2011's political quotes: Coalition, curses and closure

After more than five years of minority rule, Canadians might well have become accustomed to heated political rhetoric and partisan bickering. But 2011 seemed to take things to new heights — or depths.
Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin had two of the more colourful quotes in 2011. (Canadian Press)

After more than five years of minority rule, Canadians might well have become accustomed to heated political rhetoric and partisan bickering.

But with a finding of contempt of Parliament, a combative election campaign that turned opposition benches upside down, allegations of  misspending and frequent charges of anti-democratic behaviour on both sides, 2011 seemed to take things to new heights — or depths.

Throw in the Twitter effect and, well, it was a year for malediction more often than bon mots.

There were also attempts to inspire, moments of humour and humility, and also humanity on the sad occasion of NDP Leader Jack Layton's death, none more quoted than in his own final letter to Canadians.

Here's a look at some of the more quotable political moments of 2011.

Campaigns and coalitions

"A sea of troubles is lapping at our shores. Disaster in the Pacific, chaos in the Middle East, debt problems in Europe, and of course the very serious challenges south of the border. Canada is the closest thing ... that this world has to an island of security and stability." — Stephen Harper, with a line heard often throughout the 2011 election campaign

"There's a blue door and there's a red door and we'll form a Liberal government. Is that clear enough for you?" — Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, trying to kill talk of an Liberal-NDP coalition following the defeat of the government's budget March 23

What's in a name?

NDP MP Charlie Angus spent much of 2011 dogging Treasury Board president Tony Clement over $50 million in G8 infrastructure spending in Clement's Parry Sound-Muskoka riding — and generating a seemingly endless supply of nicknames for Clement in the process:

  • Muskoka fox.
  • The Muskoka minister.
  • Daddy Warbucks of cottage country.
  • Missing Member for Muskoka.
  • The Muskoka maverick.

"The person who has got a problem with the coalition is Stephen Harper. He has to explain what he was doing in Toronto hotel rooms meeting with Jack and Gilles. I don't have that problem. I don't go to hotel rooms with Jack and Gilles." — Ignatieff refers to Stephen Harper's own alleged coalition talks in 2005, March 27

"You wrote it, we signed it saying that if Paul Martin was to lose confidence in the House [and] you don't want an election, consult us. We have other options. The other options were what? Gilles Duceppe as prime minister of Canada? Certainly not. The only option was you. You want[ed] to be prime minister." — Gilles Duceppe tells Stephen Harper his version of events in 2005, at the leaders' debate, April 12

"You don’t show up for 70 per cent of the votes. For most Canadians, if you don’t show up for work, you can’t expect a promotion." — NDP Leader Jack Layton to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff during the leaders' debate, April 12

"And friends I have to say it — a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government!" — A victorious Harper repeats his campaign refrain to a cheering election-night crowd in Calgary, May 2

Partisan potshots

"We started cleaning up the left-wing mess federally in this area. Rob's doing it municipally. And now we've got to complete the hat trick and do it provincially as well." — Harper looks ahead to the Ontario provincial election at Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's summer barbecue

"If you change parties, from one party to another, for reasons of principle, I think we all recognize that happens in politics ... You don't join a separatist party, a party that wants to break up the country, for five years because you're trying to help somebody out." — Former NDP premier and current interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae on former Bloc Québécois member and current interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel

Wait — what did you say?

"The Foreign Minister gives the Treasury Board minister a $50-million slush fund for his riding. Then the Treasury Board minister lets the Foreign Minister break the rules to get his golden business card. This is a very expensive game of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. When Canadians are struggling just to get by, why are Conservative ministers showering each other with gold? Why the golden showers, Mr. Speaker?" — Liberal MP Scott Brison in the House of Commons, Sept. 30, in reference to John Baird's gold-coloured business cards

"Mr. Speaker, folklore has it that the Canadian beaver will bite off its own testicles when it is threatened and offer them up to its tormentors. I think that is a fitting metaphor for the way our Canadian government reacts to bullying on trade issues, by carving off pieces of our nation and offering them to the Americans." — NDP's Pat Martin, during the House of Commons question period, Oct. 19

"I had my stitches out yesterday, I expect to be rid of the walking assistance in a few weeks ... I'm not sure what other details you want. I could undress right here before you, but I don't think that would be in the interest of Canadian politics or good television." — NDP Leader Jack Layton in response to questions about his hip surgery, March 25

Word of the Year: Reckless

"What would the world think were we to suddenly now head off on some whole new high-tax economic direction, led by a reckless coalition without a coherent program or even basic national principles?" — Harper, Day 2 of the election campaign, March 27

"With respect to spending, we certainly are opposed to reckless spending." — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Sept. 20

"Whether it's his job-killing inaction on climate change, his reckless, costly prisons agenda or his attack on our farming community, New Democrats have been there to hold Mr. Harper's feet to the fire, day in day out." — NDP's Joe Comartin, Dec. 15, at the end of the fall sitting

"We hope his passing brings positive change allowing the people of North Korea to emerge from six decades of isolation, oppression and misery. The regime's reckless decisions have resulted in North Korea being an impoverished nation and a country isolated from the international community because of its dangerous nuclear proliferation and ballistic missile programs." — Harper on the passing of North Korea's Kim Jong-il, Dec. 19

Love and anger

"This is a f--king disgrace ... closure again. And on the Budget! There’s not a democracy in the world that would tolerate this jackboot sh--." — NDP MP Pat Martin in a tweet from the House of Commons, Nov. 17

"Mr. Speaker, if being a grumpy old man makes one an expert on world -- (interrupted)" — NDP environment critic Megan Leslie in response to an answer by natural resources minister Joe Oliver, Nov. 24

"You piece of s---!" — Liberal MP Justin Trudeau directs an obscenity at Environment Minister Peter Kent in the House of Commons, Dec. 14

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world." — The late Jack Layton in his "letter to Canadians" released following his death on Aug. 22, later recorded in song by Raffi.