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Paul Martin speaks out

[PoliticsWatch posted 4:40 p.m. May 4, 2006]

OTTAWA  — Former prime minister Paul Martin ended his House of Commons silence on Thursday when he participated in an Opposition Day debate to criticize the Conservative government's child-care plan. 
 
It was the first time the former PM spoke in the House since his government was defeated in the January federal election. 

Martin's government laid the foundation for a national early learning program for children in the last Parliament, but the Conservatives have since scrapped that plan and replaced it with a promise of more child-care spaces and a monthly cheque for parents for each child under six. 

"And I ask indeed by what intellectual rigidity does the government now tell us that child care is not a priority and that early learning is not a worthwhile goal?" Martin said in his speech to the House. 

Martin said the Conservative plan to send a monthly cheque to parents "is not a child-care plan and no expert in Canada will characterize it as such."

He also questioned whether the Conservatives have a mandate to scrap the Liberal early learning plan. 

"Two-thirds of Canadians voted against the government. Two-thirds of Canadians are represented by the rest of members in this House who support early learning and support child care," he added. 

Martin was partaking in a day long debate in the House of Commons on a Liberal Opposition Day motion calling on the government to increase the number of early learning and child-care programs. 

The former PM spoke forcefully while standing at his new seat in the House of Commons on the opposition benches, directly adjacent to the Speaker's chair. 

During a question in answer session with other MPs, Martin appeared to be having fun. 

"It's like old days. I can just go on and on," he said when told he was running out of time to respond. 

At another point, Martin was interrupted by the speaker when he made a procedural error when he asked why Social Development Minister Diane Finley was not in attendance for the debate. 

"I'm a little rusty," Martin said apologetically to deputy speaker Andrew Scheer.

When Martin finished his speech, Liberal MPs in the chamber gave him a 20 second round of applause. 

However, members of the other parties weren't as welcoming to Martin.

"It's shameful to hear (Martin) saying what he said," said Bloc MP Yvan Loubier. "He's the father of the fiscal imbalance."

"He talks about poor children, if there are any poor children it's because there are poor parents and he's responsible for that poverty." 

Loubier also got personal and accused the former PM of changing tax regulations when he was finance minister in order to favour international shipping companies, including Martin's family firm, Canada Steamship Lines.

"So how can he lecture us today?"

While Martin took some heat from MPs he also took a shot at the NDP and blamed them for defeating his government in the last Parliament thus killing the Liberal child-care plan and other initiatives.

"The NDP did everything within their power to cooperate with the then opposition to make sure that child-care and aboriginal help will not be further in place," Martin said.

"I do not understand why the NDP now seeks to work together with the current government whose ideological bent is totally contrary to what one would expect would be its principles."

Asked later about Martin's comments, NDP Leader Jack Layton said, "I guess Mr. Martin hasn't come to grips with the fact that millions of Canadians voted against him and his government in the last election.

"That wasn't the NDP's doing." 

: Related Links

> Martin to officially resign as Liberal leader on weekend

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