, 10.26.2021 06:14 AM

My latest: Chretien vs. Trudeau on cabinet shuffles

Jean Chretien is a winner at politics — and at putting together a cabinet, too.

Consider this: During his 40-year political career, he never lost an election. With three back-to-back majorities, he is the winningest prime minister in modern times.

He beat Quebec separatism, twice. He brought home the Constitution and gave us a Charter of Rights. He held every major portfolio in the governments of Mike Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.

He was, and remains, consulted by international leaders, U.S. presidents, and Her Majesty the Queen.

And when he left active politics in 2003 — on his own terms, not because anyone pushed him out — his approval rating remained above 60%.

Chretien is a winner.

(And, sure, I’m biased. I was his special assistant and then, later, his friend. I would take a bullet for him.)

But objectively, if you were putting together a government — if you were putting together a cabinet, or putting together some contentious policy proposal — wouldn’t you pick up the phone to seek his advice?

He doesn’t charge for it. He’s willing to give free advice to any prime minister who gives him a ring.

Justin Trudeau — whose legacy is now proven to include scandal and political failure — needed to consult with Jean Chretien. But did he do that enough?

Well, Trudeau rolls out his new cabinet Tuesday morning. And Chretien — reached in Montreal when promoting the second volume of his new book, My Stories, My Times — doesn’t reveal if he was consulted on that new cabinet.https://www.youtube.com/embed/3Cz8aRnk5gE?embed_config={%27relatedChannels%27:%20[],%27autonav%27:true}&autoplay=0&playsinline=1&enablejsapi=1

But, exclusively, Chretien has given the Toronto Sun some excerpts from the new book about how to build a cabinet. Check this one out, which tells for the first time how Paul Martin only became finance minister at the last possible moment:

“When we won the election on Oct. 25, 1993, I had to form a cabinet. What was I going to do with my two main adversaries for the party leadership, Paul Martin and Sheila Copps? It was the strategy of Lincoln, who did not lack for opponents in his own camp when he became president of the United States, that inspired me in forming my cabinet. He had given them the greatest possible responsibilities.  

With Copps, it was easy: I named her deputy prime minister and minister of the environment, which delighted her. With Martin, it was much more complicated. I told him that I wanted him to be my finance minister, because I believed that there was no problem more important than the deficit, the national debt, the unemployment rate, and the high interest rates.

He replied that that post was the graveyard of politicians, and he wanted to become the new C.D. Howe, the all-powerful minister of industry and commerce under Prime Minister Louis  St.  Laurent.  I  retorted that John Turner and I had been finance minister before becoming party leader and prime minister. After a number of exchanges, he told me clearly that he would not accept finance, but that he’d be happy with industry and commerce. Given this refusal, I offered John Manley the post of finance minister, which he accepted. Forty-eight hours before the swearing-in, Martin called me to say that he’d changed his mind and would finally agree to be finance minister. It’s clear that had I not insisted, he would never have known all the glory that this post brought him. I had to call John Manley back. He’d been finance minister for only 48  hours, but he would have the position again later on.”

That anecdote provides Justin Trudeau with the best advice of all: don’t play favourites. Don’t cater to big egos. Don’t blink.

Will Justin Trudeau take the advice? We may find out Tuesday morning.

— Kinsella was Chretien’s special assistant


  1. Peter Williams says:

    Justin’s cabinet criteria? He doesn’t pick experience. He doesn’t pick talent or competence.

    He picks those who show absolute loyalty to the gropenfuhrer.

  2. Robert White says:

    Prime Minister Chretien actually had to work for a living on Parliament Hill whereas Trudeau vacations on Parliament Hill along with his notoriously tardy Finance Minister & Deputy PM Freeland.

    Even talk radio FM 101.1 Rogers FM in Ottawa has been complaining about how few hours this vacationing PM of selfies, DAVOS trips, and COP26 profligacy has been taking, and is about to take on our dime.

    Chretien knew how to work professionally whereas Sock Puppet PM Trudeau is merely working the Cult of Personality as his stock & trade being the narcissist Drama teacher getting paid $368k per year to work Parliament for the Liberal Party hangers on.

    Neoliberalism failed outright in 08 when everyone bet long on Wall Street investment bank titan Richard Fuld. The problem started when The Gorilla of Wall Street Fuld be Lehman Brothers 44:1 long on a short bet that the Government of the United States of America would have his back if his short long bet at 44:1 failed to pay off.

    Canada’s Liberal Party has bet much the same way as Fuld did with an empty hollow promise of more of the same that failed in 08.

    Trudeau’s Liberals have shown Canadians that they emanate out of a similar narcissistic bent to our esteemed sock puppet PM given that they actually stuck with his empty promises, platitudes of change, and general drunken meanderings at helm shuffling portfolios as a needed distraction from actually doing the worl that Canadians expect of Parliamentarians and they various & sundry levels beneath them.

    Trudeau is not leadership. Trudeau is just a Drama teacher that is attempting to play the part of federal leader to a ruling party. He has a few more months of serial failure and then we can expect his ouster via infighting & mutany aboard a sinking ship of fools.


    • Sean says:

      I’m really sick of people saying Justin Trudeau is a drama teacher. I’ve known a few drama teachers and none of them would ever stoop to the level of filth that is Justin Trudeau.

      • Robert White says:

        That’s because they never mastered the art of being a drama queen & political diva like Trudeau.

        It’s the selfie era, Sean.


  3. Gyor says:

    The LAST person Justin should ask advice from is Jean Chretien. I remember Chretien’s time as PM and the devastation his administration inflicted on those who could least bare it. Massive cuts to Healthcare, Social Welfare State, and education, that hurt millions of poor Canadians, kicking people off EI that had payed into EI and then stole their money to give to banksters, and when the books were balanced on the backs of the poor, sick, and students among others, he have massive regressive tax cuts to the rich. And this inspired Premier Mike Harris and others and their cuts.

    Ironically Trudeau and his massive spending ironically showed that the excuses for what Chretien did was based on bullshit economics, lies.

    So while Trudeau is a fraud, an extortionist, a lier and more,but he’s not a complete monster, Chretien is, so no I don’t want Trudeau to listen to Chretien because Canadians are suffering enough right now.

    I understand why you don’t see it that way, but you saw it from on top, I saw the suffering from down here on the ground, the consequences of those cuts on real people.

    • Gyor,

      As much as it pains me to admit it, for sure, the return to fiscal sanity resulted in exactly what you’ve suggested. The poor and the lower class paid a terrible price while the corporate jetsetters, those like the XYZ family just kept rocking on.

    • Pedant says:

      Trudeau has been a monster to young Canadians without rich parents as he (with an assist from Tiff Macklem) has inflated a massive housing bubble, financially ruining the young working and middle class.

      Trudeau also monstrously yanked away the child care benefit from the middle class. So they don’t get to receive the benefit that they are paying for through crushing high income taxes. Instead, it now only goes to welfare recipients and other non-taxpayers who already get all the other supports.

      Chretien and Harris were a great duo, in hindsight, even if in different parties. That was an era where citizens were actually treated as adults responsible for their own decisions (and consequences of those decisions).

  4. Pedant says:

    If he’s picking people that align with his worldview, values, and temperament, then surely the new MP for Spadina-Fort York should be shoo-in.

  5. PJH says:

    It must have been hard for Mr. Manley to be given the position of finance, and then have it taken back, but with M. Chretien’s folksy ways, I am sure it was done with delicacy and respect for Mr. Manley’s feelings. I never voted for M. Chretien, but I always respected him as our PM, and now realize he was a pretty darn good PM…the complete opposite of our current one….who I did vote for….once…{{{shudder}}}

  6. Douglas W says:

    Conservatives don’t know how to win.

    JT/KT/GB do not fear the Opposition.

    Surprised Mister Magoo did not land a portfolio.

    • Douglas,

      I don’t know what’s worse: the leader taking a position I do not agree with on vaccines and MPs or this latest sad saga of the leader being all over the damned place: saying one thing on one day, something different on the second day and SOMETHING ELSE on the third day. Jesus Christ, what a fucking mess. All the other parties must be having a good laugh at our expense…

      • PJH says:

        We picked the wrong guy…..poor French and not being able to press the flesh due to covid did him in….that and a Otoole campaign manager who played to win, along with an Otoole running horse who came outta nowhere with a $ 2 million war chest?…please….the collection plates were flying fast and furious….Mr. Otoole gets one more kick at the can….if unsuccessful, he’s done…..Hopefully Poindexter doesnt have aspirations….

      • Douglas W says:

        Erin O’Toole’s days are numbered.

        The caucus is being nice, for the time being. Showing him some grace.

        If he doesn’t see the writing on the wall, there will be a blunt conversation.

        March leadership vote, because there will be another federal election before June.

        • From CTV News/CP:

          “Among the Conservatives who believe in keeping their vaccination status private is newly elected Ontario representative and former leadership contender Leslyn Lewis.

          Lewis has been an outspoken critic of vaccine mandates and last week also posted on social media about vaccinating children against COVID-19.

          She said parents question doing so partly because the shots don’t guarantee against transmission of the virus.

          Public health experts say there is overwhelming evidence the immunizations prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death.”

          You know, these MPs and other parents really are something: they are bam, wham against children’s and other vaccinations but some of them end up 100% with a changed mind: it usually and consistently happens right after their unvaccinated kid DROPS DEAD… Hello! Beyond pitiful and pathetic.

  7. Sean says:

    Sorry, don’t buy it at all.

    If Justin called Chretien and they had a real private discussion…. I’d expect Chretien to tell him to STFU and quit already. Its over… stop wasting everyone’s time embarrassing yourself and the country every GD day…. and when you quit, don’t ever come back for a farewell speech.

  8. Phil in London says:

    I find it incredible how many people are fondly remembering le petit gars. To those who did not drink the tea Chrétien was not always someone who was deeply respected more tolerated. I will 100% agree that that little shit in Ottawa is not in the same league as Chrétien that is for certain. I get that Warren would take a bullet for the man though that sort of devotion to anyone scares me.

    Jean Chrétien embarrassed some when he supported unilateral declarations of independence in the Middle East (gasps were heard in much of English Canada for that one while we were not all that far from a similar Quebec threat.

    Jean Chrétien had his little sponsorship scandal. That he was better able to bury it than this punk is not a medal worthy performance.

    The man could and would avoid saying four when a reporter would ask what is two plus two?

    He was a divisive leader, he rallied a majority not with vision but shaming the Bloc, mocking the PCs and stealing fiscal policy from the Manning bunch.

    I do get that he managed his affairs much better. No, he was a politically astute fighter. He managed to silence loose cannons. He was a good LIBERAL leader, I am not equating that automatically to being a good PM

    Don’t get me wrong the man won’t be in the bottom half of prime ministers in the fact the country improved under his watch. But I think the “left is best” crowd may not have realized how much he used them.

    His response to the native crisis as managed under his watch was typical of how he handled most of his files. He ignored the question, avoided the question and he distracted the questioner. Like so many times while governing it worked.

    He also had a hell of a lot better bench and they like he offered DID learn from their predecessors.

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