The liberal election campaign n the riding of Kelowna Lake-Country received a boost Friday morning when a political heavyweight visited the campaign headquarters.
Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, now 85, revved up the volunteers helping with re-election efforts for Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr.
“He did a lot for the country and he’s still very well known, he’s very well respected around the world and he’s in little Kelowna and our little campaign office, spending time with the people that put a lot of work into this big effort, so I’m thrilled that he was here,” said Fuhr.
“I hope it’s helping him,” Chrétien said, when asked what he hopes his visit means to the local campaign.
Fuhr’s campaign office on Bernard Avenue was packed wall-to-wall with volunteers delighted with the visit.
“It’s great, it’s awesome,” said volunteer Reid Gratz. “It’s been a wonderful experience…to see him up close and in person is really cool.”
Volunteer Beryl Itani said she was pleasantly surprised at Chrétien’s enthusiasm.
“After all these years, he always has a smile on his face and he was very happy to be here,” she said. “For me it was incredible to have him here and I think the way he thanked us as volunteers, For me it’s really important to have somebody to say thank you for what you’ve done and what you are doing in our community.”
Chrétien’s trademark humour was on display as he made jokes left, right and centre while praising Fuhr’s efforts.
“He’s an expensive MP all of the money is coming here,” Chrétien said. “It’s a bit expensive for Ottawa. I wish I had been able to do the same thing for my riding.”
Chrétien, who was the 20th prime minister of Canada, took time to shake hands with all of the volunteers and even signed books and photos some of the volunteers brought with them.
In a media scrum, Chretien offered his thoughts on the current campaign.
“I think it’s a tight election.” he said.
But he encouraged Justin Trudeau and all of the Liberal candidates to keep working hard until the very end.
“People tend to decide in the last two weeks,” he said.
He also offered the following advice to everyone running under the Liberal banner.
“Keep talking like liberals. “he said. “Moderate, open. tolerant and prescribing to the values of being Canadian, diversity, unity.”
When asked in the media scrum about the brownface/blackface scandal, Chrétien didn’t have much to say.
“It’s over,” he said. He then said “Next” wanting a different question from the throng of reporters.
When he was asked if Trudeau handed the scandal properly, Chrétien simply said “yes”.
When asked about all of the scandals that have plagued the Liberals not only in this current campaign but during their time in office, Chrétien said mistakes will always happen, no matter who is governing.
“There’s always problems in administration, ” he said. “You look at the results, the progress of a nation. That is what is fundamental, you know when you have 35 million people, when you have 400,000 bureaucrats, there’s mistakes that occur once in a while and when you see a mistake you correct it.”
Chrétien served as prime minister from November 1993, to December 2003.
He’s in Kelowna for a leadership conference.