No apologyPosted in Political Bytes Posted on May 29, 2009 11:02 AM | Permalink
MP Pierre Poilievre is the latest in a long line of politicians to take flak for uttering the words.
On Friday in the House of Commons, the prime minister's parliamentary secretary rose to answer a question from Liberal MP John McKay about the state of Canada's finances.
Poilievre responded: "On that side of the House, they have the man who fathered the carbon tax, put it up for adoption to his predecessor and now wants a paternity test to prove the tar baby was never his in the first place."
Anyone who has read the Uncle Remus fables by Joel Chandler Harris likely remembers how Brer Fox used a baby-shaped sculpture out of tar and turpentine to catch Brer Rabbit.
For some, the word "tar baby" is no big deal; it's just a term to describe a sticky situation. Others though, feel the term is a racist slur against black people.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Republican Senator John McCain have both used, and then quickly apologized for using, the word to describe problematic situations.
So it's not surprising that at the end of Question Period on Friday, Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, backed by NDP MP Paul Dewar, rose on a point of order and asked Poilievre to withdraw the "pejorative" and "racist" term.
Poilievre refused: "Tar baby is a common reference that refers to issues that stick to one." He went on to say that for Goodale to inject racial politics into the debate, "is the worst kind of base politics and I encourage him to apologize for it."
Okay. So just in case you've lost track, we have a Liberal MP asking a Conservative MP to apologize for using the term tar baby and that same Conservative MP asking his opponent to apologize for asking him to apologize.
In the end, Speaker Peter Milliken ended the circular debate and moved on to other business.
Now, you might think that would be the end of this matter. Guess again.
Friday afternoon, I received an unsolicited, although not unwelcome, email from PMO staffer, Mike White. His spin was to provide three references from the last six years where "tar baby" has been used in Canada.
One came from a Toronto Star editorial, another surfaced in the Hamilton Spectator and the final example came from former Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy.
— Alison Crawford
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