Nardwuar: Who are you?

Jean Chretien: Jean Chretien.

Welcome to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Jean Chretien.

I've been here quite a lot of times in my life. I came here for the first time in July 1967. You were not born.

How did you know that?

You're a kid.

I am the kid.

Yes, you are the kid.

Mr. Chretien, Celine Dion, when she warms up for a performance, she listens to AC/DC and she also listens to hair metal. How do you prepare for a performance? How do you prepare for a presentation?

Well, I don't prepare myself because I do not have performance anymore. I am in retirement.

How about a presentation? How do you get yourself psyched up to meet a crowd? Celine Dion listens to heavy metal music. How do you do it to get out there to meet a crowd?

I've never done anything special. I move from one environment to another one. I'm not a performer like her. She has to perform. I've seen her in Las Vegas and it's kind of a difficult performance. It's not intellectually difficult. She has to remember things, but physically she has to dance and jump and so on, so she has to prepare herself for that.

But being a prime minister, you have to jump and dance and sing. It's quite physical too, isn't it?

I know, but you do that from your seat in the House Of Commons, so you don't need to do any mental gymnastics to get ready.

Well, how about when you're challenging Bill Clinton to jump over a fence like in your brand new book (My Years as Prime Minister) ?

I'm a very competitive guy, and we were in Great Britain and we escaped our bodyguards for some 45 minutes. That was quite a feat for us. We went into the bush and when we came back, there was a wall about six feet high. I said, "Bill, why don't we jump over that?" And I'm a competitive guy and I was up and he had problems to do it. He saw me here, he's 14 years younger than I, so I felt pretty good. That was a good day where the Canadian won.

Mr. Chretien, that's in your book, and also in your book is an amazing photo. What can you tell the people about this photo here? [Nardwuars shows photo] I just find this absolutely incredible. This is you shirtless, in a pool with a whole bunch of journalists here in Rio De Janeiro.

We were in Rio De Janeiro and we were in the same hotel. I went down to swim and they were all there and we had a beer in a swimming pool. Looks like a pretty friendly crowd.

What sort of adventures do you get involved in in politics? For instance, in 1971, were you involved in some vodka drinking contest with the Russians?

No it was" yes. It was not a contest. It was that they decided to get me drunk. And they do that because we were in Siberia and we were on the Lena River. The ambassador said to me, "Minister, today is the day that we get you drunk." They do that for a lot of guests. So he said, "Don't worry, we will take care of you. We drink a lot of vodka, toasting friendship with the north," and this is the year that we defeated them in hockey, so it was a lot of fun. And by the end of the afternoon, unfortunately, I had taken a bit too much of it. But they said, "Let's have a contest between four Canadians and four Russians jumping into the river and swimming to another boat." And it was the Lena River, and the Lena River is like the Mackenzie River — it's not warm there. So we were four Canadians, we just got ready to jump. We took off our clothes. We were in our underwear, and they were too, and there were eight of us. They jumped the gun and we jumped into the river. The Russians found it really funny, but what happened was that when I jumped into the water I drank a hell of a lot of water that diluted my vodka and the premier of the province of Yakutia was there and they had to carry him out of the boat while I walk on my own power off the boat to the acclamation of the Canadians, jokingly because it was a contest. They do that. One time (Lester) "Mike" Pearson, when he was minister of foreign affairs, had a similar adventure in Moscow, and he's done very well, according to what I read about it.

Mr. Chretien, on page 12 of your brand new book, you talk about letting your grandsons eavesdrop on your first conversation with Bill Clinton. That was very nice of you.

Yes, why not? You know, Bill Clinton called me. I had won the election the night before. The final result came later. No, it was early, but concession by then Prime Minster Madame Campbell was after she waited for the results to come in from B.C. to concede. In my riding it was midnight. Anyway, Mr. Clinton called me early in the morning to congratulate me, and I said to the kids, "Why don't you listen? I'm talking to the president of the United States." And they were there.

That was really cool that you let them eavesdrop. That was really cool, Mr. Chretien.

Oh well, it wasn't anything that confidential.

Still, it was only the president of the United States of America!

It was only the president of the United States and I was only the prime minister of Canada that day.

And you are Mr. Jean Chretien, the former prime minister of Canada. On page 195 of your book, you talk about using Diana Krall as "bait" to get the Mexican president up to Canada.

You find it cool?

You got him up here!

Yes, what happened was that we had a conference, an international conference on federalism, and it was Mr. Dion was in charge. They had this idea that we should have big speakers. He said, "Why don't we invite Bill Clinton and [Ernesto] Zedillo?" I said, "Hey, these guys don't go to conferences too often," but it turned out that it was organized in a way that Mr. Clinton came there, and came to Ottawa. It was not very far by helicopter to go there, and after that we had a golf game. How to get Zedillo? As the president of Mexico, if you want to get out of the country you need the permission of parliament, so it's not easy. So I said, "Why don't you come?" and he said "I don't want to ask for permission because I ask for permission a lot to leave the country." It's a funny system that way. I don't know if they still have it. I said to him, "Well, that's too bad because if you came, Diana Krall would have been there." And I knew. I had been at his residence once and had seen the music there and I saw a lot of Diana Krall. So when I asked, I said "too bad," and then he asked for the permission and he came and she [Krall] was in Canada at that time, and she came to Ottawa for a lunch. She had invited, for that occasion, her mom and dad from Nanaimo to be here. We had other guests and I put Zedillo and his wife next to the piano and Diana asked them what they wanted her to play and sing. So Diana Krall was the bait, and he came and he made a good speech.

Mr. Chretien, speaking of records and stuff, do you remember this record [Nardwuar pulls out an LP] "Go Go Trudeau" at all? You remember this by Les Sinners?

It was '68. I can see that right there, but it was his (Pierre Trudeau's) first election. I was already in his cabinet at that time. We were sworn in as his cabinet the year before, something like April 6, 1967. We became ministers the same day. Less than eight years after that he was the leader and it was Trudeaumania, so the people"

Made a record called "Go Go Trudeau!"

And they made a few others.

Was there ever a Jean Chretien record? Is there a Jean Chretien record?


Go Go Chretien

So there was no "Go Go Chretien?"

No. The only funny thing I've done with music is they gave me a German trombone and I played a few times here and there. One time in public on TV, but it was almost a terrible disaster. At the convention of the Liberal party they forced me to use it, but you know I'm not a performer, but I like music. Trombone isn't something you can be a soloist with.

How about this particular Canadian band, this [Nardwuar pulls out another LP] French Canadian band, there are so many good French Canadian bands –Les Classels.

One of them [Rene Angelil] is the husband of Celine Dion and that is something that nobody knows. These guys, what's his name?

He might have actually been in a band called Les Baronets.

Les Baronets, that's right because Les Baronets' first performance was in my hometown. He told that to me. Les Classelles were very popular back then.

Mr. Chretien, on page 185 of your book, talking about Asia Pacific Conference of 1997 in Vancouver , you say, "All at once, everybody began shouting about pepper." And I guess what I was wondering is, wasn't everybody me? I actually asked the pepper question, Mr. Chretien.

You did?

Yes, it wasn't, like, everyone yelling at you. It was like one person. I was actually asking you a question about punk rock and pepper spray, and that's what prompted your reply.

Perhaps. But my recollection is that I had many questions about it (The pepper spraying of protesters at APEC ) and I didn't know at all what had happened because that happened after I left, and I so said, what the hell, "Pepper, Pepper I put it on my plate." And you remember that .. 'cause they talk about not pepper, they talk about about mace.

Yes, I said, "Does mace equal freedom?"

Yes, mace. But I did not know the meaning of it. So you shout to me "pepper" and I say "Oh Pepper, I put it on my plate" because I did not know what you meant. So I could not reply better. And I was in a good mood, the conference had gone well and there had been no problems.

And earlier you had talked about your protesting years, how you protested yourself.

Of course, of course. When you're in public office you have to expect to have protests. I did organize protests myself when I was a kid. So once in a while when the protests were a bit lively, I would say to myself, "Jean, you deserve it," you remember what you did what you did when you were in Montreal or Quebec City when you were a kid. But you know, it has to be within the guidelines and within the respect of not breaking property and letting the people the right to go where they they want to go.

What is interesting about that Mr. Chretien, is that, I thank you for acknowledging that, because in your book you say "Once everybody began shouting" You didn't say, "Once Nardwuar began shouting"

Well, so much noise, eh, that I thought it was the whole room, I guess. You were very aggressive, if I remember, but for me I had the impression that that question had come from many corners.

No, it was right from me, Mr. Chretien, and what's amazing is look at what happened! Did you see the stuff that happened from this? My friend Pat Shanks from Ottawa sent me this entire T-shirt here. [Nardwuar holds up a shirt] "Pepper, I put it on my plate."

Yeah that's a nice --- and you know I am smiling, to reflect the mood of the day.

Is this capitalism at its best, Jean Chretien?

It has nothing to do with capitalism. We were dealing with serious problems of the fiscal problems that were going on in the Asian countries at that time – the currency had collapsed, and Korea, and so on. It was a very serious meeting that we had here.

It's just amazing that it turned into a T-shirt and believe it or not Mr. Chretien it even makes an appearance, that quote that I asked you, even makes an appearance in [Nardwuar pulls out a book] Canadian History For Dummies.

Really, well, that's why you have it, because you're a dummy, I guess.

Yes, I am. Thank you very much Mr. Chretien. Winding up here, Mr. Chretien, I was wondering, you were talking on page 380 of your book about the Pope. [Nardwuar Pulls out a Pope picture disc record] I was wondering if you could tell me about the Pope and his influence on making you move up your retirement date.

We had a chat, a private talk, and I was talking about my plan of retirement, and I don't remember exactly, but he was a very nice person, and I met him many times as prime minister, and my fate is I'm a Roman Catholic, so we discussed life and retirement was part of it.

How about this gentleman here, Jean Chretien? [Nardwuar pulls out a stack of records] , what can you tell me about these particular people? Frank Mahovlich.

Frank Mahovlich is a senator now, but he was a great hockey star for the Maple Leafs and he was a great hockey star for the Canadiens. He is a very popular senator today. [looking at Nardwuar's Arnold Schwarzenegger workout record] And Arnold Schwarzenegger, I don't know this guy.

Have you met Arnold Schwarzenegger?

No, I haven't met him, but I've know of him because he is from south of here. He's a governor of the state of California.

What about this man right here [Nardwuar points to a Tommy Douglas record]?

Tommy Douglas — he was a member of parliament when I was there. In fact, at one time, when I was fighting as minister of justice for the charter of rights, and some of the NDP were giving me problems, he would call me at home and encourage me. Him and David Lewis did that to me.

I found it interesting that on page 284 of your book, Mr. Chretien, you talk about Castro joking about Stockwell Day.

Yes, he said to me something like, "You should call an election." He was an amazing character. For example, one morning I was going out of Havana and I was in a car with him, and he said, "Are you aware, Mr. Chretien, that the stock market collapsed in the morning?" There was a big drop in the market or something like that. But Castro talking to me about the stock market.

He knew about the Dow Jones.

Yeah, it that is suprising.

Lastly here, I wanted to talk to you about this. This is called the Hip Flip.[ Nardwuar Shows instructions to the Hip Flip] It is a little 1960s game. I did it with Jack Layton. Stephen Harper would not do the Hip Flip with me. Paul Martin did the Hip Flip with me. Jack Layton did the Hip Flip with me. Would you possibly partake in doing the Hip Flip with me Jean Chretien?

I don't do these things. Why should I do it? You want to add me to the record list?

Oh, I was just wondering if you'd join the club, the Hip Flip club. It's just I've approached different political figures to do it.

Well, I don't know how to do it.

Well, I can show you how to do it. We have it right over here. Would you like to see it all Mr . Chretien?

I dunno.

We have it right over here M.r Chretien [Nardwuar grabs the Hip Flip Toy] And what it is---

I understand

[Nardwuar and Mr. Chretien do the Hip Flip.]

Thank you so much Mr. Chretien, Really appreciate your time, Mr. Chretien, keep on rocking in the free world and doot doola doot doo...

Doot doo!