Chrétien-Martin split resurfaces in committee testimony

The public is getting a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Paul Martin's office when he was finance minister.

The public is getting a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Paul Martin's office when he was finance minister a decade ago.

Two years ago, the auditor general raised concerns about how public opinion research was conducted for the government and she questioned the relationship between Martin's office and the Ottawa polling firm Earnscliffe, which had close ties with Martin advisers.

Some of those advisers were called to testify on Monday before the public accounts committee. They are the people behind his leadership bid, which saw him rise from finance minister to prime minister.

Also called to testify was Warren Kinsella, long-time supporter of the former prime minister Jean Chrétien.

The split between the two camps was evident as soon as the testimony began.

Kinsella worked for Chrétien when he was leader of the Opposition and later in the Department Public Works. He admits he's never been a fan of Martin's and in his opening statement to the committee he was critical of the relationship between Martin and Earnscliffe.

"The competition was flawed, the payment is excessive, the work is probably not needed, and the research community can be fully expected to blow the whistle on the political connections here," said Kinsella.

But the woman who was Martin's chief of staff during those years, Terrie O'Leary, said she had no influence over which firms got contracts and she said Martin pushed for contracts to be more competitive.

"I had no decision making authority and no involvement in contracting at the Department of Finance," she said.

It's no secret there was an internal war between Chrétien and Martin supporters. And that battle is heating up again.

That's because of the sponsorship inquiry, which is causing Liberal support to plummet in Quebec and across the country.

The inquiry is causing some Liberals to be critical of Chrétien who set up the sponsorship program, and is leading other Liberals to attack Martin's record as finance minister.