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Thread: Paul Martin resigns as Canadian Liberal Leader

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    Default Paul Martin resigns as Canadian Liberal Leader

    Paul Martin resigns as Liberal leader
    Michelle MacAfeeCanadian Press
    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    OTTAWA -- In the barrage of questions fired at Paul Martin in recent weeks about his sagging Liberal campaign, one in particular painted a telling picture about just how much trouble the prime minister was in.

    If he lost the Jan. 23 election, what were his future plans? What did he miss most about private life?

    Playing the what-if game seemed unnecessary or overly pessimistic just a few weeks ago, when polls suggested the Liberals could likely hold onto a minority government.

    But on this day, with Conservative fortunes sharply on the rise, Martin was left trying to appear confident yet not irritated by the question, and scrambling for an answer.

    "First, I really haven't contemplated losing, so I haven't given any thought to it," he said during an appearance on CTV's Canada AM.

    "But obviously private life is life with your family, I think that's probably the single most important thing for all of us. I've been very, very lucky."

    Politically, at least, Martin's luck ran out Monday night, when voters opted for change and elected a Conservative minority government.

    Struggling to remain upbeat in his concession speech, Martin wasted no time announcing his intention to step down as leader of the Liberal party, the job for which he had groomed himself since he was first elected as an MP in 1988.

    "I will not take our party into another election as leader," Martin said to cries of `No' from supporters.

    "My dedication to the Liberal family will never wane. I've always been at the service of our party today, tomorrow and always."

    Martin said he will remain MP for the Montreal riding of Lasalle-Emard to fight for Quebec and Canada.

    Some observers bluntly helped write Martin's political obituary in the dying days of the campaign, even when polls suggested he had succeeded in tightening the race.

    But others were reluctant to count him out.

    After all, he'd been there before.

    During the 2004 election, 15 years of political hopes and dreams nearly slipped away before a desperate Martin's sharpened attacks on Harper resulted in an 11th-hour reversal of fortunes.

    This time, he had too much ground to make up.

    In 2004, it was the Tories who kept stumbling. This time, Martin was the one on the defensive.

    He'd taken lumps on everything from an RCMP investigation into an alleged leak on income trusts to a negative ad about Conservative military policy that soldiers and even some of his own ministers and candidates found offensive.

    "It all just turned to muck in his hands," said historian Jack Granatstein, author of Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada's Leaders.

    "It was a disaster and I suspect that's how his prime ministership will be seen."

    The state of the campaign and the polls led to some hand-wringing within the party and public speculation about defeat and a leadership race.

    Despite holding Harper to a minority government when just two weeks ago some polls put him in majority territory, Martin could not see defeat of any kind as anything other than a tough blow.

    At 67, Martin's climb to the top was long and at times acrimonious. The chasm between his camp and that of former prime minister Jean Chretien is now legendary.

    Yet it was precisely those years of working, waiting and dreaming that prepared Martin well for the underdog position where he found himself in recent days, said Jamie Deacey, a lobbyist who worked on Martin's 1990 and 2003 leadership bids and continues to raise funds for him.

    "That's when he performs best," said Deacey, president of Association House in Ottawa.

    Deacey said he also believes Martin was sincere when he said he hasn't thought about life after this campaign.

    "Not only because he doesn't countenance losing, but he's also not worried about what he'll do next," said Deacey.

    "He's not uncomfortable with who he is, and if that means he decides to leave politics after this election and go to the farm (in Quebec's Eastern Townships) with (his wife) Sheila, he'll be a happy camper."

    Granatstein says Martin's record as prime minister will suffer as a result of his loss, with his undermining of Chretien's leadership one of the blackest marks.

    "It's hubris," said Granatstein. "Here's a man who clearly believed he was better than the prime minister, toppled him, then turned out to have no ideas, to not be able to make up his mind, and to have so many priorities none of them stood out."

    Martin took the reins of the fractured Liberal party in November 2003 with a speech that promised Canada was "on the edge of historic possibility . . . when destiny is ours to hold."

    Expectations were high, based in large part on the reputation Martin earned as a deficit dragon-slayer and sound fiscal manager during his nine years as finance minister under Chretien.

    But the bloom fell off quickly, replaced by criticism labelling him as unfocused, lacking depth and unrealistic.

    The sponsorship scandal that Martin was able to overcome in the 2004 election was an even bigger albatross around his neck during this campaign.

    The first instalment of Justice John Gomery's scathing report -- stemming from an inquiry Martin himself ordered -- into the government's attempts to promote federalism in Quebec equipped Martin's opponents with more ammunition.

    Recently negotiated but long-talked-about promises, such as child-care funding deals with the provinces and a $5-billion deal to address aboriginal poverty, were expected to collapse under a Conservative government.
    But other accomplishments, such as a 10-year, $41-billion health-care deal with the provinces and subsequent agreement to set wait-time benchmarks, should have a more lasting impact.

    A former Chretien insider said his boss inadvertently did Martin a disservice by keeping him in the finance portfolio even after he balanced the budget.

    The confines of that department denied him the chance to learn "the greater kind of texture and hum and feel for government" that comes from running a department that delivers programs, said Peter Donolo, Chretien's former director of communications.

    "It seems he didn't understand the discipline or mechanics of actually putting together programs and delivering commitments . . . doing more than talking."

    © Canadian Press 2006
    Last edited by Dracko; January 24th, 2006 at 05:08 AM.

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