Friday, May 29, 2009

Pleading Ignorance

Once again, the politically tone deaf Pierre Poilievre, gives us reason to wonder how on earth he made it to the Hill.

During QP today, in what I'm sure he thought was brilliant prose, he used the term 'tarbaby' in yet another inane attack on Ignatieff.

Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC) Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader should give himself more credit. He fathered the carbon tax idea. Then he generously put it up for adoption to his predecessor. And now, of course, he wants a paternity test to prove that this tar baby is not his. He says the coalition on which he signed in support of would break up the country. He attacks the deficit that he voted for and wants billions more of spending, even on a 45-day EI work year. When he is in Britain, he is British. When he is in America, he is American. When he is in B.C., he is against the auto bailout. When he is in Ontario, he wants it to be bigger. The Liberal leader does not seem to know who he is.

He didn't make this reference once, but twice.

After question period, Ralph Goodale stood and tried to give Poilievre the benefit of the doubt, but explained how the word could be offensive and suggested that perhaps he'd like to withdraw the comment and apologise.

In typical petulant Pierre fashion, he turned the table on Goodale and asked him for an apology. Yes, I know. Bizarro world.

As if that wasn't enough though, the PMO is now out defending him, per David Akin.

Yep, instead of just making this a non-story, the brain trust in the PMO has chimed in to say, "but, but, they did it too!'

Children...running the country....we can't make this stuff up.

For the record, while the term can be used in different ways, it's generally thought of as a derogatory term these days and one to stay away from. While it's often noted in the US as being offensive, (Mitt Romney and John McCain have both withdrawn the comment in recent times), it is still considered offensive in Canada.

From Marlene Jennings:

Well, as someone called a 'tarbaby' right here in Quebec when I was a child, I can tell you this expression is as hurtful, as offensive and as pejorative here in Canada as it is in USA!

Wouldn't an apology just be easier?

Update - Tim Powers crying 'but you did it too!' That's their strategist?


Omar said...

Tarbaby ranks right up there with "nigger" and that useless excuse of a Member of our Parliament either doesn't know that or worse, doesn't care.

Karen said...

He claims to have not known, which I find remarkable, but what gets me, is once he was told that it was offensive, he still refused to apologise.

Useless is right. Can't wait to see who we field against him.

Omar said...

I was in Nepean last year and most folks I spoke with feel Poilievre is doing a wonderful job representing them. Having grown up there I found that very difficult to swallow. Will it matter who the Liberals field against him?

Karen said...

I don't know, but as I said to someone else, I'll drive to YOW to help them out, ;).

Omar said...

Will you be driving to YOW for an evening in Rockcliffe June 9? That is why I was in Ottawa this time last year, but I boycotted the ceremonies as it was 'members only' and you could not bring a guest. Who flies 1200km to attend a party by themselves where they don't know anyone? The same rule applies this year so once again I shall take a pass.

Karen said...

Forgive my ignorance, but what's up June 9th?

Omar said...

Oh. Sorry. Laurier Club garden party at Stornaway. They don't allow you to bring a guest for some ridiculous reason.

Karen said...

Really? That's strange for an event like that?

Omar said...

So, the big (all-white) Politics table didn't really find too terrible much wrong with the use of "Tarbaby" in the HoC today. Colour me surprised. Joan Bryden I thought particularly ill-informed. As my African-Nova Scotian partner just said, "I've never heard it not used as a racist taunt". When your skin colour is of the privileged hue, the slur tarbaby is of absolutely no consequence.
What a joke.

Omar said...

Tell me about it. I think their little rule stinks and they don't offer any reason for it. It just changed last year. The year before a member could bring a guest.

Karen said...

Did they say that? I was going to watch it on line later.

Sheila Copps thought it was ill conceived, Tim Powers said you guys did it too!

I know both meanings of the word, but also know that in this day and age, it's seldom used in it's original context. There is an argument to be made for the word, but Poilievre is neither 'deep' or a thoughtful speaker.

My guess is someone wrote it for him, he latched onto the word tar...tar sands...and just thought it was too clever.

The point however is that it has a negative connotation and no matter how it was used, people could be legitimately be offended.

So...apologise. Simple.

Didn't this guy rail against aboriginals at one point too? I'm sure I must have blogged on that.

Karen said...

There is something going on this weekend then again something in June to do with Kennedy. If I go, I'll ask about the rule.

Omar said...

It's bad enough that some pundits have used this term in op-ed pieces and media interviews, but this was done in the House of Commons! Not once, but twice! Poilievre even uses it in the unsavoury context of an unwanted pregnancy for fuck sakes! In the House of Commons! And then he refuses to show some humility and apologize. Unbelievable. This isn't going to go away and it shouldn't.

Omar said...

That doesn't read right. I don't mean to make it sound like unwanted pregnancies are "unsavoury". Nix that. I'm just really steamed about this whole affair. Sorry..

Karen said...

No worries...caught your point.

penlan said...

"Didn't this guy rail against aboriginals at one point too? I'm sure I must have blogged on that."

Yes he did. The day Harper apologized on behalf of Canada in the HoC with different Aboriginal Leaders there. PP was on the radio debasing Aboriginals in an interview.

Tomm said...


I'm with you here.

But it should be acknowledged that the term is initially totally un-related to negative race connotations and it was used entirely in the original context.

As I said, given the sensitivity, he should have acknowledged it and apologized if people took offense and indicated he would stop using it in the future.

But it should not be tied to him being racist since he used the term in an entirely race neutral way.

Tomm said...


You said:

"Tarbaby ranks right up there with "nigger" and that useless excuse of a Member of our Parliament either doesn't know that or worse, doesn't care."

Now, THAT, was offensive. You should apologize for the reference.

Omar said...

If your privileged white sensibilities are offended at hearing a word that black people correlate with the slur 'tarbaby', then I have done my job, Tomm.

Tomm said...


I am disappointed at not only your level of ignorance, but also your callus disregard for your caustic comments and their effects on others.

You should likely be tied/stuck to Pierre and be hoisted on a joint petard.

Sir Francis said...


If you really want to get to Tomm, just point out that he's an elitist. I mean, honestly--what else can you call someone who thinks certain words are beneath him?

Now, I think certain words are beneath me; but then, I'm a notorious, self-confessed élitist. Am I right Tomm?

Tomm said...

Sir Francis,

Of course I am an elitist. Aren't all technocrats elitist, in their bones?

But I've matured and lost some of the self certainty of youth. As a young professional, I was always appalled when the little old ethnic ladies in my hometown (Edmonton) would vote for the guy that greeted them at their door in their own language. Regardless how much of a political snake the guy actually was. I begged my Grandmother to ignore the flattery and vote for the person I told her to vote for. It has since dawned on me that "one man-one vote" was wiser than I had envisioned and at least maintains some semblance of humility and control of politics.

So to answer your question, if Omar calls me a "conniver". A person who appears honest and forthright, but that it's all trickery and that I actually am just trying to manipulate him. Than yes, that would be a way of getting under my skin.