Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Harper, Ignatieff and the Morality of Politics

Stephen Harper questions Michael Ignatieff's moral compass

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has seized upon a Conservative party spat over the appointment of the Oliphant Inquiry into dealings between Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schrieber to steal some moral capital away from Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

Harper insists that his currently-troubled relationship with Brian Mulroney proves that his government is concerned with ethics, while Ignatieff is only concerned about garnering political advantage wherever he may find an opportunity.

"Mr Ignatieff and the Liberal party, when the matter first broke, were practically demanding that I throw Mr. Mulroney in prison without a trial," Harper said. "Now they're out there pretending that somehow they're his best friends and they don't agree with any of this."

"Canadians will remember this government had a difficult issue and I think this government handled it in a responsible way," Harper continued. "This is not an easy matter, but I think Canadians understand that the government has taken a matter that is very difficult for ourselves, for our party, and handled it responsibly."

Indeed, the Liberal party -- then under Stephane Dion -- and their partisans milked Karlheinz Schreiber's promised revelations for all they felt it was worth. It was the Liberals themselves who demanded a public inquiry.

"I think what Canadians will see when it comes to a very difficult issue of government conduct and government ethics, this government has behaved responsibly and the other party, the other leader, has absolutely no moral compass," Harper concluded.

It's worth noting that Ignatieff's sin seems to have come in the form of a birthday phone call to Mulroney.

Under nearly any circumstances such a call would be entirely inconsequential. Making that call while Mulroney is the subject of a public inquiry, however, and somehow allowing that call to become public is a blunder, even if a minor blunder that Harper is exaggerating -- and very likely knows it.

This would be a masterful job of twisting the affair to tarnish Ignatieff on Harper's part if Ignatieff hadn't actually done it to himself. Exploiting a scandal is usually the most expedient method of garnering political moral capital at an opponent's expense.

Suddenly shifting gears on the matter is a very fast way to get covered in one's own mud. One would expect that Ignatieff should know better.

Also raked over the coals at a recent caucus meeting were the claims that Mulroney is no longer a member of the Conservative party. Marjory LeBreton, the Tory house leader in the Senate, noted that Mulroney had allowed his party membership to lapse.

Many Conservatives, however, do not believe this was the case, and the appointment of the inquiry seems to have enflamed lingering divisions between Mulroney-era Progressive Conservatives and former Reformers.

Normally, this would be a serious problem for Stephen Harper. But with Michael Ignatieff managing to flip flop spectacularly on the issue, Stephen Harper may have gained more from the matter than he was ever really at risk of losing.


  1. Patrick,

    In this matter there are no `good guys`. Yes, Iggy made a mistake. Yes, Harper seized on it to detract attention away from his own internal problems. Yes, Iggy should have known better - but c`mon for Harper to pretend the call is indicative of a 'moral' failing? Cripes, what's next? Is he soon going to accuse Iggy of owning a heart of darkness because he once got divorced? Neither man looks good here. Both should take a step back. Harper needs to prove he can govern - Iggy needs to prove he can offer an alternative. Both should shut-up about the inquiry and let it take its course...

    Oh, just a quick observation re:
    "Under nearly circumstances" - did you mean "normal"?

  2. Actually, I meant under "nearly any".

    There's no question that Harper is exaggerating the seriousness of Ignatieff's error. To me, there's little question that Harper knows full well what he was doing when he made those comments.

    But Ignatieff should have thought twice before he made a phone call that, in the crass sense that embodies politics, seemed like it could have been done for political benefit to someone who's currently the subject of a corruption inquiry.

    The optics of it are terrible.

  3. Here is a new twist on an old tale for you

    From: David Amos
    Date: Wed, 15 Apr 2009 12:12:34 -0300
    Subject: FYI I was talking to KarlHeinz Schreiber late last night about our common concerns and Eddy Greenspan interrupted the call
    To:,, Byron Prior, dorr, DannyWilliams, "William J. Wagener", dean Ray, Steve Thomson, "Eidt, David (OAG/CPG)", Richard Harris, "Edith. Cody-Rice", jacques_poitras, EGreenspan
    Cc: webo,, Dan Fitzgerald, "", "jeff. mockler", Akoschany, acampbell, oldmaison95,,

    Ms Breen

    Here is a little proof to support what I told you is true Rest
    assured more proof willl follow as you prepare to try to argue law
    with me about the Byron Prior matter. As you can see I am a little busy with the KarlHeinz Schreiber matter right now.

    BTW Schreiber did not call back as he promised. But first thing today
    some woman who claimed her name was Cybil called me from this number (416 363 4584) She claimed to with the Canadian ivil Liberties
    Association tht has been ignoring my concerns for five years. This
    unidentified person demanded to know what I wanted when I asked her if her call was prompted by my convesation with Eddy Greenspanwan's client last night she denied it and I doubted her immediately and hung up. I then called .Caitlin Smith, Coordinator, Fundraising &
    Membership, at or 416-363-0321 to get to the bottom
    of just exactly who was calling me and why after all this time and got
    the usual voicemail. Go figure.

    Veritas Vincit
    David Raymond Amos

    Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 21:54:03 EDT
    Subject: (no subject)

    here at is


    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: David Amos
    Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 22:33:00 -0300
    Subject: I agree the mandate must be made very broad Perhaps you
    should call me ASAP 506 756 8687 You can turn the worm on you matter

    A word of advice DO NOT TRUST Eddy Greenspan nor any other lawyer You
    being a former judge I should not need to explain. The documents found with within the folllowing and the pdf hereto attached will prove to you that I am as serious as a heart attack. Mulroney has offended me far more than he has done you.

    Veritas Vincit
    David Raymond Amos

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: David Amos
    Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 22:15:41 -0300
    Subject: Lawyers arguing ethics? Now that is funny EH Wally's
    Cc: "", "wally.oppal.mla"

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: David Amos
    Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 15:44:38 -0300
    Subject: RE Iggy, Harper and the Oliphant Commission
    To:,, "Jack - M.P. Layton", "Duceppe. G"
    Cc: "Ignatieff. M", "",

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: "Brooks, Nancy"
    Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2009 13:26:05 -0500
    Subject: Please see the attached.


    Nancy Brooks
    Sr. Commission Counsel / Avocate principale de la Commission
    Oliphant Commission / La Commission Oliphant
    P.O. Box 2740, Station D / C.P. 2740, Succursale D
    Ottawa, Canada K1P 5W7
    Tel/Tél: (613) 943-0155
    Fax/ Télécopier: (613) 995-0785

    This e-mail communication is CONFIDENTIAL AND LEGALLY PRIVILEGED. If you are not the intended recipient, please notify me at the telephone number shown above or by return e-mail and delete this communication and any copy immediately. Thank you.

    L'information apparaissant dans ce message électronique est légalement
    PRIVILÉGIÉE ET CONFIDENTIELLE. Si ce message vous est parvenu par
    erreur, vous êtes en conséquence prié de nous aviser immédiatement par téléphone ou par courriel. De plus, veuillez détruire ce message
    immédiatement. Merci


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