What was he thinking?
In the midst of a storm cloud of suspected corruption, the Liberals had just begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Suddenly, that light disappeared. Their leader blocked the exit with one Paul Martin, a formidable obstacle that will not be easily removed.
Though summer vacation had been fast approaching, it seems there will be another long month in the cloud. The easy way out was closed off and all hell promises to break loose. The possibility of order has been exchanged for certain chaos.
Some say Chretien has gone too far this time, setting up his Liberals for an internal struggle reminiscent of Stockwell Day's Alliance. Some speculate the party's division and downfall. A tidal wave has crashed down on Parliament Hill, turning what was once a stagnant pond into a fluid sea. The tide is turning for the Liberals, but is it on its way in or out?
Things have been set on cruise control for far too long in Canada: Grits in, everybody else out. Nothing seemed to affect the federal government. The Reform Party tried a makeover and even changed it's name; the Alliance tried a face-lift; and just to be conservative, the PCs reverted to a leader from the past. The opposition was in no position to cure the ills of the country, so with the end of his reign in sight, Chretien took matters into his own hands.
No matter what he does, it is almost certain this will be his last term in office. So with nothing to lose and a position of utmost intelligence with governmental shortcomings, it is the only appropriate thing to do: make whatever changes are necessary to improve the country, no matter the controversy, while he still can.
True, Paul Martin is one of the most respected members of Parliament and his absence in the cabinet will be sorely missed. Also true, the idea of a leader making changes without restraint sounds just plain dictatorial, and few people absolutely trust Chretien's integrity in decision-making.
To an extent, Chretien must be concerned with his reputation, but demoting his most popular cabinet minister seems to indicate quite the contrary. There's no telling what he might do next, only hope that order in Parliament will not be completely impossible. Only time will tell if order is the price of change or if it is just the opposite.