Choose Your City
Change City

Video shows two faces of Stephen Harper: rivals

MONTREAL - Stephen Harper's rivals say his behind-closed-door musings about winning a majority, stamping out separatists and socialists, and keeping liberals out of the courts prove he's two-faced.

MONTREAL - Stephen Harper's rivals say his behind-closed-door musings about winning a majority, stamping out separatists and socialists, and keeping liberals out of the courts prove he's two-faced.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says videotaped comments that leaked out publicly Thursday show the true prime minister.

"There have always been two Harpers," Ignatieff told a news conference Thursday.

"The real Harper always comes out when he thinks he can't be heard."

He said the real Harper is disdainful of the social institutions Canadians hold dear, like the justice system, and disrespectful of other political parties.

Ignatieff also scoffed at the closed-door rallying cry for a majority. He said he's toured the country this summer and met jobless Canadians - who would "laugh in your face" if asked whether Harper deserves a majority.

He said it's no longer possible to work with a man so contemptuous of basic Canadian values, and reiterated his plan to bring down the Conservative government.

"(Harper's) already lost the confidence of the House once," Ignatieff said, referring to the attempted coalition takedown of the Tories last year. "He's about to lose it a second time."

For political reasons, Harper has for years avoided uttering his desire for a majority. But in a private partisan speech that has leaked out, he repeatedly discusses his desire to achieve one.

In the speech to fellow Tories, Harper also describes how their party has kept leftists from being appointed to public institutions - including the courts.

"Imagine how many left-wing ideologues they would be putting in the courts, federal institutions, agencies, the Senate? I should say, how many more, they would be putting in," Harper said.

The prime minister expressed pride in having killed off the Court Challenges Program - a government fund used by what he described as "left-wing fringe groups."

That fund, created by the Trudeau Liberals, helped fund court cases by women's groups, minority-language groups, gay-rights groups, and deaf people who demanded sign language in hospitals.

The Bloc says it's particularly bothered by the comment about the judiciary.

Leader Gilles Duceppe says, behind closed doors, Harper sounds like a member of the U.S. Republican party - and not even a mainstream one, but a member of its radical fringe.

The NDP called the remarks low politics that undermined Canada's justice system.

Despite the characterization of Harper as two-faced, none of those private musings actually contradict anything the prime minister has ever said publicly.

He has simply avoided discussing them.

Harper learned a hard lesson about the political risk of such talk toward the end of the 2006 election, as his poll numbers levelled off after he mused about how Liberal-appointed judges and bureaucrats would keep him from fully implementing a conservative agenda.

He has also been careful to avoid scaring off moderate voters by talking about a majority - fearing that some soft Tory and NDP supporters could make a desperation leap to the Liberals to block him.

But Harper was far chattier in the speech leaked Thursday.

"Let me be clear about this: We need to win a majority in the next election campaign," the prime minister said.

"I am not just saying that because we need a few more seats. We saw what happened last year. Do not be fooled for a moment. If we do not get a majority, the Liberals, the NDP, and the Bloc will combine and they will form a government.

"They will deny this 'til they're blue in the face in an election campaign but I guarantee it: If we do not win a majority this country will have a Liberal government propped up by the socialists and the separatists. . .

"This country cannot afford a government like that. If they force us to the polls, if they get together and force us to the polls, we have to teach them a lesson and get back their with a majority to make sure their little coalition never happens."

Ignatieff ducked questions about the substance of Harper's accusation.

When asked about forming a coalition, Ignatieff simply noted that he killed the one the opposition parties had formed last year.

When asked again whether he was amenable to an informal governing arrangement with the other parties, Ignatieff sidestepped the question.

When asked whether he would agree with Harper to kill off public subsidies for political parties - the issue that triggered the coalition in the first place - he offered no commitment.

You Might Also Like