2006/01/04

The Election: Days 36 and 37

The leaders plunged back into the campaign full-time this week, mindful that the election is only three weeks away.

Kicking off the second half of the election campaign Monday, Harper said his party would pursue five main priorities in government: passing the Federal Accountability Act; cutting the GST; cracking down on crime; increasing financial assistance for parents; and working with the provinces to establish a wait-times guarantee for patients.

On Tuesday Harper said Conservatives would end the current partisan polling practices of the Liberal government by:
-the banning of verbal-only contract reports, and the automatic publication of all government public research within six months;
-commissioning an independent review of government public opinion research practices;
-ensuring open tender for all government advertising and polling contracts.

Harper took aim at the Earnscliffe research and communications firm, which has employed many senior Liberals with close ties to Mr. Martin, including David Herle, the Liberal campaign director. Harper noted the Auditor-General found Earnscliffe was paid to provide verbal advice to Mr. Martin when he was finance minister, a practice the Tories would ban.

Martin launched the second phase of the election campaign with a fiery attack on the Conservatives and the Bloc during a campaign stop in Winnipeg on Tuesday.Martin hammered at the theme of different values, saying he and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper have diverging plans for the future of the nation.

"Mr. Harper and I differ on child care and gun crimes, we differ on medicare, on tax cuts and foreign affairs. We differ on issues right across the full spectrum of policy," he said.

Fearing defeat, Martin has adopted a schizophrenic campaign approach. On the one hand he's putting out some Liberal policy announcements but these are kind of BTW as he launches an assault on Harper comparing him to Mike Harris and other unseemly comparisons.

Greg Weston had an excellent article on Martin's assault on Harper. Read it at
Weston

Here's a sample:

'Big Scare' is back
By Greg Weston

WINNIPEG -- Dawn has barely broken over Manitoba after a cruel 5 a.m. flight from Ottawa, but Paul Martin is in full fighting form on the stump, waking up a breakfast crowd of local execs with one of his most fiery speeches of the federal election campaign.

On this day, the topic that seems to have stirred the PM's passion from so much sleep deprivation is clear: Paul Martin is wonderful. Stephen Harper is a menace to life as we know it.

How quaint. The prime minister who came to power promising to clean up politics is now seeking re-election as a walking negative-attack ad.

For the past five weeks, the Liberal strategy has been largely to sit on the sidelines in the smug hope that the more voters saw of Harper, the less they would like him and that the rest of the Conservative campaign would self-destruct in a hail of political stupidity and loose lips for which the party is notorious.

It didn't happen.

Instead, the Conservatives have run a relatively gaffe-free and cleverly orchestrated policy-a-day campaign designed specifically to keep the media spotlight focused on the platform promises of the party and off the scintillating personality of its leader.

So far, the Conservative strategy seems to be working as planned and the Liberals are now clearly worried to the point of desperate measures.

With the latest polls showing the Grits sliding into a virtual dead-heat with the Conservatives, Martin launched his party's campaign Plan B here yesterday and let's just say it is not pretty.

Clear answer

The PM opened his breakfast speech to the Manitoba blue-chippers promising to set out his vision for the future of the country, and provide a clear answer to the rather salient election question: Why would anyone vote for the Liberals?

Instead, Martin served up 27 impassioned minutes of why Canadians shouldn't vote for Stephen Harper (not including the obvious blood dripping from his Conservative fangs).

Sad to say, folks, for the second election in as many years, the Big Scare is back and coming to a Liberal rally near you.

If you believe the PM, voters have only one choice on Jan. 23 and it is between "Stephen Harper's goal of a fend-for-yourself Canada and my vision of a country in which we strive together as a society toward a common good."

If you believe the leader of the party that stole our money, he alone sees Canada "as a success, a nation with tremendous potential, but Mr. Harper speaks to what he views as its failings."

If you believe the former finance minister who once slashed funding for the provinces, now giving more federal money to provincial daycare programs will ensure "Canadian children ... can enter school ready to learn and leave school ready to succeed.



Pure hypocrisy on Martin's part of course, but when you're desperate you want the voters to fear your opponent, the Big Bad Wolf. That's all right, Paul. They are readying your bungalow in Barbados for January 24th.

The Sun also did an in-depth interview with Martin ranging widely over many topics. Here is Greg Weston's
summary of Martin's postion(s):

methinks there is something deeper at work here, something fundamental that would surely sap any prime minister of his essential fighting passion: In his frantic attempts to be everything to everyone, Martin is now very much at risk of becoming nothing to anyone -- including himself.

Talking weather vane

Forget the Paul Martin Jr. that most Canadians came to know and admire as the trusted penny-pinching finance minister who presided over the elimination of the country's crippling deficits, and helped usher in an era of growth and surpluses.

The man sitting in the Prime Minister's Office yesterday sounds more every day like a talking weather vane, swinging around wildly in whatever direction the polls may blow.

One minute he is the Liberal leader more to the left than Jack Layton, throwing billions of dollars of taxpayers' money at every group and any cause the Grit strategists have determined might steal votes from the New Democrats.

But mostly Martin sounds as though he spent the Christmas hiatus practising his best imitations of Stephen Harper, apparently hoping to confuse voters into thinking the Liberals and Conservatives speak with the same voice on popular Tory platform issues.

After more than a decade in government, for instance, Martin is suddenly a born-again law-and-order crusader, a champion of crime issues the Tories have been espousing for years to nothing but heckling from the Grit benches.

For years, it has been something of a Liberal tenet to resist Conservative calls to throw more criminals in prison for longer sentences, arguing that ridding our streets of violent crime is far more complicated than rounding up some punks and throwing away the key.

But now that a rash of gruesome street shootings in Toronto are making voters everywhere demand action, Martin is of a whole new mind. Or someone else's mind.

"Harper has said there should be increases in punishment -- I couldn't agree more," Martin said yesterday. "There is no difference of opinion in that area."


Martin announced plans Wednesday to guarantee timely access to medicare by reducing wait times for key medical procedures. The Liberal Party's "Canada Health Care Guarantee" includes $100 million over five years to enlist 1,000 new family doctors.
It also outlines a new national cancer strategy worth $300 million over five years to cut down on cancer wait times and improve the quality of care.

New Democrat Leader Jack Layton announced a plan Wednesday that would provide "equitable access to medically necessary prescription drugs," for Canadians. Layton said he will introduce the national prescription drug plan in the next parliament. It would be worth $1 billion per year, and would cover 50 per cent of the cost of prescription drugs above $1,500 per year per person.

This week Layton has been sharpening his criticism of the Liberals."To get the kind of Canada you want, you've got to vote for the Canada you want," Layton said on Tuesday. Layton is expected to repeat that message in various forms until the Jan. 23 election, trying to convince NDP voters not to switch to the Liberals just to beat the Conservatives. Part of his strategy is simply to make sure he can still be heard, and isn't forced to the sidelines. So he is sharpening his criticisms and taking issue with any effort to narrow the debate.

"It's frankly offensive for Martin to tell Canadians that they're limited to two choices, that they're limited to a choice between corruption and Conservatives."

Meanwhile, following several polls on the weekend showing the Conservatives and the Liberals in a dead heat,the latest SES poll shows the Conservatives in the lead at 36% vs 33% for the Liberals.

Unless something dramatic occurs between now and election day, Martin is toast as Liberal leader. Having spent a decade undercutting Chretien in order to seize the crown, Martin's record of one minority and then a loss to Harper will have the Liberals hungry for a replacement.

Names being bandied about include McKenna, Manley, Cauchon, Ignatieff (a ridiculously extreme long shot). Personally, I think Brian Tobin will be hard pressed to resist the lure of a chance to be PM. If he enters the race he will be a strong contender.

If Martin hangs on by his teeth to eke out a reduced minority, he will probably be able to hang on to fight another election or leave at a time of his choosing. If Harper gets a minority, it's curtains for Martin despite his hold on the party machinery.

The Globe and Mail ran a story on leadership rumblings within the Liberal ranks.

McKenna, Manley already laying groundwork for Liberal leadership?

By JANE TABER
January 3, 2006
Globe and Mail

The body isn't even warm yet, and already there are at least two senior Liberals -- Frank McKenna and John Manley -- who insiders say are quietly gearing up their leadership campaigns. The fact this is happening is an indication that some Liberals think Paul Martin's campaign is in deep trouble.


Insider reports indicate the wheels are coming off the Liberal campaign as the smell of fear begins to percolate through the ranks. Unofficially others are considering possible leadership bids in the event that Martin loses the election, a possibility that becomes increasingly more likely each day.

The Globe and Mail mentioned McKenna and Manley. Others are assessing their options and making phone calls to those they trust.

Conclusion:

The Liberal party needs to rebuild so we can have a real choice in this country. The first step in achieving that is to elect a Conservative minority, held in check on social policies by the NDP. The second step is for the Liberals to send Martin packing to Barbados or wherever else his ships are registered. The third step is to pick a new leader who can provide a reasonable alternative to Harper in the next election.

3 comments:

Cathie said...

Do you really think that Tobin, McKenna or Manley would provide a reasonable alternative to Harper? McKenna and Manley are the prophets of deep integration and a scourge to Liberal grassroots policy. They are in the pockets of the Americans, especially Manley. Have no respect for him now that I know what he is doing. Tobin is a loose cannon. Can he do anything other than yell?

cardinal47 said...

Yes, he can. Undoubtedly others would come forward. While I do not favour Manley or McKenna for the reason you gave, I have no doubt that McKenna would be preferable to Martin or Harper.

In any event it is quite clear that you are of the school "Martin is my leader/he can do no wrong" and "Liberal4Life" :-)

I do not share that view.

Jasmine said...

The Liberals are on the edge of the precipice.Only a spectacular performance by Martin in the debates has any hope os saving them.