Such a fuss – especially at the Toronto Star – over Stephen Harper’s perceived failure to show sufficient deference to Premier Pinocchio (or, as my former boss used to call him, “s***head”). And the nerve of Harper – appearing at the Ontario PCs’ major fundraising dinner to endorse John Tory!
The opposition and some media outlets are playing along, forgetting that McGuinty has no lessons in courtesy to teach anyone, having himself walked out of a recent premiers’ meeting a day early.
Liberal leadership candidates – glad for the opportunity to talk about something other than their party’s record and the Conservatives’ lead in Quebec – are happily piling on. When I hear erstwhile New Democrat Bob Rae – the highlight of whose political career was moving the non-confidence motions that brought down the Clark and Miller governments – accuse Harper of “injecting a totally partisan approach to the entire enterprise of being prime minister” . . . Well, I don’t whether to laugh or cry.
Anyhow, as is often the case, the current brouhaha is in dire need of some context, other than reporters’ top-of-head claims that Harper’s conduct is unprecedented. While the details may be, the substance is not.
Andrew Spencer of Calgary helpfully supplied some context in a letter published in the Star yesterday, noting that “On Jan. 18, going into the final days before the election, Dalton McGuinty told reporters: “I continue to believe that Prime Minister Paul Martin is the best choice for the people of Ontario." He also actively campaigned for his brother, David McGuinty, a Liberal candidate for the federal riding of Ottawa South.”
Here’s another example. In September of 2003, Liberal backbencher Paul Martin was the Prime Minister in waiting, his elevation to leader of the Liberal party the following November a mere formality.
With no portfolio and no leadership foes left to crush, Martin was free to insert himself in the Ontario election Premier Ernie Eves had called for October 2, 2003. He did so by making a highly publicized visit to the riding of St. Paul’s to endorse Liberal MPP Michael Bryant. I don’t have access to any databases at the moment to confirm the details, but I recall Martin endorsing Bryant with the phrase “this is my team” (meaning all Liberals and therefore the Ontario Liberals).
Eves was a sitting premier, and Martin was, for all intents and purposes, a prime minister elect. Yet Martin’s campaigning, as I recall, did not inspire any public whinging from Eves, even though as finance ministers, Martin and Eves had enjoyed a cordial relationship. And Bryant had defeated Eves’ “life partner” – former Harris cabinet minister Isabel Bassett – in St. Paul’s in the 1999 general election.