The summer of 2004

by Aaron Wherry

Gilles Duceppe again offers his version of events.

“When he says only the party that received the most votes can form a government, he said the opposite in this letter. He lied this morning.” The Bloc Leader said there was a key meeting in a Montreal hotel where the subject of the opposition parties banding together against Mr. Martin was thrashed out. “He (Mr. Harper) came to my office and said: ‘What do you want in the speech from the throne’?” Mr. Duceppe said.

Furthermore, via Twitter, Mr. Duceppe says that Mr. Harper “definitely talked about a coalition” when they met seven years ago. Add that to the accumulated testimony and evidence collected to date.

For whatever it is worth, here is what William Johnson wrote in his biography of Mr. Harper about the immediate aftermath of the 2004 election.

Right after the elections, Harper announced that he would be considering his future. But he soon found that his position as party leader was secure—until the next election—and so he announced that he would stay on. And then he disconcerted journalists once again by disappearing for the summer. He was not inactive. He met several times with Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton to establish a kind of common front facing the Liberals. The three party leaders signed a joint letter to Governor General Adrienne Clarkson asking that she not dissolve Parliament at the request of the prime minister without first consulting them. Presumably, Harper envisaged attempting to form a government long enough to get some legislation passed before elections that were agreed to by the three opposition parties. Harper also feared that Martin wanted to precipitate an early election to regain a majority.

He was also determined that the Liberals, elected with a minority of the seats as well as a minority of the vote, would not have the moral or political authority to govern as though their program had received the assent of the voters. He would change the way of doing things in the Commons. The Liberals would be forced to recognize that a majority of the elected members were not Liberals, and that the majority’s views and interests must be taken into account in the legislation that would be passed in the coming session. The Liberals, as government, would have the initiative for introducing public bills. But when the bills were studied in committee before being returned to the Commons, the opposition MPs would have a majority on the committees; that meant that whenever the three opposition parties could agree by advance negotiation, they could shape legislation in a way that Paul Martin had never anticipated when he made “fixing the democratic deficit” his major plank for winning Liberal backbenchers to his standard against Jean Chretien. Then, he was promising power in the Commons to the Liberal peons. Now, he would be delivering it in large measure to the opposition MPs. The new Parliament promised to be an interesting place.




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The summer of 2004

  1. And yet there stood Harper this morning….with his bare face hanging out….lying to the country. Again.

  2. I won't be led down the garden path by Mr.Ducppe. The fact is that the letter dated 2004 was not and is not now a signed formal coalition agreement.

    The 2008 coalition agreement was formal, and was signed.

    The 2004 letter was an intent to let the GG have notice of possibilities, whereas the 2008 formal letter was signed and formed to be sent off to the GG BEFORE the GG had had notice of some possible negotiatoins being necessary.

    If Liberals and the BQ cannot see the difference between the two agreements, than I don't understand why they were so hell bent on getting the Bev Oda "not' comment sorted out. Being precise counts for Oda but not for Duceppe and Ignatieff?

    Some democracy those two men are pitching: one wants to break from Canada but wants to hold the balance of power nonetheless, and the other is now hiding the 2008 agreement from his webpage.

  3. I'm watching him on CPAC – and he's repeating this in Quebec. Doesn't single out 'the separatists' though. Duceppe is going to eat him for lunch on this. I can't wait for the debates.

  4. Fail. The Bloc was good enough to be a partner for Harper then. I'm betting they would again given the right circumstances for him.

  5. Splitting hairs.

    The only possibility for the GG to consider was to allow Harper to participate in a government of losers, in his parlance. Whether or not there would have been a formal coalition, he wanted to losing party to have a shot at power (which is perfectly legitimate, if he can gain the confidence of the House). He's a bloody hypocrite.

  6. "…Gilles Duceppe again offers his version of events…"

    Whoop-dee-do.

    Now, let's take a look at what actually happened:

    Harper didn't agree to a coalition; there was no coalition formed; the Liberal party was allowed to form the government, not threatened with coup d'etat mere weeks afterward; they governed for a year and a half, even appointing two radical, relatively young jurists to the Supreme Court, who will affect constitutional jurisprudence for decades to come…

    All hogwash and horsepucks.

  7. It's also worth noting that had Harper formed government in 2004 after a vote of no confidence in Paul Martin, the support of all three opposition parties was needed for confidence. So, in essense, he was asking for the right to govern while relying on support from the socialists and separatists on every vote.

  8. I'll use an analogy that I've used before. The Liberals in 2008 were rounding third and heading for home plate, the Cons in 2004 didn't even get to first base. But there is no logic or truth in Mr. Harper's insisting now that he NEVER, EVER, EVER played ball with the Separatists. He has played ball with the Bloc and Mr. Duceppe is waving around the roster sheet that all three parties signed.

    Iggy has his bad day yesterday and (hopefully) has learned a valuable lesson from it. The question now is whether or not Mr. Harper can retreat with a little grace from a dishonest position that is not working for him, not at all.

  9. Ha – what is your definition of 'relatively young'? I don't need to know what you think is radical.

  10. I like Duceppe….and he can speak the truth because he has no skin in the game.

  11. Harper has all the consistency of a wet Kleenix. His values are "whatever gets me into power, even if it directly contracts everything I said last week."

    The fact that his supporters put up with such flagrant hypocrisy is a sad testament to the people of Canada.

  12. That's mechanics. Focus on intent.

    Harper's intent was to wrest power from the party with the most seats via a working arrangement between the opposition parties, including the Bloc.

    How was his intent different from that of Dion's et al?

  13. Good analogy! Without a doubt, both stepped up to the same plate; it's the details of the play that differs.

  14. So, a letter was signed by the then three opposition leaders asking the GG to not dissolve parliament right away on orders from the PM (who's party had already lost the confidence of the country and the parliament)…but to consult with them first so that some important legislation could be passed before another election.

    Yes, this is EXACTLY the same situation as three opposition leaders formally entering into an agreement to rule for years (ask Bob Rae) without facing the electorate, with a leader who had not even won the right to head his own party yet.

    It's no wonder you pinkos make such good entertainers…your imaginations are endless….

  15. Harper – he's not in politics for you, he's only in it for himself.

  16. One other thing that someone else just pointed out…

    The Liberals took care to split the hair of having the Bloc outside of their formal coalition agreement, whereas the Harper letter was signed first by Mr Harper, second by Mr. Duceppe and thirdly by Mr. Layton. So you could argue, with good evidence, that Mr. Harper was even more keen to play ball with the Bloc in 2004 than the Liberals were in 2008. The Liberals tried to maintain – at least the appearance of – some distance between their coalition and the Bloc.

  17. Yes, that was a good editorial. Harper will ignore it though.

  18. I am so glad the media is taking its cue from a flagrantly dishonest and puerile CPC “coalition” meme and dwelling on this totally hypothetical yet crucial smidgen of procedural Parliamentary arcana rather than pressing the leaders to define their positions on trivialities such as foreign affairs, energy, climate change, fiscal management, the federal/provincial relationship, and international trade.

    After all, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper (PC) solemnly declared, during the G20 fiasco, that “there's no such thing as the Canadian economy” (which, for a Chicago School libertarian, is the same thing as saying, “There's no such thing as Canada”). So there's really nothing important to talk about, is there?

  19. "Pinkos" ???? Seriously ?

    I thought that word was buried with Don Rickles.

  20. Would it be too far fetched to believe the Bloc, NDP supported Harper in 2004 because the Adscam stories were starting to pile up?

    Is it possible they actually wanted to do the right thing for Canada and force an inquiry into the corruption and scandals the Liberals were involved in?

  21. I should like to see a matching editorial about Harper.

  22. So Iggy saying in his little speech this morning, "Harper wouldn't know the truth if it walked up and shook his hand". is not an attack on his character?

  23. who cares what garden path you wander onto….
    you were not the intended target for his remarks

  24. Harper's doing a Clinton 'I never had sex with that woman' play. We all know how that turned out.

  25. Don Cherry dug it up. Welcome to the club!

  26. Telling the truth is not an attack on someone's character Leo.

  27. Oooh that would be nasty.

  28. …to consult with them first so that some important legislation could be passed before another election.

    Let me give you a little bit of clarifying editing help with that key clause, NG:

    "…to consult with them first and allow them to form a coalition so that some important legislation could be passed before another election."

    There. That's more like it. You're welcome.

  29. Don Cherry brought it back. It's become de rigueur for right-wing self-parodies.

  30. How dare you accuse Stephen Harper of political selfishness? That kind of smear is reprehensible and totally unacceptable.

    His public service is entirely selfless. He's in it for Big Oil and Washington D.C. On their behalf, he is prepared to sacrifice everything—not only everything of his but everything of ours as well.

  31. Please explain when or how the Liberal Party under Paul Martin "had already lost the confidence of the country and the parliament" in 2004?

    Thanks.

  32. It was a relatively generous attack, given its assumption that the truth would be willing to walk up and shake Harper's hand. It's also fairly accurate. In any event, at least Ignatieff attacked Harper rather than his dead father and grandfather, à la CPC.

    Naturally, a more pertinent attack would have been to ask Harper (rhetorically) why he thought it appropriate to place at the head of the Prime Minister's Office a disbarred criminal and bankrupt who consorts with prostitutes and lobbies illegally for a fly-by-night water filtration company for which the prostitute he intends to marry is the "public face" and agent.

    I'm rather surprised Harper hasn't yet been asked that question, which is at least as important as whether he would consider forming a coalition, as he meditated doing in 2004, should the CPC lose its plurality (another question he has not been asked). Right-wing media bias, perhaps?

  33. Nice try Northern! Gomery public hearings started in Sept 2004.

  34. "I won't be led down the garden path by Mr.Ducppe"

    Or, apparently, by logic, reason, facts, or evidence. It never ceases to amaze me how some people, through amazing psychological gymnastics, are able to deal with their cognitive dissonance.

  35. The Truth would be all, "hey there's Stephen, maybe I should go say hey… meh, too far." The Truth can be like that.

  36. It's a great analogy, to which I would add that Harper is now denying that game was ever played.

  37. I would guess then that it stands to reason that we have had a 'coalition' government for the last 5 years….how else could anything have been passed by a minority government otherwise? It wouldn't be that the NDP or Liberals have been too gutless to defeat the government until now??

  38. You may want to look up something called 'Adscam'. Your welcome!

  39. i proceed, from day to, with the evidence of a persons history and actions as my guide, rather than a fantasy of what they might do.

  40. Right, the three losing parties of an election banding together to form a 'government' without imput from the party which won the most popular vote & seats…is just procedural arcana. Very Pythonesque…

    It's merely a flesh wound…

  41. Martin ordered in February.

  42. Sigh…

  43. Sure he did, but the public hearings, with Sheila Fraser first up, were in September 2004.

  44. A hypothetical (or, for the layman, "stuff that hasn't happened yet") is always arcane, by definition. The one Harper is now distracting us with happens also to be procedural.

    …the three losing parties of an election…

    "…collectively representing the vast majority of the votes cast in that election, two of which are ready to assume the executive after Harper, having lost the confidence of the House, became a loser in the only way our constitution considers significant…".

    I really must start charging you for this crucial, and so far thankless, editorial assistance. Your grasp of our constitution and recent Parliamentary history would sound dreadfully feeble without it.

  45. Don't be so glib, fella. There's plenty more for the media to natter about. Amour de troops, fr'instance. There's people's parents. Always good to get 'em riled up.They can affix leaders' names with catchy pre-runners like 'Taliban'. And there's plenty of hypothesizin' to be done about fictional carbon taxing. Jane Taber's on it! It's gonna be so much fun.

    And, besides, an election is no time discuss 'issues', fer heaven's sake.

  46. Or, "Hey, there's Stephen; maybe I should go say 'hey'…no hand sanitizer handy? Um…maybe not".

  47. You may want to research the 'first past the post' system, otherwise known as 'how we elect people in Canada'.

    No charge for that by the way…it would seem guache taking the money of pinkos, children or the mentally challenged.

  48. You're quite right, Frob. I really must stop implying that I want to talk about things the CPC war-room would prefer not to talk about. I might start sounding like a feminist Islamo-Marxist enviro-fascist Orchardite who occasionally neglects to offer the daily Tim Hortons and Wal-Mart tithes lately become the defining features of Canadian nationhood.

  49. ummm, I don't know, young relative to someone who's retired, I guess. No need to wonder about your definition of radical, 'cause you don't know what it means in the first place.

  50. *The Liberals tried to maintain – at least the appearance of – some distance between their coalition and the Bloc.*

    Translation: they tried to pull the wool over people's eyes by requiring the secessionists essential support, while not having them in the cabinet.

    Whereas, to restate, Harper never ever actually entered into any coup d'etat against a duly elected government.

    Clear 'nough?

  51. Harper's doing a Clinton 'I never had sex with that woman' play. We all know how that turned out.

    Actually, pretty good, wouldn't you say?

  52. to consult with them first and allow them to form a coalition so that some important legislation could be passed before another election."

    Yup, `more like it', for a letter never submitted to anyone… whereas the Libs, NDP and secessionists were just about to stage a coup d'etat against the duly elected government.

    More like it, right?

  53. *A hypothetical (or, for the layman, "stuff that hasn't happened yet") is always arcane, by definition. The one Harper is now distracting us with happens also to be procedural.*

    Actually, the coup coalition was carried out, and the parties therein only stepped back when they knew how unpopular it would be…

    whereas this whole thread is about something that was, you know, actually hypothetical (ie. some proposed coaltion that never went anywhere beyond talks)

  54. *Don't be so glib, fella. There's plenty more for the media to natter about*

    Like your pal Sir Francis nattering about how Reform-Chicago School-evangelical Stephen Harper `doesn't think there's Canada'

    Substantial stuff like that

  55. You may want to look up "maintaining the confidence of the House", otherwise known as "how governments are formed in Canada". And I hope my invitation doesn't sound "guache".

    My, but it feels great to be on the other side from these people.

  56. but dear boy, nipicking the timing doesn't help you a bit….
    Martin called in Gomery
    Harper shuts down Parliament or sends the mounties on a goose chase

  57. Yeah, a party leader's fundamental attitude about the nation he seeks to lead is neither here nor there.

    Thinking of voting Bloc this time out, RB?

  58. "Translation: they tried to pull the wool over people's eyes by requiring the secessionists…

    That's dastardly clever, RB! I thought I had cloaked my repressed skepticism in an impenetrable fog of obscurity. And yet you sussed it out just as quick as you looked at it.

    I'll not try to put anything over on you again.

  59. Monica went quietly – Duceppe not so much.

  60. Thanks for the clarification, RB. I rather thought I was talking about the media's obsession with what Ignatieff will do after the election is over (a hypothetical) and Harper's clear written endorsement of a CPC-led coalition in 2004 (an incontrovertible fact).

  61. Then you would know that the Conservatives have maintained the confidence of the house for most of the last 5 years (not to mention the Canadian public).

    As for being on the 'other side', the feeling is assuredly mutual.

  62. Looks like we're in for 6 weeks of fact checking the Cons. Gonna be a long one if they persist.

  63. "was not and is not now a signed formal coalition agreement."

    And unless you can produce a signed formal coalition agreement between the three opposition leaders, today, we are talking of history, not the present or future.

    This garden path you speak of only goes backwards. Look to the future, Francien!

  64. Well Northern, you showed up to nitpick the first guy, and you threw in the ad hom attack on him as well.

  65. That’s not wat Ducey said n 2004….◦

    Gilles Duccepe: “In no way we are a coalition and we won’t be a coalition.”∙

    ◦Jack Layton: “It’s impossible to imagine that these three parties with their completely different platforms could form a coalition as we find in other countries.”

    http://www.ignatieffselection.com/feature/opposit

  66. For most of the time, yes. Not for all of it, sadly. Thus, when Harper was losing the confidence of the House (before he ran away and cowardly prorogued), the Opposition discussed the formation of a collaborative executive, just like Harper did in 2004.

    Harper liked coalitions when he was an Opposition loser. Then, he discovered he actually didn't like them when he became a government loser. It's a classic case of being for something before being against it that would reveal Harper as a hypocrite as well as a liar had he not already amply demonstrated an admirable commitment to those two pathologies.

  67. Seems to me it's irrelevant whether a coalition actually crystallized in 2004 or how Duceppe reacted to the proposal.

    What's relevant is that, by all accounts, Harper was the one who initiated the talks. You know, the Harper who now demonizes such arrangements?

  68. Guess I missed the last one, lol!!! I usually never respond to the apparatchiks – life's too short. It will be interesting how this whole thing plays out.

  69. You mean they turned Harper down, so that means he was never in favour of a coalition?

  70. LOL! I was going to try a serious answer to RB, but your sarcastic smackdown made be realize I'd just be wasting breath…

  71. I'm sure Harper would be proud of your shining endorsement of his deceptive tactics.

  72. From the William Johnson quote, above:

    "He was also determined that the Liberals, elected with a minority of the seats as well as a minority of the vote, would not have the moral or political authority to govern as though their program had received the assent of the voters. He would change the way of doing things in the Commons. The Liberals would be forced to recognize that a majority of the elected members were not Liberals, and that the majority's views and interests must be taken into account …"

    Strangely, Harper wasn't keen on "first past the post" when in opposition. The guy really takes the whole "situational ethics" thing to a whole new level.

  73. Well, he IS the one who dropped Canada from the name of our government and replaced it with his own… if he believes Canada exists, it apparently is subordinate to himself.

  74. So you believe that the Conservatives have gotten everything they want over the last 5 years?

  75. If you want to look at the practicalities, Iggy got them to shut up for two years while Harper appears to have left the door wide open for increasing bloc demands.

  76. Duceppe has been very careful NOT to use the word "coalition" to describe the Bloc's relationshp with the CPC. He was not formally a party to a coalition in either 2004 or 2008. But he pledged support both times.

    Duceppe is calling Harper out on his deliberate shading of the truth – or, as Duceppe has more bluntly put it, on Harper's lies. He is careful not to stray from the truth himself, because Harper has a propensity for suing people – law suits being an effective way to silence others. Duceppe can call Harper a liar all he wants, as long as he sticks firmly to the truth while doing so; Harper won't risk what might come out in such a suit.

  77. I won't bring up the Liberal proroguing of parliament (Cretin 4 times and Trudeau…spit…11 times!) cause that would be banal…ooops I guess I just did! And the opposition didn't discuss formation of anything – they signed an agreement to perform a coup d etat, while refusing to put their mob up to the choice of voters.

    Also, Mr. Harper was never an opposition loser as he won his first election as leader. BTW, if being PM for 5 years and still being the most popular and trusted choice in Canada makes him a 'loser', so be it. I wonder if Iggy still wants Canada to join the war in Iraq? Or has he changed his mind on that too???

  78. I guess that would mean Duceppe's letter is the blue dress and Harper's signature is the stain.

    "Out! Damned Spot!"

  79. Glad you liked it. They say that sarcasm is the lowest form of humour but… what can I say? It makes me laugh too.

  80. Can't…I'm far too busy reading about the Pacific Scandal.

  81. strange
    a bunch of comments went into the ether …. at any rate, calling your comment nitpicking was in fact a compliment. You were simply wrong: "Gomery was appointed on February 19, 2004 as Commissioner of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities (informally, the Gomery Commission) to investigate the Sponsorship scandal. "

  82. Plenty of time to catch up – looks like we're goiing to be stuck on coalitions for at least six weeks, possibly longer.

  83. Warning – Con scatter gun in use.

  84. It's his government, chief. His name is even on it.

    If my 'pal' is quoting Stephen Harpers bons-mot about trans-national economies accurately, that's probably worrisome to any sentient Canadian. But fret not. The media will never engage Harper on anything as substantial as that. Then, Chicago School? Well, those that failed there somehow ended up at the UofC, molding impressionable minds. Hilarious. (As to how 'evangelical' comes into all of this, well, that's your peculiar projection.).

    Loved your brother when he played for the Leafs, BTW. Whoops, look at the time!

    *Frobisher returns to reading "The Road To Serfdom" for the 18th time*

  85. No; I think he takes his ball and goes home when he doesn't get his way. Or stalls, lies and decieves in the hope it will blow over.

    But take responsibility or try to negotiate? No. That's why he was finally held in contempt.

  86. I don't see how any rational and serious person could conflate these two documents. The 2004 document was to act as a SHIELD against an opportunistic snap election call from a now-minority-PM. It was also to bring in new changes to the Standing Orders of the House, and the structure of its committees.

    Below is Harper's first speech in the 38th Parliament. Please read and tell me whether that's someone who doesn't accept the election results, and who is instead hellbent on overturning the gov't.
    http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publicat

    Our media should call Duceppe on the "he asked me what we wanted in a Throne Speech" comment he made. The way he phrased it, made it sound as though they were talking about a future CPC gov't Throne Speech. In actual fact, what they were discussing is what was to be included in the CPC amendment to the Liberal Throne Speech of Paul Martin's gov't, during the Address in Reply debate.

    You will see the amendment at the end of Harper's speech above. It incorporated ideas from the NDP and Bloc.

  87. There was no discussion of a collaborate executive in 2004. Harper won the confidence of the House on Nov. 27th, 2008, by winning the Address in Reply vote. So the opposition voted confidence in the gov't (after hearing the economic statement btw), and then they change their minds a day later?

    A strong coalition alternative could've and would've made its case to the people in the interim period after the 2008 prorogation, so don't blame the prorogation for that Coalition imploding mere days afterwards. Yeah, some kind of stable.

    Please if you could, find me a case of a coalition gov't in any legislature in history wherein the senior party had only 25% of the seats, and where together the gov't caucuses had a minority of 80? I won't even include the "and included a separatist party in a required confidence-and-supply arrangement" factor, as there could be no examples if that was included.

    Good luck with that!

  88. Umm, Ignatieff's signature on the Coalition document is not a hypothetical. It's there, it's real. There are plenty of other video's to come out as this campaign progresses that will be like a trickle of water on Ignatieff's forehead.

    The 2004 letter envisaged an informal coalition in the event that the Liberal PM Martin tried to engineer a snap vote. If you read any of the comments of the opposition leaders at that time, it is abundantly clear that they accepted the election results, but that they wanted changes to how the House would operate going forward.

    Such an arrangement could not have survived a budget-making process, so its primary function was to shield against them being caught out by a snap election call. Pretty simple, really. It would've lasted months at most, before we would have gone to the polls again.

  89. And you say it as though you and only you have a window into the man's soul.

    Get over yourself.

  90. You may want to look up something called 'chronology.' you're welcome

  91. you forgot Pinko……gawd that sounds so cold war… red…. commie…..almost makes me want to hide under my school desk..

  92. Yeah but the Gomery public hearings started in Sept 2004, starting with Sheila Fraser, as the first witness.

    Don't try to say you were complimenting the other poster, when the reason posts are missing is because you called him a name.

  93. Wow! I did not know that.

    I guess that word – and Don Rickles – are still very much alive.

  94. Really??……because I have been called a pinko…commie…leftard…libtard…libtoad….ummm someone on here yesterday called me a Librano(WTF)……..lefty radical….Liberal azz……there are more but I can't remember them all……..that and you guys just CAN'T seem to remember the name of the opposition leader

  95. Refreshing to see on opportunity to examine some facts (dare I say reasoned opinion) as opposed to the ad infinitum expression of rehtoric most often with out any substantiation as to the reasoning for promossion of that positiuon. The time for voting with your mind has arrived. No longer can idealism or wishful thinking weigh us down threatening to drown the increasing majority struggling to keep our noses above the water.

  96. APOLOGIES MY PREVIOUS COMMENT WAS IN REFRENCE TO THE POSTING BY LIZZ WITH A LINK TO THIS ARTICLE. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/edit…. Refreshing to see on opportunity to examine some facts (dare I say reasoned opinion) as opposed to the ad infinitum expression of rehtoric most often with out any substantiation as to the reasoning for promossion of that positiuon. The time for voting with your mind has arrived. No longer can idealism or wishful thinking weigh us down threatening to drown the increasing majority struggling to keep our noses above the water.

  97. You would not have been called those (or any other) names by me DDS.

  98. There are times when it's required. :-)

  99. *Yeah, a party leader's fundamental attitude about the nation he seeks to lead is neither here nor there.*

    Sure, I guess you'll be wholeheartedly voting for a man who's fundamental attitude toward his country can be summed in the quote, `We Americans…'

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