The Liberals have been having a great old time blaming the NDP for putting the Martin government out of its misery (and consequently, holding them accountable for everything from the lack of childcare spaces to poverty in First Nations communities). It’s a meme that’s been repeated by everyone from Bob Rae to Martha Hall Findlay to Ken Dryden — and one that I took the time to thoroughly debunk in a previous post.
Well, there’s good news for those hoping that the Liberals could move on and start paying attention to this election instead of whining about the outcome of the last one. No less an authority than Paul Martin himself has clarified who was at fault: it wasn’t the NDP at all, but Martin’s predecessor Jean Chretien.
In a leaked memoir, reported on yesterday by Le Devoir and today by The Globe and Mail, Martin explains why he lost.
In his book, Mr. Martin said he was hobbled when he became prime minister in late 2003 because he had to deal with Auditor-General Sheila Fraser’s damaging report on the sponsorship scandal.
“I was furious with Mr. Chrétien, who left this time-bomb behind him,” Mr. Martin said in an excerpt published in Le Devoir.
“Either because he was worried about his legacy being tarred by the sponsorship scandal, or because of rancour against me – only he can answer that question – he delayed the publication of the Auditor-General’s report until I replaced him at 24 Sussex Dr.,” Mr. Martin said.
Mr. Martin said the ensuing crisis, fuelled by evidence of a kickback scheme involving senior Liberal organizers, doomed his government.
“We ended up losing the communications battle on the sponsorship question. Honestly, I don’t know if it could have been won,” he said.
Mr. Martin added that he still cannot understand why Mr. Chrétien decided to prohibit donations of more than $5,000 to political parties. The Liberal Party had always relied on large corporate donations, while the Conservative Party drew more of its funds from a vast database of small donors.
“The law’s debilitating effects on the [Liberal] Party were gradual; they were only fully felt after I was replaced by Mr. Dion. He is the one, to my regret, who suffered most from a law that was intended to harm me,” Mr. Martin said.
I look forward to the Liberals adjusting their talking points.