Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday June 20, 2002
Chretien faces toughest fight
Prime Minister Jean Chretien says his opponents within his own Liberal party are underestimating him again, and he confidently predicts he has enough friends in the party to put together an organization to beat back any challenge to his leadership next February.
Chretien said yesterday he has made a political career of exceeding expectations — and he will do so again.
In an interview with The Toronto Star, he dismissed polls suggesting his rival Paul Martin is more popular in the Liberal party, saying former party leader John Turner was also once seen as the “white knight” in waiting.
“It’s easy to be popular when you’re outside,” he said.
As he prepared to do battle in his toughest fight during 12 years at the party helm, the prime minister was relaxed and animated during a 50-minute conversation in his living room at 24 Sussex Dr.
He promised to draw on the lessons of history to ensure he will leave his party in its best possible shape when he departs.
He predicted a historic deal on African aid at next week’s G-8 summit, which he chairs in Kananaskis, Alta.; he denied any intervention in Izzy Asper’s decision to fire Ottawa publisher Russell Mills, and shrugged off questions of media concentration.
He also said he personally knows that Martin’s support in caucus is inflated. A number of MPs report receiving personal phone calls from their leader as Chretien seeks to shore up support before party voting on his future begins in November. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)