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The Final Days: Brampton


 

(From now through the end of the campaign next week, I’ll be with the Liberal tour. Regular reports should appear here irregularly.)

“Alors,” he said.

“Alors!” the crowd called back.

“Bonsoir tout le monde,” he continued.

“Bonsoir tout le monde!” they cheered.

Jean Chretien had only just begun. 

A few caveats. The former prime minister’s popularity is generally over-stated. In 1993, he won his first mandate with 41.2% of the vote. Four years later, 38.5%. Three years after that, 40.9%. For sure, the current prime minister would be thrilled to see such support on Tuesday night, but these are not the numbers of a popular phenomenon. Hindsight may flatter his political skills, but Chretienmania this was not.

That said, in Mr. Chretien’s case, all objective analysis cannot refute what is obvious and apparent.

He walked into a packed high school gymnasium looking every bit his 74 years, but seeming not to have aged a day since leaving office. The crowd chanted his name and once on stage he picked so effortlessly where he left off.

Word-for-word his English might be worse than Mr. Dion’s. But Chretien’s charms have always been in the delivery. That growl. That shrug. The wagging finger. The pointing to imaginary references and symbolic directions. His language always plain and implicitly self-deprecating.

“The choice is clear,” he said. “The choice is Dion or Harper.”

“Dion! Dion! Dion!” the crowd chanted on cue.

It is astonishing to hear an audience laugh with Mr. Chretien. Often the chuckles start before the punchline is delivered, his lines so obviously telegraphed. And the resulting laughter of the sort you’d expect between friends, somehow familiar, weirdly inclusive. Everyone’s in on it, even if it’s obviously at someone else’s expense.

“He said buy,” Chretien remarked of Mr. Harper’s investment advice. “On Tuesday, Canadians will say bye bye Stephen.”

It was infantile. But it was vaguely brilliant.

He enunciated the Conservative government’s failings on half a dozen fronts and appealed directly to half a dozen target demographics. He blessed and elevated Mr. Dion—”our leader”—in a way he perhaps never spoke of the man who led the party in the interim between them.

He glared around the room and smacked the podium. And when he introduced his successor, his eyes exploded. 

He lingered on stage then as Mr. Dion made his way down the kilometre-long receiving line his staff had set up. Then Luke greeted Yoda and the mentor took his place behind the unlikely protege. While Dion made his last grand plea—and not without a bit of success himself—some near the stage pestered Chretien for autographs.


 

The Final Days: Brampton

  1. Then Luke greeted Yoda and the mentor took his place behind the unlikely protege.

    No wonder you liberals are despised west of the Lake of the Woods.

  2. “Then Luke greeted Yoda and the mentor took his place behind the unlikely protege….”

    at that moment, the clouds parted making way for a beacon of hope personified as Stephane Dion in the cold, dark storm that is Stephen Harper.

    Guess we can put you down as an undecided voter Wherry?

  3. I see C3PO and R2D2 have shown up already.

  4. The one thing that I’m sure Conservatives wished they had is a likeable ex-PM they could roll out like this.Brian Mulroney was kicked out of the Conservative sandbox a few months ago, Kim Campbell was a disaster, and Joe Clark hates SH and won’t play in the Conservative sandbox anymore.One of the disadvantages of being out of power for most of the last century I suppose.

    However,I’m not sure how well having Chretian speak like this plays with the general public.If you dislike him your just reminded how much you dislike him and vote Conservative/NDP.Vice versa if you like him except you can’t vote for him.

    I must say that watching him tonight I can see that age is certainly catching up to the RH Mr.Chretian.Good on him for stepping up for the team, for whatever it might be worth in the end.

  5. “He lingered on stage then as Mr. Dion made his way down the kilometre-long receiving line his staff had set up. Then Luke greeted Yoda and the mentor took his place behind the unlikely protege. While Dion made his last grand plea—and not without a bit of success himself—some near the stage pestered Chretien for autographs.”

    Wherry, didn’t your mother ever tell you to stop that or you’ll go blind?

  6. I saw Chretien’s little speech on Television.

    I gotta say that nothing lowers a former Prime Minister more than entering the political fray.
    He spent most of his speech on cheap partisan attacks, instead of building up Dion, who he was introducing.

    Listening to him talk I thought to myself, when was the last time this guy was elected? 15 years ago. That’s a long time. No surprise then that this wasn’t exactly a barn burner of a speech.

  7. He was describing the situation, you hacks! Describing the environment inside the Liberal organization, at a Liberal event, doesn’t make you a Liberal supporter, it makes you a goddamn journalist that writes a great story.

    Not that he needs my help to defend him, but if you don’t like the writing style, you can read something else. The internet is really, really big.

  8. (Further notes: it simultaneously describes the sort of aura that Chretien has and shows the whole business as being kind of ridiculous, which it is. Seriously, people, if you can’t read something about Luke and Yoda without going OH GOD YOU LIBERAL, move to the United States. That plays a lot better down there.)

  9. Re the Star Wars reference– What is it about being a raging Conservative that makes one incapable of getting satire–
    Are you seriously that thick people? I don’t care which direction from the Lake of the Woods this takes– part of the reason people don’t like you is that your have no sense of humor and are thick as two-by-fours, with the compassion and intelligence of same.

  10. Cam,

    You really suggesting Wherry is attacking the Liberals here? That is the limb you just crawled on.

  11. Don’t you just shudder when a CPC partisan uses words like “despise”?

    Harper has created a hatred and division in Canada like I’ve never seen before.

    Sad and so immature.

  12. I’m assuming Andrew Potter has done the right thing by now and personally apologized to Mr. Duffy for calling him a fatso.

    It would be even more gracious if he did it publicly.

  13. Chretien is great a retail politics. He’s great at firing the die hards up so this tells me that Libs are either losing in ridings that should be safe or there is an enthusiasm for Dion problem. I am willing to bet it’s the second answer, that people aren’t enthused about Dion and probably won’t be bothered to vote for him.

    I recently saw the West Wing episode where Dems win riding in Cali with dead guy and Sam has promised widow to run. It all came down to weather and how it suppressed voter turnout.

    I wonder if Libs have same fears about weather on election day: if it’s mostly sunny across Canada their supporters will be happy and make effort to vote, if it’s cold, raining and windy or somesuch they won’t be bothered.

    I have the sense that supporters of NDP and Con are all fired up but not sure about Greens. Many will be disheartened with May’s flirting with Libs and the two Que candidates who dropped out to throw their support behind Libs.

  14. Jarrid, Duffy is fat. It’s calling a spade a spade. Duffy also deserves the criticism, because he is a hack who has apparently forgot what balanced journalism is. That assessment has little to do with the Dion incident. I am usually reviled when I see him on television.

  15. jwl, Chretien has been campaigning where he could. His wife has been convalescing recently, which explains why he hasn’t been campaigning more.

    Chretien isn’t just now being ‘trotted out’.

    If you’re worried about organizers, I wouldn’t be. They tasted blood earlier when they saw how much Harper has lost in terms of support.

  16. @Jarrid “Listening to him talk I thought to myself, when was the last time this guy was elected? 15 years ago. ”

    I think you’ll find 2000 was a mere eight years ago…

  17. so I guess I will add “bad at math” (jarrid) and “just not getting it” (Peter) to my considerations.

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