Hey Pot, Kettle’s on Line 1

Published on November 23, 2013

There are some curious things on the Internet right now — like the following quote attributed to Stephen Harper, when he was in opposition, talking about the results of the Gomery inquiry into the Liberal Adscam scandal: “At worst, (Jean Chrétien) personally ordered it done and chose the people who executed the plan. At the very least, he fostered an attitude within the party … chose the managers of the people who committed these crimes and completely and utterly failed to exercise any oversight, supervision or leadership.

“In the end, it doesn’t really matter where (his) actions or lack of them fall on that scale. He is the leader and a leader is responsible for the actions of the people he leads. If he had a right or honourable bone in his body, he’d admit that and resign immediately.”

The quote is cropping up in web comments and letters to the editor, was even paraphrased in the House of Commons, and is being used to suggest that Harper should resign over the current scandal in the Prime Minister’s Office over money paid to Senator Mike Duffy and the fallout from that coverup.

There’s even a version of it floating around on YouTube, complete with Harper’s face, but with someone else mouthing the words. It’s hard to find any real record of it being said: the closest you can come is a dead end, weblinks that take you back to a Conservative Party of Canada website where the “requested content” — Harper’s response to Gomery — has been deleted.

It gets stranger. No one using the quote ever gives a precise citation.

It may well read like something Harper would say, but in the absence of proof, it’s hard to hold the prime minister to a standard he might not have set.

Then again, Hansard, the official record of the House of Commons, keeps its own thorough records, so perhaps we could substitute this little chestnut  from Feb. 10, 2005: “Mr. Speaker, two Liberal prime ministers have appeared before the Gomery inquiry and their lines are, ‘We authorized the programs and we take all the credit, but we didn’t know anything about what happened and we accept no responsibility. Do the Liberals really expect Canadians to buy these lines from their prime minister?”

The Tory position now is that scores of people in the Prime Minister’s Office knew about plans to buy off Mike Duffy (there’s no other way to put it, really), spent days working under a prime minister who has regularly been described as a control freak well versed in the minutiae of his office’s operations, and that the prime minister was blissfully and constantly ignorant of the whole thing — even though internal emails talk about running the final deal “by the PM.”

How things change, and yet stay the same.

Do the Conservatives really expect Canadians to buy these lines from their prime minister? Apparently so.

After a scant few years in office, are politicians truly all the same, then?

Maybe the old saying really is true: governments, like diapers, need to be changed regularly — and for the same reason.