Cooperation if necessary, but not necessarily cooperation


From the Prime Minister’s interview with the National Post.

Ivison: Talking about a more bi-partisan Parliament, what steps are you personally going to take to ensure that? For example, during the election, the idea that the justice package was a matter of confidence — are you in a position now to say that only money bills are measures of confidence, given your focus on the economy?

Harper: I wouldn’t go that far. Obviously the economy is everyone’s number one priority. It would be unwise for a prime minister to say he would narrow the range of confidence measures unilaterally, if the opposition parties would not be prepared to do exactly the same thing. I don’t want to be in a position where I would say only one or two or three things would be confidence while they would get up and say: “we reserve the right to bring forward a motion of confidence on every thing.” I think if we could get together and agree that a narrow range of things would be confidence — that would be useful to the functioning of this Parliament. I haven’t had that kind of discussion with Mr. Ignatieff and that would be a judgment he would have to make. But I do think that Canadians want to see Parliament work. We’ve had three elections in four years. They especially want to see it work when everyone knows jobs and futures are on the line. And I also think they believe that the country’s two major parties, who have been in government, who understand what it means to govern, would exercise some degree of common sense and collaboration and not make outrageous demands that they know one or the other couldn’t possibly meet. 

Cheers to Mr. Harper if he managed to say that last bit with a straight face.

(Students of Parliamentary tradition can probably better judge the Prime Minister’s interpretation of Parliamentary confidence. I confess confusion.)


Cooperation if necessary, but not necessarily cooperation

  1. I am continually astounded at the sheer bravado this guy has to make such bald-faced lies. And perhaps more depressingly, how unwilling the press is, when given the opportunity, to call him on it.


    • heh

      present company, so to speak, excluded mayhaps?

      • Well, they may not strictly speaking be lies, but you must concede the guy has absolutely no sense of irony?

        • Or, he has an exquisite sense of irony. He is, after all, one of the authors of the Jonathan Swift piece in which we’re currently living.

        • none whatsoever. nor humility.

        • which guy? Harper? He’s a master of it, which pisses me off because he denigrates the art form which usually otherwise provides me much amusement but hey, that’s politics. Besides, its not like there isn’t a market for it.

          I, too, would rail against “the media” stovepipe but let’s face it. Call one you have to call them all and you’d have to question the sanity of anybody (more likely team of anybodies) who’d want to take it on as a full time job.

  2. “It would be unwise for a prime minister to say he would narrow the range of confidence measures unilaterally, if the opposition parties would not be prepared to do exactly the same thing. ”

    So, is he saying that if the Liberals promise not to bring in a no-confidence vote on their opposition days, he will promise not to make every bill a confidence vote?

    Setting aside if this makes any sense or not, what leverage does he have now anyway?

    • well he did stir up a hornets nest with his demagoguery, maybe he figures that’s his edge?

  3. I am struck by this passage:

    “I don’t want to be in a position where I would say only one or two or three things would be confidence while they would get up and say: ‘we reserve the right to bring forward a motion of confidence on every thing.'”

    I’m doing a little reporting on it. I believe if he found himself in this situation, it would be novel; unlike anything that arose in the last Parliament; and the only comparable case would be during the parliament before it, when Paul Martin deemed very little to be confidence while the Harper opposition got up and said it reserved the right to bring forward a motion of confidence on every thing. I’m checking to see whether my recollection is accurate before drawing what will then be fairly obvious conclusions.

    • indeed, I believe I can even recall an instance where the opposition argued that a particular vote constituted a matter of confidence notwithstanding PMPM’s insistence it wasn’t. I think that the Harper-led opposition even went so far as to say that Martin was ignoring the will of the Parliament.

      The opposition, notwithstanding Harper’s musings, can move a motion of non-confidence at their will. They don’t need to attach that to any type of existent vote, it can be done independently.

    • We can speculate on these fairly obvious conclusions? I assert yet again, this guy is irony free. If he ever ran into one i suspect he would immediately scoot off to Rideau Hall to obtain a proroguation [ ?] of it. As a good partisan i’ll add the charge of shameless too! Honestly how could you but conclude that this guy likes rules all right, he just doesn’t see why they should apply to him. in his defence i guess he could argue, ” i’m just following precedent”.

    • Paul, if it helps in your research:

      Conservative Platform, page 43: “A Conservative government will: […]Make all votes in Parliament, except the budget and main estimates, “free votes” for ordinary Members of Parliament.”

  4. This is nice too (emphasis added):

    SH: That’s what we’re going to be proposing — programs of one to two years duration for the most part. The key will be for us to resist calls that will be inevitable to extend some of those things indefinitely.

    Ivison: So we don’t expect permanent tax cuts, for example?

    SH: I’m saying on the spending side, most of the actions we’ll be bringing forward are of a short-term nature…

    • So permanent tax cuts are obviously still on the table.

      This is probably a good thing, because the economic stimulus effect of tax cuts works much better when they are perceived as permanent, rather than temporary.

      • On the contrary, some tax cuts work better if temporary. Temporary GST or accelerated capital cost allowances, for instance (they move investment/consumption forward, but only if temporary).

        • That’s a good point . I should have made a distinction between income tax cuts, which are better if permanent, and other kinds of tax cuts.

  5. And:

    “Obviously I’m delighted that President Obama is coming here as his first foreign trip. This was a tradition that had existed for many, many years in the past that had kind of gradually disappeared under the previous Liberal government.”

    • am i incorrect or was the only exception Bush II who went to Mexico first?

    • Does TheStrategist ™ seriously believe that Obama will visit Canada before he visits the US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan?

      Or does he believe he can somehow bully Obama into making Canada #1?

      Or does he not recognize that Iraq is an actual country?

      • Actually, I think Obama’s people have already confirmed that Canada is the first visit. I don’t think he’ll be flying overseas to see the troops until after the Canadian visit.

  6. It’s been awhile since I’ve been on this blog,

    but I see that it still looks more partisan left than even some Lib bloggers.

    • You know, as sick and twisted as it may be, I actually missed my little Kody.

  7. What’s Paul Wells doing swaning all over Aaron Wherry’s post? I thought you guys respected each others turf?

    Apropos of nothing, I received a personal letter from Ken Whyte today,in which I was offered a professional courtesy discount of 177%: 26 issues of Macleans for 19,95$.


  8. If a coalition of opposition parties believe they are the equal or better then the gov`t then should they not be willing to live up to the demands they place on the gov`t ?

    If a gov`t has to wait for a fixed election date, should the other parties not agree to a similar position ?

    Should opposition parties say they have reasons why they cannot trust the gov`t, after they have actively plotted to look for a reason to implement a plan to join forces to seize power ?

    Should the gov`t agree to refrain from forcing confidence votes, if that is the only way they can pass the bills they need to govern because opposition parties need an ultimatum sometimes ?

    • Sometimes !! William? Have you been paying attention at all, for the last 2 or 3 yrs?

      • kc—my little-lettered liberal friend. I was supposed to tune you up about something you wrote a few days ago—then I forgot what it was—oh what the hell.

        As for now—-well maybe if the Liberals show a little more maturity and agree to cooperate with those measures that are obviously the right thing, then maybe there will be less inclination on the Conservative part to push them against the wall.

        I might be wrong but I actually think Iggnattief and Harper will get along—I don`t mean there gonna hang out at the mall on week-ends but there might be a little bit of common ground in an intellectual level.

        • william, tune away, just don’t be offended if i hum a different one. A lettered liberal? you must have mistaken me for Ignatieff. One way to tell the difference is that most of his sentences are longer then one of my paragraphs. Also i will NEVER use incentivize [ shudder ] unless i go off my meds.
          i agree with you to some extent re: H / Iggy getting along. One is nuance deficiant and the other lives for it. If ignatief gets to him i wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Harper heading back to the GG; this tme pleading for sanctuary. Seriously, anything’s an improvement on Dion.

    • on your first question: no. frankly anyone who understands our system of government who find that appalling. it mean that the government has a blank check to do whatever it wants. were you only for accountability when the Libs held power and ran the sponsorship schmozel? we don’t need that now that your team is in power? please.

      As per your last question you also clearly don’t get the concept of minority governments. if the electorate wanted the Tories to be a majority government more people would have voted for them.

  9. Paul Wells,


    and all the others,

    you have “won.”

    You will have your myopic haven. No need to scoff at interlopers, call them names, those who must surely be wrong or “LYING!!!”

    The premise of your points, the world view which shapes them, need not be defended. Their truth will be self evident.

    The AGW theory is really just one on the long list of that which is beyond debate. All roads leading to an eeeeeeevil Harper is another.

    Now, I leave this site to,

    today’s tolerant progressive left.

    • kody, I didn’t even acknowledge your existence. It may be a bit early to throw yourself onto the soccer pitch clutching your shin. Timing is everything when you’re in the business of theatrical self-pity.

      • kody, I didn’t even acknowledge your existence.

        Don’t worry, Kody…the larriviste Paul Wells has been acknowledging no one for quite some time now.

    • Kody, I hope you will stay. I often disagree with your posts, but I think that your viewpoints should be represented. I also don’t like how certain individuals try to bully you into submission.

      • This is real life, not an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

        • Am I supposed to extract some kind of meaning from that sentence?

          • Whether you’re supposed to is unknowable, Whether you can is likely impossible.

            Seriously, anyone who characterises Kody’s contributions as a point of view that should be represented is insensate. If you don’t like that, then too bad.

          • Ti-Guy, I actually find you quite entertaining 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time it seems like you cross the line from acerbic wit (good) to obsessive bullying (bad). I haven’t followed Kody’s posts too closely, but as far as I know he hasn’t done anything to deserve withering personal attacks. The endless stream of vitriol is rather unseemly, not to mention repetitive, especially when you direct it at individual posters.

          • I think you came into the party a bit late, Critical. Kody started wearing the lampshade months ago.

    • Little Big Man …….. It is a good day to die …….

  10. You will have your myopic haven. No need to scoff at interlopers, call them names, those who must surely be wrong or “LYING!!!”

    Oh, c’mon baby, don’t be like that., You and me, Saturday. We’ll go out for steaks.

    • kody the lone interloper. He’s back!! Where’s he bin? The Conbot workshop getting his illogic curcuits retorqued . Wecome back kody, i really did miss you.

  11. The two pts that paticularly struck me were, 1. SH’s adament assertion that the coalition gives the Bloq a veto over govt. He doesn’t say “how,”‘ and i see he still maintains he never did nor ever will make a similar deal. Where was the interviewer here? No, ” but back in 2005 you said”, no” How does the Bloq get a veto?”At least give the guy a chance to lie, explain or prevaricate. This is Journalism?
    2or3. Is it possible that he’s right about laying the groundwork in 2007 in order to better prepare us for what has now arrived? Isn’t this a ittle revisionist? I had no impression during the election that he had any idea what was to befall us. Claiming credit for something retroactively for something you didn’t even see coming and very nearly ended yr tenure is a feat of selective amnesia and or cognitive dissonance that would have made Henry Kissinger blanch. Again, no follow-up questions. I ‘m not particularly surprised when politicians lie or dissemble, but i object when they do so with impunity.

    • This sort of critique is becoming a recurring feature whenever somebody interviews Harper: Where’s the focussed, persistent questioning of any part of his answer that seems unsatisfactory? But there’s a big problem here. Nobody, nobody gets enough time with Harper to do that sort of questioning. If you get an interview with the guy, you get 15 minutes.

      Chrétien used to do a half-hour, 40 minutes, and then many times he’d point to the recorder, say “Turn that off,” and go off-the-record for a half-hour or more afterward. (My one interview with Chrétien, in 2000, was atypical in that he had to go into the House for votes so the on-the-record portion was all I got. But it was a long, detailed chat.) I don’t know what Martin’s one-on-one style was, because it was made obvious to me early on that I wouldn’t be getting one.

      With Harper it’s 15 minutes. His press secretary is under orders to intervene at 15 minutes. Harper may then get to magnanimously offer to take one or two more questions — it’s good-cop, bad-cop at that point by design — but if you’re still hammering him at that point on his refusal to answer your first question to your satisfaction, d’you think he’ll be that generous?

      People need to keep this in mind when they read any interview with this prime minister. I’ve been there. From the instant you sit down, the interview is almost over. What the guy says is nearly incidental to your desire to cover some reasonable number of topics before you get the hook. Things come off a bit hectic and rushed? That’s ’cause they are.

      So Harper never gets scrutiny for his answers? Sure he does. It’s just back-loaded: you, the reader, get to take the time and exercise the independent judgement the reporter was denied by design. kc, don’t blame Ivison. Just understand that the interview was so designed as to guarantee that you would have to do some of the work he’d have done, if he had been given a decent amount of time.

      • It is not accurate to compare a Chretien interview with one with Harper.

        Chretien used his early life growing up poor the youngest of 14 children, the facial paralysis thing, the broken English and French as a means to disarm any interviewer or critic he came across. Remember how he would lower his voice to a whisper when talking about his hardships then make some corny joke to show he was OK. Oh and just to show he was a good ole boy he`d say “let`s shut of dat recordy ting ” and he`ll tell you a little inside joke he heard about someone.

        Now ,what journalist with a heart wouldn`t have a soft spot for this little guy from Shawinigan. He played the media like a tune—-it was the one area he knew he was better then his hero—Trudeau.

        Harper on the other hand saw how his predecessors were treated by the media and decided he had no schtick like Chretien so he had to reduce as much as possible the one-sided influence the media had on interpreting his message. So the result is he limits the time and circumstance of his exposure to them. And it works for him—-he is lucky because of the time he lives in there is much more choice for the public to receive info. and because there is an increasing mistrust for the motives behind the reporting of much of the media.

        Finally, I can see you starting to spell “paronia ” .Well Harper is not paronoid if he is right It is a fact that over 90% of those assosciated with the media do not vote Conservative and don`t tell me that does not influence how they do their job. If you don`t believe my figures just do a little informal survey of your own as you scroll around this site.

        • This anti-Conservative media bias theory is bunk.

          Much of the media reporting and commentary appears superficial, a lot of it appears partisan, but to argue it is overwhelmingly biased against the Conservative party is nonsense. As to Harper — Harper is an ultrapartisan, deceitful person who doesn’t believe in openness and has as cynical an approach to Canadians as he has to the media. So, I would not equate criticism of Harper as necessarily meaning one is against the Conservative party.

      • This is one of my greatest criticisms of Harper…..that lack of openness and transparency. People should be able to call their leaders to account, to question, and to oblige the government to explain itself. Harper does so little of this it, it’s often as if we are being led by decree, with pronouncements from a shadowy politburo. And it doesn’t get much better even during an election.
        But I guess when you are as blatantly two-faced as Harper with respect to what he has said in the past compared to what he is now doing, you’ve really no option.

      • PW
        Thanks for the perspective. Maybe i should get some. I guess i winged Ivison when i took a shot at SH; it wasn’t my intent. I’ve read lot’s of his columns which often take an adversarial stance vs this govt, in other words he does his job pretty well overall. That said i’m still mad. Ican uderstand Harper skewing the interview his way and appreciate the difficulty of countering this but most folks out in the real world who may only get to hear a snippet of this interview will likely conclude: ” what a great guy, see those coalition traitors had no right to pull that crap” I know i’m crying because reality sucks, but i do like my reality to be challenged from time to time. Keep trying to hold the feet of our pols to the fire, and i’ll try and remember that it’s not always your fault that the subject appears to be fire-proof.

      • LMAO..

        Off the record, like any PPG reporter is going to keep anything off the record with PM Harper. Go ask Ian Brodie how off the record works with you haters in Ottawa.

        Frankly if I was Harper I not even give the time of day to whinners like you Wells. You know people who think they know everything but don’t know nothing. People who sit on the sidelines and claim they can save thje worlds ills but don’t have the Balls to get ijnto the game. Oh, wait you did try to get in with Paul Martin my bad

        And yes Wells feel free to call me a jerk I stop spending money on your magazine. Now back to the Harper is bad comments.

        • Chucky vs M
          Don’t worry apparently he doesn’t give the time of the day- apart from 15 mins of whatch me while i do the harpie soft shoe shuffle. Seriously the man doesn’t dance unless he gets to pick the tune too.
          ps: I would watch those double negatives, don’t want to give folks the impession you is ignorant, do we?

          • Oh god! I’ve seriously got to learn how to spell. It does rather create the wrong impression, kinda like using double negatives. I never said i wasn’t ignorant too!

    • kc . . . I’m no journalist, so I will assume what Mr. Wells said is perfectly correct, in a generic way.

      That said, a more proximate reason that the more obvious, uncomfortable questions were not asked, is that Ivison is somewhat of a mild-mannered, more polite (he’s Canadian after all), north-of-the-49 version of Sean Hannity, when it comes to questioning the current government.

      • Hey Dude [ sorry i have no shame] – pt taken.

  12. Reading Harper’s responses made my skin crawl.

    Apparently we are going to be in better financial shape after Flaherty runs up the deficit because other countries are running even bigger deficits.

    Apparently increasing our debt by around 8% just this year is considered ‘very marginal’.

    Harper sounds like one of those shoppers who is broke but must buy the sweater because it’s 50% off ! when he talks about borrowing money while it’s cheap to do so.

    And Harper knows, and used to agree, with M Friedman about how there is nothing so permanent as a temporary government program.

    • jwl, I feel your pain. But just remember. Everybody is doing it. So nobody can pay their debts. As long as our debts aren’t higher than everybody else’s, we’ll be okay. Or put it this way. Everybody is going to default on their debts. Who wants to be the tool who has no debts to default on? At least, this is the only way the world makes sense to me at the moment.

      • “Who wants to be the tool who has no debts to default on?”

        hahaha, I like it. Maybe the Cons can use it as campaign slogan during next election.

      • OK–let me try to make sense of what you guys say.
        You were really angry with Harper at the time of the fiscal update because he was not going on a spending stimulation spree. And now when it appears that he is you are angry because=============I don`t know—-Jenn do you really know what you want.

        Maybe Kody was right—-you know when he said you all had some blockage happening—-that Harper Derangement thing—-funny, right Jenn ?

        • Don’t know what you are talking about, William. I have been wanting Cons/Flaherty to reduce Fed spending since forever and now I am really irritated that Cons sound no different than any other left wing party who think every problem can be solved by stealing more of my, and my future generations, money.

        • It’s not that hard, William.

          We need targeted, effective stimulus. That does not translate into “all the bailouts, all the time.”

          But, even though I’m teeling quite cynical, I wasn’t joking about the ‘everyone is going to default’ plan. And if that seriously is the plan, go to it Harper with my full blessings. If that seriously isn’t the plan, give some consideration to moderation, saying no once in a while, that sort of thing.

          Yeah, that Harper Derangement thing was one of Kody’s funnies.

  13. I sincerely hope Kody reconsiders, as it is there is a uniformity of opinion at Bloc Central which can only benefit from dissenting viewpoints, including Kody’s.

    I appreciate that those dissenting viewpoints attract the occasional ire of Kady, Andrew Potter and Paul Wells. It also attracts the wrath many commenters who want their comfortable and self-righteous worldviews to go unchallenged, but so be it.

    So Kody, although you have undoubtedly more important things to do, there are many here who can benefit from your knowledge. On the global warming issue alone, your breadth of knowledge leaves people on this site miles behind.

    • I agree with your sentiment, Jarrid, although not the climate change part, but that goes to your point, of course. I suppose it is good for me to know what the ‘other’ side is thinking.

      And Kody was sometimes funny, and at least made more sense than William.

    • Jarrid – don’t worry he’ll be back. Where else after all can you, me or kody find such a soap-box to air our respective pov. As a frequent critic of kody i sincerely wish him well. But you should consider that most peoples frustration with him stems not from a desire to shut him up pre se, but rather from a desire to get him to even “consider” any pov other than the one he spouts ad nauseam. Personally i’ tired of his martyr shtick. If that’s self-righteous i guess i can live with that.

  14. Conservative Platform, page 43: “Make all votes in Parliament, except the budget and main estimates, “free votes” for ordinary Members of Parliament.”

  15. I can’t get that exercised over Harper’s refusal to treat interviews as anything less than just another opportunity to get this message out; there is no obligation on his part to submit to persistent questioning from the media, particularly if he thinks it is hostile to him.

    I can see why this is pretty frustrating to the journalists covering him, but this does not seem to have been much of a hindrance to them, and in any event, as PW points out, people do eventually notice his non-answers, evasions and outright lies.

    I am more bothered that he is not more forcefully questioned and challenged (as against shouted at) in and outside Parliament by the opposition parties, but the truth is that they have bungled all opportunities to nail him over and over again.

    I don’t think that people particularly buy into Harper’s pitch, but the absence of any real alternative has made the criticisms just sound like carping.

    PW has actually got so ticked off at this state of affairs that he has started throwing his own ideas into the mix, if for no other reason than to show that there IS an alternative to the current mess.

    We should stop worrying so much about what Harper is or is not saying and start demanding that the opposition stand up and start doing their job.

  16. As far as I am concerned the complaints are a non sequitor as Harper doesn’t avoid ‘ The Media ‘ (typical partisan claptrap) As he focuses on local media and in point of fact he actually took a page from Trudeaus little red book on strategy when it comes to this issue. In fact there are quite a few voters out here who are impressed with Harper for this very reason as the man does not suck up to the media or anyone else come to think of it. My favorite interviews are where the interviewer keeps wanting to get all touchy feely and full of questions that are basically self indulgent and not in the least subtle attempts at promoting some sort of self reflective analysis all the while wasting their time in the interview. Hey guys when interviewing someone have you ever thought of doing what most local journalists do – ask a friggin question that has a basis in reality and isn’t some sort of all too often clumsy attempt at gotcha politics that has little or no bearing on a public policy issue. Frankly I think that what has happened is that through the years of Mulroney and Chretien the national media has developed a taste for a form of incestuous play and now without it they are at a loss.

    • wayne – some good pts. I too was an admirer of trudeau’s strategy for dealing with the media, it was often entertaining an frequently right. [ mind you giving the finger to the establishment was, considering my age, more of a sport then anything else] I’m not a fan of gotcha journalism either and any time they indulge in it and it blows up in their faces is just fine by me, and probably most ordinary Canadians.I hav’n’t seen many of SH local interviews, but what i have seen is puff ball journalism. Do you seriously thinl local scribbllers get a free rein from their editors to ask him anything difficult or controversial? in my town not rocking the boat is the norm; “a… question that has a basis in reality…” is that code for just accept this and shut the f*** up”?
      C’mon i don’t blame Harper for trying to get away with whatever he can, but let’s not pretend he’s just trying to ” go over the heads [of whatever] to the people” a la Trudeau, because even when he does he doesn’t say anything anyway, besides that is, what he wants you to hear.

  17. Hey KC – I have caught more interviews with Harper on local media here in Vancouver and Victoria (BC) than any other PM in my memory and the questions as far as I am concerned were if anything – more thorough and to the point minus fluff (every time i see this words reminds me of a porno term I heard once:) than the national media the last while. AND Speaking of national media does this guy BBBBBRRRRRRoadcast – does he do that on purpose because it is starting to get me!

    • I did say i hav’n’t caught much of his local stuff, guess i need to turn CBC off [ radio] more often. The last pt went over my head, but then i never was that smart.