Plagiarism allegations plague Harper

Published on Friday October 03, 2008
Martin O’Hanlon

OTTAWA–First it was embarrassing revelations of Aussie plagiarism. Now Stephen Harper is facing allegations of Canuck copying.

This time it’s for allegedly lifting part of a speech by former Ontario premier – and fellow Conservative – Mike Harris.

The Liberals sent out a news release Friday comparing lines from a speech Harris gave in December 2002 with an address by Harper in February 2003. Three sentences are nearly identical.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that large parts of a speech Harper gave as Opposition leader in 2003 – urging Canada to join the war in Iraq – were taken from an address by then-Australian prime minister John Howard.

That resulted in horrible headlines around the world, especially Down Under.

Speechwriter Owen Lippert was forced to resign after admitting he plagiarized Howard, but he insisted Harper knew nothing about it.

The scale of the alleged intellectual theft in the Harper-Harris case is much smaller. But, as many a journalist has learned, there’s no word limit on plagiarism.

In a speech to the Montreal Economic Institute on Dec. 4, 2002, Harris said, according to speaking notes:

“Thinking about things from a new and different perspective is never easy. It takes courage, conviction and the strength to know that in taking a new and innovative course, you are making change for the better. … Genuine leaders are the ones who do the right thing.”

Two months later, in an address to the House of Commons on Feb. 19, 2003, Harper said:

“Thinking about things from a new and different perspective is not about reading the polls and having focus group tests. It is never easy because it takes courage, conviction and the strength to know that taking a new and innovative course is going to make change for the better. Genuine leaders are the ones who do the right thing.”

In an ironic twist, Harper’s speech also praised Harris.

Liberal candidate David McGuinty said it’s an example of Harper’s “lack of intellectual honesty, of any original thought.”

“It’s time for the prime minister to take responsibility for his repeated plagiarism, for passing off the thoughts and words of others as his own. Or perhaps he’ll simply find another junior speech writer to fire.”

Conservative spokesman Dan Dugas dismissed the matter as an attempt by the Liberals to “deflect attention from their lack of an economic plan.”

“It’s a stretch to say it’s the same as the Howard speech, which concerned us and which we took seriously,” he said.

“Here, they’ve identified 44 words out of a 4,956-word speech that are similar – not identical – to a speech by another conservative.”

However, Dugas refused to say who wrote the speech.

The Conservatives also initially tried to brush off the controversy over the Howard plagiarism, but were forced to do an abrupt about-face and announce Lippert’s resignation.


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