Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Crisis

Despite a few awkward glances at his que cards, the standard vocal stutter step, Paul Martin gave a solid speech this evening; an apologia for the current contretemps brought about by the Gomery inquiry (GI). Martin’s message was clear: Don’t defeat this tenuous minority government—let Judge Gomery do his work. This is a strong yet simple message, but whether it gains traction is an open question. If it should, the Liberals will be given a reprieve until the inquiry tables its final report sometime in December. If it doesn’t, however, a May election looks imminent.

The Conservatives, the NDP, and the Bloc all have their fingers on the proverbial trigger, and if the right polling data convinces them— they’ll pull it. Some polls have the Conservatives at 34%, and the Liberals and NDP at 24%. But their likely electoral fortunes face conflicting data. A number of surveys have suggested that around %53 Canadians aren’t keen on the prospect of another election. (The last one being less than a year ago) Call it political fatigue. So, if a vote were forced by any other party than the Liberals, 5 out of those 10 Canadians would, it should follow, punish the opportunistic party. Yet, I’m not so sure. People have legitimate reasons to be more than mad at the Liberals.

Even though I voted for the Green Party in the last federal election—for reasons dealing with electoral parity through the public financing of fringe parties (a monetary vote)—I consider myself a Liberal partisan. As the evidence trickled out from the GI, I found myself blasé by much of the opposition’s criticism. I thought, naturally: why wouldn’t they clamor so affectedly? That’s what opposition parties do. I also assumed that what happened with the sponsorship scandal, or Ad scam, was dirty politics as usual. I was wrong—if only partially.

It was politics as usual a la Sir John a Macdonald Canadian Pacific Railways. Funneling public monies to friends and political supporters and tendering ridiculous federal contracts without follow up auditing and accountancy seems somewhat understandable; I can imagine this sort of thing happening in the yesteryears and golden years of Canadian politics—and it did. But doing this with very little paper trail of large sums of cash dispensed to people, with optics alone, that appear to be close friends is sloppy and incredibly unsophisticated.

The thing that disappoints me—I understand that political direction in bureaucracies creates patronage, inevitably—is how blatant and unthinking the Liberals were, most particularly Jean Chrétien. Maybe I was hoping that the corruption would have at least been more elaborate, convoluted, or slightly legal. The sponsorship program was not. It was dreadfully obvious and incredibly illegal.

Ironically, Paul Martin was all too eager to push Chrétien out, which may be some evidence to Martin’s actual knowledge of the sponsorship cash-grab. Who’d want to inherit that? And now, minority governments as far as the eye can see. A May election augers a Conservative minority not likely to last any longer than this current minority. How will the Liberals hold off a May election? The dynamic in Quebec appears to be the strongest appeal to fear the Liberals can make to voters. If the Bloc sweeps 75 seats in Quebec, they’ll call for another referendum and Au revoir Canada. I don’t think the referendum will be successful, but it will be called, putting pressure on Charest’s already smarting provincial Liberals. So, it seems fairly underhanded, though this is what generally happens, but the Liberals have to eqaute a vote for the Conservatives as a vote for the dissloution of the federation. Who knows, it may work.

Addendum (Opposition response): Stephen Harper’s eyes are creepy; this man should not be Prime Minister. Jack Layton makes me feel like buying a hybrid. Gilles Duceppe was less scary than usual—which isn’t saying much. The overall opposition response to the Martin speech: It’s not a Canadian crisis, it’s a Liberal crisis.

Random notes. a) Death Cab For Cutie has just been obsolesced, tonight at around 8:14, with their appearance on the second season shark jumping show, The O.C. b) A German Pope? Huh? c) Surprise, surprise, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t make the playoffs. d) The blog turned 1 on April 16; more on this later.

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