OTTAWA – The opposition is having a field day with the cheeky newspaper headlines splashed around the world about Maxime Bernier.
While Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured European capitals, his foes in the House of Commons on Thursday were reading headlines from Italian and British newspapers into the parliamentary record.
The foreign minister’s fall from grace has earned a front-page photograph in one Italian newspaper and another one carried the headline: Lovestruck Minister Loses his Head and Documents.
Harper happened to be in Rome when the papers hit the news-stands.
“Is this the reputation the prime minister had in mind when he said he wanted to put Canada back on the world stage?” asked Liberal MP Roger Cuzner
Back in Canada, Bernier’s ex-girlfriend was featured in a six-page interview in 7 Jours magazine – Quebec’s equivalent of People.
In the interview, Julie Couillard says she doesn’t believe Bernier ever loved her and that their relationship was like a business deal.
She also scoffed when asked whether she had dated Bernier for his money.
Couillard replied: “Everyone knows a minister makes $250,000 a year. What’s that, after taxes? $125,000, $130,000? I’m constantly with businessmen who make a lot of money. Ministers have no money.”
Even within Harper’s government, there are suspicions that the reason given for Bernier’s firing was merely an excuse to dump him.
One Conservative official calls the reason – that he forgot government documents at Couillard’s home – a handy pretext.
He says that if Harper had turfed him for being incompetent or for his ex-girlfriend’s ties to biker gangs, the prime minister would have had to shoulder a share of the failure.
But by pinning the cabinet departure on forgotten documents, he said, the blame belongs to Bernier alone.
Another senior government official mused that if it had been other ministers forgetting those documents, they would still be in office.
The official joked that plenty of briefing material has probably been left on Air Canada flights around the world.