Friday, December 16, 2005

Prime Minister Paul Martin hopes to turn the Liberal minority government into a majority. In addition to democratic reform and government accountability, health care and municipalities are at the top of his list of policy priorities.

Based on the Liberal government's 2004 and 2005 Budgets, and information posted on the Liberal party's website as of December 12, 2005.

Jim Harris: Jump on the Green train. While many Canadians do not recognize Green party Leader Jim Harris by sight or by name, he could be in an enviable position. "I just don't know much about him," University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman told "It's both a problem and an opportunity. It means that you don't have much baggage," Wiseman explained. But he added: "It's going to be all uphill, because to everyone he's a fresh face." The Greens, under Harris' leadership, have seen a remarkable ascent up the polls since he became leader two years ago. Harris told the increase in Green support means voters are saying "a pox on all your houses. We are angry, cynical, disenchanted with old-line political parties."

Gilles Duceppe: Sovereignty's steadfast soldier. Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe is living every politician's dream. His party is so popular in Quebec right now, he can do no wrong. The Bloc already controls 54 of the province's 75 seats, and according to the polls, this election could bring him even more seats. Of course, little of it has to do with Duceppe himself. Instead, he has the sponsorship scandal to thank. Known as "le scandale des commandites" in Quebec, the scandal was front and centre in the minds of Quebec voters during the June 2004 election, when they punished the Liberals and handed the Bloc 16 new seats. This year, with much of the scandal fully exposed through the Gomery inquiry, anger and resentment with the Liberals has only intensified. And that's great news for the Bloc. Duceppe believes that Bloc supporters are looking to continue punishing the Liberals -- not only because their tax dollars were wasted with the sponsorship program, but because the federal government tried so hard to crush Quebec's aspirations for separatism.

Jack Layton: Common-Sense Gambler. In his rookie stint in Parliament as federal NDP leader, Jack Layton has been called a fair share of colourful names courtesy of his Ottawa brethren. "Say Anything Jack." "Jumpin' Jack." "The Toronto stuntman." Even "Chicken." But in the dawn of this winter election campaign, "The Gambler" would be most apropos. It was Layton who provided the pivotal opposition push that began the process of toppling the Liberals from power, sending Canadians to a holiday season vote after Paul Martin wouldn't accept his so-called "common sense solution." It was Layton who put himself and his party on the line by bringing his caucus on board the same battleship as the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois to tank the Liberals -- showing he can, indeed, strategize and scheme with the rest of them.

Stephen Harper: The next prime minister?. During his tenure as Conservative leader, Stephen Harper's oratory has largely focused on one assertion: that the Liberal government lacks the moral authority to govern because it is corrupt and can no longer be trusted. Yet many Canadians wonder whether Harper, himself, can be trusted. And these reservations could hurt his chances when the time comes for voters to head to the polls in January. Harper's political foes have long portrayed him as a harbouring a secret agenda. The Strategic Counsel's Managing Partner Timothy Woolstencroft says Harper will need to address that sticking point if he is to gain the trust of the Canadian electorate.

Paul Martin: Still bullied by politics. Paul Martin assumed the Liberal leadership vowing to create a new kind of politics, and a more transparent and open government. And how did that work out? John Gray, the author of Paul Martin: The Politics of Ambition, sums up his views of Martin's time in the PMO with one word: "Disappointment," he told CTV News in an interview from his Toronto home. "He allows himself too easily to be bullied by politics." Now, as Martin wages his third major campaign in 25 months (first the Liberal leadership race, then the federal elections), he is still being bullied by politics. Especially the politics of governing from a minority position in parliament.

Don't dictate to me, Canada's Martin tells US. RICHMOND, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin escalated a war of words with the United States on Wednesday, telling Washington not to dictate to him what topics he can raise in the run-up to Canada's January 23 election.

Canadian snowbirds urged to vote by mail. About 200,000 snowbirds are planning to escape the Canadian winter south of the border -- but they may not be able to escape Elections Canada.