Sorry this is a day late. I’m going to blame the holiday weekend (Happy BC Day, everyone!), as that seems like as good an excuse as any.
||Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien
||January 11, 1934 in Shawinigan, Quebec
||November 4, 1993 – December 12, 2003
|Best known for:
- he has the same birthday as me. And Sir John A. MacDonald
- he used the nickname “the “little guy from Shawinigan,” referring to his humble origins
- the left side of his face is paralyzed due to Bell’s Palsy (he would refer to this in his first Liberal leadership campaign, saying he was “One politician who didn’t talk out of both sides of his mouth.” The Conservatives would try to use it against him (by using unflattering photos) in the 1993 election, to disastrous results.
- he held a number of Minister positions, including his stint at the first ever francophone Minister of Finance
- he placed an important role in the patriation of the Canadian Constitution; he was the chief negotiator of the “Kitchen Accord“1
- Upon becoming P.M. in 1993, he had been in every single Liberal cabinet since 1965.
- In order to clear the massive debt left behind by Mulroney, Chrétien’s government made deep cuts which, while they resulted in eliminating a $42 billion deficit & $36 billion in debt, results in significant cuts to government services, including health care.
- Promising to scrap the GST2, but then not following through, saying that the state of Canada’s finances were worse than they had expected after they took over from Mulroney
- He & his wife were at home at 24 Sussex Drive when an armed assailant broke in, and they locked themselves in the bedroom until security came; I’m not sure why everyone knows that Chrétien armed himself with an Inuit carving in case the assailant broke through the door, but we do.
- After protesters at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit at the University of British Columbia were pepper sprayed, Chrétien famously said, “For me, pepper, I put it on my plate.”
- He choked a protester in Hull, Quebec
- The sponsorship scandal: a “sponsorship program” was created to raise awareness about the Government of Canada’s contributions to Quebec, in the face of the Parti Québécois promotion of separatism. Widespread corruption was discovered in this program in 2004 (e.g., ad firms being paid large sums of money, but not doing any actual work). The Gomery Commission cleared Chrétien himself of any wrong doing.
- He was, shall we say, pressured to retire in 2003 so that Paul Martin”3, the heir apparent could take over as P.M.
|Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
- he was 18th of 19 children in his family (10 of 19 did not survive past infancy)
- during the October Crisis, with respect to invoking the War Measures Act, he told Trudeau to, “act now, explain later.”
- he retired from politics in the mid-80s, after losing the Liberal party leadership race to John Turner (and the subsequent Liberal loss of the 1984 election); he returned to political life in 1990 when he won the Liberal Party leadership after Turner resigned
- one of my alma maters, McMaster University, granted him an honourary degree in 2005
And here is my favourite Jean Chrétien quotation, in response to a reporter’s question about what type of proof Canada would require before joining the US war on Iraq:
“A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.”
Some people mocked this statement saying that Chrétien wasn’t saying anything at all, but I personally thought this rocked. There was no proof of WMDs, and Chrétien was pointing out that, hey, if they can prove it, well, go ahead and prove it already!
My second fav quotation, on the decriminalization of marijuane: “I don’t know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand,”
If you are just dying to read more about The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, check these out:
Five former P.M.s: Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau,
Right Honourable John N. Turner, Right Honourable
Kim Campbell, Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, and
Right Honourable Joe Clark.
Signing of the constitution, 17 April 1982 in
Ottawa, ON. (In the photo, left to right) Gerald Regan,
then Minister of Labour; Jean Chrétien, then Minister
of Justice; The Right Honourable Pierre E. Trudeau,
then Prime Minister of Canada; André Ouellet, the
Registrar General; Her Majesty the Queen; Michael
Pitfield, then Clerk of the Privy Council
Jean Chrétien – the Member of
Parliament for Shawinigan, then
Minister without portfolio. (Look
how young he is!) Apr. 1967
Image credits: Photo of Chrétien at the University of Toronto, surrounded by women, reproduced under a Creative Commons license, posted by Joe Howell on Flickr. Image of the 5 PMs is from the Library and Archives Canada, no restrictions on use. The “Signing of the Constitution” photo is also from the Library and Archives Canada, no restrictions on use, credit: Robert Cooper / Library and Archives Canada / PA-140706. Photo of a young Chrétien has its “copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner Duncan Cameron;” Credit: Duncan Cameron/Library and Archives Canada/PA-115289.
1Basically, negotiations on the Constitution which, as the name suggests, took place in a kitchen. Quebec premier Rene Lévesque wasn’t in this kitchen, so he walked into the premiers breakfast the next morning and was told a deal was done without him; Quebec nationalists refer to this as the “Night of the Long Knives,” with their feeling that they had been stabbed in the back)
2Although Wikipedia assures me that he didn’t actually promise to scrap the GST, but rather that the Red Book (a 112-page document outlining the Liberals platform) promised “to replace the GST “with a system that generates equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers and to small business, minimizes disruption to small business, and promotes federal-provincial fiscal cooperation and harmonization.” Does anyone remember reading the Red Book? Is this true??
3For how well this worked out for Martin, you’ll have to wait ’til next week’s entry on P.M. P.M.