Do we now put an asterisk on that debate? -

Do we now put an asterisk on that debate?

Elizabeth May says Stephen Harper brought crib notes to one of last year’s debates


Do we now put an asterisk on that debate?Elizabeth May says Stephen Harper brought crib notes to one of last year’s debates.

The Green party leader had fought hard to be included in the national televised debates during the campaign for last October’s election, and remembers participants were told they would be provided with blank index cards for taking notes, but they were forbidden to bring their own background material.

“Stephen Harper’s staff took care to print out background notes on index cards, but they picked the wrong-sized cards. And no one writes in printer font. Looking over from my seat, I remember the shock of realizing he was cheating,” May writes in her new book. “I felt like I was back in grade school. Do you ‘tattle’ on a cheater? Now, all I can think is ‘What were his staff thinking?’ It is clear they thought he wouldn’t be caught.”

The other revelation in May’s new book—which serves as a decent review of various outrages—is that Don Martin allowed her a look at his copy of the Conservative handbook on parliamentary mayhem. Here’s her review of that.

The handbook is several hundred pages and Martin is the only journalist to have a copy, although he allowed me to have a peek. Entitled In the Hot Seat: An Evening Primer for Committee Chairs, it sets out how to ensure committee witnesses are favourable to the government’s positions and how to strangle opposition motions in procedural red tape through long-winded rulings from the chair sprinkled with frequent references to respected works on parliamentary procedure. Same speeches are ready-made for committee chairs. When looking through the handbook, I realized I had heard Bob Mills deliver portions of the canned speech entitled, “Defending a Ruling that a Motion to Put the Question Is Out of Order.” It is nearly incomprehensible, but has the benefit of being extremely long, replete with reading into the record pages of rules of parliamentary practice from the book House of Commons Procedure and Practice, by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit.

Further advice for committee chairs includes the throwing-down-a-pencil-and-storming-out-of-the-room gambit. It even suggests all Conservative members should be prepared to walk out from time to time if the committee’s work is not going the government’s way. Here is one extract:

Once vote called, either have CPC members vote against the matter or at least abstain from the vote. Alternatively, CPC members could consider refusing to deal with the matter and simply leave the room so as not be party to this charade. (Protect CPC party from broad the strokes to the media [sic].)

All of the ungrammatical, nonsensical aspects of that paragraph are as they appear in the handbook. Here is another typical bit of advice: “Eventually the opposition will wise up that they need to adjourn debate on the motion before they can vote on it.”

The committee chair handbook is all part of the conversion of the House as government to the House as organ for communicating the political and partisan message of the Harper PMO. The chairs are constantly reminded to “avoid bad press, to limit opposition rhetoric, protect the interests of the party.” As one bullet point puts it: “Consider the political ‘Big Picture’ and the role that committee plays within the Big Picture.”


Do we now put an asterisk on that debate?

  1. I recall news of Harper’s cheat sheet coming out right after the debate, but it was largely ignored as the media was preparing to endorse Harper (Toronto Star excepted) and not looking for details to detract from that.

    • It may have been mentioned at the time, but it really should have been a full scale scandal if the media was doing its job. I guess the PMO must have pulled out all the stops to get the gallery in line on that one. I don’t recall hearing anything about it, and saw the story from May today as a revelation.
      He cheated in the debate. Has anyone denied it?
      He cheated in the debate. Think about it.

      • May should have called him on it during the debate, and had the cards taken away. That would have been the honest thing to do.

        • Weird that she didn’t, eh? But then she was probably quite nervous.

        • I would have paid money to see that. Ms. May was lucky to be invited to the debates, given that her party has yet to elect a single MP. It would have been quite entertaining to watch Ms. May blow her moment in the spotlight by accusing the Prime Minister of “cheating”. The debate was already amateur hour but I suppose it could have been worse.

  2. Harper has a “Big Picture”?? Can someone get their hands on it?

    Or is it simply ‘winning at all costs’ as the context would seem to imply.

  3. Can I get a “slow news day”, anyone?

    (Next up: Elizabeth May accuses Stephen Harper of being offside when he scored a goal in 11-year-old soccer.)

    • Can I get a “slow news day”, anyone?

      Translation: Quick…change the channel!

    • That Next Up would never have been. Mr. Harper never played any sports.

      • Perhaps Mr. Harper illegally castled after having already moved his rook in a chess match when he was eight? It’s hard to come up with coherent non-sports mockery if you’re someone like me.

    • i like the logic: prime ministerial debate is the equivalent of 11-yr olds playing soccer.

  4. Elizabeth who? .. oh yeah right now I remember – the lady who managed to get herself on a debate she was not entitled to as her party had no seats in the House and yet there she was (let’s be honest now folks – it was beciase she was a woman had she been a man he wouldn’t have made it to the debate. To sum up her contribution in one word = Blank! no contribution as she didn’t do anything except attack the PM whcih everyone else was doing so what was the point?= nothing to offer. She had a chance but she blew it. She could have actually run for a seat where she had a chance of winning but quite frankly supporting Dion was more important = righhhht! There should be a stupidity award in canadaian politics as she might have won that though her partner in crime Dion clearly had first place.

    • Although you’ve accused the Canadian electoral system of reverse sexism, and done your best to attack the woman, have you any view on whether or not what May says is true? And if it is true, does it not matter, your contempt for Ms May (and typing) aside?

      • I have absolutely no views on either Ms May or any other waste of polticial space. If I were a Green I would be very upset as the party had a very good chance of making somehting of itself only to be sidelined in perpetuity by a leader who neither understood what her responsibilities were or how to achieve anything of significance. (1) I did not accuse the canadian electoral system of reverse sexism as it had nothing to do with it and was overrideen by an a canadian public that was suffering a form of delusion at the time and demanded that she participate despite her not having earned the right – and therefore paid the price thereof. (2) I have no contempt for her – in point of fact I have about as much feelings for here as I would for a say artichoke – in otherwords nada, zip, zilch and possibly void.

        • Good ole Wayne, never change. Harper cheated, but what really matters is the fact Miz May had no right to be at the table – CpoC ethics/morals in a nutshell really!

          • Oh my God – Stevie had some cards with Notes going into a debate – Stop the Presses headline news … wait a sec … what does this have to do with anything? (1) what rules were broken – is it not allowed to put some french phrases together for some last minute points or better yet to read something interesting while Lizzie is yelling at you – since when in point of fact many people myself included have done the same at debates I have attended and between you and me this is a poor attempt at phrasing some weird point that quite frankly only makes sense if you are trying to score a gotcha point outside of that it is drivel KC and I am sure you know it – the only important principle in the debate that merrits any attention is indeed the fear by all parties of actually holding to the principle that three are rules and Lizzie was the only one there breaking the rules … same ol KC and gotcha point against the CPC will do as they say – but to be perfectly honest it’s lame at best.

          • Wayne- that is exactly the point. Having notes (in French or otherwise) was not allowed. That is the rule that was broken. By Steven Harper. Many people do it at many debates, but it wasn’t allowed at this one.
            We seem to agree that he broke this rule; you argue that it doesn’t matter that much. Fair enough. But don’t say that no rules were broken.

          • Well as the in and out scandal shows, Harper also cheated in the election that got him elected in the first place. Are they going to resurrect that in committee? I remember that it was coming to a head back in the fall and was one of the reasons that Harper invented his need for an election.

  5. This just in: Elizabeth May says Stephen Harper can believe it’s not butter! Former Supreme Court Chief Justice appointed to head inquiry!

  6. I guess the spin has already started on this one.
    He cheated in the debate. What’s next?

    • Yes, you are right. Harper cheated on the debate and that should matter.

      I don’t recall where I read this many months ago, but somehow I already knew this. I can’t seem to find any archived news stories on it.

      • I also remember reading about this many moons ago… I just can’t figure out where it was now.

        • Perhaps the notes were flown in via Qantas from a previous Prime Ministerial debate.

  7. Elizabeth May: not the latter-day Paul Hellyer or David Orchard quite yet, but making every effort to get there as quickly as she can.

  8. Talking points from the PMO…
    Here’s how to become a whirling dervish…..S-P-I-N!

  9. Lizzy, tighten up the old tin foil hat and get on with life, your 15 minutes of fame are over.

    • *yawn*

  10. You know you’ve hit a nerve when the spin and focus is so quickly, deliberately and obviously turned to attacking the messenger instead of the message.

    Yes, Elizabeth May should not have been in the debate, is largely irrelevant to the national issues of concern to Canadians in their day-to-day lives, seems to be suffering from Harper Derangement Syndrom, etc.

    But yes, what she says is relevant, very relevant regarding someone who has the audacity and hypocrisy to complain about the “moral compass” of others while he cheats away and tries to cheat the committee system.

    Sadly, I suspect it is not going to be much of a news item because we will all shrug and say ‘hey, it’s Harper. We all know he doesn’t play by the rules.’

    • It’s actually not going to be much of a news item because no one really cares if a politician brings in a few crib notes to a debate (we didn’t even care when he broke his own election law) and no one is really surprised that political parties have tactics for how to deal with parliamentary committees. You are more than free to try and find the relevance of it all and explain it to everyone. Just don’t be too surprised if we don’t buy it.

      • sbt – what would you be saying right now if it was May who had the notes, instead of Harper? “No one really cares” or “see, she shouldn’t have been there in the first place”?

        • I don’t really care if anyone brings in crib notes to the debate. What’s going to be on them that is such an advantage? A couple of statistics or a phrase in your second language that you have problems remembering? I just don’t see it as being that big of a game-changer. As for May I had no problem with her being in the debate.

          • I agree – there’s lots of other more important reasons not to like Stephen Harper.

            Nobody cares when stupid rules are broken.

      • (we didn’t even care when he broke his own election law

        The epidemic of poor short-term memory is startling.

        Just don’t be too surprised if we don’t buy it.

        Speak for yourself.

    • I know, the reaction here by the usual suspects has been quick, and almost entirely attacking Elizabeth May- the facts of the matter don’t seem to matter, which some people would argue is symptomatic of this party and its adherents.

  11. All the index cards said the same thing in 24 point type:

    Don’t do that grimace you call a smile!

  12. I do recall Ms. May pointing this out somewhere not long after either the debate or the election itself. As with so many other things at the time dealing with what a jerk Harper is, it didn’t get much play.

    I think the formerly subserviant Parliamentary Press Gallery will now start following up on items like this now that they sense vulnerability.

  13. If Harper runs in the next election, it has to be a requirement that they do a full body search before the debate starts.

    • Yes, because Canada doesn’t already humiliate its polticians enough.

      • Well, apparently not.

  14. Reminds me of the time Ms. Mathyssen glanced at James Moore’s laptop and accused him of “disrespecting women” by looking at “scantily clad women” in the House of Commons. Turns out it was an innocent photo of Moore’s girlfriend.

    • Wouldn’t the parallel be if Moore actually HAD been looking at inappropriate sites??? In the Moore example, he was doing something that was largely innocent, whereas in the Harper example he was doing something that was EXPLICITLY AGAINST THE RULES. I fully admit that it’s probably not that big of a deal, but saying that “this little bit of cheating shouldn’t be made into too big of a big deal” is still different from saying (incorrectly) that “this wasn’t cheating”.

  15. What puzzles me is why journos weren’t approaching Martin for a look see of that handbook, surely that was worth getting the pmo all wound up, at the time?

  16. I have spent quite some time looking for a rule that says you can’t take notes to a debate – sorry folks no can find such = the reason being is that this is not a school exam and there is no such rule and maybe Lizzie would have done better if she took a card or 2 herself.

    • “I have spent quite some time looking for a rule that says you can’t take notes to a debate . . .”

      You could have read the article Wayne; ” . . .participants were told they would be provided with blank index cards for taking notes, but they were forbidden to bring their own background material.”

      John Stuart Mill, right again.

      • “John Stuart Mill, right again”

        That’s funny. And obvious. But Wayne still won’t get the reference.

    • BS

      Amazing how low the standards go for the CPC supporters when it’s their guy.

    • Wayne can’t find the rules that the parties and the media agreed to for the debates online, therefore there were no rules agreed to by the parties and the media for the debates.

      That was easy.

      Personally, I find it more likely that Wayne just can’t find the rule online than that Elizabeth May is just making up a rule she agreed to as a condition of participating in the debates.

      I also think it’s symptomatic of the erosion of civilization that people seem so perplexed as to why there’d be a rule against bringing pre-prepared speaking notes to a live debate. Clearly we’ve almost completely eliminated “debate” from the debates.

  17. Just mentioned at CAITI:

    “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much”

    Luke 16:10

    A personal injury lawyer such as Flaherty once was would simply say “Once a liar, always a liar”.

  18. a politician accusing another of wrongdoing? ladies and gentlemen, i do believe this is a historic moment.

  19. With no platform to speak of, and with Harper not having actually said much of substance during either debate, I am left wondering what was actually written on those cards.

  20. Same ole same ole from Crazy Lizzie. I have watched her shenanigans since her and her crazy clan arrived on Cape Breton Island thirty years ago. She long ago wore out her welcome there and I noticed she didn’t run there as she would have had less chance of winning a seat there than in Central Nova. I don’t think she even set foot on the island during the campaign. Perhaps people there know her all too well. She elbowed her way onto the debate screaming sexism. Funny how Lizzie lovers always convieniently forget about Aubry and Alexa already being in the debates years before. Of course they had managed to get themselves elected and were leading an officially recognized party. It’s always all about Lizzie. She has made a lifelong career of self promotion. She likely cost some of her candidates their deposits when she shilled for Dion in the last days of the campaign. Of course we now know Lizzie was expecting a senate seat and a cabinet post from the goofie professor. True to form, she has a habit of thowning everyone else overboard in her quest for self agrandisment. No wonder her deputy leader had to resign by text message as he couldn’t get in contact with her. Incredible. Let’s not forget her insane rant on the pulpit compairing anyone who didn’t agree with her eco-radicalism to a holocaust denier. Or how about her demanding the news editor of the Halifax Herald be fired for calling her on her constant obstuctionism in getting the Sydney Tar Ponds cleaned up. Now that she finally has her snout out of there people have gotten on with cleaning the mess up. No thanks to her. So now she’s “unearthed” a huge conspiracy amoungst the news media to hide the fact that Harper was using ….cue cards? Wow, this is bigger than Watergate. As others have already pointed out, man it must be a slow news day.

    • If Elizabeth May’s allegations in this specific instance are correct, Harper’s conduct would be grounds for expulsion from the University of Calgary as follows:

      ‘ . . . bringing into the examination room any textbook, notebook, memorandum, other written material or mechanical or electronic device not authorized by the examiner . . .”

      The plagiarism of John Howard thing would probably not have gone over well either.

  21. The debate was on television. If Harper had something written on his cards it should be obvious.

    • Yes, if one has x-ray eyes. I’m pretty sure he held the cards with the notes FACING HIM. At least, God, I hope so!

    • The notes were a textual description of James Moore’s girlfriend.

  22. I think the issue here is not the cards but the question of who is holding them!. It’s interesting to note that the media moguls wanted to exclude the voice of nearly 1 million Canadian voters by excluding the Green Party leader from the debate.
    What is the criteria for a LEADERSHIP debate? Does one have to be the LEADER of a political party thatt is registered in Canada? Does the media have the right to determine who Canadians get to see and listen to during a political campaign? This is Bigger than Harper and May folks! Let us not allow our democracy to the hands of the media barons, to dictate if we can have background notes or not…GET REAL.