National Column: Tongue-tied and twisted: The year in verbal gaffes

by Tim Harper Toronto Star

Well, we’ve all done it.

We’ve said something we immediately regret, or didn’t mean. Or we twist ourselves in pretzels to avoid saying something.

Our political world was, again, full of “I said what?” moments again in 2015.

Here are some the best (or worst), in chronological order:

March 7: “It makes no sense to pay ‘whities’ to stay home while we bring in brown people to work in these jobs.”

Former Conservative MP and Stephen Harper’s communications director John Williamson catches delegates to the Manning Conference off guard with his [remarks about] the temporary foreign workers program.

April 23: “I know that math is difficult.”

With six words, Progressive Conservative Jim Prentice managed to sound condescending, sexist and entitled in his put-down to Rachel Notley in the Alberta leaders debate.

Prentice may have been talking about a budget error the NDP had to correct in the days before the debate, but that message was lost. Prentice was already losing to the New Democrat when he opened his mouth, but those words sealed the deal and Notley went on to a historic majority.

Aug. 4: “I think that if he comes on stage with his pants on, he will probably exceed expectations.”

Conservative campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke managed to lower expectations of Justin Trudeau’s debate performances, all right, just in time to have Trudeau not only remember his pants but hold his own in that first debate.

Trudeau’s performances got stronger as the campaign continued and the Conservative strategy of lengthening the campaign and giving Trudeau five debates helped the Liberal leader come from third place to a majority prime minister.

Aug. 20: “You’re making an issue out of Duffy; he’s a nothing.
Harper has produced good government . . . I think you’re a piece of lying s— and
your media with you . . . go stuff yourself.”

In one anti-media diatribe at a Stephen Harper rally, supporter Earl Cowan cements the perception that the Conservative campaign is built on the backs of cranky old white guys.

He gets bonus points for accusing journalists he had never met of cheating on their tax returns.

Sept. 2: “You want to avoid the fact that the biggest conflict, and the biggest humanitarian crisis of our times, has been there for two years, and you and others have not put it in the headlines where it deserves to be.”

Then Immigration Minister Chris Alexander melts down in a CBC interview with Rosemary Barton, reminding politicians everywhere that blaming the messenger is rarely a winning strategy, especially when done on live television. Bonus points on this one, as well. He was also wrong.

Sept. 16: “Son of a bitch . . . you f—ing prick.”

NDP MP Pat Martin gets down and dirty in response to Green candidate Don Woodstock at a Winnipeg Centre all-candidates meeting.

Voters didn’t get Martin’s point. Three weeks later, they elected Liberal Robert-Falcon Ouellette, ending Martin’s 18-year tenure as MP for the riding.

Sept. 28: “I leave the pomp to you, Justin.”

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair publicly unmasks his contempt for Trudeau at the Munk Debate on foreign policy, three weeks before the Liberal leader eats his lunch at the federal ballot box.

Oct. 17: “Our Conservative campaign from one end of the country to another, including the great area of Etobicoke which I grew up in as a teenager, is about making sure we keep our economy on track by lowering taxes, balancing (the) budget, keeping our spending under control, helping families and that’s what we’re going to be doing from now on.”

Stephen Harper goes to extreme lengths to avoid mentioning Rob and Doug Ford before attending their pre-election rally. Rob Ford blows that out of the water with a tweet after the event: “Thank you @pmharper it was great to see you tonight & thanks to the thousands of people who came.”

Dec. 16: “It’s become part of the legend. What are you going to do? Put out a press release every second day, saying, ëNo, I never wanted to be a senator?’ ”

Mike Duffy in testimony at his trial, denies he ever wanted an appointment to the Senate.


Oh, and one more:

May 19: “For the first time since Trudeau was chosen as party leader two years ago, the change
candidate now appears to be Mulcair.”

Me, a little too fast on the trigger at the Star decision desk.

Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Twitter: @nutgraf1

Copyright: 2015 – Torstar Syndication Services

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