Tory strategist plagiarism ‘scapegoat,’ say NDP, Liberals

The Edmonton Journal October 1, 2008

OTTAWA – The Liberals and NDP said the Conservative staffer who resigned Tuesday for plagiarizing parts of Stephen Harper’s 2003 parliamentary speech on the Iraq war was a “scapegoat” for the prime minister.

Owen Lippert, a Conservative war room strategist, abruptly resigned Tuesday afternoon, three hours after a senior Harper strategist in a conference call with dozens of journalists about the matter branded the issue a desperate attempt by the Liberals to deflect attention from a sagging campaign.

The Conservatives later dispatched a former member of Harper’s old Canadian Alliance opposition leader’s office, Ken Boessenkool, to tell journalists that neither he nor Harper had any idea Lippert had lifted parts of his March 20, 2003, speech to Parliament from a similar address by then-prime minister of Australia John Howard two days earlier.

Harper’s speech supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which began that day, contrasting with then-prime minister Jean Chretien, who refused to support it.

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae started Tuesday’s chain of events in a speech that heralded Chretien’s decision and showing a split-screen video that played parts of Harper’s and Howard’s addresses that used identical language.

“It wasn’t Mr. Harper’s speech. It was a speech of former Australian prime minister John Howard that Mr. Howard delivered two days earlier,” Rae told his Toronto audience. “How can Canadians trust anything that Mr. Harper says now?”

The plagiarism allegation made front-page news in Australia on Wednesday after being picked up on CNN in the United States, something Rae said likely led the Conservatives to point the finger at Lippert. “The speed with which they found a sacrificial lamb is almost amazing,” Rae told Canwest News Service.

The Conservatives released a statement in which Lippert said he was “pressed for time,” and “overzealous in copying segments of another world leader’s speech.”

Lippert, who holds a PhD in European history, worked at the Fraser Institute, a right-wing economic think-tank, where he wrote research papers and books, including one on intellectual property, directly related to the question of plagiarism.
© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.


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