Sunday, November 16, 2003

THE POLITICS OF ACHIEVEMENT

I just got around to reading Paul Martin's inaugural speech of Friday night (full text). I have to say, from reading, it was a great speech. I have been skeptical about what kind of Prime Minister Martin is going to be and I still am, but this speech was really good. And perhaps that is the problem. I've been searching for something important that he did not mention but I can't find it. I have difficulty believing that he is going to be able to do everything, because no one can. It has been pointed out that Martin is not even prime minister yet so, obviously, everything at this point is speculation. That said, this is what I thought of the speech.

Overall, it was very well written, I did not see the delivery, but it flowed well, used some powerful language and had great sense of Canadian identity.

It started off a little slow, a little too self-referential and then a little too exaggerated with this:

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.

Its too early in the speech for language like that already, you have to work up to that kind of stuff. Fortunately he does. He moves on to an anecdote about looking at the country from above in an air plane and this is where the speech really starts. Then:

In times such as these, in which we are now living, the fundamental mission of government is to turn the national will towards great accomplishment. To set the objectives and to build the necessary consensus to achieve them.

'national will,' 'necessary consensus,' these are concepts I like and they're used well.

We need a new approach to politics, to what we do and how we do it - a new politics of achievement. Let me tell you what this means to me.

'The politics of achievement,' this is a good phrase, not a great phrase, but most importantly its use gives the speech a sense of cohesiveness, it presents the ideas within as a unified whole, it gives the impression that Martin has actually put some thought into what he thinks, which is more than you can say for the current conservative opposition.

Our evolution as a society has been marked by historic moments of courageous imagination and vision.

This is the best line of the speech. It, and the examples that follow, show a keen sense of historical memory. For me, this line is more than rhetoric. Every word is carefully crafted and as a whole it perfectly describes Canadian history. If I had to describe Canadian history in a single clause sentence I don't think I could do any better.

And, most importantly, the old insecurities about the Canadian identity have been replaced by increasing confidence, pride and ambition. A new sense of nationhood has taken hold - one that is at ease with our multicultural diversity and linguistic duality.

'A new sense of nationhood.' Not inward looking, negative nationalism but a positive sense of identity based on our founding principles.
He then goes on to the foriegn policy part. He mentions American relations first and then our committment to humanitarianism. The nature of the relationship with the U.S is probably my biggest concern about a Martin government. He then talks about the economy, education and health care, in that order but spends more time on the economy and health. Concluding he says:

We can never forget that our health care system is one made blind to income so that its eyes can be fixed on need. Make no mistake, I will keep the promise of universal and high-quality healthcare.

Canadians will hold him to this, perhaps to a higher degree than he realizes. Then:

For the politics of achievement is not only about what we do, but how we do it.... To make the point as clearly as I can, that the time has come for a new approach to building Canada - the first thing I am doing on leaving this convention is to meet with the provincial and territorial premiers to begin to develop a new relationship.

This is the closest thing we get in this speech to an outline for some specific action. Better inter-governmental relations is something Canadians absolutely want. Then he moves to parliamentary reform:

Finally, we have to change the way we go about the nation's business. Canadians have a new confidence that positive change is possible. But they have come to doubt that their representatives share their sense of enthusiasm and purpose. They fear that power has become too concentrated. That Parliament has become too distant.

This must change. Parliament must again be where the great debates of our day take place.

MPs must have an independent voice. With more free votes, and more freedom to speak for their constituents. So too they must act as guarantors of the public trust - overseeing government actions, ensuring its integrity, and holding to account the decisions taken.

We govern with the consent of the people. I want a Canada where citizens choose to be fundamentally engaged in the way our government goes about the nation's business. In short, we have to change the way things work in the nation's capital. Your Member of Parliament must be your messenger to Ottawa, not Ottawa's messenger to you.


I take the quotation at the top of this page very seriously and this language from Martin speaks to that theme. The politics of the nation is everyone's business. People have to make the effort to be involved but the system has to be able to accomodate them. Society is about reciprocity, and Martin seems to understand the concept:

I believe in the freedom of the individual. I believe that freedom is best assured when we recognize our collective responsibility to one another, and I believe it is the role of government to embody - and to honour - that ideal, that spirit.

He thanks everyone and then concludes wonderfully:

The true challenge of leadership is to rally a nation to its unfulfilled promise. To build a society based on equality, not privilege; on duty, not entitlement. A society based on compassion and caring; not indifference or neglect.

It is in ourselves that the true meaning of Canada is found. Everything possible in the world is possible here. Every dream that is dreamt can be fulfilled here.


The words really speak for themselves, which is what makes it a really good speech. Now we have to see the specific action that these ideals back up.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:40 AM