That Dion interview, in full


I cannot believe we are discussing this. But for the record:

– The question was clumsily phrased, but clear enough in the broad strokes: If you were in Stephen Harper’s shoes, what would you do differently? You’ve criticized him for doing nothing in the midst of a financial crisis. Fine: If you were prime minister today, what would you do? Does he mean if you were just elected, or had been in government for the last two-and-a-half years? Who cares? Pick one, and answer it.

– That Dion was unable at first to offer an answer has nothing to do with any hearing problem, and I would judge is only marginally to do with English being his second language. It’s mostly a matter of over-thinking the question. So, okay, he has an embarrassing moment. Who cares? Why is this news? Show it bottom of the newscast, as a “whoops” story, maybe. But convening a panel of MPs to analyze it? Reading all sorts of deep significance into it? Lordy.

– It’s probably true to say that if an English-speaking politician had as much trouble with a French question, the francophone press would be all over him. Who cares? Is that going to be our standard: thin-skinned, language-obsessed ultra-nationalists? It’s also true that Dion’s English is less than ideal. Voters, in whatever part of the country they may live, are entitled to take that into account. They are also entitled to ignore it. Either way, it’s hardly news.

– When he did finally answer the question, Dion did not give a good answer. But the bad answer he gave is the same bad answer he’s been giving since the French debate: If elected, I’d convene some meetings. That’s worth exploring — the Libs have been denouncing the Tories for doing nothing, but offer next to nothing as an alternative — but it doesn’t warrant the “aha!” tone of the coverage of this particular non-event.

– Duffy was way offside in giving this so much attention. But it doesn’t bear comparisons with the Chretien “face” incident. And it doesn’t warrant some of the personal attacks on him that have appeared on this site.

– As for the Chretien “face” incident: we’re all total hypocrites. We all agree the Tories were terrible people to have made sport of his lopsided face in 1993. And in private we all do the same. Be honest: have you not at some point imitated Chretien’s speaking style? And did it not involve speaking in a heavy Quebecois accent, while shoving your mouth out to one side? Is that not the image we have seen in a hundred thousand editorial cartoons?

– Final point: our hypocrisy in this regard is completely defensible There’s a time and a place for offensive humour: at a private party, or a comedy club, or in an editorial cartoon. These are and should be sanctuaries, where we are (more or less) free to say what we please, without fear (within limits) of the judgement of others. Political campaigns are not that time, or that place.


That Dion interview, in full

  1. I’m betting Duffy is asleep soundly tonight, but the Macleans bloggers are/were keeping late hours tonight discussing the same thing that you say, “Duffy was way offside in giving this so much attention.”

  2. Andrew,
    I would agree that it isn’t big news except the precedent was set with Harper’s “buy stock” comment with Peter Mansbridge. The mainstream media had a field day with that. I repeat not just the NDP and the Liberals but the MAINSTREAM media had a field day with that. Dion was asked the question three times…his aid even understood the question and tried to explain it to him. He looked confused, agitated and incompetent. If that had been a job interview he would have been thanked for his time and shown the door. He dropped the ball and it can’t go both ways. Either Harper’s comments are dropped along with Dion’s or they both get equal time. Duffy understood this and did the right thing.

  3. Other politicians might’ve taken the high road but not our Prime Minister — who reminded me tonight of the pre-campaign Harper — who sat in the House of Commons, smiling away, while his caucus jeered Dion every time he opened his mouth.

    I think Dion was confused by the construction of the sentence — those awkward tenses.

    My respect for Harper though just dropped a little further.

    I don’t personally care if my PM speaks with an accent and occasionally has trouble understanding a complex sentece. Others are free to disagree.

  4. Thank you Mr.Coyne for bringing some sanity and decency to Macleans bloggers where others have failed.
    I would only add as I’ve added elsewhere.
    It’s called “Mike Duffy Live”. Does that not count for something?It’s his darn show.
    I watched the at issue panel where Mansbridge called Harper a control freak.An obvious Liberal line that’s been used for over two years.What kind of human being does that make him?
    I know Liberals are shooting knives out of their eyes but they can at least be thankfull that they are not forced to pay for Mike Duffies wage.Like folks on other networks.

  5. What does matter is the contrast in the behaviour of the two leaders. After getting a terribly phrased question, Dion, as is his nature, and, as an intellectual does, tried to make some sense of it by asking for clarification of its premises – anyone who has seen him argue knows he always takes an argument and exposes its shoddy logic right down to its false premises, for which he substitutes his own. Tired, in his 2nd language and with poor hearing, he tried in good faith to answer a question as best he could, without dodging it or spouting pablum as most trained politicians would. He thought there was an agreement “to start again” and the outtakes wouldn’t be aired, as is the normal modus operandi in interviews, and seems to be acknowledged by the interviewer here. To the extent one can have any ethical expectations of the media, CTV seems to have acted contrary to those ethics in this case.

    Harper & Co., upon news of Duffy’s hysterics, seem to have decided that the right thing to do was to have their first open news conference in living memory, so Harper could mock Dion’s understandable difficulties. Question: does anyone imagine, for a second, that if a similar incident had occurred in French to Harper, Dion would have acted as Harper did? What is more likely, Dion sloughing it off and saying the real question is about the issues on which he disagrees with Harper and not a botched interview or Dion assembling the media so they can watch the interview with him and then listen to him deride Harper for his botched interview?

    Furthermore, given Dion, throughout his time as leader and this campaign, has had innumerable open floor sessions with all kinds of people, while Harper has hid himself from chaotic general media questioning, let alone, the public, is Harper in any position to be questioning anyone’s media behaviour?

    Finally, Don Martin et. al. are right to highlight what this says about Harper & Co.. And Le Devoir notes in the subtitle to its article on the subject “Dion Commits Linguistic Gaffe – Harper Makes His Own Mistake In French While Trying to Mock the Liberal Leader”. People in glass houses…

    The incident is in and of itself trivial, given everything else. But how the two leaders behaved does give us some insight into their leadership style. Dion has a good intellectual’s strengths and faults – clarity & coherence if you’re a fan, pedantry if you’re not. But what to say of Harper’s behaviour? Ungenerous, mean, dishonourable & willfully silly & stupid. As I say, imagine Dion’s reaction in a similar situation. Now who does an average decent Canadian prefer? As we say in French, “poser la question, c’est y répondre”.

  6. Completely agreed.

    Though the question wasn’t exactly “if you were prime minister today, what would you do?” It was specifically about “what would you have been doing”, or something like that. Awkward and confusing in any case, and I hope we’ve already hit the height of coverage on it.

  7. Macleans.

    No cred anymore…

  8. Oh Andrew, I believe you were truly exempted from duty on this one. Really, for all the verbiage bouncing around, any voice of sanity such as your above post wouldn’t quite know where to fit in.

  9. This IS the news: the media’s role finally being called into question.


    a good example would be your answers during tonight CBC’s At Issue.

    I mean, if you and the other guests equally understand the public’s role to be playing it dumb, and Harper’s role to be going it dumber yet, then the dumbest might as well pack’r in.

    Here Dion gets empathy for being new at speaking english – give the guy a break – while coming out of the french debates Harper is being blamed for weakness.

    I don’t know how it would measure up, because I’ve never been in that sort of situation, but to be attacked by five adversaries (Bush included; one (May) not having any representation nor experience within the House; and another (Duceppe) never having to put federal budgets or federal spending of any kind to the test!!), trying to answer them within 20 second time slots, all the while speaking a second language, might give one cause to pause for putting thing in perspective.

    That would be the issue: doing your job right.

    According to your assessment tonight, the public might no longer demand it, but a healthy democracy certainly does!

  10. A typical day at Macleans.ca:

    -News event occurs.
    -Macleans bloggers rush to their laptops and Blackberries to say the exact same thing.
    -Commenters have endless arguments that are read by nobody else.
    -AC comes in and gives an opinion that actually shows that he spent more than five seconds of thought.

    I’m pretty sure that AC is about as tired as I am at how sadly routine this cycle has become.

  11. Andrew, the “big deal” is this man is interviewing for Canada’s top job. And the reality is he understood perfectly what was being asked and he turned into a teenager trying to figure out how to answer his parents how his grades are in school, when he’s failing but doesn’t want his parents to find out.

    This incident showed us he’s nothing more than a noisy bleacherbum that when asked to go out in the arena and play the game for real, he feins some mysterious ailment prevents him from actually playing and slinks back to the comfy confines of the arena seats.

    The man even started to babble about if he was elected in 2006 there would be different policies in place before he asked for his third or fourth do-over. As if that could have averteted a world wide credit and financial meltdown ignited by a US policy of lending money to buy homes to people who have no money and no chance to pay back the loans.

    What a load of delusion.

    I’m sorry this man has ZERO clue what is going on and ZERO clue how to address it.

  12. Andrew two points.

    1) after a series of blog post supposedly calling a spade a spade on the the opposition’s unfounded disparagement of PMSH’s reaction to the financial situation, I am curious why you ignore PMSH’s uses of the clip to disparage SD after you characterize the clip as unfair? Is what is good for the goose not also good for the gander here?

    2) you forgot that in addition to “a private party, or a comedy club, or in an editorial cartoon” the other place that is ok for offensive humour is a ministerial briefing!

  13. Since I have the same trouble with French due to the same problem Dion has with English, I’d cut him some slack. Harper’s glee over this says more about him than about Dion.

  14. Kudos to Mike Duffy! Finally someone in the media decided that enough is enough.

    How often had the MSM covered up these type of gaffes from the public? The public deserves the truth, especially with the country’s future at stake. Andrew has let his political alignment out of the bag with this emotional commentary trying to save the Liberals’ face.

    It’s okay Andrew, actually Iggy and Rae are happy this was leaked out. You’ll still get your freebees from whoever takes over the leadership of your favourite party.

    From a family man standpoint though, count yourself and your family lucky if Harper is PM again. Imagine how you’d (and other pro-Liberal media types) feel with the country in deep recession with Dion as PM. You’d have to answer to us, the Canadian public.

  15. Funny, I thought the worst part was the fact he asked to stop by saying it “wouldn’t make good TV” yet nobody has even mentioned that.

  16. As we enter the final weekend, I’m not sure the Libs wanted the debate to be whether,

    Dion is:

    a) weak and unprepared,



    As for the Libs openly playing the “he can’t hear” pitty card,

    not a good idea. It shows dishonesty (he’d have to nearly be as deaf as my grandfather was – he needed a couple of repeats, usually not if seated up close though – and its questionble whether he has ANY hearing problem at all, let alone a previously undisclosed condition of sudden partial deafness???)

    It also shows that Dion won’t hesitate to play the pity card.

    Canadians are a proud people, and I suspect we’d rather have an incompetent leader that a pitiful one.

    One final thought:

    don’t even partisan Liberals find it unseemly and a bit creepy that the potential leader of our country would try to leverage the sympathy that our society rightly gives to people with real disabilities,

    as a partisan attempt to cover up his deficiencies?

    What’s next, is Dion going to grab the crutches of a legless man and feign amputation,

    for looking like a complete geek in needing fifty attempts to score a goal on a “one on none” hockey photo op? (Jonathan Kay Links to it THAT video in the National post, its remarkable).

  17. Oh as a follow up for clarification:

    Dion has never been diagnosed with a hearing problem (he’s admitted as much),

    after years and years in public life, Dion suddenly said he has an issue distinguishing words when “at a cocktail party” there’s many different people speaking he couldn’t make out English.

    It’s now been turned into partial to full deafness in being unable to hear a man sitting right next to him, even after repeating it over and over again.

    Andrew, you don’t think the Dion team making this up is an issue???

  18. Just catching up on this issue and it seems all this is about Dion caring too much what the question was, right? The question was poorly worded, and then the questioner even changed it. Most politicians wouldn’t care what the questioner actually meant.

    This simply reinforces what we already know – Dion is sincere and likes to know what the question means and Harper hopes to capitalize on Dion not being your typically political scumbag.

  19. Catherine,

    you’re not at all bothered by the fact that the campaign’s official explanation is that he has a hearing problem?

  20. Tim: “Since I have the same trouble with French due to the same problem Dion has with English, I’d cut him some slack. Harper’s glee over this says more about him than about Dion.”

    The phrase Harper’s glee belies your bias, Tim. He restated his contention about how this should be handled, which does make a useful contrast with Mr. Dion, who has been bashing Mr. Harper over the head for his handling of it. What does it say when asked what he would do differently that he had no answer? He’s had alot of time to figure that out, right?

  21. “And in private we all do the same.”

    Nonsense, Andrew. But if it makes you feel better about yourself, you go ahead and tell yourself that.

  22. Ok Mr. Coyne, why don’t you give us your best translation of the English question into French. Remember, tense matters! Otherwise you might be answering the wrong question. Tory commenters are welcome to try the same. Winners will receive a free copy of 101 French Verbs and a pat on the back.

  23. Hi Andrew,

    Watching it live here in Atlantic Canada, my first reaction was that this was a dirty move on the part of ATV. Upon reflection it really depends on how these recorded interviews work. You’ve done these recorded interviews before I’m sure. Dion seemed to feel comfortable asking to restart (It was no more than 30 seconds into the interview). Do these things happen? Is it a faux-pas to ask to start properly?

    I think in fairness to Dion, he should have been told that this would be considered “live” and played in full and that there would be no restarting. Can you help us out with “recorded interview etiquette”?

  24. The only thing that surprises me about this is that people still watch Mike Duffy. Why? His show is nothing more than an hour of worn out talking points.

  25. Clarity!



    Common sense!

    The FREE MARKET!!!

    By your powers combined… I AM ANDREW COYNE!

  26. “Who cares? Why is this news?”

    Because it was the type of question that Dion, after all this time, *should* have had a ready answer for.

    He has been Leader of the Opposition (aka potential PM in waiting) for 23 months. He has been campaigning, now, for slightly over a month. He has spent a great deal of time orating over why people *shouldn’t* vote for the Tories; to stumble on a question like this means he hasn’t gotten it clear in his mind why people *should* vote for the Liberals.

    Had he launched, immediately, into how his Green Shift plan would shield Canadians from recession, it would have been ripped as nonsense, but it would *not* have drawn this much attention.

    Voters don’t expect politicians to have all the answers, but they *do* expect them to have at least one ready whenever a question is asked. Even if it’s the wrong one.

  27. Actually, I thought the most damning parts of the CTV piece came in three quick waves:

    – Duffy’s CTV crew seemed to loose the Liberal MP in mid question, leading to an awkward moment of confusion, which seemed an ironic moment when contrasted with the Dion interview restarts being discussed (see, Q&As can be botched with Anglos, too, Mike)
    – The Liberal MP then slammed CTV for not reporting the speech Dion gave in Halifax, which has been a recurring issue – Dion’s out speaking while the PM and many of his candidates shun reporters’ questions in favour of canned fundraising appearances with “no media availability”
    – Duffy, desperate to ignite his damp squib, then tosses the question to Tory MP James Moore, who tried to drop the subject as quickly as possible (kudos to him for not being drawn in)

    Duffy’s a hack, with his wink winks and loaded questions, he’s no journalist. CTV is a hack network when it comes to Canadian political coverage.

    The only thinkg that this incident proves is that Duffy is unqualified to pontificate on politics on a national network.

    But that’s hardly news.

  28. CTV and Mike Duffy should be ashamed of themselves. I am very happy that this event may expose them for what they are: the Fox News of Canada. There is nothing wrong with that, but the network should be viewed as a neutral media outlet.

    Harper overplayed this, and will be punished for it by voters in Quebec, women, people with disabilities and anyone looking for a leader that can show some empathy in these tough times.

  29. I think what it comes down to is that Dion should have known that you just answer the question you want to answer and not try to understand what it actually is. That’s what politicians do and silly Dion thought he was actually having an intellectual conversation with a smart person.

  30. Furthermore, Mr. Dion asked to restart the interview because it was being taped! Had it been live, would he have asked for a re-start? I doubt it.

    Shame on CTV.

  31. If it were a Conservative answering in that fashion, he would be called George W Bush of the north.

    Comprehension while extremely fatigued is a big part of the job of being a leader in tough times.

    Cant stay alert and focused while tired? Don’t run for the job!

    It wasn’t a hearing issue. It was a COMPREHENSION issue.

    He did not say can you say that LOUDER, he heard very clearly, had a chance to have the question re-asked – twice!

    As the commercial says – he is not up for the job!

  32. Andrew Coyne, last sane man in an insane world.

  33. Andrew Krystal, on his talk radio show this morning, seemed to have answered the question I posed above in these comments.

    These things apparently happen all time in a “recorded” environment. He also mentioned that Harper asked him to restart an interview when he was interviewed by Krystal.

  34. This whole incident is an example of why our leaders should speak AT the people, not with them.

    Considering two CTV outlets would rather make the news than cover it, why would any leaders (besides maybe Harper) be interesting in interviewing there?

    Twice this week Duffy has been shown as a shill and terribly biased commentator. And I am sure his viewer numbers are up for it.

    Is no one really that concerned by the Foxification going on?

    Nothing like the polarizing right-wing lead charge to destroy the remaining shreds of civility left in politics all to generate content.

    It’s pathetic, but I’m sure resonates strong with the base.

  35. It’s probably true to say that if an English-speaking politician had as much trouble with a French question, the francophone press would be all over him. Who cares? Is that going to be our standard: thin-skinned, language-obsessed ultra-nationalists?


  36. Andrew, re: Chretien impressions etc.

    Most people know the difference between laughing with somebody and laughing at somebody.

  37. “He also mentioned that Harper asked him to restart an interview when he was interviewed by Krystal.”

    I knew it.

    game over

  38. It seems that the media like to jump all over the PM to try to discredit him but when a light is shon on to Dion it is somehow mean spirited or not news worthy. Dion was shown to have plagarized his entire speach on the Kyoto accord but it got no coverage. I watched as a “reporter” stated that the PM had “refused” to answer a question, yet when I watched the media coverage of this same event he did no such thing. The so called journalists in this country have lost the ability to “report” without editorializing. If they are going to put out their beliefs or prejudices to the people they should have to also tell people that, and not put it out there as fact.

  39. oh boo hoo the liberal press

    another attack officially lands with a spat.

  40. Marthe, actually not. What little I’ve seen of the French press doesn’t include verbatim re-prints of Harper and Layton’s butcherings of French syntax. It’s a recent phenomenon in the English press, which I distinctly recall woke up one day and decided it wasn’t going to edit Chretien anymore.

    As a federalist, decidedly un-ultra-nationalist anglo who lives amongst the francophone solitude, I know what it’s like to lay an anglo-egg in conversation in ma deuxieme langue. And y’know what? I’ve never been laughed out of a room.

    I am ashamed and embarrassed by this display.

  41. Dion heard and understood the question perfectly fine. He repeated it exactly each time it was asked, for clarification, and each time he stumbled in a different direction.

    He hasn’t got a clue about economics, and it shows.

  42. Good on Duffy for exposing the complete ineptitude of Dion on anything related to economics. He just doesn’t understand, doesn’t know what to do, so how can he offer solutions? It’s like asking somebody in Kindergarten a question about geophysical exploration.

    Way to go Duffy for exposing this poseur!

  43. Meanwhile back in the real world the federal government just bailed the “most secure in the world” Canadian banks out of their risky mortgages to the tune of $25 billion.

  44. Was that interveiew restarted becasue Krystal was slurring his words?

  45. ah I was wondering when we’d see the first attack on Krystal’s character. Sad.

  46. The most interesting response, for me, are the msm who are angry at Duffy for not having Dion’s back like the vast majority of our media do.

    Apparently, it’s ok to pile on Cons for whatever trivial mistakes they make but when you show an unedited clip of Dion having an awkward moment, the venom comes out.

    Since when did it become reporters jobs to protect Lib leader from his own incompetence instead of going with a scoop?

  47. Years ago, as a candidate, I had an interview with Paul Adams. Adams asked if we could stop, go back to the parking lot, and walk back again to my front door so the cameraman could get a longer shot, meaning we had to pretend we had just met for the first time and walk the same route a second time. What’s the difference? Is it only when the guest gets it wrong that the blooper tapes get shown? The question, when one attempts to translate it into French, as one would need to do as francophone attempting to understand it, is almost incomprehensible – not at all clear whether the interviewer wanted to know what Mr. Dion (as Harper) would have done differently over the past 2 1/2 years, or what he would do differently if he were elected today. But what difference does it make — is this the best the media can do on a day when the markets have yet again plunged and we don’t have a clue how much a war that is killing our young men actually cost because of government secrecy? Does CTV not “get” the issue?

  48. I agree with Chris Ralph: Dion was confused by the tense shifts in the question, as would have been any second language speaker.

  49. If that was confusing to him, why did he start talking about a 30 day plan, followed by a 50 day plan, that becomes an 80 day plan? That has nothing to do with the verb tenses. He still couldn’t answer the essential question: you’ve said “inaction is not an option”, what would you have done that Harper has not?” It made no sense for Dion to come back with “when? Two and a half years ago or today?” Does he think there was something Harper could have done two and a half years ago that would have prevented a global financial crisis?

  50. I see the Liberal war room is out in full force trying to bury this one. The fact is that we saw for the first time an unscripted Dion. His handlers were asleep at the switch because they should have foreseen a question such as this and prepared Dion with a pat answer to show he has a solution in contrast to his charge that PM Harper does not have a solution.

    And really, the pity card is pretty pathetic. This man has been in politics since 1996, has been a minister of the crown and is now interviewing to be PM. He should know better that if he wants to have any shred of credibility in attacking someone on any issue, he has to have an answer of how he would have, or would do things differently. One thing I know for certain is if PM Harper had made this mistake, the media including you Mr Coyne, would be trumpting this as a gaffe 24/7. What we have been seeing for the past few weeks is the PPG exacting their vendetta against PM Harper by amplifying Harpers percieved gaffes and minimizing Dion’s. This only came to light because this was an interview by a local station and not managed by the network and the PPG.

  51. Excuses, excuses! As was said above, this is not about Dion not understanding the question, it is about him not having an answer to the question. If he becomes Prime Minister, which I doubt, he won’t be able to restart meetings with Heads of State because he doesn’t understand. It’s his job to be competent.

    For a man who has been in politics for as long as he has and running for PM of Canada no less, not to have an answer for something he has been criticizing Harper about, is a joke.

    I had to chuckle when I heard about this interview and wonder how he could criticize PM Harper when he obviously doesn’t have one himself. What would he do? Consult Rae and Ignatieff, I suppose. In the end, he still didn’t answer the question as it was asked.

    Could he have prevented this? I think not, unless he has control of the banking systems and stock markets of the US and the world.

    Geoff Regan (Liberal MP) chalked it up to Mr. Dion’s hearing impairment but which Dion clearly says he doesn’t understand the question. Maybe Regan should have listened to the interview before he commented.

  52. I can’t believe I’m going to get in on this nonsense, but yes, Style, Dion does think that.

    And the first time he was asked the question, he asked for clarification. “Do you mean if I’d been elected 2-1/2 years ago?” or something like that. No, the answer came back, if you were elected today. So that meant he couldn’t talk about not reducing the GST, thereby having a contingency cushion for situations such as these. It meant he couldn’t talk about not loosening the banking regulations so there’d have been no need to tighten them again. So then he started to talk about what he’d do if he became Prime Minister on Tuesday–then realized that wasn’t the question.

    If the reporter hadn’t “clarified” the question as he did when Dion asked, Dion would have been fine.

    But as for the rest, I think it does not reflect well on either of the Liberal or Conservative war-rooms for their reactions. Nobody believes it was a hearing issue, and using that as an excuse makes the whole thing worse. At the same time, if your man is being criticized for not being empathetic, it is probably not a good idea to show another case of him not being empathetic.

  53. And another thing. You have repeatedly pilliorized Harper in the past over is previous inability to speak French. You flayed Maxime Bernier over his inability to speak English when he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. You and Paul Wells et al mocked the PM during your live blogging of the Fench language debates. For you to cynically make excuses for Dion’s inability to understand a straight forward question after everything you’ve said about Harper in the past, in my view comprimises your journalistic integrety.

  54. Of course this in no way compares to Stephen Harper standing in Parliament and recited a plagiarised speech in support of an illegal/immoral invasion that is bankrupting the world.

    I thought I’d mention that, in case anyone starts losing the plot.

  55. Jenn,

    Dion didn’t start talking about what he’d do on Tuesday – he started talking about an 80 day plan. The journalist gave him an opening to attack Harper’s handling of the economy over the last two years and Dion couldn’t think of anything to say. He went back to his sound-bite about “inaction is not an option”. And the changes to the CMHC insurance rules were initially made by the CMHC board (which is dominated by Liberal appointees) then reversed this summer by the Harper government – all without any mortgage crisis developing in Canada. And all with zero relevance to the global financial crisis. See Andrew Coyne for the figures – perfectly normal rates of foreclosures, best growth forecast of the G7, highest job creation ever. Small wonder Dion isn’t sure what to criticize.

  56. Ti-Guy said “Of course this in no way compares to Stephen Harper standing in Parliament and recited a plagiarised speech in support of an illegal/immoral invasion that is bankrupting the world.”

    You should know if you don’t already, that the speech writer resigned after this came out. I don’t see how this compares??

  57. In regards to Mike Duffy as a reporter. It is true he is a reporter and journalist but in his role on Mike Duffy Live, I would argue that he is show host and interviewer, not a reporter and journalist. Compare this to any other interview show and you have the same thing; a host getting a rise out of the interviewees.

  58. I agree with Sammy – all talk, no action. It is difficult enough to know what to do (and clearly government leaders around the world don’t know what to do), but if you are running for the top job in the country, you had better have some answers (even bad answers would be better than whining about how unfair the situtaion is) – particularly when you have being trashing the current PM about what he should have done.

  59. It definitely wasn’t a question of hearing. Dion asked the interviewer to give him a date so he would understand the question. I am French, I watched the YouTube interview and I had no problems understanding the question. It was the fact that it was hypothetical that trip Mr. Dion. He didn’t get the concept. And that is scary in a Prime Minister and a very legitimate point for Harper to make: Dion is not ready and doesn’t understand economics. Beside, Mr. Dion’s aide understood the question. Why not Dion? And Andrew, for a conservative guy you sure want to make sure Harper doesn’t get in. What is your beef about him, not conservative enough for you?

  60. Dion certainly understood the question, notwithstanding the excuses trotted out for him by legions of leftist journalists.

    He was clearly petrified that his answer might unintentionally give Harper credit for doing the right things during this financial crisis. Since he’s spent the much of the last two weeks claiming that Harper has literally done everything wrong, he was afraid that the wrong answer would make him look like a hypocrite.

    If his handlers were competent, they would have prepared him for a question that they should have known was bound to come up. Dion’s sense of judgment, not his linguistic abilities, are at question here.

    It’s primarily Dion’s fault for staking his campaign on a wide-ranging, ill-defined and contradictory program (The Green Shift) that can’t be explained easily or quickly. Inevitably, you’re going to wind up looking confused yourself when you try to wade through it.

  61. I will say again…simple test…what would jean Chretien have done.

    Whether he understood the question or not he would have answered A question that was in the general area and would have been on his talking points. The reporter would have been forced to clarify or move on.

    If the reproter was submitting this for a job interview, then this would be an example of why not to hire him. But Dion is the one being tested….it isnt a major test, but it shows his inner professor coming out, focussing on a detail that misses the point.

    Harper still should have left it to his minions to address. Dion is sticking with the hearing and language excuse, that tells you something and we will hear old Jean trout out his thats the way god made me line tonight…..

    Not a big thing, should have been worth a yuck or two. Problem is Dion now has to answer all questions properly or he risks proving it correct, and Harper better hope he doesnt get sobotaged with a “leaked” tape from some interview where he had a do-over. He has left himself open to the Mr Mean charge. Harper enjoys the War Room stuff too much, he doesnt cap them appropriately. Kind of liek when a CEO was a marketer all he sees are marketing issues and solutions, smae for ex finance guys. The evolution of Stephen Harper needs to continue…wow that fits in with the Globes tepid endorsement today….

    Summary: Dion is a big boy and is supposed to be able to handle this stuff…the fact that he becomes Mr Pedant in this sitation is really the point that resonates, see Simpson’s column this morning for a similar point on other issues. But it isnt worht more than a day on the trail, all is forgitten by…oh about now.

  62. ‘ Off Topic ‘ I see the Toronto Globe and Mail just endorsed Harper eh!

  63. Dion Still hasn’t answered the question…. he has had time to have it explained and think about it…

    A sample answer would be that I would have had a $20-40B surplus as I would not have cut the GST and would ….. give bombardier all the $ they want for a green plane? (don’t know what he would have done with the extra tax player money)..

    The real answer is that he would be doing what Harper is doing… stressing the sound economic footing that Canada is in and trying to eleviate the panic that is driving the crisis.

    The 30 day plan is just so weak…. the crisis is likely over in 30 days…. world economic disorder or the markets bottom out and the bad businesses fold and the well run ones regain value.

    The question was

  64. You can watch Dion’s interview from this morning’s Newsworld online. He revisits the question – “If I had been PM, there’s lots I would have done…I’m sure there are lots of things the government could be doing…We could look at increasing insurance on bank deposits and avoid forcing seniors to sell of assets”.

    So, a grand total of two things he might look at, and the assurance that he’s sure there are lots of other things to do…Worth noting: raising the insurance on Canadian bank deposits without some international coordination would likely make the global crisis worse, particularly since our banking sector is in much better shape than the American or European banks…

  65. Why isn’t there outrage about Mr. Dion calling Harper “classless” in that tone?

    Name calling is a juvenile tactic. Maybe Mr. Dion needs a timeout.

    As for covering up by the media….. I would bet that Harper sure would like back the “fat cowboy” picture that has to be the most published political photo up until Julie’s boobs. Did the media offer a do-over:

    “Steve you look like a goofy fat cowboy..is that the image you are going for? ….we are going to take some pictures -you want to get another outfit?”

  66. It was a flub. A gaffe. It shouldn’t have any bearing on the election, but these things usually do. It’s unfair, absurd even, but it’s reality. I found myself sympathizing with Dion when I watched the clip. In fact, I felt outright pity for him.

    However, I have NO sympathy for multitudes who have rushed to their keyboards to offer up all manner of excuses. Each and every one of you knows that you would be ALL OVER Harper if he had similarly fumbled such a basic question in such an obvious manner. As Dion would have himself. And instead of Mike Duffy Live, it would have been the lead story on nearly every other newscast and public affairs program.

    Even more pathetic is the list of excuses I’ve heard so far.

    1) It was his poor grasp of English.
    2) It was his hearing difficulty.
    3) It was a poorly worded question.
    4) The tense wasn’t clear.
    5) He thought it would be edited.

    Too bad, so sad. The Liberals took a huge risk with their “compromise candidate”, and he failed them. He tripped over his main avenue of attack. He botched what has turned into the major issue of this campaign. He fought tirelessly to capitalize on this issue, and to make it his own. It represented perhaps his one opportunity to beat Harper. And he blew it. Lesson learned. Get over it. Choose better next time.

  67. BC Voice of Reason, the other leaders may attack Harper on whatever grounds they choose using whatever words they feel are approriate, and this is fair game and they will not be criticized for this.

    Harper, on the other hand, is not allowed to criticize Dion for his inability to answer even the most basic questions on the most important issue of this campaign; what he would do about the economy, and will be forced to defend his criticisms of Dion at every possible turn.

    Sound fair to everyone?

  68. ABCD

    Anybody But Confused Dion

  69. “Harper, on the other hand, is not allowed to criticize Dion for his inability to answer even the most basic questions on the most important issue of this campaign;”

    Is there a sale on whitewash down the street?

    Ironic who’s doing the damage control.

  70. “Dion did not give a good answer”

    Except for what you were joking about last night on At Issue, he hasn’t had a good answer for over a week. It was hardly worth stopping the presses about, which is why his backpeddling about it today isn’t going to fly.

  71. Dion is supposed to be a professor……taking a stab at trying to be a politician. There is no way that he did not understand the question. Any good Grade 9 student could understand the question. The problem was that he did not have a good answer for the question. Even given the opportunity to answer several times – he still was not informed enough about the state of our economy or he is not properly prepared to make economic decisions to deal with the current Canadian financial situation. Do you really expect this man to be able to deal with Canada’s financial stability? If he is elected, he’ll spend the next 4 years blaming the Conservatives for the world’s financial downturn. By the way people – Harper did not bring down the world’s finances – but he’s done a damn fine job of trying to prepare and then deal with the current mess the US has caused.

  72. This was an important interview. The fact it was taped is secondary. He wants us to let him hide behind an unwritten rule about retakes. Look, it was a simple question , Murphy said if you were PM “today”. It was that one word that caused the problem. Dion did not understand the “today” word and the question three times. Wonder how often Dion doesn’t understand things?. He says he has to understand the question. Wrong. He asked what the question was twice.
    Duffy was quite correct to put this on the table for discussion. It was not that the question was hard to understand, listen to Dion’s answers again, he asked for clarification twice about the “time” period in the question, which was “today”. No wonder he needs 30 days to come up with a plan. Wonder how he’d deal with any emergency in life, let alone an emergecy for Candians? No wonder they’re calling on Martin and Chretien for help.

  73. JMD – Dion is a politician. Not someone taking a stab at it. His track record – Clarity Act, Kyoto negotiations, stumping for a united country – is clear. Attempts by Torybots to forget his career pre-leadership are amusing but trying.

    His prior CV also makes comparison to Stronach’s experience (crossing the floor being her political high water mark) so very inapt.

    Those who consider his interview with Murphy to be indicative of his ability of the dozens of interviews in English prior to the campaign, never mind during it… Well, they’re like those people who won’t vaccinate their kids while hundreds of studies say its safe but hey, there’s that one guy on the interweb who quotes the discredited study on autism.

  74. What would you have done in the past, knowing only that you are PM at the present moment? This is an accurate paraphrase of the question. It begs the question in response: when did I become PM? 1993? 1935? 1867? Two minutes ago?

    The problem with hypotheticals is that they need an unambiguous premise to make sense or be of any use.

  75. Mark, glad you put the track record out there.

    Clarity Act – ensures meetings after Quebec votes to separate
    Kyoto negotiations – Dion ensured further meetings to negotiate a post-2012 agreement
    Economic plan – 30 days of meetings

    Recent policy fits perfectly with his track record.

    If Dion had a critique of Harper’s economic policies over the mandate, he would have provided it in his answer. So far he has offered two things (increased deposit insurance, protection on retirement accounts) and said he’s sure “there are lots of other things”. The deposit insurance might be entirely inappropriate and the “lots of other things” doesn’t sound like a plan…

  76. Clarity Act

    Ensures recognition of a sovereignty vote is an Act of Parliament, not the discretion of Privy.

    That’s a small detail a certain dictator left out of his poor attempt.

  77. I just don’t get why the Tories have given up trying to make over their leader as a warm, regular, fuzzy, nice guy who keeps up to date with his mom’s financial needs –and just happens to attack people personally. Doesn’t he have “people” to do this for him? Not getting my vote.

  78. It was almost embarrassing to watch Dion falter like that. But it IS news as petty as it seems because it reveals a serious flaw in Dion(…which I think has zilch to do with language barriers or hearing problems) which is not becoming of one who wants to lead this country.

    Harper has shown himself to be the statesman he is during his lambasting at the debate despite some low-blows (“under the sweater” comments, etc.) — he certainly didn’t play any ‘pity’ card. So, if Dion can’t stand the heat, he should get out of the kitchen along with his sous-chefs Ignatieff and Rae.

    And, speaking of kitchens, that’s where Jello is made — getting any substantial answer from Dion and Layton is like trying to nail it to the wall.

  79. “And, speaking of kitchens, that’s where Jello is made — getting any substantial answer from Dion and Layton is like trying to nail it to the wall.”

    Australians, Roberta – you’re supposed to steal your lines from Australian pols, not Americans. (and who the hell ever tried to nail Jello to a wall?)

  80. Roberta – he didn’t play the pity card. Dion said that Harper’s reaction shows he has no class.

  81. My opinion,

    “And Andrew, for a conservative guy you sure want to make sure Harper doesn’t get in. What is your beef about him, not conservative enough for you?”

    That is the biggest puzzle being presented during this election. The pieces just won’t fit.

  82. The question was really confusing to a second-language speaker; “If you were PM today, what would you have done…? To change tenses in that way in the middle of a sentence is not a sign of a good interviewer. It made the time-period unclear. For Harper to jump on it showed absolutely no class

  83. Would Dion continually interrupt a President Obama in the Oval Office because he didn’t understand what the hell he was saying?

    This reminded me of Belinda Stronach being asked a French question in the Conservative party leadership race of 2004. Cringe-inducing. And in that instance she was a total newbie. Dion’s been in Parliament for 12 years, having access all that time to second-official-language instruction paid for by taxpayers.

    My own sense is that he didn’t really want to answer the question. So he got into a semantics debate instead (when would I be Prime Minister?). Then something about a 30/50 plan?

    It was a mess.

  84. I like the job interview analogy made above. That’s what an election is, a month long job interview.

    You flub a question, you don’t get the job. Dion flubbed the question.

    (what a great word..flub.)

  85. I am an anglophone and can’t speak French. With three university degrees I had to re-read the exchange several times to try to determine exactly what information the interviewer was trying to elicit. I suspect the interviewer should go back to school and refresh his English grammar.

  86. “You flub a question, you don’t get the job. Dion flubbed the question.”

    You show a picture of a bird sh*tting on your competition, you don’t get the job. You make absurd suggestions like average folks ought to be buying stocks in the midst of a global economic meltdown, you don’t get the job. When you have a history of publically claiming your rivals are in favour or child pornography, or Taliban supporters, you don’t get the job. When you joke about deadly meat that has killed several people, you don’t get the job. When you question of the words of a dead soldier’s father as likely rooted in political aims, you don’t get the job.

    Actually, I don’t judge Harper and his team on the odd gaffe or misstep. Nor do I Dion.

  87. J.C. Smith,

    You’re thinking to hard:-)

  88. Without taking away from my point that this is an absurd non-story that the Tories may come to regret having flogged, the defence that the question was confusing, on account of its allegedly defective grammar, to a non-English speaker — so much so as to render him incapable of answer — doesn’t stand up.

    In the first place, it wasn’t all that confusing, or even ungrammatical. “If you were Prime Minister today, what would you have done…” clearly means what would you have done before today — until now, up to this point. That might include everything in the two and a half years since the last election, or just in the last few days since the crisis came to a boil, or both. You choose.

    Which is the real point. You don’t have to be a perfectly fluent grammarian to get the gist of a question. Let’s take the French equivalent, as drafted by Paul Wells: “Si vous étiez prémier ministre aujourd’hui, qu’est-ce que vous auriez fait à propos de l’économie que M. Harper n’a pas fait?” My knowledge of the subjunctive is shaky enough in English, let alone French. But even if I knew no more French than to pick up “si vous… premier ministre aujourd’hui… qu’est-ce que vous… fait à propos de l’economie… Harper n’a pas fait” — I wouldn’t need to fill in the blanks with the precise tense. I wouldn’t get hung up on did you mean today or last year. I’d just tell him what I’d do about it. Or what I would have done about it already. Whatever.

    For some reason, he got stuck on a small point: pedantry, stalling for time, exhaustion, I don’t know. But the least plausible explanation is language. He understood the thrust of the question. But he was obsessed with nailing down the exact time frame.

  89. Andrew:

    Dion is an academic is he not? Don’t they routinely get hung up on unclear points to ensure clarity? Could it not be part of his nature and therefore not that strange for him?

    And yeah, it is an absurd non-story. Which everyone is talking about. We’re a strange species sometimes.

  90. I’m all for getting hung up on small points if they’re critical, if an issue turns on them. The question did not.

  91. “I’d just tell him what I’d do about it. Or what I would have done about it already.”

    Unless you didn’t know what you were going to do about it or what you would have done about it earlier, presumably. Which is why this is a story – it’s an opening to question the narrative of the past week that said Dion was ready to act while Harper was ignoring the problem. Dion still didn’t have a good answer the next morning – “I’m sure there’s lots of stuff”.

  92. “Dion still didn’t have a good answer the next morning – “I’m sure there’s lots of stuff”.”

    Ha, ha, ha :-)

  93. Time for bed kids.

  94. On this notion of “off the record”, I recall that Mr. Harper had asked that his tape recorded interview about the alleged Conservative bribe to Chuck Cadman not be published either (“I don’t know the details, I know that, um, there were discussions, um, but this is not for publication?”). And then it was published in a book, and we can all remember how highly embarrassing that was for him too.
    But maybe the difference is this: Mr. Dion has not attempted to deny the answer he gave on Mr. Duffy’s show, only to explain why he misunderstood the question.
    By contrast, Mr. Harper not only insisted the Cadman tape had been altered and edited, he launched a lawsuit for defamation. But today, Mr. Harper’s court-appointed expert gave sworn evidence to the court to the effect that the tape was unedited after all, thus bringing Mr. Harper’s integrity into question.
    So how do we reconcile this one? Have we not, in the hundreds of posts that have circulated since Mr. Dion’s interview, confused delivery with substance? Is it so important for us to have someone who can answer a question in an articulate fashion that we no longer care what they say? What has happened to this country?

  95. The US media/big blogs have picked it up.

    Hot Air (which gets millions of hits), linked to the video and questioned whether it was the “worst interview ever.”

    I’ve seen a lot of interviews. That one’s definitely up there.

  96. Hot Air (which gets millions of hits)…

    From fascist mouthbreathers.

    That site’s a pig sty.

  97. I agree with Mr. Coyne’s post of 9:28 except for one point. When he talks about this as a non-story. Nanos said on CPAC tonight that Dion’s competence index went down as did his leadership numbers and that this is probably attributable to the botched interview.

    More importantly, as Style mentions above, it completely undermines the credibility of Liberal attacks on the Conservative’s lack of action on the economy.

    It does three things which are devastating to Dion on the eve of an election:

    1. It shows his weakness on economic issues, not his strong suit to begin with;

    2. It show his perceived weakness on leadership because he’s shown badly fumbling a question;

    3. It’s a momentum changer on the economy question, the key question on which the election hinges. He’s gone from offence to defence. Indeed, he’ll be impotent and not credible when he henceforth attacks Harper on this issue.

  98. The question was really confusing to a second-language speaker…

    Oh good Khrist. The question was on the exact same subject that Dion has been railing away about for the past two weeks. How can the question possibly be confusing when he’s asking about Dion’s main campaign theme? Besides, Dion’s own handlers are blaming it on his hearing problem. Yet you feel the need to make up an entirely different excuse?

  99. Since I’ve seen no posts or comments or anything on this, I thought I’d just spell out for the record why the question was confusing for Dion and would be for any francophone whose English was not perfect.

    I hope jwl is reading this because he was giving me the gears about my being a pedant (he had some colourful term for it) and I’d like to demonstrate what Pedant Power can do.

    The question was: “If you were Prime Minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?”

    Stripped of content, it’s a “If you were . . ., what would you have done?” question.

    It’s a past contrary-to-fact conditional. You were not PM, but if you were

    Actually – and this is important – the strictly correct tense is: “If you had been PM, what would you have done…”

    Colloquially, however, we tend to say “If you were” instead of “If you had been” – we use the indicative where we should use the conditional. “If you had been” has only one meaning, but “if you were” could just as well refer to a present contrary-to-fact condition: If you were PM right now

    So Dion was actually right to not understand the question, which mixes tenses. What the questioner was literally asking was, “If you were currently PM, what would you have done?” But in order to have done anything, Dion would have had to have been PM before now.

    The ambiguity is more apparent in French, which has suffered less erosion of meaning in its tenses. “If you had been PM” (the correct tense) is “Si vous auriez été”; but “If you were PM” translates to “Si vous étiez,” which is absolutely positively present contrary-to-fact.

    Don’t blame Dion. Blame the ugly decay of the English tense system. And applaud Dion for noticing a nonsensical question.

  100. Andrew

    Having read all your article – and the many blog comments up to Jack Campbell’s erudite analysis of the reporter’s question in English – I have to respond that most Canadians would have known what he was asking .

    The fact that despite Mr Dion stopping the taping three times to think about an answer – speaks volumes about his lack of political skills as well as questioning his language skills – especially in English – as the leader of a Canadian federal party .

    No doubt- both he and his Liberal party – accepted the interview with the full intention of running the edited version many times on TV ! The fact that we have finally had the opportunity to see him in action – without the benefit of a tape editor – is very timely /

    Your assertion that this episode is not substantive in the current election , cannot be supported . What can be more important than the personal skills and knowledge of the leader of a Canadian political party? Mr Dion’s failure to answer the question, despite his personal attempts to avoid an answer is plain to see by all.
    Many blogs have pointed out the radical difference in the approach of the opposition parties ( and the media ) to Mr Harper and the Conservatives during this election campaign . Good on Mike Duffy for showing us the other side of the picture – very enlightening – to say the least.

    The responsible LEADERSHIP for Canada that Mr Harper and his team , has been demonstrating during the last parliament , will be badly needed as Canada and the rest of the financial world struggle to offset the negative effects that the USA have wrought on us all.

    We do NOT need a waffler – in either of Canada’s official languages – to be at the helm of the World’ s No 1 economy . That’ s Canada – in case your readers have not seen the latest IMF ratings !

  101. Tempest in a teapot all around.There are far more important/impactful things happening in the world right now than to worry about the question, how poorly it was structured, Dion’s response or Duffy’s obsession with it all. Duffy does his thing and the politicos soak it up… most of the rest of the real world does not.

  102. I agree with Andrew and in to whoever said this is comparable to Harper’s stock advice, think again! In the midst of th worst financial turmoil to affect this country since the Great Depression and when people are losing jobs and homes and ENTIRE communities are threatened as paper mills ad manufacturing plants close (especially in that “defeatist” part of the country Harper likes to point to, the Maritimes(who are actually the best savers in the country – w have to be I suspect), I was stunned to hear our Prime Minister make that kind of comment!!

    Yes, it might be true. However, he was asked the question in a public forum by a reporter who wanted know just what kind of action – as in government (New Deal, interest rate changes,protecting our savings and RRSP’s et al) – was he preparing to commit to do? And what does this PM – who s running on no less than “leadership” respond? He informs us it’s a good time to buy stocks.

    And here I thought government had a legitimate role to play in helping people. Obviously, this PM does not share that view.

    Politicians make the kind of errors M. Dion made all the time and broadcasters redo the taping. Often! I have never heard them play anything like this unless it is a TV blooper ten years later.

    As Andrew noted, what does it matter when he is PM – next week, that moment, tomorrow – the answer is essentially the same. I can’t believe this is what we call news. I am deeply saddened by our news people for letting all down – and I do not even vote Liberal!

    However, if I WAS going to vote for Harper, rest assured his reply – so unlike McCain in the US who stood up for his opponent when he was verbally assaulted by one of his supporters – ensures his lac of humanity (I almost want to say what we think of as Canadian, polite and kind), ensures I would NOT!

  103. I spoke to Steve Murphy last year when he was interviewing Peter C. Newman before a live audience in Saint John New Brunswick. Both men took swipes at Stéphane Dion on the stage during their ‘fire-side chat’. Their view was the standard conservative “Dion is not a leader” – He does not have ‘it'”. His linguistic skills were brought up for particular criticism. Speaking to Steve Murphy after the event, he reiterated his view of Dion to me with even more conviction. His dislike of Dion was palpable. I walked away from the conversation wondering how Dion could ever get a fair hearing from such a journalist – when the fierce criticism of Dion is a matter of ‘style over substance and character’.

    There is no doubt in my mind that if Mr. Murphy could have linguistically confused question as trap for Dion he would have. Surely the incident would have brought sheer delight to Murphy. That CTV ensured the release and immediate distribution of the ‘outtake’ speaks for itself. “Gottcha!” – Journalistic standards are so high these days!

    Andrew is one of several exceptions. His article on Harper is right on target, piercing beyond the shadow and the disguise. Agree or disagree with Andrew Coyne, there is always substance to the conversation. One can gain traction in the conversation and the discussion can go somewhere.

  104. Jarrid,

    “It’s a momentum changer on the economy question, the key question on which the election hinges. He’s gone from offence to defence. Indeed, he’ll be impotent and not credible when he henceforth attacks Harper on this issue.”

    Quite the reverse in fact. This whole incident will show how much common sense has been turned upside down. The current economic upheavel is partly as a result of a world having been turned upside down also.

    Dion’s and Liberal logic triumph over common sense, time and time again:

    “When one is weak, turn that into being his strenght.”

    It’s called Human rights!

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