The hollow triumph of Jean Chrétien.

They lionized former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien the other evening. Many Conservatives were there to honour him. Not all liberals attended. Some could not afford the $400 per plate tab. Some even disagreed with him being a great prime minister. It did not always seem that he was doing the best he could.

There was an animosity with him that started with his support for the Charlottetown Accord. It was hardly the end of life on this planet as we knew it when Canadians rejected that terrible contravention of all things Canadian. It was only after he was elected with a majority government and dumped his promises from the Aylmer Conference that we sensed his disrespect for Canadians in general and liberals in particular.

The unkindest act was his giving the finance portfolio to Paul Martin Junior. (Paul was not there the other night: no surprise.) It was Jean’s finest Pontius Pilate performance when Paul set out to fix Canada’s budget. He could wring his hands for the all little guys of Shawinigan and across Canada while Paul gave them a really good screwing.

As much as we hate what Stephen Harper is doing to Ottawa, it was Paul Martin who destroyed Unemployment Insurance. He almost ruined Medicare by tightening the screws on the provinces. Paul put deficit cutting ahead of the needs of Canadians. And he turned his back on his old friends who tried to argue some reason with him.

It was Paul Martin with his pseudo-Conservatism that enabled Stephen Harper to get Canadians to vote for a real Conservative. Paul was the doormat welcoming Harper’s Conservatives to power.

It was not until their fight became too public that people realized Jean and Paul were not the best of friends. Jean just did not understand what Paul was doing.

Jean’s major problem was his key advisor was on Paul’s side. Neither in life nor after Mitch died did Jean understand the basic conservatism of his friend Mitchell Sharp. While Jean’s instincts might be liberal, Mitch Sharp had little trouble talking him over to the dark side. Jean was surrounded and controlled by the Liberal right.

Practically from his first day in Ottawa until he left, Jean Chrétien was never his own man. He was 80 years old on his birthday. Maybe we just celebrate that?

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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