12 January 2006

The Tale of One Man's Defection

From Jim Travers in today's Toronto Star:

"Credibility comes with consistency and in this election as well as in office Martin has been the antithesis of both. A prime minister who came to power promising mature relations with Washington recklessly attacked the U.S. president for campaign advantage and is wrapping himself in the federalist flag after weakening the central government with one-off, backroom deals with premiers.
Those are examples, not aberrations. To conclude otherwise is to forget that Martin put aside his commitment to do politics differently long enough to appoint the discredited Art Eggleton to the Senate, further concentrate power in an unelected elite and let focus groups guide his pragmatic, zigzag course."

Travers has succinctly summarized why I no longer support Paul Martin. After first hearing him speak in person in October 2002 in Kelowna, I joined the Liberal Party and went on to enjoy much of the following three years as a member: I attended the Liberal leadership convention and saw the torch passed from Jean Chretien to Martin, I participated in the 2004 election campaign, I helped welcome Martin to Kelowna and Penticton within the span of four months in late 2004, and I signed on to the be Policy Chair for my local Liberal riding association at the beginning of 2005.
I understood that the sponsorship scandal angered Canadians to a great extent and had few qualms about the Liberals' reduced standing after the election. Yet I supported the way that the PM handled the situation initially, and all through 2004 everything seemed to be all right. But it was in the early months of 2005 that my view on the leader began changing, as he vacillated on the BMD decision for months, sending out mixed messages before deciding at a Liberal Party Policy Convention that Canada would abstain from participation. I made this statement days after the decision on this very blog; I believed it then and I stand by it today:

The Prime Minister reiterated on Wednesday during Question Period in the Commons after the budget delivery that Canada had still not arrived at a decision [on BMD]. The decision came on Thursday. Does he really feel as though Canadians will believe that the decision was made literally overnight? This was a contemptible act, in my opinion, and it denied to the House its legitimate right to have a thorough and serious debate. Martin promised months ago that Parliament would be allowed to debate the issue, and now that will not even be happening . . .This whole file has been handled awfully and I am truly disappointed in my prime minister, his decision, and the process by which he made what I consider to be a snap decision based on public reaction. He's flip-flopped on missile defence, and we all know how I feel about a man that can't make a principled stand. As a member of the Liberal organization, I feel embarrassed and appalled by Martin's handling of the missile defence question.

From that point forward I found myself increasingly at odds with the head of the party. I can remember feeling very insulted when after meeting with a couple folks from the PMO last summer, who wouldn't even mention the previous prime minister's name when talking about the past decade of Liberal leadership. To not even acknowledge Jean Chretien, for all his later-year faults, is indicative of the pattern that the people around Martin tend to behave. Look at the contempt they show for people. Whether it's Scott Reid's "beer and popcorn" statement, John Duffy's attempted intimidation of a journalist who has been on the air for many years, or the military ad, they truly believe that they can get away with anything and the people will still flock to the Liberal Party come election time because they can intimidate people into thinking that Harper will remodel the country overnight after being elected into something that resembles the third level of hell. Which, apparently, is the United States, in their eyes; how else can one explain the rampant, sometimes subtle but usually not-so-much, shots taken by Martin and his cohorts about our neighbour?
The past couple of weeks have demonstrated to me that my decision to revoke my support of this party until the current cabal is removed and purged was the right one. I would suspect that many other Canadians are arriving at that same decision. The support of the Conservatives at the Liberals' expense is quite indicative of that. I may one day return to the Liberal fold, I may not, but I certainly can not in good conscience do so with the current regime, who stumble from arrogance to desperation, thuggery to cowardice, from fear and smear to cowering in front of Mike Duffy.
The lack of coherence and direction in this campaign has been stunning to watch. When you attempt to make everything a top priority, the result is that nothing is a top priority. When you attack your opponent without providing positive, credible reasons for why people should support you, you are the one who is negative. When you claim to stand tall in defending the Charter of Rights, and make an awkwardly-delivered policy announcement in the middle of a debate that is not a part of your hastily-written policy book, you make a mockery of the Charter. When you state that you want a mature relationship with the United States, and deride every position your opponent takes as being right-wing American, not Canadian, values, you enhance the immaturity of your own approach to Canada's most important partnership.
It is time for Canadians to stand up for a leader who will respect Canada and Canadians, who will hopefully make a stand against the corruption that has been endemic in Ottawa during this regime, who will not use the Charter of Rights and the Canadian Forces as tools to menace Canadians to hold on to his stewardship, and who will work constructively with the United States to rebuild the strong foundation of the greatest bilateral relationship in the world.

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