June 19, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's erroneous statement this week that the "leader of the NDP, in 1939, did not even want to support war against Hitler" has triggered a torrent of Twitter messages mocking the mistake -- all identified with the hashtag "#HarperHistory" -- and prompted New Democrat MP Dan Harris to gleefully recite several examples in the House of Commons on Friday.
The effort to ridicule Harper's misplaced dig at the NDP -- founded in 1961 after the eclipse of forerunner CCF, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation -- had Twitter users blaming the NDP for everything from the fall of Rome to the Boston Tea Party to the betrayal of Jesus Christ.
On Thursday, in a heated exchange about when Canadian troops would be leaving Afghanistan, Harper responded to pointed questions from NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair by stating: "Unlike the NDP, we are not going to ideologically have a position regardless of circumstances," he said. "The leader of the NDP, in 1939, did not even want to support war against Hitler."
Harper was referring to pacifist CCF leader J.S. Woodsworth, well-known for voicing lonely opposition in 1939 to Canada's participation in the Second World War.
After howls from the opposition benches about Harper's misstatement, he tried to laugh it off by blurring the distinction between the NDP and CCF.
"OK, CCF, same difference," Harper said. "Parties do change their names from time to time."
Harper's casual rewrite of history gave creative Twitter users all the inspiration they needed: "It is a fact that, at the time, the #ndp refused to support our troops during the War of 1812," read a typical example from the flood of tweets unleashed by the Harper-NDP flap.
"Yesterday, the prime minister accused the NDP of not doing enough to stop Hitler," Harris, a Toronto-area MP, noted in a member's statement on Friday. "I am sure the NDP's founding members would have found this pretty strange when they first gathered in 1961."
Harris then highlighted the rising tide of hilarity in the Twitterverse and how Harper's anachronism had become the model for "tens of thousands" of messages linking the NDP to various historical and fictional events.
"Comedian Dan Speering led things off last night by tweeting, 'Damn you NDP for not standing up to Genghis Khan.' Another wrote, 'It was really the NDP that helped organized the stampede that killed Mufasa in The Lion King,' " said Harris. "I hope the Conservatives take this humour in stride and do not respond with more of their humourless anger."
The Conservatives responded, however, with further references to Woodsworth.
Nova Scotia MP Scott Armstrong, echoing Harper's comments, said in his own member's statement: "The NDP leader stated this week it does not support this mission. This is not surprising from the left. In 1939, the leader of the CCF even said: 'I would ask whether we are to risk the lives of our Canadian sons to prevent the action of Hitler.' "
Shortly after, in response to further questions from the NDP about Canada's withdrawal plans in Afghanistan, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird again equated the CCF and NDP and repeated the Woodsworth statement from 1939.
-- Postmedia News
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2012 A26