Volume 94, Issue 74

Friday, February 2, 2001


Letters to the Editor

Stars are aligned for Chretien to start constitutional talks

Stars are aligned for Chretien to start constitutional talks

By Sean Maraj
Managing Editor

He's either a genius with and indepth knowledge of Machiavellian philosophy, a very lucky man, or someone who practices voodoo.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien, despite his lack of speaking ability has managed to eliminate all his rivals. A few years ago, he convinced Jean Charest to go into Quebec provincial politics, removing perhaps his greatest adversary. He outlasted Bouchard, and last November was his master stroke. Not only did he eliminate any doubt of his abilities by winning a substantial majority. But he devastated the fledgling Alliance by calling an early election, at the same time destroying any chance Paul Martin, his rival for Liberal leadership, will ever become the leader of the country in the near future.

Chretien has one problem, though; despite all his accomplishments in the past decade, he still stands in the shadow of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

The current prime minister is a man in search of a legacy. He has spent his first two terms as leader of this country, doing a competent job at best. He has done whatever was necessary to keep the country running and used his highly underrated political skills to keep himself out of trouble.

Now entering his third and – more than likely final term – Chretien is looking to ensure he doesn't become a mediocre footnote in Canadian history.

Chretien stands to leave office remembered as the man who lied about the GST. The man who cost Canadians astronomical sums of money on helicopters, twice, and as the man who almost lost Canada in the 1995 Quebec referendum.

Right now, Chretien would leave the office no better than he found it, and still be standing somewhere in a cold space behind his former mentor Trudeau. So now, with this new millennium and new year, and a revised constitution, Chretien may have a chance to finally carve out his own distinct place in the nation's political tapestry.

Maybe if you look up into the cold Canadian winter sky on a clear night you might see the stars of the universe aligning. Well, maybe not – unless you're Jean Chretien.

Looking at the Canadian political landscape it seems that the time is right – the stars have come together for Chretien to revive the age-old enigma that is the Canadian constitution. Success means forever being immortalized. Failure puts you in the same house as people like Brian Mulroney.

No Canadian politician has dared touch the Consitution since Mulroney's attempt in 1992 with the Charlottetown Accord. In recent years, playing with the constitution has become a form of political suicide. But now, Chretien may have the perfect opportunity to roll the dice and come out on top. The time has never been more perfect and more critical than now to open up the constitutional debate. All he needs to do is the one thing he has never shown in the past eight years: provide a vision.

Right about now the economy, while slowing down, is at least still relatively healthy. The Quebec separatist movement is on the ropes, people in Quebec it seems, aren't as interested in separatism as they were five years ago. Jean Charest and his Liberals seem to have the best chance in years of bringing down the opposition. Discontent in the West is beginning to rise, now is the perfect time to stop it before it becomes much worse. If left on the back burner, in 10 years we may be facing a Western separatist movement. Right about now Jean Chretien has a majority that puts him in the driver seat in the direction the government takes.

All the factors seem to be in place for the PM to push for a new constitutional package. One that could have the political potential of getting past the starting gates. But perhaps the biggest thing would be that Chretien would create his legacy by doing the one thing no Canadian politician has been able to do in over 20 years – step out of Trudeau's shadow.

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