QUEBEC - Jean Chretien says Prime Minister Stephen Harper was wrong not to attend the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.
And the former prime minister believes Canada may pay a high price for his absence.
Chretien, who was speaking at a news conference following a speech to the Canadian Bar Association in Quebec City Monday, says he would definitely have gone to Beijing had he still been prime minister.
He says Harper should have been at the celebration given China's economic and demographic clout and the mentality of its leaders.
Chretien believes relations between the countries have deteriorated since the Conservatives came to power.
The former Liberal prime minister pointed out he always maintained very good relations with China when he was in charge of the government.http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/080818/national/chretien_harper
My comment: I don't think the Canadian interest is served by this kind of statement by a retired Prime Minister. On matters of foreign policy presenting a Canadian united front is best. Partisan political debate is of course a good thing, but former Prime Ministers are better off giving their counsel in private in my opinion.
Update August 20:
By The Canadian Press
BEIJING - Chinese media have picked up on the war of words this week between Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper over the prime minister's decision to skip the opening ceremonies of the Summer Games in Beijing.
The story was teased on the front page of the English-language China Daily under the headline "Canada PM Flayed for Skipping Day 1" and was also featured on about a dozen Chinese news websites and various blogs on Wednesday.
Most stories ran with the headline: "Former Prime Minister Chretien Strongly Criticizes Current Prime Minister Harper for Not Attending Olympics: Will Pay Heavy Price."(http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/080820/national/oly_harper_chretien)