"The hanging was the best show in town. But they made a mistake. They hung the wrong man and they didn't finish the job." - Clint Eastwood / Marshall Jed Cooper - "Hang'Em High" (1968).
Hundreds of guests are to gather on "The Hill" as Parliament resumes on Tuesday to hang Jean Chretien: The former Prime Minister will take his place with his twenty predecessors when his official portrait is hung amongst Canada's great, not great, and so-so elected political leaders of the last 143 years.
Jean Chretien, who is 76, served 10 years as Prime Minister (1993-2003). Though he lives in Ottawa and works not very far from the Parliament Buildings, his return to the Centre Block and under the "Peace Tower" will be (surely) an occasion for many to reflect on our nation's path over the 7 years since the scrappy "little guy" stepped away from the limelight. Mr. Chretien spent 40 years in Federal politics. His history will bear the mantle of the "advertising scandal" which precipitated his departure. It may be said though that "his" is the end of an era in Canadian politics. A truly remarkable four decades when Canada's legacy, from peacekeeper to our steady economic reputation, became the envy of the world.
It is true of course that others also played significant political leadership roles during the period. Brian Mulroney is responsible for the foundation of our economic growth through much of the last quarter century because of free trade initiatives. But it seems Mr. Chretien can rightfully claim to have been the constant woven through the careers of Mr. Mulroney, and other Prime Ministers, Joe Clark; Kim Campbell and Paul Martin.
To say nothing (alright..almost nothing) of the powerful National Liberal Party juggernaut he captained through a series of significant "majority" governments; Thereby earning the Liberals the title of: "Natural Governing Party". No party has had a majority in Parliament since Mr. Chretien's departure...And to be fair: From the succession of Leaders the Liberals have selected since 2003; It's hard to conjure any cathartic strategy to salvage hope for the Party's fortunes in the foreseeable future. Perhaps then Stephen Harper will somehow be granted his "majority" wish. End of an era indeed!
Regardless, this salute to Jean Chretien should be a joyous occasion for all former Prime Ministers, their friends, supporters and even past political opponents. In that realm it seems as if it may be downhill from here: Mr. Justice Jeffrey Oliphant, the Commissioner in the "Mulroney/Schreiber Cash Payments Affair," hands over his report on Monday of next week; while the next figurative hanging of a Liberal leader (Paul Martin) is scheduled for 2012.