Inside Politics

The best political quote of 2009

What do Michael Ignatieff (left), Peter MacKay (centre) and Hugo Chavez (right) and a beret-clad parrot (far right, with feathers) all have in common? Very little, we suspect, aside from our commenters picking three out of the four of them for the top political quotes of 2009. (Canadian Press/Associated Press)

So we've hemmed, hawed, sifted through, shuffled, dissected and downright tried to read the minds of our dedicated and beloved Inside Politics commenters to decipher what your pick was for the best political quote of the year.

We've also been blown away by the excellent suggestions we'd either neglected in our original list of favourites or just plum forgot was said in the monumentally nutty year in politics that was. 

So this is how we'll break it all down:

Since many of you focused on the quotes themselves, and remarked upon the telling/ironic/painfully obvious betrayal of the speaker's intention/motivation/sincerity/sanity in light of events and actions in the troublesome realm we call "reality," rather than endorsing the speaker's position, we'll try to include a brief summary of your best-articulated positions in the list.

Others among you didn't really vote for a quote at all. Instead, you utilized the comments field to let the fury fly, and hey, that's cool. You're ticked. Sure, a couple of you got personal and busted out your bag of Mean Flakes, but that's part of politics, too. So we decided to throw your weight behind the quote that best represents the target of your passion, along with a sample of your fury for context.

But this is by no means the end of the conversation. Feel free to agree, disagree and/or keep the debate going in the comments field below.

With that, here's the compiled list, in order of most commenter buzz generation, along with the best of your suggestions and reactions. On behalf of the Inside Politics gang, Happy New Year to all of you. We'll see you in 2010:

AND THE WINNER IS...: "After four years of drift, four years of denial, four years of division and four years of discord, Mr. Harper, your time is up." - Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, speaking to his caucus at their summer meeting in Sudbury on Sept. 1. By late fall, the Liberals were again supporting the government on confidence votes.

  • It perhaps makes sense to have the quote that best summed up 2009 in politics come from the guy most eager for the year to end. Commenter IggyPostTurtle -- whose online handle we applaud for illustrating what handle-holder believes -- pegs this as No. 1 with a bullet, writing: "It really looks like Mr. Ignatieff's time is up." Time will tell, Turtle, but it doesn't appear the Liberals will be trying to bring town the government any time soon. Meanwhile, Commenter Spruce pounces upon  lame culinary metaphor Liberal MP Marlene Jennings' served up the same September day as Ignatieff -- "The government's goose is cooked" -- writing: "I'd say the Liberals are eating crow now." 
RUNNER-UP (AND NOT FAR BEHIND No.1): "We have not seen a single scintilla of proof." - Defence Minister Peter MacKay, speaking about former top diplomat Richard Colvin's allegations about the torture of detainees in Afghanistan, in the House of Commons on Nov. 23.

  • As for PMO staffers' insisting the Afghan detainee affair is "old news" that we in the media are heck-bent on flogging, it appears a number of you beg to differ. Commenter buddhawest writes: "If the media does its job, this Afghan issue will stay at the forefront of national interest despite the best efforts of Harper to deny Canadians the truth." Friendly reminder, readers: feel free to peruse our online archive of the documents we have regarding the detainee affair.

MOST THUMBS-UPPED: "If the climate was a bank, [the U.S.] would already have saved it." - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, during his marathon speech at the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen earlier this month.

  • Nominated by commenter 6string, 112 of you gave it the red-thumbs-up-yea, while 10 of you chose the gray-thumbs-down-boo-hiss-nay.


"But it's sexy... Radioactive leaks. Cancer." - Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt, caught on audiotape speaking to her press aide in late January, speaking about the isotope shortage caused by the shutdown of the AECL nuclear reactor at Chalk River. The recording became public last June, after the press aide left her tape recorder in a bathroom on Parliament Hill, and it was given to a reporter. An embarassed Raitt apologized for her remarks.

  • Commenter daughters writes that she believes Raitt's apology was forced. "How dreadful to play on words while thousands are suffering from isotope shortage and are bracing to die prematurely. ...Gloating about her 'sexy' opportunity is disgraceful." But commenter Educate Yourself writes that by "turning this off-hand, albeit insensitive, remark into a major news story," newsrooms across Canada have mostly ignored more important, but less "sexy" stories such as the potential constitutional infringement of Bills C-6 (the nearly-impossible-to-summarize consumer safety bill that the government argues will prevent home-based businesses who sell potentially unsafe products from using their homes as "safe havens" from health inspectors, but that critics argue would circumvent the need for criminal warrants to search homes) and C-15 (mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences). Side note: Thanks to colleague O'Malley's post from yesterday's Prorogathon, we know the government has pledged to re-introduce the bills in their original form with the launch of a new parliamentary session, so it looks like these stories aren't going away, EY.
"It was absolutely delicious." - Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean, after trying seal heart for the first time during a traditional feast celebration in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut on May 26. Jean suggested raw seal meat was "like sushi."

  • Commenter Civil1331 writes: "For me this fact that this was a story at all shows me that many Canadians and animal activists around the world have little respect or understanding of Aboriginal or in this case Inuit tradition. The GG was simply showing respect and good on her for doing so."

"I tend to watch American news." - Prime Minister Stephen Harper, during a question-and-answer session in October in Toronto.
  • We'd kinda forgotten about this one, suggested by commenter ech2thr0wn, who writes: "I guess after Harper put forward his climate plan 'follow the US of A' we now know why he has to watch 'American' news - how else will he know what to do next?"

"I'm not waffling. I'm skating." - Liberal MP Bob Rae, scrummed by reporters on Parliament Hill about the Liberal Party's position on the HST, Nov. 27.

  • Commenter Mistymorning writes: "Truth from a politician is always so refreshing, and stays in your memory bank longer!" 


"We are going through a deeper economic slowdown than anticipated." - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on May 26, announcing that this year's federal deficit would top $50 billion. In late 2008, Flaherty expected continued budgetary surpluses, and gradually revised his figures and forecasts as conditions worsened.

"I told you it is the biggest political scandal. The secret is, it is seven in one."
- German-Canadian Karlheinz Schreiber, speaking to reporters on his way in to testify at the Oliphant Commission Inquiry into his relationship with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, April 14.

"I wouldn't say my judgment is flawless." -
former prime minister Brian Mulroney, speaking about his decision not to put the cash he received from German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber into a bank account, creating some kind of paper trail, under questioning by counsel Richard Wolson at the Oliphant Commission Inquiry, May 15.

"We are putting this government on probation."
- Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, announcing that Liberals would support the Harper Conservative's budget after all, despite the coalition agreement reached late in 2008 between the Liberals, the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois.

"We have a new coalition on Parliament Hill. It's a coalition between Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff."
- NDP Leader Jack Layton, after Michael Ignatieff announced the Liberals' conditional support for the Tories' January budget.

"I get by with a little help from my friends."
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, singing on stage at the National Arts Centre gala, Oct. 4.
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