Is Chretien the Next Joey Smallwood?
You know, somebody should pull out and review the tapes of Joey Smallwood's last years as premier of Newfoundland (1969-1971). Here was a man, initially quite popular, who led his Liberal Party to victory, time and time and time again (he was Newfoundland's first and only provincial premier from 1949 to 1971). But as he received his sixth mandate, a groundswell of opposition rose from within his party. Joey was criticized for his dictatorial style and his government's mismanagement. A fight brewed between Joey and a group of "Young Turks" which included future political heavyweights John Crosbie and Clyde Wells. John Crosbie challenges Joey's chosen successor for the leadership, Fred Rowe, in 1969. Seeing Crosbie enter the race, Joey decides to run for the leadership himself, replacing Rowe. Smallwood wins the convention, but there are numerous images caught on camera of Liberal party members screaming "Dictator!" as the results come in.
I bet that, for all of John Crosbie's long service to the provincial and federal Tories, you didn't know he was initially a Liberal. He actually served in Smallwood's cabinet, though he was one of Smallwood's loudest critics. When Joey was re-elected, and the political mismanagement continued, Crosbie quit the Liberal Party in disgust (along with Clyde Wells), and led a number of party members to the Newfoundland Conservatives.
Will we be seeing the same thing come February 2003? We have a vigorous leadership candidate in the form of Paul Martin. We see a politically savvy incumbent (and sitting premier) in Jean Chretien becoming more mired in policies many Canadians find arrogant or corrupt. The February 2003 gathering is not a leadership convention but a leadership review, but this is just as much a referendum on Jean Chretien's leadership as the 1969 convention was for Joey Smallwood. Jean says that he never backs down from a fight and he may well get one. If Chretien does win (which he may well, as he only needs 50% plus one), what sort of damage will his victory do?
Kitchener-Waterloo Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi has written an open letter criticizing Chretien and calling for a leadership review. It's well written and elegantly argued. It's another reason why I respect the man who is my MP.
Wow. When Erin gets fan mail, she really gets fan mail. Wow.