Chretien blasts Martin's 'gang of self-serving goons' in latest memoir

Jean Chretien opened up old wounds with the release of his latest memoir, which chronicles his decade as Canada's prime minister and his bitter rivalry with his successor, Paul Martin.

Jean Chrétien may be recuperating from heart surgery, but he's opening up old wounds with the release ofhis latest memoir, whichchronicles his time as Canada's prime minister and his bitter rivalry with his successor.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien says in his new book, seen here, that he should have fired Paul Martin as finance minister in 2000. ((CBC))
In Jean Chrétien: My Years as Prime Minister, Chrétien says that while he was prime minister—from 1993 to 2003 — it was he and not Paul Martin, then finance minister, who made the tough decisions on battling the deficit.

Chrétien says when cabinet ministers were denied money for projects, Martin would foist the blame on him.

"It was irresponsible behaviour on his part and it made the government increasingly difficult to manage," writes Chrétien.

He says he should have fired Martin as finance minister in 2000, more than three years before Martin went on to replace him as Liberal leader and prime minister.

Hewrites about feeling betrayed, then inspiredto rise to the challenge, after learning of a meeting Martin and his supporters held in the spring of 2000 at a Toronto airport hotel. Chrétien saw the meetingas anattempt to push him out of the prime minister's office.

"By trying to force me to go, they aroused my competitive spirit, ignited my anger, and inadvertently gave me the blessing I needed from [my wife] Aline to fight for a third term. For that, ironically, I owed Paul Martin a great deal of thanks," Chrétien says.

"I was damned if I was going to let myself be shoved out the door by a gang of self-serving goons."

He also takes on Martin over Afghanistan. Chrétien recounts that after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government, he made arrangements to keep Canadian soldiers stationed near the relatively safe area of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Chrétien alleges that Martin's indecision when he took office led to troops being reassigned to a more volatile region of Afghanistan.

"When my successor took too long to make up his mind about whether Canada should extend our term with the International Security Assistance Force, our soldiers were moved out of Kabul and sent south again to battle the Taliban in the killing fields around Kandahar," he writes.

Jim Pimblett, a spokesperson for Martin, offered no comment from his boss on Saturday, saying the former prime minister hasn't had a chance to read the book.

Pimblett said it's "disappointing to hear reports that old divisions are being revisited at a time when the Liberal Party needs to stand unified behind [Liberal Leader Stéphane] Dion."

The CBC's Keith Boag said the Liberal party is struggling to pull itself together after the byelection defeat in Quebec in Outremont, and that the last thing Dion needs is for the book to open old wounds within the party with an election approaching.

Chrétien was originally scheduled to launch his book in person in Ottawa on Monday, but is still recovering from heart bypass surgery he underwent earlier in October.

Journalists with advance copies of the book had agreed not to reveal details until Sunday night, but the arrangement was derailed after at least one bookstore in Ottawa released it for sale on Saturday.

Chrétien, who was born in 1934 in Shawinigan, Que., had published an autobiography covering the earlier years of his life,Straight from the Heart, in 1985.