BTC: Live-blogging a briefing


Conservative campaign is briefing the media via off-the-record teleconference.

The questions that the “senior Conservative source” so far refuses to answer: Who wrote the speech? Is it plagiarism? Were Mr. Harper or his party briefed by the White House before the speech? Were talking points issued by the White House?

The last two queries were deemed too ridiculous to receive response.

Two reporters have requested that the call be conducted on the record. Both requests have been refused.

A reporter asks what this accusation of plagiarism says about Stephen Harper’s leadership. “We’re happy to talk about leadership … I think it’s interesting that Stephane Dion needs to rely on surrogate leaders.”

A reporter asks whether the senior Conservative really believes Iraq is not an important issue. “It’s five years in the past. And it’s not an issue that is before the Canadian people or the parliament today.”

A reporter points out that the Agriculture Minister referenced Liberal cuts from the 1990s just yesterday, so let’s talk about the speech. Where did it come from? Was it cut and pasted? Was there contact from the White House? “Our party makes its own policy decisions on foreign policy. We do not take advice from other governments in the creation of Canada’s foreign policy … We are acting in the interests of Canadians.”

Are you refusing to say where that speech came from? “This is an issue that is five years in the past. We’ve had 100 percent staff turnover in that time.”

We’ve been led to believe in the past that Stephen Harper writes his own speeches, can we assume that this was Mr. Harper’s own work? “No … I’ve indicated what our response is to this and I really don’t have anything to add.”

Are you denying the accusation of plagiarism? Yes or No? “I’m saying that it’s a distraction from what Canadians want to talk about.”

You have flooded us with communiques throughout this campaign with old statements from other politicians and when it’s a speech involving an issue that is still on-going, you say it’s not relevant. Who wrote the speech? And if it’s not relevant, what is? “I think I’ve explained several times what is relevant.”

Very simple question: How do you explain the similarities? Did Mr. Howard copy Mr. Harper? “I’ve already answered this question several times.”

The senior conservative dismisses issues that are only important to the party war rooms and the Ottawa press gallery.

Do you know who wrote the speech? “I appreciate the question … Staff turnover in politics is very high. This was five years ago. I’ve really said all I want to say about it.”

Having gone through the first round of questions, the moderator asks if the senior Conservative would like to entertain follow-up questions. The senior Conservative source politely declines.


BTC: Live-blogging a briefing

  1. IS it plagiarism??? Of course it is!! Instead of asking him that, why isn’t the press asking Harper where is his accountability is to Canada and Canadians? (He doesn’t have any but still, it’s a great question) That word – ACCOUNTABILITY – has to be said and addressed. Harper will dance around it but throw it out there so that Canadians hear it and start to think!

  2. The last two queries were deemed too ridiculous to receive response.

    That’s neo-con code for “we’re lying, big time!”

  3. Ah, clearly what the spokesperson meant to say was “We’re happy to talk about leadership … just not ours.”

  4. They can’t be this stupid, can they? A bit of honesty and a pinch of contrition, and they could have killed this before it started.

  5. “We do not take advice from other governments in the creation of Canada’s foreign policy…”

    That statement is idiotic on so many levels.

  6. No way they could kill this. And this most definitely is at the forefront of our minds. Um, we’re in Iraq now, and it’s not going well. Our service people are dying for one thing.

    Way to go pushing these questions relentlessly! Great job. As a citizen, I want to hear how he tries to weasel out of this one. The food inspection issue was already dropped by the press. This has to be about holding Harper accountable.

  7. Favourite campaign phrase of the day: “War room.”

  8. Sean S.: If there’s one thing that the Conservative war room has shown through their past actions and comments, it’s that they don’t do damage control that well.

    It’s unsurprising really: they appear to be organized mainly/solely for analyzing news stories and then coordinating press releases and speeches against the opposition parties. Therefore it’s unsurprising that their response to anything that puts them on the defensive is to try and bluster, change the subject, and most importantly attack attack attack.

    When all you have is a hammer, indeed.

  9. “Staff turnover in politics is very high.”

    Ain’t that the truth!

  10. Charles H: The fact that this government – or, more precisely, this Prime Minister – is far more comfortable playing offence than defence is well known. What’s interesting, of course, is that as the incumbent during debates, that’s exactly what he’s going to be doing for the next two days, on primetime television.

  11. Hey, Aaron, ask Kory about the “economic fundamentals are strong” shtick copied also from Bush/Cheney et al.

  12. Kady: And I’m going to be loving every minute of it. I’m largely curious as to how long he’ll be able to keep up the new, kinder, gentler, fuzzy-sweater-vest act while he’s being constantly badgered by all sides.

  13. Anon, re: “the fundamenatals of the economy are strong,” it’s very much a McCain talking point – his signature, as it were; so much so that he can’t take it out of his script even now. He’s been saying it once a week for the past year.

  14. Why do they even bother to hold a conference call? They don’t even try any more.

  15. Maybe he’ll just refuse to answer the questions at the debate and instead use the hour to shoot daggers through his shark-eyes.

    Since he enjoys emulating Howard and Bush, he can exit stage RIGHT along with them.

  16. Harper’s inside circle was then, and is now, very close to Howard (the now former PM). Flanagan was campaign director in 2004. Flanagan , an American, had influence then and now, and certainly would have encouraged Harper on Iraq – if indeed Harper needed any encouragement. The front and back benchers were frothing at the mouth to support the U.S. war, hoping that Canadians would find that to be an acceptable position to take.

    We did not.

    The old “Harper scary” talk was never misplaced, it just got a little old, in part because talking about how ideology drives a person – Harper – and his party is tough to make exciting or interesting in a sound bite.

    Now we have a compelling set of sound bites and graphic image which quite legitimately reopens the entire “Harper scary” dimension again.

    There are plenty of Conservatives, former Reformers and former Progressive Conservatives who would agree with the leftiest lefty that Harper is scary. I’m one of them. Those of us who have seen it from the inside have ample reason to be concerned about a Harper-led Canada.

    I won’t support the CPC while Harper remains. He is far more dangerous to Canada than any other politician in the country *including* separatist Gilles Duceppe.

  17. Michael “I am a Conservative” Watkins is back at ‘er.

  18. um … why are you reporting this conference call at all if it is ‘off the record’?

  19. “They can’t be this stupid, can they? A bit of honesty and a pinch of contrition, and they could have killed this before it started.”

    Sean, if Harper can get away with setting aside his own legislation to call this election, blatantly lying in claiming parliamentary dysfunction as justification, coasting through this campaign with high 30s polling numbers without even providing us with a platform, I’d say that it is us who are the stupid ones.

  20. Maybe he is reporting it because the conservatives don’t give him any worthwhile info on or off the record, and their evasiveness and lies have become the story.

  21. That was then, this is now. Really? Remind me next time the sock puppets say “after 13 loooooong years…” or attack Bob Rae’s record as Premier during the recession of 1990s.

    The other leaders should just respond, “I know you are, but what am I?” whenever Stevie accuses them of sins for which he’s guilty.

  22. Chucker: I’m no conservative, but the old PCs were at least palatable (other than Mulrooney) and there was the other issue that they at least had the courtesy to respect the word they gave to Canadians. Perhaps they didn’t always manage to follow it, but they knew enough that not doing so wasn’t a good thing.

    This new “conservatism” isn’t anything like that. Harper promised to control government spending and it grew faster than any other government in history. He promised to stand on side of Canadians in the softwood Lumber dispute which we’d basically won, and then kneecapped our lumber industry for a quick political point. He promised to forego the practice of appointing unelected senators, and then appointed Michael Fortier, who’d run in a few elections (both internal to the conservative party and external to the canadian public) and lost every time. Unelected? Hell, electorally rejected.

    Principled supporters of conservatism I can respect, and in fact I’ll go further and say we need them in our government whether leading or as opposition to moderate the opinions of the other parties. Harper’s “conservatives” though are something else entirely.

  23. Press….bright shiny object…..distraction

    Funny thing is it only takes another bright shiny object to get their attention.

    Has a single reporter called up any of the former Howard aides or reporters covering Howard at the time to get any other background? Other than Paul wells, does any Canadian reporter covering this election have the phone number of a reporter from another country, especially Australia….didnt think so. I mean there are a few CBC reporters who can ask the person they share a bed with what the Liberal party thinks but getting outside of this country it is kind of difficult.

    And Ti-Guy, do you even know what a neo-con is? Like Vizzini and the word “inconceivable” in The Princess Bride you keep using the word but I dont think you know what it means.

    The only Canadian Neo Con I can think of is David Frum….domestic politics, I dont think there is anyone of significance that would be a cutout replacement for Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz etc.

    Here is an interesting article. I think you would be hard pressed to put Harper and his group in with them.

  24. David Frum is still Canadian? He uses the Ignatieff plural a lot when writing about US politics…

  25. T. Thwim:

    You’re swimming in horse puckey.

  26. Bud: I know, but that’s what Harper’s “conservatives” have given us to swim in, so what can we do?

  27. Typical in that it SOUNDS like they’re blaming an anonymous speechwriter. Someone wrote it FOR Harper, therefore it wasn’t Harper plagiarized.

  28. The only Canadian Neo Con I can think of is David Frum

    Is that supposed to be a compelling definition of neoconservatism? If you doubt I don’t what it means, how about explaining it to me, then. From first principles, not from examples.

    I’ve no doubt people are distancing themselves from the ideological bankruptcy called neoconservatism, but Harper’s past history indicates he’s more one of them than a genuine Tory,

    There’s some conference Harper participated in the 90’s that Frum organised that seems to have been pivotal in Harper’s political…er…maturation. I’d look it up again, but I really don’t care.

  29. Chucker, ever the mindless partisan with the current label “Conservative”, fits right in with the “if you aren’t exactly like me then you are a) against me and b) not “Conservative”.

    Got news for you Chucker, most Canadians aren’t like you. Thank goodness.

    I’m quite proud of the Progressive Conservative label and the best of its objectives. The centrist, pragmatic approach of most in or out of power PC caucuses is in line with where the great centrist mass of Canadians live.

    Many among the Reform/Canadian Alliance called such pragmatism “unprincipled”. Humorous, isn’t it, given that Harper has been using pragmatism as a **tactic** rather than as his fundamental ethos.

    Harper the strategist uses pragmatism only to get to his higher goals, which is shifting government and the public as far to the right as he can in one generation. The centrist approach of both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives was designed to leave Canadians in the happy middle where they prefer to be.

    There is quite a difference in approach and as a result Harper’s past fully meets the litmus test which demands deeper scrutiny – by the public, not by partisans – than has been invested in him .

  30. Fun excerpt from his Fraser Institute bio:
    “In 1996, he joined the Editorial Board of The Globe & Mail in Toronto.”

  31. Wonderful.

    Now will Dion and Ignatieff explain their dalliances with creating the entire Liberal Environmental Platform from other people’s work?

    Or can we get on to real issues now?

  32. Sorry but we are supposed to believe that Control-Freak Harper would have given such an important speech to a low-level staffer on his team?

    The same Harper that has fired a gazillion comms director for not keeping with his vision?

    Seriously now…

  33. Pressed for time, I was overzealous in copying segments of another world leader’s speech.

    Leave Owen Lippert alooone!

  34. Too bad he didn’t steal from Bush. That would have been even better. Still, Howard stuck close to Bush and it shows that Howard’s words and Harper’s words were the same and interchangeable on Iraq.

    Funny though that Lippert would then allow Harper to publish Howard’s words in various national newspapers under his own (Harper’s) name, without even warning him. Doesn’t sound plausible.

  35. Or can we get on to real issues now?

    Certainly. What type of hand cream do you use?

  36. Does this Catherine person know anything other than the same tired Harper = Bush = Hitler line?

  37. His resignation is a bit puzzling, given the comment below.

    “Stephen also drew from his speech to expound his position in interview and op eds.” – Flanagan.

  38. I guess it was not quite 100% turn-over, now was it.

  39. I meant post below. Sorry.

  40. Howard’s speech took place two days before Harper’s. Are we to believe that Harper wouldn’t have looked it over before making his own speech, even with the help of a speech writer?

  41. Wassim: Does this parlay into a “Conservatieves so disorganized, they don’t even know who’s working for them” type of idea?

  42. The last two queries were deemed too ridiculous to receive response.

    Whoops. Should have just denied it. That’s the elephant in the room, and it’s trumpeting pretty loudly.

  43. Oh, and having read this whole piece, they’re clearly running around like headless chickens. That was terrible.

  44. T. Thwim,

    No, not at all. It just means this quote:
    Are you refusing to say where that speech came from? “This is an issue that is five years in the past. We’ve had 100 percent staff turnover in that time.”

    (Taken from:

    Is inaccurate.

  45. The guy has a Doctorate — at he very least he should have known better.

  46. Ti-Guy, you are the one waving away 2 as of yet unexplained uses of other people’s work. 3 if you count Bob Rae’s song submission, but I’ll let that one slide. 4 if you count the stealing of the Green Shift name from Jennifer Wright before the Liberals fessed up and paid the licensing.

    If the plagarism truly bothers you that much, perhaps you could stop waving long enough to pick up the phone and ask your Liberal friends when they will attribute their work; or, you know, get an original idea.

  47. Leaders take responsibility.

    Is Harper a leader or not?

  48. “Lippert earned a Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame with a dissertation on the British general election of 1918.”

    Ah yes, that would be when Lloyd George won on the “Make Germany Pay” ticket. Now that makes Paul Bremer look like a strategic genius. No wonder Dr. Lippert has a talent for Bushist rhetoric.

  49. What doesn’t work for me is the notion that Harper wouldn’t have scrutinized such an important speech before giving it. Add to that the fact that one of his political heroes would have given a speech on the same subject two days ago yet Harper wouldn’t have noticed the similarities.

    I’ve always said that Harper’s so-called genius is overrated but I have a hard time believing that he would have missed something this big.

    Then again, no one else noticed the similarities so…

  50. So to finish Yaroslav’s talking point from this morning: “A speech from five years, two elections, three Parliaments ago, from a party that no longer exists, written by the guy who happens to be sitting three desks down from mine.”

    Yaroslav said the Liberals should concentrate on the economy, and indeed they should: I see joblessness in the Lippert sector is skyrocketing.

  51. two days *prior*

  52. Speech writer taken down by reaching spiters.

  53. Ti-Guy, you are the one waving away 2 as of yet unexplained uses of other people’s work. 3 if you count Bob Rae’s song submission, but I’ll let that one slide. 4 if you count the stealing of the Green Shift name from Jennifer Wright before the Liberals fessed up and paid the licensing.

    Careful; you nearly poked me in the eye with one of your fingers.

    If you want to address those things, then get bloggin’!

  54. I call bullshit.

    There is no way Harper left such a speech to the whim of a staffer.

  55. This is the best example yet of Harper’s duplicity; it’s something that most Canadians can understand without having to explain it to them. It goes to his integrity, his credibility, and his ‘leadership’. It’s pure and simple a matter of right and wrong, and their evasiveness confirms that they know it’s wrong.

  56. I’d like to see the French portions of his speech and compare them to Conservative French speakers in France, Belgium and elsewhere.

  57. Ti-Guy: he’s not here to blog. He’s here to (desperately attempt to) confuse the issue.

    Just like he was told to.

  58. We are allowed to say bullsh!t here?

  59. So he never told anyone, not a soul, even when they were packaging the speech up for redistribution as a pamphlet (according to Flanagan) and even when it showed up in articles all over the place.

    And Stephen H. never changed a single word of the big plagiarized whole? It was all just fine with him, right down to the punctuation?

    Sniff sniff? Test test?

    Hard to see how this holds together.

    I’d mention the old axiom about the coverup usually being more damaging than the crime, but that would be a bit premature.

    Clearly the Tories are rattled, and hoping to put this one to bed before the next news cycle.

    Will Canada’s embarrassed and complicit media now allow this to slide into oblivion, what with a semi-plausible “culprit” having been sacrificed?

    – JV

  60. Youthful zeal, zealing a few paragraphs here, zealing a few paragraphs there.

  61. JV: A “what did he know, and when did he know it” question seems relevant here. Harper not knowing about the content of the two speeches is almost impossible: he worshipped Howard (bizarrely enough) and is a notorious control freak and policy wonk. That he would deliver a speech like that sight-unseen, and convert it into Op-Eds under his own byline, is almost impossible.

    Owen’s just jumping on the grenade here. He probably never even saw Harper’s speech.

  62. Boudica: Apparently you can’t say it, but everyone should feel free to write it.

  63. Actually, I do believe it.

    When you work with professional staffers regularly you trust them to do their jobs competently, part of competence for a speech-writer is ‘not plagiarizing it’.

    Should somebody have checked? Probably, but I find it entirely realistic to believe that nobody did.

  64. It really doesn’t matter if Lippert is telling the truth or not. What matters is that the 6PM and 10PM news cycle are all going to be talking about Harper’s push for our involvement in Iraq.

    They can produce as many repentant staffers as they want, the bigger problem they are facing is that Canadians have suddenly been reminded of the real Stephen Harper and why they never wanted him to be Prime Minister to begin with.

  65. I like these theories: the speech was too important for Harper to have a staffer draft so he either copied from the Australian PM or they both used talking points circulated from the White House. Much more realistic than a staffer cribbing from existing speeches and expecting his text to get more thoroughly editted.

  66. from a party that no longer exists

    But but but! The Conservative Party of Canada is a happy happy family reunion merger of the former Canadian Alliance former Reform Party, and the Progressive Conservative Party.

    A merger! A happy, voluntary merger!

    Happy happy! Family family! Happy family!

  67. ha ha wells

  68. Thwirn, just ask a speechwriter for a major pol anywhere how many times they handed in a speech and the pol read huge swaths of it without changing a single sentence.

    Even for people with long careers, the answer is usually — it never happened even once.

    – JV

  69. I can’t wait for the debate.

    SH: “Canada can not afford a Carbon Tax. Not during these uncertain times.”
    EM: “Did you write that? Or did John Howard?”

  70. Yet another instance where the Stephen Harper party reveals that it thinks Canadians are stupid. It should have been Harper apologizing, but he deeked his responsibility and forced someone else to fall on his sword.

    What leadership!

  71. He has “resigned” from the campaign office … but does that simply mean he reverts to his (presumably better-paying) job in Bev Oda’s ministerial office? His name still appears as “Senior Policy Advisor” in the electronic government directory.

    Jeez, even their scapegoats are phoney.

  72. skeptic: hey, there’s a good point. Is Harper actually cutting this guy loose, or is he just going to revert to a comfortable position as a political staffer?

  73. Does this Catherine person know anything other than the same tired Harper = Bush = Hitler line?

    Why is it that whenever someone compares Harper to Bush (either legitimately or illegitimately), Conservatives respond with something like this? Catherine did not use the H-word, Greg did. So Greg is assuming comparing someone to Bush is the same as comparing someone to Hitler?

    Does the Canadian right think that Bush=Hitler? Because I am seeing it out of them far more than the lefty-crazies.

  74. It really doesn’t matter if Lippert is telling the truth or not. What matters is that the 6PM and 10PM news cycle are all going to be talking about Harper’s push for our involvement in Iraq.

    Right. Because that’s a card they haven’t tried before! Maybe that’ll work!

    Oh, wait. They did. Twice.

    Was that you calling me desperate a while back?

  75. Alas, poor Owen. All is not lost. I’m sure he’ll be welcomed back at one of the “Institutes” or whatever to conduct advocacy…er,sorry, make that “research”. Or maybe writing editorials for the NattyPo.
    Of some interest to the media paranoiacs among us is that he was probably on the G&M editorial board around the same time as Brian Lee Crowley of AIMS.

  76. Demosthenes:

    “A “what did he know, and when did he know it” question seems relevant here.”, etc.

    Like you, I find the Lippert admission a stretch. What I cannot fathom, though is why Harper would knowingly use Howard’s exact words? He had to know someone would notice, eventually. If he knew and used the wording anyway, he’s a moron. If he didn’t know he should have known, as in have a staff member fact-check speechwriter script. Or am I being presumptuous?

  77. It was probably me.

    Because you are.

    And it’s not coming across well.

    (Honestly, I read better spin on haloscan comment threads in 2002. This is just weak.)

  78. Just because he is undeserving of a campaign position doesn’t mean he can’t go back to his government job.

    You can’t tell when Bev Oda might need someone to cut and paste material together for a speech.

  79. Sorry, last one was for john g. His flailings are getting just kind of sad.

    Archangel, considering the time and situation, he probably didn’t expect people to pick up on it. He probably also expected Iraq to go swimmingly, so any reminder of that speech would be a good thing for him, even if it came out he was spewing Republican (or Howard) talking points.

    Or, hell, maybe he just wasn’t thinking at all. It does happen. Look at john there.

  80. I know politicians rarely write their own speeches, but I find it hard to believe that someone as controlling as Harper took this speech written by a staffer and didn’t make major changes to almost every paragraph. politicians do that even on unimportant speeches. And if it was so perfect that he didn’t want to make changes, how did the conversation go?

    SH: This speech is great.

    OL: Thank you sir, I… wrote it all myself…

  81. Greg, Harper chose Howard’s words to convey his wishes on Iraq to Canadians and Howard’s close relationship to Bush has been reported extensively in the US media:

    “Howard, 68, has been a staunch supporter of President Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq. … His close ties with Bush prompted the media to describe him as Bush’s “deputy sheriff” in the region.”

    “Howard and Bush — the only leaders of industrialized nations not to ratify the Kyoto agreement on greenhouse gas emissions”

    I can see why Harper wanted to copy him.

  82. Harper worshiped Howard. He probably still does. He probably knew it was lifted, and didn’t cared, arrogant as he is.

    The better question is whether there was a third party involved. Speeches take longer to write than two days. Maybe, perhaps, both were written elsewhere?

  83. So who wrote Howard’s speech?

  84. Demothenes wrote: Harper worshiped Howard. He probably still does.

    Quite so. And given the events back in 2003 around when this speech was delivered, and given the intensity of what was going on, it seems very unlikely that Harper would not have read Howard’s speech shortly after it was delivered, while he was still working on his own speech.

    So what’s that tell us? It means either he stole the text from Howard himself, or he read a speech prepared by Lippert and didn’t even notice that much of it was word-for-word the same as Howard’s speech.

    Which suggests Stevo is in waaaay deep on this one. If the Lippert story falls apart, he has serious troubles. In fact, he’s got serious troubles on this one already.

    – JV

  85. @GaryS: It doesn’t matter, it was 5 years and one hemisphere ago.

  86. Wow the international press has really picked this up. I guess plagiarism and Canadian leader and Iraq war makes good headlines. And they are saying other nasty things about Harper, like he called this election in an attempt to get more power.

  87. I bet Harper and his staffers were having a good laugh because nobody in the Liberal, NDP, Bloc, or Press Gallery picked up on it AT THE TIME.