Despite an increasing body of evidence indicating that there is no substance to Liberal allegations of bribery, that party continues to devote their questions in the House almost exclusively to this issue. We fail to see what these allegations have to do with Stéphane Dion’s “Richer, fairer, greener Canada,” but the Liberals have long since lost their way to finding any real position on policy.
As facts have emerged since this controversy broke, we have learned the following:
- Conservatives Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan, Doug Finley, James Moore et al have consistently agreed with Chuck Cadman’s public utterances before his death. The Conservatives invited him to rejoin the Conservative party and run in the next election and Mr. Cadman declined.
- Mr. Cadman said in various seperate media interviews that there were no other offers on the table, except as described above.
- Various reputable experts from the insurance industry have verified that it would be virtually impossible to even buy a $1 million insurance policy on a terminally ill man.
- It has become clear that there was no meeting with Conservatives on May 17th as the Liberals have alleged. Even Mr. Cadman’s former assistant, Dan Wallace, has verified this fact.
- It has been established that there was only one meeting between Mr. Cadman and Conservative officials (Flanagan & Finley). That meeting took place on May 19th (the day of the vote) and the only thing that was discussed was point #1 above.
- Despite Liberal claims to the contrary, it has been established by numerous sources that Chuck Cadman DID intend to run again, regardless of his illness.
- Both the Prime Minister and MP James Moore have consistently answered questions about “financial considerations” by restating that part of the Conservatives’ offer to have Mr. Cadman run for their party was an offer to financially support his campaign effort (as is customary in target ridings among all parties).
The last straw that the Liberals have been grasping at is that Mr. Zytaruk (who wrote the book that spawned the controversy) has presented an “unedited version” of an audio recording of an interview that he did with then Opposition leader, Stephen Harper. A transcript of that tape recording is widely available on the web and, for purposes of this article, we will refer to one posted by the Toronto Star. It is instructive to note that the Star’s own introduction to the transcript says: “The following is a transcript of a portion of author Tom Zytaruk’s tape…”
In order to understand the context of the recording, we need to establish the background. According to reports, Opposition leader Stephen Harper was visiting the Cadman household in September of 2005, shortly after Mr. Cadman’s death. Our understanding is that he was paying a personal visit to Dona Cadman, Chuck’s widow. As Mr. Harper is leaving the Cadman house, he is stopped by Tom Zytaruk in the driveway. According to the tape released to media sources, the transcript of which is posted online, this is how the conversation began:
Zytaruk [barely intelligible]: “I mean, there was an insurance policy for a million dollars. Do you know anything about that?”
Harper: “I don’t know the details. I know that there were discussions…
Who starts a conversation that way? You just walk up to the Leader of Canada’s Official Opposition in the driveway while he’s paying a personal visit to a widow and say, “I mean, there was an insurance policy for a million dollars. Do you know anything about that?” Not on your life!
Everyone knows that “I mean…” is a bridge from a previous comment or question; a statement made to elaborate or clarify something previously said. Normally there would be an introductory greeting, perhaps some kind of request for comment. Most MP’s will not agree to an interview without some idea of the context in which they are being asked for comment. It is hardly credible that even the most hardened journalist would be so presumptous as to begin this way.
It is tremendously important to know what Mr. Zytaruk said BEFORE he asked the ‘million dollar question.’ That context could dramatically alter the understanding of Mr. Harper’s response. The main point here is that Tom Zytaruk claims that the tape is unedited and unaltered. If that is true, than he at the very least knowingly excluded the important discourse that took place before the tape began.
…Which brings us to the next point. When you listen to the audio version of the “unedited tape,” it becomes clear that this is not the entire conversation. The audio version begins as follows:
Zytaruk [speaking clearly and directly into the microphone]: “[CLICK] This is Stephen Harper, leader of the official opposition. [CLICK]”
There is then a break in the audio followed by several clicks and the beginning of the audio which is reflected in the transcript. The audio is DRAMATICALLY different from Zytaruk’s introduction, and sounds like it has been made from the pocket of a jacket, rather than a microphone presented to someone to record their comments.
In the first minute of recording, you can routinely hear something like clothing sliding across the surface of the mic. This is not wind noise, but clearly something causing direct abrasion to the microphone as anyone who has worn a lapel mic with a suit will recognize.
There is also a clear break in the audio at 1:47 where Mr. Zytaruk cuts himself off in mid-sentence. The very next second (1:48) Mr. Harper is magically talking again, though clearly from a different audio perspective than the preceding one minute and forty seven seconds. In other words, there is a distinct change in the tone and dynamics of the audio, indicating that (in the second segment of the recording) the two parties are not standing in the same positions relative to one another that they were in the first segment.
We are expected to believe that Mr. Zytaruk is saying: “and when (Thank you for that), and when…[ambient noise bloom]” And then Mr. Harper is heard saying: “…but the ah, but the offer to Chuck was only to was that it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election.” Again, no conversation progresses that way. There was clearly a break at 1:47 of the recording, and it is also clear that an undetermined amount of relevant discourse between Stephen Harper and Tom Zytaruk was eliminated from the recording.
At the end of the tape (2:37) there is also a clear “click” as Mr. Zytaruk shut off the recorder after saying: “Well, thank you very much. Thanks for clarif… [CLICK]” Obviously Mr. Zytaruk concluded that the interview was over and shut the recorder off as he was thanking Mr. Harper for clarifying something. The interesting point is, that there is no “click” at the beginning or end of the break at 1:47 indicating that the tape was recording was altered by something other than shutting off the recorder.
Every recording device has its own signature. For example throughout the recording you can hear the rhythmic whir-whir that is typical of an analogue recorder such as the mini recorders that many journalists use. This sound is transferred to the audio tape as the motor and capstans pull the tape through the recording heads from one reel to another. At 2:14-2:17 however, there is clear evidence of digital distortion such as takes place when a recording is digitally filtered or altered. Every indication is that the original recording was made by an analogue device and later dubbed (or transferred) to digital format. Which parts of the conversation were deleted during the obvious breaks in the recording is highly suspect.
(The above analysis was compiled in consultation with a former law enforcement official who also held multiple licenses as a private investigator. It should be noted that his expert opinion is limited to analysis of the recording posted online in the public domain. Analysis of the original recording may yield additional results.)
The tape recording on which the Liberals are hanging their hat is clearly not an unedited original. There are also questions about how they originally obtained a copy of that recording, and why they sat on this story for over a year since they first received a copy of the manuscript for Zytaruk’s book. The recording as it stands would not stand up as evidence in a court of law for 5 minutes.
Important context has clearly been eliminated from the conversation, and there is no clear chain of evidence to verify the integrity of the recording. This is why the Liberals DON’T want to face the facts in a court of law. They would rather try to convict the Conservatives by innuendo and insinuation in the court of public opinion. The rules of evidence exist in our courts to keep innocent people from being smeared by false accusations.
The NDP is right, these allegations are of a criminal nature and they belong before the courts where they can be evaluated in a fair and transparent manner. The salacious accusations of the Liberals do not deserve to be dignified by less than a full legal hearing. That is why the Prime Minister has filed a libel lawsuit against the Liberal party - that way the FACTS can be evaluated under the scrutiny of impartial jurisprudence.
QUESTION: If Stephen Harper knew he was complicit in the attempt to bribe a sitting MP, do you think that HE would invite the scrutiny of a court of law? That is exactly what he did when he filed a motion of libel. As the Prime Minister has said, “Mr. Speaker, the truth is that in the past several months, as the problems of the Liberal Party and its leader have mounted, they have engaged in more and more extreme accusations, going to the point last week of publishing on their website a series of false and unfounded allegations of criminal misconduct on my part.The truth is that this will prove to be in court the biggest mistake the leader of the Liberal Party has ever made .” (source)
Mr. Harper has never denied that the voice on the recording is his. On Tuesday, March 4, 2008 the Prime Minister told the House of Commons: “Mr. Speaker, nobody suggested it is not my voice. What the Leader of the Opposition has suggested is that he has some evidence of me offering Chuck Cadman a bribe. He has absolutely no such evidence. He will need to defend that in a court of law. I hope he does a better job than he did last night when he brought in a motion to bring down the government and then promptly told his MPs not to vote on it.” (source) By taking this matter before the courts, he is inviting his own destruction if there is even the most remote chance that he was in any way complicit in bribery. As the old-timers used to say, “This dog just won’t hunt.” (i.e. There is no substance to these frivolous allegation by the Liberals)