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Pique n' your interest

More than one way out

A bouncer friend of mine once explained his strategy for ejecting drunk and unruly patrons. In the beginning he would grab them by the scruff of the neck, ready to put them in a choke-hold if they fought back, and propel them through the crowd to the door. Usually male, they would struggle, curse, and yell loudly for the manager. Sometimes they would try to fight the bouncer or bouncers out on the street, and my friend would have to sit on them until the police came to take the person away.

He has since adopted a less forceful approach. He approaches the person and politely informs them that the bar is running out of booze because of them, and that it wouldn't be fair to the rest of the customers to let them stay. He asks the person where his friends are, and then he asks the friends if they could do him a favour and get the person home and to bed.

If the friends aren't going to help, the bouncer walks the person out, stopping at the coat check or washroom if needs be, and makes sure the person knows where he or she is going. He tells them to come back tomorrow when they get a new shipment in.

The inebriated patron goes off smiling most of the time because their pride and dignity is left intact. "You take away that, and they're going to take a swing at you," my friend said. "They don't really have a choice."

Sometimes there are still problems, even with the honey over vinegar approach, but the more polite you are, the more reasonable a person is going to be. It seems like a reasonable approach.

Now I'm not saying our current prime minister is an unruly drunk, stumbling around a nightclub spilling beer all over his shirt. But when Jean Chretien is shown the door, either by members of his party at the next leadership review or by the Canadian voters at the next election, it might be a good idea to make sure to give him a dignified way out.

Last week the man himself ventured to B.C., a place he has avoided like the plague since the Canadian Alliance took over the province last election, to declare a Sikh Temple as a national landmark and dedicate a new monument in Chinatown. Aside from a few hecklers, and a detainee with a suspicious pie, the PM was poised and politically correct.

If he was worried that party members have given him an ultimatum to announce his plans for the future, he didn't show it. If he was concerned that the pollsters are asking the public whether the PM should resign - something that would have been considered treason a few hundred years ago - he didn't say.

Columnists from coast to coast are speculating on how divided the Liberal Party is right now, and who will succeed Chretien at the throne.

It all seems a little premature, and a little bit harsh. Nobody every accused politicians of having an excess of tact, but the man has feelings. He also has an excess of pride.

People in the Liberal Party should be a little more like my friend the bouncer and gently nudge him out the door. If they try to push him out, he has shown time and time again that he will fight back. Cabinet ministers are already losing their portfolios, unholy alliances are being forged, MPs and members of the party are being divided against each other, and, worst of all, Chretien has not ruled out running for prime minister once again. Just to teach us a lesson in Politicking 101.

Although he's never been more unpopular, he could easily win through the aid of his allies in the party, his clout as the prime minister, and his Machiavellian back room manoeuvring.

That's a problem for me and for what appears to be the majority of Canadians. We get to pick the party, not the party leader, and that's just not fair.

Why? Because it's almost a given that the Liberals will win a third consecutive House majority, no matter who is at the helm. There just isn't another option out there right now, with the right still divided through the middle and the conventional left struggling to be taken seriously.

Chretien has hinted, in broad terms, that he is ready to pack it in, but he has hinted, equally broadly, that he's not going until he's good and ready. Next year he will celebrate his 10th anniversary as head honcho, and some analysts have suggested that he would announce his departure then. He just wants to be honoured by his peers for decades of public service at a lavish party and retire with his pride and dignity intact.

Some say he won't leave until he has made absolutely certain that dissenters like Paul Martin won't succeed him in office, and if that is the case, he should be put in a choke hold and tossed onto the street like a groper at a strip club. I don't think it will come to that, however - the man's been in politics long enough to know which way the wind is blowing, and for the past six months it's been a headwind all the way.

The only thing that doesn't seem to add up to retirement is the recent visit to B.C. After all but ignoring this part of the country for 10 years, he turns up for a couple of low-profile photo opportunities, following in the footsteps of Liberal prodigal Paul Martin. Why?

Let's hope we didn't just witness the start of another campaign.