Political moment of the decade

Moment of the Decade: #1 The Merger

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If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the first two weeks of January, I’ve been counting down the top 10 vote getters. Today, the political moment of the decade:

The right wing merger didn’t get a lot of Canadians excited. There weren’t protests in the streets. Canadians outside the Ottawa bubble may not have even been aware it was going on. If they did, few immediately recognized it as the game changer that it was – after all, right wing parties in Canada changed their name and their leaders every few years. And it seemed unlikely they would even change their leader this time.

So former future Prime Minister Bernard Lord and a slew of other high profile candidates yawned and took a pass, letting Stephen Harper walk over Belinda “Bake a Bigger Economic Pie” Stronach and Tony “Never Get Tired of Losing” Clement. Most assumed Stephen Harper could never become Prime Minister – hell, he was the Canadian Alliance leader. And he was from Calgary. We all knew Ontarians would never vote for him. The thought of Quebecers doing that was laughable.

Because, after all, the Alberta firewall guy was up against the Paul Martin juggernaut. One of Martin’s top Alberta organizers was going around the 2003 leadership convention telling everyone that, merger or no merger, the Liberals were going to win 9 seats in Alberta next election. I still have my Paulberta t-shirt, as an ironic keepsake. Everyone just knew Paul Martin was going to win 200 seats. It turns out he barely did…it just took him 2 elections to do it.

So it’s fair to say the merger didn’t really grip the nation the same way the coalition or the Stronach floor crossing did. Sure, we enjoyed watching David Orchard and Joe Clark huff and puff. Scott Brison joining the Liberals was kind of interesting, but all it did was reinforce the feeling that a Martin landslide was inevitable. Let’s face it, this wasn’t political theater of the highest caliber.

But in retrospect, it proved to be one of the most important events of the decade. Because, to pick a moment of the decade, you really need to think about what the decade was all about.

The story of the 90s was the Liberals balancing the financial and national unity books. The story of the 80s was Brian Mulroney’s rise to power and what he did there. For the 00s, the overarching political narrative was the fall of the Liberals and the rise of Stephen Harper. The event that made it all possible was the merger.

And that, is why I suspect it was voted the political moment of the decade.

You can see the full results here. Thanks to everyone who voted – I had a lot of fun with this one, and I must say the final list is very close to the top 10 list I’d have produced if I did this myself.

#10: Paul Martin is Quit-Fired
#9: Dions Wins LPC Leadership
#8: The Clarity Act
#7: The 2006 Federal Election
#6: Confidence Vote Mayhem
#5: Adscam
#4: Same Sex Marriage Legalized
#3: No to Iraq
#2: The Coalition Crisis
#1: The Merger

Moment of the Decade: #2 The Coalition

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Political moment of the decade | Leave a comment

If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the first two weeks of January, I’m counting down the top 10 vote getters. Tomorrow, I reveal the complete voting results and the number one moment of the decade.

If nothing else, it made Canadians pay attention to politics.

Over the past year, people had complained about how dull our politics were – the Americans had just gone through a thrilling election whereas you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who could tell you anything memorable about our election that had happened around the same time. There’d been something about sweater vests and puffins, but nothing had really happened, and nothing had really changed.

Then, for a fortnight in December, everyone paid attention. And I mean everyone. That Christmas, friends and family who couldn’t name their local MP didn’t want to talk to me about anything except the coalition. And they all had an opinion. Someone had committed an affront to democracy – just who had committed what affront depended on who you asked. Those dastardly Liberals were going to use the separatists to steal an election! That bully Stephen Harper was using an economic crisis to play petty politics!

In one of my favourite political memories, I bundled up on a cold Toronto Saturday and visited a pair of competing rallies, both accusing opposites side of subverting democracy. At one rally, the coalition was described as “the saddest moment in the history of Canada” and a “coup”. At the other, Jack Layton talked about how Stephen Harper had “taken away your right to vote”.


Looking back, it’s actually easy to see how it all happened. The Liberals were weak and Harper went for the jugular. The opposition fought back with the only weapon they had. So Harper backed down. But this was the only chance Stéphane Dion and Jack Layton would ever have at power so they kept punching. So Harper used the only weapon he had and prorogued. Then Michael Ignatieff saw an opportunity to skip the unpleasantness of a leadership race and he took it.

It was wild, it was exciting, but even with emotions higher than they’d ever been, it really wasn’t anything more than a bunch of politicians behaving completely rationally, like basic game theory would expect them to. One by one, they saw an opportunity for power and they took it. Even though we faulted them at the time, can you really blame politicians for doing what politicians do?

Political Moment of the Decade: #3 No to Iraq

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Political moment of the decade | Leave a comment

If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the first two weeks of January, I’m counting down the top 10 vote getters.

The biggest ovation Jean Chrétien got during his farewell speech at the 2003 Liberal Coronation Convention was when he talked about his decision to keep Canadian troops out of Iraq. If you read Chrétien or Eddie Goldenberg’s memoirs, you can tell they both saw it as a huge part of Chrétien’s legacy. And rightfully so.

While it seems like a slam-dunk in retrospect, it wasn’t at the time. The Americans were going, the British were backing them, and everyone was still in that post 9/11 mind frame. Public opinion was decidedly split, the Chrétien Cabinet was decidedly split, and the Premiers were decidedly split. There were rallies in the streets both for and against the war. And even though the man will deny it to his grave, Stephen Harper was urging Canada to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Americans.

So, yeah, it was a big moment for Canada. And, when you look at it in the context of the decade that was, it becomes a defining moment. You had Jean Chrétien making a difficult decision during his farewell tour. You had Stephen Harper opposing him, in a move that would be thrown back in his face in three subsequent election campaigns. You had Paul Martin dancing the hokey pokey.

It was a decision about the largest international conflict of the decade, and the politics behind it were closely tied up in the moment of the decade – 9/11. It marked a turning point in Canada-US relations, which would continue to sour throughout the Bush years, to the point where the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc often seemed to be waging election campaigns against George Bush, rather than Stephen Harper.

If you’ve been following along, you’ve figured out by now that the top two moments in this end-of-decade poll are all about process and politics, rather than policy. But process and politics are a means to an end, and the Iraq war decision showed that who we vote for actually matters. It’s certainly worthy of finishing in the top 3 moments of the decade.

Moment of the Decade: #4 Same Sex Marriage Legalized

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Political moment of the decade | Leave a comment

If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the first two weeks of January, I’m counting down the top 10 vote getters.

If you want an example of how quickly the public mood shifted on the issue of same sex marriage, look no further than the House of Commons. In 1999, the House voted 216 to 55 in favour of the “traditional” definition of marriage – that is, the traditional “one man and one woman” definition, not the more traditional “one man and one woman of the same race and religion” definition, or the biblical “one man and many women” definition.

Anyways, in 2003 the Canadian Alliance introduced the same motion and it was defeated 137-132. In 2005, the Same Sex Marriage Act passed 158 to 133. Now, no one even talks about revisiting the issue.

Personally, I never really understood the opposition to same sex marriage. It simply doesn’t make sense to deny a right that won’t cause a harm, so it was only a matter of time before it became law.

Because of that sense of inevitability, it’s tempting to downplay the significance of the event. After all, thousands of same sex couples had been married by the time Parliament passed the law because of provincial court rulings. And the Supreme Court had basically forced Parliament’s hand on the issue. Even as Liberals were arguing in favour of the law, their support seemed to stem more from the Supreme Court ruling rather than a belief that equal marriage was the right thing to do.

But I do feel the moment still belongs in the top 10. We’ve seen court rulings overturned by representatives and referenda in the United States, so it was important for Parliament to pass the law. And we shouldn’t forget that parliamentarians and the public were both divided on this issue, prompting a genuine national debate about same sex rights.

This decision showed us something about how Canadian values had evolved. Being the 4th country to do it, the decision told the world something about Canadian values. That’s why this policy really stands out and is a worthy finalist for the moment of the decade crown.

No history book is ever going to talk about a 2-point cut to the GST. This is something that will make the history books.

Moment of the Decade: #5 Adscam

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Political moment of the decade | Leave a comment

If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the first two weeks of January, I’m counting down the top 10 vote getters.

I’ve had Paul Martin’s autobiography on my desk for over a year. I’ve been meaning to write up a book review on it but for some reason I keep dithering.

I have, however, read his Adscam chapter, and here’s how he explains it:

I personally believe that a government whose ethics are doubted – rightly or wrongly – is a government paralyzed. You cannot summon the political will or public support for change unless people are prepared to give you their trust. That is why I decided to call a judicial inquiry that was led by Mr. Justice John Gomery.

[…]

Let’s be clear: it was the misdeeds revealed by the Auditor General and later by the Gomery inquiry that damaged the party. My condemnation of them was right in principle and also, as it happened, right politically. That catastrophic drop in the polls the day after the Auditor General’s report was released was quickly stemmed and then at least partly reversed as I showed the public that I shared their outrage.

As I see it, Martin hits the head on the nail in the first line I quoted. Governments become paralyzed when their ethics are doubted. The problem is, the Gomery inquiry only served to cast more doubts, as Martin himself admits when he says the Gomery inquiry revelations damaged the party.

So, contrary to what Martin claims, I’m not so sure calling the inquiry was the right thing to do politically and I think his narrative on what happened in terms of public opinion is way off. Here’s what some polls said at the time:

“This one is like a wildfire,” [Ipsos-Reid president, Darrell Bricker] said. “It’s out of control and everything the prime minister has done at this point has just blown the flames higher.”

Despite a determined effort to restore Canadians’ confidence in government, support for the ruling Liberal Party continues to slide. A new poll shows support for the Liberals has fallen another four points since Thursday.

The AG’s report was provocative and when you poll on a day when it’s on the front page of newspapers across the country, of course you’re going to see movement in the polls. However, you’d normally expect that gut-reaction drop to recover and, given what we saw in the ’04 and ’06 elections, the reaction only got worse over time as support solidified against the Liberals.

But maybe Martin’s right and it would have been worse had an inquiry not been called. So the question is, was it the right thing to do? I’m not so sure.

Because, after the “explosive” embargoed testimony was made public, after Jean Chrétien’s show with the golf balls, after Quebecers saw the daily soap opera on TV, and after the opposition used Gomery’s report to bring down the government, I’m still not sure what the inquiry accomplished. I’m not being glib here – criminal acts were committed and people went to jail. But let’s be perfectly clear – no one went to jail because of the Gomery report and most of the good judge’s recommendations were either considered to be unenforceable or ignored – ignored by Stephen Harper, not the libranos.

All that said, we can debate whether or not the inquiry should have been called, but I think everyone can agree the AG’s report and the fallout from it certainly left their mark on the decade that was in Canadian politics.

Moment of the Decade: #6 Confidence Vote Mayhem

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If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the first two two weeks of the new decade, I’m counting down the top 10 vote getters. Next week, the top 5 (in alphabetical order) – Adscam, Coalition, Iraq, Merger, and Same Sex Marriage.

It had everything you could possibly want in a political thrill ride. Scandal! Backroom deals! A long time government fighting for survival! Sex! Tape recordings! A dying man with the fate of the country in his hands! A tie confidence vote!

When I first asked for nominations to this contest, Globe blogger Andrew Steele wrote the following to me:

Belinda crossing the floor and that confidence vote perfectly summarizes the knifes-edge reality of minority government that has become the dominant storyline of aughts political coverage. Process over result. Personality over policy. The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff dancing on a speaker at the after party.

And the knife’s edge had never been narrower. As soon as a media blackout on Gomery Inquiry testimony was lifted, what had been tantalizingly described as “explosive” allegations were made public, and the opposition parties made it fairly clear they’d had enough.

Now, this was before people realized you could just prorogue the House if you were chickenshit scared of a confidence vote, so the Liberals postponed opposition days and Paul Martin went on TV and talked about his father. Paul cut a deal with Jack Layton who was in one of his “results for people” moods, thinking “Yeah, corruption is awful, and they wasted taxpayer dollars, but for a billion dollars, I’ll keep them alive. It’s what Ed Broadbent would want.”.

With a “too close to call” vote looming, Scott Brison stood up in the House every day saying “let Judge Gomery do his work” while the opposition heckled and screamed. The government lost a confidence vote, but it wasn’t really a confidence vote. Parliament was shut down. Either way, a vote was inevitable and everyone started doing the math and quickly realized that, holy crap, the fate of the government was in the hands of a few independents, among them Carolyn Parrish and David Kilgour. Ouch.

Then, in what may have been the single biggest jaw dropper of the decade, Belinda Stronach became a Liberal. Remember, this was before David Emerson and Wajid Khan (KHAAAAAAAAAN!) – it was a big deal. This was a woman who had helped bring about the Conservative Party merger just 18 months earlier. She was seen as a future Tory leader (by herself). And, oh yeah, she was dating Peter MacKay. Talk about a bad breakup.

So this changed the math, and it soon became fairly obvious that the fate of the government would come down to a maverick MP who was dying of cancer. The media pestered him. The Conservatives did some stuff which I won’t go into because, well, everyone who has gone into it has wound up getting sued.

So on May 19th, 2005, Chuck Cadman stood up, wearing jeans and chewing gum, and calmly forced a tie. Peter Miliken then, in a moment all young boys who hope to one day grow up and become speaker of the House of Commons dream of, got to cast a tie-breaking vote, to save the government.

It didn’t end there, because that set off the whole Gurmant Grewal fiasco which, if nothing else, allowed Tim Murphy to utter what is probably the quote of the decade, calling the Liberal Party “a warm and comfy mat with lots of fur on it”.

So, in he end, the Liberals survived. But, as Paul Wells’ book made clear, that survival likely gave the Conservatives the time they needed to ensure victory 8 months later.

So this moment left its mark. And when it comes to sheer popcorn politics, it was about as good as it gets.

Moment of the Decade: #7 The 2006 Federal Election

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If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be counting down the top 10 vote getters.

For about two weeks, everyone who liked politics started talking in staccato: “There’s no mayonnaise. On my sandwich. No mayonnaise. In Canada. I’m not making this up. I’m not allowed to make this up.” I went to a model parliament the weekend after the election and there were 12 “soldiers in our streets” jokes during the first 5 minutes of our mock question period.

But, for all the flack surrounding it, I think the commercials that really made a difference were “Change” and “Entitlements”, shown below:

The first (which I can’t find a video for anywhere) was released at a time when things seemed to be going well for the Liberals. They were up by 5 or 6 points in most polls (and a dozen points in most Ekos polls). Yes, there had been the beer and popcorn gaffe. But Harper had released his entire platform and it hadn’t exactly lit the world on fire.

But the signs were all there. Sure, people said they’d vote Liberal, but Stephen Harper had caught up to Paul Martin on the best PM question, and voters paying attention to politics were flocking to the Tories. People were ready for change after 13 years, and the ad played on those feelings.

The second ad was released the first day after the Christmas holidays, right after the Income Trust investigation had been announced. It played on the corruption theme perfectly and, having already announced a relatively unscary platform, Harper was now free to go neg.

From there, the Liberal campaign went into free fall. No matter how perfectly clear Paul Martin made himself, the media decided Liberal policy wasn’t quite as exciting as the Liberal mole and sagging poll numbers. John Duffy and Mike Duffy went at it on air before the debate. (Imagine that! A Liberal strategist daring to question the journalistic integrity of Mike Duffy.) Later that night, Paul Martin launched his often-ridiculed notwithstanding clause hail mary. Not that it really mattered, since everyone was busy talking about the aforementioned soldiers ad.

So it looked for a while like Harper might get that majority, but the man has always been kind of like BJ Ryan when it comes to closing the game. So he complained about the liberal civil service, judiciary, and senate. This was back when the “Stephen Harper Bogah Bogah!” tactic still had some resonance, so he was denied the landslide many had expected.

Despite those late stumbles, it was still a beautifully run campaign by Harper, and the election I would use as a case study if I were ever teaching a first year Poli Sci class.

Sure, there were gaffes and the income trust wild card, but I don’t think those made a difference. Rather, the Tories understood the mood of the electorate and played on it. They controlled the agenda from day 1 – getting ugly issues out of the way early, then rolling out daily policy announcements early each morning to control the day’s media cycle. This served as an early inoculation against the hidden agenda attack, allowing them to go for the jugular on the corruption issue after Christmas. They had popular policies and could tell voters how those policies would impact their lives.

They were well prepared but willing to adjust and call the occasional audible – when Martin challenged Duceppe to a national unity debate then backed down, Harper volunteered to fill in. When Harper moved from challenger to front runner for the second round of debates, he changed his tone accordingly.

It may not have been the most exciting, the most shocking, or the most important election in our nation’s history (I’m sure Paul Martin would disagree). But it was far more memorable than the 2000, 2004, or 2008 campaigns, which failed to crack the top 10 of this list. And it’s not hard to argue that the change from Liberal to Conservative government was the defining political moment of the decade.

Moment of the Decade: #8 The Clarity Act

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If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be counting down the top 10 vote getters.

When I first announced this contest, one of the e-mails I got argued against the inclusion of the Clarity Act on the list. The argument was that the Clarity Act was the conclusion to the national unity crisis that dominated the 90s, and really had little to do with the aughts.

But I think it’s a worthy finalist.

The Clarity Act, along with Jean Charest’s 2003 victory (which would have been my only addition to the Top 10 had I just done this list up myself) took the national unity card off table for much of the decade. Ha ha. OK, it didn’t take the card out of play because, this is Canada, a country where Paul McCartny concerts and the roster of Team Canada become national unity debates. But it did help shift the nature of the debate away from separation – even in the hay day of Adscam, no one really saw separation as a real possibility.

I’d like to think it also showed a tough-love approach vis-à-vis Quebec could work, but the 2004 Health Care Accord, 2006 Tory election platform, and the Nation debate make me question this. Still, these changes didn’t come about because there was a knife at Ottawa’s throat and, in the long run, that’s a healthier environment to be having the debate about federalism in.

Still, as far as how it affected the decade, the direct cause-and-effect relationship is a little, shall we say, unclear. So how about this for a more direct link: Stephane Dion’s 2006 leadership win and, par consequence, the coalition crisis, would not have happened if not for the Clarity Act. Because, if not for the Clarity Act, no one would have ever taken Stephane Dion seriously in the 2006 Liberal leadership race. Yeah, I know everyone thought it was cute that his dog was named Kyoto, and that might have still gotten him past Dryden, but sans clarity, he simply doesn’t win.

So maybe Stephen Harper still rides out the decade as Prime Minister and the only thing that changes is that the tag line in the attack ads goes from “Not a Leader” to “Bob Rae: Can we afford him again?”. But I do think the last half of this decade would have looked a lot different without Dion, who for better or worse, left his mark.

The Clarity Act, more so than the other two policies that cracked the top ten (Iraq and SSM), will probably go down as Jean Chretien’s greatest legacy. And, yes, by now, the Conservative commentators are already thinking of just how they will tell me to go shove it in the comments section because, as we all know, Stephen Harper was the real father of the Clarity Act. But, regardless of whose idea it was, it’s hard to deny the Act was one of the most important pieces of legislation we’ve seen over the past 20 years.

Maybe the Clarity Act had little to do with the 00s – maybe it was the conclusion to the national unity crisis that defined Canada throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s. But if it actually was the conclusion of our long national unity nightmare, well, I’d say that certainly means it’s an event worthy of inclusion in the history books and worthy of inclusion in this list.

Political Moment of the Decade: #9 Dion Stuns the Favourites

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in LPC Leadership 2006, Political moment of the decade | Leave a comment

If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be counting down the top 10 vote getters.

It’s overall impact on the decade is debatable. In retrospect, it seems likely that Stephen Harper would have destroyed whomever crawled out of the octagon alive in Montreal. But for everyone involved, that leadership race was one of the most thrilling events of the decade.

You see, up until that point, the Liberal Party had held 7 leadership votes in its history. And, while Sheila did manage to scrounge up a few dozen votes in 2003 (yours truly included), in reality, it had been 16 years since a real leadership race.

And when the heavyweights started dropping…well…that changed everything. Suddenly you had candidates no one had ever heard of. These weren’t political machines that had been organized for years. It was every politico’s fantasy come true – pluck a candidate from obscurity and turn them into the next Prime Minister.

For me, I was intrigued early on by Gerard Kennedy. I liked that he had western roots. I liked his involvement with food banks. I liked what I’d heard about him. Not knowing much else, I found an e-mail address on the Internet and sent off an incredibly lame note along the lines of “so…you gonna run?”. Eventually myself and some friends from Alberta got in touch with his people and helped build up a pretty impressive team. Talking people onside, being with a candidate from the start…it’s exciting stuff, and I think a lot of Liberals had the same experience.

So, because of that, it was hard for Liberals not to get a little offended when someone suggested that maybe your guy didn’t have the greatest French or English, or maybe a candidate should have more than 6 weeks of political experience, or have been a Liberal Party member before declaring his intent to run. We all looked past this, because it was such an intriguing field. An NDP Premier, one of the smartest men alive, the Clarity Act guy, the founder of Canada’s first food bank, a Hall of Fame goalie…this wasn’t just the 3 highest profile Cabinet Ministers of the last decade slugging it out – this race had something for everyone. Hell, this being the 21st Century and all, there was even a woman!

And it was all kinds of fun. Every week there was a new deadline, a new Joe Volpe scandal, a new Michael Ignatieff gaffe, and a new rumour that Frank McKenna was on the verge of entering the race. You never really knew who was going to win. The media was in love with Iggy…then it was Bob Rae’s race to lose…then the At Issue Pannel had a love-in with Stephane Dion…then Kennedy looked good in membership numbers…then a poll showed Dryden to be the most electable.

By the time you got to Montreal, it was anybody’s guess. Ignatieff was the front runner, but expectations had been spun so high that I’m not sure it was even mathematically possible for him to get the votes on the first ballot he was expected to. Every candidate who had dropped out had endorsed Bob Rae, but then it was common knowledge that the Tories wanted Rae to win…unless that was a clever reverse psychology trick of theirs. Gerard Kennedy had Justin Trudeau and was against the Quebec Nation resolution but the guy only had a dozen Quebec delegates. Stephane Dion had run out of time during his Friday speech but, really, I’m sure the ability to deliver a speech on time would never prove important for the next Liberal leader, right?

So everyone had a theory. I was feeling fairly good at the start of the week when talk of a Dion-Kennedy suicide pact kept making the rounds. I was feeling really good when I was told in confidence that Ken Dryden was going to announce his support for Gerard during his speech Friday. I was feeling less good when the National reporting Dryden was set to endorse Ignatieff. I was on the floor and had no clue what the hell was going on when he eventually endorsed Rae. It was wild.

Back at home, the country tuned in. They saw the tightly scripted spontaneous demonstrations, the signs, the tambourines, the scarves.

It was exciting. An underdog won and everyone loves the underdog.

Until they realize the underdog talks funny and is a bit of dweeb.

Moments of the Decade: #10 Paul Martin is Quit-Fired

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If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be counting down the top 10 vote getters.

You wouldn’t expect a Cabinet Shuffle to make the top 10, but this was the culmination of a bitter feud that had defined the Liberal Party for a generation. Hell, even today, Liberals can’t agree on whether Paul Martin quit, or was fired.

So, in the interests of Liberal unity, it’s likely best to say: “Jean Chretien and Paul Martin ran against each other for leadership in 1990 and, yada yada yada, John Manley was named Finance Minister a dozen years later.”

No one will ever really be able to agree on what happened during those yada yadas. Did the kids really think they were shouting “fondue”? What exactly happened at the Regal Constelation? Did Chretien do a third term out of spite? Would Martin have forced him out in a leadership review? Were the campaign finance rules a giant F U from Chretien to his successor?

None at that really matters because, through the beauty of politics, one of the biggest political feuds in Canada’s history would simultaneously be the most successful PM-Finance Minister partnership this country has ever seen. Go figure.

That’s not to say it wasn’t ugly. The Liberal Party spent a dozen years eating itself alive, and the scars of this fight would be felt throughout the decade. It was the political version of the Jets and Sharks. In the words of Stephen Colbert – “we’re at war, pick a side”. I joined the Liberal Party my first year of University as a naïve kid who liked politics, and quickly had to decide which half of the party I would hate and which half I would go to war for. It was like that everywhere. In Alberta, you couldn’t get membership forms to sign up new Liberals if you didn’t support the right guy. Because, after all, the worst thing that could happen to the Liberal Party in Alberta would be getting more card carrying members.

And while it’s true this feud may have been more about the 90s than the 00s, the over-arching political story of the aughts was the fall of the Liberals and the rise of Stephen Harper. And Martin leaving Cabinet was the first domino in a series of events that would define the decade.

Later that year, the next domino – Chretien announcing his long goodbye – fell. That pushed over the CPC merger domino. And the Chretien-forced-out-early-leaving-Adscam-on-Martin’s-lap domino. Which hit the Mad-As-Hell domino, and the ’04 election domino and, well, you get the picture. The feud forced a lot of big names out of politics – Allan Rock, John Manley, Sheila Copps – changing the dynamics of the next two Liberal leadership races and the shape of the political decade that was.

On June 2nd, 2002, the first domino was pushed over. Or pulled itself down, depending on your perspective.

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