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Monday, July 14, 2008

Facts Behind Harper's Libel Action Get Murkier

The Cadman Affair is getting murkier as Prime Minister Harper puts more pressure behind his libel action against the Liberal Party of Canada. The latest audio expert from an FBI expert who dealt with the Nixon Watergate tapes and the Linda Tripp tapes around Clinton and Lewinsky. He can’t say if the tape recording of the Prime Minister was doctored.

Two earlier experts say it was edited. Another American expert concluded "with scientific certainty that this tape has been edited and doctored to misrepresent the event as it actually occurred.” Pretty bold statement and a very dramatic conclusion I’d say.

Tom Zytaruk, the author of a book on the Cadman Affair, and the person who recorded the interview with Prime Minister Harper has provided a plausible explanation. He said the tape was not edited but the recording was turned off when he believed the Harper interview was over. According to media reports the Prime Minister then continued to comment and the tape recording was started again by Zytaruk. Hardly and editing and doctoring designed “…to misrepresent the event as it actually occurred.”

Other contradictory allegations of fact are coming from Mr. Zytaruk and Mr. Cadman’s wife. What is adding to the murkiness of the facts is Mrs. Cadman apparently wants to run as a Conservative candidate in the next election for Mr. Harper. Will that have any impact on the weight a court will give to her version of the facts?

The libel action is also interesting because it is possibly a pure political and tactic device. Could this legal action be just another media strategy in the perpetual election campaign the Harper minority government has been conducting in the two and a half years since first elected? The Harper libel action against the Liberal Party is also easy MSM news fodder. It takes the media and public attention away from the more serious, significant and complex issue surrounding the Cadman Affair. It has the potential to push out media coverage on the Bernier-Coulliard Affair, the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair, the Conservative’s In-Out Campaign Advertising Affair, the Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation process, and ongoing concerns over the Air India Inquiry, the Maher Arar Affair and the Omar Khadr Affair, just to name a few.

I believe Canadians want to know what, if anything was offered to Mr. Cadman by the Prime Minister’s emissaries and what the Prime Minister actually knew about any such offer. What are the legal implications of such an offer, if it was made? What if the courts found there were such an offer and that it determined to be an attempt to “buy” Mr. Cadman’s critical vote. If this actually happened, is it influence peddling or vote buying? Where does this all this fit in relation to the provisions of the Criminal Code about such matters? Will the civil libel action get any answers to these questions?

CORRECTION: A READER (see comment by paulstuff) NOTED THE ORIGINAL POST WAS IN ERROR. I WAS CLAIMING THAT THE HARPER GOVERNMENT WAS ASKING MR. CADMAN TO VOTE TO BRING DOWN THE HARPER GOVERNMENT. THAT IS WRONG. THE REQUEST WAS ALLEGEDLY MADE TO MR. CADMAN TO SEEK HIS SUPPORT TO DEFEAT THE MARTIN BUDGET OF MAY 2005. MR. CADMAN SUPPORTED THE MARTIN BUDGET AND PASSED AWAY IN JULY 2005. MR. HARPER'S MINORITY GOVERNMENT WAS NOT ELECTED UNTIL JANUARY 2006. A GREAT SUMMARY OF MR. CADMAN'S LIFE IS ON WIKIPEDIA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Cadman

This libel action could go right to the personal integrity of the current Prime Minister and the integrity of the Office of the Prime Minister too. I think this all needs to be clarified for the sake of the Prime Minister’s reputation, and for the good of the country. Do we need to restore or retain the public’s confidence in the Office of the Prime Minister? Will this lawsuit afford Mr. Harper the opportunity to reassure the country of his continuing suitability to serve as our Prime Minister? I hope so.

Given the importance of these stakes to our democracy and our pubic confidence in our highest governing institutions, I welcome Mr. Harper’s libel action. I believe this libel action needs to go to court so we can determine the facts from testimony taken under oath and for a Judge to then weigh the veracity of the various parties involved. We need this libel action to be decided based on the rule of law not on the rule of raw politics or trial by media, as is currently the case.