CBC Digital Archives

Stephen Harper's campaign mistake

Call it a blunder, a slip-up, a goof or a gaffe, but if it happens on the campaign trail it can make an election a lot more interesting – or even alter the outcome. From a Tory leader's famous fumble to a Liberal staffer's "beer and popcorn" bungle, CBC Digital Archives presents a selection of memorable Canadian federal election errors.

Child pornography is an explosive issue, and it blows up in the face of the Conservative party when they try to drag it into the 2004 election. Ten days before the vote, an incendiary headline on a Conservative press release accuses Liberal leader Paul Martin of supporting child pornography. Later in the day, Conservative leader Stephen Harper says the heading was too strong, but he doesn't retract the allegation. This CBC-TV clip takes viewers aboard the two parties' buses as Conservatives staffers backpedal and the Liberals lash out in anger.
• The Conservatives' claim was part of a "Reality Check" on the Liberals' record. The press release pointed out that in 2002, the Canadian Alliance (the party's predecessor) introduced motions in Parliament that would toughen Canadian laws against child pornography - motions that Martin voted against. The Liberals introduced legislation on the subject later that year.
  • The issue of child pornography was on the minds of voters at the time. One day earlier, a man who admitted he was a consumer of child pornography pleaded guilty to the murder of 10-year-old Holly Jones.

• Reaction to the Conservative claim was swift and negative. "Look, this is personal," said Paul Martin later that day. "I am a father and I am a husband, and he should apologize." The NDP reacted by sending out a press release that read: "The NDP does not support chid pornography. And it is hard to imagine a worse day to play politics with this issue."

• When the Conservative press release came out, the party was virtually neck and neck with the Liberals in polls. In the election 10 days later, the Liberals won 36.8 per cent of the votes to the Conservatives' 29.6 per cent.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC News: Sunday
Broadcast Date: June 20, 2004
Guest(s): Jim Armour, Robert Benzie, Stephen Harper, Vincent Marissal, Don Martin, Paul Martin, Scott Reid, Dimitri Soudas
Host: Carole MacNeil
Duration: 6:56

Last updated: March 1, 2013

Page consulted on February 7, 2014

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