REGINA – Tom Lukiwski rocks back and forth in the camera frame while pontificating about the differences between alpha and beta males.
The camera operator fiddles with the zoom a bit to frame up the future Member of Parliament’s face. Lukiwski looks for the red light to make sure the tape is rolling. “Well, let me put it to you this way,” Lukiwski begins.
CAUTION: Note language may offend some readers
“There’s A’s and there’s B’s. The A’s are guys like me, the B’s are homosexual faggots with dirt on their fingernails that transmit diseases.”
Those comments, made more than 16 years ago at a booze-fuelled gathering of provincial Tory campaign hacks, came back to haunt the member for Regina-Lumsden-Lake-Centre Thursday.
The Saskatchewan NDP found the jaw-dropping tape when it moved into its Opposition offices after losing the provincial election last fall and released it Thursday for the whole world to see.
Reaction was swift. The apology was swifter.
“I just want to publicly say that I am truly, truly sorry. I’m ashamed for the comments,” Lukiwski told reporters in Ottawa. “If I could take those comments back, I would.”
The Conservatives stood by their man.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper kicked Lukiwski’s predecessor, Larry Spencer, out of the Canadian Alliance caucus in 2003 for saying homosexuality should be illegal. Lukiwski’s comments about gay people spreading disease failed to prompt a similar rebuke.
“We believe that Mr. Lukiwski has made an unequivocal apology for those comments and indicated clearly that he does not hold those views,” Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said in a telephone interview. “We welcome that quick and unequivocal apology and consider the matter is now closed.”
But there’s little chance it will go away.
The tape was so shocking because of the number of people acting like fools on it.
It appears it was made during the 1991 provincial election campaign at the Progressive Conservative campaign headquarters. Lukiwski was a campaign organizer at the time.
The camera moves around the room and various people are asked for their thoughts on the campaign debate.
A young Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is on the tape. So is his wife Tami.
Wall now leads the Saskatchewan Party, an alliance of provincial Liberals and Tories that formed in the late 1990s, but at the time was a ministerial assistant for the PC party.
He is seen on the tape participating in a mock interview. His current executive director of communications, Kathy Young, is holding a paper cup like a microphone.
Wall takes aim at Roy Romanow, who was leader of the Saskatchewan NDP, imitating a farmer with a thick Eastern European accent. Romanow is of Ukrainian heritage.
“Roy Romanow’s got his head up his ass,” Wall says. “I don’t even know how he walks upright with his head so far up his ass.”
A little later on Tami is asked by the camera operator to undo a button on her shirt. She doesn’t but she playfully pulls Wall’s top button open.
At another point Wall does a rap imitating the voice of Ronald Reagan.
“Well, I’m the big gipper, don’t mess with me,” he sings. “I’m the baddest rapper this side of DC with my best girl Nancy as my spouse rapping to you from that big white house.”
Wall offered an apology as well Thursday. He explained that he was only imitating one of his friend’s uncles and was in no way trying offend Ukrainians.
“It just never was then and neither would it every be in any way an attempt to slight any group. It just wouldn’t and it wasn’t, ” Wall said.
“However if anyone would take it in that way at all – take any offence in this way at all to that – I would unequivocally apologize to those groups, especially with respect to the remarks I made.”
Then-senator Eric Berntson makes an appearance on the tape. He’s the only one that seems to question the toxic nature of the subject matter.
“Well, number 1, I’m not Senator Berntson,” he says when addressed as such. “I’m an anonymous guy that doesn’t know anything about any of this stuff.”
Lukiwski’s comments are not the only offensive ones.
Young, who also apologized Thursday, is involved in a joke about sending a letter bomb to a union leader.
“Clearly we were just joking and kidding around,” Young said.
Another unidentified person takes a offensive shot at Romanow and then Liberal leader Lynda Haverstock when asked for his opinions on the campaign debate.
“I predict that Grant Devine will smash the living dog shit out of that spineless political playboy and kick the balls right off of that hard-headed slut Lynda,” the man says.
Romanow had the reputation of being a smooth talker and sharp dresser, while Haverstock was the first woman to ever lead a political party in Saskatchewan.
Federal Opposition members called for Lukiwski’s head.
NDP leader Jack Layton suggested that the Spencer case sets the precedent for Lukiwski to be kicked out of the Conservative caucus.
“All I can say is that the comments were significantly inappropriate,” Layton said. “They really hurt a lot of people and I believe that public office holders have to take responsibility for these kind of remarks. And so does the political party that is, in which he holds his membership and his position.”
Saskatchewan Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said Lukiwski should at least be stripped of his parliamentary secretary status.
“Will the government House leader require the member to step aside today from his duties as parliamentary secretary until this matter can be properly investigated and resolved?” Goodale asked.
Gay rights activists also want Lukiwski gone.
“Quite frankly it’s dreadful,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada.
“It’s not enough. In his apology I don’t believe he said the word gay once. You know he didn’t apologize directly to our community, he apologized to his family, on behalf of his family. He regrets making the comments because he was caught, so it definitely is not enough.”
Michelle Wiwchar, a long-time volunteer at the University of Saskatchewan Student’s Union Pride Centre in Saskatoon, says people are disgusted by the comments.
“The point is that comments like that are not funny,” she said. “They’re not funny and they certainly expose a lot of stereotypes that are still alive and well and not necessarily true.”
The provincial Tories ended up being swept form power by the NDP in 1991. In the ensuing year several caucus members and staff were convicted of fraud and the party was never able to recover politically.
Remarks by Saskatchewan premier and MP on videotape made 16 years ago THE CANADIAN PRESS
REGINA – A home-style videotape made by Saskatchewan Tories during a provincial election campaign more than 16 years ago has some controversial comments from MP Tom Lukiwski and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. Here are some excerpts from the 24-minute tape, which was released by the provincial NDP and features campaign staffers horsing around on camera:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We – we would like to ask you a question. You are actually quite – quite – how can I put this delicately?
TOM LUKIWSKI: Old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: F**king old, eh?
TOM LUKIWSKI: Well, as we say in tour, I may be old, but I’m f**king A, eh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And who is this A person?
TOM LUKIWSKI: Well, let me put it to you this way. There’s A’s and there’s B’s.
The A’s are guys like me, the B’s are homosexual faggots with dirt on their fingernails that transmit diseases. (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, quit talking about Jeff like that.
TOM LUKIWSKI: Well, John Bergen and I had a little discussion and I’d like to tell you that that it’s going to be in our campaign literature real soon, watch for it (INAUDIBLE).
NOTE: Lukiwski was a provincial Tory organizer at the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your comments on the debate tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I predict that (then premier) Grant Devine will smash the living dog shit out of the spineless political playboy and kick the balls right off that hard-headed slut Lynda (then provincial Liberal leader Lynda Haverstock).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss, Miss? Miss, what do you have to say about the debate tonight? Your prediction? Do you have something to say or no?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What, me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I’d like to know how you feel off the wall first of all and, yes, I think Grant Devine will do very well tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a prediction for the outcome of the election, ma’am? For the outcome of the election?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The outcome?
KATHY YOUNG: The Premier versus Haverstick (sic) and –
BRAD WALL: Let me tell you something. I watched that in – I watched that in Preeceville. I watched the debate and I’ll tell you this, I never – I never seen Grant Devine – I – I will never – I never voted for Grant Devine.
KATHY YOUNG: Why not?
BRAD WALL: I never voted for him, but I …
KATHY YOUNG: Why not?
BRAD WALL: Before. I see him on TV tonight after Helen fixed me dinner and I tell you I like Grant Devine. Roy Romanow (then Saskatchewan NDP leader) got his head up his ass. I don’t even know how he walks upright with his head so far up his ass and I’ll you …
NOTE: Brad Wall was in his mid 20s and was a ministerial assistant for the PCs party at the time. Kathy Young now is the Saskatchewan Party government’s executive director of communications.