Former aide Tom Flanagan's comments about 2004 coalition undermine Stephen Harper's version
Stephen Harper's former chief of staff has suggested that the Conservative leader reached a "co-opposition accord" with other parties in 2004 with a view to possibly becoming prime minister without an election.
In an interview with the National Post, Tom Flanagan said this was a “perfectly legitimate exercise” to determine if there was “common ground for the Conservatives to undertake a minority government.”
The Liberals were clinging to power in a minority government then headed by Paul Martin.
At the time, Harper, NDP Leader Jack Layton, and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gille Duceppe signed a letter to then-governor general Adrienne Clarkson urging her to consider all options.
“I can’t see what other point there would have been in writing the letter except to remind everybody that it was possible to change the government in that set of circumstances without an election,” Flanagan told the National Post.
Then, the paper quoted him saying: “It could have been interpreted as a warning shot across the bow of Mr. Martin, but again, it’s not effective unless it’s alluding to a real possibility that this could happen.”
Harper has claimed during the current election campaign that he had no intention in 2004 of becoming prime minister without an election. Layton and Duceppe have ridiculed this assertion, with Duceppe going so far as to call Harper a liar.
The falling-out between Flanagan and Harper
Flanagan, a University of Calgary academic, and Harper used to be close friends and political allies.
However, author Lawrence Martin revealed in his 2010 book, Harperland: The Politics of Control, that this friendship ended after Harper's staff tried to stop Flanagan from writing a book called Harper's Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power.
Ironically, according to Harperland, Harper had fed Flanagan information about former Reform Party of Canada leader Preston Manning for an earlier book.
Eventually, Flanagan showed a draft of Harper's Team to the prime minister's office, which requested and received extensive revisions, including the removal of numerous anecdotes.
"But Harper was still angry—and his close and important relationship with Flanagan ended on account of it," Martin wrote. "Flanagan had little sympathy for Harper's thin-skinned attitude."
Flanagan is quoted in Harperland as saying: "The problem wasn't that I revealed anything that was harmful...just that I had written the book at all."
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