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Jean Chrétien: Losing the Liberal leadership

The Story

It's turning out to be a two-man race. John Turner and Jean Chrétien are in a fierce battle to replace Pierre Trudeau as leader of the Liberal Party and as prime minister. There's no love lost between these two candidates, comments CBC's Terence McKenna. The bad blood began to brew in 1978 when in a corporate study Turner harshly criticized Chrétien's performance as finance minister. Turner authored the study when he quit politics and worked as a Bay Street lawyer. Chrétien counter-attacked, calling it nothing more than "a gossip column that you can have for 15 cents." Chrétien would never forget the incident. As seen in this CBC Television clip, his quest for the Liberal leadership becomes an anti-Turner crusade. Despite the hard-fought campaign, the rough style of Chrétien is no match for the well-oiled Turner machine. Chrétien not only loses the leadership but suffers personal humiliation when supporters, particularly Deputy Prime Minister Allan MacEachen, side with Turner at the 11th hour.

Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Feb. 27, 1986
Guest(s): Jean Chrétien
Reporter: Terence McKenna
Duration: 3:23

Did You know?

• Chrétien telephoned Turner after the leadership results came in but was kept on hold for 20 minutes. "I was fuming," recalled Chrétien in a radio interview with Morningside host Peter Gzowski in 1985. He said he was sure that Turner's staff -- not the new leader himself -- was responsible. Still, "I was mad as hell. It was not a nice way to start a conversation."

• John Turner had resigned from politics in 1976 over differences with Pierre Trudeau. By many reports he was deeply hurt by the fact that when presented with Turner's resignation, Trudeau did not ask him to stay.

• Turner returned to politics when Trudeau resigned in 1984, and became Canada's 17th prime minister from June 30, 1984 to Sept. 17, 1984.

• Turner's Liberals lost by a landslide to the Progressive Conservatives of Brian Mulroney in 1984.

• The image of a populist non-intellectual has been carefully cultivated by Chrétien over the years. However, others have described him as an eager and sophisticated reader who also loves classical music. "I read, oh, a book a month, perhaps that many, perhaps I should read more," he once said in an interview.Chretien


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