Thursday, March 13, 2008

Harper Sues the Liberals

During question period on Wednesday, an opposition MP mused that Stephen Harper lives in the "libel belt" - a reference to Harper's threats to sue the Liberals over statements they've published about him on their site about the Cadman scandal.

Today, Harper filed that lawsuit and contended in the house that the Liberals had been relying on an "edited and incomplete statement" - referring to the taped conversation that has been released to the media:

"The insurance policy for a million dollars, do you know anything about that?" Zytaruk asks.

"I don't know the details. I know that there were discussions," Harper replies on the tape. "This is not for publication?"

"This will be for the book, not for the newspaper," answers Zytaruk, who works for a Surrey newspaper.

Harper goes on to explain on the tape that the offer to Cadman was "only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election." He adds that the offer was carried out by people who were "legitimately representing the party."

He also tells Zytaruk that he knew there was little chance Cadman would agree.

"They wanted to do it, but I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind," Harper said.

The Conservatives have alleged, as Harper did again today, that the tape was tampered with. How Harper plans to prove that accusation remains to be seen. At the same time, if the tape has been edited, it seems Harper would have to prove that the Liberals who spoke out knew that it had been - thus knowingly making false statements about him. Furthermore, Harper seems to undermine his own statements about the tape which he's said doesn't prove anything. He's obviously grasping at straws.

Meanwhile, Harper has not extended his suit to include Cadman's widow Dona, his daughter and son-in-law or the author of the book that spawned this controversy. Why not? Simple - this is a purely political attack against the Liberals.

At the same time, according to the G&M:

Wednesday a parliamentary committee collapsed into chaos as Conservatives thwarted a bid to launch an investigation into what Tory Party officials offered to Mr. Cadman.

It was the second time in less than a week that the work of a House of Commons committee has ground to a halt over testimony that could prove politically damaging to the minority government of Mr. Harper.

For the second straight day, Art Hanger, the chairman of the justice committee, walked out of a meeting rather than entertain a Liberal motion that his committee examine the issues surrounding allegations that offers were made to Mr. Cadman in exchange for his vote against a Liberal budget in the spring of 2005.

There are just four Conservative members on the justice committee, plus Mr. Hanger who cannot vote unless there is a tie. So, even though New Democrat MP Joe Comartin was prepared to side with the Conservatives, the four Liberal MPs and two Bloc Québécois MPs would have combined to win the vote.

The chaos at the justice committee comes a week after the Commons procedure and House affairs committee ceased to function after a seven-month filibuster by Conservatives.

On Thursday, Hanger said the Liberals "should be ashamed" for bringing the motion forward to the committee. Justice, it appears, is a shameful thing. Hanger has obviously read his party's manual on how to make parliamentary committees as dysfunctional as possible. If Harper had Medals of Freedom to hand out like his buddy Bush, Hanger would be next in line.

However this lawsuit shakes out in the end, one can't help but be reminded right now about another (former) PM suing for libel - Brian Mulroney. And that case, as we are now learning, appears to have been a colossal waste of taxpayer's money spent to appease one man's ego. I doubt this suit will turn out much differently.

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