The new palace guard

October 25 1993

The new palace guard

October 25 1993

The new palace guard

It was the night of June 16, 1984, and disappointed supporters of Jean Chrétien were struggling to come to grips with his loss that day to John Turner in the race to succeed Pierre Trudeau. In an Ottawa hotel, Chrétien supporters gathered for a wake, many in tears. Others bitterly denounced the “betrayal” of Chrétien by Quebec cabinet ministers such as Francis Fox and André Ouellet. Both had supported Turner, who defeated Chrétien by 494 votes. But amid the Chrétien camp’s despair, one diminutive figure stood apart, calmly greeting new arrivals at the front door of the hotel—and making no secret of his vision of the future. “Welcome,” said Chrétien’s longtime friend Eddie Goldenberg, “to the first meeting of the 494 Club.”

It was a greeting that any diehard Liberal could understand. In 1968, after Turner’s first run for the leadership, friends formed “the 195 Club’’— a reference to the number of Turner supporters on the final ballot at that convention. Even on the night of Chrétien’s defeat, Goldenberg was looking forward to the next time his friend would have a shot at becoming prime minister.

Nine years later, Chrétien appears poised to achieve that aim—and Goldenberg is still by his side. The 45-year-old Montreal-born

lawyer, the son of a senator, is, as Liberals like to say, “the first person Chrétien sees other than his wife in the morning, and the last person he talks to at night.” Loyalty matters deeply to Chrétien, so many of the people who will accompany him if he moves into the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) will be longtime friends. A disproportionate number will be Quebecers—and, more specifically, anglophone Montrealers. A survey of Chrétien’s backroom advisers and their prospects:

As one aide puts it: ‘We are not exactly representative of the country at large’

• Despite his close relations with Chrétien, Goldenberg would be an unlikely choice for PMO chief of staff. Many Liberals complain that he is overly protective of Chrétien, shielding him from constructive criticism. He was also considered an uneven administrator as Chrétien’s principal secretary from 1990 to 1992. Instead, Goldenberg will likely become a senior adviser. His duties would be largely undefined, but he would have regular access to the prime minister—who

would, as always, rely heavily on him for friendship and advice.

• John Rae, 47, is probably Chrétien’s most trusted adviser—and the single most respected figure in the Liberal campaign. The older brother of Ontario’s premier, he has been on leave for two months from his job as vicepresident of Montreal-based Power Corp., a

giant financial and communications conglomerate. Rae shares Chrétien’s vision of Canada as a country in which francophones and anglophones should feel equally at home in every province. He worked for Chrétien in the late 1960s, and is everyone’s choice to become chief of staff. But to the dismay of many Liberals, Rae would prefer to return to Montreal, and probably would not take the job unless pressured by Chrétien. Said one friend: “John does not want it, but he would be too loyal ever to say no to a prime minister.”

• Two other possibilities for chief of staff are Allan Lutfy, 50, a Montreal-born lawyer now based in Ottawa, and David Zussman, 46, another native Montrealer who is a former dean of the faculty of administration at the University of Ottawa. Lutfy worked as executive assistant to Trudeau, and has known Chrétien for more than 20 years. Like Chrétien, he talks often about the need to uphold integrity in polities. But he has worked only sporadically for the party in the last three

years, and some Liberals say that Lutfy is not sufficiently in touch with the grassroots to be comfortable in the job. Zussman, who now works as a consultant, has been a senior policy adviser in three federal departments. If the Liberals take power after Oct. 25, Zussman will head the transition team; Lutfy would also likely play a key role.

• Jean Pelletier, 58, is Chrétien’s oldest friend in politics. The two went to high school together and were reunited in 1991, when Pelletier became his chief of staff. A former mayor of Quebec City, Pelletier has an easy, polished charm that masks the instincts of a street fighter.

He is now running in the riding of Langelier against Finance Minister Gilles Loiselle; both appear destined to be defeated by the Bloc Québécois candidate.

Chrétien would still want him in Ottawa, but Pelletier would probably prefer to stay in Quebec or become an ambassador.

• Chaviva Hosek, 46, had a bumpy career as an Ontario cabinet minister under David Peterson. Before that, she headed the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. Since going to work for Chrétien as a policy

adviser in 1990, she has established herself as one of the party’s brightest and most innovative thinkers. She and Paul Martin designed the election platform. In the PMO, she

would probably play a similar role, providing policy advice. Born in Czechoslovakia and fluent in several languages, Hosek and campaign co-chairman Senator Joyce Fairbairn are among the few women in Chrétien’s inner circle.

• Eric Maldoff, 43, is best known as one of the founders of the Englishlanguage advocacy group Alliance Quebec. A close friend of Goldenberg, he served as a go-between with the Conservatives during the Meech Lake constitutional talks that year. He will probably return to his Montreal law practice after the election.

• Peter Donolo, 33, would almost certainly continue as Chrétien’s communications adviser. Donolo comes from a Montreal family with deep Liberal roots, but earned his present position by serving as press secretary to former

Toronto mayor Art Eggleton. Donolo mixes a sharp wit with an intensely partisan spirit; he came up with the jab that Campbell is “Mulroney in a skirt.”

• Jean Carle, 31, has been with Chrétien for most of the last nine years, serving as personal assistant and logistics organizer. In the PMO, he would be Chrétien’s “gate-

keeper,” largely controlling access to him.

• Gordon Ashworth, 43, has deep roots in the Liberal party, although his relations with Chrétien are not particularly close. Ashworth, the party’s director in the 1984 campaign, was a senior aide to Ontario’s Peterson until 1989, and returned to federal politics as the Liberal representative on the Yes committee in last year’s constitutional referendum. If Chrétien becomes prime minister, Ashworth may be in in charge of doling out government appointments.

• Michael Robinson, 43, a Calgary native, is a partner of Conservative loyalists Bill Fox and Harry Near in the Earnscliffe Strategy Group, an Ottawa lobbying firm. Although he worked for Paul Martin in the 1990 leadership campaign, he has since been welcomed into Chrétien’s inner circle—in part because the leaders’ advisers recognize their need for input from non-Quebecers. Robinson was the party’s chief negotiator with the television networks for the leaders’ debates. But he will almost certainly return to his lobbying activities after Oct. 25.

Chretien’s circle, Hosek aside, is remarkably homogeneous: a group of largely bilingual male lawyers and businessmen from Quebec and Ontario. Conceded one insider: “We are not exactly representative of the country at large.” If the Liberals win the election, Chrétien will have to bear that in mind, and remember to solicit opinions and advice from other sources. As things stand, the Liberals’ campaign has brought them to the brink of power. Getting there has been a battle in itself; deciding what to do with that power will be quite another.