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The PM was not misquoted!

By Walter Robinson
web posted September 16, 2002

Once again – courtesy of last week's CBC "9/11 retrospective" interview with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's – we have witnessed our Prime Minister's tragic flaw, speaking without thinking. Media outlets correctly interpreted his remarks about the divide between rich and poor countries as the PM asserting that the United States and the West shared some blame for what transpired on September 11, 2001.

The Prime Minister's Office responded stating, "It is being wrongly reported today that in an interview broadcast on CBC television last night Prime Minister Jean Chrétien singled out the United States for responsibility for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."

The PMO released the entire transcript of the interview for Canadians to judge for themselves what they believe Mr. Chrétien was trying to say. So let's take a look.

CBC: "By the end of the day (referring to 9/11/2001), what were you thinking about in terms of how the world had changed?"

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien with U.S. President George W. Bush during the anniversary of September 11, 2001
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien with U.S. President George W. Bush during the anniversary of September 11, 2001

PM Chrétien: "But I've said that it is a division in the world that is building up … For me, I think the rest of the world is a bit too selfish, and that there is a lot of resentment … You know, the poor, relatively get poorer all the time. And the rich are getting richer all the time."

In Canada, average incomes hover around $21 000 a year but the PM hiked his own pay last year to a whopping $263 000 and when he retires in 2004, he will walk away with an annual indexed pension of $153 000 placing him in the top 1 per cent of all Canadian income earners just on pension income alone. So yes, the rich are getting richer.

PM Chrétien: "You know, now we see the abuse of the system with problems in the United States at this moment with the corporate world, you know. When you think that, you know, you have to let go somebody in the Cabinet because perhaps relatively minor things … of guidelines. And there was billions of dollars that were basically stolen from the shareholders."

Well excuse me, heaven forbid Cabinet Ministers would actually be fired (a rare occurrence indeed) for breaking those meddlesome guidelines like fairly tendering contracts, avoiding real conflicts of interest or giving sensitive government work to former lovers. What is the nation coming too when we actually hold people to account for defrauding the public purse and breaking the laws of the land?

As for those stolen billions in scandals stateside, the PM forgets how his government has stolen $42 billion from workers and employers through the employment insurance (EI) scam or how the Government of Canada has stashed some $7.7 billion beyond the reach of Parliament in unaccountable foundations (as the AG has noted) and Canada Inc.'s 15 million shareholders, aka taxpayers.

PM Chrétien: "Everybody don't know when to stop … I said, you know talking, it was Wall Street, and it was a crowd of capitalists, of course, they were complaining that we have a normal relation with Cuba, and this and that, you know …"

A crowd of capitalists, is that like a cell of terrorists? Please! The PM conveniently forgets he has lived off the taxation of the fruits of capitalism for his forty years in public life.

PM Chrétien: "And I said, if I recall, it was probably these words. When you're powerful like you are, you guys, is the time to be nice … You know, you cannot exercise your powers to the point that of humiliation for the others. And that is what the Western world, not only the Americans, the Western world has to realize."

Exercising one's power to the point of humiliating others. That sounds like the way the Prime Minister runs roughshod over his backbenchers. Our PM was not misquoted, he was merely projecting his faults onto others.

Walter Robinson is the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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