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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

July 2, 2004

July 2, 2004





**  Voters punish the Liberals for their "arrogance," giving them a "tentative" victory.

**  A "messy" minority government "may not last long"; NDP could compel Martin to "move left."

**  Despite loss, "the Conservatives are back," giving Canada "a proper national opposition."

**  Paradoxically, the Bloc Québécois' success may give it less influence in Ottawa.




'Angry' voters punish Liberal 'hubris'--  Canadian papers concluded that Prime Minister Martin and the Liberal party had endured "a near-death experience" before emerging "badly bloodied" but on top in the general elections.  The Liberals' "unexpectedly strong showing" was "impressive and surprising" but also "bittersweet."  It followed a campaign in which, as the leading Globe and Mail put it, the Liberals "spent more time...trying to frighten Canadians about the Conservatives than outlining a solid vision" of their own.  In the end, "fear" of the Tories seemed to outweigh "loathing" of the Liberals, whom voters wished to "punish" for the "corruption, waste and arrogance" of their years in office.


Country's politics 'unresolved'--  Now, "there is neither a majority government nor an obvious coalition."  The prospect of a minority government "has injected an element of instability" in the country, said the left-of-center Vancouver Sun.  A Toronto outlet observed that Martin "faces the daunting task" of making Parliament work while avoiding another early election.  A "marriage of convenience" with the New Democratic Party (NDP) "may tempt the Liberals to move left."  But while the NDP "will willingly endorse social legislation or support for the Kyoto Protocol," the Liberals would face "hard negotiations on...plans to spend more on the military."


For Tories, 'a hot and cold shower'--  Assessing the Conservative showing, left-of-center analysts contended that "most Canadians have shown no appetite for social conservatism if it means rekindling old firefights over abortion and sexual orientation."  Voters instead opted for "a socially progressive" government.  Right-of-center papers judged that the newly merged Conservative party was "not quite ready for prime time" and its "fiercely partisan" leader Stephen Harper seemingly "frayed" by the end of the campaign.  The conservative National Post noted, however, that Harper "defied the prognostications of many," giving Martin "the fight of his political life."  The Globe and Mail agreed, adding it was "good news" that Canadians "once again have a realistic choice between two national parties."


Bloc takes Québec: 'Quel surprise!'--  Though the Bloc Québécois enjoyed "unquestionable" success, handing the Liberals "a particularly resounding defeat" in Québec, the centrist La Presse and Le Soleil termed it the "the worst case scenario" for the party.  Bloc strategists had hoped to hold the balance of power in a Conservative-led minority government.  Though it will still wield influence in Ottawa, it "will not be the power broker it could have become."  With much of the vote due to Quebecers' desire to punish the Liberals, the Bloc's success is "in good part indirect...and does not represent" solid support for the party.


EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 28 reports from Canada, Britain, Ireland and Australia, June 29-July 2, 2004.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




CANADA:  "The Bittersweet Bloc Victory"


Editorialist Alain Dubuc wrote in the centrist La Presse and Le Soleil (6/30):  "Even if the electoral success is unquestionable, the political dynamics that took shape before our very eyes on Monday night represent the worst case scenario for the Bloc Québécois.  Strategists dreamt of a minority Conservative government, next to which the Bloc would hold the balance of power.  What we actually have is a minority Liberal government able to form an alliance with the New Democrats.  Gilles Duceppe's party will not be the power broker it could have become. It will not be a force to reckon with for the Conservative government absent from Quebec [the Conservatives have no MPs in Quebec] that would have allowed it to exert its influence.  And, above all, this situation denies Bloc leaders the answer they could have given Quebecers worried that too massive a support of their party would isolate Quebec.  In reality, the province of Quebec, underrepresented among the Liberal government, is now further removed from power....  This scenario, while it is disappointing for the Bloc, will not deny it an important role in Ottawa.  The configuration of the House of Commons...will force the Martin government to form various individual alliances where the Bloc will have its place....  With 54 seats and 48.8% of votes, the real strength of the Bloc will come from clearly being able to claim to speak for Quebec.  This party is the one that, by far, represents the greatest number of Quebecers and the fact that numerous federalists chose to support it adds to its legitimacy....  It is clear that [Gilles Duceppe's victory] is largely due to the sponsorship scandal and to an anger that could hardly be expressed in Quebec by anything but a Bloc vote.  The Bloc's success is thus in good part indirect, still fragile, and does not represent a cemented support of the party....  What was clear was the desire of a great many Quebecers on the night of the election to punish the Liberals....  But we can ask ourselves a question:  did the Bloc use Quebecers by channeling their anger?  Or, on the contrary, did Quebecers use the Bloc to send their message and reach their goal?"


"Keep On Sitting"


The centrist Winnipeg Free Press commented (6/30):  "Prime Minister Paul Martin and the opposition parties should aim to keep this Parliament going at least a year before pitching Canada into a fresh election.  No public purpose now discernible is served by triggering an election sooner than that.  Mr. Martin and his Liberal party have adequate authority to govern on the basis of this week's election.  Their authority has been eroded by public disgust over the sponsorship program, and this was reflected in loss of their parliamentary majority.  That, however, need not prevent them from meeting Parliament, presenting a legislative program and beginning to carry out the elements of it that Parliament can approve....  The government needs time to complete its investigations of the sponsorship scandal, publish the reports and prosecute any wrongdoers who are brought to light.  The Conservatives need time to fill in gaps in their program and show the country what they amount to with their newly elected Ontario and Manitoba members.  Unless events force some crisis upon the country, the parties should let these processes unfold for a year at least before scheduling a re-match."


"Campaign Ignored The West"


President and CEO of The Canada West Foundation, Roger Gibbins observed in the nationalist Ottawa Citizen (6/30):  "What we have here is the makings of an explosive situation.  In the long build-up to the federal election campaign, there was every reason to expect that western Canadian concerns and aspirations would figure prominently in the election.  Paul Martin declared in the fall that he would have failed as a leader if western discontent were not satisfactorily addressed.  The Liberals, moreover, seemed poised to expand their precarious beachhead in the West on the coattails of their popular new leader.  At the same time, the election of a Liberal federalist government in Quebec had dashed more water on the apparently rapidly cooling coals of the sovereignty movement.  Commentators assumed the Bloc was toast, and that the national political agenda could be expanded at long last to include western discontent.  That was then, and this is now.  In the campaign that just ended, western concerns and issues have played a negligible role.  How, then, do we explain the West's disappearing act?...  In many respects the Liberals and Conservatives stayed clear of an explicit western agenda for the same reasons.  Western issues would be unwelcome baggage for parties determined to win Ontario.  Therefore the more the campaign focused on Ontario, the more the Conservatives were silent on the West....  Since there hasn't been any healthy campaign debate about western concerns, imagine how the West feels about the Conservatives sweeping the West but the Liberals, dependent on voters in the East, clinging to power with support from the NDP.  It could be explosive."


"Harper's Lessons From June 28..."


The conservative National Post commented (6/30):  "This time for moody public reflection by [Conservative leader] Harper over his political future, or for his western supporters to engage in bitter recriminations over the vagaries of Canada's parliamentary system.  This is instead a time for the party to rededicate itself to the rehabilitation of conservative politics in this country.  The fact is that Mr. Harper defied the prognostications of many people in advance of the election call, and gave Paul Martin the fight of his political life.  It is a consequence of the Conservative campaign that the Liberals face their current predicament.  While Mr. Martin is absorbed with the question of how he can best play with the hand he's been dealt, the Conservatives have an opportunity to absorb the lessons of their defeat....  The fact is, Mr. Harper may be leading the Conservatives into an election campaign before this year is out.  If they prepare themselves now for the fight, the Conservatives can--and for the health of Canada's democracy and economy, must--win the next election."


"... And Martin's"


The conservative National Post observed (6/30):  "Two days after the federal election, the dust has begun to settle.  But in some respects, the results are still just as obscure as they were on Monday night.  Because of the way seats have been split, there is neither a majority government nor an obvious coalition to be formed....  With the exception of matters of confidence, then, Mr. Martin should consider freeing his MPs to make their own decisions on parliamentary votes.  And, following his lead, each of the other party leaders might do likewise.  If they are willing to take this bold step, the result will be a rapid acceleration of democratic reform, to the extent that Parliament is empowered beyond what even the most ambitious party platforms promised during the campaign.  Critics will contend that so many free votes would make Parliament dysfunctional.  But under the circumstances, it is a system of constant behind-the-scenes deal-making between the government and either a socialist or a separatist party that poses the greater risk."


"Voters Deceived The Pollsters"


Columnist Richard Gwyn concluded in the liberal Toronto Star (6/30):  "In summary, this election was far less about punishing the Liberals or about Martin's early campaign miscalculations than it was about the re-emergence of what could be called Pierre Trudeau's coalition.  The successful Liberal coalition that Trudeau assembled more than 30 years ago--city-dwellers, women, immigrants, young people--is still around and, if anything, is more dominant than it has been in a long time.  Only Quebecers have opted out--almost certainly temporarily.  The new Conservatives will now be under intense pressure to move towards the center, more or less where Joe Clark and Robert Stanfield positioned them.  The Liberals have got a reprieve.  Incomparably more significant--the Liberals have to lose, and should lose, some time or other--the liberal values and attitudes that Trudeau personified have been reprieved, entirely possibly for a long, long time."


"Canadians Are Still Cool To The Right Of Center"


Columnist Jeffrey Simpson wrote in the leading Globe and Mail (6/30):  "The Liberals did not win their majority, the Conservatives did not take power, the NDP did not crack 20 seats and the Bloc Québécois did not quite sweep all the ridings it had targeted.  A perfect result, in other words, for an angry electorate.  A result, too, for Liberal hubris.  Canadians get a minority government that they seemed to want, led by one party they wished to punish with another party they did not fully trust as Official Opposition.  It was as if Canadians huddled voting day morning, figured out whom to punish and reward, and in what proportions, then headed to the polls.  No party will therefore be fully satisfied, although the Bloc Québécois will be happiest.  Nor will any party be completely deflated."


"The Next Step For The Conservatives"


The leading Globe and Mail commented (Internet version, 6/30):  "For the federal Conservatives, Monday night was a hot and cold shower for the spirits.  Their seat total rose...but their share of the national popular vote fell to 29.6 per cent from the combined 37.7 per cent received by the former Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives in the 2000 election.  Uniting the parties stopped the vote-splitting, but many of the old supporters deserted them.  It was a night of mixed emotions all round.  The Liberals, who a year ago were confident of a majority, were ecstatic to receive a minority only because the more recent fear had been of defeat.  The New Democrats doubled their share of the popular vote but knew that, if Canada had moved to proportional representation, they would have received twice as many seats as they did.  And the Conservatives, who for the past few weeks have counted on the minority victory the polls dangled before them, had to make peace with remaining the Official Opposition.  But only by that yardstick could the Tories' showing be considered a failure.  The good news for the country is that the Conservatives are back, and that voters once again have a realistic choice between two national parties in a federal election.


"This is true despite the vexing regional disparities that meant the Conservatives won no seats in Quebec and the Liberals barely registered in the Prairie Provinces.  The Conservatives were forced to fight a phantom in this campaign: the notion, depending on who was spinning the story, that they had a secret agenda to dismantle health care, restrict access to abortions or cozy up to the Americans....  What now?  For a start, the Conservatives have to hold that policy convention and air their differences.  It matters that one-fifth of the voters who chose the Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives last time out did not choose the new party this time....  In particular, the party should thrash out its position on the Supreme Court of Canada, in light of Mr. Harper's disturbing characterization of the chief court as an illegitimate usurper of Parliament's role as lawmaker.  The party should also work on its financial projections.  It is entirely legitimate to call for tax cuts and reinvestment in the military, but a party that prides itself on fiscal conservatism should do a better job than it did during the campaign of making sure its numbers add up.   As they prepare to strengthen their position in the next election, the Conservatives have a valuable role to play here and now.  The mathematics of a minority government may tempt the Liberals to move left to court the NDP and the Bloc, and the Conservative voice must be heard as a corrective.  To that end, assuming all the talk of direct democracy and new politics has been more than hot air, let us hope that the level of conversation in the House of Commons will be far more civil than in recent years...even when, as with the Liberals and Conservatives, they may strongly disagree."


"The Seeds Of Victory"


The conservative Halifax Chronicle-Herald commented (Internet version, 6/30):  "An earthquake shook the political landscape in Canada on Monday night, leaving behind a Parliament fractured in a way that no pollster had predicted.  The Liberals, riding 11 straight years of majority rule, were badly bloodied...yet are widely seen as the victors for staving off an even worse result....  Paul Martin's 'victory,' however, came at a divisive price.  When their early campaign strategy emphasizing health care wasn't working, the Liberals turned to desperate measures, attack ads aimed at the Conservatives and their leader, Stephen Harper, who had been successfully picking up support by emphasizing the Grits' sponsorship scandal.  'People had to choose between anger and fear,' Jack Bensimon, who headed the Liberal campaign advertising, candidly told the Globe and Mail.  The strategy appears to have worked.  A last-minute swing by a small slice of the electorate--perhaps five per cent--away from the Conservatives and to the Liberals helped to confound all polling predictions of a dead heat.  Mr. Harper's newly merged party, meanwhile, was not quite ready for prime time.  Without a formal party policy, the Conservatives, pressed on controversial issues--fairly at times, other times not--appeared disjointed, opening themselves up to charges of a hidden far-right-wing agenda.  Mr. Harper's sometimes defiant denials did not always help....  In the end, as a number of commentators have put it, fear seemed to top loathing.  The NDP, though they sharply increased their share of the popular vote, must be disappointed it didn't translate into victory in more ridings....  Blame, in part, strategic voting to stop the Conservatives.  That leaves any potential Liberal-NDP coalition one seat shy of a working majority.  A deal with the separatist Bloc Québécois... appears out of the question.  It's going to be interesting."


"Welcome To The Four Solitudes"  


The conservative St. John's Telegram observed (Internet version, 6/30):  "Looking at the results in Newfoundland and Labrador, you might think Monday’s event was a different election--the last election, to be precise, when the breakdown of seats between the Liberals and the then-Progressive Conservatives was precisely the same....  The same generally held true for the rest of Atlantic Canada....  The Bloc Québécois, predictably, took a healthy share of seats in Quebec, and the new Conservative party began to make inroads in parts of Ontario that it was never able to penetrate when it ran as Reform.   For the Liberals--as was also expected, particularly in terms of the popular vote--the West was history.  What do you take from it all?  Perhaps that we’ve come a long and horrible way from Hugh MacLennan’s Two Solitudes, a novel that famously cast the profound distinctions between French and English Canada.  Perhaps we’re now closer to three or even four solitudes--the East, the West, Ontario and Quebec.  The problem, of course, is that there are huge differences between those solitudes--between how each one views social policies, how each regards the size and responsibility of federal governments, and the duties of care such governments hold.  And, on top of all that, there are huge differences between the solitudes’ respective political powers within our political system.  And that will be something that will make this country increasingly hard to govern, especially in a situation as fragile and rarefied as a minority government....  There will always be someone or some region willing to pull the plug on this new government, and that will make it difficult to bring forward new initiatives and inventive solutions to the many problems facing this country.  Perhaps, as a country, we are getting old, and critical arteries--and attitudes--are hardening.  Perhaps, after years of irk and grudges, the regions of this country are less and less willing to forgive, and unable to forget.  But that’s what it is to live in fundamentally good times; you have the luxury of time to grouse and complain about how hard-done-by you are."


"B.C. MPs Take Note:  Negotiation Is The New Reality In Ottawa"


The left-of-center Vancouver Sun editorialized (Internet version, 6/30):  "British Columbians had a new experience election night. Not only did our votes matter in the outcome of the federal election, the power balance in the next Parliament remained at play well into the evening and was finally decided by a small margin in two polling stations on northern Vancouver Island....  The minority government has injected an element of instability that may act as a drag on the economy of the country as a whole.  But it offers an opportunity for B.C. to take advantage of the strong diversity of voices we have selected to represent our interests in Ottawa....  The prime minister would be wise to reject [returning Cabinet minister David] Anderson's strategic 'govern as if we have a majority.'  As Joe Clark learned 25 years ago, that kind of arrogance leads quickly to a hard fall....  The new reality in Canada is government by negotiation and British Columbian MPs need to take advantage of their influence while they can.  Meanwhile, in the weeks and months ahead, Conservative strategists and supporters will pore over the results to try to fathom what went wrong in an election that at one point appeared to be theirs for the taking.  This much they should know already:  the majority of British Columbians, like most Canadians, have shown no appetite for social conservatism if it means rekindling old firefights over abortion and sexual orientation.  And all parties should reflect on the sad fact that once again, voter turnout is down across the country, continuing a trend that has run through the past four elections."


"The Liberal Victory Is A Provisional One"


The leading Globe and Mail opined (6/29):  "On the face of it, Prime Minister Paul Martin won an impressive and surprising victory in yesterday's election.  The Liberals did much better than almost anyone expected, falling short of a majority government but still coming out the biggest party by a clear margin.  There will be much relief and rejoicing among Liberals today as they look back on their scrape with death.  But hang on just a minute.  Though they may have cheated the hangman, this is hardly a famous victory for the Liberals.  The party was thrashed by the Bloc Québécois in Quebec, a traditional bastion that it should have won convincingly under a native son, the fluently bilingual Mr. Martin.  It lost seats in Ontario, though far fewer than predicted.  And of course it did poorly in the West....  What happened?  While the sponsorship scandal and the arrogance of the Chrétien years had much to do with that shortfall, and while the unexpected uniting of the conservative parties made this a real race, Mr. Martin can blame himself for much of his trouble.  His first six months as prime minister were shockingly bad; he lacked focus, he lacked vision, he lacked coherence.  The Speech from the Throne promised everything to everyone, and Mr. Martin amplified the problem the next day by ranking everything as his highest priority.  The Liberals spent more time during the campaign trying to frighten Canadians about the Conservatives than outlining a solid vision of where they planned to take this country....  Minority status means the prime minister must prove himself in the most difficult of circumstances.  This is not a bad thing; if he slumbered with a majority, a minority may jolt him awake.  With luck, his government will last six months, a year, perhaps longer.  And, when the next election comes, he will have given Canadians a better sense of whether his party deserves a stronger hand in governing the country."


"Canadians Chose A Stronger Nation"


The liberal Toronto Star editorialized (6/29):  "Canadians demanded change yesterday, but they rejected the change championed by Stephen Harper and his new Conservative party that would have weakened the federal government, reopened old social battles and charted a risky fiscal course.  That's the message from Prime Minister Paul Martin's unexpectedly strong showing last night, which had the Liberals winning seats in every region of the country.  Rather than moving far to the right, Canadians opted for a socially progressive alternative that will promote medicare, push for a new deal for cities, improve the environment and strive to be fiscally prudent.  At the same time, though, voters across Canada also sent a strong signal to Martin and the Liberals that they are fed up with the corruption, waste and arrogance that has marked their government toward the end of their 11 years in power.  For Martin, it was a bittersweet victory.  He failed to win a majority, but he averted an election disaster that had been predicted by many pollsters and pundits right up to election day.  As leader of a minority government, Martin now faces the daunting task of making the next Parliament work and avoiding another early election.  Canadians will expect the New Democrats to work with him....  Now, Martin must quickly get down to work and deliver the strong, socially progressive government they want."


"Mr. Martin, Proceed With Caution"


The conservative National Post commented (6/29):  "It is the Liberals who have emerged as victors--of sorts.  They lost some members of their Cabinet, they were bloodied, they were reduced to minority status, yet they still emerged as the government.  Nevertheless, it is a tentative mandate, one which Paul Martin must exercise with caution....  From most Canadians' points of view, Mr. Martin will succeed as a minority prime minister if he is able to achieve modest policy goals, while resisting the opportunity to be dragged to destructive extremes by either the NDP or the Bloc.  Jack Layton has made it clear that he will be pushing his 'proportional representation referendum within a year' idea as a non-negotiable price for NDP cooperation with the new government.  The prime minister must reject this demand for a rushed vote on a pernicious electoral reform.  Needless to say, the same rule must be applied to the demands of the separatist Bloc.  The test of the prime minister will be his ability to prevent Parliament from degenerating into an unprincipled exercise in horse trading.  But standing in the face of NDP and Bloc pressure and keeping spending under control will not be Mr. Martin's only challenges.  He also has to make good on his promise to get to the bottom of the sponsorship scandal....  Canadians did not wake up to a new prime minister today.  But they did wake up to a brand new federal political landscape that offers all the parties unprecedented opportunities for principled change.  The politicians must carry with them to Ottawa the message that their duty to Canadians is to serve the national interest before their own political fortune."


"Difficult Days Ahead"


Michel Gammon wrote in centrist La Presse (Internet version, 6/29):  “What a surprise.  The Bloc Québécois won the elections in Québec....  In a few days, the people of Québec will wake up and realize that they just elected a party based on weak protest.  To have elected the Green Party would have been more effective in promoting the interests of Québec....  The time has come to stop electing dreamers who contribute little to our future and to elect a more constructive party who can help us create a better Canada for all.”


"Impassable Québec"


The liberal Le Devoir editorialized (6/29, Internet version):  “A remarkable victory yesterday for the Bloc Québécois, which swept Québec.  But it was a particularly resounding defeat for the Liberal Party, which the Québécois rejected massively....  [It is] a new statement of failure for the party which, once again, has failed to overcome the Québec barrier.”


"Minority Rules"


The nationalist Ottawa Citizen editorialized (6/29):  "The 'unbreakable' Liberal majority has been broken, and individual MPs may actually be somebodies again on Parliament Hill, but this may come at a cost that Canada will one day regret.  The Liberals stand the best chance of forming the next government, if Prime Minister Paul Martin can reach an arrangement with the New Democrats and sustain it by keeping his own MPs happy.  This will not be easy....  The result could well be more Liberal mismanagement combined with big-spending NDP ideology.  A huge government child-care program, enhanced subsidies for businesses and industries that make little economic sense, and a commitment to the most inefficient parts of public medicare seem inevitable....  The Liberals' campaign will be remembered for its relentless negativity and vote-buying.  Mr. Martin may have won power, but he cannot yet say he has won Canadians' confidence."


"What Next?"


The conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun maintained (6/29):  "Democracy is a precious, if utterly complex, thing.  With the volatility of Canadian voters tempering wary pundits' predictions until Ontario polls closed last night, it remained difficult at press time to state anything of absolute certainty about the minority government that greets us this morning beyond the fact it is Liberal.  So we're easily drawn to the obvious:  after years of cynical, often irresponsible rule, the federal Liberals proved themselves clearly vincible at the polls for the first time in a decade.  And the outcome is a marriage of convenience with Jack Layton and the NDP that will end tax cuts, while pandering to every special interest that can muster a lobby....  Six months ago, a virtually uncontested Paul Martin assumed a role he had openly coveted for years.  Immediately, he and those around him began to exude that regrettable sense of entitlement for which Liberal governments in this country have long been renowned.  Just a few months ago, Martin appeared destined for an easy majority.  Today, Canada's confidence in his leadership is significantly diminished.  It will no doubt take several days--and perhaps even longer--for the finer implications of last night's vote to emerge.  But a mere glimpse at the results of this campaign quickly reveals the starkest lesson of all for a new Liberal minority government in Ottawa:  Canadians will no longer abide the kind of arrogance you rode in on.  Finally, a humbled power on Parliament Hill.  And some measure of accountability to keep it that way for a while."


"Voters Clip Grit Wings"


The centrist Winnipeg Free Press commented (6/29):  "Canadians yesterday clipped the wings of Prime Minister Paul Martin, keeping him in office with narrowed support.  He has won the right to carry on with his prudent fiscal policy....  In the Parliament of minorities that Canadians elected, the New Democrats may try to use their leverage to impose their ideas on the Liberals.  But they remain a fringe movement--an enlarged fringe because Jack Layton proved to be an energetic and engaging campaigner but they still enjoy the support of only about 15 per cent of the country.  They are in no position to fight another election again soon.  Mr. Martin should listen to their ideas as he would to any Canadians but he should not let them push him off the responsible system of surplus budgeting and debt reduction that Canadians have endorsed."


"Too Many Voters Couldn't Bear Harper"


Columnist Thomas Walkom commented in the liberal Toronto Star (6/29):  "In the end, too many Canadians--particularly too many Ontarians--couldn't bear the idea of Stephen Harper as prime minister.  That's the only significance of the Liberals' narrow win.  The fact that they took more seats than any other party is not a tribute--either to them or to their leader, Paul Martin.  Indeed, one of the storylines of this campaign has been the remarkable destruction of the Paul Martin myth.  Martin came to the prime minister's office six months ago like the hero of a classic Greek tragedy.  Successful, popular, powerful, he seemed blessed.  Yet he was terribly flawed.  Now his political fate rests with two men he appears to detest.  Irony doesn't adequately describe the situation where Martin--the millionaire former shipping magnate--is forced to depend on either the New Democrats' perennially jovial Jack Layton, or the man the prime minister views as a sinister separatist, Bloc Québécois chieftain Gilles Duceppe....  So what happens now?  For reasons best known to themselves, the powers that be have given Martin another chance.  Not many of us get that.  Perhaps he will take the opportunity to focus his mind.  Curiously, a minority government gives him a chance to act boldly.  The country may have little confidence in him; his government's position may be tenuous.  But history demonstrates that the very perils of minority government often result in dramatic reforms....  This time, Martin's minority government will depend on Layton's reinvigorated NDP and Duceppe's Bloc Québécois.  This provides some opportunity.  It also provides much peril.  The Bloc will be keen to have Martin devolve more taxing authority to the provinces; it will not be keen on a strong federal role in, for instance, medicare.  As for the NDP, who can tell?  With 21 members likely elected, New Democrats will be aggressive, feisty and demanding.  During the campaign, Layton blathered on about proportional representation.  If he keeps on that dead end, we can expect to see a lot of opportunities wasted."


"Done In By Ontario, The Most Fickle Province"


Calgary columnist Don Martin observed in the conservative National Post (6/29):  "For Martin...this is just a reprieve from a death sentence.  He will be held captive by a New Democrat agenda, although to be fair it's doubtful Layton will be able to extort too much because he'd be loath to force a quick election after a modest victory of their own.  Still, a governing party which usually campaigns from the left and governs from the right will now have to govern from the left as well.  The Liberals will have to govern from the left as well.  If Canada shifts to bigger government, higher taxes and flirtations with deficit financing, to find the culprit look to Ontario.  The country's biggest province was fooled again."


"Muddled Results Show How Stable Canadians Are"


Columnist Diane Francis reflected in the conservative National Post (6/29):  "Economically, this election will make very little, if any difference.  The Liberal/New Democrat minority situation would be the worst-case scenario, but such a match would likely last two years or less depending upon when the Liberals thought they could go back to the polls again and win a majority....  The only dramatic shift was in Quebec, where the giant protest vote parked with the Bloc Québécois may once again encourage loose talk about separation. "


"A Second Chance For Martin"


Columnist Susan Riley held in the nationalist Ottawa Citizen (6/29):  "It was a near-death experience for Prime Minister Paul Martin and it should change everything.  It better. No more Liberal arrogance, no more fast-and-loose with the public purse, no more--please, please--of Martin's empty promises and inflated rhetoric.  Just keep it simple, try to live up to at least a few of your promises and remember you have been granted a reprieve, not carte blanche....  Managing this Parliament will require compromise and a conciliatory nature.  This may be why voters, in their wisdom, chose Martin over Harper.  Harper's ideas aside, there was something about his personality--a hostility and resentment--that, in the end, he could not entirely hide.  Fiercely partisan, not given to broad consultation, and, at the end of this campaign at least, seeming frayed and disgusted with the prospect of anything but a Conservative majority, he was ill-suited to conflict management....  Not a bad Parliament, after all.  The challenge now will be making more western Canadians feel the same way."


"This Campaign Was A Contest Between Fear And Loathing"


Columnist Jeffrey Simpson pointed out in the leading Globe and Mail (6/29):  "Canadians kicked and wounded, but ultimately did not defeat the mighty Liberal Party yesterday, reducing its majority government to a minority.  The result was bittersweet for all parties, but especially for Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, who was handed a large lead in public opinion and a majority in Parliament, but whose performance in government and in the election campaign was sufficiently uncertain to produce only a minority government....  The Liberal-NDP combination means big new spending for health care, cities and the environment, but hard negotiations on Liberal plans to spend more on the military, including participation with the U.S. program of missile defense....  But as soon as results poured in from Quebec, reality struck the Liberals, who six months ago had believed they would crush the Bloc Québécois.  The Liberals lost massively in francophone Quebec, their seats outside Montreal falling one after one, starting with Gaspé in the east of the province.  The Liberals had been damaged by the sponsorship scandal, and had added to that disaster with a poor campaign led by a former separatist, Jean Lapierre, whom Mr. Martin had foolishly tapped to lead the party's efforts.  The Liberals did slightly better than had been expected in Quebec--but the Bloc will now use its prominence to criticize federalism."


"Foreign Capitals Will Doubt A Minority Government Can Deliver The Goods"


Columnist Jonathan Manthorpe commented in the left-of-center Vancouver Sun (6/29):  "Canadians anxious about reasserting or redefining the country's stance in the world are going to have to wait.  Minority governments are consumed by domestic issues and jockeying for position in the next election.  International identity and the pursuit of national interests abroad tend to be low on the list of priorities.  And the view from abroad of Canada with a Liberal minority government will be of a country whose politics are, if not unstable, at least unresolved.  In foreign capitals, there will be a nagging suspicion that, for a while, Canada might not mean what it says or be able to deliver on whatever positions it takes.  That mood of caution toward Canada's international stance will be heightened by the recognition, frequently noted in foreign media reports, that the broad spectrum of foreign policy issues played little part in the campaign debate....  The Liberal platform is committed to a broad foreign policy review with a high degree of public input. How willing or able Paul Martin will be to pursue this objective will be part of the daily drama of minority government....  If the Liberals turn towards the New Democrats, it might affect foreign policy, but domestic issues will probably predominate....  Defense was one of the few foreign policy issues that achieved any altitude during the campaign.  Martin was quick to recraft himself as a Pearsonian peacekeeper and Harper as a slavishly pro-Washington warmonger, calculating that would win votes.  Yet before the election was called, Martin showed far more hawkish tendencies than his predecessor, Jean Chrétien, who had little time for the military and was happy to bleed it to the bone marrow to overcome the budget deficit....  Canadians need to decide what role they want the military to play so it can be properly kitted out for the tasks.  That decision must be part of the broader determination of the objectives of Canadian foreign policy.  For that, Canadians will have to wait."




BRITAIN:  "Fear Versus Loathing"


The independent Financial Times editorialized (Internet version, 6/30):  "Paul Martin and his ruling Liberal party have hung on to power in Canada's general election, but lost their parliamentary majority.  They will now have to try to govern in co-operation with the left-wing New Democrats in the face of a much strengthened Conservative party.  This messy situation may not last long; 18 months is the average life of a minority government in Canada.  However, Canadian voters have at least given the country a proper national opposition for the first time in more than a decade, though without--for the moment--jettisoning the Liberals' distinctive mix of fiscal discipline and welfare generosity....  The election might have been even closer, if Mr. Martin had not effectively stoked fears that the Conservatives would weaken the state health system to which many or most Canadians attach iconic importance.  Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader, had in a sense laid himself open to such scaremongering by professing--quite sensibly--to be agnostic about the private sector contributing to health provision, provided that the overall system stayed state-funded and directed. So, in the closing days of the campaign, Mr. Martin was able to use the fear of a right-wing Conservative bogeyman to counter the quite widespread anger against his incumbent Liberals for their complacency and corruption....  The [Conservatives] failed to make a real breakthrough in Ontario, the largest of Canada's 10 provinces.  But with 99 seats against 135 for the Liberals, they ended with a very respectable score.  For the past decade, Canada has lacked an effective opposition of the kind that might have kept the country's Liberals more honest.  The so-called sponsorship scandals involving the Liberals pouring money into Quebec to counter separatism produced an ironic result, merely boosting the Bloc Québécois at the expense of Quebec's Liberal party.  If Mr. Martin frequently looked drawn during the election, he will now find leading a minority government doubly tiring.  He will have to pay court to left-wing allies on social legislation and environmental and foreign policy, without abandoning his proud record of fiscal discipline.  In these circumstances, he might come to welcome a fresh, and perhaps more decisive, match with Mr. Harper."


IRELAND:  "Canada's Election"


The center-left Irish Times commented (7/2):  “The Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Paul Martin...having succeeded Mr. Jean Chrétien just six months ago [and calling] a general election 15 months earlier than he had to, fought it in a shambolic fashion and ended up surrendering a comfortable majority in parliament for the perils of minority government.  Mr. Martin's Liberal party suffered at the polls from a widespread feeling that it had grown arrogant after 11 years in power....  The Liberals' post-mortem should first determine whose hare-brained idea it was to start attacking the allies of Mr. Chrétien and throw the party into disunity.  The main reason the Liberals clung on to power was voter skepticism of the Conservative opposition....  To stay in power [Martin] must rely, for the most part, on the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP).  The NDP will willingly endorse social legislation or support for the Kyoto Protocol, but it would not go along, for example, with defense issues involving the United States missile shield.  To get that through Mr. Martin will have to seek the support of the Conservatives.  A minority government which has to look to both left and right will have its work cut out if it is to survive.  The Bloc Québécois should be happiest with the results.  They trounced the Liberals in Quebec, winning not just the vast majority of the French-speaking ridings but doing so with huge majorities.  The bloc did not emphasize separatism this time around and it paid dividends.  It had hoped to enter government in partnership with the Conservatives.  The last Canadian minority government lasted just seven months.  It may not be long before the Conservatives and the bloc get another chance.”




AUSTRALIA:  "Sneaking Home In Canada"


The liberal Sydney Morning Herald mused (7/2):  "Mr. Martin will lead Canada's first minority government in 25 years, and he will no doubt hope it survives longer than the previous one, led by Joe Clark, which lasted just six months....  Holding onto government with the support of the New Democratic Party may see some liberal policies such as gay marriage and decriminalizing marijuana put on the agenda, as Mr. Martin works to honor promises such as boosting health spending.  But beyond that, what lessons does his partial victory hold for Australia?  Over the past decade or so, Canada has become much more introspective than the United States, which it smugly and occasionally criticizes in a manner masking secret admiration.  A more liberal Canada will be in contrast to America's conservative tack under President George Bush.  Over the past few years, these neighbors have quietly gone their own ways on key foreign policy.  Canada deployed forces to Afghanistan to work with NATO on the war against terrorism, but held back from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.   The consequent chilly relations with Washington have been patched up--a useful lesson to Australians concerned that criticizing the U.S. could undermine our own close relations with Washington."


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