Maybe Santa Claus wants Hans Island, too. Whatever the reason, Canada must have really pissed him off, and in retaliation he's giving us this for Christmas: one of these two men will be our next Prime Minister.
That's the bad news; the good news is that the other one will be finished in politics.
Paul Martin is leading in the polls, though not by much, and he may just be able to pull off a second term. His strongest ally is Stephen Harper, whose tin ear for politics, utter lack of charisma, and inability to connect with the public resulted in his squandering a commanding lead in the polls in a mini-campaign swing through Ontario this spring. No Canadian politician has demonstrated Harper's ability to repel voters.
Yes, with Stephen Harper on his side, Paul Martin just might win this thing.
Stephen Harper enters the campaign as the underdog, but his strong campaign team includes such allies as Paul Martin. Martin, during his short term in office, has developed an international reputation as an ineffectual ditherer. He's had over a year to prove himself to voters, and yet nobody in this country -- including Paul Martin -- actually knows who he is and what he stands for.
Yes, with Paul Martin pulling for him, Stephen Harper may just become our next Prime Minister.
That, my fellow Canadians, is the reality that faces our sorry nation. If, thanks to a steady diet of happy pills, you fail to see just how foul our future appears, consider our recent history.
Pierre Trudeau, love him or hate him, was not lacking in vision. His vision of Canada made a mark on our country, whether you call it Canada or Trudeaupia.
Brian Mulroney, whatever his myriad faults, had a vision of his own, and he was not afraid to destroy his career, his party, or his country to pursue it. So he did.
Jean Chretien, finally, had a ... no, on the other hand, he seems not to have had any vision at all. What he did have, however, was the common touch. He may have been a thug, a weasel, and a slimeball, but he could connect with Canadians and make them believe that thuggery, weaselhood, and slimeballitude were reasonable traits that, you know, a reasonable person would have. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the politician's art.
What choice faces us today?
On the one hand, Paul Martin, who is so lacking in vision that a staff of seeing-eye dogs must lead him from one ineffectual wafflefest to the next.
Exactly what the hell is Paul Martin's vision for our fair nation? Nobody knows. The odds at this point are on "none," for Pauly has had over a year to demonstrate vision and has thus far come up with diddleysquat.
All Paul Martin's government has proven itself to be good at is the game of parliamentary procedure. It may come as a shock to some of his supporters to learn this, but that doesn't impress the public much. It's the equivalent to saying, "Buy this car because I'm a good salesman," or "Vote for me, I'm sneakier than him."
The best thing he has to offer -- and make no mistake, this was the main selling point that won him the last election -- is that he is not Stephen Harper.
On the other hand, we have Stephen Harper. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, whatever their faults, are not lacking in vision. Unfortunately for him, they've told us about their vision for Canada, and many Canadians aren't impressed. A lot of people think it sucks.
That leaves Harper to flounder about trying to convince people that he's actually the new, improved Stephen Harper leading the new, improved Conservatives, and that he really does love this second-tier socialistic country just the way it is. Yes, Harper has a new vision for Canada that isn't utterly repellent. He's just reluctant to tell us what that vision actually is.
So far, the little detail that the Conservatives have provided, is, well, similar to Harper's portrait of a tree in the photo above. It's crudely painted with a broad brush and utterly lacking in detail, but at least it matches his tie.
And at least it's not a corrupt, Liberal tree! In other words: "This car may be a lemon, but the price is fair -- you should buy it!"
Face it: the best thing Stephen Harper has to offer -- and make no mistake, this is the point that has hobbled Martin with a weak minority -- is that he is not Paul Martin.
Welcome to the new Canada. And please hand over your belts, ties, sharp implements, and anything else with which you may injure yourselves. It's going to be a long, dark ride.