Harper revs up damage control
|THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO|
Maxime Bernier arrives to be sworn in as foreign affairs minister last August accompanied by Julie Couillard.
There was quite the scramble here in the last half hour, when we learned that Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted to pronounce himself on the controversy over Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier and his ex-girlfriend, Julie Couillard, who has also dated Hells Angels bikers.
Apparently, Harper wanted to make this rare foray before the microphones to label the opposition leaders as "gossipy, old busybodies." Seriously.
So we can all stand down. Though it's known that Bernier was warned only a few weeks ago that he'd be out of cabinet after one more gaffe like this, he's lived to fight another day.
I'm betting that Harper wanted to utter the "busybodies" line himself in Question Period, which starts in about a half hour, but he doesn't want to field the Bernier questions on national TV. The Prime Minister tends to only get on his feet to reply to questions from opposition leaders, and sometimes not even then.
A Conservative told me this week that Harper likes to supply attack lines to cabinet ministers and has been known to chide them after Question Period if they miss an obvious opening to slam a Liberal.
Update: I wonder if Harper feared he was being a "gossipy, old busybody" or not minding his own business when he had this to say about the defection of Belinda Stronach to the Liberals in May 2005?
"I think Peter is taking this pretty hard, as you could imagine," Harper said.
"If she has such a high opinion of Peter MacKay, I would venture today after my discussion with him, she has an awfully tough way of conveying that to him."
(For those who have amnesia or were perhaps travelling in the space shuttle at the time, Harper was tut-tutting over how Stronach broke the heart of her then-boyfriend, Peter MacKay, when she left the Conservative party.)