It seems that Harper did indeed discuss a coalition with the Bloc in 2004, according to a Tweet by Duceppe, but the three men who met in the hotel to talk about the Conservatives lead by now lame duck prime minister Harper on other occasions have said there was no talk of a coalition as such.
Coyne writes that:
But what of the Conservatives? Weren’t they proposing a coalition themselves, via that notorious 2004 letter to the Governor General? No.
While it’s abundantly clear that Harper was ready to replace Paul Martin as prime minister under exactly the circumstances he now denounces — making him not just wrong but hypocritical — it is equally clear he was not proposing to form a coalition.
The letter makes no mention of it. All three leaders denied it at the time. And all three have continued to deny it to this day: asked about it at his morning press conference, Duceppe protested he did not want “to invent things.” (Duceppe later tweeted that Harper “talked about” a coalition in their meeting, but has not clarified what this means. Did he propose one? Then why was no such coalition proposed in the letter?)
Harper’s readiness to form a government, with the support of the other two parties, in 2004 does not mean he was plotting a coalition, for the same reason that Ignatieff can promise one without the other now: cooperation is not the same as coalition.
Given Duceppe's Twitter recantation, could somebody ask Jack Layton and Giles Duceppe to clarify exactly what was discussed with Harper in that hotel room?
Coyne is wrong to characterize it as a "hypocrisy" problem for Harper; it is more a credibility problem than a hypocrisy problem.
Is Harper lying when he says he never ever used the word coalition when talking to Jack Layton and to Giles Duceppe in 2004 when he was planning to sink the minority Liberal government?
After all, the Liberal Party had ended up with far more seats than the Conservatives had, but this did not seem to factor into Harper's considerations at all, unlike his squeals of outrage today about exactly that same issue.
It would be helpful to have full and clear answers:
- who met with whom,
- where did they meet,
- when did they meet,
- how often did they meet,
- who arranged the meetings,
- who attended the meetings,
- what exactly was said,
- were there any notes taken,
- were minutes taken,
- was a tape recording made,
- who booked the hotel room(s).
- were any letters exchanged,
- who wrote the first draft of the letter to the Governor General putting her on notice that the Harper Conservatives wanted to take a stab at power if the minority Liberal government fell,
- do they have copies of the drafts,
- were legal firms involved in the drafting,
- was legal advice sought by any of the three men,
- were any civil servants involved in any way,
- did anyone speak to the GG,
- were plans made as to how to unseat the Liberal government,
- what exactly did Harper offer to the NDP and the Bloc – the quid pro quo - to put in a Conservative Throne Speech if the Tories took over from the Liberals, and
- anything else that might be useful to Canadians given Harpers strange views of constitutional law.
It would be much better if voters got some clarification rather than having Harper go through a Mulroney type of response (if you ask precise question I will give an answer, otherwise ...)
We already have Duceppe saying clearly that Stephen Harper is lying about the coalition meetings. This is a serious charge against a sitting prime minister, and Canadians do have a right to find out exact details of what took place.
It does go to the credibility of Duceppe, Layton and Harper.
If Harper is lying, should Canadians trust him with governing Canada again? If Harper is telling the truth, what does that say about Duceppe?