April 14, 2004) OTTAWA
- Prime Minister Paul Martin admitted that a $7 billion military spending priority announcement he delivered while at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick
today was a repackaging of previously announced military spending plans.
Martin appeared in front of a group of Canadian troops dressed in fatigues and reannounced government spending on commitments on military helicopters, military supply ships and
a Stryker Mobile Gun System.
The Stryker and supply ships were announced by former defence minister John McCallum in October, the search-and-rescue aircraft was announced in November and the Sea King replacements have been well known for months.
"What I have simply done is outlined a number of the announcements that have been made recently, all of which go to support our military forces," the prime minister said. "This is not a question of who is taking credit for anything."
But the PM's appearance at the military base prompted reaction from the opposition, who say he is misleading the public to gain votes.
"It's understandable that Canadians reading front-page headlines … are being misled into believing the federal Liberals are serious about addressing the severe funding and personnel shortages in the Canadian forces," said Conservative defence critic Jay Hill.
"The military funding announced to great fanfare today consists of little more than old and previously-announced military expenditures."
Hill called Martin's trip to Gagetown a public relations stunt to justify his "taxpayer-funded, cross-country pre-election campaign."
He noted that Martin has also made similar funding announcements in recent weeks, such as a press conference in Alberta to announce nearly $1 billion in aid to ranchers affected by BSE a day before
it was to be unveiled in the federal budget and another press conference at a Toronto transit yard to announce $1 billion in funding to the Toronto Transit Commission.
Martin denied that such funding announcements make Canadians cynical about the political process.
"I don't think Canadians are cynical," he said. "There's going to be an election at some point and I think that we all understand that. But I've also made it very clear that until such time until an election is called my responsibility is to govern and to govern in the best interest of the country.
"I think that part of governing is talking to Canadians. It is getting out of Ottawa and getting across the country."
However, Martin's own campaign co-chair told CTV News over the weekend that Martin's cross-country tour in recent weeks was not primarily about governing, but about bumping the Liberals up in the polls.
"Obviously we'd like to have more support than we do," David Herle told CTV's Question Period. "We're working very hard to do that, which is why the prime minister is spending so much time talking to Canadians all across the country -- Western Canada, Quebec, Ontario, Atlantic Canada."
However, the Prime Minister's
talks with Canadians across the country has failed to help the
Liberals in the polls. The most recent Ipsos-Reid poll released
this week shows support for the Liberals dropped to 35 per cent
from 38 per cent.
Check out these related links:
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