Islanders reflect centrist 'Liberal' values, says Chretien

Mitch MacDonald
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Former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien relaxes in his suite at the Delta Prince Edward before giving a speech at the P.E.I. Liberal Association’s annual fall dinner. Chretien chatted candidly with The Guardian about previous visits to P.E.I., his perspective on Island politics and premier Robert Ghiz. Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald

Looking through P.E.I.’s gallery of premiers, former prime minister Jean Chretien can spot 10 familiar faces he knew during his four decades in public office.

Chretien shared a number of nostalgic stories about working with these individuals during his appearance Saturday as guest speaker at the P.E.I. Liberal Association's 34th annual fall dinner at the Delta Prince Edward.

While the former Liberal prime minister doesn’t do many speaking engagements anymore, Chretien said coming back to P.E.I. was for a special reason, as Premier Robert Ghiz had previously worked in his PMO's office before winning the provincial party's leadership.

As Canada’s newly-appointed representative to the Diamond Jubilee Trust, Chretien’s duty is to raise money for charities in the Queen’s honour.

The first cheque he received was from Ghiz, who also offered help with Chretien with his new duties.

“When I asked he said ‘I’m helping you, so you help me’,” said Chretien during an interview with The Guardian. “For me, I always loved to come to P.E.I. anyway, so coming back, for whatever reason, is important for me.”

Chretien also offered his perspective on Ghiz’s performance in the premier’s office, saying he has been “very impressed” and described him as “a joyful guy, relaxed and close to the people.”

Chretien also praised the provincial nominee program.

“Relatively speaking, the population of P.E.I. is growing faster than any other province because of the immigration policies and a lot of investment coming here from this program. It seems very well-managed so I’m very pleased with that,” said Chretien. “Because I’ve been associated to these programs when they were created. I left (office) almost nine years ago, so it’s good to see how it’s been used here.”

Before his resignation in 2003, Chretien made a number of decisions that affected P.E.I. He helped start the original economic expansion programs in the 1960s, which grew the entire Atlantic Canadian economy.

He was also Prime Minister when the controversial decision was made to build the Confederation Bridge, a risky move that paid off.

However, Chretien’s first introduction to P.E.I. came when he was only 20-years-old and had a brother attending St. Dunstan’s University for the final year of an arts program from Universite Laval.

At the time, many francophones came to St. Dunstan’s to finish their BA while learning English at the same time.

“That summer I came to visit here and I went to Cavendish and so on,” said Chretien. “That was my first introduction to you people.”

While Chretien thought about attending St. Dunstan’s, he ultimately didn’t. However, he found himself visiting P.E.I. often during his political career, which he said he always enjoyed.

It seems Chretien’s feelings for P.E.I. were mutual. While in the PM's office, Chretien had a perfect record on P.E.I., as the federal Liberals won all four Island seats during his three elections in 1993, 1997 and 2000.

P.E.I. is still a Liberal stronghold, with the party holding the provincial government and boasts three of four MPs on Ottawa.

Chretien offered his own explanation of this in one of his trademark quips, saying that Islanders are “people of good judgement.”

“Liberalism is a centrist party. We’re not of the hard right and we’re not of the hard left. We try to be moderate in everything and P.E.I. is a quiet Island and a good quality of life,” he said. “It’s not a place where you have very rich people, it’s not a place where you have very poor people. It’s a welcoming population and so it reflects the values we Liberals tend to propose.”

Organizations: P.E.I. Liberal Association, Delta Prince Edward, Diamond Jubilee Trust Universite Laval

Geographic location: P.E.I., Canada, Iceland Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • RA M
    February 17, 2013 - 15:39

    It was Mulroney's government, not Chretien, that made the decision to build the bridge. It was only completed during Chretien's term. You as a PEI newspaper especially should have known that. Get your head out of the clam bucket and do your homework people!

  • tyler
    November 12, 2012 - 12:09

    Chretien is spewing the same patronizing crab he always has, - insulting our intelligence, - e.g. ghiz and the situation the island is in, -

  • my perspective
    November 12, 2012 - 10:48

    Chretien probably knows Ghiz & co are becoming more unpopular by the day here - that's why he said the opposite in the hope that some poor saps might just believe that. We should discredit Ghiz before he goes - he doesn't deserve a nice little sinecure in Ottawa. Please come and join the Rally for Responsible Government at Province House today 2-4pm.

  • karma
    November 12, 2012 - 09:48

    PNP a good program? Thus spakes the man who presided over the Liberal's Sponsorship Scandal, the biggest pig trough the Liberal Party has ever managed to create for itself. PNP on the Island is a close second.

  • Tim
    November 12, 2012 - 09:47

    Chretien needs to go back to Quebec. This coming from a guy that was the leader of the government during the sponsorship scandal What do Ghiz and Chretien have in common.. total disregard for the citizen and taxpayer and a corrupt usage of a government program during their term. No Jean, you are not respected here, and no our brand of Liberal ideals do not fit yours. Your liberal ideals hung Paul Martin out to dry. We Islanders are not that way.

  • Sylvia
    November 12, 2012 - 07:59

    Chretien describes Ghiz as a "joyful guy, relaxed and close to the people". I never read such b.s. in my life. To write that P.E.I. boasts 3 liberal M.P.s in Ottawa, I wouldn't describe it that way. I don't think boast is the correct word. I think it should be that some Islanders are embarrassed to have 3 liberal M.P.s out of 4 in Ottawa. What the heck is going on, with Chretien & Trudeau coming to P.E.I. Is this all about boosting Ghiz's popularity? It's nothing more than a big joke but I'm not laughing. Maybe when they leave they'll take Ghiz with them.

  • Are we doomed?
    November 12, 2012 - 07:46

    Jean Chretien and Lawrence MacAulay have a strong friendship. They share a common bond and have history. So, why wouldn't MacAulay caution his "friend" against stating absurdities about Robert Ghiz? If you had such a friend, wouldn't you at least give him a head's up? Nope, this is old school politics. Old school politics is a very special place where talk has no grounding in truth or reality and altruism is absent. In this, Mr. Ghiz and Mr. Chretien seem to have similar values. This is not the politics our veterans died for, but it is the politics that may have sentenced them to death. If Islanders don't think this form of politics undermines democracy, we're doomed. It's time to do something . . . anything.

  • Larry Lanigan
    November 12, 2012 - 07:35

    He kept us out of Iraq,how many young men owe him their life .

  • Speechless
    November 12, 2012 - 07:30

    Chretien also offered his perspective on Ghiz’s performance in the premier’s office, saying he has been “very impressed” and described him as “a joyful guy, relaxed and close to the people.” Chretien also praised the provincial nominee program. “Relatively speaking, the population of P.E.I. is growing faster than any other province because of the immigration policies and a lot of investment coming here from this program. It seems very well-managed so I’m very pleased with that,” said Chretien. “Because I’ve been associated to these programs when they were created. I left (office) almost nine years ago, so it’s good to see how it’s been used here.” HUH? Obviously the PEI Liberal party fed Chretien some of the bull$@#% they feed on themselves.

  • MACDONALDBANK
    November 12, 2012 - 03:18

    The Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien told the Vatican that there was to be no cross erected over the Canadian Parliament buildings figuratively speaking; when the Pope demanded the Prime Minister go against gay rights. An Alberta bishop had the audacity to say that The Canadian Prime Minister would go to hell for going against the church. Such outrageous evil threats. The Right Honourable Prime Minister in return; basically told the Pope to go to Hell! The Honourable Irwin Cotler, Canadian Minister of Justice, stood for equal rights for the gay community. With reference to protecting the children: The Honourable Hedy Fry, member of the Canadian Liberal Parliament, who happens to be a doctor who delivered many babies; spoke eloquently to defend the rights of babies being born and stated that she was in fact defending their rights by speaking on behalf of equal rights for the children and youth of the future -- defending their integrity and dignity. Minority human rights issues must be decided by a dignified judicial system and/or a compassionate federal government.

  • Justine Thyme
    November 11, 2012 - 23:31

    I was waiting to hear they served Buffalo Steaks, would be a quick and easy way for Ghiz to get rid of more park land. Did they offer Chretien a golf course as a thank you for coming and spewing his grand stories of how wonderful he was?

  • Respect
    November 11, 2012 - 23:10

    The PNP program was operating in PEI while Chretien was Prime Minister and the Binns’s Tories were in power on the Island. The program operated the same then as it did whenever the Ghiz Liberals came in, as a passive investment from foreign immigrants. The only difference was when the Harper Conservatives came to power federally and decided to shut the Liberal Island government out of this tremendous program. Chretien obviously knew of the PNP program and states to this day that it was a great asset for PEI and the fact is that it was. It is time as Islanders that we stop pointing fingers at each other out of nothing more than jealousy and demand more respect from the Harper Government.

    • your crazy
      November 12, 2012 - 07:10

      I think the only difference is that the Ghiz Goverment completely abused the program till the Feds had to shut it down!? The former Goverment was pushing through over 300 applicants a year properly compared to over 1300 improperly! It was a literal smash and grab! They should have had to show this money was used for the business!? All of it! One Liberals wife had Horses and recieved two units to give horse riding lessons!!! Come on! And do you really think that giving Kevin Murphy 8 units helped the economy!?

  • Chretien woz 'ere?
    November 11, 2012 - 22:45

    Chretien said that Robert Ghiz is “a joyful guy, relaxed and close to the people.” And then "Chretien also praised the provincial nominee program. 'Relatively speaking, the population of P.E.I. is growing faster than any other province because of the immigration policies and a lot of investment coming here from this program. It seems very well-managed so I’m very pleased with that,' said Chretien. 'Because I’ve been associated to these programs when they were created. I left (office) almost nine years ago, so it’s good to see how it’s been used here.' " WTF???????

  • the party boasts three stooges in Ottawa
    November 11, 2012 - 22:32

    PEI has 10% of the Liberal seats but the party are an emasculated group of fools ignored entirely as the third party, with has beens and wannabes.

  • Evidently the entire party is without ethics
    November 11, 2012 - 22:22

    We are witnessing the absolute absence of morals by the provincial wing and the lawyers and accountants so they all sing about benefits, just like they all did in Montreal till Charbonneau inquiry and now they drop like flies. We need inquiry!!! How classless to drag Chretien out to cleanse these thieves.

  • intobed
    November 11, 2012 - 20:40

    "The P.E.I. Liberal Association's 34th annual fall dinner at the Delta Prince Edward". I wonder, did they use tables, or just a big trough?

    • hee bee
      November 11, 2012 - 22:26

      The Guardian so needs to add a "Like" button! I laughed out loud when I read your comment.

  • Total non sence
    November 11, 2012 - 20:38

    In all do respect this man knows very little on this government. Mr this close to the people , pnp well managed(what was he drinking or maybe smoking.) These comments are completely opposite to what most people think today. I invite the former p.m.to tomorrow's rally at province house. He than will hear what us common folk think of this government.