Former PM Chrétien is well hung on Parliament Hill

Former PM Chrétien is well hung on Parliament Hill

Double take: Jean Chrétien and his august likeness (Image: Michael Ignatieff)

Almost seven years after leaving Parliament, Jean Chrétien (Canada’s last majority prime minister) returned to Parliament Hill to have his portrait join those of past giants, like Macdonald, Trudeau and Mulroney. It seems to have been a dignified, even charitable affair, with lots of praise for the man of the hour and more than a little praise for the poor schmucks still trapped in minority purgatory. On Tuesday, in a speech highlighting his memories of 40-plus years in Ottawa, Chrétien spoke of his pride in being a career politician and praised those who choose to run for public office, including his adversaries.

“We have to show respect for the men and women who devote themselves to public life,” he said to a crowd that included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe. “It is a very noble life. Thank you for what you are doing.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be politics if people didn’t throw the occasional elbow. Chrétien got a dig in at Harper over his “just visiting” attack ads, telling the crowd (and the PM), “Sometimes, it’s good to go abroad.” Harper, for his part, showed he’s getting the hang of this human thing called humour by kidding, “The hanging of Jean Chrétien is long overdue.”

Of course, these fellas weren’t that chummy when they all shared a workplace. The famously combative Chrétien—inventor of the Shawinigan Handshake—didn’t have as many nice words for Layton, Duceppe or Harper when he was taking their questions in Parliament. Time heals all wounds, apparently.

• Chrétien defends MPs at portrait ceremony [CBC]
• Jean Chrétien says politicians get bum rap [Toronto Star]
• Portrait of a bygone political era [National Post]