No, not that W.
While coverage of last night's healthcare announcement might make a man think that the mountain had come to Mohammed, the truth -- as per usual -- is much less to be excited about: Paul Martin caved, in order to get a deal.
The man needed a win.
It's a lot of money, $18 billion over six years -- there's no doubt about that. But, to put things in perspective, it is -- at most -- about a billion dollars more than the Conservatives had promised over the same amount of time. This money will make a big difference, but don't let Martin's initial low balling fool you into thinking that this is a luxurious plan.
As Roy Romanow said, new money needs to buy change. This money will not. There is, apparently, no commitment to pharmacare. There's a commitment to two weeks -- two weeks! -- of home care per patient. And, most beautifully, there's a waiting list accountability program that lets provinces set the targets to which they're supposed to be held accountable, and then does nothing if provinces fail meet them.
If anyone in the parliamentary press gallery had a sense of humour left, they'd realize that this 'historic' medicare deal is a joke.
Nothing puts a dent in a record of successful leadership like successive failure. Paul Martin’s record as Prime Minister is shaping up to be just that: a record of weak, failed leadership. Paul Martin has lost his party’s majority in parliament, has barely hung on to a minority government and has now let an opportunity to revolutionize medicare slip through his fingers. But don’t take my word for it -- Paul Martin has set the standards by which he ought to be judged.
During his leadership campaign, Paul Martin promised a "bold new vision", but when he got to govern he couldn’t find his own agenda for months. His leadership in parliament was weak, and he failed to deliver.
Once he became Prime Minister, Martin promised Canadians answers in the sponsorship scandal, but then called an election before we’d been given any. His leadership on accountability was weak, and he failed to deliver.
During the campaign, the Prime Minister promised to "fix healthcare for a generation", but when he met with First Ministers he capitulated on pharmacare, home care and wait times, all for the sake of a photo op. Again, his leadership was weak, and again, he failed to deliver.
Like the Japanese navy, Paul Martin seems to have only one advantage to which he can cling: surprise. On election night, surprise at having staved off the Conservatives caused Liberals to celebrate a pyrrhic victory that months earlier would having been considered a stunning defeat. Last night, surprise at having even reached a deal lead the national media to declare an utter capitulation by Martin to be an historic achievement for Canadians. That's not the stick by which a Prime Minster ought to be measured.
I'm glad there'll be more money for healthcare, but no amount of money seems able to buy us some leadership.