Prime Minister Paul Martin’s little address to the nation this evening was a flawed strategy that served more as an opportunity for his opponents than it did for Paul Martin. It is unclear to many as to what the Prime Minister was attempting to achieve.
He did apologize to Canadians for the Sponsorship scandal and he set the record straight regarding what he has done and intends to do to clean it up. This on its own merit was a good move, but it was still a defensive position. He attempted to take away the conservative oppositions hammer of being able to set the election period, but failed as it still remains in the hands of the opposition. Martin may have the conservatives in a bit of a bind as they risk voter rejection if they force the election when Martin has now promised an election in thirty days of the Gomery Inquiry report being finalized. Score one for the Prime Minister.
The opposition countered with the claim that the liberals have not the political, ethical or moral basis to continue to govern the country. The opposition has now been backed into a corner where they may have no other choice than to force an election. They should wait until testimony is in on the Gomery Inquiry, which gets the country into a summer election. This means getting out the vote will have more significance that ever before. Getting voters off the golf course, family camping, fishing and all those other summer activities will be difficult at best. If the conservatives wait for the liberals to call the election then we will be into Christmas and the voters will be equally difficult to get out to the polls.
Interestingly, for the most part, Paul Martin addressed the nation, Stephan Harper addressed Quebec and Jack Layton addressed the issues. Gilles Duceppe understandably addressed the continuing saga of Quebec wanting out of confederation, which is at least consistent with their long-term objectives. Harper’s focus on Quebec is risky as he is not likely to make any meaningful gains in that province, but risks losing support in other parts of Canada. The West, especially, has become weary with continual efforts to keep Quebec happy.
Remember, the Sponsorship Program was all about Quebec. The scandal was all about liberals. Score one for Duceppe. Harper’s position would have Canadians get used to a continuation of Canadian tax dollars being spent on appeasing Quebec. The conservatives are positioned to form government, but they must be very careful where they step to get there. The impending election is more about conservative fortunes than that of Canadians. The liberal party is in a state of crisis, but Canada is not. Prepare to score one for Stephan Harper.
Paul Martin did force the other party leaders to stake out their positions in response to his own regarding the Sponsorship Program and how Parliament should work over the next few weeks. The only question remaining now is who will blink first.