No, you have not been momentarily overcome by fumes emanating from the mountains of garbage at curbside.
Yes, Virginia, it is true. You are reading a column by a Liberal in the Sun. An actual latte-swilling, CBC-worshipping, One World Government, secular humanist Liberal. Me, in fact.
Someone better pop the cork on Peter Worthington’s smelling salts, and pronto.
The story about how I came to be here is a long one. Suffice to say that when I rang up the Sun’s brass to offer the occasional opinion, this is approximately the response I received: “Wow. Kinsella in the Sun. Boy, we’d sure get letters about that, wouldn’t we?”
Having established a beachhead behind enemy lines, however temporarily, I thought I should offer up something to the Sun’s editors that is almost certain to stir up scandal and outrage. And what better to do that, thought I, than the Top Ten Reasons Why People Should Stop Picking On Jean Chretien.
1. People still think Chretien a good PM: Jean Chretien is the most popular Prime Minister in the history of polling. For most of the past decade, in the order of 65 per cent of us approved of his leadership. Peter Worthington excepted, naturally.
2. People still like Chretien’s Grits: Krazy-glue together the Tories and the Alliance – what the heck, even throw in the New Democrats for good measure – and Jean Chretien would still wipe the floor with whatever you come up with. The latest Ekos poll, for example, shows the combined national support levels for the Conservatives (12 per cent), the Alliance (16 per cent) and the NDP (10 per cent) places the federalist Opposition parties 11 percentage points behind the Liberals. Ouch.
3. Chretien’s still a winner: He’s won three back-to-back-to-back majorities, and every election he’s contested in his home riding of Saint-Maurice. In politics, as in sports, winning usually is a pretty good measure of success.
4. Chretien’s hearty, hale and healthy: Jean Chretien water skis on one leg and snowboards like a teenager, dude. In fact, the Prime Minister could likely dispatch any leadership challenger in an arm wrestling contest (which might be a cheaper, and simpler, way of finally dealing with the latest controversy).
5. Chretien’s doing the job he was hired to do: Jean Chretien was re elected with a fat majority less than two years ago. Despite that, a crew of impatient and too-ambitious Grits somehow believes it is time to “take him out,” as one Toronto-area MP recently put it. They think their judgment matters more than the judgment of the 5,252,031 Canadians who voted for Jean Chretien last time out. They’re wrong.
6. Chretien’s record is good: He wrestled the constitution away from Great Britain, and did the legwork to get Canada the Charter. He oversaw the effort that killed the Tories’ $42 billion deficit. And Statistics Canada informed us, just a few days ago, that more than 300,000 new jobs have been created in Canada since January. Not bad, eh?
7. Chretien’s a separatists’ worst nightmare: Last time anyone checked, around 70 per cent of Quebecers oppose sovereignty for that province. Bernard Landry is about to join the long line of Canada-wreckers Chretien has consigned to the political graveyard. And the Prime Minister’s Clarity Act, which sets the rules for separation, is popular inside and outside Quebec.
8. Chretien hasn’t been PM too long: Jean Chretien has served as Prime Minister for less than nine years. Other Prime Ministers who enjoyed multiple majorities served for longer than that, and include Brian Mulroney (10 years) and Pierre E. Trudeau (16 years). Elsewhere, lengthier tenures have been enjoyed by Francois Mitterand (14 years), Margaret Thatcher (11 years) and Helmut Kohl (16 years). Term limits? We’ve already got ’em. They’re called general elections.
9. Chretien’s the media’s worst nightmare: Reporters like covering conflict, not consensus. The journalistic pickings have been damn slim for Parliamentary reporters in the Chretien years: jobs and economy up, scandals and separatists down. Media solution? Drive him out of office!
10. With Chretien, what you see is what you get: He ain’t a male model, or a Churchillian orator, or even perfect. He never claimed to be. And Canadians, for about 40 years, have rather liked that – and they have re-elected him every time.
As in life, in politics: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.