Volume 97, Issue 1
Thursday, May 22, 2003

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Disloyal Martin's victory certain

Kats got your tongue
Laura Katsirdakis
News Editor

Elections in Canada inspire apathy in the best of us. How many of us know someone who has voted for frivolous reasons, like because that's the way they've always voted.

On the other hand, how many of us have voted not because we were inspired by a dynamic political figure, but because a politician was so repulsive that we felt compelled to vote for anyone but them.

Here in Canada, federal politics are particularly unlikely to draw voters to the polls. The Liberal Party's dominance mutes competition. The right has failed to unite, and the far left seems like a far cry.

The Liberals, in an ironically appropriate way, seem to have straddled the centre of the political spectrum, almost as if to make up for the weakness in their political opponents. Campaign trails are lined with decidedly left-of-centre rhetoric, yet once in office, Jean Chrétien's Liberals have paved a legacy of things like deficit reduction and keeping the GST.

For this reason, if no other, the Liberal leadership race is worth watching, although the term 'race' is used loosely here. One leadership candidate, Paul Martin, made shock waves when he singled himself out as a leadership hopeful, but the other candidates for the top spot are barely putting up a fight.

Quick! Who can name the two other candidates vying for the Liberal leadership? No? Well, as the National Post reported on May 6, 2003, even Chrétien himself found the first of the six leadership debates boring: he admitted that he flipped to the hockey game rather than following the debate.

John Manley, one of Martin's not-so-formidable opponents, attempted to rustle up some controversy by calling upon Martin to disclose the sources funding his leadership campaign. Unfortunately, Manley drew criticism from the press when he failed to meet the deadline of his own challenge.

In case you're still guessing, the third candidate is Sheila Copps.

Martin's victory in the leadership race is almost certain. Indeed, the Globe and Mail reported that Martin has the support of 259 riding associations and is expected to not only win the Liberal leadership, but to gain many traditionally non-Liberal seats if he should lead the party into the next election.

Martin's track record as finance minister leads many observers to believe this is a victory for small-c conservatism rather than a more left-of-centre ideology. As finance minister, Martin was instrumental in moving Canada away from social spending and towards deficit reductions and tax cuts. If Martin does win the Liberal leadership, the likelihood is high that he may continue to take the party down a neo-conservative path.

This may interest those who put their check mark next to the same party name at every election. Perhaps Paul Martin's ideological disloyalty will shake some voters out of their apathetic slumber.

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