Martin fights for his political life

04.21.05

Perhaps the only politician in Canada with more woes than Charest, Prime Minister Paul Martin addressed the nation on prime time television, delivering a recorded speech designed to plead for his political life.

Watching him was a bit wince-worthy, but ultimately he got his message across. He apologized without admitting direct involvement or guilt, accepted responsibility as a leader, and vowed to prosecute the offenders. To be fair, he did what I would have done in a similar situation. The only surprise was a promise to hold an election within 30 days of the end of the Gomery inquiry – a stall tactic if I’ve ever heard one. But I think that this desperation move may pay off for him.

In contrast, the other three leaders looked like they were launching campaign speeches. Harper attacked Martin straight-on, but his speech may have the unintended effect of making Canadians wary of a mud-slinging campaign. Duceppe had me wishing – not for the first time – that he wasn’t on the wrong side, because as usual he stole the show with a fantastic opening line to his speech, something to the effect of “the last time a prime minister addressed the nation, it was 1995 and Chretien was fighting to save Canada; this time, Martin’s fighting to save the Liberals”. He picked up votes for sure.

As for Layton, his small smile bugged me even more than it did during last summer’s debates. But he implied that he’d be willing to make a deal with Martin to attempt to stave off a no-confidence vote in exchange for changes in the Federal Budget to give the NDP what they want. This is Layton’s chance to blackmail the Liberals for all they’re worth, and don’t think it hasn’t occurred to him.

I think that, though this mess is with the Liberals, most people are cynical enough to realize that corruption is rampant in all political parties, and there’s quite a bit of distaste for the perceived opportunism of Harper and the other opposition leaders in this situation. I think people are already tired of hearing about Gomery. Mostly, I think people are tired of elections and their options are severely limited when it comes to actually voting.

What will happen is anyone’s guess. But I wouldn’t write off the Liberals just yet.

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