Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mr. Katz, Have You Met Mr. Martin?

Paul Martin did a few things right but a lot of things wrong in his short time as Prime Minister and leader of the federal Liberal party.

Historians will certainly argue over what ultimately did him in. Undoubtedly, however, their lists will include the day in February 2005 when The Economist labeled him “Mr. Dithers”, and ran the headline, “Mr. Dithers and his Distracting Fiscal Cafeteria”.

The Economist, unlike Winnipeg’s mainstream political commentators, knew how to cut a political jugular. It wasn’t the cuteness and wittiness of the name that resonated so well – The Economist is no Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. Rather, it was how the name, Mr. Dithers, underscored a fundamental leadership flaw in Paul Martin that most Canadians already recognized: his inability to make a decision.

And this is why Judy Wasylycia-Leis’ tax announcement yesterday was so important. While easy to write off as simply a “tax increase” announcement, as the Free Press already has, this announcement almost does to Sam Katz what “Mr. Dithers” did to Paul Martin. By not making a decision on property taxes, Sam Katz has allowed Wasylycia-Leis to reveal in Katz’s character what Winnipeggers are already feeling about him – underwhelmed, no vision, inability to make and stick with a decision.

And what’s most fascinating is that Katz knows Winnipeggers are feeling this way. He accepted the negative fallout from flip-flopping on rapid transit because his research told him Winnipeggers felt light rail was “visionary”. Flip-flopping was the only way Katz could attach himself to a light rail vision.

Even very good leaders end up making wrong decisions from time to time. But choosing not to make a decision in politics is the worst thing political leaders can do. This is especially true when it’s on something as fundamental as tax policy.

And for an incumbent Mayor to defer a decision on taxes until after the election is not only laughable it’s an affront to democracy. And Winnipeg’s media can’t let him get away with it.

Mr. Katz, your chief rival has you dithering. The more you dither, the more you confirm to Winnipeggers what they’re already feeling about you. So, by all means, continue to dither, sir.