The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On the nature of mouthpieces

Halfway through the election, and Stephen Harper has made his first serious misstep ... five years ago, and through no fault of his own.

Seems a largely unlistened-to speech by a then-Opposition leader in the House of Commons, arguing in 2003 that Canada ought to go to war with Iraq, was lifted almost verbatim from one given by John Howard, at that time the Australian prime minister.

Less than 24 hours after the allegations were first made by Bob Rae, Harper's former speechmaker Owen Lippert had resigned from the Conservative campaign. He will be lucky if he is ever able to work again as a speechwriter.

There this should end. The incident has made of Canada a bit of a laughingstock around the world, and we can do nothing about that now. However, to make more of this than has already hit the fan should also call the entire profession of speechwriting into question: not for its integrity, but to ask why politicians -- all politicians -- are so eager for words that they are willing to have others write those words for them.

Not that this would be altogether a bad thing ...

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