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Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Australian counterpart John Howard conduct a joint press conference in Canberra on Sept. 11, 2007. (GREG WOOD)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Australian counterpart John Howard conduct a joint press conference in Canberra on Sept. 11, 2007. (GREG WOOD)


The Throne Speech comes from a land Down Under? Add to ...

1. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Michael Ignatieff's Liberals say the Tories are at it again - plagiarizing from former Australian prime minister John Howard.

This time it's today's Speech from the Throne. The speech, laying out Stephen Harper's agenda for this new session, is called "A Stronger Canada; A Stronger Economy; Now and for the Future." This is very similar to the title of Mr. Howard's 2004 election platform: "A Stronger Economy. A Stronger Australia."

In a lively press release headlined " G'day Canada," the Liberals note the Tories also used portions of Mr. Howard's 2003 speech on Iraq. Mr. Harper, in fact, was asked about this in the midst of the last election campaign.

It had been revealed that large parts of a speech Mr. Harper had given as opposition leader, which urged Canada to send troops to Iraq, were plagiarized from a Howard speech. Speechwriter Owen Lippert resigned from the Tory campaign as a result.

Meanwhile, the Liberals think they are on to something: "A number of media outlets have reported that today's Speech from the Throne will … focus on the theme of innovation," it says.

"Unfortunately, the Conservatives weren't innovative in the choice of title for today's speech which appears to be a direct rip-off of former Australian Prime Minister John Howard's 2004 election platform."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman Dimitri Soudas dismissed the charges as ridiculous. He said no one has "copyright" on commonly used words like "stronger" and "economy."

Mr. Soudas said the Liberals have been spending their time "fighting the recovery" rather than the recession and so they see the words, "Stronger Canada; Stronger Economy" as a "novelty."

Mr. Harper and Mr. Howard were close as leaders; the Australian prime minister was the first foreign guest to visit Mr. Harper when he first took office. Mr. Harper also addressed the Australian Parliament in 2007. The two were simpatico on a number of issues, including dragging their feet on climate change.

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2. Liberal friendly fire erupts anew. A broadside from a candidate in Quebec delivered at Michael Ignatieff is being interpreted by his office as nothing more than a reminder that all Liberals in the province want to make sure "Quebec is 'in'."

Nancy Charest, who is the Liberal candidate in the eastern Quebec riding of Haute Gaspésie-La Mitis-Matane-Matapédia, said in a recent speech that Mr. Ignatieff understands Quebec's realities but " doesn't have the ability to give Quebec what it wants."

She is quite a fan of Liberal MP Denis Coderre, who resigned as Mr. Ignatieff's Quebec lieutenant over a decision on who was to run in a Montreal riding. He blamed many of Mr. Ignatieff's Toronto advisers, who have since been replaced.

Ms. Charest said Mr. Coderre allowed her to "stay the course."

Responding to the candidates statement, a senior Ignatieff official said: "From what I understand (she is on holidays at the moment) she wanted to make the point about the need to pay attention to the regions, which is a valid point and one that Mr. Ignatieff understands and supports."

"All Liberals want to make sure Quebec is 'in' - which can't be the case with the Bloc. This is just reminding us that we need to be more present and active to make our views better known throughout the province - a need we are addressing."

(Photo: The Prime Minister takes a pen from John Howard during his visit to Australia's Parliament on Sept. 11, 2007. Tim Wimborne/Reuters)

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