Friday, November 06, 2015

Of Equality and Ministers of State

There's a lot of flap going about over how Justin Trudeau appointed fifteen women to his cabinet but five of them are second-tier, ministers of state, secretary of this or that. Hmm, okay.

I can't help but recall an earlier prime minister, a guy we called "Mike," and a second-tier minister of state he appointed - again and again. That guy's name was Jean.

It was Lester Pearson who appointed Jean Chretien as his parliamentary secretary in 1965. He made Chretien parliamentary secretary to Mitchell Sharp, minister of finance, in 1966.  Sharp mentored Chretien until, in January, 1968, Pearson appointed Jean Chretien minister of national revenue.

I read somewhere that Pearson knew Chretien was disappointed at being given the parliamentary secretary roles but the prime minister explained that he didn't want to put him in a minor cabinet portfolio where he might falter or fade into obscurity. The secretary of state post would give the young man political exposure while he readied himself for a power position.

Pearson knew a thing of two. He recruited, and groomed, three young men who went on to become prime ministers: Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Jean Chretien.

"Mike" and his Proteges 


Northern PoV said...

Being picky ALERT...
So I know Pearson is credited for recruiting the 'three wise men' from Quebec:
Trudeau, Pelletier and Lalonde. ('65 election?)
He did politically nurture Chretien* from the sounds of your comment. (I did not know Chretien was Parl Sec to Pearson before Sharp!!)

But did he 'recruit' either Turner or Chretien? Turner was a "patrician" Liberal I believe (and a terrible leader) Jean was a political street fighter from the wilds of Quebec who I'd guess boot-strapped himself into the role of MP.

*Indulge me:
I shook Jean's hand three times. Once when he was opposition leader (and low in the polls?). He was glad handing inside the security area of the Calgary airport.
Once after the '68 election when he spoke the Lib riding association I helped out as a 14 yr old scrutineer. (I was protesting the War Measures two years later LOL.)
And once in '66 when my grade 7 class visited Parliament. M. Sharp (our MP) delegated Jean to meet us. We liked him but could not understand much of what he said - maybe Pearson was concerned about his English in addition to the political grooming. Believe it or not ... his English got better.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, NPoV - Here are a few references.

After his announcement on December 14, 1967, that he was retiring from politics, a leadership convention was held. Pearson's successor was Pierre Trudeau, a man who Pearson had recruited and made Minister of Justice in his cabinet. Trudeau later became Prime Minister, and two other cabinet ministers Pearson recruited, John Turner and Jean Chr├ętien, served as prime ministers in the years following Trudeau's retirement. Paul Martin Jr., the son of Pearson's minister of external affairs, Paul Martin Sr., also went on to become prime minister.