The baton has finally been passed from the hands of Jean Chretien to Paul Martin for the responsibility of the governance of Canada. And with it, Paul Martin’s people are giving the impression that there will be a new way for Ottawa to be doing business.
My first thought concerning Paul Martin as Canada’s Prime Minister was: At least he’s not Chretien. So far so good.
At 2:00pm today (December 12, 2003), after the swearing-in ceremony, Paul Martin gave what was pre-described as a press conference, his first ever as Prime Minister.
Instead of delivering a few simple statements followed by questions from the press, as most people expected, Prime Minister Paul Martin delivered what was in fact a Throne Speech.
In his speech, he delivered specifics vis a vis what he envisions for Canada in terms of good, honest and ethical governance. He spoke of a need to radically change the way Parliament works, giving Members of Parliament the right to vote their conscience on most issues that are not confidence votes.
He spoke about making Parliament and Parliamentarians of all levels, far more accountable to the people and to the Auditor General.
Prime Minister Martin spoke of Canada’s most important social policy: Healthcare, and the need to make it work as best as possible. And he spoke of far more federal involvement with Canada’s cities.
I have no idea how he intends to do that, since Canadian cities are a construct of Provincial governments. But nonetheless, there is no level of government that is closer to the people than municipal governments. Therefore; if he can make the cities better able to deliver services, I’m all for it.
I liked what I heard. And I believe he will do his best to deliver. But there are very specific issues not covered in his address that bother me greatly:
1) How will Paul Martin will handle issues of national unity, specifically Quebec? He was a firm promoter of Mulroney’s Meech Lake giving Quebec Distinct Society Status. Will he continue to pursue that dead end?
2) Will Paul Martin stop rewarding companies who are friends to the Party? In other words, will he end payoffs?
3) Will Paul Martin end corporate welfare? Or will he continue to finance billion dollar companies with money taxed from the working poor?
4) Will Paul Martin make real changes to Canada’s relationship with the USA? I don’t mean getting an invitation to Crawford Ranch. I mean getting the USA to see us as their most important trading partner. And in so doing, pave a smoother path to trade restrictions such as soft-wood lumber and the cattle (mad cow) embargo.
5) Will Paul Martin’s government continue to condemn Israel at the United Nations, every time anti-Semites introduce anti-Israel resolutions?
6) Will Paul Martin reduce the billions of dollars which are wasted on NGO’s?
7) Will he free-up the ability of regular Canadians to own radio stations by clipping the protectionist wings of the CRTC?
I like what Martin had to say in his “unofficial” Throne Speech. Now we have to see how he deals with the issues he didn’t speak of.
I wish our new Prime Minister the very best of luck. We need it.