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The PM's own memory eraser  

[PoliticsWatch updated 6:00 p.m. May 18, 2007]

OTTAWA  — On a campaign stop in Quebec City in the first days of the 2006 election, Stephen Harper complained about the Liberals refusal to take responsibility for the sponsorship scandal and their preference to portray themselves in their version of events as victims.  
  
"Their protestations remind us of Richard Pryor’s routine about the man caught in a compromising position: 'who are you going to believe – me or your lying eyes?'" Harper said

Fast forward to Thursday in Waterloo, Ontario. 
 
The prime minister took questions from reporters after making a major research funding announcement. 

In just one of his responses, the prime minister provided an explanation for Parliament's handling of the Shane Doan affair that could only be believable if he had one of those memory Neuralyzers from the Men In Black movies and had used it on the whole country. 
 
Either that or the prime minister is living in his own reality where when the facts become inconvenient there are no facts, just his interpretation of events.  

When asked about the gridlock in Commons committees, where his Conservative MPs were running filibusters at two committees as he spoke, the prime minister was quick to blame the opposition parties for causing all the problems.  

"The government has its own positions to defend," Harper said. 

"But as you know, we recently had the goofiness with the Shane Doan incident and I think our members at that point said this was an embarrassment to Canada, attacking the national hockey team, and in the future we're going to be much clearer about what we want to discuss." 

Harper's comment was more jaw dropping than Paul Martin's denial of having praised Jean Chretien in the Liberal caucus the day after Chretien performed his golf ball stunt at the Gomery inquiry.  

Martin's denial was in contradiction of what his own MPs told reporters about what transpired behind closed doors two months earlier. 

Although he did not explicitly deny their role, Harper was recasting the role his MPs played in events that had happened very publicly over three days two weeks ago. 

"Harper airbrushes out Tory participation in Shane Doan witch hunt," read the headline on the CP wire just a few hours later. 

While the Bloc put forward the motion to call the Hockey Canada officials before the Commons official languages committee to defend Doan's captaincy of Team Canada at the world championships in Moscow, everyone knows that all the Conservative MPs on the committee voted for the motion. 

Now, if someone wants to spin that the Tories were reluctant about turning the official languages committee into a kangaroo court, they can read the transcript of the May 1 meeting where MPs voted in favour of the motion. 

The Bloc motion requested Hockey Canada appear before the committee to defend Doan, who faced "serious allegations of making racist comments to French-speaking officials."

"I agree with the motion," said Tory MP Michael Chong. "I have no difficulty summoning representatives from Sport Canada to appear before the committee."

"I agree with the motion in principle," said Tory MP Luc Harvey. "I have one single concern. As Pierre said, Hockey Canada representatives could simply tell us that the matter is before the court and that they cannot answer our questions."

"We want to know how come, given the nature of the allegations, he can represent a Canadian team," said Tory MP Sylvie Boucher. "That is basically what we want to know."

Later Boucher said, "As francophones, we want to know why they chose Mr. Doan. We know there are some very serious allegations against him, but this is first and foremost a question of perception. It is often said that in business and in politics, perception is very important. What we have here is a perception of a lack of respect for the francophone community."

The other Tory MP on the committee, Pierre Lemieux, was the only one to express any reservations about politicians meddling in the selection of a hockey captain. 

"My concern is that we're a federal committee, dealing with important federal matters, and here we are jumping into the middle of a hockey decision over allegations that have not been proven yet," Lemieux said

But in the end, Lemieux joined the other MPs in supporting the motion.

With perhaps the exception of Lemieux, all three Conservatives on the committee were supportive of going ahead with what the prime minister calls "goofiness." Yet he uses something his own MPs were knee deep in as an excuse for heavy handed tactics at committees against the opposition parties. 

Before the Hockey Canada appearance and the national backlash, the Conservative MPs did not view "attacking the national hockey team," as the prime minister describes it, as a "national embarrassment." 

Now the Conservatives are using the Doan affair as a wedge to justify filabusters and spontaneous adjournments of committees. 

Conservative MPs said all week that the opposition parties are equally culpable in the problems at committees. 

Of course many reporters and the Liberals seem suspicious about the sudden erratic behaviour of government MPs. 

Those suspicions were confirmed when the National Post reported on Friday that it had obtained a 200-page binder given to committee chairs which was in a sense a training manual for how government MPs could control and self-destruct committees. 

This includes an order for committee chairs to adjourn disruptive committees with no debate. 

Tory trade committee chair Leon Benoit's sudden adjournment of a committee meeting and official languages committee chair Guy Lauzon  suddenly seem to make sense.

Their Academy Award nominations for most outraged Parliamentarians should be revoked.  

: Related Links

> Government MPs kill languages committee

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