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Leader: Paul Martin

Web Site:

Policies/Platform: Moving Canada Forward: The Paul Martin Plan for Getting Things Done (pdf, html)

Candidates: By province.

Party Description: Although often touted as the only party that represents all regions of Canada, for many years the popularity of the Liberal Party of Canada has retreated. In provinces west of Ontario, Liberal MP's can be found only in a handful of urban (city) ridings. In truth, the Liberal Party has become somewhat of an Ontario/Quebec rump. And, with the recent "adscam" scandal, in which allegations abound of federal dollars being paid out wrongfully to Liberal-friendly marketing firms to fight Quebec secession, Liberal fortunes even in Quebec have taken a tumble: Quebecers, insulted by the prospect that the federal Liberals would try to manipulate them with their own tax dollars, have turned largely to the Bloc Quebecois in this election. For the Liberals in 2004, the vote in Ontario is all-important. Falling Liberal fortunes in Quebec have given rise to the possibility that Canada's new Conservative Party (which is very strong west of Ontario, and is poised to win tens of rural and suburban seats in Ontario) may form the next government.

The Liberal Party has no ideology to speak of: it is a party focussed first and foremost on seizing and holding political power, and has shown incredible ideological flexibility in the furtherance of its goal. It is probably easier to determine the party's nature by looking at its acts, rather than at relatively non-existent philosophy.

The Liberal Party has been the most consistent empowered advocate of government intervention in the economy. It has also been the chief force behind efforts to centralize, in the federal government, control over Canada's economy: it has been a strong force for central planning, as opposed to free markets. Having successfully taken control over the direction of much provincial decision making (primarily with conditional grant schemes, like that set out by the Canada Health Act), and having seized control over how Canadian earnings are spent (via taxation and federal spending), the Liberal Party has demonstrated a strong belief that the federal government should tax Canadians to subsidize large Canadian corporations, such as Pratt & Whitney, Bombardier, etc. (witness Technology Partnerships Canada, which has "invested" billions of taxpayer dollars by lending money to corporations in Canada...little of which is typically repaid). Through such departments as Export Development Canada, the Liberals have also subsidized foreign consumers of Canadian goods and that those foreign consumers can then give that money to Canadian corporations in exchange for goods and services.

To the cynical eye, the Liberal tendency toward subsidizing and protecting large Canadian corporations is hardly surprising. Former Liberal Party leader, Jean Chretien's daughter married the son of one of Canada's most wealthy and powerful corporate families: the Desmarais'. Paul Martin, who assumed the leadership role after Chretien, made his fortune by first working for Power Corp. (one of Canada's most powerful and influential corporations) and then buying one of its subsidiaries, Canada Steamship Lines. Many of the party's cabinet ministers have established relationships with other wealthy Canadian families, including the Irvings (of Irving Oil fame).

Although the party's current leader, Paul Martin, is repeatedly given kudos for "slaying the deficit" by cutting spending, the fact of the matter is that Liberal spending did not decrease under Martin: rather, tax revenues were increased, and overall spending increased each year (though, not as much as revenues increased). Although the Liberal party had promised to "scrap" the GST prior to taking power in 1993, the Liberals changed their mind shortly after being elected: this gave the new finance minister of the time, Paul Martin, a new source of additional tax revenue. In addition, a policy of 1.5% to 4% price inflation caused incomes to increase: Canadian incomes "crept" into higher tax brackets, with the result that they gave a greater percentage of their incomes to the federal government. In other words, the federal budget was balanced more by increasing the tax burden, and less by cutting federal spending.

On social issues, the Liberal Party has done chiefly what the polls, or the courts, tell them to do. Acting according to polls has given the Liberals the ability to say that a given social policy is "what Canadians want". Acting according to the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, especially with respect to social matters that are subjected to challenges under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has given the Liberals the ability to say that it has no choice, and is forced to obey the Charter (in this regard, it should be noted that Liberal appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada bench have resulted in a bench that is less pro-individualism, and more pro-collectivism). More recently, under the leadership of Paul Martin, the party has proposed "free votes" in Parliament on touchy social issues: free votes allow MPs to vote whichever way they want to, rather than voting according to party policy. Free votes allow a party to deny that a given social policy was a party policy, thus avoiding the possibility that the party will be criticized for its position on a divisive social issue (note that the "free vote" is also the response of Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper with respect to such divisive issues as abortion, gay marriage, and the death penalty).


Page Last updated: Monday, June 28, 2004  








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