Tom Walkom writes this morning that the public celebration of Jean Chretien's 80th birthday underscores the paradox which is the Liberal Party:
The Liberals are a paradox. They build institutions and then demolish them. They insist they walk the middle line even when they don’t.
They pride themselves on their crafty pragmatism. But they can be fooled time and time again by their own PR.
Consider what happened during Chretien's fifty years in politics:
He was lauded for being part of the Liberal government that, 50 years ago, worked to build and expand the great social programs of the 20th century. These included federally funded welfare, medicare and what is now called employment insurance.
Then he was lauded for decimating these same social programs when, as prime minister during the 1990s, he slashed spending in order to eliminate the federal deficit.
Which raises the question, what do the Liberals stand for? The answer seems to be that depends. Walkom recognizes that the eighties were a good time for conservatives:
He governed during a time when the right was in ascendency worldwide. And like any successful politician, he tried to balance interests — including his own.
But, when all is said and done, Chretien's career should serve as a cautionary tale. It's a story that Justin Trudeau -- who doesn't seem to stand for much -- should read and re-read.