Former prime minister Jean Chrétien says he's among the many taken aback by interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae's decision not to seek the permanent leadership of the party as its future hangs in the balance.


"I was surprised," said Chrétien, in an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House with host Evan Solomon.


"I thought he was to run, he has experience, he's a well-qualified person.… He felt that it was not his time. So we have to respect that decision."


When asked by Solomon whether he would endorse anyone in the coming Liberal leadership race, Chrétien noted it's not the tradition for former leaders to formally give their endorsements.


"No, unless I change my mind," said Chrétien, who led the party to three successive majority governments, in response to Solomon's question.


Chrétien said he received encouragement from Pierre Trudeau to run for the leadership, and wouldn't rule out offering the same advice to others considering throwing their hat in the ring.


"You know, it depends if they come to see me," he said.


Asked about the late prime minister's son, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, Chrétien said the two Trudeaus are "definitely different," but added the younger Trudeau "has proven himself in some way."


"You know, rather than run in a safe seat, he had to run in a difficult seat," Chrétien said. "He won and defeated the Bloc, and he's the only one who increased his majority."


Trudeau, who represents the Montreal riding of Papineau, has repeatedly rejected the idea of running for the Liberal leadership. However, Trudeau also acknowledged this week he is under pressure to reconsider, and vowed any decision "will be made on a personal basis in consultation with my family."


Chrétien said other "good" potential candidates have been mentioned, including other Quebec Liberals such as Denis Coderre and Marc Garneau, as well as former Quebec Liberal MP and cabinet minister Martin Cauchon and New Brunswick Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc.


'Ups and downs' for parties


Asked by the CBC's Solomon whether he's given any advice to Trudeau, Chrétien replied: "No, I know him. I've talked to him."


But Chrétien added there are "a lot of precedents" with MPs with only a few years of experience running successfully for the helms of their parties.


"[Trudeau's] father, was he ready when he became the leader?" he said. "Joe Clark was younger than Trudeau when he became the leader.


"Remember they were calling him 'Joe Who?' So he became prime minister anyway."


Chrétien then added, "Not very long."


Chrétien is celebrating the grand opening of a museum exhibit in his honour in his home town in Quebec this weekend. The exhibit in Shawinigan titled Canada in the World displays gifts Chrétien received during his time as prime minister. He said the museum exhibit can offer some guidance to Liberals about leadership in the future.


"In the story of political parties, you have ups and downs," he said.


"Over a period of years, things change a lot. And now, we will see. There will be a race, and there will be a good list of candidates and the party will be able to choose from [them]."


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    With talk of Trudeau making a bid for the Liberal leadership reaching a fever pitch (again), HuffPost takes a look at some surprising facts about Canada's perpetual PM-in-waiting. (CP)

  • 11. Politics On Mother's Side Too

    Trudeau's maternal grandfather <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Sinclair_(politician)" target="_hplink">James Sinclair</a> was a Liberal MP and cabinet minister in Louis St.-Laurent's government in the 1950s. (House of Commons) <em><strong>CORRECTION</strong>: An earlier version of this slide incorrectly said Sinclair was a Progressive Conservative MP.</em>

  • 10. Born In Office

    <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Trudeau" target="_hplink">Trudeau was only the second child ever to be born while a parent was prime minister</a>. The first was John A. Macdonald's youngest daughter Margaret Mary Macdonald. Trudeau's younger brothers, Alexandre (Sacha) and Michel were the third and fourth. (CP)

  • 9. Educated Enough?

    Trudeau has a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill and a Bachelor of Education from UBC. He also studied engineering at the Université de Montréal and environmental geography at McGill, but never finished degrees in those fields.

  • 8. Enemies To Friends

    While fathers Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau were rivals, sons Justin and Ben are friends. Mulroney attended Trudeau's wedding to Sophie Grégoire. Grégoire has worked as Quebec correspondent for CTV's eTalk, which is hosted by Mulroney. (CP)

  • 7. Let Them Eat Anything But Cake

    Trudeau didn't have cake at his wedding, with <a href="http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20050606_106678_106678" target="_hplink">Sophie arguing that people never eat it anyway</a>. (Shutterstock)

  • 6. Born On Christmas

    <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Trudeau" target="_hplink">Trudeau entered the world on December 25, 1971</a>.

  • 5. Two Tattoos In One

    Trudeau has a large tattoo on his left shoulder. <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/justinpjtrudeau/statuses/179973685136998400" target="_hplink">The planet Earth inside a Haida raven</a>. Trudeau got the globe tattoo when he was 23 and the raven when he turned 40. (Media Ball)

  • 4. Keeping It In The Family

    Trudeau and his wife Sophie have two children, Xavier James (4) and Ella-Grace Margaret (3). Both are partially named after family.<a href="http://www.chatelaine.com/en/article/4970--the-littlest-trudeau" target="_hplink"> Xavier James is named after Trudeau's maternal grandfather James Sinclair</a> (the politician) and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Gr%C3%A9goire" target="_hplink">Ella-Grace Margaret is named after Trudeau's mother Margaret and Grace Elliot, Trudeau's paternal grandmother</a>. Xavier also happens to share a birthday with Pierre Elliott Trudeau. (CP)

  • 3. Politician And Actor

    <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0846011/" target="_hplink">Trudeau played Talbot Mercer Papineau</a> in the 2007 CBC miniseries "The Great War."

  • 2. .. And Video Game Star

    <a href="http://arts.nationalpost.com/2011/09/06/in-deus-ex-justin-trudeau-is-the-pm-and-canada-has-a-problem-with-illegal-immigrants-from-the-u-s/" target="_hplink">Trudeau is prime minister in the dystopian future portrayed in the video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution</a>. (CP)

  • 1. Childhood Sweathearts

    Sophie used to visit the Trudeau family home when she was a child. She was a classmate and friend of Trudeau's youngest brother Michel, who died tragically in a B.C. avalanche in 1998. Justin and Sophie made contact again at a fundraiser in 2003 and soon after began dating. <a href="http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20050606_106678_106678" target="_hplink">Trudeau was so smitten</a> that he declared they would spend the rest of their lives together on the very first date. (CP)