'That's not the question' - Macleans.ca

‘That’s not the question’


The text of Peter Mansbridge’s questions and the Prime Minister’s responses on the matter of Afghan detainees and what, if anything, that matter had to do with the proroguing of Parliament.

Mansbridge. What do you say to those, outside of the political process, who look at what’s happened here, second time in a year, different circumstances in both cases, but the argument being made by many, I mean, you know you can’t pick up a story on this issue, without somebody referring to the Afghan detainee issue, saying that that’s really the reason, you and your government wanted to stop the investigative work of the committee.

Harper. I think polls have been pretty clear, Peter, that that’s not on the top of the radar of most Canadians.

Mansbridge. No, but that’s not the question.

Harper. What’s on the radar is the economy. As I say, the government is looking at, the first thing we’re going to do when we come back is have the second stage of our economic action plan, a budget, new financial measures, that’s our focus. We’re in a very different kind of economic year and that’s what we’re adjusting to. I’m sure the opposition will, you know, they’ve been on that subject for three or four years now, I’m sure they’ll continue on it.

Mansbridge. Is it not legitimate to wonder, whether or not, just because it’s not on the radar of most Canadians, showing up in public and, one assumes, internal polling, that that means it’s not important?

Harper. Well, obviously, we have a a big difference of opinion with the opposition as to whether that is an issue that warrants attention or not, but as I say, the decision to have a new session of Parliament after a year is not unusual. Last year’s circumstances were unusual, I think everybody concedes that. This year’s circumstances are, frankly, quite normal. As Prime Minister, I think my sessions of Parliament have been a year or slightly over a year, so this is fairly standard procedure. And I don’t think it makes sense for a session of Parliament to go on and on without the government periodically reexamining its overall agenda.


‘That’s not the question’

  1. If the Juniors skated that fast they might have won last night
    (good effort though, guys)

  2. Mansbridge really let him off the hook here. He should have followed up with something challenging Harper to answer crticisms which link the prorogation to dodging the Afghan detainee documents subpoena, and the issue more generally.

  3. I wonder if anyone actually believes him and takes what he says at face value.

    • "I wonder if anyone actually believes him and takes what he says at face value."

      No more or less than any other pol, personally speaking.

    • Harper has unique, even to politicians, problems with truth telling as everyone knows, so you can totally discount the part about "No spring election".

  4. I don`t remember that forlorn look of total angst on the face of Mansbridge as he drilled Chretien in Sept, 2009 about the rumours of public monies being siphoned into Liberal hands in Quebec.

  5. "This year's circumstances are, frankly, quite normal."

    It's normal for a Government to completely eviscerate its own legislative agenda?

  6. Stephen Harper and his gold plated pension loving Conservative MPs might not think that issue "warrants attention" but the Conservative Party of Canada certainly does believe it merits Parliament's attention

    Conservative Party of Canada policy resolution #120 from Winnipeg, MB on 15 November, 2008:

    "Parliamentary Role in Foreign Affairs — The Conservative Party believes that Parliament must be responsible for exercising effective oversight over the conduct of Canadian foreign policy."

    Its time to start listening to your grassroots Stephen. You seem to have forgoten us since moving into 24 Sussex.

    • Party resolutions are often not followed; it's what makes the riding associations, etc, wild.

  7. I agree. I also think it would have been entirely reasonable for him to isolate the subpoena question and ask the Prime Minister what he thought the consequences for non-compliance with a subpoena from parliament should be.

  8. It is now.

    Honestly Jack, how are the Tories supposed to keep complaining about the opposition blocking their crime legislation if they let Parliament pass their crime legislation?

  9. The way I understand the difference between Mansbrigde and the PM to be is this: Mansbridge insists that the Afghanistan issue is important enough to not be bumped by a new parliamentary session in which the government can emphasize renewed what the economic emphasis must be.__Harper disagrees with Mansbridge on that and insists that the government economic plan cannot be held up by the Afghanistan issue. __A fresh presentation on our Canadian economic outlook is what the pm want to present to the people and good for him.

  10. What exactly was Mansbridge's question? It appears that he was just waffling, preceded by a "what do you say to" tag to make it seem like a question.

    Pretty pathetic. Harper just toys with him.

    • actually, SH is toying with the public

  11. I was thinking of starting a black metal band. Do you think I could use "Forlorn Look of Total Angst"?

  12. Why can't they pass their legislation and still complain it's being blocked? Who's going to call them on the inconsistency? "Ordinary Canadians" who don't follow or care about politics? Or the media whose mantra is that the only thing that counts is what Ordinary Canadians think? If you shout it loud enough, apparently, that's proof that you deserve a serious hearing, no matter how freakishly illogical your thoughts are. Cf. Baird, John.

  13. I still don't really buy it as anything more than a rationalization, but that's about the best-presented version of the rationalization I've yet to hear or read.

  14. LKO little to do with that legislation is linked to reality. Why should heir characterization of its legislative process be?

  15. Lord knows a "fresh " presentation couldn't happen otherwise … "fresh" meaning that
    of the tired old fiscal scold.

  16. I wonder if they will reexamine their agenda and decide to go soft on crime.

  17. Mansbridge isnt really a credible interviewer. He is a known Conservative and lobs one softball after another.

  18. Oh sure, but maybe check with Mansbridge first. He may have a copyright on it.

    • He could play bass…

  19. Wonderful of the CBC to allow Harper to use it as a platform for his lies. The Communist Broadcorping Castration has become the propaganda arm of the Harper Dictatorship. Time to bury The Corpse once and for all – shut it down, pull down all its buildings and pour salt in their foundations.

    • Keep piling on with the thumbs down, suckahs. It won't save the the rotting Corpse from putrefaction.

  20. A Politician answering the question he wished was asked, instead of the one that was?

    How shocking. News at 11.

  21. A pretty weak, underwhelming interview by Mansbridge overall. If you can't depend on CBC to ask Harper the hard questions, you certainly aren't going get them asked from journalists who work for CTV or CanWest.

    The only thing more dispiriting than the state of our government, is the state of our national media.

  22. It's too bad Mr. Harper doesn't have a bunch of people specifically devoted to administer the various files in his cabinet. Why then he could have them specialize in a particular file, say one for the defense file, one for the economics file, and he'd be able to come up with a budget and economic plan while at the same time being able to answer questions on the detainee issue.

    Then he wouldn't need to prorogue parliament and cost us millions of dollars in wasted money from the legislation that's been debated and quashed, not to mention the various committees that have been disrupted.

  23. So true. Jack Webster we miss you!

  24. I can see from reading some selected comments above that Harper must have had a winning interview. Some people think a politican`s winning or losing an interview is entirely dependent on the interviewer. Like that Steve Murphy guy ambushing poor Dion.

  25. Harper mentioned on :power and Politics" that he wasn't allowed to use the word "prorogue" , I suspect the interview questions and answers were vetted by the PMO well ahead of the interview giving the optics that Mansbridge's interview was weak – I think the reality is his hands were tied as to what he could ask or say.

  26. mansbridge is the best interviewer out there, he can't force harper to answer directly, but he is one of the few who points out question evasions, i.e. "that's not the question".

  27. Unfortunately this was one of the wimpiest interviews I have ever seen done by Peter Mansbridge. I respect Mansbrige and his interview style but this whole thing seemed to me to be a sort of 'set up'. It was shallow, and glossed over the important issues. There was no real follow up and thus questions were not persued and not answered in the depth we deserve. Very dissapointing in spite of the hype leading up to it.

  28. Clearly, far too many people believe this man when he opens his mouth.

  29. Mansbridge insists that the Afghanistan issue is important enough to not be bumped by a new parliamentary session in which the government can emphasize renewed what the economic emphasis must be.__Harper disagrees with Mansbridge on that.

    I think that's actually the narrative Harper would like us all to believe, not necessarily reality, but even if I take that explanation of the difference at face value it leaves the PM with one problem. The majority of Canada's elected representatives agree with Mansbridge.

  30. I do like the "the economy's too important to waste our time talking about torture" line though. The economy sure does get a rough ride from the PM eh?

    Right before we went into recession it wasn't that important, since we were doing great and weren't ever going to go back in to deficit. Once we went in to recession, it was still hunky dory, because the PM insisted that if we were going to have a recession (which we were already in) we'd have had it by now (which was ironically true, since we were in recession at that moment). Now, just as we started to come out of the recession things got bumpy for the government, so suddenly it was all recession all the time and "look at all the money we're spending" and "don't worry abut the deficits we'll never have to have again to combat the recession that's not going to come, they're only unprecedented if you look at them in a certain light." Now that the recession's over, we have to suspend Parliament so the government can figure out what to do next on the economy (My guess, given recent history? 1. Figure out what's happening. 2. Say the opposite of that is happening. 3. Deny reality as long as possible. 4. Do all the things you should have done after step one, only do them bigger and louder than they ever needed to be done in the first place, and ignore the fact that they don't really even need to be done anymore).

  31. Sure, our PM is the winner over Mansbridge.

  32. Did you mean to start off with "Mansbridge" instead of "Harper"?

  33. So therefore the reason the Liberals have been unsuccessful at fundraising is because they have too much respect for hard-working Canadians ?

  34. There's a reason why Iggy himself,

    and all the commenting supporters here, keep making excuses for not wanting to have an election so that the people can decide:

    Harper's right.

    Expect an early spring election call, and then, much to the dismay of our pretend defenders of democracy here,

    the people will decide this (and other near daily faux scandals) issue for themselves.

    Out of the insular court of leftist media opinion and into the court of public opinon.

  35. And then, instead of running with headlines about the intentions of a group of committed liberals, in the tens of thousands (the great facebook election),

    the media will be forced to run with headlines about the intentions of all Canadians. Even those…gulp…from out West, in the rural areas, and…gasp…"non-progressives".

    Our intrepid media will be able to shut them up no more.

  36. And some people were completely unaware that an interview is actually some sort of contest to be won or lost.

  37. What happened to Mike Duffy? Was he too hungover/bloated from the holidays to ask the tough questions?

  38. It passed. Along with a whole host of other resolutions that Stephen Harper has ignored, such as allowing the Auditor General to release reports when parliament isn't sitting (or prorogued) and a resolution calling for balanced budget legislation.

    The man seems to hate his grassroots more than he seems to hate parliamentary democracy.

  39. how appropriate … echoes of the Bush regime

  40. Senator Mansbridge to you!

  41. You know, I'm a bit of a CDN politics junkie. Some people think it's boring, but I actually love it (as do probably most people who read – or write – articles like this). HOWEVER, I work with normal everyday people – dubbed "the Tim Hortins crowd". I defy you to eavesdrop on conversations in restaurants or malls or the water cooler; if you hear the word prorogation uttered ONCE, I'll buy your lunch. Translation: just another Liberal manufactured issue with ZERO TRACTION. Move on boys.

  42. That is interesting, because when I walk in the malls or am standing in line at Tim's I never hear anyone talking about senate reform. Maybe Harper should give that one up.

  43. "I defy you to eavesdrop on conversations in restaurants or malls or the water cooler; if you hear the word prorogation uttered ONCE, I'll buy your lunch."

    I heard a few people talk about it in the Metro and at HMV today in Montreal. So where do I send you my receipt from my lunch?

  44. I'll respond when you learn how to write english good.

  45. A known Conservative to whom, exactly?

  46. I think Mansbridge understood that Harper would never do another interview with him if he pressed him too hard. Just ask Kevin Newman

    • True but after awhile, harper would have no one prominent to interview him on national TV, where he can lie and skate and waffle and lie some more to the nation.

      Mansbridge, Newman and Robertson. That's all he's got; surely he wouldn't turn his back on all of them.

      Harp's perfect TV world: ONLY Bob Fife can interview him, all the time.

    • Which interview was the one that earned Newman a boycott? Is there a video?

  47. Wow. I just mean that is just so specific, sort of a blueprint of what to do here. Does the Conservative constitution allow him to be recalled?

  48. They have been successful at fundraising, and I don't think their warchest is so full to bursting that the issue has come up at the present time. However, I would like to think that when the situation arises they will have too much respect for hard-working Canadians to ask for more just because. That may be how the warchest got so depleted.

  49. Do I win two lunches once for here, once for the exact same comment on the Toronto Star comments?

  50. Someone needs to point out to Mr. Harper that whether or not Canadians are interested is not the point. His government, or members of it, have been accused of human rights violations and violations of the Geneva Convention. These are war crimes under international law. The allegations and available evidence are enough that the International Criminal Court has launched a preliminary investigation (something they would not have done had there been a legitimate investiation in Canada – such as a public inquiry.)

    If you have been accused of a crime "the public is not really interested" is not a defense against that crime. "Your honor I don't think that's very high on the public radar, let's talk about the economy" isn't going to wash. One of these days the International Criminal Court may decide to indict prominent members of the Canadian government – at which point it will show up large on the radar. Mr. Harper, Mr. McKay and the current government need to start answering some questions.

  51. The Angry left were let down, they had high hopes for CBC.

  52. Is that still a part of Canada?

  53. Are you sure they weren't saying "perogy?" Maybe they were just hungry.

  54. Hah! They were talking about progation at Tim Hortons today. No one was on Harper's side. Where's lunch?

  55. That was yesterday at the grocery store.

  56. "Ordinary Canadians" who don't follow or care about politics?
    I can see the next Facebook group forming -are you an ordinary Canadian who does not follow or care about politics?
    Or – as an ordinary Canadian – do you care or follow politics?
    With the click of a mouse or with the mark or an X on a ballot – this Canadian cares.

    • But as Wells pointed out yesterday, maybe we only care when it's as easy as a click of the mouse. Maybe we need to put our money where out mouses are — as in make a donation to a party you wish to support other than the Cons, and show them their arseholian decisions are making their competition richer and readier.

  57. You nailed it right on the money, Justin. I just there were more Canadians who could find it within themselves and do the right thing at the next election (defeat Harper) whenever that may occur. He's such a weasel that I'll bet he is lying when he says the Cons won't force another election. Best thing he could do is try to re-introduce the motion that votes don't carry the $1.95 support. That would force the other parties to call an election but surely Canadians will know that is Harper who forced an election, despite his recent quote saying that Canadians don't need another election.

    • I doubt the Liberals would contest the subsidy again

      • They should contest it, who gives to a party for the poor?There are a lot of voters below the poverty line that would slowly and surely lose their voice (and desire to vote) even more if they didn't make a contribution through voting.

  58. I'm just thinking back to legislation that was promised – but might have been dropped because of prorogation.
    For example, does anyone know whether the Renovation Tax refund measure actually got passed?
    If that got lost in the Xmas prorogation shuffle – Mr. Harper will have a million or so folks who will be more than a little miffed…
    Could just tip the balance

  59. Oddly enough, I always kind of thought it was the job of politicians & the media (the responsible examples of each, anyways) to look for stuff that's not on the public radar. Otherwise Parliament & the media might as well stick to discussing the latest James Cameron blockbuster.

  60. OMG! The Conservatives backed their car out of the driveway in order to hit that old lady walking her dog!!

    But Liberals back their cars out of driveways all the time. Really, this is nothing new.

  61. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

  62. The Party's constitution does allow it but it doesn't rally matter. Most of the small "C" conservatives I know who would actually care have already written off the Conservative Party of Canada and disassociated themselves from it. What remains are the big "C" Conservatives who have hijacked the party and don't really care if Stephen Harper breaks every single promise he's ever made to them. So long as Canada has a "Conservative" Prime Minister they'll be happy, lend him their vote of confidence and send him their monthly tithings.

  63. What happened to the resolution, was it passed?

    If so, while we're on the subject of Conservative inconsistencies, could someone please explain to me why the government must take their hands out of the Conservatives' wallet (I get that part) yet Conservatives continue to give to a war chest that is already overflowing? Are there fundraising activities still going on, I mean to say, even though everybody knows they don't need the money? Because asking hard-working Canadians (even if they are all Conservatives) for money just because you can seems sort of, I don't know, disrespectful of that whole argument.

  64. Ha! The chief buffoon in the Confederacy of Dunces (aka climate deniers) is belittling an online forum where likeminded people congregate….oh that's rich!

  65. I love perogies too with mushrooms onions sour cream!

  66. Uh…unless you show me his CPC membership card, there is no way I'm believing that Peter Mansbridge is a Conservative.

  67. Well Dan, you also need to remember that historically, the Canadian conservative movement has always done a fine job of shooting itself in both feet. That's why our pattern has been to sweep into power (always as an exception to a normally Liberal government) only to find ourselves relegated to the sidelines almost immediately after. Stephen Harper is playing the long view, and under him we actually might succeed in shifting this country away from its left-wing, socialist roots. The grassroots needs to be saved from itself, and should file their ideas away for "when we've actually got traction as the natural governing party."

    • I suppose I can see your point. But shifting Canadians to conservative values by spending more taxpayer money a year than the NDP could ever have dreamed of strikes me as a funny way of going about it.

      The grassroots doesn't need to be saved from itself, it needs to go Wildrose.

  68. Please don't interrupt the bile from the Harper haters.

    I am hoping they found some more internet friends with that Facebook group.

    • I just hate the politics of waving the flag of accountability while actually practicing the opposite.

  69. AKA: Damned Canadians don't know what's good for them, so we'll just do it for them.

  70. http://unambig.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/much-ado-

    One is reminded of the cartoon where the snarling and vicious dog who has been barking at a stranger finally breaks free of his leash. Realizing he is no longer restrained, he turns to his owner and asks that his leash be reattached so that he may continue snarling and barking and looking vicious. The phrase it coined sums up the Liberal Party: “all bark and no bite.”

    • Your link is to a Conservative blahg which reiterates the "reconstitute the Senate to keep the Liberals from stalling legislation" talking point. What? No mention of the need to move on to the next phase of the Economic Action Plan? It is hardly a non-partisan view used to lend credence to your argument. It seems to me that the MSM is pretty much united in it's lack of support for the Conservative rationale behind proroguing Parliament and polls would indicate the public isn't too thrilled by it either.

      One is reminded of the cartoon where the dog craps on a paper plate and the politician puts it on the counter and calls it "dinner"
      No thanks, I'll eat somewhere else

  71. Agreed. This is feature of most mainstream parties. The central leadership office, staffed with political professionals, read the tea leaves and create policy from there. They do all the communicating and strategizing and they run the show. MPs are walking votes with zero autonomy. Mind you, MPs are selected as candidates by a small fraction of the population, usually based on little or no policy distinction, and are elected largely on the strength of their party leader's general appeal. If you want to address the concerns many express about politics in geenral, addressing how parties are structured, funded and how they relate to their respective memberships might be the place to start.

  72. Thwim: I know this sounds horrible, but… well… yes. Exactly.

    Dan: Sure, throwing around that kind of money seems like a strange way to do it. But you have to remember the glaringly obvious. (1) The Conservatives were backed into a corner on the stimulus issue; they had to put it out or face the creation of a coalition government. (2) They spent less than what some Liberals, and almost all NDP, were demanding at the time. (3) That money served -among a few more noble purposes- the building of the Conservative Party's voter base, which works back into the idea of playing the long view.

    And, on Wildrose: In Alberta, the PCs didn't have much of an excuse for what they were doing. If you're already a hugely successful party, and there's no real opposition to speak of, you can do what you want. You're not forced into anything, and you are able to make some tough decisions when necessary. The situation in Ottawa is not the same as that of Alberta.

    Also, let's say the grassroots goes to Wildrose. What success (on the national scale) do you hope to have? A protest vote? You'll be putting in a party that has unashamedly conservative values, and no voter base outside of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and very few seats, and no power or influence to change anything. Even if the Conservative Party ended up being ideologically the same as the Liberals (I'm not saying that it is, I believe that Stephen Harper has more conservative values than either you or I–it's just that he also happens to be an intelligent politician), they would still have to play to their voter base every once in a while, and we'd still end up getting more than we would under the Liberals. That's more than a Wildrose protest vote would give us.

    • Didn't Harper commit to the stimulus spending at the G20 in November 2008?

      • Jan, I hadn't heard of a November 2008 commitment before. In any case I'm not sure how sincere Stephen Harper really was here, if he in fact did commit to stimulus at the G20–we can only speculate what he might have had in mind before the coalition, which became a threat to the Conservative Government immediately afterwards (the agreement for the coalition was signed Dec. 1st if I remember correctly).

  73. Here's a thought. Rather than try to shift other people's values why not worry about your own?

  74. If prorogation was an attack on our democracy, then it isn't a onetime thing, but an ongoing undemocratic feature of our system of government. Harper's move was legal and highly precedented – Chretien did it four times, Mulroney twice, and Trudeau about four. Roughly one in four sessions see some prorogation. If the practice is illegitimate, why not attack the practice, rather than making this an explicitly partisan issue? Are you guys against prorogation, or just prorogation when Harper does it?

  75. OMG, are you really trying this one on?

    Nobody is against prorogation when the government's agenda has been fulfilled. That is its point, its very necessary reason for being. That isn't what happened here–and that's what everyone is against.

    Intentionally dumbing down the electorate might work, but it will work better at making more cynical, more tuned-out voters. When only three thousand people end up voting, will you think democracy is not well served? Will you think that if those three thousand vote for someone other than "your" guy?

  76. I respect the Mansbridge but as I read the supposed question over a couple of times I wasn't sure what he was asking either. If you want an answer make sure you are actually asking a proper question or you will have to live with one as confusing as what you asked.

  77. Sorry, that wasn't actually my objection to this prorogation.

    "That, given the undisputed privileges of Parliament under Canada's constitution, including the absolute power to require the government to produce uncensored documents when requested, and given the reality that the government has violated the rights of Parliament by invoking the Canada Evidence Act to censor documents before producing them, the House urgently requires access to the following documents in their original and uncensored form:
    all documents referred to in the affidavit of Richard Colvin, dated October 5, 2009;
    all documents within the Department of Foreign Affairs written in response to the documents referred to in the affidavit of Richard Colvin, dated October 5, 2009;
    all memoranda for information or memoranda for decision sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs concerning detainees from December 18, 2005 to the present;
    all documents produced pursuant to all orders of the Federal Court in Amnesty International Canada and British Columbia Civil Liberties Association v. Chief of the Defence Staff for the Canadian Forces, Minister of National Defence and Attorney General of Canada;

  78. When Jean Chretien prorogued in September 2002 he killed his own legislation, and delayed the release of a damning report from the auditor-general. The session was shortened by 82 days. Insofar as prorogation is an attack on democracy or whatever, Harper's move is not unprecedented. Even if it can be used for legitimate purposes, it is clearly open to abuse.

    Of course your objection (that it kills legislation) is rather weak: "At the start of a new session, a government public bill may be reinstated at the stage it had reached at the time of prorogation, if the House agrees. Private Members' bills are automatically reinstated at the same stage." — (http://www.parl.gc.ca/compendium/web-content/c_g_

    The real problem with prorogation is that it can delay committees and reports that may reveal scandals, etc.

  79. I'm against Parliament period. This pitiful house of cards adds nothing to the Canadian way of life except greed and avarice. We should be more Municipal in our daily law making – bat it around a little, set a committee with firm time frames and VOTE! The people who are allowed to lobby governments are mostly hacks with axes to grind – big money or bigger egos I don't know which is worse but that too stinks. There just has to be a better way. Thanks for listening