POLITICS

Jean Chretien Lends B.C. Liberals Some Star Power

10/01/2015 04:53 EDT | Updated 10/01/2016 05:12 EDT

VANCOUVER — Jean Chretien says people make mistakes and sometimes say stupid things, but that doesn't mean they should have to spend the rest of their lives in the penalty box.

The former prime minister was responding to questions about the recent spate of candidates from across the political spectrum who have dropped out of the federal election over controversial comments dredged up on social media.

"We live in a different world today," said Chretien. "We have these little machines and sometimes some people use it too much and they make mistakes. So it's better not to use it.

"I never send an email to anybody, or rarely — my wife once in a while, but I'm not too scared about that," he said, grinning.

In the past several days alone, two Liberal candidates on Vancouver Island have stepped down over questionable Facebook posts.

Maria Manna from the new riding of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford resigned on Monday over a post in which she questioned the origin of the 9/11 attacks, while Cheryl Thomas pulled out of the race in Victoria on Wednesday after comments surfaced in which she described mosques as "brainwashing stations."

Elsewhere, Hamilton-area NDP candidate Alex Johnstone dropped out after making crude remarks about a photograph taken in Auschwitz before revealing she had never heard of the notorious Nazi death camp.

The Tories were quick to cut ties to former Toronto-area candidate Jerry Bance, who was caught on tape urinating into an unsuspecting client's coffee cup while working as an appliance repairman.

Chretien was in Vancouver for business on Thursday and decided while in the region to throw some star power behind the Liberals' B.C. campaign.

The Grits are hoping to make inroads on the West Coast, despite the province's tendency to swing sharply between the NDP and Conservative ends of the political spectrum.

The party had a dismal showing in the province during the last federal election, losing three of its five seats, out of a provincial total of 36.

Incumbents Hedy Fry and Joyce Murray managed to hold onto their downtown Vancouver ridings in 2011 and both are hoping for re-election.

Chretien took aim at the suggestion that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is "just not ready" to lead the country — a campaign line repeatedly hammered home by the Conservative party.

Chretien cited previous prime ministers with far less elected experience than Trudeau's two terms and seven years in office, including the Liberal leader's own father, Pierre Trudeau, who had less than three years in the Commons when he took the country's helm.

"None of us had the privilege to have dinner every night with a prime minister," said Chretien of the younger Trudeau's unique upbringing. "Pierre Trudeau was not talking hockey when he arrived home."

Chretien isn't the only iconic figure from a party's past to make the rounds in B.C. of late. The Liberal figure's former rival and leader of the now-defunct Canadian Alliance party Stockwell Day hit the road several days ago to help bolster the Conservative campaign.

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