Friday, February 13, 2009

Profiles in courage

Your Conservative party in action, ladies and gentlemen: "Tories maintain Cadman tape was doctored."
The Conservatives are repeating allegations that a B.C. journalist doctored a tape of Stephen Harper talking about the Cadman affair – but only in places where they are protected from lawsuits.

MP Pierre Poilievre, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, slipped out of the Commons by the back door Friday morning rather than take up the NDP's challenge that he repeat the claims outside the chamber. MPs cannot be sued for what they say in the Commons, but outside the door of the House, they have no special protection.

By the afternoon, The Canadian press reported that the journalist in question, Tom Zytaruk, was considering legal action nonetheless.
I don't think Mr. Zytaruk needs new public statements from the Conservatives. There are enough that have been made to date. Harper has claimed that the tape was doctored, in public, on the eve of the October election. And James Moore rather famously made the allegations that the tape was doctored in public. Look at the shiny blue backdrop:

If there's a lawsuit from Mr. Zytaruk, and it's not clear there will be, I'm sure the Moore press conference will feature prominently. That "fabricated soundbite" part of the sign in Moore's picture in particular is problematic in light of the expert reports that confirm that Harper's key words were intact, not altered on that tape. The "Doctored a number of times" allegation could also be a problem.

However, while it's true that the audio experts hired, including Harper's, have confirmed that the key audio on which Harper is heard mentioning financial considerations being offered to Cadman is intact, at least one expert did say this:
He also said the last minute or so was an over-recording of a subsequent exchange between Harper and Zytaruk.

"Even though it can be argued that several sections can be considered complete in and of themselves, and hence the evidence they contain accepted as reliable, those parts that are missing could include information that counters such inferences," Hollien stated. (emphasis added)
CP link for that quote, here. That "inconclusive" report would have to be weighed in to a potential claim against the Conservatives. It wasn't filed, just leaked by Harper's team. And clearly, the weight of the view of the experts was that the key part of the audio was not "doctored."

As a matter of political optics though, the typical brutal yet cowardly Conservative tactics of using whoever is handy to help them maintain a given storyline continues. If settling this case was supposed to make the damaging Cadman allegations go away and move them on to some higher ground, not working so far.

Update: Zytaruk's column today (h/t BCer).

Update II (7:15 p.m.): Canadian Press updates their reporting today to include Harper's public comments about the tape being ""significantly doctored - and that's a fact."