Tory campaigner resigns over plagiarized speech
Tory campaigner resigns over plagiarized speech
Speech writer resigns from campaign after Liberals reveal much of a 2003 speech on Iraq by Harper was cribbed from then Australian prime minister John Howard
CARLY WEEKS AND JANE TABER
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
September 30, 2008 at 10:54 PM EDT
OTTAWA — Stephen Harper's 2003 speech urging Canada to join the U.S. assault on Iraq was plagiarized from one given by the Australian prime minister two days previously, and the man who wrote it resigned Tuesday as a researcher for the Conservative election campaign.
Owen Lippert said he was working in Mr. Harper's office when he was asked to write the speech for the then-opposition-leader to deliver in the House of Commons the day the United States began bombing Baghdad. Large chunks were taken from a speech given by then-prime-minister John Howard in the Australian Parliament two days earlier.
“Pressed for time, I was overzealous in copying segments of another world leader's speech,” Mr. Lippert said in a statement issued by the Conservative Party, five hours after the Tories accused the Liberals of “desperation” and “gotcha journalism” in revealing the plagiarism.
“Neither my superiors in the office of the leader of the opposition nor the leader of the opposition was aware that I had done so,” Mr. Lippert said. “I apologize to all involved and have resigned my position from the Conservative campaign.”
The similarities in the two speeches, delivered on March 18 and 20, 2003, were made public Tuesday during a speech in Toronto by Liberal MP Bob Rae. A Liberal strategist said the party discovered them almost by accident while doing research on the Internet two months ago.
The strategist said a junior staffer, who asked not to be identified, was doing a Google search on Mr. Harper, George W. Bush and the war in Iraq and came across a link to Mr. Howard's speech.
“A little bell went off – ‘I have heard that language before' – and the rest, as they say, is history,” the strategist said. The Liberals did not release the information until Tuesday because they were waiting to receive a videotape of Mr. Howard's speech from Australia, the strategist said.
“Initially, when all we had was the paper copies of the speeches, we would place them side by side, and sometimes you would actually not be able to tell whose speech was whose,” the strategist said.
Mr. Howard's office did not return calls seeking comment.
Mr. Rae said the copied speech is evidence that Canada is losing its own voice in foreign policy under the Conservatives. He said the country has become a parrot of right-wing interests from the United States and other foreign countries.
“How does a leader in Canada's Parliament, on such a crucial issue, end up giving almost the exact same speech as any other country's leader, let alone a leader who was a key member of George W. Bush's coalition of the willing?” Mr. Rae said.
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion also condemned the copied speech, saying Mr. Harper should be “expelled” from his party.
“He's unable to choose his own words,” Mr. Dion said. “Canadians want their country [to] speak with its own voice on the world stage.”
Mr. Harper's friend, Ken Boessenkool, was a senior policy adviser in charge of his speechwriting in 2003. Tuesday he denied any suggestion that the similarities in the speeches were the result of orders from Mr. Bush to keep his allies on the same page.
“We had a speech to give on the subject. We asked our researchers to prepare some materials. Some draft materials were presented to me,” said Mr. Boessenkool, who is now senior vice-president at Hill and Knowlton Canada. “The speech was what it was.”
He said the opposition leader's office had a very busy week when the plagiarism occurred, and that there was nothing more to it than Mr. Lippert's error in judgment.
“My recollection was it was a very busy week for speeches,” Mr. Boessenkool said. “I'm not excusing what happened, but these things do happen.”
Hansard, the official record of the House of Commons, shows Mr. Harper made only one speech in the House of Commons that week in addition to attending Question Period.
Mr. Lippert is an expert in intellectual property – a field that includes such things as patents, trademarks and copyrights. He took a leave of absence from his job as senior policy analyst for International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda to work in the Conservative “war room” in Ottawa.
After earning a Ph.D. in modern European history from the University of Notre Dame, he worked as managing editor for the Asia and World Institute in Taiwan, according to online biographies. He returned to Canada in 1984 to work as a caucus researcher for British Columbia's Social Credit government and then as a policy analyst for the premier's office until 1991.
He was Kim Campbell's press secretary when she was the federal justice minister and was an adviser to her campaign for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. He has also taught at Carleton University and the University of British Columbia, was a senior policy analyst at the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, and wrote editorials for The Globe and Mail for a short time in 1996.
Earlier Tuesday, Conservative spokesman Yaroslav Baran told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Rae's “attack” was evidence of Liberal desperation. A senior Conservative strategist dismissed the allegations of plagiarism as not being relevant and characterized them as “gotcha” journalism and why Liberals are now at “an all-time low in the polls.”
Many of the lines of Mr. Howard's speech were also used in editorials Mr. Harper submitted to newspapers such as the Toronto Star, National Post and Ottawa Citizen.