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Happy 10th Cretch!



Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his party faithful choked back a few tears last week as the plucky politico from Shawinigan celebrated his 10 th year as the leader of Canada.

His accomplishments are many.

Chretien brought an era of deficits to an end, pulling in surplus after surplus while bringing some sense of financial responsibility back to the Government of Canada.

He presided over the GOC during the Quebec referendum, winning a narrow victory of 51 per cent and all but killing the separatist movement in that province.

He led the Liberal Party to three consecutive majorities in Parliament, and faced 11 different opposition leaders.

And… and… umm…

Did I mention the budget surpluses?

As the Chretien era draws to a close, it’s difficult to know exactly what to think about our erstwhile leader and the fractured party he leads.

We know he has never dropped below 50 per cent approval in the polls, which is no doubt a result of the fact that no political party has been able to offer much more than token resistance over the past decade.

Under his leadership, Canada has weathered a couple of economic recessions. In the two years after Sept. 11, Canada even managed to lead all industrialized nations in economic growth.

But while he has helped to foster a kind of economic stability in Canada, you wouldn’t call Chretien a firebrand.

We all know our Prime Minister is a fighter. Over the past 10 years he has shamelessly rewarded loyalty and punished detractors within the party, ruling with an iron fist. Machiavelli could have learned a lesson or two from Chretien.

He didn’t fight all of his battles in the House of Commons, either.

When a demented individual by the name of Andre Dallaire broke into the Prime Ministers’ home in 1995 wielding a hunting knife, Jean and his wife Aline held the man off with a piece of Innuit art until they could lock and secure the door to their bedroom.

When an angry protester named Bill Clennet somehow elbowed his way past Chretien’s security retinue at a Flag Day celebration, our Prime Minister literally picked the man up by his collar and pushed him aside.

At times like that it was hard not to be a little in awe of the tenacity of our Prime Minister, whatever you thought of his policies.

But it’s a little strange that he waited until the end of his tenure, after 10 years of majority governments and overwhelming public support, to finally start acting like the big ‘L’ liberal he always made himself out to be.