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Chrétien praises McGuinty's victory

Globe and Mail Update

Vancouver — Prime Minister Jean Chrétien praised Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty for his landslide victory in yesterday's provincial election, saying he won because he has the right stuff.

"He is a real Liberal, like many of us," he said at a fundraising dinner speech last night.

Mr. Chrétien said he, Mr. McGuinty, and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell had all won their respective elections because they recognized that it is important for a politician "to be responsible, to do the right thing, to be tough and to be fair.

"It is the way you succeed."

Mr. Chrétien, who earlier in the evening telephoned Mr. McGuinty to congratulate him, said he was impressed by the Liberal's landslide win.

"To see a young man like him to win such a huge victory," said Mr. Chrétien, finishing the sentence by shrugging as if to say there were no words to describe it.

"I want to wish him well," he said.

During his speech, which he said would be his final address in B.C. as Prime Minister, Mr. Chrétien spent much of his time reflecting on his more than 40 years in office.

He said he is proud of his economic record, and of Canada's ability to maintain its social programs while reducing the debt and cutting taxes. No nation, he said, could make such a boast.

And he defended the stand he took against the United States on the invasion of Iraq, saying that although that brought much criticism from outside the country, most Canadians supported the move.

"We had to deal with Iraq. . .we had a very difficult decision to make. We made it in accordance with our values," he said to loud applause.

"We acted as an independent country. We can be proud of what we did.

"Some of our opponents say our relationship with the United States needs to be repaired. . .(but) there is nothing broken.

"It is only broken if you believe we have to agree with the United States on every single issue.

"No two countries, no two friends agree on everything."

At times Mr. Chrétien's voice dropped and softened as he emotionally recalled his political career.

"For me. . .41 years, I've enjoyed every moment of it. Sometimes it was tough," he said.

He recalled as a young man in Quebec arguing with a colleague about Canada and being stung when he was told he knew nothing, because he'd never been outside the province.

He said he realized the criticism was right, and set out to learn about his nation. It was a trip that took him to Ottawa and elected office, more than four decades ago.

"And for all my life, with Aleen, we've traveled this land from sea to sea to sea. And I'm telling you that I have absolutely no regrets. I'm the luckiest person in Canada. I had 41 years - good years - doing my best to make this country a better country," he said, finishing to a standing ovation.

About 1,100 people paid $500 a plate to attend the Liberal fundraiser.

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