Not a lie, just untrue

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Tuesday night, Canada’s federal government voted to put political expediency ahead of honesty.
In many ways, it was a tempest in a teapot, but like many teapot tempests, it can certainly make you stop for a moment and ask if a government is willing to so obviously bend the truth for an almost-meaningless end, what else are they willing to bend?

At issue are the comments of Brad Butt, a

Conservative MP representing Mississauga-Streetsview in Ontario during debate on the

federal government’s controversial new election legislation.

Here’s what Butt said in the House of Commons on Feb. 6: “I am from a semi-urban area of Mississauga, where there are many high-rise apartment buildings. On mail delivery day when the voter cards are delivered to community mailboxes in apartment buildings, many of them are discarded in the garbage can or the blue box. I have actually witnessed other people picking up the voter cards, going to the campaign office of whatever candidate they support and handing out these voter cards to other individuals, who then walk into voting stations with friends who vouch for them with no ID.”

It’s pretty clear.

It also didn’t happen.

Here’s Butt again, on Feb. 24: “Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to debate that took place on Feb. 6 in this House regarding the fair elections act. I made a statement in the House during the debate that is not accurate. I just want to reflect the fact that I have not personally witnessed individuals retrieving voter notification cards from the garbage cans or from the mailbox areas of apartment buildings. I have not personally witnessed that activity and want the record to properly show that.”

The NDP complained to the Speaker of the House of Commons, saying Butt lied to the House. The Speaker found there was a case to be made — but when the NDP asked to have Butt come before a parliamentary committee to explain, the Conservatives used their majority to vote down the move, essentially ending the issue.

As Conservative Peter Van Loan said in the House, “We know what the facts are. They are quite simple. It is time to move on.”

Butt says his, well, misstatement was all part of the cut-and-thrust of debate: “I absolutely did not lie to the House, I absolutely did not intend in any way to mislead the House. … I made the statement during the banter that we all have.”

In fact, he made the statement during ordinary debate as part of a structured question to a Conservative minister — a statement that ended with, “Does the minister not believe this kind of thing will get cleaned up properly with this bill?”

The Conservatives have certainly voted themselves and Mr. Butt out of a potentially embarrassing political situation.

You can, of course, vote that lies are truth and, presumably, you can even try to keep a straight face while you’re doing it.

But it does nothing to improve Canadians’ already-tarnished view of federal politicians.

Organizations: House of Commons, NDP, Conservatives

Geographic location: Ontario, Mississauga

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Recent comments

  • Don II
    March 06, 2014 - 12:37

    It appears that it is easier for a Camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a politician to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! What a sad commentary that is.

  • saelcove
    March 06, 2014 - 10:27

    I would be willing to bet it happens, elections in this country have become nothing more than scams on tax payers

  • Geri
    March 06, 2014 - 10:20

    What is with these poiticians who don't know how to accept responsibility for what they say....makes me sick...I have absolutely no respect for any of them.....they're necessary evils.

  • david
    March 06, 2014 - 09:09

    In the blind hatred of "everything Harper", does on one here have enough blood reaching their brains to remember MP Hedy Fry's cries during question period in March, 2001 that "crosses are burning on lawns in Prince George, BC. as we speak" ?!? No evidence of this had ever been given and, when asked to justify her claim, she stated that the mayor of Prince George had informed her of this. When asked, the mayor denied having said such a thing. Hmmmm.....pretty much the exact carbon copy issue as this, no? She's STILL an MP, by the way.....13 years later and 20 years punched towards her gigantic pension. It must be nice for the 7 Newfoundland MPs to watch people here so willingly 'spin' themselves......it frees up tons of time for other "work".

    • Ivy
      March 06, 2014 - 10:20

      I thought that this was a progressive government David, yet when you try to defend the indefensible you regress by 13 years to try to make two wrongs a right, a defence mechanism used by politicians to deflect from the issue at hand.

    • VOR
      March 06, 2014 - 10:26

      For sure!! The Harper government is a beacon of ethics and democracy. I guess that's why he was found in contempt of parliament, why he chose to prorogue parliament instead of allow it to perform democratically, why his party plead guilty to breaking the election act, why he sabotaged environmental protection by hiding it in omnibus bills... need I go on?

    • Chantal
      March 06, 2014 - 13:37

      THIS is the best you can come up with as an example of a "scandal?" Really??? A thirteen -year-old offhand remark? You Conservative lackeys are so up to your necks in scandal, subterfuge, and outright lying, it must be difficult to see the ground from atop Bull S#%t Mountain. I guess the air must be getting thin.

    • david
      March 06, 2014 - 14:03

      You party lackies are so dim, you're incapable of being handed a simple truth without automatic venom.......Read slowly: they're all PRECISELY the same. Same $%&*, dfferent colored necktie. Read that however many times it takes...for crissakes.

    • Ivy
      March 06, 2014 - 20:26

      If you read your post slowly, you will see that you said "does anyone here have enough blood reaching their brains to............", indicating that anyone who had an opposing comment to your already insulting remark was dim, which makes your second comment repetitive.

    • david
      March 08, 2014 - 18:00

      Repetition has proven effective with slow-learners. ....Read that again.

  • Mary McKim
    March 06, 2014 - 07:45

    Maybe most people really aren't paying attention. Can there be any other reason why the Harper government keeps committing outrageous, anti-democratic, self-serving, country changing slight-of-hand and getting away with it? Meanwhile we are all so busy trying to keep it all together that we scurry along, heads down and we don't see what is happening to our country. We all need to re-read 1984… but who's got the time, eh?

    • W Bagg
      March 06, 2014 - 08:17

      This is why Harper keeps on doing these outrageous things. he can as long as only a small percentage of people vote or pay attention as you say. http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Columnists/2014-02-22/article-3623642/If-you%26rsquo%3Bre-a-non-voter%2C-you%26rsquo%3Bre-part-of-the-problem/1