Jean Chrétien

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Jean Chretien
To be frank, politics is about wanting power, getting it, exercising it, and keeping it.

Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien PC OM CC QC (born January 11, 1934), known commonly as Jean Chrétien, is a former Canadian politician who was the 20th Prime Minister of Canada. He served in the position for over ten years, from November 4, 1993 to December 12, 2003.



Straight From The Heart (1985)

  • A man can't ask for much more than the chance to make a difference in his chosen field of work. Politics is my vocation. I'm forever grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this great country of ours. I know I am a better person for it.
    • Preface, p. 10
  • Politics is a game of friends.
    • Chapter One, A Passion For Politics, p. 23
  • Most Canadians don't understand the House of Commons. They turn on their televisions, see us yelling at one another, and dismiss us as a bunch of fools.
    • Chapter Two, Learning The Ropes, p. 36
  • A successful politician must not only be able to read the mood of the public, he must have the skill to get the public on his side. The public is moved by mood more than logic, by instinct more than reason, and that is something that every politician must make use of or guard against
    • Chapter Three, The Business Of politics, p. 67
  • A leader has to know how the system functions - not just the system of government but the whole social and economic system, including business, the unions, and the universities.
    • Chapter Three, The Business Of politics, p. 76
  • At one point Trudeau mentioned to me that the National Gallery wanted to buy a masterpiece by the great Italian painter Lotto, and it needed a million dollars from the Treasury Board. "Is that Lotto-Quebec or Lotto-Canada?" I joked, but I got the message, and the National Gallery got the painting.
    • Chapter Three, The Business Of politics, p. 87
  • I learned early that business is business and politics is politics. The proof is how few important businessmen have made good politicians. They may think that they are very smart about everything because they made millions of dollars by digging a hole in the ground and finding oil, but the talent and luck needed to become rich are not the same talent and luck needed to succeed on Parliament Hill.
    • Chapter Four, The Politics Of Business, p. 91
  • It's one thing for a courier service transport letters and documents from one city to another at a cost that only big business can afford; but it's another thing to take a letter from an Indian boy studying at the University of Ottawa to his mother in Old Crow.
    • Chapter Four, The Politics Of Business, p. 92
  • Economics has been called the dismal science. Once you get to understand it, you may not find it so dismal, but you don't find it much of a science either.
    • Chapter Five, A Balancing Act, p. 108
  • It is not the government's purpose to make a profit the way a company does, because a company doesn't have to give a damn about the unemployed poor or provide services that are non-commercial by definition.
    • Chapter Five, A Balancing Act, p. 111-112
  • The art of politics is learning to walk with your back to the wall, your elbows high, and a smile on your face. It's a survival game played under the glare of lights.
    • Chapter Five, A Balancing Act, p. 118
  • I've never believed in seeking perfection at the risk of losing everything.
    • Chapter Eight, A New Constitution, p. 189
  • To my mind losing is always better than never trying, because you can never tell what may happen.
    • Chapter Nine, Main Street...Bay Street, p. 195
  • I was proud to have been the anti-establishment candidate after more than twenty years in politics, a small town guy fighting for the ordinary Canadian.
    • Chapter Nine, Main Street...Bay Street, p. 211

My Years As Prime Minister (2007)

Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2007, ISBN 978-0-676-97900-8
  • To be frank, politics is about wanting power, getting it, exercising it, and keeping it.
    • Entre Nous, p. 2
  • Trudeau valued performance above image. He Knew he could give me a shovel if there was a mess to clean up, and he kept moving me from one mess to another.
    • Chapter One, At Laurier's Desk, p. 16
  • The two of us had come a long way together from our humble beginnings and the basement apartment that had been our first home as newlyweds in 1957, when I was still a law student at Laval University in Quebec City.
  • For all its prestige, its fabulous views, its indoor pool, and its lovely garden, 24 Sussex is more like an old hotel than a modern home.
    • Chapter One, At Laurier's Desk, p. 29
  • I didn't feel the need to have a lot of yes-men standing around me. As Mitchell Sharp once put it, the bigger the staff, the smaller the minister.
    • Chapter One, At Laurier's Desk, p. 38
  • I never bought into the Laffer curve, a theory, named after an American supply-side economist who had been an adviser to the Reagan administration, that essentially argues that a government will increase its revenue by reducing its taxes. If it were that easy, everybody would do it. What politician doesn't want to reduce taxes in order to win votes? Taken to its logical extreme, the Laffer curve makes no sense because, if you lower your taxes to zero, how are you going to get higher revenues? In practice, every government that toyed with this theory ended up with larger deficits, higher interest rates and greater social inequality.
    • Chapter Two, The Virtuous Circle, p. 75
Aline and I have travelled a very long, very hard road together, from our working class homes in rural Quebec to the palaces of London, Paris, Moscow, and Beijing.
  • " Mr President," I said, " I have to tell you something. I don't want to get too close to you." He looked startled. I imagine it was a rare thing for a U.S. Commander-in-chief to hear. "Canada is your best friend, largest trading partner, and closest ally, but we are also an independent country. Keeping some distance will be good for both of us. If we look as though we're the fifty-first state of the United States, there is nothing we can do for you internationally, just as the governor of a state can't do anything for you internationally. But if we look independent enough, we can do things for you that even the CIA cannot do."
    • Chapter Three, Yankee Traders, p. 87
  • The problem was, I enjoyed Question Period too much and loved the challenge it provided. Far from being a dreaded burden, it had become an exciting part of my life; opposition members attacked me, I fought back, I won or lost or held them to draw, and the next day we did it all over again.
    • Chapter Four, One Day at a Time, p. 106-107
  • Canadian federalism is more than a form of government. It's also a system of values that allows different people in diverse communities to live and work together in harmony for the good of all.
    • Chapter Five, The Phony War, p. 115
  • Over the years, I have seen too many politicians ruin their careers because they could not accept defeat graciously.
    • Chapter Six, "I Want Clarity!", 150
  • Everybody has the right to speak up in a democracy. We would be in trouble as a society if there wasn't a constant pressure to make reforms and to be just. Sometimes as prime minister, when I was caught up in a really loud demonstration, I used to say to myself that I deserved it because of all the demonstrations I myself had organized as a student against Duplessis.
    • Chapter Seven, Security Details, p. 183
  • Three months later, on September 5, 2001, at a pro-am event preceding the Canadian Open at the Royal Montreal Golf Club, I was invited to play a round with Tiger Woods. Nothing in the game of politics had ever been as nerve-racking as that game of golf.
    • Chapter Eight, Tales from the Nineteenth Hole, p. 198
  • There's no such thing as a genius in politics, or at least I have never met one. There are only human beings, some better than others, who rise or fall on the challenges they meet.
    • Chapter Nine, But Who Watches The Dog?, p. 211
  • Politicians of all stripes are always in danger at looking at every problem from an abstract point of view or being briefed by officials, academics, or economists who know every science but the science of human nature.
    • Chapter Ten, Power behind the Throne, p. 238
  • Vision is not political rhetoric.
    • Chapter Eleven, No the Retiring Type, p. 264
The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien
Vision is not political rhetoric.
  • Our old-fashioned system is better than any new-fangled voting machine. Not only is it guaranteed to work, but there is something I find appealing in putting a mark on a piece of paper for the candidate of your choice, as opposed to pulling a lever as if you were gambling on a slot machine in Las Vegas.
    • Chapter Twelve, No To War, p. 287
  • There is nothing more nervous than a million dollars - it moves very fast, and it doesn't speak any language.
    • Chapter Thirteen, Friends and Allies, p. 364
  • Aline and I have travelled a very long, very hard road together, from our working class homes in rural Quebec to the palaces of London, Paris, Moscow, and Beijing. Politics was the route, public service the reward.
    • Chapter Fourteen, Vive le Canada, p. 406


  • But last night, the Conservative Party reached a new low; they tried to make fun of the way I look. God gave me a physical defect, and I've accepted that since I'm a kid. It's true, that I speak on one side of my mouth. I'm not a Tory, I don't speak on both sides of my mouth.
  • For me, pepper, I put it on my plate.
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