BTC: Live-blogging a briefing

Conservative campaign is briefing the media via off-the-record teleconference.

The questions that the “senior Conservative source” so far refuses to answer: Who wrote the speech? Is it plagiarism? Were Mr. Harper or his party briefed by the White House before the speech? Were talking points issued by the White House?

The last two queries were deemed too ridiculous to receive response.

Two reporters have requested that the call be conducted on the record. Both requests have been refused.

A reporter asks what this accusation of plagiarism says about Stephen Harper’s leadership. “We’re happy to talk about leadership … I think it’s interesting that Stephane Dion needs to rely on surrogate leaders.”

A reporter asks whether the senior Conservative really believes Iraq is not an important issue. “It’s five years in the past. And it’s not an issue that is before the Canadian people or the parliament today.”

A reporter points out that the Agriculture Minister referenced Liberal cuts from the 1990s just yesterday, so let’s talk about the speech. Where did it come from? Was it cut and pasted? Was there contact from the White House? “Our party makes its own policy decisions on foreign policy. We do not take advice from other governments in the creation of Canada’s foreign policy … We are acting in the interests of Canadians.”

Are you refusing to say where that speech came from? “This is an issue that is five years in the past. We’ve had 100 percent staff turnover in that time.”

We’ve been led to believe in the past that Stephen Harper writes his own speeches, can we assume that this was Mr. Harper’s own work? “No … I’ve indicated what our response is to this and I really don’t have anything to add.”

Are you denying the accusation of plagiarism? Yes or No? “I’m saying that it’s a distraction from what Canadians want to talk about.”

You have flooded us with communiques throughout this campaign with old statements from other politicians and when it’s a speech involving an issue that is still on-going, you say it’s not relevant. Who wrote the speech? And if it’s not relevant, what is? “I think I’ve explained several times what is relevant.”

Very simple question: How do you explain the similarities? Did Mr. Howard copy Mr. Harper? “I’ve already answered this question several times.”

The senior conservative dismisses issues that are only important to the party war rooms and the Ottawa press gallery.

Do you know who wrote the speech? “I appreciate the question … Staff turnover in politics is very high. This was five years ago. I’ve really said all I want to say about it.”

Having gone through the first round of questions, the moderator asks if the senior Conservative would like to entertain follow-up questions. The senior Conservative source politely declines.