Sunday, June 06, 2010
This is probably the most interesting piece of news in Canadian politics in a long time, despite the fact that it's little more than rumor and speculation at the moment. You may recall that Jean Chrétien was one of Canada's longest-serving prime ministers who won three straight majorities, but was eventually ousted by those within the party who thought Paul Martin (at the time the very popular finance minister) would make a better prime minister. Chrétien eventually said he would retire but took his time (he stepped down 18 months after making the announcement if I remember correctly) and Paul Martin did a terrible job as prime minister, eventually winning just a minority and later losing to Stephen Harper.
Or, more precisely: Paul Martin wasn't a terrible prime minister, he was terrible at being the centre of political attention. At the time the sponsorship scandal was still a big issue, and Chrétien (the so-called teflon man) was always good at avoiding subjects like these, whereas Paul Martin made a big show about it by saying that he was angry too, he felt the same way average Canadians did, etc. etc. As a result, Canadians thought: 1) That finance scandal must have been a big deal; 2) Paul Martin is angry about it but he was finance minister at the time, and how come he didn't know?
With Chrétien as prime minister the scandal likely would have been forgotten quite quickly or dismissed as opposition complaining.
So, back to the present: the Liberal party apparently is seriously thinking about what it would take to bring Jean Chrétien back. Though I have no idea whether bringing him back would be a help to the party, Chrétien himself is a bit of a political barometer and so one could assume to a certain extent that if he were to come back it would be a good sign for them, and if he turns down the idea it's because he senses that it just wouldn't work.
I'm probably as unpartisan as you can get right now in Canadian politics (in an upcoming election I've narrowed my choices down to Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green or other) and have always been both a Chrétien and Preston Manning fan. Preston Manning was adept at bringing in new ideas (and still is - he has recently been quite the big advocate of science), while Chrétien was good at using just enough of them to take the wind out of the sails of the opposition as well as run the country fairly well.
So considering how blah Canadian politics is at the moment I believe I would lean toward voting Liberal if he were to make a return. Depending on a party's policy though (especially policy on Canada's role in space and funding for the CSA) that could easily change.
Jean Chrétien talking about lack of proof for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq: