Thursday, October 14, 2010

Controlled Controversy and the UN Security Council

Romeo LeBlanc was Canada's 25th Governor General, and the pride of New Brunswick. Referred to as “the great gentleman of Acadia”, he had a profound influence on those he met.

And when he died on June 24, 2009, a country mourned.
His son Dominic, the Liberal MP for Beausejour, recalled that his father went to work in Ottawa with people like former prime minister Lester Pearson, then Trudeau and Chretien.“My father was proud to be included in this group. They all share a vision of a compassionate Canada and each of them had an unyielding faith in the generosity and tolerance of Canadians,” he said.“The country has lost a devoted Canadian who did his best to serve with humility and compassion.”
That should have been the story. But it wasn't.

To Stephen Harper this could have been a PR nightmare. He only saw LeBlanc as a popular "Liberal" whose funeral could "help" the people he hated. So he needed a game changer.

And he found it in a thin wafer. We all remember the headlines. Did he pocket it, did he not?

And from that moment on, the story shifted from the funeral of a Canadian statesman to what Stephen Harper did with the Communion wafer. He wasn't Catholic and clearly should not have taken it in the first place.

But the debate continued and the final conclusion was that Stephen Harper was the "victim" of a smear campaign. And to prove it, the paper that ran the story "apologized" and assured their readers that those responsible would be reprimanded. Except that the reporter responsible was the son of the owner, so he was refused a second helping of mashed potatoes. That was it. The editor was canned, but she was already in trouble over another issue.

And of course the Conservatives tried to blame the whole thing on Michael Ignatieff. Doug Finley, then the Conservative Party’s National Director of Political Operations, started flogging the line:
Can Michael Ignatieff assure Canadians that no Liberal staffer, executive or advisor contacted Jamie Irving or Shawna Richer regarding the Prime Minister’s acceptance of communion at Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral?
There it was. Michael Ignatieff sabotaged the funeral of a friend. How ridiculous.

Some noted something else about the story, however. The offending newspaper was the Irving-owned Telegraph-Journal. The family of the naughty reporter. At the time, the Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard was bidding on a contract to build new coastguard ships.

And they won it

And they are now bidding on an even bigger contract. And guess what Irving-owned newspaper is singing the praises of Stephen Harper? From the Irving owned Telegraph-Journal:
... the company's chief executive, Jim Irving, made his pitch to the federal government for future shipbuilding deals - specifically, the Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels. Irving praised Prime Minister Stephen Harper's efforts at expanding Canada's presence in the arctic ... "He's up there every summer working on the economy, the environment and the community issues ... and he's going to make a big difference with what he's doing up there," said the Irving Shipbuilding CEO of the Conservative prime minister.
I'm just sayin'.

So Why Bring This up Now?

If you want to understand how Stephen Harper operates, you have to turn to those who guide his career. Most of them are also involved with the American Republicans, including Morton Blackwell and the Leadership Institute. 800 Canadian conservatives have passed through their halls (included Rob Anders), and there will be more now that they have a Canadian affiliate, The Manning Centre For Building Democracy.

The Leadership Institute teaches something they call 'Controlled Controversy', as a means of manipulating the press, and deflecting their attention away from what could be negative publicity for you, or positive publicity for your political opponent.

A perfect example of this, was Harper's first visit to Mexico. Remember that stupid hunting vest? When would Stephen Harper have ever worn a hunting vest? He was a preppie and is rarely without a suit.

But he wanted to steer the story away from the meeting that resulted in aggressive trade deals, putting NAFTA on steroids. And it worked. Every headline from there on in was about his wardrobe. You were hard pressed to find anything about what was discussed at the summit.

And the same thing is happening today.

The Harperites know they could be in trouble with the electorate for their poor showing at the UN. But instead of taking responsibility, they are changing the narrative by suggesting that Michael Ignatieff was responsible. They know it's not true, but it doesn't matter. Headlines are now about Michael Ignatieff and his evil deeds.

Colin Horgan in the UK Guardian sees the frame up over a comment Ignatieff made suggesting that Harper did not deserve a seat on the council because of his foreign policy. It was said to a small group of supporters, not at the UN. And oddly enough, no foreign ambassadors were present.
On Tuesday, despite pouring money and countless hours into the election effort, Canada failed to win a seat at the security council for the first time in its history. Afterward, the Harper government placed blame for the loss in a seemingly strange place: on Michael Ignatieff, specifically citing his comment in September. At a press conference held after Canada withdrew from the final round of voting, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said: "Canada was not united because some saw this as an opportunity to score political points by opposing Canada's candidacy… [Ignatieff] came out clearly indicating that Canada did not deserve a seat… and for that, of course, we were extremely disappointed."

The suggestion was bizarre. Was it true that Ignatieff's – albeit politically misguided – comment, given to a small group of supporters and journalists weeks prior to the vote at the UN, could hold such sway over the international community? No. In fact, the Canadian Press later revealed: "Several ambassadors who emerged from the vote made no mention of Ignatieff's remarks; one had never even heard of him."
But look what happened. The debate was did he or didn't he? And no matter how ludicrous, Ignatieff's name will be bandied around for months as the man who destroyed our chances for a seat.

The bad publicity for our government was masterfully "controlled".

Of course you might want to ask yourself, that if Michael Ignatieff really had that much control over Ambassadors from around the world, then why is he not our prime minister?

But I think we can see where this may be headed. Will Stephen Harper use this as an excuse to pull Canada out of the United Nations, further isolating us? He's always loathed them.

I can see the headline now:

'Michael Ignatieff Responsible for Canada Pulling the Plug on It's Involvement with the UN'.


But from one Acadian to another: Rest in Peace Mr. LeBlanc.


  1. Mr. LeBlanc sounds like a wonderful person and a great Canadian. Humility and compassion, two attributes of a great human being.
    Stephen Harper doesn't sound like much of anything.
    It is sad to think of Canada not being represented on the UN Security Council, sadder still to think Harper might pull Canada out of there entirely. If we didn't know what we know about Harper, it would be impossible to think of the United Nations without Canada.