‘It’s up to him to decide’: Former Prime Minister Chrétien on whether Trudeau should run again

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien says deciding when it is time to resign and leave politics is simple, but “very personal.”

Chretien sat down with CTV Question Period host Vassy Kapelos for an exclusive wide-ranging interview airing Sunday to discuss how Canada has changed, when it’s time to leave politics and how to work with political opponents.

Chrétien, who held the country’s top office for a decade, turned 90 this week, having also recently celebrated 30 years since he became prime minister and 60 years since he became an MP.

“I’m having a good time at my age,” Chrétien said.

Chrétien resigned as Liberal leader and prime minister in December 2002.

While the current prime minister has insisted that he plans to run again in the next general election, which would also see him reach a decade in office by then, many have speculated whether Trudeau will resign and hand the reins to someone new. .

“It is up to him to decide… what is best for him, what is best for the party and what is best for the country,” he also said. “And it’s a very personal decision.”

But when asked how difficult it is to make that decision, Chretien said, “It’s easy.”

“You have to make the right decision,” he said. “A decision is a decision.”

He added that there will be many on both sides of the argument who will try to influence Trudeau’s election, but that is “the name of the game” in politics, “and you have to live with it.”

With Chrétien in a unique position to know when it is time to leave political life, Kapelos asked what he would say if Trudeau sought his advice.

“He didn’t ask me,” Chrétien said. “So why debate?”

YOUR MOST CONSEQUENTIAL DECISIONS

Chrétien listed three major decisions that he believes are the most consequential during his tenure as prime minister.

The first, he said, was to balance the books, to get the country out of a $42 billion deficit before delivering five successive balanced budgets.

Second, he said, was the passage of the Clarity Act, which established rules for referendums, following the 1995 Quebec referendum.

“A lot of people said, ‘Don’t do that, you’re willing to start the storm,’ and there was no storm,” he said.

“And after that, when I said ‘No’ to the war in Iraq,” he added. “You know, it’s something that was a very important decision to show that we were not the 51st state of the United States, that we were an independent country.”

WORKING WITH THE OPPOSITION

To mark Chrétien’s birthday this week, former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent a video with well wishes.

“He even sang for me,” Chrétien said. “You know, people think we’re enemies. No. We are opponents, we are not enemies.”

He said that in the decades he was in politics, he learned that it’s like playing hockey: No matter what happens on the ice, “then we go together and have a beer.”

“That’s life,” he added.

Working with those across the aisle in the House of Commons is essential to discussing ideas even when there are disagreements, Chrétien said.

“And actually, in many ways, it’s easier to be friendly with the people in front of you,” he joked. “They’re not trying to replace you from behind.”

Chrétien also said that there is the benefit of looking back and that, looking back, it is easier to see where there were friendships and that everyone is there working to improve the country.

HOW CANADA AND POLITICS HAVE CHANGED

When asked about the perception of current politics and the idea that it resonates with people’s anger and frustrations, Chrétien said not much has changed on that front since he was in power.

He said there will always be a reason for people to be discontent, pointing to high interest rates and national debt when he became prime minister, but also highlighting that Canada now has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, despite a cost of living crisis.

“In Canada we’re doing pretty well compared to any other country,” he said. “And what I was saying is that when I look at myself I get desperate, but when I compare myself I feel very good.”

Chrétien added that things often seem worse than they are, because bad news attracts attention.

“As I say, a dog biting a man is not news, but if a man wants to bite a dog, it will be big news, and they are two animals doing the same thing,” he said.

“We have to be realistic and look at life and do what we can,” he added. “And for me, I’ve always done my best and I couldn’t do better than my best.”

“Maybe my best wasn’t good enough for some, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”


You can watch Chrétien’s full interview on CTV’s Question Period on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET or in the video player at the top of this article.

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