDP (63.6 per cent) in its by-election to replace the seat vacated by the passing of Liberal Dominic Agostino.

Unfortunately, a significant number of people in our society don’t get to know their individual representatives or appreciate the unique aspects of each candidate’s platform and beliefs. They look to the example set by the Party leaders and the generic stances and beliefs that the Party is known for when it comes to casting their ballots. As such, how can confidence in a particular Party not be undermined when the respective wings can’t co-exist to get their house in order?

By targeting criticism at his federal brethren, McGuinty is essentially cutting of his nose to spite his face and runs the risk of cannibalizing votes in future elections. By undermining the credibility and integrity of the federal Party, McGuinty runs the very real risk that electors will apply those negative Liberal feelings to the provincial ranks.

It’s the basic laws of nature – when you annoy those who are farther up the food chain and nip at the bigger fish, you often end up finding your way to extinction.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Out of the Playground, Into the Real World

By Jason Menard

It certainly has been hard to be a proud Canadian over the past few weeks, hasn’t it? With our political leaders sniping, name-calling, and generally behaving like kids in a schoolyard, maybe it’s appropriate that the Queen has arrived to settle down her wayward children.

With Thursday’s vote, we saw the Liberal minority stave off its own extinction with the help of a high-profile defection and a lower-profile – but, ultimately, just as important – independent vote. Belinda Stronach may have grabbed the headlines earlier in the week, but it was Chuck Cadman who had the biggest spotlight shined on him during the actual vote.

But now, we turn our attention back to the principles – and the minute hand slowly ticks down on Mr. Cadman’s 15 minutes in the spotlight. The problem is, as usually happens in these types of skirmishes, is that few look good coming out of it.

Stephen Harper and the Conservative Coalition now look like nothing more than opportunistic schoolyard bullies. Flexing their muscles, using intimidation, and generally behaving rather badly to get what they want. But, like bullies, when the tide turns – and with Stronach’s defection, the Conservatives lost a lot of muscle – they tucked their tail between their legs and slinked off quietly, without much fuss.

If this is truly a fight against corruption and the belief truly was that the Liberals are evil, then you fight the good fight, no matter what the odds. You continue the rhetoric, you use every available means at your disposal (including enticing some fence-sitting MPs – paging Mr. O’Brien – to jump ship). But now it’s clear that this wasn’t a battle based on political principle, but political gain – an opportunistic grab for power that leaves a bad taste in some mouths.

The NDP’s Jack Layton continues to look like the cat who ate the canary, secure in the knowledge that – as he’s been trying to convince us for a while now – that the NDP are a legitimate power in Parliament. The previous Conservative/Bloc majority left the NDPs somewhat powerless, but now that the numbers are more even, his party has even more opportunity to flex its muscle.

The BQ deftly managed to stay out of the fray – Gilles Duceppe playing puppet master while Steven Harper took all the hits in the public. By remaining aloof, the Bloc gets to claim moral superiority, which it can use in a future election. Ironically, a group that’s allegedly tampered with election results in the past now gets to run on a platform built on accountability.

And where do the Liberals go from here? Well, the Liberals have to shore up their East Coast support, hold on to its power in Ontario (and probably pick up a few extra seats here and there), and work like mad to make some inroads in the West. And they have to forget about Quebec.

Sad to say, it’s done in Quebec for an election or two. The Liberals were granted a slight reprieve when the eminently likeable Paul Martin took power from the despised Jean Chrétien. But any goodwill has been washed away in this sponsorship scandal. Quebec’s stable of soft separatists are always looking for a reason to jump ship, and the findings from the Gomery inquiry are exactly the springboard they have been looking for. Add to that the miserable job Jean Charest has been doing propping up the Provincial Liberal name, and there’s little doubt that the BQ will pick up many, if not all, seats in Quebec.

Martin and his party have survived the flurry of the opening rounds. They’ve taken the Conservatives’ best shots and are still upright – however wobbly their legs may be. Yet the political rope-a-dope strategy needs to move into the next phase. The Liberals have absorbed the punches and, instead of waiting for its opponents to catch their breath, they need to come out swinging.

The Gomery inquiry needs to result in some rolling heads. Martin needs to show the electorate that the sins of the past will not be tolerated now or in the future. He needs to regain the trust of those Canadians who may be inclined to forgive and forget. The Liberals need to make a concerted effort to move forward with an aggressive and generous policy that creates a positive impression on the electorate. The new budget is a great start, but implementing it effectively is the key to long time success.

Like a veteran boxer, The Liberals have been through a number of these ring wars, so smart money says not to count them out. The second round’s just starting.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved