Chretien book to contain nothing but 'the facts'
MONTREAL - The race to define history has begun in earnest for two former prime ministers.
With Brian Mulroney's memoirs scaling bestseller lists, Jean Chretien teased readers on Wednesday by giving them a sneak peek at what they can expect from his own upcoming memoir.
"The book is about the problems of being prime minister,'' Chretien said at an impromptu news conference at Montreal's Ritz-Carlton hotel. "The 10 years in my book were very good years for the people of Canada.''
Chretien hinted that his book will have a different feel than Mulroney's 1,100-page tome, which has set the chattering classes abuzz with its scathing attacks on former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and ex-Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard.
"I give the facts, so you'll pass the judgment,'' Chretien said. "I don't spend much time on personalities.''
The book -- which will be published in English as "My Years as Prime Minister'' -- tracks Chretien's time as prime minister, from his first day in office to his last.
Sources have told The Canadian Press that Chretien's book will, like Mulroney's, cast a negative light on Bouchard.
But Chretien was mum on what juicy details can be expected from his book, saying simply it takes readers behind the pivotal events of his tenure including the 1995 Quebec referendum and the decision to not participate in the U.S.-led Iraq invasion.
In fact, Chretien was almost blazing when pressed by reporters about his feelings on the referendum campaign.
"At the beginning it was great, and after we collapsed and then we came back,'' Chretien said. "So of course it was nerve-wracking a bit, but the end was result was we won.''
As for the major stain on his record, the sponsorship scandal, Canadians shouldn't expect any sudden avowals or mea culpas.
"There is nothing to learn,'' Chretien said. "There were four guys who were thrown in jail as robbers. . . and not one of them was a Liberal.''
Chretien was more content rehashing the major accomplishments of his three successive majority governments, such as erasing the deficit, signing the Kyoto accord on climate change and passing the Clarity Act setting ground rules for any future sovereignty referendums.<
"I'm not worried about what historians will write about me. I won't be there to read it.''
Mulroney, who quit as an unpopular leader in 1993, expressed similar sentiments during his book launch on Monday.
But while Mulroney appears to have resigned himself to a bitter fight to redefine his legacy, Chretien feels the recent string of minority governments have given his tenure an added lustre.
"I realize now they have problems electing majority governments,'' he said. "It's not good for the country, but it's not bad for me.''
"My Years as Prime Minister'' is set to be released Oct. 15 in both English and French.