- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Recently at a convention in Toronto, Paul Martin was elected by Canada’s Liberal Party to succeed Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who will be stepping down Dec. 12. After a decade in office, Mr. Chretien was forced to resign under pressure from critics within his own party. Many Liberals were disenchanted with Mr. Chretien’s plunging popularity during the past year. They demanded new blood. On Nov. 14, they got it.

Mr. Martin, a former finance minister, is a fiscal conservative and free-trader who is determined to bring new energy into Canada’s stagnant political scene. During his tenure as finance minister from 1993 to 2002, Mr. Martin tackled the country’s massive budget deficits by slashing public spending nearly 20 percent. He combined cuts in education and health care with targeted tax breaks to boost economic productivity and growth. As a result, Canada’s economy has been booming for much of the 1990s.

Unlike Mr. Chretien, Mr. Martin is a pro-American hawk. He plans to improve the strained relations between Washington and Ottawa caused by Mr. Chretien’s refusal to support the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Things were made worse when one of Mr. Chretien’s aides called President Bush “a moron” and a Liberal member of Parliament referred to Americans as “bastards.” Mr. Chretien did not apologize for either statement, leading Mr. Bush to cancel a visit to Ottawa last May.

Mr. Martin would like to implement a more systematic approach to the Canada-U.S. relationship. He plans on creating a permanent Cabinet committee on Canada-U.S. relations that he will chair. He also wants to establish a new House of Commons committee to prevent Canadian-American problems from becoming full-blown crises. Also, unlike Mr. Chretien, Mr. Martin has made clear his support for the U.S. national missile defense program.

Following Mr. Martin’s election as Liberal leader, the Bush administration said that it looks forward to re-establishing excellent relations with Canada. They will have their first meeting at the Jan. 12-14 Summit of the Americas in Mexico.

Seeking to capitalize on his soaring popularity with the Canadian electorate, Mr. Martin is expected to call an early election sometime next spring in order to give the governing Liberals a new five-year mandate. Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner. Hence, political developments north of the border are of immense strategic importance to this country.

We hope that Canada will be turning a new Maple Leaf under Mr. Martin’s leadership and that his rhetoric translates into concrete policies conducive to U.S. interests. There is no doubt that the recent breach in U.S.-Canadian relations should be fully restored to its historic and valuable friendly ways.

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