September 28, 2000
To the ballot box born - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER -- They say, talent, popularity and intellect are necessary in the game of politics. Truth be told, it’s really timing and luck that are most obligatory.
The topic of today’s diatribe is the possibility of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien calling a fall election. He hasn’t ruled it out and I firmly believe it is in his best interest, politically, to go this fall, rather than next spring.
I have no doubt that Mr. Chrétien is roaring to fight for his third mandate as PM. Although he isn’t as young as Opposition leader Stockwell Day, he could still be Prime Minister, following an election call. He’d love to go in the fall, not only to prove his manhood as a virile politician against Ski-Doo Day, but also to stifle the leadership desires of one Paul Martin.
Mr. Chrétien is displaying the symptoms of a career politician at the cross-roads. (Even Trudeau didn’t give a damn about the job, and only lasted 16 years because he had nothing else to do.)
Chrétien has worked his entire life, sliding up throughout the ranks of the Liberal party to the point where he is now. He started off as a junior MP in the Pearson government, then proceeded to the cabinet table under Trudeau. When politics proved a little hard to graspe, or perhaps boring, he went over to the private sector and made some dough. When John Turner, Trudeau’s replacement, proved ineffective as political opposition to Mulroney, Chrétien advanced to take Paul Martin (and Sheila Copps) on, for the leadership of the Liberals. In the opposition he himself took Mulroney on, albeit rather lowly and when the Tories self-destructed, timing ever the virtuous mistress, granted Chrétien the chance for government. That was in 1993. In 1997, he called another election again and was given the “blank check” of government. Now 3 years into his second mandate, he is foreseeing a third. That’d take him up to Laurier levels of incumbency. His hero.
Chrétien has served this country well. He’s been in Ottawa for almost 35 years, and the fatigue of civil service is wearing on him. He’s lacked a fresh idea since that campaign in 1993 and that’s a poor shame. Somehow, I wish he’d just get himself a Companion to the Order of Canada and shuffle off into retirement.
The rumour of yesterday morning was that, buoyed by the latest Angus Reid poll out of Ontario - pegging him at 61% to the Alliance’s 30ish - he’ll call a snap election for this November. If it pans out to be true, then it’ll make my hobby, a hell of a lot more interesting. For the Alliance, NDP and Tories, it will be dangerous, because they could get left behind the hoopla of an election call and have sloppy campaigns. That’s not to say the same could occur for the Liberals.
The PM’s inner-circle of party hacks are begging him to call in the spring so the Liberals can present a blithering budget of brilliant proportion to take to the people. The Honourable Member for Saint-Maurice, wants to choke Stock Day’s Alliance and get them while their still unstable in Ottawa’s den of iniquity. For the Alliance’s sake, it’d be good for them to get a Spring election. By then, Chrétien will find himself in another bind and the Alliance train can steam to minority government.
If the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien would like a third mandate - a majority one, no less, to ensure his place in history - then he might as well call an election now. Stockwell Day hasn’t been in federal politics long enough to play the game of the electorate. Stockwell Day will then have to step on it, royally fast, and get the Alliance’s “freedom train” into full gear and get ready to really fight for Canada. If he doesn’t, as it seems now, (some Quebec riding’s don’t even have constituency associations up and running yet,) then he’ll only be fighting for those west of Ontario. Chrétien will surface victorious and the Alliance will stew for another Parliament.
This Sunday is the earliest the PM could call an election. I doubt he will so soon, but keep your eyes and ears a listening, folks. As they say, timing is everything.
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