Cretien could be gone quite soon
Date: Sunday, September 29 2002
Topic: International News
Chretien could be gone quite soon
By TED BYFIELD -- Edmonton Sun
One seldom noted quality of our national press gallery is its delicacy. For the last two or three weeks, for instance, there has been a virtual coup d'etat - a seizure of power - going on at Ottawa and the media have been too polite to tell us.
Quite plainly, the outgoing prime minister, forced to announce his retirement because his caucus insisted he go, is attempting during his remaining 18 months in office to govern the country on his own - without the caucus and without the cabinet.
He has announced the ratification of a major treaty, vast spending programs including special benefits for working mothers, billions for urban development - all, apparently, without consulting his cabinet and without even the haziest idea where the money will come from. Meanwhile, his MPs complain ever more loudly that they don't know what's going on and the supposedly responsible ministers make it clear that they don't know either.
What we have, in other words, is a seizure of power by an incumbent prime minister who has been deprived of his mandate to govern. He is now running a one-man show, dictating a Throne Speech to be delivered Monday that has nothing more behind it than his own fevered determination to build a monument to himself. The press gallery, meanwhile, is too genteel to tell us this.
I suggested here last week that we're seeing symptoms of acute egomania. Having been driven from office, Chretien now plans to avenge this humiliation by encumbering his successor with a fiscally impossible program that will reach right through his successor's first term in office.
Suppose, therefore, just suppose, that the country is now being run by a madman. If so, what would be going on behind the scenes at Ottawa?
Obviously, there would be a great deal of scurrying about, a panic to cover up the problem. The insiders would be frantically asking: How can we prevent him from making any more speeches and announcing more plans? How can we keep his deteriorating condition from the public? How can we keep him off television? Most important of all: How can we prevent him from wrecking the country?
The only solution would be to get him out of there as quickly as possible, to cut back on the 18 months and to get a successor in fast. But this would mean somehow cancelling the leadership contest. In other words, if we see a movement to abandon the race and simply let the Liberal caucus name a new leader - all entirely legal - this would serve to confirm that the luminaries of the party have concluded that the PM is, well, sick.
If he were quietly sick there would be no problem. That is, if he gradually faded from the limelight, let his cabinet ministers do the talking, sat dazed and bewildered in the House like Louis St. Laurent did in his last year or so in office, that would be altogether manageable.
But Jean Chretien is no Louis St. Laurent. He does not retire quietly into a corner. No, he goes to Johannesburg and announces we're going to ratify the Kyoto treaty after all. He discloses his "five-year plan" without discussing with his finance minister how it will be paid for. In other words, he goes wild.
Then behold! Last week we begin reading that plans are afoot to crown Paul Martin the next leader without the necessity of a contest. He is now so far ahead of any possible rival contender that the outcome is a foregone conclusion, we're told. So perhaps the new leader could be chosen in advance by acclamation. "If it is a coronation, I'm not sure it would be a bad thing," says the president of the Liberal Party of Canada. "It would save a lot of stresses and strains."
You bet it would. Especially if the guy currently holding the office is running amok. Clearly, what we are seeing is exactly what we should expect to see if running amok is the problem.
In short, we're being given one clue after another that the government at Ottawa is in a state of emergency. But the reporters never seem to put all the clues together. All they deliver are the pieces of the puzzle, leaving it to us to make the picture. Surely that's their job.
Chretien's legacy? Let's forget him
PM is out to repair his reputation
By BOB MACDONALD -- Toronto Sun
Jean Chretien's Legacy Session of Parliament begins tomorrow.
That's right. Our Liberal prime minister, after three successive terms of majority power, is determined to go on a spending binge of taxpayers' money to build a "legacy." You know, so that grateful Canadians will remember him.
You might think he'd be satisfied with the unforgettable legacy he has created already: Our 60c dollar; the GST sales tax he promised voters he'd remove way back in 1993 but, once safely elected, promptly forgot; the increasing destruction of our armed forces and making our military use dangerously obsolete equipment; the Shawinigate scandals involving him pressuring a federal bank to make large suspect loans in his own riding; the repeated attempts to stall and even undermine the war led by the United States against the threat of our times -- international terrorism; and, more recently, a lightning-fast decision to buy himself not one, but two, new luxury executive jets for $101 million when his own experts said his present exec jets had years more of safe flying in them.
These are only a few of his accomplishments -- his legacy as Canada's proud Liberal boss. However, he's not content to rest on his laurels: He plans to boost spending on social programs and foreign aid, especially to African nations.
Meanwhile, our dynamic leader -- who plans to cling to power until February 2004 -- has been going all-out to make Canada a very unreliable ally in the war against terrorism. In fact, in a talk on the taxpayer-financed CBC and later to the United Nations, Chretien blamed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 innocent people on "the greed and arrogance" of Western nations, especially the U.S.
This is the same Chretien who bumbled around in a stupor after the Sept. 11 attacks and kept mumbling that there were no terrorist cells or terrorists in Canada. And yet his own CSIS intelligence agency had been reporting for several years that there were 50 known cells here -- including Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida -- and more than 350 terrorists.
Chretien dragged his feet in pledging full military support to the coalition forces then being organized by U.S. President George W. Bush and supported all-out by British PM Tony Blair and Australian PM John Howard.
Belatedly, Canadian troops got to Afghanistan, but had to hitch rides on American transport planes and helicopters. Canada has no big transport planes or ships. Choppers such as our 40-year-old Sea Kings are dangerously unreliable.
Why is that? Well, how about the fact Chretien's Grit regime has consistently under-funded and neglected the forces.
For instance, when Chretien came to power in 1993, one of his first acts was to cancel a contract awarded by the previous Tory government for new helicopters. To do so required him to hand over a cancellation penalty of $500 million of your tax dollars.
Almost a decade later, the helicopters are that much older -- and crews are being killed and injured in accidents.
As for Canada's fighting ability, our soldiers served well in Afghanistan, but Chretien pulled them back a few months ago and refused to replace them. With their lack of up-to-date equipment, the Americans and Brits are probably not that disappointed. Except they'd like to think Canada was on board as a reliable ally in the tough war against terrorism.
Bush and Blair would also like to think that Canada's leader would not be doing his damnedest to pull the rug on them when they're trying to organize support to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his terroristic regime.
For instance, Canada should be strongly supporting Bush's latest effort to have the UN set a seven-day deadline for Saddam to declare all his weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear -- and allow them to be destroyed. And if he refuses, the Chretien government should back the UN in supporting his removal by force.
But don't hold your breath.
Meanwhile, in the tradition of this Liberal gang, the news leaked out that Canadian sailors refused this past week to sail in one of the leaky, second-hand submarines Canada bought from Britain. Migawd, Captain Chretien, it's mutiny!
But what the hell. Da Boss until 2004, Chretien will have his nice new luxury jets to get him away from it all when the criticisms get too loud -- or long.