Ottawa - Friday, April 25, 2003 - by: Walter Robinson, Federal Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation


This Sunday Paul Martin is expected to finally return from self-imposed exile and surface in Montreal for the first in a series of planned town hall meetings as the race for the Liberal party leadership — with a top prize of keys to 24 Sussex Drive — heats up.



13 years

Since his ouster from Cabinet last June, the former Finance Minister and acknowledged front runner (he’s been campaigning for 13 years since losing to Jean Chretien in 1990) to replace the Prime Minister has performed a disappearing act, the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Jimmy Hoffa.




One of his campaign spokespersons recently told Canadian Press “he’s taken a couple of months to work on speeches and policy.” Taxpayers can be forgiven if visions of the now missing Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf (aka: Comical Ali), former Iraqi Minister of Information pop into their heads given this spin/nose-stretcher from the Martin camp.




A quick peek at his website that has been up for at least eight months — is an on-line advertisement for political vacuity. The home page intro reads
“Welcome to my website. It’s been designed to give Canadians more information on where I stand, the work I do, and details about the riding and people I represent in the House of Commons.”
To be fair, the site tells us that his riding is LaSalle-Emard in Montreal and his biography page tells us what he has done. Getting to where Mr. Martin stands, answering this question is as impossible as deciphering the meaning of life.



two policy

As for developing policy positions, the stated reason for his peek-a-boo routine with Canadians over the last year, an underwhelming total of two, policy speeches (the democratic deficit and the Kyoto protocol) and one public statement are available.



Sheila &

By contrast other Liberal leadership candidates are more forthcoming than Mr. Martin. Heritage Minister Sheila Copps site contains five policy speeches given over the past two months and John Manley has posted four policy speeches during this same period.




The Liberal leadership race is important because the winner will automatically become Prime Minister and could potentially govern Canada — without a mandate from Canadians — for two years. While the Liberal race is just underway, Mr. Martin’s silence on a host of issues over the past year is not only inexcusable, but it is conduct unbecoming of someone who aspires to hold the highest elected office in the land.




Taxpayers can only hope that Mr. Martin’s team has more than a handful of controlled, photo-op town hall gabfests lined up. A backlog — longer than an MRI waiting list — of national interest and taxpayer specific questions are begging to be put in front of Paul Martin.



what's his
on. . .?

Did he agree with Canada’s position on the war in Iraq? What role, if any, should Canada play in a post-Saddam Iraq? If he were Prime Minister, would he be golfing in the Dominican while Toronto bears the brunt of the SARS crisis? What does he propose to help break the logjam with the U.S. on issues of softwood lumber, agricultural subsidies, and cross-border security?




What is Paul Martin’s plan for further tax relief? Will he end corporate welfare? Will he wind up wasteful regional development schemes? What about the scandal-plagued federal sponsorship program? What is his prescription for health care reform? Public pension reform? National debt reduction? Internal trade? Etc?



be fair

Leadership is about answering tough questions and laying out a vision for the country. Taxpayers deserve better from national political figures, especially from the almost chosen one. Yes Paul Martin will speak this weekend, but will he really say anything? A vexing question indeed.

Walter Robinson
Federal Director



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