Race for Prime Minister already over?

By Esther E. Steeves

Will Paul Martin be the next Prime Minister? Most Calgary news journals and programs would have you believe as much.

Why bother inform the public of John Manley’s platform, or of the fast approaching PC leadership competition? Does anyone actually care to read about candidates that have no bearing on the country’s fate?

February’s Liberal leadership conference has gained wide coverage thanks to Martin. Even the Herald updates Calgary on Martin’s latest declarations and promises daily, but rarely mentions Shelia Copps’ or John Manley’s platforms.

Martin is more than the front- runner–he is already the winner.

More unnerving is the CBC afternoon radio show Martin hosted several weeks ago when he entertained calls from across Canada. I was astounded by the number of callers who began their question with a congratulatory message on becoming the next Prime Minister.

Was the vote held without me?

In contrast, the Progressive Conservative leadership conference will be held in a few short weeks and has been grossly under-reported. Perhaps none of these leadership hopefuls are capable of enacting the changes this country needs, but shouldn’t the party’s concerns be laid out for the electorate? After all, if there are no leadership alternatives to Martin, who will provide an effective check for him once in power if he does become Prime Minister? The Canadian Alliance? The Bloc Quebecquois? Doubtful.

The Alliance will never be an adequate balance as they lack the eastern support needed to form this country’s government while the Bloc will never gain support outside Quebec. Both parties are too regionally based to threaten the Liberals.

The Conservatives, given dynamic leadership and effective campaigning, can break down regional barriers and obtain national support. However, they remain unorganized and weakened by lack of a solid stance on a PC-Alliance coalition, as well as a decided lack of solid Conservative aims.

Canada needs an incumbent party that is aware of regional needs and modern government process, which Martin seems capable of providing under the Liberals. It is imperative to the democratic process, however, that Martin face effective competition.

This country needs a national Parti Quebequois.

Quebec’s recent provincial election, in which the Liberals defeated the PQ, provides an excellent example of two progressive leaders of two strong parties, both appealing to the public in some way and therefore keeping the other accountable to the electorate. Quebec has developed a model democracy for the rest of Canada. The PQ, much like the federal Liberals, held their mandate for ten years prior to the election, but lost to a party with different ideas and modern promises. They will now be forced to reorganize themselves and prepare to serve their province more effectively to win the next election. This needs to happen between strong parties at the national level, too.

Leading up to the next federal election, no one but Martin will obtain the media coverage needed to make their vision for Canada the voters’ vision. No one but Martin will likely win the election. This saddens me.

There are Canadians who feel Martin is clearly the one who best represents them, regardless of who the other candidates are, but no other candidate has received the media favour he has.

How can other candidates stand a chance at checking Martin’s power if he is declared the winner prior to the race?

In a true democracy, there must be checks and balances. If Martin runs uncontested–as is essentially the case–Canadians will have elected the most undemocratic government in decades.

Truth be told, voters wanting change will not satisfy their craving by electing the Liberals once more. After a ten-year reign however, a Martin-led Liberal party would make a wonderfully effective official opposition. The question still remains: Who would make the most effective government?

The Liberals have become professional bureaucrats and, lacking an effective check, they’ll become professional autocrats. It is important to consider this in light of Martin’s rising popularity. Handing him the Prime Ministership free of charge would be a very risky gamble.

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