Jean Chrétien touts his legacy, takes shots at Harper

Tease the day: The former Liberal PM reminisces about his decision to withhold troops from the war in Iraq


Fred Chartrand/CP

Jean Chrétien makes news whenever he has an opinion. Ten years ago, Chrétien famously opposed sending troops to the American- and British-led war in Iraq. The former prime minister gloated to Canadian reporters about that decision, arguing that he never saw the proof of weapons of mass destruction promised by the U.S. intelligence community. Refusing to join the hostilities “turned out to be very important for the independence of Canada,” Chrétien told The Globe and Mail, which found room on its front page for the interview. “It was the obvious decision to make,” he bragged to the Toronto Star.

Chrétien may have waxed gloriously about his past success, but the cunning former PM used his time with national reporters to take some shots at Prime Minister Stephen Harper—and even boost his own Liberal Party’s image, as much as that’s possible. “What I notice is we seem to be playing much less [of a] role now [that] we were not elected to have a seat at the Security Council,” he lamented to The Globe, a broadside attack on Harper’s inability to secure a seat on the vaunted UN council. As for the Liberals, Chrétien told the Star that he thinks “the party is coming back, I’m very pleased with that,” and cited higher polling and thousands of new supporters as evidence. One thing’s certain: no matter the fate of his legacy or his party, Chrétien will always have the ear of reporters who are on the other side of an interview.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with an interview with former prime minister Jean Chrétien as the 10th anniversary of the War in Iraq’s first days approaches. The National Post fronts NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s mixed messages on the oil sands. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with $10 million the federal government paid a security firm tied to corruption allegations in Afghanistan. The Ottawa Citizen leads with fears the next parliamentary budget officer’s mandate will be weakened significantly. iPolitics fronts the predictable fiscal woes Alberta currently faces. CBC.ca leads with ongoing voting inside the papal conclave. National Newswatch showcases the Toronto Star‘s look at why so many Liberal supporters didn’t provide email addresses when they signed up.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Doug Christie. Canada’s defender of the country’s most hated hatemongers—including Ernst Zundel, among others—died of cancer Monday, just weeks after making his final arguments in court. 2. Bill 14. If the Quebec government revokes the status of certain bilingual communities in the province, anglophones will protest in the streets, say critics of a controversial bill.
3. Rigged contracts. The Canada School of Public Service played favourites with contracts amounting to $1.7 million, according to a report released by the federal procurement ombudsman.
4. Armed Forces. Canada’s military has quietly reclaimed the “armed” moniker that disappeared in the 1990s, amid budget cuts and efforts by the then-governing Liberals to soften the forces’ image.

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Jean Chrétien touts his legacy, takes shots at Harper

  1. Good of Chretien to pop up from time to time to remind us of how much we all loathed the corrupt gang that he led. I’m sure that Trudeau appreciates the support.

    • At least we knew about it. We had inquiries about it. Canada is now ranked 51st in access to information, behind Angola, Colombia and Niger. We don’t want to know about things that are not pretty, like the rate of imprisonment of aboriginals which has risen by 45 % over the last five years, to 23 % of the jail population (it was 14 % ten years ago) for a group that barely makes up 4 % of the population. Anywhere in the world this would be viewed as alarming. But not in Canada. We’re quite happy and comfortable, sitting in the shade of our ignorance, under some Muskoka gazebo.

      • “At least we knew about it”?
        And then you go on to list a bunch of other problems that we also know about?
        I don’t see the point of your response unless you’re suggesting that the sins of the current government excuse the sins of a previous government. On the contrary, I think that Chretien’s intervention only helps with the corrupt politician’s favourite public reaction; “they are all the same and they all stink.”

        • Canadian governments continue to be corrupt and Canadians are as much accepting of corrupt politicians as Italians are of Berlusconi. The contest for ‘the most corrupt’ cannot hide the fact that Chrétien made the right call on Iraq. I just cannot get into the “qualify the Chrétien government as the most corrupt” game while we are now governed by the most secretive government in history, guilty of the most corrupt practices including massive electoral fraud being rewarded by appointments to the Senate.

          2013/3/13 Disqus

          • I never claimed “most corrupt” so I guess you’re reacting to someone else. I think Harper watched Chretien get away with his corruption and – while using the public’s outrage against the Liberals – simply picked up the torch and moved us further down the same road.
            I will agree with you that Chretien was merely stealing money while respecting the conventions of our democracy whereas Harper is after more than just our money. And I agree, suppressing the vote through electoral fraud is more egregious than just stealing some money.
            I have no love for Harper’s brand of corruption but I think that Chretien’s corruption should never be dismissed or rationalized. In fact, I think it paved the way for the more dangerous, more fundamental, corruption of the Harper CPC.

          • “I will agree with you that Chretien was merely stealing money…”

            Slow down. If there’s any evidence, or even credible accusation that Chretien was aware of money being stolen, perhaps you could provide a link.

          • Sure – but first an excerpt

            The Commission counsel is questioning Mr. Guité and asks him the following question:

            “Now, as you — and you spoke to them because you had close relationships, professional relationships with Mr. Gagliano, Mr. Pelletier and Mr. Carle?”

            Guité: “M’hm. Correct.”

            Finkelstein: “You worked closely with them in the advertising and sponsorship area.”

            Guité: “Correct.”

            Finkelstein: “In fact, those men approved the sponsorship events, didn’t they?”

            Guité: “Correct.”

            Finkelstein: “They approved the agencies that the events were going to go to?”

            Guité: “Correct.”

            Finkelstein: “They approved the amounts that were going to be spent on the sponsorship and hence were aware of what the commissions would be.”

            Guité: “Correct.”


            Once again, I urge people to read the testimony of the Gomery Inquiry. If you read it in totality with an open mind, you can not reach any other conclusion than what I have reached. Chretien and the PMO designed and ran the Sponsorship Program, They were fully aware of it’s true purpose (because it was their purpose) which purpose was to skim money from the public treasury to the benefit of the Liberal Party. It was an organized crime and the chief organizer was Jean Chretien.

          • god almighty lgarvin , this corrupt conservative party government has wasted billions more than sponsorship……..it’s only your partisan blindness that doesn’t allow you to understand basic facts,,,,,,,,,,,

          • Yeah, it must be partisanship, nothing else could explain it.

          • Actually, I challenged you to come up with evidence that Chretien was aware of the money being stolen, or was (as you accuse above) “stealing money.”

            …anything? Because you’re not supported by the evidence.

          • Ok – so let’s break this down. You accept the evidence that Chuck Guite provides? That he took direction from Chretien’s Chief of Staff and his personal “fixer” Jean Carle? Are you disputing that?

          • “Break this down?”

            Look, I understand that you have a certain interpretation of Gomery’s report. I also understand that your interpretation seems to be unique, or at least far from the common understanding.

            You accuse Chretien of stealing money. Can you back that up or not?

          • I’ve already backed it up. If you’re determined not to understand it, I’m not going to waste my time explaining it to you.

            The Sponsorship affair was a conspiracy to defraud taxpayers to the benefit of the Liberal Party. It was operated and directed from the PMO by his Chief of Staff. If you want to hang your hat on the pipedream that Chretien didn’t know what his Chief of Staff was doing, then you’re going to spend a lot of time picking up your hat. This is the last time I’ll pick it up for you.

          • If it’s that obvious, you should be able to point me to the damning utterance somewhere in the report. What you seem to be asking is that I either read the whole damn report, and you’re just certain I’ll come to the same conclusion as you, or that I be cross-examined, and you’ll be able to convince me.

            I don’t have that kind of time for an anon internet commentor. If you’re the only person who’s come to this determination, then you’re almost certainly wrong. If you were not the only person to have come to this conclusion, you would be able to point to some third-party analysis that summed it up.

            Put yourself in my shoes: it’s just obvious to you that 9/11 was an inside job, and if I’d only read these volumes of material, I would agree. Alternatively, I waste my time while you play Socrates and prove it to me.

            Thanks but no thanks. We seem to have different understandings of the word “proof.” Yours seems to be self-serving.

          • Dude, it’s not even complicated. Proposition A is that the sponsorship program was an organized effort to defraud the taxpayers to the benefit of the Liberal Party. Proposition B is that the Organizer of said effort was Jean Chretien and his designates in the PMO (Carle and Pelletier). The evidence of Proposition A is overwhelming and undisputed, The evidence of Proposition B was provided to you by the sworn testimony of Chuck Guite which I provided to you not half a dozen posts back. He’s the man that was nominally in charge of the program and he says he was acting under the direction of the PMO. Since the bulk of the money actually went to the Liberal Party and not into the pockets of Chuck Guite, since the Liberals paid back some portion of the money they received illegally, and since Chretien himself admitted that ” perhaps a few millions was stolen,” I draw the logical conclusion that Chuck Guite was telling the truth when he pointed the finger at the PMO.

            I asked you to explain where you disagree. A question that apparently offends you. So go ahead and be offended and continue to believe whatever you like. It seems you need to see a photo of Chretien in a balaclava, clutching six-shooters and canvas bags with over-sized dollar signs. I think your beliefs are safe since I doubt you’ll ever see such a thing.

          • Dude.

            “the sponsorship program was an organized effort to defraud the taxpayers to the benefit of the Liberal Party.”

            I don’t see evidence of that. The program was obviously abused to the benefit of the Liberal party, but you’re claiming that theft was the *reason* the program was created. Can you back that up, or are you extrapolating beyond the actual testimony?

            ” the Organizer of said effort was Jean Chretien and his designates in the PMO (Carle and Pelletier)”

            Which effort? The program itself, or the abuse? On the former, no doubt. On the latter, Guite pointed his finger at the PMO. The Prime Minister’s Office. Consisting of dozens of people, probably hundreds over the 8 years the program operated.

            ” I draw the logical conclusion that Chuck Guite was telling the truth when he pointed the finger at the PMO.”

            I do too.

            ” since Chretien himself admitted that ” perhaps a few millions was stolen,”…”

            This is not an admission of personal guilt.

            Dude. You’re conflating the PMO with the PM and making a claim you can’t support. You’re not claiming that you just believe it to be true, which would be completely reasonable, you’re presenting it as a proven fact. Which it is not.

          • – I’m conflating the PM and the PMO because the PMO exists to carry out the will of the PM. Full stop. If you’re suggesting that the PMO went rogue and started co-operating with Chuck Guite in a criminal conspiracy without the knowlege and consent of the PM then I think you are stubbornly and wilfully ignorant.

            The rest of the things you’ve written are simply old ground. I’ve given my opinion and stated some – although certainly not all – of the factal basis for that opinion. If you want to learn more, you certainly have been given the opportunity.
            I’m completely comfortable in saying what I’ve been saying all along. Chretien implemented the scheme and ran it from his office. A great deal of the money stolen in that scheme went to the Liberal Party in the form of kickbacks, legal and illegal donations, “volunteers” who were paid by the crooked ad agencies, etc. In my judgement, that makes Jean Chretien a thief and the primary driving force in a scheme to defraud. In your judgement, not so much apparently.

          • And I think we have different definitions of “proof.” No matter how certain you are, there is not sufficient evidence that Chretien was aware of the theft and supported it.

            Everything you’ve posted here would require me to extrapolate from the available information to find guilt. Let’s hope you’re treated more fairly if you should ever find yourself accused of a crime.

          • Yeah, Chretien is really suffering from my opinion. Politicians will always be exactly as crooked as we allow them to be… Refusing to use reason because you think the guy is charming is just about as self-defeating as you can get.

            There was sufficient evidence and the evidence remains. The only reason that the Court over-turned Gomery’s findings on Chretien is because Gomery was stupid enough to let his contempt for Chretien show in comments like “small town cheap” and “money-laundering.” The courts never said that Gomery’s findings were unsupported, only that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias.

            Obviously Chretien was never convicted of anything around sponsorship, but then again neither was OJ convicted on the Nicole Simpson case.

  2. Nick, why does he always have the ear of reporters: is it because he’s a fun, foxy, witty guy? That’s how I see him; I have a warm and fuzzy spot in my heart for Monsieur Chretien. He is my favourite pirate of all time.

  3. One of our most successful PMs still has rapier wit I see.

    He’d certainly be easily electable.

    • Ya, people would probably just forget about that whole Sponsorship Scandal thing he lead where millions of taxpayer dollars went to vote-buying in Quebec. It wasn’t that big a deal at the time, I don’t see why people would bring it up now.

      • LOL Your opinion….as a Con….is irrelevant.

      • ” I don’t see why people would bring it up now.”
        Except to use it to deflect attention from the corruption, incompetence and general bad behaviour of the current government…

        • People bring it up because it matters.

          • Yeah, I suppose it would if Chretien were running, but Rick & his ilk bring it up constantly even though those responsible are not among the people currently running. It is like blaming Harper for Mulroney’s misdeeds.

            So for all practical purposes, it is only relevant (a) as an object lesson for the current crop of pols, or (b) for fans/students of history or poli sci.

  4. One of our most corruptible PMs still has a scoundrels wit I see.

    He’d certainly be easily imprisoned.

    • What for?

      • He initiated and ran a fraudulent racket that cost the taxpayer’s of Canada millions of dollars – a racket that directly benefitted the Liberal Party, a racket that funnelled illegal campaign contributions to Liberals in Quebec (specific candidates were never identified – or charged – or required to repay illegal contributions), a racket that had Liberal ‘volunteers’, paid by Ad agencies, with stolen money, working on the campaigns of Liberals.
        Any or all of those crimes would get you charged and jailed if you were a member of the Rock Machine or the Hell’s Angels. And every one of those crimes is documented.
        That’s what he did for the benefit of the Liberal Party, it doesn’t even touch the crimes that he committed in order to benefit himself directly.

        • Did he do anything during his many majority governments that was good for Canada?

          • Yes.

    • Sad how he looks so good in comparison to the current bunch, isn’t it?

  5. Chretien led the most corrupt government in living memory – the media loved to chase Mulroney and hounded him over $200,000 he took after he left office – little has been said about the tens of millions that disappeared while Chretien was in office. Of course, years passing have a way of allowing media to bury his record but historians will surely remember the billion dollar boondoggles, the paper napkin land deal, the ad scam corruption and the dozens of other examples of how his reign stunk of corruption and financial abuse. But, hey, it is so much more fun to make up stories about Harper to cover for your own failures.

    • There’s some differences between corruption and incompetence, and there are levels.

      Mulroney wasn’t incompetent, but he was certainly corrupt, as he personally took money for decisions he was going to make.

      I don’t disagree that portions of Chretien’s government were quite corrupt, but Chretien himself was mostly incompetent, as he allowed Canadian taxpayer money to be taken without making sure we were getting something for it.

      Mostly. Shawinigate showed that there was some corruption there as he was willing to abuse the power of his office to benefit his friends.

      Of course, that level of corruption is exhibited pretty much every day by our current government, and given Harper’s command and control structure, I have a hard time putting it down to incompetence on his part.

      • That’s just wrong. Chretien personally organized the Sponsership Scandal. In any normal criminal conspiracy, the person at the top of the organization is deemed the responsible party. Only in a political environment can you design and build a criminal conspiracy and then be found to have no responsibility when it is found out.
        And again, the Grand-Mere fraud was entirely a private matter and it involved the expenditure of huge sums of public money so that Chretien could collect on a small private debt. It was personal corruption.

        Further than that, Chretien’s personal vendetta against the then head of the BDC, Francois Beaudoin, was one the most sickening moral failures I have ever witnessed. The myth that Chretien was some charming rascal is belied by his vicious attack on an honourable man who had the temerity to say ‘No.’ Chretien tried – very hard – to use his power to destroy Beaudoin. And he very nearly succeeded.

        • Belief without proof is called faith. You can have whatever faith you like, but that doesn’t make it correct.

          For instance, got any proof of that first one? Chretien personally organized the Sponsorship Program, yes. Which actually did a lot of work with the money it got. It also, however, opened up the opportunity for the sponsorship scandal, for which there’s no evidence that he even knew about. Or if there is, I’d be interested in seeing it.

          As for Grand-Mere, you should look at the facts. Here’s a quick primer: http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/chretien/shawinigan.html
          You’ll note his shares of the golf course were bought by Jonas Prince — who is the man that owed the debt. However his assistance was to help his friend who had purchased the hotel, Yvon Duhaime. Chretien got his shares back and subsequently sold them to Louis Michaud, and there is absolutely nothing that indicates Mr. Michaud had any trouble paying the price for them.

          Should he have leaned on the BDC for Yvon? Hell no. But as I said, no direct personal gain from that.

          As for his vendetta against Beaudoin I completely agree. Again though, that’s not corruption. That’s being an asshole, and you’ll never hear an argument from me that Chretien isn’t an asshole.

          • Belief without proof is called faith.

            I agree. So read the Gomery Report – all of it

            Your recollection of the facts on Grand-Mere is faulty. Jonas Prince denied ever buying the disputed shares and – indeed – Chretien ended up selling them again. And the reason that Chretien was “helping his friend” by breaking the law was because his “friend” owed him money that he was anxious to collect.

            I’m not sure if you’re too credulous about the story or if I am too credulous about you. Regardless, the version of events that you are offering has been badly white-washed.

            Chretien took a personal and prolonged interest in the sponsorship program to the point that he was warned about his personal responsibility by members of his own staff prior to it’s being found out. And the Grand-Mere affair was a long series of lies, evasions, reversals and bluster. It finally sputtered out when Chretien declared that a note indicating his ongoing personal interest in the hotel was a forgery. The RCMP, despite their best efforts, was never able to confirm or deny that claim.

          • Please cite. I’ve never seen any of the things you’re claiming.

          • I just suggested that you read the Gomery Report, I’ll suggest it again.


            Within that report you will find all of the information I provided on Sponsorship (plus much,much more). Concerning the Grand-Mere matter, I would suggest a Google search using “Coyne, Grand-Mere, BDC” to get a decent overview of the issue. If you have a specific dispute with anything I’ve said, spell it out and I’ll expand on it for you.


            And here is a sampling of some of the stuff I wrote about the Grand-Mere thing eleven (11!) years ago. http://freshhell.blogspot.ca/search?q=grand+mere

          • Gomery was found to have erred in his assertion that Chretien was at the helm of the sponsorship scheme. Chretien won that finding in Federal court, plus his costs. The (Conservative) Government appealed, and lost. Chretien was cleared in court. Twice. Gomery was chided for showboating, grandstanding, and making assertions without evidence. Twice. To wit: “The court quashed the Gomery inquiry’s conclusions that Chrétien and Jean Pelletier bore responsibility for the sponsorship scandal.”


          • Gomery was found to have ” a reasonable apprehension of bias” which, unfortunately for all of us, gave Chretien a pass on Gomery’s conclusions. But it was only the conclusion which was struck down, not the evidence. Which is why I urge people to read the report themselves and draw their own conclusions, that’s what I’ve done.

            Is it your view that Chretien was not responsible for the Sponsorship Program?

          • It’s my view that Quebec political party bagmen (of all stripes) routinely shift work (and no-work jobs) to firms they expect kickbacks from. Federal Sponsorship funds were absconded with in this manner, but there’s no evidence that any of it happened under the direction of anyone at senior levels of the Chretien government, let alone the PM himself. Of the $250 million in program funds, the commission found that $2 million was awarded in contracts under an improper bidding process, $1.5 million was paid for work that never done, and $250,000 was added to a single contract for no additional work. About 1.5% of the federal sponsorship scandal was siphoned off to PR and ad firms in Quebec. Anyone who feigns shock at this (or thinks it was a uniquely Liberal happening) is kidding themselves.

          • See below where the testimony of Chuck Guité directly contradicts the assertion that the PMO was not involved. I am not feigning shock nor am I claiming that the Liberal party holds a monopoly on corrupt practices. What I am saying is that pretending it was ‘just a few bad apples’ or claiming that it’s OK because “everybody does it” is irresponsible and intellectually lazy.

          • Using the RCMP and political staff to harass someone is more than just asshole behaviour, It’s criminal harassment. Chretien tried to destroy the man by having him labelled a thief. I suppose you could argue that such behaviour is worse than mere corruption – and I would agree – but certainly corruption is contained within it.

        • Dude, dude, dude. “Was in a position which makes him responsible for the sponsorship scandal” is a perfectly legitimate position, but “personally organized it” is simply not.

  6. Cretien = Canada’s biggest narcissistic prime minister. An arrogant guy who coasted through and did nothing. He left others in his cabinet to make decisions and take the heat. A paid political holiday at the tax payers expense while he enjoyed being called prime minister.

    • Surely not a bigger narcissist than Mr Mulroney? No, you need to look that term up: Chretien (you spelled his name incorrectly) was not a narcissist.

      • Missed the H. True Mulroney beats him. Still look at him as a narcissist look at the Gomery Inquiry with the golf balls. Talking about balls who sends their wife to check out the burglar ?

        • He was hilarious with those golf balls. And his wife Aline is an amazing woman and a true soldier. Where were the RCMP guards that night anyway?

  7. All the Liberal’s who feign outrage at the current robocalls “scandal” conveniently forget that Jean Chretien oversaw the largest vote-buying scheme in the history of Canada, paid for by the Canadian taxpayer. What’s worse, voter fraud in a single riding (that was won by the other party anyway) or voter fraud encompassing the entirety of Canada’s second largest province?

    • A single riding? Elections Canada had complaints from over 200 ridings in the 2011 election. They had so many complaints about phone calls about polling locations that they TWICE called the Conservative party to ask if they were behind these calls.

      That would be voter suppression/fraud on a national level. If it’s proven, of course, and the Republican party has spent 40 years demonstrating that this kind of behaviour is difficult to prove in a criminal court.

      Incidentally, your Conservative party has been actually bragging about its abuse of public money for its own political benefit: http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/03/11/Manning-Conference/

      “We sent out, I think, probably a hundred million pieces of mail. Paid for by the taxpayer, I should say. They were each barcoded, and they were each very issue-specific…”

      He then goes on to explain how that data was fed into CIMS, and very helpful in the election.

      • If you’re actually still trying to peddle the wide-spread robo-calls voter suppression conspiracy theory, I’ll happily watch you tin-foil-hat types keep harping on that “theory” forever. But as far as any actual evidence shows:

        1) There was 1 riding where illegal robocalls are thought to have been rampant.

        2) The Liberal candidate won that riding.

        3) The Liberal candidate confessed to making illegal robocalls.

        4) There has been some evidence that an unknown person made vote suppression calls in the riding, and there is very very very thin evidence that this person might have had a connection to the local CPC candidate.

        If you’re actually trying to compare “robocalls” to a multi-million dollar corruption scandal that went to the very top of the government, that’s your prerogative. I just think that’s insane.

        • You’re delusional and like any good CRAP supporter, choose to ignore evidence.

          it’s not just what was reported so far — that the Poutine account and
          Prescott account were accessed by the same IP within 4 minutes of each
          other during the middle of this night. It’s also that on three separate
          occasions, someone with both the Prescott and Poutine account passwords
          used the same browser window to log into both accounts.

          Poutine logged into Racknine through the proxy, closed his browser
          window, and 1 minute later logged in again, but this time forgot to go
          to the proxy website first, accidentally accessing the site directly.
          There were two session records for the Poutine account 1 minute apart:
          the first coming from the proxy, and the second coming from the Burke
          Campaign’s office IP at (p.168.a)


          So Andrew Prescott and Pierre Poutine used the same PC 4 min. apart in the middle of the night to contact Racknine. Incompetent fools should never be crooks, as they invariably screw up.

  8. Hah! I clicked through on this just to read the outrage in the comments, That’s engagement you should charge for. Funny like that should never be free.

  9. i always loved chretien sure he did things he should nt have done but look at harper nobody can be worst chretien was arrogant but again look at harper no one seem to remember when he went on an atv and a reporter told him it was against the law to ride without a helmet his answer was i make the laws

    • Chretien assaulted a Canadian citizen, lobbied the BDC for his personal benefit and stole millions of dollars from taxpayers to rig elections in Quebec.

      Is that really better than breaking a “law” that would merit a $50 fine? Give your head a shake!

    • Did he not bring his hair dresser to straighten out his toupe for each and every photo-op, on that trip? Decided to “rough it” in the north, eh?

  10. Chretien was just mad at Bush because he didn’t give him any golf balls.

    • Chretien is known to have a temper, and be “small town cheap”.

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