For reasons that are opaque to me, I was not among those invited to sit down with the prime minister for the traditional year-end interviews. Fortunately, that has not stopped me. The following is a transcript of our conversation, exactly as I have made it up . . .
Andrew Coyne: Prime Minister, good of you to do this.
Prime Minister: It’s a pleasure. I have always admired your work.
AC: Let me start with the question no one is asking. Are you going to run in the next election?
PM: It’s funny. One day I open the paper and see that I’m stepping down, the next I’m supposedly calling a snap election ahead of the legislated date, when as you know . . .
AC: That would be illegal.
PM: Exactly. So it could not happen. But I’m not campaigning today. When I say that ours is the only party that is remotely capable of governing, that the other parties would put each and every Canadian’s life in mortal, physical danger, I don’t say that in a campaigning kind of way. I’m focused on governing.
AC: Talking of—
PM: I’ll leave the politics to the opposition.
AC: Quite. Talking of governing, you’ve spent most of the past year denying all knowledge of the scandal involving your chief of staff and a secret payment to Sen. Mike Duffy—
PM: As you know, Nigel Wright has taken full responsibility. He acted without authority, and in secret. When he told me, the morning of May 15, I’ll be frank, I went through the full range of emotions: anger, rage, fury . .
AC: Those are more or less the same emotion aren’t they?
PM: . . . deception, betrayal, disrespect.
AC: Those aren’t even emotions. Anyway, if you were so furious, why did your spokesman continue to say, days later, that he enjoyed your “full confidence”? Why did your people defend him as an honourable man who was just trying to save the taxpayers money? Why did you claim he’d resigned, before you changed your story to say he’d been dismissed? And why do you now stick to such studiously neutral language as “he no longer works for me”?
PM: Well look, obviously, as you know, I’ve been very clear. As I’ve said many times, I’ve already answered that question.
AC: Um, what? How is that an answer to anything?
PM: As an economist.
AC: After Wright met with you on Feb. 22, he told his fellow conspirators the agreement to pay off Duffy out of Conservative party funds was “good to go” with you. What plan did you discuss?
PM: Well look, at all times, what I was told is that Mr. Duffy was going to repay his expenses.
AC: So the agreement for which you gave your approval was just for Duffy to pay back his own expenses: something that would require neither an agreement nor your approval? Moreover, having lied to you about it, Wright then lied to the others when he said you’d signed off on the actual agreement they’d negotiated? And when he later told your spokesman, “the prime minister knows, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy,” he was lying then, too?
PM: What can I say? Sometimes good people do bad things. But, you know, as a leader you have to take responsibility. The prime minister is always responsible. I mean, the bottom line is that the buck stops with me.
AC: I see. And in what sense have you taken personal responsibility for this?
PM: In the sense that I have singled out others for blame. Mr. Wright, in particular.
AC: But he wasn’t the only one that took part. Members of your staff, several Conservative senators including Sen. Irving Gerstein, the head of the Conservative fundraising arm: they all lied to you for months on end?
PM: Mr. Wright himself says that his actions were wrong.
AC: I’m not asking about Wright! You appointed all these people. Where did they get the idea this was acceptable?
PM: I don’t know the answer to that.
AC: Even after the story broke, you told Parliament repeatedly that Wright acted alone. Didn’t you ask any of them what they knew? Or did they continue to deceive you even then?
PM: Clearly, I should have been told.
AC: If Wright’s involvement is the reason he is no longer employed, why is Sen. Gerstein?
PM: Sen. Irving Gerstein
PM: I am powerless before your devastating logic.
AC: Okay, on to the short snappers. Senate reform.
PM: Blocked by the courts.
PM: Canadians don’t want to pay higher taxes.
PM: Canadians want us to stop making excuses for criminals.
AC: Rob Ford.
PM: I’m not going to get into other levels of government.
AC: Your record.
PM: Our government has done, I would say, probably more than any other government in history. The government has had a busier year in 2013 than it’s ever had before. More legislation passed than ever before, more initiatives that are ongoing than ever before.
AC: Really? Can you name three?
PM: Well, there’s immigration. And the National Research Council.
AC: That’s two.
PM: I told you: I’m not campaigning today
PM: All for it. As I told your colleague Mark Kennedy, “one of the most fundamental characteristics of a democratic society is that you limit power.”
AC: Oh you did not just say that!
PM: Excuse me?
AC: Sorry. Just channelling Mark. Prime Minister, a Merry Christmas to you and yours.
PM: And to your millions of satisfied readers.
Apologies to Global News and Postmedia News, from whose interviews with the prime minister large sections of this were lifted.