An expert opinion filed in court contradicts Stephen Harper's claim that an author altered a taped interview with the Conservative Leader to unfairly characterize a financial offer to dying MP Chuck Cadman, a lawyer for the Liberal Party of Canada says.
The micro-cassette of the author's interview with Mr. Harper was not altered, except for an over-recording starting at 1 minute 41 seconds, says the court-filed analysis by a former FBI sound expert retained by the Tories.
However, the contentious segment of the recording takes place before that 1:41 mark, said lawyer Chris Paliare, who represents the Liberals in a defamation suit Mr. Harper filed against Stéphane Dion's party.
Mr. Harper sued after the Liberals attacked him using material from a book by B.C. journalist Tom Zytaruk that says Conservative officials offered the cancer-stricken Mr. Cadman, an Independent MP, a $1-million life insurance policy in exchange for his support in a budget vote in 2005.
In a brief taped interview, Mr. Zytaruk had asked Mr. Harper if he knew anything about the life insurance policy. Mr. Harper is heard saying: "I don't know the details. I know that um, there were discussions, um. But this is not for publication?"
The Tories contend that Mr. Harper was answering another question and that the tape was doctored.
Under cross-examination in August, Mr. Harper said he believed Mr. Zytaruk had altered the tape.
"He asked me a question about the insurance policy for $1-million. And my answer was that I did not know about that. The answer is not contained there," Mr. Harper said under oath.
He later added in his deposition that, "I presume it was done by him [Mr. Zytaruk]"
Mr. Zytaruk has said that he had stopped his tape recorder momentarily when he thought Mr. Harper had finished speaking. When Mr. Harper turned back, he resumed taping.
"Clearly this whole premise of the tape being doctored ... Come on, you'd have to be a bozo especially with someone as prominent as Mr. Harper," the author said yesterday.
"This has been hard on me and hard on my family. An apology would be nice."
The report says the taped interview is in two parts. The first goes from 0.9 seconds to 2 minutes 28 seconds. The second begins at 1 minute 41 seconds, erasing the end of the first part.
"Specimen Q2 contains neither physical nor electronic splices, edits or alterations, except for the over-recording start at 01:41.4, that erased and replaced the end of the first part of the designated interview," the report said.
The Tories said last night that the report supports what they have said: that the tape was altered and parts are missing.
"This is exactly what we have been saying: The interview is not complete and when there are pieces missing it is easy to have context and statements misinterpreted," Tory spokesman Kory Tenecyke said.
Mr. Harper is the first sitting prime minister to file a defamation suit.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Harper had to defend Ottawa's purchase of $250-million in bank-held mortgages, saying it is not a U.S.-style rescue of financial institutions. "This is not a bailout of banks. This is a market transaction that will cost the government nothing," Mr. Harper told reporters.
"We are not going in and buying bad assets. What we're doing is simply exchanging assets that we already hold the insurance on and the reason we're doing this is to get out in front.
Mr. Dion called the $25-billion buyout package a vote-buying scheme, while NDP Leader Jack Layton portrayed it as a gift to the financial industry that will do nothing for ordinary Canadians.
"Mr. Harper and his team are making this up as they go along. They are not being forthright with Canadians and they are certainly not adopting a plan to help the bank customers who are struggling right now," Mr. Layton said.
Mr. Dion said Mr. Harper was "sleeping at the switch" as the economy began its slide.
"They are not doing it by conviction. They are not doing it because they think the government should act. They are doing it only by opportunism just before a vote."
The Tories are in a quandary because while they want to be seen helping the economy and the financial system they don't want to at the same time spook Canadians with aid that suggests there is something seriously wrong with banks.
Mr. Harper's staff said yesterday that he had no plans to talk to the media about the Canadian dollar - which dropped sharply in trading.
Their rationale was that Mr. Harper had already taken questions from journalists in the morning, before the Loonie plummeted. The Conservative leader usually talks to tour media only once a day.