The story of Justin Trudeau and the secret recording

And so the phrase “bozo eruption” is put on the record

Chris Wattie/Reuters

Chris Wattie/Reuters

When Justin Trudeau stood this afternoon to question the Prime Minister, the faint sound of the word “bozo” could be heard emanating from the Conservative benches, but it was the NDP’s Chris Charlton who officially put the phrase “bozo eruption” into the official record of the House of Commons—possibly for the first time in the 147 years of this place (and at least for the first time in the last 20 years).

“Mr. Speaker, we have all had a bit of fun with the comments from the member for Scarborough-Guildwood, who was taped talking about the Liberal leader’s ‘bozo eruptions,’ ” Ms. Charlton reported to the House just before QP. “I know the Conservatives are having a lot of fun with the Liberal leader’s gaffs and blunders, but let us keep in mind that bozo eruptions are not exclusively a Liberal thing. In fact, something the Conservatives invented were bozo eruptions.”

The NDP resource critic proceeded to rhyme off a series of Conservative statements she considered clownish.

At issue here is the secret recording of the member for Scarborough-Guildwood. Surreptitiously taped by an individual described as possessing “Conservative leanings,” Liberal MP John McKay can be heard speaking the phrase “bozo eruption” in regards to Mr. Trudeau’s comments earlier this month that Liberal MPs would be expected to support a strident pro-choice position on abortion (with an exception provided for current MPs like Mr. McKay).

Now, in fairness, Mr. McKay does seem to put the possibility that what Mr. Trudeau said on May 7 amounted to a “bozo eruption” in the past tense—explaining that he “initially thought” it was—but “bozo eruption” is not generally the sort of phrase that one wants to see spoken anywhere near one’s name, let alone in headlines. And Mr. McKay does go on to say that he thinks Mr. Trudeau’s “brain trust” might’ve made a terrible move in deciding on this course.

Was Mr. Trudeau bozo-esque in some way here?

If he was, the Conservatives seem, perhaps curiously, rather restrained about it. Contrary to what one might’ve expected, no Conservative MP was sent up to mock Mr. Trudeau before QP this afternoon, nor were any particularly obvious references to the matter made during QP. Perhaps, after seeming to go after the Chief Justice and then retreating, they have come to understand that we all periodically say things we shouldn’t have. Or perhaps Conservatives are a bit hesitant about pointing and laughing at a party leader who wants nothing to do with changing the laws around abortion.

Either way, the Conservatives are likely happy to see the b-word in print.

Mr. Trudeau might not have been entirely eloquent in explaining himself this month, but if it was a bozo eruption, it was a bozo eruption he had basically put in writing a year earlier. So possibly the mistake here was in everyone failing to follow up on that point. Though if Mr. McKay was somehow surprised by Mr. Trudeau’s stance, then possibly, Mr. Trudeau did not do enough to communicate his stance to his caucus.

The ultimate political wisdom, or lack thereof, on display here won’t really be knowable until the fall of 2015 when the ballots are counted and guesses are ventured as to how, if at all, Mr. Trudeau’s stance somehow impacted those results. If Mr. McKay is right, the Liberal party might come to regard this as a bozo eruption. If Mr. Trudeau comes to occupy the Prime Minister’s Office without having to moderate this position, it might seem a genius gambit (or an unremarkable footnote).

Is Mr. Trudeau particularly out of step with the Canadian public on this count? I’m not sure that he is. Does it make sense that some matters should be considered free votes of conscience? Good question.

That an MP should be caught out speaking impolitically via secret recording raises any number of other questions—some of them possibly even more interesting than whether or not the Liberal party should have adopted a strident position on abortion.

There is obviously something somewhat unfortunate about an individual—even a politician—being recorded without their knowledge. Perhaps Mr. McKay was even somehow set-up by that someone with “Conservative leanings.” But it doesn’t necessarily follow that Mr. McKay is not responsible for his remarks.

Rather, it might follow that we should hook up all MPs with microphones that they would be expected to wear at all times. Perhaps that is how we could usher in a new, more candid political discourse. At the end of each week, we could have a Conservative-leaning someone review the Liberal tapes and a Liberal-leaning someone review the Conservatives tapes and pick out the most interesting bits (the New Democrats, desperate for someone to pay them some mind, could surely be trusted to hand over all their tapes with the most salacious stuff already indexed).

Or perhaps that would ensure that politicians only ever spoke in anodyne talking points, every waking moment—perhaps even their nocturnal mumblings—spent speaking in statements that have been sufficiently calibrated and considered before delivery. This might at least have the benefit of better training MPs to never say anything interesting and thus limit the likelihood of future “bozo eruptions.”

As an experiment, I say we hook up Pat Martin with a recorder for the next week and see what happens.

A certain lack of seriousness is, of course, Mr. Trudeau’s cross to bear—and perhaps, if he hopes to win office, toss aside. At least insofar as it seems to be the primary complaint of his critics about him. And it is Mr. Trudeau’s recent history that he periodically says things that are of questionable seriousness. But it is also supposed to be part of his appeal that he is not so scripted that he does not periodically say something he might’ve wished he put differently.

A year into his leadership—and a year into the polling lead his party has enjoyed since making him leader—there remains this question of seriousness and this tension about whatever Mr. Trudeau is supposed to be.

Striding confidently to the expectant scrum that awaited him this afternoon after QP, Mr. Trudeau proceeded to bat away this matter of Mr. McKay and the secret recording.

“Obviously, Mr. McKay, as we all know, has very strong personal feelings on this issue, and I can understand how those personal feelings might have overflowed, but my role as Leader of the Liberal Party is to make sure that Canadians know that the Liberal Party will be unambiguous when it comes to standing up for women’s rights and that’s what we will continue to,” the Liberal said.

Had Mr. McKay apologized?

“Mr. McKay and I spoke, and he apologized personally to me, and for me—

Was he going to punish Mr. McKay?

“—for me the matter is closed.”

He equally dismissed questions about the Catholic church and whether Mr. McKay spoke for greater disgruntlement—insisting on the clarity and certainty of the party’s position and the need to defend the rights of individuals.

The woman from the Canadian Press then wondered whether the spectre of secret recording might result in politicians feeling unwilling or unable to be open and frank.

There is a lot we might consider in that question—whether, for instance, being open and frank is not something that can happen in the presence of a microphone or whether the only open and frank conversations are had far away from this land of microphones and cameras, in distant ridings where the press gallery rarely treads. (I am reminded here of David Wilks’ brief flirtation with candour in 2012.)

Mr. Trudeau’s response was pitch perfect in its appeal for candour and its retreat into talking points.

“I hope not. I hope that politicians will continue to be forthright and answer questions from constituents,” he said. “I think this yet again reinforces how much our opponents are focussed on me and on us while the Liberal Party remains resolutely focussed on Canadians and on serving them.”


The story of Justin Trudeau and the secret recording

  1. Classiest response possible from Trudeau. I imagine Mr McKay is embarrassed, and I bet he is having a chat with his Conservative-leaning friend who is the reason for his embarrassment.

    • So McKay should be embarrassed because what he said was made public, not simply because of what he said?

      • How on earth did you get that from her comment?

    • If this happened to Harper, under the bus !

  2. Like Trudeau or not his response about how the immature Harper party is so focused on him and the Liberals they haven’t governed a day in all the years they’ve stolen our government.

  3. This being Canada, you’ll note it was ‘bozo’ not ‘bimbo’ eruptions.

  4. The CRAP backbenchers make excellent parrots as well as trained seals.

    • You’ll notice it was the NDP who made the reference public in the H of C. As for Mr. Wherry, like others of his ilk, he is true to his Liberal ideology. Oviously a press secretary’s job for a Liberal cabinet minister is in the works, should they ever gain power. I don’t blame his and those like him really – given the sinking ship that is the media and particularly the Parliamentry Press Gallery.

      • You mean journos like Duffy were just angling for cushy, well-paid government jobs?

        • Exactly like Duffy – did you think I would defend him? Not a chance! The media has long proven its willingness to prostitute itself to the politicians. Just look at the numbers fo them who head into Ministers’ and other politically connected offices immediately following an election.

      • Who was it that made the ” bozo eruption ” that ” Osama Bin Laden ” was still alive after being taken out by the American Military a couple of years ago, Hmm, I think that may have been Tom Mulcair. And wasn’t it Harper who said he didn’t know anything about the 90,000.00 cheque. So its a little rich for the dippers and cons to try and exploit this one. And to your comment about Mr. Wherry, I think you have the wrong man.

  5. So why isn’t the name and position of the person who made the recording being revealed by the Ottawa media?

    • Do you think Ottawa media should be revealing all of their sources, or only the ones who leak stuff about Liberals?

  6. As much as I detest the Liberal party……..I am equally disgusted that someone recorded a conversation to use as a weapon, or simply to embarrass Trudeau. It is that kind of behaviour (from any party) which tarnishes the entire process.

    That being said, you need to remember that GERALD BUTTS is Trudeau’s main advisor. The same gerald butts…who gave Ontario the Green Energy Act. Remember, Butts is one of those enviro-kooks who thinks the problem is not just too much oil…….it is too many people. No surprise then, that someone who thinks there are too many people on the planet, would advise Mr. Trudeau that abortion is good…..and people are bad.

  7. Wow. All this concern about secret recordings.

    So…should we re-run the 2012 US election without Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% comment, which was recorded without his knowledge?

    Shall we give Donald Sterling back his basketball team?

    Oh that’s right. We only care about the “leanings” of the person doing the recording when a liberal stands to be damaged by it.

    Carry on, hacks.

    • Lucky for you John, Trudeau supports open discussion and communication, and is against talking points.

      Where does your guy stand on that again?

      • Almost, Gayle,

        Trudeau supports open discussion only so far as that being discussed……is in line with what he dictates. As for open Communication and talking points; strange, when all of the communication Trudeau does is from talking points provided by those advisors who do his thinking for him. When trudeau goes off script…..we see what he really thinks. That’s the scary part.

        He admires China.
        He hates the West, and thinks only Quebecers are fit to govern the country
        He blamed the invasion of Ukraine on Russia losing a hockey game
        He holds a “lady’s night” and charges thousands of dollars for his presence.

        Imagine if any of the stupid comments Trudeau has made to date…..were made by a Conservative. Imagine the reaction of the “liberal women’s caucus” if Harper held a ladies night.


        • So, anything said that you approve of is scripted and provided by advisors, and anything you don’t is “what he really thinks”.
          Any evidence for the assertion beyond the James Halifax standard just cuz?

          • Lenny…

            Do you agree with Trudeau?

            Do you admire China? (Y/N)
            Do you think ONLY a Quebecer should be PM? (Y/N)
            Do you blame the loss of a hockey game for Russia’s agression? (Y/N)

            As for the “just cuz”…well, that’s your description. I just watch what Trudeau does, and compare it to what he says.

            Trudeau is an idiot. Trudeau knows it…his advisors know it….his supporters know it, and I’m sure that deep down, when no one is looking…even you know it.

            fortunately for the Liberal Messiah…….folks would rather have an incompetent lightweight as PM, than the competent CONSERVATIVE Harper.

        • Ridiculous.

          Though it is telling that John has run away and left you to defend him.

          • Yup, that’s my description. Can you think of a better one for evidence-free assertions?

      • “Trudeau supports open discussion and communication”

        Interesting perspective. Guy who says “be pro choice under any circumstance or you can’t run for my party” supports open discussion and communication.

        Whatever floats your boat I guess.

        • Hey! Cool! Way to totally avoid the point, yet again.

        • Sorry. My phone posts before I am done.

          See how Trudeau says his MPs are free to answer questions? See how Harper doesn’t say (or allow) that?

          But you go on pretending this is about something else. Of course, you are lying when you say he banned people who are pro-choice from being candidates, instead of the truth which is that he demands they vote according to the law, the Charter and the party’s wishes.

          But then again, lying is what you do…

    • “So…should we re-run the 2012 US election without Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% comment, which was recorded without his knowledge?”

      Is anyone suggesting anything comparable in this case?

    • John, Romney’s comment about the 47% was true, just as Mckay’s comments about Trudeau being a bozo are true.

      Donald Sterling is/was an asz…….

      but do you not find it distasteful when this tactic is used?

      • James, I’m calling out the hypocrisy of guys like Wherry who never complain about this tactic being used unless it hurts a liberal.

        I have no complaints. I did not complain about Romney being illegally recorded. I did not complain about Sterling being illegally recorded. And I’m also not going to complain on behalf of James O’Keefe’s current or future victims either. Without this tactic James O’Keefe could not do what he does, and he’s done more investigative journalism and caused more change in the last couple of years than everyone at this magazine combined.

        • Stoopid stoopid Wherry. The guy who writes about Canadian politics didn’t comment on US politics.

          Gawd John – could you get any more desperate and pathetic?

          (I am guessing you are going to show us you can)

          pS. What is illegal in Canada may not be illegal in the US. See, we are two different countries…

          • Jon marinates in a bath of kook blogs and media, so you’ll excuse him if he gets a little confused about what country he’s in.

        • John G:

          Everyone who has ever read Aaron Wherry knows he is a partisan Liberal. If you approach his writing with that knowledge, you can easily pick apart his faulty logic.

          I actually agree with your view that Aaron wouldn’t have an issue if this tactic was used by a Liberal against a conservative. My only point….is that I think the tactic is cheap and tawdry. For anyone.

          • Heh.
            Except for the ones that insist he’s a partisan New Democrat, and the New Democrats or Liberals who will believe he’s a partisan Conservative when either of the former parties form government.

          • Lenny,

            If you can point to any article where Aaron could be described as Conservative…..I’d be surprised.

  8. “…Water off a duck’s back…”
    Justin, welcome to the “D.O.L” – Den Of Lawyers. They are moslty made up of clandestine cowards, and lobbyists’.

    I’ll say it a thousand times more, the problem with our Canadians Political systems is that they are almost entirely made up of a bunch of “failed” Lawyers.

    TOO Many Lawyers -that’s one of our biggest issues politically/domestically, it’s all about the “finese” of the yap, instead of actual “concrete” experience/balls, to go forth and actually fix/repair things.
    … aka, whatever happened to the “right” MP for the “right” Job, instead of, surprise, surprise, yet another Liar. – oops, I meant lawyer, then again, … [muse].

    • Rickster….you and I can finally agree.

      There are too many lawyers….and not just in politics.

      No one should charge $500 – $1000 per hour……unless they are removing a tumour from your brain.

      • I think in your case the tumour would be indistiguishable from the brain. You might have to pay a lot more.

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