Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Watch out, Tony, You've Got a Rival!

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Watch out, Tony, You've Got a Rival!

Article excerpt

Tony Blair can't have George Bush all to himself. He may have wooed the US president with fish and chips in a Sedgefield pub, but he is about to face a rival for Dubbya's affections. On 13 December, a new leader will take charge of Canada, the US's biggest trading partner--and Paul Martin has a lot in common with Bush. Martin also made his millions in business and rose to power with the help of daddy and his friends. And Martin will also take charge without having won an election.

Not that Martin needed to bother with votes at all, never mind recounts. When the current prime minister, Jean Chretien, steps down after ten years, Martin, his successor as Liberal leader, can wait until November 2005 to go to the polls. No wonder it's being called a coronation.

The Canadian Liberal Party appeals to the psyche of a fiscally cautious but socially progressive country. Here is a party that plays down the deficit but allows gay marriage, that promotes trade with the US but won't invade Iraq.

Yet Martin may not be the kind of Liberal Canadians expect. Chretien is a liberal centrist who muses about smoking pot in retirement, and his view may be gauged by his admission that he has stayed in office for the past three years simply to block Martin's ascent. As the owner of Canada Steamship Lines (CSL), Martin showed a hard-headed neoliberalism. Despite the company's patriotic name, he removed the maple leaf flag from his ships and registered them in Liberia in 1992. This allowed him to avoid Canadian taxes and environmental regulations, and replace unionised Canadian crew members with Filipinos at a tenth of the cost. …

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