Chretien says he felt 'betrayed' by Paul Martin
Jean Chretien isn't mincing words in his new memoirs, which are set to be officially released next week.
In "My Years as Prime Minister," Chretien says he felt betrayed by his successor Paul Martin and a Liberal "gang of self-serving goons" who tried to push him out of office.
Even though reporters who received advanced copies of the book had to promise not to reveal any details until Sunday night, CTV's Roger Smith found that at least one bookstore in Ottawa already had it on its shelves Saturday.
Smith reports that in the foreward of Chretien's book, the former prime minister says he didn't want to write a warts-and-all expose of friends and foes. He largely sticks to that promise, except in the case of Paul Martin.
Chretien portrays his rival as indecisive, disloyal, and of questionable judgment. While the former finance minister got credit for cutting the deficit, Chretien says it was all his idea and Martin only really bought in when it turned out to be a success.
"If people were happy with the budget cuts," Chretien writes, "Martin accepted their thanks. If people were unhappy, he blamed the prime minister."
On their leadership battles, Chretien insists he planned to step down after two elections and Martin knew it. Yet Martin supporters were caught plotting to push him out anway. Chretien and his wife were so angry, they decided he should run again.
"I was hurt by (Martin's) betrayal," he writes. "I was damned if I was going to let myself be shoved out the door by a gang of self-serving goons."
Chretien also writes that the sponsorship scandal was blown out of proportion. He notes that there were a few rogues who were found guilty, but none was a Liberal.
He also mocks his successor's decision to call a public inquiry into the matter, saying the issue "would have soon faded into oblivion if Paul Martin hadn't reacted like "an elephant panicking at the sight of a mouse."
As for Afghanistan, Chretien suggests that Martin is partly to blame for casualties because he "took too long to make up his mind" about Canada's role, and troops ended up being sent "to the killing fields around Kandahar."
Paul Martin's office responded by saying the two men clearly recall things differently and that Martin is disappointed that old divisions are being revisited.
In the memoirs, Chretien also talks about his decision to keep Canada out of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He says Washington had put tremendous pressure on him to join the coalition.
But he said the evidence that he was presented with was so flimsy, it would not have passed muster with a local magistrate, let alone an international leader considering taking his country to war.
Chretien also says he would have put up a "hell of a fight" if then-Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau tried to separate from Canada if separatists had won the 1995 referendum.
With a report by CTV's Roger Smith in Ottawa