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Personal financial interest behind Chrétien attack on PM's China policy, Kenney says

August 21, 2008

Campbell Clark
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
August 20, 2008

OTTAWA -- Former prime minister Jean Chrétien's criticism of Canada's
current China policy reflects his personal financial interest in
clients who do business there, not Canada's interest, Conservative
cabinet minister Jason Kenney says.

And Mr. Kenney, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism, asserted
that when he was in office, Mr. Chrétien's China policy was
influenced by his post-politics business plans, and the interests of
rich and powerful friends.

On Monday, Mr. Chrétien delivered an indictment of Prime Minister
Stephen Harper's conduct of relations with China, saying that Mr.
Harper's failure to attend the Beijing Olympics and his meeting with
the Dalai Lama threatened good ties with the rising economic power.

Mr. Kenney noted that Parliament unanimously voted to make the Dalai
Lama an honorary citizen, and said it is disturbing to think that
Canada would let a foreign power dictate whom it should honour.
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"I think it reconfirms that Mr. Chrétien and the Liberals have always
pursued a policy in this area calculated to their own personal
financial interests and those of rich and powerful friends," Mr.
Kenney said yesterday.

"It's no mistake that Mr. Chrétien was calculating his retirement
income in his relations in this area. [It was] a few weeks after he
left the premiership that he was being signed on as a consultant to
multinational companies with commercial interests in this area. ..."

Mr. Kenney was clearly referring to Power Corp., the conglomerate
founded by Paul Desmarais Sr. His son, André Desmarais, now the
co-CEO, is married to Mr. Chrétien's daughter, France, and Mr.
Chrétien's long-time campaign manager and adviser, John Rae, is a
senior Power executive.

Mr. Chrétien travelled to China two months after leaving office
accompanied by Power executives, and has returned several times to
represent business clients.

In office, Mr. Chrétien pursued a policy of active engagement with
China, and led missions there to develop trade.

Mr. Chrétien's former communications director, Senator Jim Munson,
called Mr. Kenney's comments "very unkind."

"Mr. Chrétien was just stating the obvious. He believes in engagement
with China, just as the Canadian business community believes in
engagement," he said. "Whether it's human rights or business, it's
better talking with China than insulting Mr. Chrétien."

At a Canadian Bar Association gathering on Monday, Mr. Chrétien said
the fact that the Prime Minister skipped the Olympics opening
ceremony and that the Dalai Lama was made an honorary citizen are
slights the Chinese will remember, and that Canada is "at the bottom
of the ladder in terms of having any influence with China."

In Hamilton yesterday, Mr. Harper said Mr. Chrétien's criticism of
his decision not to go to the Beijing Olympics is "a bit
hypocritical" because the former PM went to the Olympics only once
while in office.

Mr. Kenney said that because the vote on the Dalai Lama was
unanimous, Mr. Chrétien is criticizing Liberals, too.

"The approach Mr. Harper has taken is that our foreign policy, in
general, will be governed by Canada's values and interests. He
doesn't sit around calculating anybody's financial interests for
himself or close friends when deciding to do the right thing," he said.

He argued that the Conservative government has pursued strong
relations with China, and that Mr. Harper has met Chinese President
Hu Jintao three times at summits. And while critics have noted that
Mr. Harper has not travelled to China, Mr. Kenney said Conservative
cabinet ministers have visited 14 times.
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