New day in Canada
Chretien forges new government with slimmer majority
June 3, 1997
Web posted at: 12:22 p.m. EDT (1622 GMT)
From Correspondent Ed Garsten
OTTAWA (CNN) -- Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien
appeared buoyant but bruised after surviving a great
political gamble -- calling for early elections.
But many of his fellow Liberals -- including the defense and
health ministers -- lost their seats, and Chretien's party
held onto the slimmest of majorities in Parliament. That led
the prime minister to begin making political peace
"I pledge to govern for the whole country in interest of
all Canadians," he said Monday night, "... and in the
interest of all regions of Canada." (192 K/14 sec. AIFF
or WAV sound)
But the leader of the new official opposition, Reform Party
chief Preston Manning, wasted no time in tossing down the
gauntlet. The election results, he said, were a warning that
Chretien's government had best heed.
"And the warning is," Manning said, "you cannot break your
promises." (128 K/8 sec. AIFF
or WAV sound)
Chretien admitted he has work to do to repair Canada's
stalled economy and a socialized health care system wracked
by budget cuts. But one of his biggest challenges is to keep
French-speaking Quebec within Canada. Eighteen months after a
close referendum on the issue, separatist sentiments in the
province remain strong.
Canada's southern neighbor, the United States, breathed a
sigh of relief at Chretien's victory because of the prime
minister's willingness to reach out to Quebec, which has
strong economic ties across its southern border.
"Had Chretien lost, that would have jeopardized the ability
of the (U.S.) government to bargain, to negotiate, to wage
psychological warfare against the separatists in Quebec,"
said pollster Conrad Winn.
But Chretien's more immediate challenge is to cobble together
a new government and try to move his programs through the
House of Commons, which is now a house more divided than
before the elections.
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