What he was trying to say


Stephen Harper was apparently asked today about his comments in 1997 about a future “coalition or working alliance” among parties in Parliament.

“This clip was a clip of me discussing uniting the right,” Mr. Harper told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t think it was any secret we were trying to bring together the Progressive Conservatives, the Reform Alliance and the Democratic Representatives. We were very clear we were looking for mechanisms to bring us together – and we did create a merger as you know.”

He stressed: “I have never attempted to take office without winning an election. The other guys did.”

The TVO interview seems to have occurred shortly after Mr. Harper resigned in 1997 and, as Paul notes, the Democratic Representative Caucus wouldn’t come into existence for another four years. (When Mr. Harper spoke, five parties existed: the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois, NDP and Reform.)

That aside, his specific comments in 1997 about the future arrangement of our parliamentary democracy seemed to exceed both a simple merger of the PCs and Reform and his contention now that only the party that wins the most seats can form government.

The way the Liberals, I think, are eventually going to lose office, whether it’s in this election or the next one, is they’re going to fail to win a majority. They’ve basically lost Quebec and without Quebec the Liberal party has never been a majority party in this country. And that’s where I think you’re going to face, someday, a minority parliament, with the Liberals maybe having the largest number of seats, and what will be the test is whether there’s then any party in opposition that’s able to form a coalition or working alliance with the others. And I think we have a political system that’s going to continue to have three or four different parties, or five different parties, and so I think parties that want to form government are going to eventually have to learn to work together.


What he was trying to say

  1. "…And I think we have a political system that's going to continue to have three or four different parties, or five different parties, and so I think parties that want to form government are going to eventually have to learn to work together."

    It is difficult to imagine Harper saying this. This is not the in-and-out-parliamentary-distruption-handbook-pooping-puffin-coalition-scare-mongering-contemptuous Harper.

  2. I'm not sure which is more unbelievable:

    – that Harper is trying to backpeddle and outright lie, say things that are so clearly untrue when they can be easily checked by everyone


    – that the media is not letting his hypocrisy go but are really sinking their teeth into this and trying to press him to make some sense – any sense – of his current position and his former position on this issue, and not simply accepting each bafflegab and lie at face value and moving on. Good for them. Finally.

  3. I think Harper's 'reckless coalition' election strategy is dead in the water.

  4. the real question is will this get any traction in the population.

    I think everybody knows that the CPC supporters will brush it off but will the swing voters be affected by this blatant hypocrisy or see it as a context sensitive situation.

    I know which side I'm on, but I do believe the majority of people won't pay much attention this.

  5. He should before he is forced into calling his former self a liar. His stubborness is going to finish him.

  6. Mr.Wherry, I hope you have someone beside you who will do up the bandages around your bleeding hands; looking for all them needles in a huge haystack must give you many pricks.

    This is what Harper said today:

    " He stressed: “I have never attempted to take office without winning an election. The other guys did.”

    and you, and others, are just not willing to accept the truth of that. But don't make that Harper's problem. It can only be solved within by seeking the truth, not by trying to find another haystack.

  7. It's not the truth so I'm not accepting it. Harper has caught himself in his own web of lies ans deceit. No one is to blame for this but himself. He's been getting away with it for 5 years and it has finally caught up to him.

  8. Yes, I must say the press has surprised me. I had written them off a while ago, but it is so nice to see the glimmers of a more feisty press and it seems to be spread over quite a few different news outlets. I'm happy to see them go after all the candidates, but really quite surprised they aren't playing dead with Harper.

  9. But they did win an election. They won election to the House of Commons where our government lives. If a party cannot command the confidence of the House, they do not get to direct the Government. The Government, the House of Commons decides that.

  10. He stressed: “I have never attempted to take office without winning an election. The other guys did.”

    We all know that is not what his two former amigos and his former mentor are saying. All three have said that the intention was to replace the Liberal government.

    While we could argue that the two amigos are his political adversaries (although they apparently were friendly enough to share a hotel room and perhaps a bed in 2004), what motivation could Flanagan possibly have for contradicting his former protege about this?

    Hopefully some journalist could ask Harper this question.

  11. "They won election to the House of Commons where our government lives." what an adorable turn of phrase! for some reason it reminds me of The Little Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe.

  12. “I have never attempted to take office without winning an election. The other guys did.”

    that is really the only relevant point here. the question was never whether coalitions are illegitimate in all cases.

  13. I dunno, FV.

    On the one side we have Say Anything Steve telling us that the words he said, and the letter he wrote do not mean what they mean, but something else (indeed something they could not possibly have meant).


    On the other side we have Layton in 2005, Mike Duffy in 2004, Tom Flanagan now, Jack and Gilles now saying that no, Stephen Harper meant what he said back in 1997 and in 2004 and you, and others, are just not willing to accept the truth of that.

    But that's Harper's self-created problem. It can only be solved within by him admitting the truth, not by trying to find hiding in another haystack.

  14. Yes, ask Harper! See if he implies that Flanagan has joined the socialist-separatists.

  15. It suddenly came to me what Aaron was trying to say:

    I think he's saying to the NDP and Liberals that it would be a good thing, perhaps, to unite their two parties as well. But Aaron wants to leave it up to the parties to decide,of course, just like the two parties had free choice in deciding to sign a formal coalition agreement. But the 2008 agreement was with the BQ inclusive, and it could be that Aaron believes it would be better to unite the Liberal Party and the NDP without the involvement of the BQ. (btw, I agree with that).

    And the name of the united party could be "The New Democratic Liberals"

    Ignatieff is already making us used to the new name. Works for me!

  16. Yes, but the GG has to decide on this too, and I don't think the GG would have let the Libs and NDP take over government with so many seats LESS than the Conservatives, and

    after two years after the last election, the voter reflection in the House may not have warranted a GG's dicision to let the party with the LEAST seats to the governing for a while. But who knows.

  17. She had so many children, some of them were Blue,Who would ignore the meaning of a word if it were true.”It means what I mean, nothing else! It's what I want to do!” She chopped them up and chopped them down and dropped them in the stew.

  18. Yes I agree that it is very relevant that on the main point he is outright lying. He was for losers getting to form governments before he was against them.

    But he has also hanged himself on his own words about coalitions because he and his caucus have indeed railed against coalitions.

  19. From John Geddes post:

    Here's what Desserud flaty says would have transpired: “First, had Martin requested an election in 2004, he would have been granted his wish.” But what if—and this is unlikely—Clarkson thought an election premature, as her predecessor Lord Byng did in the famous King-Byng affair? In that case, Desserud says she would have asked Harper if he was able to form a government.

    “At that point, we are supposed to believe Harper would have said, ‘No, I can't—I just want the PM to cooperate more.' Then the GG would have said, ‘Okay, since there is no viable alternative, I hereby grant Martin's request'.”

  20. There is also what then conservative commentator and now Conservative Senator Mike Duffy said way back in 2004:

    "It is possible that you could change prime minister without having an election. If you could put Stephen Harper — and this is some of the thinking of Conservatives — in 24 Sussex Drive, even for five or six months without an election, it would make the Conservative option much more palatable to Canadians because they'd see that they don't have horns and a tail."

  21. I think Wherry is saying nothing at all. He is merely quoting Harper in his own words and seeing if they stand up to other known facts.

    And clearly they don't.

  22. "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean –neither more nor less."

    Lewis Carroll

  23. Exactly!

  24. When he refers to "parties that want to form government" it's reasonable to assume (but hard to prove) that he was meaning to exclude the Bloc. Really, it's only their presence in the theoretical left coalition that makes it upsetting to any voters. (Many leftish voters want the Grits and the NDP to flat-out merge, after all.) In those hard-to-recall days before minority government, too, no one really imagined that the Bloc could have any role in a government.

  25. How good of you to know the GG's mind for him.

  26. You know that things are getting a little subtle when even the brilliant Wells can't keep up with our Super-gewaltige politische Betreiber PM.

    Ok, so think back to the supposed Laurier gaff that Aaron made Olympic sport of. Ha, Ha: How could Laurier possibly have known about the winter Olympics 5 years before they were started.

    Now lets consider the case above. Sure it is possible that he is simply lying but really the most straightforward explanation is that already in 1997, Stephen Harper had a clear vision of 2001. You will note this is a likely explanation as to why the Conservatives are now proposing policies for 2015 during the 2011 campaign.

    I cannot believe I am the only one to recognize the advantages of having a clairvoyant PM. The last time we had this type of opportunity was when Doug Henning was running for the Natural Law Party during the 90's.

    [youtube CIS788uf0cA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIS788uf0cA youtube]

  27. "This clip was a clip of me discussing uniting the right".

    That's the best part of the quote I'd say. He's explicitly saying that he thought that a coalition of right-leaning parties taking power without an election would have been fine. So, it's not "unelected" coalitions he's got a problem with, it's "unelected" coalitions that he doesn't agree with ideologically that are the problem.

  28. Yes, but this latest insight makes us all aware that Harper's statement that "[He has] never attempted to take office without winning an election" is to be taken in the context not that he thinks such an act would be wrong, but in the context that he was never actually presented with an opportunity to do so. It's not that he WOULDN'T attempt to do so, he just HASN'T attempted to do so (yet).

    And, technically, the "other guys" didn't attempt to take office without fighting another election either, as they were also never given the opportunity to do so.

  29. Harper certainly is clairvoyant alright. In 1997, he was talking about forming a coalition among the PC, RA and Democratic Representatives. Only a small detail (that no real Canadians pay attention to): the latter, DR, was not formed until 2001. Here is the link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/seco…. Enjoy !!

  30. That really depends on what the press does with it, Oliver. So far they've stayed on it, although I don't think they've been giving it quite enough prominence given that Harper's entire campaign strategy is basically based on a lie.

  31. The Bloc was the Official Opposition in 1997. Remember?

  32. So it all depends on the motivation of the office seeker? What a load of rubbish. That's like Harper supporters saying reverently, "He never wanted to be Prime Minister when he was younger – he's not that sort of politician." Absolute hogwash, and totally beside the point, except that it reveals the level of hypocrisy and willing self-deception in Conservative circles.

  33. Harper and his seals dont know what to say without a script! Watch him and his trained seals fall apart as this campaign proceeds.

  34. Harper's response to the undisputable fact that he supported 'coalitions' back in 1997 and again in 2004 kind of reminds me of his response to the Bev Oda fraud allegation : as a minister, she has every right to overrule any decision on funding.

    A perfect example of Con spin via red herring.

  35. he'll get caught in his own game

  36. yeah….except I wish they would challenge Harper on that "four questions(scripted no less) only" BS

  37. Humpty didn't meet a very happy end…..makes me smile this morning

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