Liberal candidates have been given their script for the coming election campaign, and the language it employs is breathtaking in its hyperbole. According to The Toronto Star (which obtained a leaked copy of the document), Liberal standard-bearers (Team Martin) are being encouraged to use a model stump speech containing the following statements:

  • “I look around the room here today and feel a renewed sense of energy . . . because we are entering what I believe will be a period of critically important transformative change.”
  • “Our prime minister, Paul Martin, is doing a tremendous job as the standard-bearer for change.”
  • “In only a few short months (Martin) has been able to set the stage to improve, through policies and initiatives, the lives of all Canadians in the coming decade.”
  • “This party and this country are fortunate to have at their helm a political leader with such deep convictions, who is so extremely dedicated, and who possesses the unique ability to seize the moment.”

Besides raising questions about whether Martin may be dealing with some serious self-esteem issues (and therefore require constant stroking of his ego in order to function), the language eerily echoes that used in the Team Martin television commercials, as well as several speeches made by Martin. For example:

  • In Martin’s leadership convention speech, he bragged that “we must be ready to meet new challenges — with new solutions, new ideas. I am not talking here about changes we will need in ten years from now. I am talking about today — I am talking about now. We stand together on the edge of historic possibility. At a moment that comes rarely in the life of a country. It is a time when destiny is ours to hold. A time of new opportunity which must be seized upon in a conscious, determined effort. It is a time to turn an historic circumstance into transformative change — to summon a new national will. Our challenge now is to show the way and to shape the course. For I believe that Canada is ready to achieve its promise, and that in these next few years we can make history.”
  • In a speech on April 19, Martin actually defined his favourite term for Canadians: “Transformative change. What does that mean? To me, it means a fundamental shift in approach and direction; it is not stop-gap measures imposed incrementally. It requires a determined focus and a relentless drive. But the reward is tangible results, progress you can see and gauge.”

With all of this bold talk about destiny and change, one might expect Martin and his team to have actually delivered something worthy of their high-octane promises. Instead, Martin seems to have either forgotten that he is actually in power now, or forgotten why he ever wanted to get there in the first place (assuming he ever knew).

In fact, the period since the Martin takeover in December has been remarkably devoid of any new initiatives (as distinct from new speeches suggesting that new initiatives may soon occur, if only we wait for the next speech). On defense, for example, the alarmingly-hawkish David Pratt has simply re-announced funding and policy commitments that had already been made by his predecessor, John McCallum. Martin’s promises to “get to the bottom” of the sponsorship scandal have been belied by his MPs’ attempts to undermine the Auditor General and excuse the massive waste, corruption and political direction (which Martin once assured us “there had to be”). And, through his appointment of candidates in British Columbia, Martin has created his own personal “democratic deficit.”

Health care has been another area topic on which inspiring rhetoric (it is, after all, the government’s “number one priority”) has been unmatched by any real action. Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells describes Martin’s approach to the health file as follows:

“Martin’s prescription for health care consists of measures that have already been pursued with a zeal no federal politician can imagine, by generations of the best minds in every province.âe¦ So how does Martin square the three-way conflict between the scale of his ambition; the staleness of his method; and the emptiness of his wallet? By promising to apply the most amazing force he can imagine: his physical person. He will solve health care, where all before him failed, by showing up.”

Here’s the problem for Team Martin: If the Liberals keep promising “transformative change” and keep delivering nothing more than empty words, the voters just may decide to carry out a little “transformative change” of their own — in the form of a minority government. Something tells me that wasn’t exactly what Team Martin had in mind.


Scott Piatkowski

Scott Piatkowski is a former columnist for He wrote a weekly column for 13 years that appeared in the Waterloo Chronicle, the Woolwich Observer and ECHO Weekly. He has also written for Straight...