Keith Beardsley’s View From the Hill – Walking a Fine Line in Cotler Country – December 13, 2011

Keith Beardsley

CFN –Speaker Andrew Scheer has delivered his ruling on the Conservative Party’s attempts to undermine Irwin Cotler in his riding of Mont Royal. The ruling Scheer presented today referred to the organized telephone contact program conducted on behalf of the Conservatives in Cotler’s riding. The questions in this survey left the impression that Cotler might be leaving politics in the near future. This ruling certainly highlights the fine line between right and wrong in modern Canadian politics.

The problem with this type of ruling is that they are very narrow and focus on legal interpretations and precedents as opposed to common sense.  The Speaker is left little room to manouvre and this was noted by the Speaker himself when he stated “the Speaker’s powers in these matters are limited, as my predecessors have repeatedly stated.”

Common sense tells Canadians that what the Conservatives did was wrong. Common sense says that they had an opportunity to admit the wrong and move on, but they blew that opportunity.

No one except perhaps Peter Van loan believes the Conservative defensive talk point that this is about free speech.

There isn’t much in this story that would allow one to link this campaign directly back to the Prime Minister’s Office, or even the Conservative Research Group, as Scheer noted that “… it does not matter that the resources of the House of Commons itself were not used to carry out this particular campaign.”

I can’t see any staff member in PMO signing off on something like this as part of your job is to protect the interests of the Prime Minister. Getting involved in a risky activity which common sense should tell you could blow up in your face would be a career limiting move and certainly expose the Prime Minister to attack.

Were the questions torqued or asked incorrectly by those making the calls? We don’t know the answer to that point as the Conservatives but up their usual stone wall defense.

Interesting questions will remain unanswered such as what was their sign off procedure for this polling? Who gave the order to carry it out? Who wrote the questions? My experience with polling companies is limited but I have found they don’t make up questions on their own, but either use those supplied by the client or work to come up with a question that their client agrees too.

 When this story broke the Conservative’s had three options.

  1. Admit someone did it without authorization and throw that person under the bus.
  2. Admit someone did it and that it was wrong and a dumb thing to do.
  3. Stand and defend the undefendable

Needless to say they chose number three and a story that might have been over fairly quickly has dragged on for weeks now. And with each passing week the Conservatives look worse in the public eye and voters have another reason to be more cynical about Canadian politics.

While today’s ruling means that the Conservatives didn’t break the rules of the House of Commons, perhaps Speaker Scheer said it best when he stated:

I am sure that all reasonable people would agree that attempting to sow confusion in the minds of voters as to whether or not their Member is about to resign is a reprehensible tactic…”

Cornwall Lighting


  1. Surprise, surprise! Our “law-and-order” government says it wants to protect society from bad people. At the same time, it’s into spreading lies about good people, justifying the practice as freedom of speech.

  2. What I don’t get is why, with their majority, the Reformatories still can’t resist engaging in low-life dirty tricks.
    It must be in their genes.

  3. It’s top down, Furtz. They are following the lead of a bully, at the very moment when school children are taking action against bullying. So, while the clock is ticking on a four-year nightmare, hope is on the way.

  4. Four years from now, most of Harper’s detractors will be locked up in mega prisons. I’m pretty sure the plan is to pass legislation that would prevent the prison population, or anyone convicted of a crime from voting. Just like the good ol’ US of A…Land Of the Free. How come Harper has stopped saying “God Bless Canada”? Has he given up on God saving Canada, and is taking over that task himself? So many questions.

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