The prime minister in portrait -

The prime minister in portrait


A picture of Jean Chretien’s official portrait is here.

Below are the remarks delivered by Stephen Harper on the occasion this afternoon.

Merci, Mme Vachon.  Mr. Speaker Kinsella, Mr. Speaker Milliken, M. Chrétien, Mme Chrétien, chers collègues du Parlement actuels et anciens, Mr. Ignatieff, M. Duceppe, Mr. Layton, distingués invités, mesdames et messieurs.  Well, here we are.  I should tell you at the beginning that according to several of my predecessors as leader of the Conservatives, the hanging of Jean Chrétien is long overdue. (Laughter and applause.)

Seriously, we are gathered here today to recognize Mr. Chrétien in what has become the traditional Canadian manner for our former Prime Ministers.  By hanging his portrait, we, political opponents and allies alike, honour his long and successful service to Canada and do so here within the walls of the building where he laboured for so many years and to such enduring effect.  For Mr. Chrétien was and must always be remembered as a great parliamentarian.  He enjoyed the craft of politics and he was undoubtedly one of its masters. And he loved life on the Hill.  Not everybody does.  Many have regarded it as a penance, even a kind of punishment.

Ottawa, certains disent que c’est froid, que c’est loin et, en plus, de temps en temps les gens disent des choses méchantes sur vous dans les journaux. Mais malgré cela, nous venons quand même dans la capitale nationale.

Some see it as a duty.  Others see it as a mission.  We all see it as a chance, as did Mr. Chrétien, to serve our fellow citizens, an opportunity to keep building this magnificent country handed down to us by providence, developed by our forebears and held in trust for our descendants.

Mais parmi ceux qui viennent à Ottawa il y en a qui voient le temps passer sinon seulement comme un devoir mais aussi comme un plaisir, non seulement comme une mission mais aussi comme une aventure.  Le très honorable Jean Chrétien s’est distingué de nombreuses façons.  Je veux souligner aujourd’hui de son amour pour Ottawa pour ce travail et pour ce pays fait de lui un être vraiment à part.

We are all very familiar with Jean Chrétien’s curriculum vitae. It is woven through four decades of Canadian history and for one of those decades, after having served already in almost every major government portfolio, Jean Chrétien was at the centre of it all.

Certains disent souvent que notre but en politiques est de nous faire élire.  Selon eux, c’est de cette façon que l’on mesure notre succès.  Et bien rares sont ceux qui ont eu autant de succès que Jean Chrétien.

Nearly four decades in the House of Commons as Leader, he won three back-to-back majority government.  In this he is tied with Mackenzie King, bettered only by Sir Wilfred Laurier and Sir John A. Macdonald.  Res ipsa loquitur, as lawyers such as Mr. Chrétien tell each other in court, the thing speaks for itself.  He knew instinctively what it took to win.  It didn’t hurt that his opponents were fighting among themselves – (laughter) — nor that in governing he may have occasionally appropriated their best ideas as his own. (Laughter.)

Ses critiques, comme ses admirateurs, disaient qu’il était un tacticien hors paire et un féroce partisan.  Et je m’en suis rendu compte.  Il était aussi reconnu pour son engagement vers plusieurs principes mais surtout envers nos deux langues nationales.

Jean Chrétien’s eloquence in our two national languages was without pretension but he always got his message through to Canadians.  On this, I believe, ladies and gentlemen, no further proof is required.  After all, and I quote, “A proof is a proof.”  (Laughter.)  “What kind of a proof?  It’s a proof.  A proof is a proof and when you have a good proof it’s because it’s proven.”  (Laughter and applause.)  It’s very hard to argue with that. (Laughter.)  On many occasions, we, leaders of the opposition, simply gave up trying.  (Laughter.)

Mais pour mesurer le succès d’un politicien une des preuves les plus importants c’est son élection par ses citoyens car quand les Canadiens et les Canadiennes votent, ils portent un jugement.

The factors affecting that judgment vary from leader to leader.  But, ultimately, Canadians look for a leader who is on their side, even better, someone who they see as one of them.  In the case of Jean Chrétien, making that judgment was simple.

Il voit en lui un homme simple, un homme naturel, parfois un batailleur mais avec un grand coeur, un homme qui ressemble à notre pays.  M. Nicholson a utilisé le pouvoir de son art pour peindre Jean Chrétien.  Les Canadiens, eux, ont utilisé leur bon sens pour mesurer l’homme et il a passé le test.

Of course they were not uncritical.  Some said that Mr. Chrétien was marked by, shall we say, his agility in adapting his policies to circumstances.  Some would say he was remarkable for, how to put it, his firmness in managing dissent.  I can’t say; I wouldn’t know. (Laughter.)  But I can say and I do know everyone would agree that Jean Chrétien was a strong leader, unafraid to set priorities, prepared to make a decision and steadfast at seeing it through.

En remplissant le plus grand devoir de tout leader canadien, il a mené une carrière marquée par le courage et la cohérence.  Fier Québécois, le petit gars de Shawinigan a toujours été un fédéraliste par conviction et sans excuse.  Il a toujours été un ardent défenseur d’un Canada uni.  Au cours des décennies où il était un personnage important de la politique canadienne, il n’a jamais hésité sur cette question fondamentale.

“I’ve been fighting for Canada all my life,” he said in 2001 “and I’m just getting started.”  For his passion and dedication, Jean Chrétien deserves our admiration and our thanks.  And he deserves to look back on his record of service to our country with pride and satisfaction.

La tradition que nous observons aujourd’hui a commencé en 1890 lorsque le portrait de Macdonald a été dévoilé et cette tradition se poursuit aujourd’hui.  C’est un moment heureux non seulement pour le sujet du portrait, sa famille, ses amis et ses anciens collègues, c’est aussi un moment heureux pour tous ceux et celles d’entre nous qui sommes élus pour servir ce grand et merveilleux pays.

And thus today we unveil not only the portrait of a Prime Minister but also the character of our democratic life.  Partisan differences are a healthy and necessary part of our political culture and process but on an occasion such as this, we remember that they are transcended by a deep enduring consensus, a shared understanding that our freedom rests also on the limitations imposed on those partisan differences by our constitutional traditions and the rule of law.  The keys to office pass peacefully in our country.  Canada is one of the world’s oldest, most stable democracies.  We are heirs to a tradition of rights and freedoms under the crown reaching back almost 800 years which we have successfully adapted to our own circumstances.

Nous avons beaucoup de chance.  Nous devons remercier ceux qui ont créé cette tradition et l’ont transmise fidèlement, souvent avec un immense sacrifice d’une génération à l’autre.  Tout Canadien ou Canadienne qui souhaite être Premier ministre devrait trouver cela à la fois inspirant et impressionnant.  Tout Canadien ou Canadienne qui a rempli ces fonctions devrait se juger en fonction de cet héritage rare et précieux.

The series of portraits begun in 1890 gives us a glimpse at the character of Canada’s Prime Ministers.  It hints at how each of them both reflected and shaped the Canada they knew.  This latest addition to the series is a worthy addition indeed.  It is a tribute to the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien.  It is also a tribute to the country he loves so deeply, to a Canada united, strong and free.