Volume 94, Issue 53
Friday, December 1, 2000
Liberal victory means more than just a win
After all the critics and pundits had their say, it was Jean Chrétien who had the last word.
While the 1993 and 1997 elections campaigns were as difficult as any, election 2000 was something completely different for Chrétien. Even before the election call, his leadership was in question Finance Minister Paul Martin was nipping at his heels.
Then came a series of potential setbacks. An auditor-general's report which heavily criticized the last four years of the Liberal government, accusations of wasted tax dollars and crumbling health care from opposition leaders and then, in the week leading up to election day, an investigation by the ethics commissioner, launched by the accusations of Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day.
But Monday night as supporters chanted his name, Chrétien basked in the glow of an overwhelming majority.
First there was Eastern Canada the Liberals claiming 19 seats and gaining an important jump on the Alliance. The second piece of the puzzle was Quebec, a province predominantly ruled by the separatist Bloc Quebecois. The Bloc had always been Chrétien's Achilles heel, challenging and frequently embarrassing the prime minister throughout the struggle for Chrétien's home province.
But in the middle of Francophone Quebec, Chrétien stuck a large nail in the coffin of separatism, gaining 37 seats in 'la belle province' and establishing a surprising tie with the Bloc. This wasn't just a victory for the Liberals, it was a personal victory for Chrétien. A victory over Lucien Bouchard and Jacques Parizeau, two of Chrétien's most bitter enemies.
Finally, the last pieces came together a resounding victory in Ontario and moderate support in Western Canada. With the surprising results of the East carrying them, the Liberals were able to coast through Central and Western Canada to achieve an even larger majority than 1997.
The victory was clear, decisive and nearly perfect. In the face of deafening criticism from all sides, the little guy from Shawinigan somehow did better than the last time around. In the process making the talk of a minority government seem foolish, in hindsight.
But now Chrétien and the Liberal party must look to a more secure, realistic future. He has achieved the three consecutive majorities and secured his place in the history books. But before his place in those texts is tarnished, before he pushes his luck and popularity too far, he must step aside.
Just as he won on his own terms, he must now leave on his own terms or risk being unceremoniously dumped by the country, if not by his own party.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000