Mr Dithers

On February 17th, the Economist magazine printed an article called “Mr Dithers” and his distracting “fiscal cafeteria”

Yes, since his coronation in December of 2003, since the Sponsorship Scandal erupted in February 2004 and since he formed the first minority government in 25 years on June 28th, it is evident that Prime Minister Paul Martin has been particularly twitchy on the aspect of making a misstep and losing his tenuous hold on power. By his wariness of any direction he might take through any policy initiative, (same sex marriage doesn’t count as he tried to dodge this one by sending it to the supreme court which rightly lobbed in back into his hands), Paul Martin’s handling of the democratic deficit and his resultant milquetoast leadership has earned him the title of a “ditherer” from the world’s most respected and widely read economic news magazine.

The Conservative Party is latching onto this lapse in the leadership of Paul Martin and they’ve provided me with a “rapid response” talking points memo that I’ll share with you so that you can battle Liberals who defend their wishy-washy leader

POTENTIAL ISSUE: Mister Decisive? The Liberals have to be kidding. Here is Mr. Dithers’ List of Dithering

Issue: Paul Martin and his Liberal spinners are desperate to try and shake the “Mr. Dithers” label and are hoping to use the Liberal convention in Ottawa to show Martin’s decisiveness. (The Record, March 3, 2005). Despite the spin, the reality of dithering remains. Canadians continue to wait and wait and wait for Martin to make even routine decisions.

Some Examples of Martin’s Dithering Delaying Decisions:

  • Ambassador to US: It took more than 13 months for Martin to finally announce a replacement for outgoing Ambassador Michael Kergin. After publicly announcing on December 12th, 2003 that he was looking for a replacement, it wasn’t until January 14th, 2005 that Martin announced that Frank McKenna would be Kergin’s replacement. Even Kergin said he was surprised by the delays (Toronto Star, February 9, 2005)
  • Offshore: After making his promise on June 5th, 2004, it took Martin eight months to finally act. In the meantime, Martin delayed and dithered, and had to be pressured by provincial government and by the Conservative Party to be forced to keep his promise.
  • Ottawa Centre By-Election: Martin delayed and dithered for six months trying to decide when to call the by-election for his friend Richard Mahoney. Finally, on the last possible day, Martin called the by-election — for November 29th, more than eight months later, and 14 months after Liberal Mac Harb had been appointed to the Senate (Ottawa Citizen, March 8, 2004). Only calling the federal election pre-empted this long delayed by-election.
  • Missile Defence: In April 2003, Martin was supportive: “What possible benefit is it for us to stay away from the table?” (Toronto Star, April 29, 2003). Then for two years, he dithered and delayed, unable to make a decision. Media reports suggest that the Liberals almost signed on to the missile defence plan before the election, but backed away (Vancouver Sun, January 14, 2005). It was only on February 24th, 2005, as damage control for Frank McKenna’s remarks, that Martin finally announced a decision that Canada would not participate. This dithering resulted in damage to Canada’s relationship with the United States.
  • EDC: Martin’s dithering led Ian Gillespie, the former president of Export Development Canada, to sue the Martin government as a result of the delay in deciding whether he would be reappointed. Gillespie’s term had expired Aug. 26, but according to his statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court, his only communication with government that day was a letter from the Privy Council Office saying his employment status was “still under discussion.” The EDC board of directors and Trade Minister Jim Peterson, the minister responsible for the corporation, had recommended three months earlier that Mr. Gillespie be reappointed for another three years. (Globe and Mail, March 1, 2005) With no word from the government, he cleaned out his desk and went home. (Globe and Mail, November 1, 2004) Gillespie finally found out that he was to be replaced when he saw a newspaper ad in October asking for applications for his job. (Globe and Mail, March 1, 2005)

Some Examples of Martin’s Continued Dithering:

  • Senate: When Paul Martin took office on December 12th, 2003, there were 2 vacancies in the Senate. 14 months of dithering and delay later and there are now 16 vacancies, and Martin has yet to make a single appointment. The longest vacancy now is over 2 years — since November 17th, 2002. According to media reports, Martin has twice nearly made Senate appointments, only to dither and delay, fearing negative reactions. Apparently, Martin was set to make Senate appointments last week, but was worried about negative reaction at the Liberal convention from disappointed Liberals who didn’t receive an appointment. Reports suggest that Martin will continue to dither until at least after the House of Commons rises for its March break (Ottawa Citizen, March 3, 2005).
  • Crown Corporations and other Appointments: Several Crown Corporations continue to operate without permanent heads, waiting for Martin to make a decision and put new people in place.
  • Kyoto: In April 2003, Paul Martin insisted that Canada should have a plan before ratification: “But I think if you’re going to bring in something like Kyoto, which is going to provide a huge national cooperation, you owe it to Canadians to lay the plan in front of them, so Canadians know what is being asked of them. Unfortunately, we ratified Kyoto without that plan in place, and since then we have not heard a great deal about the plan.” (Toronto Town Hall, April 29, 2003). Going back to December 2002, Martin had expressed concerns about the need for a plan. More than two years later, and Kyoto is now law, and the plan is still apparently “weeks away”, according to Martin’s Environment Minister Stéphane Dion (Globe and Mail, February 16, 2005). More than two years of dithering and delay have left Canadians waiting for Martin to finally provide a plan.
  • Foreign Policy Review: The promised foreign and defence policy reviews date back to September 2002. While the government has been dithering and delaying, the review was promised before the election, then in the fall, then before the budget, and now it is up in the air, farmed out to an outside academic to try and re-write it again. Meanwhile, Martin travels to globe, lacking any coherent foreign policy vision.
  • Defence Policy Review: The Defence Policy Review is in similar limbo, having been scrapped by the new Chief-of-Defence Staff and is being re-written. (Calgary Sun, February 7, 2005). It also has been promised since September 2002 and was promised by Martin again and again. A deadline has been set by the Liberals and missed at least eight times. While Martin continues to dither and delay, the men and women of the Canadian Forces continue to be deployed around the world at the whim of the Liberal government.
  • Day Care: Martin has been promising a national day care program since 1993 and repeated the promise in every single Red Book, including in last June’s federal election. Despite a series of meetings with the provinces, Martin and his minister still continue to dither over basic questions such as choice, provincial jurisdiction, etc.
  • Bank Mergers: The Liberals have failed to meet their own June 2004 deadline for releasing rules on bank mergers. Then they missed the September deadline. Then they missed the year-end deadline. Canadians are still waiting. (Toronto Star, February 3, 2005)
  • New Deal: Since 2002, Martin has been promising a ‘new deal’ for municipalities: “Several months ago, when we last spoke in Ottawa, I said that, in my opinion, Canada was in need of a New Deal for municipal governments.” (Paul Martin Speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, May 31st, 2002). Nearly three years later, while Martin and his government dithers away, municipalities are still waiting for the share of the federal gas tax that Martin has promised them. Negotiations are still ongoing and municipalities continue to wait.
  • Aboriginal Issues: In July 2002, Martin insisted that First Nations issues must be a priority: “The economic plight of our first nations . . . must become a national priority as never before,” he said. (Globe and Mail, July 18th, 2002). Yet more than 2.5 years later, Martin has managed no concrete action — only a roundtable meeting which he brags about, as he continues to dither and delay, leaving First Nations increasingly frustrated.