Canada?s 38th Parliament kicks off next week and the Prime Minister has been largely AWOL. Sure, there have been countless photo ops as he jaunts across the country, but he?s given scant indication of his government?s position on some very critical issues that have developed throughout the past few months.
The spirit of cooperation that I?ve been anticipating in this minority government situation will be difficult to maintain if the Liberals, particularly the Prime Minister, remain directionless and indecisive. This minority parliament will be the ultimate test of leadership. If he possesses them, Paul Martin better find his leadership skills fast!
They certainly weren?t evident during the healthcare conference with the Premiers earlier this month. Observers were aghast at how poorly prepared the PM and his officials were entering into and during the negotiations.
Indeed, Mr. Martin has been unable to get even his senior cabinet ministers singing from the same song sheet. National Defence Minister Bill Graham says joining the North American Missile Defence program is necessary for the government to fulfill its duty to protect Canadians. Yet Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew suggested his government is nowhere near making a decision on missile defence.
Mr. Graham also stated there?s really no need for Parliament ? your elected representatives ? to debate the missile program, an issue that has created extensive controversy and concern throughout the country. Paul Martin, self-professed slayer of the democratic deficit, has yet to refute Mr. Graham?s decidedly undemocratic assertion.
Meanwhile, Canadians who fork over a significant chunk of their paycheques to receive federal services, are experiencing interruptions due to rotating strike action by federal public servants. The Prime Minister has had nothing to say about resolving the issue. Mind you, neither has he had much to say about potential pay hikes for Members of Parliament that arise because of Liberal legislation which linked MPs? pay to the salaries of Supreme Court judges.
I?ve always believed MPs should not decide their own pay rates due to the conflict of interest. My position is, and has always been, that an MP?s remuneration should be determined by a truly independent body. During the election campaign Mr. Martin said there was no way he would support MP pay raises. Now, however, he won?t discuss legislation to separate the illogical link between MP and judges pay rates.
For those of us hoping the Prime Minister will make it clear where he stands on all of these issues once Parliament resumes next week, there?s disappointment on the horizon. Mr. Martin will take off to Russia, France and Hungary just three days after the House begins sitting. Then it?s on to Chile and Africa in November.
So when can Canadians expect to see their Prime Minister make the difficult decisions and take the controversial stands that are a requirement when leading a country? How long will he leave it to his ministers to confound us with conflicting messages? How long will he leave us guessing about his intentions? When will Prime Minister Paul Martin begin to govern?