Lord Chretien of Double-Crossharbour

Peter
Peter Jackson
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He doesn't get an honorific in front of his name, or get to wear sumptuous robes, but Jean Chretien has just been reduced to the same level of buffoonery as his nemesis, Conrad Lord Black of Crossharbour.

Last week, the former prime minister was named to the Order of Merit, an exclusive club of leading lights appointed by Queen Elizabeth II. As a member, Chretien joins the ranks of Albert Schweitzer, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. There can only be 24 living members at any one time.

He doesn't get an honorific in front of his name, or get to wear sumptuous robes, but Jean Chretien has just been reduced to the same level of buffoonery as his nemesis, Conrad Lord Black of Crossharbour.

Last week, the former prime minister was named to the Order of Merit, an exclusive club of leading lights appointed by Queen Elizabeth II. As a member, Chretien joins the ranks of Albert Schweitzer, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. There can only be 24 living members at any one time.

Reaction has been swift. Columnists across the country have taken the opportunity, once again, to measure the man's meritoriousness. And in most cases, Jean Chretien O.M. comes up sorely lacking.

It's hard to argue with the fact that Chretien led majority governments for 10 straight years. But it can be said his politically longevity had more to do with his agility in side-stepping scandals than in any great achievements as prime minister.

And there were certainly scandals.

There was the near-breakup of the country in 1995 - the referendum in Quebec that, despite voting irregularities, came perilously close. Chretien's response? The Clarity Act, a piece of federal legislation that supposedly limits the ability of a secessionist majority to secede.

There was the famous Shawinigate affair, which was never properly investigated. Chretien admitted to pressuring the head of the Business Development Bank to approve a loan to a golf course he once co-owned, and Chretien's alleged ties to the business - money still owed to Chretien by the new owner - were never firmly established or discredited.

There was the pepper-spraying of innocent protesters in B.C., the throttling of a lone protester in Ottawa, and the messy feud with his own finance minister.

For defenders, salvation of Chretien's legacy lies primarily in his early years, the years he spent as a senior minister under Pierre Trudeau. Indeed, sources say the Queen was especially charmed by then-justice minister Chretien during the patriation of the Constitution in 1982. She liked his feisty, "little guy" style.

But that era in Chretien's career is hardly any more attractive to many Canadians, particularly those in provinces affected by Trudeau's centralist energy policies.

Chretien quite flagrantly deceived the government of this province in the early '80s when, as federal energy minister, he reached a verbal agreement on offshore oil with his provincial counterpart, Bill Marshall.

After breaking bread at Marshall's house and publicly toasting the deal, Chretien returned to Ottawa and sent federal negotiators down to hammer out the details. The original agreement had evaporated. Marshall and then premier Brian Peckford were left to defend their refusal to sign on to the altered text. It was a dirty trick, one that rivals anything Stephen Harper has done in recent years.

As for patriating the Constitution, that was also rife with controversy. As Trudeau's justice minister and senior henchman, Chretien backed his prime minister's efforts to radically alter the structure of the country by diluting provincial powers. At one point, even some British politicians were questioning whether they should rubber-stamp Trudeau's unilateral efforts. In the end, the final agreement famously excluded Quebec's signature.

Chretien earned few merit points in Canada, but perhaps the Queen can be forgiven for having a soft spot for him. After all, unlike his boss at the time, Chretien at least resisted the urge to dance a pirouette behind her back.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's editorial page editor. He can be contacted by e-mail at pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Business Development Bank, The Telegram

Geographic location: Quebec, Ottawa, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Richard
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    yes, Black renounced his citizenship, but guess who forced him to?
    The most corrupt, shallowest man ever to be our PM.

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Chretien will eventually be known for what he was. The most corrupt Prime Minister this country ever had. The award is now a joke.

  • Tammy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Not the same, not a valid comparison. Not fair. One is a private award. The other, Black renounced his citizenship for his ermine. And look how far it got him.

  • sf
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Love the title.

  • Peter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Don't forget the decision to overrule the Provincial energy Minister and resume winter drilling so soon after the Ocean Ranger Disaster.

    Ironically the appointment probably won't help the liberal party in Quebec. Too popular with the anglos??

  • Justin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    2nd Thoughs from NL writes: How was the 1995 referendum a Scandal?

    Quebec election laws were broken.

    Much of the money for tansportation to Quebec CIty etc. was billed through Jean LaFleur through Hertitage Canada as Canadian flags for Sheila.

  • 2nd
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    How was the 1995 referendum a Scandal?

  • Justin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    For me, the lowest of the lows was the RCMP --led at the time by Chretien appointee, Zaccardelli, who is now ensconced at Interpol (if you can believe it) after being given a not-so 'Musical Ride' out of town-- search of Francois Beaudoin's house. Beaudoin was the president of the Business Development Bank (BDB) who opposed the hotel loan Chretien had lobbied for, then lost his job because of it, then sued the BDB and was eventually vindicated by the courts. The search certainly looked like it was politically motivated. Did the PM call on the police to go fetch incriminating evidence? That's what Joe Clark was wondering in the House in 2001. That's what it looked like.

    There were many other lows.

    One that particularly continues to stick in my craw was when the Chief Justice (Chretien's appointee) lent her imprimatur to his Order of Canada. The OC was given while Chretien was still in the courts fighting the findings of Gomery Report that found him somewhat responsible for AdScam, and while numerous other civil and criminal investigations were (and still are) ongoing.

    If you sleep with dogs, you end up with fleas. AdScam was a criminal conspiracy that operated in the vicinity of Chretien's PMO. Eric LaFleur, son of Jean LaFleur, (father and son both convicted of fraud) worked in Chretien's PMO. Jacques Corriveau--the star witness in the Luc LeMay case that is currently under a private versus public publication ban in Quebec-- was Chretien's sleepover guest at 24 Sussex. Did the Chief Justice's blessing of Chretien influence the Quebec judge's decision to place the publication ban on the LeMay case? Was the year-long publication ban devised to give the Liberal Party a chance to get its act together--to cancel its convention, anoint Ignatieff and to take out the government-- so it could control the settlement of the LeMay case and keep Jacques Corriveau off the stand?

    The appearance of justice has been thrown right out the window. The Chief Justice may as well have said to every cop, crown and judge in the country: Ignore anything you see and hear about Jean Chretien. I can vouch for him.

    The Queen can be forgiven, the Chief Justice cannot.

    Why does a former PM continues to shun golf for politics?

    In my opinion, Chretiens legacy brigade is lobbying anyone and everyone in an attempt to rewrite his story.

  • Justin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    For me, the lowest of the lows was the RCMP --led at the time by Chretien appointee, Zaccardelli, who is now ensconced at Interpol (if you can believe it) after being given a not-so 'Musical Ride' out of town-- search of Francois Beaudoin's house. Beaudoin was the president of the Business Development Bank (BDB) who opposed the hotel loan Chretien had lobbied for, then lost his job because of it, then sued the BDB and was eventually vindicated by the courts. The search certainly looked like it was politically motivated. Did the PM call on the police to go fetch incriminating evidence? That's what Joe Clark was wondering in the House in 2001. That's what it looked like.

    There were many other lows.

    One that particularly continues to stick in my craw was when the Chief Justice (Chretien's appointee) lent her imprimatur to his Order of Canada. The OC was given while Chretien was still in the courts fighting the findings of Gomery Report that found him somewhat responsible for AdScam, and while numerous other civil and criminal investigations were (and still are) ongoing.

  • Richard
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    yes, Black renounced his citizenship, but guess who forced him to?
    The most corrupt, shallowest man ever to be our PM.

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Chretien will eventually be known for what he was. The most corrupt Prime Minister this country ever had. The award is now a joke.

  • Tammy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Not the same, not a valid comparison. Not fair. One is a private award. The other, Black renounced his citizenship for his ermine. And look how far it got him.

  • sf
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    Love the title.

  • Peter
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Don't forget the decision to overrule the Provincial energy Minister and resume winter drilling so soon after the Ocean Ranger Disaster.

    Ironically the appointment probably won't help the liberal party in Quebec. Too popular with the anglos??

  • Justin
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    2nd Thoughs from NL writes: How was the 1995 referendum a Scandal?

    Quebec election laws were broken.

    Much of the money for tansportation to Quebec CIty etc. was billed through Jean LaFleur through Hertitage Canada as Canadian flags for Sheila.

  • 2nd
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    How was the 1995 referendum a Scandal?

  • Justin
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    For me, the lowest of the lows was the RCMP --led at the time by Chretien appointee, Zaccardelli, who is now ensconced at Interpol (if you can believe it) after being given a not-so 'Musical Ride' out of town-- search of Francois Beaudoin's house. Beaudoin was the president of the Business Development Bank (BDB) who opposed the hotel loan Chretien had lobbied for, then lost his job because of it, then sued the BDB and was eventually vindicated by the courts. The search certainly looked like it was politically motivated. Did the PM call on the police to go fetch incriminating evidence? That's what Joe Clark was wondering in the House in 2001. That's what it looked like.

    There were many other lows.

    One that particularly continues to stick in my craw was when the Chief Justice (Chretien's appointee) lent her imprimatur to his Order of Canada. The OC was given while Chretien was still in the courts fighting the findings of Gomery Report that found him somewhat responsible for AdScam, and while numerous other civil and criminal investigations were (and still are) ongoing.

    If you sleep with dogs, you end up with fleas. AdScam was a criminal conspiracy that operated in the vicinity of Chretien's PMO. Eric LaFleur, son of Jean LaFleur, (father and son both convicted of fraud) worked in Chretien's PMO. Jacques Corriveau--the star witness in the Luc LeMay case that is currently under a private versus public publication ban in Quebec-- was Chretien's sleepover guest at 24 Sussex. Did the Chief Justice's blessing of Chretien influence the Quebec judge's decision to place the publication ban on the LeMay case? Was the year-long publication ban devised to give the Liberal Party a chance to get its act together--to cancel its convention, anoint Ignatieff and to take out the government-- so it could control the settlement of the LeMay case and keep Jacques Corriveau off the stand?

    The appearance of justice has been thrown right out the window. The Chief Justice may as well have said to every cop, crown and judge in the country: Ignore anything you see and hear about Jean Chretien. I can vouch for him.

    The Queen can be forgiven, the Chief Justice cannot.

    Why does a former PM continues to shun golf for politics?

    In my opinion, Chretiens legacy brigade is lobbying anyone and everyone in an attempt to rewrite his story.

  • Justin
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    For me, the lowest of the lows was the RCMP --led at the time by Chretien appointee, Zaccardelli, who is now ensconced at Interpol (if you can believe it) after being given a not-so 'Musical Ride' out of town-- search of Francois Beaudoin's house. Beaudoin was the president of the Business Development Bank (BDB) who opposed the hotel loan Chretien had lobbied for, then lost his job because of it, then sued the BDB and was eventually vindicated by the courts. The search certainly looked like it was politically motivated. Did the PM call on the police to go fetch incriminating evidence? That's what Joe Clark was wondering in the House in 2001. That's what it looked like.

    There were many other lows.

    One that particularly continues to stick in my craw was when the Chief Justice (Chretien's appointee) lent her imprimatur to his Order of Canada. The OC was given while Chretien was still in the courts fighting the findings of Gomery Report that found him somewhat responsible for AdScam, and while numerous other civil and criminal investigations were (and still are) ongoing.