The time has come to teach the Liberals a lesson by at a minimum reducing them to a razor-thin minority and at worst electing a Coservative minority because we wouldn't want Stephen to get too big for his britches. In case you can't figure out why we should, James Travers provides an excellent analysis in the Toronto Star.
As he observes:
this government and its immediate predecessor provide all the raw materials any DIY handyman or woman needs — pardon the awful pun — to construct a case for change. Here are just four of many fine reasons to send Liberals packing:
Ethics. In politics, stealing money and elections is a capital offence. Justice John Gomery found Liberals guilty of the first and any jury reconsidering the 1997 and 2000 Quebec federal campaigns would surely convict on the second.
It's all so damning that Paul Martin had to cut a $1.14 million cheque to repay taxpayers for what Liberals stole.
Now, the Prime Minister will argue that his party has learned its lesson and, in any case, was firmly punished in June 2004 when mad-as-hell voters denied it another majority.
Don't believe it. Suspect contracting, lobbying and cronyism are as rampant under this regime as the last and reform remains stronger in word than deed. Contrary to Martin's ringing declaration, what still matters most here is who you know in the PMO, the all-powerful Prime Minister's Office.
Anyway, democracy only works when votes are used as sticks to beat discipline into politicians who mistake the public purse for their own.
Health care. The perpetual top national priority is no longer a Liberal free pass to power. Paul Martin Sr. fathered federal public health insurance as well as this Prime Minister, but junior just isn't his dad.
After years of demonizing Conservatives as secret agents for Ralph Klein and two-tier health care, Liberals are suddenly silent as Jean Charest speeds the country toward different systems for rich and poor. Even a watershed Supreme Court decision undermining Ottawa's health insurance monopoly has left strangely speechless a government more concerned with repairing its ruined Quebec brand than defending public health care.
Last fall's $41 billion cure for a decade didn't last a year, and the cynical, focus-group-driven decision to make wait times medicare's litmus test risks killing the patient. On health care, Liberals are now indistinguishable from Conservatives, and only the NDP is screaming about the metamorphosis.
Jack Layton is factually right as well as politically left: When it comes to protecting public health care, Liberals have no bark or bite and are asleep on the mat. Go figure; then go vote.
Federalism. Once champions of strong central government, Liberals are weakening the federation by stealth and doing it with equalization, the fiscal formula that to all but experts is both mystery and enigma. One-off deals with the provinces are twisting Canada into new shapes and premiers big (Ontario's Dalton McGuinty) and small (Saskatchewan's Lorne Calvert) are furious.
What's happening is no surprise. Liberals desperate to compensate for seats lost to the Bloc Québécois are hoping to buy votes, particularly in Atlantic Canada
There's more. With the heartiest first squeeze of the taxpayer grape, Ottawa now has all the financial juice it needs to intrude into provincial jurisdiction on issues that swing voters. While effectively abandoning traditional responsibilities — think health care — Liberals are moving into cities and daycare.
Martin believes in asymmetrical federalism but, apparently, not enough to debate or defend it. Canada is under renovation without a blueprint and that justifies showing Liberals the door.
Democracy. Back when Martin thought good intentions would fix everything, Parliament was high on his list. Merit would replace patronage, MPs would share power with ministers and taxpayers would be able to follow their dollars from promise to result.
An uplifting concept has fallen on hard times. Yes, a few lame political warhorses have given way to professional managers, more mostly meaningless votes are free of party discipline and new layers of financial controls are all the post-Gomery rage. But not much that really matters is really changing.
Decisions are tightly held in Martin's innermost circle, the promise to make MPs strong enough to do their job is broken, and tracking how taxes are spent is as intentionally difficult as ever.
Canadians recognize the problem and are applying a solution. They treat the federal government with the disdain it's earned and, come election day, record numbers will vote with their feet by staying home.
The few who still care have no shortage of other planks to build their DIY-platforms. From protecting privacy to reaching the Canada-created international aid threshold, there is plenty of rough stuff to finish the job.
Now seems a good time to start.