Cultural Revolutions

A Political Career

Jean Chrétien, the prime minister of Canada, is perhaps the best embodiment of Coolidge’s statement that, when it comes to success, persistence is better than talent, intelligence, connections, or money.

Chrétien was literally the man who wouldn’t leave.  Since beginning his political career in 1964 as a Liberal MP from Quebec, he has been around Ottawa continuously, whether in the House of Commons or as a cabinet minister in the Pearson, Trudeau, and Turner governments.  His ubiquity makes me wonder whether Canadian voters picked him and the Liberals to lead their country back in 1993 because they generally supported the Liberals or because they felt sorry for Chrétien, since he had been around for so long but never got to live on Sussex Drive.

At the end of summer, however, Canadians finally had enough.  Actually, most Canadians had had enough of Chrétien before then, but it took the Grits a while to realize that the numerous scandals, gaffes, and the general cynicism of his government had lowered the prime minister’s poll numbers into dangerous territory.  Finance Minister Paul Martin had spent the past few years undermining Chrétien’s control of the Liberal Party to such an extent that, by the time he met with his fellow party members in a caucus at Saugernay, the numbers were telling.  Chrétien could not win the leadership review...

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