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Da liddle guy checks out (in 18 months)
August 21, 2002 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Da liddle guy checks out (in 18 months) Jean Cretien, the Prime Minister of Canada, has just announced he's stepping down thereby avoiding a party revolt and also neatly sinking his main opponent's chances. Will Canada ever find another PM who is as politically astute and at the same time as cartoon-like and embarassing (cough) Mel Lastman (cough)? Favourite memories, please.....
posted by BGM (51 comments total)

 
I had hoped, vaguely, that Chretien might stick around for the next election, thus giving the other parties at least some chance of making some headway in the next election. As it is, with Chretien gone, I feel the Liberals are a shoe-in for yet another term of arrogant governing and random scandals. Unless they vote Sheila Copps in as the new leader, of course.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:08 PM on August 21, 2002


Windex finger!!

I miss Double Exposure, at least on the radio.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 12:10 PM on August 21, 2002


I think one thing Jean Chrétien (proper spelling this time, how embarrasing!) wanted to avoid was the Mulroney syndrome. If he had hung on and run in the next election the battles within the Liberal party might have weakened the party to the point that they could have lost the election, (assuming the right wing ever got over their own back-stabbing orgy) and that would leave a stain on his reputation that he would not want.
posted by BGM at 12:15 PM on August 21, 2002


So, fellow Canadians, or non-Canadians who for some reason are informed about Canadian politics (something that most Canadians can't honestly claim), who's going to lead the Liberals after JC? Paul Martin? Sheila Copps? Deputy Prime Minister John Manley? Allan Rock?

Personally, I'm really not sure anymore. It seemed for a while that Martin was a sure thing, but now I don't think that can be said. I'm wondering what everyone else thinks.
posted by dgt at 12:15 PM on August 21, 2002


There was no finer - nor more Canadian moment - in Chretien's reign than the evening he wielded an Inuit soapstone carving in self-defence against a knife-toting Quebecois intruder who had broken into 24 Sussex. It could've been a Monty Python - or Kids in the Hall - sketch. Classic.
posted by gompa at 12:16 PM on August 21, 2002


gompa... That was great, but I sure enjoyed the pie in the face. Similar to Stocky's chocolate milk.
posted by dgt at 12:19 PM on August 21, 2002


I thought his name was Jean Poutine.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:21 PM on August 21, 2002


I feel the Liberals are a shoe-in for yet another term of arrogant governing and random scandals

me too, and i'm very much looking forward to it *go liberals, go liberals*

hmmm, sheila as pm... i could live with that. she'd last longer than kim did, which would be some sort of progress, on some sort of front...
posted by t r a c y at 12:25 PM on August 21, 2002


I liked when he grabbed a protester by the neck with both hands and threw him to the ground. That showed such class.

The problem with Canadians is their short attention spans. Capable yet boring leaders are not re-elected, but distinctive yet bumbling leaders like Chretien, Copps and Lastman are. Like the Americans, we're getting the government we deserve, and it ain't pretty.
posted by websavvy at 12:26 PM on August 21, 2002


Favourite moment: "For me, I puts da pepper on my plate."

"go liberals, go liberals" Good Christ! Scandals, schizophrenic policy and all? You live in Ontario, I presume? :)

As for who's coming next... well, I think Martin. He's more popular than the others. Rock is a twerp. Manley is pretty bright, although too sycophantic, and doesn't have the same track record as Martin does ("balanced" budgets and all). So Martin will probably come through as leader, even though he's getting old and might not be around too long to enjoy it. And, as jacquilynne said above, that means more arrogant governing for God knows how long. But let's face it, when the Liberals have been in power for 70+ of the last 100 years, we may as well be turning into PRI-dominated Mexico. The greatest thing we could have is electoral reform, but there's no incentive for the government to push that when the current system suits them just fine...
posted by fhangler at 12:27 PM on August 21, 2002


I wouldn't count Jean out yet. All he needs is a good excuse for calling a snap election. Anyone remember how Trudeau planned to retire after losing the 1979 election to Joe Clark only to defeat him and regain power in 1980?
posted by timeistight at 12:34 PM on August 21, 2002


There was no finer - nor more Canadian moment - in Chretien's reign than the evening he wielded an Inuit soapstone carving in self-defence against a knife-toting Quebecois intruder who had broken into 24 Sussex.

When I recently saw the Prime Minister on television giving an Inuit soapstone carving to the Pope, I was given to wonder whether John-Paul had a knife.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:37 PM on August 21, 2002


I've said it before, I'll say it again: Brian Tobin will be the next leader of the Liberal party and the next Prime Minister of Canada.

timeistight: I doubt, having said his tearful farewell, even Chretien could pull a snap election. I don't think your Trudeau in 79/80 example is really legit, as Trudeau was out of office when he stepped down and the "snap election" came when PM Joe Clark forgot how to count and lost a vote of confidence. Liberal elders then convinced Trudeau to stay. None of that applies here.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:45 PM on August 21, 2002


gompa, I believe it was Aline, Jean's wife, that wielded the Inuit soapstone carving.
posted by flash at 12:47 PM on August 21, 2002


"go liberals, go liberals" Good Christ! Scandals, schizophrenic policy and all? You live in Ontario, I presume? :)

LOL! yep.
posted by t r a c y at 12:58 PM on August 21, 2002


Favourite moment: "For me, I puts da pepper on my plate."

We have Nardwuar to thank for that little bit of Canadian.

The problem with Canadians is their short attention spans. Capable yet boring leaders are not re-elected, but distinctive yet bumbling leaders like ... Lastman are

No no. What got Lastman elected was what could have gotten a chimp elected: the ability to say "no tax increase!" And those fools in the suburbs ate it up (wait a minute.. I live in the suburbs. Doh!) As John Barber pointed out, the real solution to Canadian city's problems isn't more money from the Federal level, but giving cities the power to raise their own money through taxes. Which is the last thing mayors want..
posted by slipperywhenwet at 1:05 PM on August 21, 2002


That should have been Canadiana
posted by slipperywhenwet at 1:07 PM on August 21, 2002


Favourite memories, please.....

Can't really share any, since I'm not Canadian, but I thought I'd just pop in and point out that you misspelled "favorite." That is all.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:08 PM on August 21, 2002


Of any of the "silent" leadership contenders, I would have liked to see Paul Martin take the helm, and it would have been the only thing that convinced me to vote Liberal in the next election. I try not to think about the contradictions in my voting pretty regularly for the NDP when I don't vote Liberal, but now I'll only vote Liberal if it's the fiscally conservative former Finance Minister "I'm well respected by big business" Martin taking over.

However, Martin is almost as old as Chretien, and my gut feeling is that February 2004 would be too late for Martin - the party will want someone younger, like Tobin, or even Alan Rock (I'm from Hamilton so I know too well of the horror that is the political family that spawned Sheila Copps, and shudder to think of her leading).

I feel bad for Martin, especially when you take into account his father's 3 unsuccessful bids for leadership of the Liberal party. Not a legacy one would want to repeat, or be remembered for repeating.
posted by Cyrie at 1:15 PM on August 21, 2002


I am still mourning his election win over Kim Campbell.

Personally, I would rather see my dog as Prime Minister before Sheila Copps. And I always thought Paul Martin was the next big thing in the Liberal Party, so what do I know?
posted by kristin at 1:18 PM on August 21, 2002


I've said it before, I'll say it again: Brian Tobin will be the next leader of the Liberal party and the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Not gonna happen. Always a premier, never a prime minister.
posted by sillygwailo at 1:22 PM on August 21, 2002


i think this opens up the national politcal arena for an NDP victory come next election.

*snigger*
posted by sid at 1:30 PM on August 21, 2002


For any visiting Americans who want a bit of additional information on a couple of these incidents, or for Canadians who are getting a bit prematurely nostalgic, go here. What would happen if a President did that? (Or have they?)
posted by fhangler at 1:34 PM on August 21, 2002


The only person that I could tolerate as a Liberal PM would be Tobin, but as posted above, I seriously doubt that he will be the one.

Personally, I'd prefer a non-Liberal PM, but with the state of the other parties (and a sad state it is -- I didn't bother voting in the last election because I though they were all crap. I vote provincially, though.) I can't see it happening... so Tobin by default.

Favourite memory? The Chretien Choke! And if not that, then Chretien with Rick Mercer in a McDonalds. THAT was class.

edit: ahhhh, not the NDP!!
posted by mkn at 1:36 PM on August 21, 2002


yonderboy: I've said it before, I'll say it again: Brian Tobin will be the next leader of the Liberal party and the next Prime Minister of Canada.

What a horrible thing to say! Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? Besides he left cabinet because too many people saw the little weasel tail sticking out of his pants. He's done.

Likewise, too many have heard the loose change rattling around inside of Copp's head for her to ever be taken seriously as a candidate.

On the other hand, Martin & Manley are both good, if boring. This may be a plus however; boring=safe for the 905 belt.

The only person this is bad news for is Alan Rock.
posted by bonehead at 1:48 PM on August 21, 2002


"...distinctive yet bumbling leaders like Chretien..."

Oh please websavvy, judging from your comment it isn't short attention spans that are a Canadian problem, but short memories! Do we remember that it was Chretien who convinced Trudeau to get off the fence and implement the War Measures Act during the October Crisis of 1970? That single decision quashed the violent side of Quebec separatism and it has never returned. We have Jean Chretien to thank for that, and it is hardly bumbling. More here.

Chretien is the last of the true Statesmen left in Canadian Politics, with him gone we're going to be suffering from Tony Blair-ism - politicians who are more concerned with celebrity than with carrying out their political duty. Mark my words! heh
posted by sonicgeeza at 1:58 PM on August 21, 2002


dgt, Paul Martin will be the next leader of the Liberal Party and looking at the competition the next Prime Minister of Canada. Few people in the vote rich areas are willing to risk a good thing (read: economy) with some half baked right wing party of the day, and the NDP is little more than a farce.

Almost all of the riding associations are stacked with Martin supporters, ready to out organise any other leadership contender. This is something that they have been working on for years, quietly but with determination filling any vacant space in the party with Martinites. From the top down, it's pretty much a bunch of trained dogs and after the spring of 2002, a lot of people are going to be panting and whining to be scratched. If Martin can avoid this, he'll avoid embarassing scandals that were the signature of the second half of Chretien's term.

Having said that I've met Mr. Martin on several occasions, talked to him about important issues such as debt relief for third world countries and decided that he's a smart man and probably the most reliable choice to lead the country. I like Allan Rock's social sensibilities, but as the world and more importantly our closest neighbour the US becomes shifts to the right, he might do better for the country filling a domestic cabinet portfolio.
posted by will at 2:00 PM on August 21, 2002


Now as to what Mr. Chretien plans to accomplish during the next 18 months, anyone's guess is as good as mine. He's now a sitting duck in the water, limp and waiting for his political career to die. Why Canada needs to suffer with him until then is beyond my powers of reason.
posted by will at 2:02 PM on August 21, 2002


I tend to vote depending on the local MP, since I live in the west and the Prime Minister is already chosen by the time they start counting our votes. I really did like Chrétien, though. Eccentric enough to be memorable but played his politics smart and down the middle. So no matter how badly he goofed in public, you knew the country was in safe hands. As for the next leader, can I put my money on "some rich guy from Québec"?
posted by Gary at 2:09 PM on August 21, 2002


sillygwailo: Thanks for the link; I respectfully disagree, tho.

#1. Robert "Wedgie" Fulford (the author of the cited article, for those without scorecards) hasn't had an original or accurate idea since Trudeau was turning pirouettes.

#2: Even if you accept Fulford's idea -- ahem, the idea; it's not exactly Wedgie's alone -- that Premiers cannot skip into the federal ring, Tobin doesn't apply. He came of age and prominence as a Liberal "Rat Packer" in the HoC in the 80s. His defining moment was as "Captain Canada" during the turbot wars of the mid-90s as the federal minister of fisheries.

(Hey: All you Americans stop sniggering and pipe down; us 'nucks don't have no monopoly on flakes and weirdos in our halls of power: Do you really want me to play this?)

In short, his time as Preem of the Rock was an interregnum, and will serve him well as an example of his capable hand on the tiller of state.

If you accept that Chretien's 18-month slo-mo resignation is aimed at frustrating Paul Martin's ambitions, Tobin's chances start to look positively rosy. By spring, 2004:
• Tobin will have been able to (re-)assemble a leadership team and warchest;
• Tobin will have had more time learning la langue du Moliere
• Tobin will more easily be able to position himself as the candidate of change, esp. against a 67-year-old Paul Martin who has endured 18 months of unending, virtually indefendable attacks from Chretienites
• Chretien will have been spent 18 months pulling every conceivable lever of power in favour of his golden boy heir apparent.

Mark my words. Tobin is the only federal Liberal with the national appeal, the experience, and the stainless-steel balls to pull this one off.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:10 PM on August 21, 2002


(My mistake: Paul Martin will be 65 by Feb, 2004. Sorry.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:16 PM on August 21, 2002


sonicgeeza: Chretien is the last of the true Statesmen left in Canadian Politics, with him gone we're going to be suffering from Tony Blair-ism - politicians who are more concerned with celebrity than with carrying out their political duty.

I mean, seriously. Can we praise a man for the massive suspension of civil liberties that accompanied the War Measures Act? They were arresting and jailing hippies for doing nothing more than smoking pot. Yeah, there's an enormous security concern. And what sort of political duty has Chretien carried out in all his term as Prime Minister, besides excusing all of his corrupt ministers, and himself, from any sort of culpability? I will give him the credit of having a remarkable political savvy that seems unequalled by any of the current party leaders or Liberal hopefuls. Which is good news for him but bad news for the country.

With all of that said, however, I still prefer Chretien to (gag) Tobin. At least Chretien has a winsome and entertaining personality. Tobin is just irritating. Anecdotally speaking, I know many Liberal voters (here in the wild West) who would just not vote for Tobin. He doesn't even seem to show up on the radar out here, as a matter of fact. I hope it stays that way.
posted by fhangler at 2:26 PM on August 21, 2002


Now as to what Mr. Chretien plans to accomplish during the next 18 months, anyone's guess is as good as mine.

Chretien is concerned that even after such a long time in office, he has no real legacy. There's no sentence-long blurb to put in the history books right now that would please him: "Chretien presided over a prosperous and boring Canada, accomplishing little other than cabinet jockeying and protestor-strangling." Look for bizarre vanity projects in the next two years, maybe rebuilding the Trans-Canada highway with his name on it. He wanted to work on the 'guaranteed income for life' thing, but that's so horribly disliked he had to abandon hope. If we're lucky he'll develop a new type of poutine that miraculously causes peace in the Middle East.
posted by D at 2:26 PM on August 21, 2002


mkn:Favourite memory? The Chretien Choke! And if not that, then Chretien with Rick Mercer in a McDonalds. THAT was class.

Actually, it was a Harvey's restaurant, not McDonald's. And it's things like that which makes Canadian politicians so much cooler than American ones. "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" has always had fun with the Canadian politcos and they've almost always been good sports about it.

That said, it's been a long time since ANY politician has been as cool as this guy. (despite what fhangler says on preview)
posted by grum@work at 2:28 PM on August 21, 2002


My mistake. Obviously they'd support the Canadian junk-food.
posted by mkn at 2:35 PM on August 21, 2002


Yeah Grum, it's easy to be the cool guy when your spending like a madman...

From the article: "He didn't do things on the cheap. Over 16 years with Trudeau as prime minister, Canada's national debt skyrocketed by 1,200 per cent, from $17 billion to more than $200 billion. "

Unfortunately, I was too young to enjoy the carefree days of Trudeau, but not too young to be left with the bill.
posted by websavvy at 2:36 PM on August 21, 2002


Where's the Rhinoceros Party when you need them... ;-)
posted by Jade Dragon at 2:36 PM on August 21, 2002


I don't support the federal Liberals, but I think I'll actually miss JC. He's a Trudeau-like character, and was willing to stand up to the US on various issues. The Canadian political scene is completely goofy right now: few people can take the Refor-- er, Alliance seriously, the departing Joe Clark is the best thing the Tories have going, and as for the NDP.. shucks, I vote for 'em, but unless they let Svend at the helm I can't expent anyone else to. So it's another four years of Liberals, most likely headed up by Paul Martin. Given that choice, I'd rather see Allan Rock as the PM (he seems more lax on social issues), but I don't think it's going to happen.
posted by jess at 2:37 PM on August 21, 2002


grum@work: Whoa, whoa. I'm not a Chretien fan at all! Far from it. I'm not old enough to remember any Prime Ministers before Mulroney, but after reading his Memoirs, I'd agree with you on Trudeau. I'm a big fan of Trudeau (although not whatsoever a big fan of his politics) just because of his intelligence, wit, and the fact that he had a vision for Canada and set out fulfilling it. Too bad, as websavvy says, he left us with the bill.

I notice nobody seems to be willing to give any support to the Alliance. After the Daybacle (ha!) I suppose I can't blame anyone from not associating themselves with the party, but Harper seems promising to me at least.
posted by fhangler at 2:40 PM on August 21, 2002


Chretien's legacy? Unlike Mulroney -- who had free trade -- or Trudeau -- the Charter, patriation -- Chretien does not have one thing he can point to and say: "There. That's mine. I did that."

Almost a decade of economic prosperity and expansion? Being bolted on top of a booming American economy can't hurt, esp. after Mulroney tightened the screws with the FTA. Three straight majorities? Having the right wing trot out first a sacrifice, then a bigot, then a flake in quick succession couldn't have hurt. Cutting the deficit? See viz: screwed-to-American-economy (and cutting off welfare mothers to make the bankers smile.)

But as much as I hate the little man and feel his accomplishments were either deception or thievery, you have to note this: He was chief of the watch when M Lucien Bouchard gave up, and a whole generation of independantistes gave up, too.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:42 PM on August 21, 2002


Political legacy is fascinating.

I remember my father being spitting mad when Trudeau won in 1980. Some twenty years later, my father cried watching Trudeau's funeral.

"They don't make them like that anymore" was what he told me.

I truly wonder how JC will be remembered by the masses in twenty years
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 3:27 PM on August 21, 2002


Well, the above sure puts this thread in interesting perspective. What was that about "the massive suspension of civil liberties that accompanied the War Measures Act" again?
posted by mediareport at 3:47 PM on August 21, 2002


Oh great, we (Canadians) get a lame duck Prime Minister for 18 months because Chretien hates Paul Martin. This stinks.
posted by Coop at 3:58 PM on August 21, 2002


How is he a lame duck? He's still the Prime Minister, he still controls the cabinet, the caucus, the PMO and the public service and as such has as much power today to introduce and pass legislation, promote and demote MPs and ministers, and embarass us on the world stage as yesterday. (Total)

"Lame duck" describes a(n American) president who has lost their influence over the Congress or the country because they are in the waning end of their term. But a Prime Minister -- who is, unlike a Pres, an elected dictator -- cannot be a lame duck. The only way Chretien can lose power before 2004.02 is if his caucus unseats him (never happened yet; prolly won't happen with Chretien) or the House shoots down a vote with confidence attached (won't happen either.)

To (sorta) paraphrase a not very great man: We'll have him to kick around for awhile longer.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:13 PM on August 21, 2002


mediareport: The War Measures Act was written during World War I, repealed 1985. It allows the government to do all sorts of fun things: censorship, arrest, detention, deportation, and property expropriation are all allowed. For a history of how Trudeau used it to counter what is by today's standards an exceptionally minor act of terrorism, go here. To see how the Act was abused by people who had no connection to the crisis (such as by the mayor of Vancouver), go here. "I would suggest that the draft dodgers had better start dodging - get out of here, boy, because we're going to pick you up," he said. Campbell made good on his promise, forcibly evicting 200 people from the Jericho Hostel the next Thursday. Canada's history, like the United States', is hardly free of damnable abuses of power.
posted by fhangler at 4:32 PM on August 21, 2002


I Think that Jean Cretien just pulled a rope a dope on Paul Martin. First he introduces those ethics regulations for cabinet ministers basically designed to embarrass Paul Martin over his fundraising. Martin resigns from cabinet and tries to precipitate a leadership review. Cretien sticks to his guns, makes everyone think he's going to go down in a blaze of ego. Paul Martin and his supporters come out in the open and then Cretien announces he's retiring in 18 months. Paul Martin is now SOL. He can't challenge the leadership now that cretien has set a resignation date without seeming petty, Cretien has 18 months in which to brutalize his supporters and he's no longer finance minister so he has to spend 18 months doing nothing as an MP while Cretien is free to anoint Tobin as his successor.

Paul Martin went out on a limb and Cretien decided to chop him down.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:39 PM on August 21, 2002


Chretien is the last of the true Statesmen...

cough.. Suharto.. cough..

Okay. So in addition to rubbing elbows with the dictator, Chretian also presided over the slide in Canada's environmental laws, umpteen scandals, and a completely dysfunctional relationship with the current US admin. Fair enough, that's probably 90% due to the wackos in the White House, but still, wasn't Chretian supposed to look after the softwood tariff thing?

Those are just off the top of my head..
posted by slipperywhenwet at 5:15 PM on August 21, 2002


He became a lame duck because most of his cabinet will be in leadership race mode asap. He talks of governing but the rest of the cabinet will be thinking, "the right is a mess, they will make me king if I win the leadership".

Sure he has some power but a cabinet focused on the top job is no fun for a nation. Expect to see more cabinet squabbling between people like Manley, Rock, and Martin supporters like Goodale.
posted by Coop at 5:15 PM on August 21, 2002


Jean Chretien is, in my humble estimation, the ultimate illustration that in order to make it in Canadian politics you can drop all pretense at being interested in anything but staying in power.

He avoided the charge of favoritism to both the nation's official languages by mastering neither English nor French, established his Czar-like style of governing not in the past 11 years, but way back in 1970 when he invoked the War Powers Act, not to counter a kidnapping, but to show the "hot dog eaters" who was boss. Throughout the 11 years of his reign he has shown a complete and contempt for accountability, scruples, the people of Canada and the Provinces at practically every imaginable opportunity, from committing ordinary assault on the street to pretending not to understand perfectly simple questions from the Press to making insulting and inflammatory statements about large segments about the Canadian population.

His most interesting bon mot to date? Once, when asked details about a particular piece of legislation, he replied to a reporter, "I don't know... I'm not a lawyer."

Mr. Chretien was and still is, in fact, a lawyer.
posted by clevershark at 7:10 PM on August 21, 2002


I agree with cleveshark completely but you forgot one thing. He governed through a period of incredible incompetance in the opposition benches. Manning and Clark never captured the public's imagination, Charest was forced to go to lead the Lib's in Quebec and Day, well enough Stock bashing for now.
posted by Coop at 8:19 AM on August 22, 2002


And I agree with Coop :-) that not only the opposition, but every national political party should have so thoroughly and consistently dropped the ball during King Jean's reign is not just remarkable, it's practically unbelievable.

Oh well, if the last 11 years have proven nothing else, it's that Canadian politics are ultimately completely irrelevant to the everyday situation, not just of the world, but of Canada itself.
posted by clevershark at 9:08 AM on August 22, 2002


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