Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Deceptive Democracy. Sandra Buckler and an Act of War

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

"Whenever, therefore, people are deceived and form opinions wide of the truth, it is clear that the error has slid into their minds through the medium of certain resemblances to that truth." Socrates

On November 4, 2005; Parliament Hill was abuzz with the announcement that Stephen Harper, then leader of the Opposition, was going to speak to a room filled with journalists, MPs and staffers. Mind you in 2005, an announcement that Stephen Harper was going to speak to journalists was not really the news that it is now. In fact we would stand a better chance of seeing Haley's comet two years in a row.

But what made this announcement exciting, was all the election talk during a daily barrage of accusations in the House of Commons about Liberal lobbyists and a culture of entitlement.

... what appears to be a revolving door* that sees people go into government and then leaving, using their contacts to launch lucrative careers lobbying the government they once worked for. (1)
Harper was in his best fighting mode, honed during his presidency of the National Citizens Coalition.

Politics will no longer be a steppingstone for a lucrative career** lobbying government ... Make no mistake. If there are MPs in this room who want to use public office for their own benefit or if there are Hill staffers who dream of making it rich by trying to lobby a future Conservative government, if that's true of you then you better make different plans or leave." (1)
This was the beginning of the launch of his Accountability Act, which would prove to be merely a gimmick, with no intention of ever being implemented. Those in attendance were quick to note that it was full of holes, but not yet aware that the holes were the entire substance of the act.

"The speech was rhetoric," said Conacher ... one area ... is the use of lobbyists in the election campaign. ... A little more than three weeks after Harper warned those looking to cash in to make other plans, [several] Ottawa lobbyists deregistered from lobbying for their impressive list of clients to take a seat in the Conservative war room. "To have lobbyists working inside their war room I don't think it meets the standard that's in the ethics rules..." Conacher said he believes lobbyists working on the election campaign violate existing ethics rules in Ottawa. "The lobbyist code of conduct says you can't put any public office holder in a conflict of interest."

But William Stairs, a spokesman for Harper, said the Tory leader's promise was only meant to crackdown on those who try to profit from being in government. "Mr. Harper's position hasn't changed," he said. "What is wrong is when people go from government to lobbying and they use their position in government or they've joined government in order to gain the experience and contacts necessary to allow them to go into the lobbying business and make all kinds of money. (1)

Lobbyists working in the war room at the time, included Ken Boessenkool and Goldy Hyder from Hill and Knowlton (Harper's first defense minister, Gordon O'Connor, was also from Hill and Knowlton, responsible for military contracts) Lisa McAdam from Strategy Corp., Yaroslav Baran from Tactix Government Consulting Inc., Tim Powers from Summa Strategies Canada Inc., and Geoff Norquay from Earnscliffe.

Another lobbyist preparing for an election at the time was Sandra Buckler, from several mega corporations, including Coca Cola. Buckler would build the framework for the most secretive government that Canada has ever had.

Sandra Buckler and This is War

In the United States, the Bush administration goes to exceptional lengths to control their message. They meet with friendly reporters on Fox News, they give interviews to pet right wing "journalists" at the Washington Times, and at public appearances, the audiences are vetted to ensure that only well-rehearsed softball questions are lobbed at the president. Bush has held fewer press conferences than any president since television first became a major part of political messaging, and when he does hold one, they are tightly scripted. (2)
From the onset it was clear that Stephen Harper was going to follow in George Bush's footsteps and stop freedom of the press in it's tracks. Since Canadians had always been frightened of his agenda, the only way he could forge ahead was to ensure that he could operate without the nuisance of journalists whose duty it is to keep us informed, while chronicling history as it unfolds.

After weeks of trying to gain access to ministers, Sandra Buckler, who replaced William Stairs as Harper's spokesperson, arranged a meeting with the Ottawa Press Gallery. But it did not go well. In fact, it wasn't so much a meeting as the announcement of a decree. Canadians would have no access to their government. End of!

The Parliamentary Press Gallery continues its war with the sparkling new Prime Minister's Office which has clamped down on photo opps, scrums news releases and other forms of the fodder and filler of political coverage. Last Friday, the PPG's executive took a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Director of Communications Sandra Buckler to iron out differences. But, from the sound of things, there are many new wrinkles in how the Harperites and the Hacks will interact with each other. Or not interact with each other.

Present were the PPG president Emmanuelle Latraverse, Stephanie Rubec (candidate for the presidency next year), treasurer Isabelle Rodrigue, Terry Guillon Chief of the Press Gallery and John Waterfield Manager of the Press Gallery. Buckler was accompanied by Stéphane Rondeau, Geneviève Desjardins, as well as Christine Csversko.

Here is an excerpt of a note to PPG members from their exec today, which sums up how badly it went. In the course of our short meeting, the PMO indicated that:

· They are considering no longer announcing Cabinet meetings to Canadians ahead of time in order to circumvent the Gallery’s right to post cameras and reporters on the third floor of the Parliament’s Centre Block (as per our understanding with the House);

· They reserve the right not to inform Canadians of the visit of foreign heads of state;

· They will no longer systematically grant access to a pool reporter at photo opportunities between the Prime Ministers and his guests. (3)

Even Time Magazine covered it with suggestions that it "smacks of totalitarianism." (4)

Press Gallery president Emmanuelle Latraverse, ended the meeting after twenty minutes, realizing that nothing was going to change and Harper released his scripted reply.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canadians have no right to know when the federal cabinet is meeting. In an ongoing battle with the parliamentary press gallery over media access, the Conservatives held the first unannounced meeting of the full cabinet in recent memory Tuesday.

... Traditionally, cabinet meetings have been announced in advance, which the House of Commons interprets as an implied invitation to the media to attend. Reporters then gathered outside the cabinet room to buttonhole ministers as they entered or departed. By holding the meetings in secret, Harper has now effectively banned journalists from the floor where cabinet convenes -- allowing ministers to come and go unobserved.

A heavier than usual contingent of Commons security staff patrolled the halls Tuesday morning, barring reporters from areas they had routinely frequented under past governments. "We're going to need hard hats pretty soon," said one guard, rolling his eyes. (5)
Tim from Peace, Order and Good Government, may have said it best at the time:

The Canadian right wing is relatively new to mau-mauing the media compared to their American counterparts, but they are nonetheless keenly taking up the cause. The destruction of public trust in major intuitions - the media, the courts - is an important part of their strategy to become the only purveyors of "the truth". In the U.S., this has allowed the Bush administration to lurch from one lie-induced crisis to another with relatively little difficulty, stabilized by a base of die-hard supporters who only believe what they hear on Fox News or from Rush Limbaugh.

Harper is pursuing the right wing media dream here in Canada, all the better to implement plans he knows the majority of Canadians would find unpalatable. The Conservative Party's loathing of public scrutiny should set off major alarm bells for us all. We've seen Republicans in the U.S. shred the constitution, declare the president above the law, and go to war based on rather transparent lies. With the assistance of a hobbled press corps, Harper could succeed in hiding his "hidden agenda" in plain sight. (6)

"Hiding his 'hidden agenda' in plain sight, is exactly what he has done, and after four years of watching from the sidelines, our media is once again putting up a fight. (7)

Will they succeed? We can only hope. Sandra Buckler was later fired (8), but not for battling the media, but for misfiring a grenade. She is now working as chief of staff fro Peter Van Loan.


*See Lobbyists in, lobbyists out despite Tory promise to stop 'revolving door' by Bruce Cheadle, November 11, 2007

** See Conservatives duck repeated fire on Rahim Jaffer’s lobbying efforts


1. Harper's use of lobbyists criticized, by Romeo St. Martin, PoliticsWatch, December 12, 2005

2. Controlling the Messengers, The Daily Trojan, University of South Carolina, March 28, 2006

3. Taking the Hill, By Antonia Zerbisias, Toronto Star, March 27, 2006

4. Controlling The Message, By Steven Frank, April 03, 2006

5. PM claims right to keep cabinet meetings secret, The Canadian Press, March 28 2006

6. Peace, order and good government, eh? Who promised you democracy would be easy? March 28, 2006

7. How to Lift the PM's Muzzle: Under Stephen Harper citizens' right to know has been smothered. Journalists must take a stand. By Helene Buzzetti and Press gallery colleagues, The Tyee, June 11, 2010

8. PM's communications head steps down, By Bruce Campion-Smith and Tonda MacCharles, Toronto Star

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Where the Isotope Story Began: A Tall Tale or Tail Between Their Legs

It's pretty clear that the Conservatives have no idea what they're doing when it comes to nuclear energy. That certainly doesn't help me to sleep at night and their latest debacle actually has me walking the floor.

On January 15, 2008, Conservative MP Gary Lunn, on the advice of Stephen Harper, fired Linda Keen, the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission; for refusing to reopen the Chalk River nuclear facility; because of major safety concerns.

Then in February 2009, it was learned the government had hidden the news that there was a leak in the reactor, for two months, prompting allegations of a cover-up and suggestions that the public had been put at risk. Should we be concerned that nuclear waste is leaking into our waterways? Hmmm.

In fact, they have told us that the reason they pushed for Chalk River to remain open despite the fact that it had leaked 7,000 litres of potentially carcinogenic waste into a major Canadian waterway and the former head of CNSC, Linda Keen, said that it was an accident waiting to happen; was because we needed crucial isotopes.

Now we learn that chalk river will be closed for months. What's changed? Were they lying to us then or now and do they have a clue? Apparently not.
Toronto Star
May 30, 2009

When the Chalk River nuclear research reactor was down for just three weeks in late 2007, it was considered such a crisis that emergency legislation was required to reopen it.
Had we not acted, people invariably would have died, since medical isotopes for serious cancer procedures were not available, and we could not let that happen," said Gary Lunn,
then minister of natural resources, at the time. "We had to act, and we did."

Now, with the half-century-old reactor down for at least three months (some say much longer), there's no problem, according to the government's spokespersons.

Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt assured Parliament this week that the government is taking "great action" on the isotope file, "is seeking to ensure global supply" and "is working to manage the shortage."

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq also downplayed the seriousness of the looming shortage of medical isotopes sparked by the shutdown at Chalk River. "It's not a crisis," she told the Star yesterday.

How can that be? The Chalk River reactor produces half the North American supply of medical isotopes, which are used in a variety of diagnostic tests for cancer and heart ailments. Hospitals have already had to delay tests and switch to alternative methods in the face of this shortage.

The health minister can talk to hospitals about prioritizing tests, but that is no comfort to a patient with heart disease or a woman waiting to find out if her breast cancer has spread.

Stephen Harper's Conservative government is either dramatically underplaying the current medical isotope crisis or wildly overplayed the last one.

And this week's flurry of announcements, including the appointment of an expert review panel "to consider proposals for alternate sources of medical isotopes," has not reinforced our confidence that the government has a handle on the situation.

After the 2007 crisis, the government also appointed a panel of health specialists to study the matter and recommend ways to avoid a reoccurrence. The so-called "lessons learned" panel advised the government a year ago that it should "diversify generator supply sources, preferably within Canada." Specifically, it said that research reactors on university campuses across the country could be adapted to produce medical isotopes.

No apparent action was taken on that recommendation until yesterday, when the government announced funding for McMaster University to upgrade its research reactor to produce medical isotopes.

Bewilderingly, Industry Minister Tony Clement said the funding had nothing to do with Chalk River but was part of the government's "short-term stimulus" package.

The government has some explaining to do. Specifically, why did it take a second crisis to prompt the government to find a backup supplier of medical isotopes? That should have been a government priority long before now.
More of the story:
Radioactive Water; Reactor produces half of world's medical isotopes
David Akin,
Canwest News Service
May 28, 2009

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) said yesterday it has found the source of the leak of radioactive water at the Chalk River nuclear reactor that produces nearly half of the world's medical isotopes and that it will force the reactor to stay shut down "for at least three months."

Since the reactor was shut down on May 15, the Crown corporation had stuck to its original estimate of down time of "at least a month."

Canwest News Service reported last week that current and former engineers at the Chalk River facility believe that, in the best-case scenario, the 52-year-old reactor will be offline for at least eight months, if it comes back online at all.

AECL said it had been working around the clock to identify the source of the leak of radioactive water from the giant 15-metre-tall aluminum vessel that houses the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor's core. Though the reactor was commissioned in 1957, the vessel was replaced in 1972.

Engineering sources told Canwest News Service that the manufacturer of that vessel recommended it be replaced every 15 years.

AECL said yesterday it found the leak at the base of the 37-year-old tank in a location where there is corrosion on the outside wall of the vessel. AECL said it also found additional corrosion points on the outer wall of the vessel that require more examination.

AECL has not yet proposed a remedy for the leaks. Instead, it must prepare more specialized test equipment to inspect the interior of the vessel, which is filled with a complex array of tubes and pipes.

"Sophisticated diagnostic procedures are required to determine the exact nature and extent of the repairs before returning the NRU reactor safely to service," said Bill Pilkington, AECL's chief nuclear officer.

The NRU is the source of medical isotopes used to treat and diagnose cancer and other diseases for 20 million patients in 80 countries each year.

"Until all investigations are completed, it is premature at this point to set a definitive timeline for the return to service of the NRU reactor," said AECL chief executive Hugh McDiarmid. "We want to reassure Canadians that every effort is being taken by our team of experts to address the situation as quickly as possible while adhering to all prescribed safety procedures."

AECL said that the water initially was leaking at a rate of about 120 kilograms each day. It now says that, because it has lowered the water level in the tank, it has reduced the leak rate to about 25 kilograms of water each day.

Some of that leaked radioactive water is evaporating and being vented. AECL said there are no threats to human safety or to the environment with the release of the vapour.

The rest of the water is being stored in specially designed drums until it can be processed and, where possible, reused at the facility.

Tracking the Isotope Story:

1. Note to Leona Aglukkaq. Stephen Harper Will Not Save you Now

Tony Panyi Continued: A Shake Up in the Legislature

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

Though the young Tories of Tony Clement were elated with the victory of Brian Mulroney and their role in his success, there was still a lot of work to be done in Ontario. The party under Bill Davis, was said to be moving to the left of the Liberals, as they worked to appease a more urbanized and progressive province.

Many members of the government, including Gordon Walker, Alan Pope, and senior cabinet minister Frank Miller, also believed the party had drifted too far to the he left, and saw in this group of young radicals, potential allies who could be used as shock troops, should they decide to run for leadership. (1)

They would soon be given an opportunity when Bill Davis announced that he would be stepping down. In a tight race, Frank Miller won the leadership race at their January convention, and was named premier on February 8, 1985, by appealing to those in favour of a swing back to the right.

One supporter was a backbencher from Nippising, who was drawn in part to Miller's previous plans to close a number of hospitals and consolidate urban services. His ideas failed because of opposition from within Miller's own party, but when this MPP from Nippising, later became premier, he, Mike Harris, would not fail.

At the time the PCs were at 55% in the polls, so Miller immediately called an election. It would prove to be his Waterloo.

Ontario Not Ready for Right Wing Revolution:

William Davis was a Red Tory, which is where the provinces' comfort zone lay. However, Frank Miller was not, and he may have been misguided to believe that he could draw the electorate in with a complete shift in policy. Bob Rae, then leader of the Ontario NDP, explains:
Miller was actually older than Davis, and cut from a very different cloth. He was affable enough, but determined to take his party to the right. His plaid jackets spoke of another era. His references to Reagan and Thatcher spoke of an ideological agenda that, to that point, had been foreign to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

Frank Miller's message seemed to be the one the party faithful wanted to hear in early 1985. When the Tory convention was held, the delegates rejected younger, more progressive voices. The great beneficiary of this choice was not me but David Peterson. I did not fully realize this at the time, nor did I understand that the more effective I was in demolishing Miller, the more I was simply opening up room for Peterson. Three-party politics in Ontario create a unique dynamic. For the better part of my lifetime, the success of the Ontario Tories had been their ability to occupy the middle, forcing the Liberals often to the right, and us to the left. (2)
Miller came on the scene in Ontario, in the same way that Barry Goldwater first shocked the moderate and progressive populace in the United States.

(Bob Rae is in the centre of the 1970 photo on the left, and to his left is someone you may have heard of: Michael Ignatieff. They were lifelong friends and roomed together when they were both at Harvard)

Rae continues:
The choice of Miller put the Tories well to the right, and created a generational divide as well. The Liberals' campaign in 1985 was well organized and well presented. Mine was less confident at first, and by the time we gained our voice it was too late. We didn't have enough money, so I had to share a bus with the press. Someone gave me an electric piano, and I drove them crazy with what I thought were clever songs about Frank Miller and the Tories. At the same time, David Peterson was cruising with confidence, promising beer and wine in the corner store, and looking and sounding more like a winner. (2)
But what also hurt the Tories, was Bill Davis's decision that it was time to provide equal funding to Catholic high schools. This definitely became an election issue. When the results were in the PCs were reduced to 52 seats, the Liberals had 48 and the NDP 25, giving them the balance of power. But in a surprise move, Bob Rae brokered a deal with the Liberals , promising support for two years, if his agenda was honoured. Peterson grabbed the opportunity and the PCs became the opposition for the first time in 42 years.

Miller resigned on August 20, 1985, having served as premier for just six months.

The accord with the NDP had proved a gift from God for the Liberals. The agenda that Rae demanded was wildly popular with the electorate, and the Ontario economy—recovering nicely, it seemed, from the early eighties recession—was more than able to accommodate the necessary increase in government spending. Environmental laws were toughened, the scope of rent controls widened. Money was spent on child care and affordable housing. Equal rights for homosexuals were entrenched in the province's human rights code. First steps were taken towards pay equity for women. And most important, the Liberals moved to ban extra billing by doctors, an increasingly common practice across the province. The doctors reacted by going on a limited strike. The government stared them down. The strike collapsed.(3)


1. Promised Land: Inside the Mike Harris Revolution, By John Ibbitson, 1997, ISBN: 0136738648, Pg. 33

2. From Protest to Power: Personal Reflections on a Life in Politics, By Bob Rae, Viking Press, 1996, ISBN: 0-670-86842-6, Pg. 89-90

3. Ibbitson, 1997, Pg. 35

Why Mike Duffy Must be Removed from Senate

Last October, during the final days of the election campaign, and the Liberals were starting to climb in the polls; Mike Duffy pulled out all the stops, not to broadcast news but to discredit Stephane Dion.

We all know how he was repaid for his efforts and as he sits in Senate, no longer accountable for his actions, it begs the question. Does he have the right to continue to enjoy the benefits of such a position after being charged by the Canadian Broadcast Council for unethical behaviour?

Along with his partner in crime, Steve Murphy, he greatly impacted the views of voters. However, he only impacted them to stay home on election night, because none of the lost Liberal votes went to the Conservatives, who were also down from last election. Duffy merely helped to muddy the waters of the entire electoral system, and in turn, the democratic process. This puts into question his ability to represent Canadians in a fair and intelligent manner.

I'm helping to pay his salary and as such believe he should now be fired.

national specialty services Panel
CTV Newsnet re an episode of Mike Duffy Live Prime Time(Stéphane Dion Interview)
(CBSC Decision 08/09-0213 & -0281)
Decided April 6, 2009


Mike Duffy Live Prime Time was a political public affairs program of limited duration. While Mike Duffy Live was a regular series, the special Prime Time episodes were at times material to this decision only aired during the 2008 Canadian federal election.

On October 9, 2008, CTV Atlantic journalist Steve Murphy interviewed Liberal leader Stéphane Dion for the second time during the 2008 federal general election campaign. During the interview, it appeared that Mr. Dion had not understood Murphy’s first question and the Liberal leader asked to re-start the interview a total of three times. On the fourth occasion, the uninterrupted interview continued for about twelve minutes. CTV Atlantic (CJCH-TV) aired the interview process in its entirety, that is to say, the false starts followed by the complete interview, on its 6:00 pm newscast.

Later that evening, Mike Duffy Live Prime Time, broadcast on specialty service CTV Newsnet, had as its primary subject of discussion the Murphy-Dion interview and restarts, which had by then begun to generate considerable public controversy and interest on the part of various news organizations (although it is unclear to the Panel whether any other broadcasters had aired the stops and restarts). The complete interview was not included in the Duffy episode, which began with the host’s introduction of that day’s principal topic:

Hello again and welcome to the Thursday edition of Mike Duffy Prime. Well, the Harper Conservatives got some good news today and it wasn’t just the World Economic Forum, which rated our banking system as the best, the most secure in the world. This good news came in the form of a devastating reminder of Stéphane Dion’s struggle with the English language. We’ll have the tape in just a few moments. If you’ve got a PVR, set it on “record”. This is going to be one you’ll be talking about for days....

First, the tale of the tape..... What we’re going to show you is exactly what happened in that Halifax hotel suite. The tape has not been edited. CTV Newsnet then broadcast the interview stops and retakes, ending shortly after the final restart, which resulted in the Liberal leader’s response to the final, only slightly altered, version of the initial question.

Murphy: "Monsieur Dion, the economy is now the issue in the campaign and on that issue you’ve said that, today, that Mr. Harper’s offered nothing to put Canadians’ minds at ease and offers no vision for the country. We have to act now, you say. Doing nothing is not an option. If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done? (In order for Mr. Dion to be PM 'now', he would have had to have been elected in 2006)

In the rest of the full interview, which continued from that point but was not broadcast on the Duffy show, the Liberal leader, in response to Murphy’s several questions, dealt with what he would say “to ease the minds of Canadians”, the Liberal economic plan, the proposed carbon tax, deficits, the green shift, taxes, comparable European national policies, and Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan.

At this point in the Mike Duffy Live program, Duffy facilitated a panel discussion with representatives from three of the major federal parties. The caption at bottom of screen during this portion of the program was “Campaign Exhaustion?”

The topic of discussion then shifted to other aspects of the election, primarily the various parties’ prospects in different ridings. The MP panel portion of the program concluded and Duffy spoke to CTV correspondents Tom Clark and Craig Oliver via telephone. During this segment, the caption at the bottom of the screen was “Dion’s False Starts” and live footage of Dion giving a speech was shown as the commentators discussed the issue.

Duffy: CTV’s Tom Clark is covering the Liberals in Laval. Tom, how are the Liberals explaining this Dion language problem? Are they doing the Geoff Regan move here and saying it’s all about his handicap and anybody who mentions it’s picking on him?

Clark: No, uh, surprisingly, Mike. Um, the Dion Tour is not saying it’s because of a physical handicap. They are saying he did not understand the question. But they are steaming mad, I can tell you. They are saying that this is an “appalling”, in their words, they say this is an “appalling breach of journalistic ethics”.

They had asked for the TV station, CTV station in Halifax not to run those false starts. Uh, they believed that they had, initially, an agreement that those false starts would not be run and now they are saying that nefarious or higher-ranked, uh, uh, people within the organization, within the network, uh, went back on that word, uh, and ran what everybody has seen tonight.

Duffy: Well, it’s clearly part of CTV News policy that no reporter on the street can make deals. Uh, the camera’s rolling and, and we don’t make deals with anyone. It doesn’t matter who they are....

Duffy: Yeah, well, Geoff Regan put it down to being a handicap and we’re making fun of a handicapped person, which we are not doing. We’re covering the election campaign. Thank you both for joining us tonight. Undoubtedly this will be water-cooler talk tomorrow as Canadians, uh, get ready to make their choices in the upcoming election.

The CBSC received numerous complaints about the Dion interview, both about the original CTV Atlantic broadcast of the clip and about its rebroadcast on this episode of Mike Duffy Live Prime Time. A total of ten complaints specifically identified Mike Duffy Live Prime Time as their subject of concern. Of the ten, six provided enough information for the CBSC to engage its process and, of these, only two individuals requested that the CBSC rule on the matter following receipt of the broadcaster’s response ...

Those complainants were concerned about the inclusion of the Murphy interview in the Mike Duffy Live Prime Time program. They expressed the view that Murphy’s question had been awkwardly worded, so it was understandable that Dion had comprehension difficulties, which were compounded by the fact that he was operating in his second language. They wrote that the broadcast of the false starts was unfair, particularly since CTV Atlantic had initially told Dion that they would not air them (that fact was clearly acknowledged by Steve Murphy in his introduction to the clip on the CTV Atlantic News at 6 newscast).

One of these two complainants characterized the broadcast of the Dion footage as an attempt to “make news rather than simply report it,” while another articulated his concerns about Duffy’s presentation by questioning whether “Mr. Duffy’s words and facial expressions reflect professional journalism?”

The formulation of the question itself.

Since much turns on what was asked and what was understood, or misunderstood, the Panel considers it useful to look carefully at the formulation of the question itself. It was initially put as follows: “If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?” When the interview recommenced, the question was framed almost identically, the adverb “already” having been inserted to qualify the verb: “If you were prime minister now, what would you have already done in this crisis that Mr. Harper hasn’t done?” And then, in the context of the “good” interview, that ran in full, there was no structural change, the word “today” having been substituted for “now” and “by now” for “already”; the question was worded in this final incarnation as follows: “If you were Prime Minister of Canada today, what would you have done by now that Stephen Harper has not done about this economic crisis?” […]

In any event, any moderately attentive analysis of any of the three forms of the initial question would reveal that the question is confusing, and not only to a person whose first language is other than English. In the strictest grammatical sense, Steve Murphy’s question mixes not only tenses (present and past), but also moods (subjunctive and indicative), both being syntactically relevant in French and English.

It follows that several interpretations of what the interviewer intended to ask are possible. What the Panel (speculatively) believes the interviewer wished to ask was essentially what Mr. Dion would have done in the past about the economy and this crisis had he been in Mr. Harper’s shoes during the same period. If such is the correct understanding, the question would have been more properly framed, “If you had been prime minister during the period that Mr. Harper has been prime minister, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?” Or, it may be that the question Murphy wished to put was meant to have a present/future articulation, as in “If you were prime minister now, what steps would you be taking about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not yet taken?”

Given the confused question, the Panel considers that the interviewer may even have intended to ask whether Mr. Dion would have taken specific steps to obviate such an economic crisis in the first place. Alternatively, did Murphy mean to inquire how Mr. Dion would have tackled the economic crisis had it landed on his plate after two years in office? Or did he wish to request how, if Mr. Dion were elected as prime minister on the day of the interview, he would handle such an economic crisis encountered that day or thereafter, in the future? Indeed, Mr. Dion appeared to understand that there could be a difference in the answer depending on how long he might have been in office before being called upon to face such a problem. As he ultimately pointedly asked, “give me a first date where I’m prime minister that I can figure out what, what is your question […] about [emphasis added].”

The Panel’s only point is that the question was unfocussed, unclear and ultimately confusing, even to Anglophones (as all Adjudicators on this Panel are). It was neither crisp nor even clear, and it left doubts as to its meaning in the interviewee, the audience, and even this Panel, after viewing and reviewing the logger tape. In other words, blame for misapprehension cannot simply be laid at the feet of the interviewee.

The Newsworthiness Issue

There are two aspects to the newsworthiness issue, one that was raised in the CTV Atlantic decision and one that flows from the Duffy rebroadcast of the false starts.

The first issue relates to the broadcast of the outtakes at all. The majority of the National Specialty Services Panel agrees with the Atlantic Panel. The undisputed newsworthy element of the original broadcast was the complete interview, which ran for about twelve minutes after the restarts, beginning at about 6:41 pm. In that part of the 6:00 pm newscast, Mr. Dion discussed his platform and offered suggestions for dealing with the economic crisis in response to the initial poorly formulated question. The balance of the interview (a little more than an additional ten minutes in duration) dealt with what he thought should be said “to ease the minds of Canadians”, the Liberal economic plan, the proposed carbon tax, deficits, the green shift, taxes, comparable European national policies, and Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan.

That is where the substantive meat was, not in the restarts. Despite the presence of that complete interview following the initial four minutes of introduction and restarts, the Atlantic Panel concluded that it was a code breach “for the broadcaster, CTV Atlantic, to reverse its commitment and broadcast the outtakes.” In the matter at hand, where almost none of the substantive electorally-relevant content was provided to the audience, the Panel finds that the rebroadcast was unfair in terms of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

The second issue relates to the fact that the CTV Atlantic broadcast of the restarts was itself newsworthy, that it had become newsworthy. As the President of CTV News said in his November letter, “That evening and the next day, the interview and the restarts were reported by several news organizations including The Canadian Press, CBC, Newsworld, Global News, The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star [emphasis added].”

The majority of the Panel considers the following conclusion of the Atlantic Panel to be of relevance: What then was the broadcaster really seeking, if not the full questions and the full answers? It appears to have been the stumbles, the whoopses, and the mis-starts. Given the poor quality and confusing syntax of the question, the Panel does not accept the “justification” that Mr. Dion’s command of English could be shown to be “so poor that he could not understand a question with different tenses.”


[The Atlantic Regional] Panel (two-thirds of the industry Adjudicators being themselves members of RTNDA and broadcast journalists of considerable experience) considers that restarts and retakes are a common, not a rare, occurrence. The decision to extend such a courtesy was neither unreasonable nor even unusual.

Such outtakes, the Specialty Services Panel concludes, are very common, even absolutely routine. The Panel does not, therefore, even find it a modest stretch to have a person in authority agree to a restart, or even more than one restart. After all, once that ball was rolling, there was no reason to expect that anything had changed when it came to restart three or even four. On any of those restarts, the interviewer could have said “No, we must carry on from here.” Murphy did not and, in the view of the Panel, the Liberal leader and his team had every reason to expect that the restarted matter was, in effect, “overwritten” or banished from use. ... Had the question been articulate and well-framed, the Panel might have expected the Liberal leader to wear some responsibility for the confusion that ensued. That was not, however, the case.

Even had the question been properly put, though, the broadcaster’s commitment to permit the restarts would likely have put the filmed content off-limits. In the circumstances, the question was bad and the commitment was made. The Panel views the broadcaster’s actions in the rebroadcast of the outtakes on the Duffy show as an unfair and improper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial, contrary to the rule established in Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

The National Panel also acknowledges that, while the host, Mike Duffy, was entitled to have and manifest an opinion, as this was, after all, a mixed news and public affairs show, not a pure news program, he went too far. He was not fair, balanced or even-handed. In addition to the unfairness of the rebroadcast noted immediately above, the host significantly misrepresented the view of one of the three members of his Panel, namely, Liberal MP Geoff Regan, who had attributed the misunderstanding as a hearing issue and had said, “I don’t think that we should […] spend a lot of time talking about someone’s physical impairment.”

About 20-30 seconds later (all of the following emphases being added), ignoring totally the actual words of MP Regan, Duffy said “you fob it off as, we’re making fun of someone’s physical impairment.” And, in his next observation, the host reiterated the fallacious assertion, “And then you tell me we’re making fun of his physical impairment?” Despite the fact that guest panellist Geoff Regan twice said, “That’s not what I said,” and it is clear from the transcript that was not what he said, Mike Duffy persisted in his misrepresentation.

In talking with his CTV colleagues Tom Clark and Craig Oliver, Duffy next said, “Are they doing the Geoff Regan move here and saying it’s all about his handicap and anybody who mentions it’s picking on him?” He concluded the item with these words, “Geoff Regan put it down to being a handicap and we’re making fun of a handicapped person.” The National Specialty Services Panel concludes that the consistent misrepresentation by host Mike Duffy of the MP’s point of view constituted an unfair and improper presentation of opinion or comment contrary to Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Steve Murphy Gets His Butt Kicked But Harper Cleans Up

Last October when Steve Murphy of CTV News went against his word and ran the Stephane Dion re-starts, I said that he proved that media ethics is an oxymoron. It was about as low as a public broadcaster could go.

This week it was ruled that Mr. Murphy and CTV, violated industry codes and public apologies will run during his program.

He may have been a respected anchor, but will go down in history as a snake.

Mike Duffy has also been charged for replaying the false starts and having a panel dissect them. We know what he got as his reward. Not sure about the man that many call 'Mr. Potato Head'.

CTV broke codes in Dion interview, CBSC finds
May 27, 2009

OTTAWA — The arbiter of ethics on the airwaves ruled Wednesday that CTV violated industry codes when it included three false starts in a broadcast of an election interview with then-Liberal leader Stephane Dion.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council found CTV Atlantic's 6 p.m. newscast was ``discourteous and inconsiderate'' when it ran the awkward false starts after the anchor promised Dion they wouldn't be broadcast.

It also found the question that was put to Dion ``confusing.''

At the beginning of the interview, anchor Steve Murphy asked Dion: ``If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?''

Dion began to respond, and then stopped and asked Murphy if they could restart because he didn't understand the meaning — whether Murphy meant if he had been prime minister since 2006, or going forward.

Murphy restated the question in a similar fashion, and Dion asked for two more restarts, which Murphy agreed to.

Afterward, the entire tape — including the restarts — was broadcast.

The council said in its decision that the question was confusing to begin with, even to someone whose mother tongue is English.
And it took issue with the fact Murphy had agreed to Dion's request to restart, and then broadcast the entire exchange. It noted that restarts and out-takes are common in television news media.

``Mr. Murphy was in a position to make the commitment he did make on behalf of the broadcaster, a commitment that could be relied upon,'' the CBSC's Atlantic regional panel wrote.

``In the view of the panel, if Mr. Murphy did not have the authority to make such an agreement, he ought not to have made it. Having made it, the broadcaster ought to have stood behind him.''

CTV News president Robert Hurst expressed disappointment with the decision.

``We are deeply concerned by the tone and content of the council's decision as it is not the CBSC's role to police the nature of the questions any news organization chooses to pose to a public official,'' Hurst said in a written statement.

``CTV News also stands by the conduct of Atlantic Canada's most-watched news anchor Steve Murphy, one of the region's longest serving and most respected journalists, who has been unfairly criticized throughout this process.''

A spokesman for Dion said the former leader had read the decision, and said ``it speaks for itself.''

CTV will run a statement saying it violated the Radio Television News Directors Code of Ethics within the next three days during the supper hour newscast, and then again within the next week.

The standards council also studied complaints lodged against CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live program. The show rebroadcast Dion's false starts and discussed it with a panel of politicians and later with journalists.

During the discussion, Liberal MP Geoff Regan suggested Dion might not have understood the question because of a hearing impairment, but then said it was not a subject worth discussing.
Duffy then repeatedly said that Regan was accusing the network of ridiculing a handicap.

The CBSC's national specialty services panel said Duffy ``went too far.''

``He was not fair, balanced or even-handed,'' the panel said, also agreeing the rebroadcasts of the restarts were in breach of industry code.

CTV Newsnet will run a statement saying it violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters code of ethics within the next three days at the same time as the Mike Duffy Live program used to air, and again within a week.

Two members of the national specialty services panel dissented with the Duffy Live opinion, saying that media outlets should err on the side of providing more information — not less — to the public.

They argued that Dion's ability to react to stressful situations could have constituted valuable information during an election campaign.

The dissenters said they agreed with the assessment of Duffy's show, but didn't find it constituted a breach of code.

Hurst's statement did not include a specific mention of Mike Duffy Show Live.

Duffy was appointed a Conservative senator last January. He declined comment Wednesday. Regan said he was pleased with the ruling.

``I hope it'll lead to stronger journalistic practices,'' Regan said.

``I respect the media and they have an important role to play, but this decision clearly shows that in this case CTV crossed the line.''

Little solace for Mr. Dion, but hopefully it will be clear message to others. How can we rely on our journalists and anchors when they will stoop this low for a story?

Details of the case can be found:



and HERE

Friends of Science Just Friends of Stephen Harper

During the 2006 election the Conservatives pulled out all the stops, leaving nothing to chance. It failed to give them the Majority they craved and needed to push forward their agenda, but it did win them the election.

They took a page out of George Bush's campaign strategies, to run a Karl Rove attack. They laundered money through non-profit agencies and religious groups to help augment advertising and even tried to defraud taxpayers in a scheme now referred to as the "in and out".

However, one of the biggest challenges facing Harper during that campaign, was his weak stance on the environment, and complete denial of climate change.

Enter a group calling themselves the Friends of Science, who flooded the airwaves with attacks against Kyoto and global warming. But who exactly are these people so concerned with fighting environmental issues?

A Globe and Mail feature article by Charles Montgomery today has delivered what should be a death blow for the climate change denial and anti-Kyoto attack group, the Friends of Science.

The G&M says that FOS has taken undisclosed sums from Alberta oil and gas interests
. The money was funneled through the
Calgary Foundation, to the University of Calgary and on to the FOS though something called the “Science Education Fund.”

All this appears to be orchestrated by Stephen Harper’s long-time political confidante and fishing buddy,
U. Calgary Prof Dr. Barry Cooper. It seems the FOS has taken a page right out of the US climate change attack group’s playbook: funnel money through foundations and third party groups to “wipe the oil” off the dollars they receive.

This comes as no surprise considering the FOS has been linked to some of the most notorious oil money-backed scientists in the US
, including
Drs. S. Fred Singer, Sallie Baliunas, Sherwood Idso, Willie Soon, Robert C. Balling and Pat Michaels.

Liberals question Conservative link to anti-Kyoto group
David McGuinty was baffled when he first heard provocative advertising about global warming in the midst of the 2006 federal election.
By Canwest News Service
April 20, 2008

OTTAWA - David McGuinty was baffled when he first heard provocative advertising about global warming in the midst of the 2006 federal election.

The radio spots criticized a consumer energy conservation program along with the climate change policies of the government of the day and appeared to come from nowhere
, he said.

"I was having to explain an awful lot about climate change at the door, as a candidate," said McGuinty, the Liberal MP for Ottawa South, in an interview. "So when I heard this, I thought, 'Well, why would anybody even run these ads in Ottawa? Why are they going here? And I didn't know they were going across the province in five zones at the time."

The mysterious ads were part of a campaign launched by the Friends of Science - a group formed by retired academics and oil industry insiders who banded together in Calgary to stop the former Liberal government from committing Canada to mandatory targets to reduce its greenhouse gas pollution under the international Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The ads ran only in vote-rich Ontario during the election in the regions of Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Ottawa, Peterborough and Thunder Bay.

At the time, McGuinty probably would never have guessed that the radio ads would result in a law enforcement investigation and an internal audit about the anti-Kyoto group's elaborate funding system which consisted of getting donations at a community charity organization to flow through trust accounts for research at the University of Calgary for advertising, lobbying and public relations activities.

Federal Liberals are now asking questions about the group and whether they are actually linked to the Conservative party.

Although the university publicly released its internal audit of the accounts last week, it blacked out sixteen passages of the report on the grounds that the information might "interfere with or harm an ongoing law enforcement investigation." Under income tax laws, donations to a registered charity cannot be used for partisan purposes, while elections regulations require third parties to register with the chief electoral officer before spending $500 or more in an election campaign.

The audit revealed that Morten Paulsen, a veteran Reform and Conservative party strategist who was also a Tory spokesperson during the 2006 campaign, was simultaneously in charge of a consulting firm that received at least $25,000 from the Friends of Science to develop the radio ad campaign and select which cities would be targeted right before Canadians went to the polls.

When asked for comment, Paulsen declined to answer questions, explaining that he did not want to elaborate on current or former clients for professional reasons.

Before the 2006 election, the Friends of Science pledged in a newsletter to have a "major impact" on the vote through their ad campaign. After Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative party formed a minority government, the group boasted in another newsletter that its campaign "was working." The ads generated 300,000 hits to the group's website in the days leading up to polling day, the Friends of Science said in a January 2006 newsletter.

Federal Liberals even suggest that some ridings narrowly shifted towards the Tories in the targeted regions because of the ads, but Environment Minister John Baird shrugged off McGuinty's allegations that his Conservative party was aware of the ad campaign, and was now being influenced by the Friends of Science to adopt weak federal regulations to cap pollution from industry.

"Blah, blah, blah," Baird said in the Commons last week. "(McGuinty) puts on his tinfoil hat and develops these great theories."

More than half a million dollars flowed through the university accounts to pay a major public relations firm, APCO Worldwide and well-connected lobbyists such as Paulsen who contributed to producing and promoting a sophisticated video on the climate change debate, as well as the radio ad campaign, according to the audit.

Although the University of Calgary has severed all ties with the Friends of Science and shut down the accounts which were set up in 2004 by political science professor Barry Cooper, the anti-Kyoto group is still using the same charity, the Calgary Foundation, to collect money and issue tax deductible receipts for anonymous donors.

The money is now going through an independent think tank, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg, which has received at least $50,000 since last fall, according to a document released by the Calgary Foundation. The Frontier Centre has indicated that it wants to produce a climate change video for children in schools.
University looks into policies regarding research funding
Jon Roe, Features Editor
April 17, 2008

The University of Calgary has discontinued its relationship with the controversial Friends of Science organization
and, after the results of an internal audit released Mon., Apr. 14, the U of C will revise policies related to research funding. But the audit did not determine whether funding from two trust funds at the university for an anti-Kyoto ad campaign was in violation of the Canada Elections Act.

The Friends of Science is a Calgary-based organization that questions the science behind the Kyoto protocol and argues that the sun is the prime driver behind global warming. The audit was released Mon., Apr. 14 after a request filed Feb., 12 by Canwest News Service under the Freedom of Information and Privacy act which asked to review the funding and expenditure of two U of C trust accounts.

The Friends were previously funded via two trust accounts set up at the U of C by political science professor Barry Cooper and the Science Education Fund, a fund set up at the Calgary Foundation under the University of Calgary's name. "We had sufficient concerns last year to sever any relationship with Friends of Science," said U of C provost Alan Harrison in a press release.

"That decision has not changed."The two accounts are now closed. Individuals can still make donations to the Science Education Fund through the Calgary Foundation's online donation form, but the Friends have removed any reference to the fund from their quarterly newsletters.
Funding to the two trust accounts totalled $507,975, $182,875 of which was from individuals and corporations who received tax-deductible donation receipts, according to the audit.

Cooper's name was removed from the audit under a section of the FOIP act designed to protect personal privacy, but in Nov., Friends vice-president Eric Loughead identified Cooper as the lead researcher with the video project.

According to the audit, Cooper was approached by representatives of the Friends who were interested in collaborating with him on a video research project about climate change. Cooper applied for two trust accounts in the fall of 2004 to fund the video project.

The first version of the Friends' video contained the U of C crest, which was removed after the university sent a letter requiring the Friends to discontinue use of the U of C's name or logo.

According to the audit, the U of C was unaware that the logo would be used on the video, contrary to an assertion made by Loughead. "That was our information from Barry Cooper, he said that he had clearance from the [U of C] legal people to do that," Loughead told the Gauntlet in Nov.

The University Audit Services started the audit after an unnamed private citizen brought concerns to the university about the U of C's involvement with the Friends.
The audit focused on four allegations: that the U of C was a conduit for funding for the Friends via Cooper's trust accounts, that the Friends ran an anti-Kyoto radio ad campaign funded indirectly or directly through Cooper's trusts during the last federal election, which violated rules for third-party advertisers in the Canada Election Act and the activities of the Friends funded by the trusts were not legitimate scientific research and were funded by anonymous donors.

The fourth allegation was severed from the released report under sections of the privacy act governing disclosure harmful to business interests of a third party and disclosure of advice or recommendations developed by the university.

Other parts of the released version of the audit were removed because they may interfere with or harm an ongoing law enforcement investigation.
The audit was unable to determine whether the video called Climate Catastrophe Cancelled video was a legitimate project and that there was collaboration between Cooper and the Friends of Science because there wasn't an agreement between the U of C and the Friends outlining the terms of their relationship. The audit also couldn't conclusively say that the research undertaken with funding from the two trust accounts set up by Cooper at the U of C was legitimate, but added that there is no evidence that the Climate Catastrophe video was "not based on an intellectually honest search for knowledge.

"Cooper explained to the auditors that the video's objective was educational and not political. The original version of the Climate Catastrophe Cancelled video included archived footage from Canadian Parliament sessions featuring members of the Liberal and NDP party yelling about the dangers of climate change and according to Loughead, the Friends weren't too happy with this introduction.

"We admit the way it was structured originally­--because the political science department at the U of C was behind it--there was a strong political element that we weren't too happy with," said Loughead.
The audit recommends several changes to the way the U of C funds research projects and identifies political activities. U of C management says they agree to all of the recommendations in the audit and has a set a timeline for implementation.

The audit was unable to determine whether the ads ran during the 2005 federal election campaign are considered third-party advertising, but noted that participation in political activities must be identified on a tax form by the university. Currently there is no process to identify and track expenditures on political activities at the U of C for tax-reporting purposes.

Elections Canada has been asked by contributors to the website and the DeSmogBlog to investigate the third-party election campaign allegations. Elections Canada requires advertisers who promote or oppose candidates or issues associated with specific parties during an election campaign to register with the Chief Electoral Officer for that election.

The Friends did not register during the 2006 election campaign and maintain that they did not need to register because the ads were booked before the election was called.

Liberal member of Parliament for Ottawa South David McGuinty raised the Friends of Science and the third-party election campaign funding issue in the House of Commons during question period Tue., Apr. 15.

McGuinty noted that Cooper is a good friend of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and of another U of C political science professor, Tom Flanagan
, who was Harper's campaign manager during the 2006 election.
Mr. Cooper was the head of the Friends of Science, a group being investigating for defrauding the University of Calgary by circulating anti-Kyoto ads during the last election campaign,"
McGuinty said. "What did the government offer in exchange for Barry Cooper's help during the last election campaign?"Minister of the environment John Baird dismissed McGuinty's question as part of a made-up scandal.

McGuinty alleged that the Friends are now advising Baird on his climate change policy and that Baird oversaw the Friends' ad campaign that ran during the election."Mr. Speaker, blah, blah, blah," said Baird. "The member for Ottawa Centre puts on his tinfoil hat and develops these great theories. There are two reasons why this government is in office. One is the leadership of the Prime Minister of Canada and the other is because of the support of the Liberal Party of Canada."

A Deceptive Democracy: Guy Giorno and Peter Shoniker

In August of 2006, Peter Shoniker, former Ontario crown prosecutor; pleaded guilty to money laundering and theft. The case came about after an undercover RCMP agent caught Shoniker on tape suggesting that he could launder money easily since he was "untouchable" by the police.

This claim was not without merit, since he had been personally responsible for Julian Fantino being named the Toronto Chief of Police. Mind you a lot of things that Shoniker often bragged about were greatly embellished.

However, the fact remains that a sting was set up and he swallowed the bait.

Because of his own statements and the fact that a lot of high profile people showed up in court to speak for his character, he was described in the news reports, as a Mike Harris "Tory insider". Any journalist who wanted to confirm Shoniker's statements would find that he had indeed contributed $ 15,000.00 to Ernie Eves leadership campaign as well as $ 5,000.00 to Tony Clement's.

However, Guy Giorno, described as Harris's "Rasputin", and now Stephen Harper's chief of staff, got himself into a flap over the claims. But instead of just going about setting the record straight, if he felt the media had misspoke, he decided to engage in a bit of partisan ankle biting.

In a column he wrote for the National Post (1), he suggested that the media was being biased for linking Shoniker with Mike Harris, while ignoring another story about a Liberal insider who had posted on a website his anger over the Lebanon bombing by Israel, and Harper's tepid response.

In his anger he lambasted Israel and praised Hezbollah, something allowed in a healthy democracy. At best his comments could be deemed misguided.

But Girono would have none of it. He accused Thomas Hubert of anti-Semitism, painting him as a "Jew Hater". The Canada-Israel Committee picked up the story and issued a press release calling on the Liberal party to suspend Mr. Hubert and repudiate his "reprehensible" statements. Which they did.

Now one might argue that there is a big difference between stealing $700,000.00 dollars, when you are a crown prosecutor, and making some ridiculous comments on a message board criticizing a country. But this story was even uglier than that.

You see, Thomas Hubert was only seventeen-years-old, and a member of the Young Liberals. But Guy Giorno making this such a public matter was devastating for the young lad, who couldn't possibly defend himself against Giorno, who is a corporate attorney, and one of the most powerful men in the country. And if this is his moral compass, and he is now directing Stephen Harper's every move, we need to be angry about this.

We try to encourage young people to get involved, and while high paid senators feel the need to publicly question "freedom of speech" because of poor Ann Coulter, then they need to question why this high school student was treated this way, just to score a few partisan brownie points. That was the story here.
Thomas Hubert is not a skinhead. He doesn't go around frightening the soccer moms in Tsawwassen, the sunny suburb where he lives. He is not an arsonist, a gangster, or a crack dealer. No matter what the National Post says, Thomas Hubert is not a Jew hater. He certainly isn't in his “early twenties”, and he has never run an “anti-Israel” Web site.

Thomas Hubert is a gifted, slightly chubby 17-year-old in jeans and a striped blue shirt with an eyebrow stud and dyed black hair. In early August, he posted some stupid comments on a couple of Web sites. The next thing you know, he's a national punching bag ... The spin cycle of the week of August 21 was a living hell for the boy. (2)

"For the boy." What a wonderful message the "adults" sent him.


1. Who is Peter Shoniker? And who is Thomas Hubert? I found myself asking these questions earlier this week after each did something that was -- or at least should have been -- newsworthy, By Guy Giorno, National Post, August 23, 2006

2. Hubert was vilified for the usual utterances, Straight Goods, August 31, 2006

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stephen Harper Declares "I am Not a Crook"

There have been many comparisons made between Stephen Nixon and Richard Harper ... er ... I mean Stephen Harper and Richard Nixon, but our PM's latest performance in the House of Commons, has sealed the deal.

Move over George Bush. You are no longer Harper's favourite Republican.

Even before Stevie illegally taped a conference call of Jack Layton's and broadcast it to the media, many people were noticing the similarities between the two men.

Richard Nixon was the first to use the term "God Bless America" at the end of his speeches and Stephen Harper was the first PM to say "God Bless Canada" at the end of his, but the parallels are actually more profound.

There was an article in the UK Guardian, in April of 2008, that sums it up nicely.

The Canadian Nixon
Stephen Harper's feud with Elections Canada is just the latest front in his war against government institutions
Dimitry Anastakis and Jeet Heer
April 24, 2008

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper is in trouble with Elections Canada, the government body that runs the vote in Canada. They've accused him of overspending in the last election and have even gotten the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to raid the Conservative party's headquarters to find incriminating evidence. In response Harper and his followers have lashed out against Elections Canada, accusing it of a partisan witch hunt.

The whole sorry situation shouldn't surprise anyone who has paid attention. Every prime minister has a modus operandi. Harper's is his utter contempt, shown not once but many times, for Canadian institutions. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that Harper simply sees many Canadian institutions - Elections Canada being simply his latest target - as illegitimate, not just in need of reform but worth attacking root-and-branch.

The historian Garry Wills once observed that Richard Nixon wanted to be president not to govern the nation but to undermine the government. The Nixon presidency was one long counterinsurgency campaign against key American institutions like the courts, the FBI, the state department and the CIA. Harper has the same basic approach to politics: attack not just political foes but the very institutions that make governing possible. The state for Nixon and Harper exists not as an instrument of policy making but as an alien force to be subdued.

Canadians have never had a prime minister who has literally made his career attacking and undermining the legitimacy of Canadian institutions.

Until now.

For instance, in his long-running
war against the media, Harper has taken every opportunity to de-legitimise their role in holding his government to account. He refuses to take questions. He speaks only to friendly media outlets. He claims that "national outlets" are biased.

Remember, this is a PM who does not let cabinet ministers speak to the media, and even hides the place and times of cabinet meetings in an effort to avoid questions from the fourth estate.

Along with the media, another of Harper's favourite targets is the Canadian court system. Conservatives love to attack what they call "judge-made law", which really means any decisions that conservatives don't like.

Take same-sex marriage, for example. In 2003, Harper condemned the courts for saying that marriage laws were unconstitutional. He even personally attacked Ontario judge Roy McMurtry, and claimed a Liberal conspiracy: "They put the judges in they wanted," to get the result, Harper accused, even though McMurtry was appointed by Conservative Brian Mulroney.

This anti-court animus is rampant within Harper's inner circle. His chief of staff, academic Ian Brodie, wrote that financially strapped and historically underrepresented groups such as women, ethnic and linguistic minorities, and gays, should have their court funding cut.

Presto - one of Harper's first acts in office was to cut funding for those very groups so that they could no longer make their case at the supreme court.

Then there is the Senate. Harper and his allies hate the Senate. A long-held bugaboo of Harper's Reform party roots, our prime minister never misses a chance to attack the Senate. He'd like to see the Senate be equal, making it even more undemocratic than it is now. Should Price Edward Island (population 130,000) have as many Senate votes as Ontario (population 12 million)?

Harper actually made comments in Australia, touring in his official capacity as head of our government, attacking the constitutionally legitimate Senate, to a foreign audience. Is this standing up for Canada?

Now, many Canadians would like to see the Senate reformed. This is a worthwhile goal. But in the meantime, all Canadians understand that the Senate is a part of our Parliament, created by the 1867 British North America Act.

But Harper has attacked the legitimacy of the Commons, even. After the 2005 same-sex-marriage vote passed, Harper claimed, as leader of the Opposition, that the result was not legitimate because it included the votes of the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

Of course, he did not question the legitimacy of those same votes when the Paul Martin government lost the confidence of the Commons. Harper wanted an election. As for the functioning of the Commons itself, the National Post's Don Martin famously uncovered the Conservative's "black book" of procedural dirty tricks, designed to slow parliamentary action to a halt. Another way to de-legitimise another Canadian institution: paralyse committees, have your committee chairs run out and refuse to bring things to a vote - especially when they bring the government into question.

Most disturbing is Harper's continued attacks upon Elections Canada. The recent raid on Conservative party headquarters is more of a reflection of Harper's disdain for Elections Canada than any supposed "vendetta" conspiracy-minded Conservatives might imagine. Harper's animus toward Elections Canada goes back years, as do his attempts to circumvent electoral law.

As head of the right-wing National Citizens Coalition (NCC), Harper fought for years against Elections Canada's laws around "third-party advertising". The NCC, a murky organisation that does not release its membership, brought a court case against Elections Canada, infamously named Harper v Canada. Though Harper lost, during his time at the NCC he took every chance to attack the legitimacy of Elections Canada and the country's electoral law.

As prime minister, Harper's shocking comments about Elections Canada's investigation of the "in and out" scam alleged by the agency are perhaps the most alarming outburst by any sitting prime minister. Desperate to take Canadians' focus off the Conservatives' allegedly illegal overspending during the 2006 campaign, Harper actually publicly criticised the head of Elections Canada for upholding the law over the non-issue of veiled voting (why didn't he attack the 80,000 people who voted via mail?).

This is unprecedented in Canadian political history. Never has a prime minister publicly attacked a non-partisan election official in such a manner, essentially for partisan gain. The same goes for most of his party, which this week accused Elections Canada of a partisan witch-hunt, being in bed with the Liberals and the media and any other number of tin-foil-hat conspiracies. Of course, unsurprisingly, Harper and the Conservatives have blocked every other effort to examine the scheme in Parliament.

But then again, no one should be surprised. If it's not the media, or the courts, or the Senate, or Elections Canada, it's the Wheat Board, the federal government's own spending power, the bureaucracy, the gun registry ... .

Canadians should rightly wonder why their head of government has such a problem with so many Canadian institutions.

Now it's 2009, and once again Stephen Harper is emulating his hero.

PM threatens Ignatieff with old tapes
`Every day that goes by he's more like Richard Nixon,' Liberal leader says after Harper comment
May 28, 2009
Richard J. Brennan

OTTAWA–In a move described as "Nixonian," Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested he would release potentially damaging videotapes of Michael Ignatieff after the Liberal leader called on Harper to fire Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

During question period yesterday, Harper told the Commons he had lots of videotapes featuring Ignatieff, raising the spectre of using them to discredit the opposition leader before and during the next election campaign.

"I cannot fire the Leader of the Opposition and with all the tapes I have on him, I do not want to," he said.

Ignatieff described the comment as the "most Nixonian" of Harper's many remarks to him. "Every day that goes by, he's more like Richard Nixon," Ignatieff told reporters.

While U.S. president, Nixon installed secret audio recording systems in the Oval Office, his cabinet room and at Camp David and surreptitiously recorded hundreds of conversations from February 1971 through July 1973.

"We are in the middle of the most serious economic crisis since the Second World War and the Prime Minister ... is wasting his time listening to tapes of me," Ignatieff said.

Yesterday, Ignatieff called for Flaherty to be fired after he announced Tuesday that the federal budget deficit will be more than $50 billion, up from his projection of $34 billion earlier this year.

Ignatieff is the target of Tory political attack ads focusing on comments he made before he entered politics and criticizing him for living out of the country for 34 years.

"I will not be intimidated by the Prime Minister. I've got a job to do, which is to hold him to account," Ignatieff said.

The Conservatives are reported to have hundreds of hours of video clips of Ignatieff speeches and interviews and hope to mine a lifetime of his musings from his career as a journalist, author and public intellectual.

New Democrat MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre) told the Star all Harper has left is "mudslinging" to divert the public's attention away from "the appalling economic situation he's got all of us in.

"We have really stooped to a new low in Canadian politics if that's what it comes down to in the time of economic crisis," Martin said.

"His tone implied something sinister on Ignatieff. It is the cheapest kind of mudslinging because it invokes suspicion without any real substance."

So what tapes is he talking about? Lectures from when Ignatieff was teaching at Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge. Clips from Ignatieff's Gemini award winning documentary? If there was anything that was actually incriminating in the tapes that Harper and the Conservatives have wasted time watching, he'd have broadcast it by now. He just has to finish cherry picking and splicing to make them fit his accusations.

Ironically when Harper's 1997 hate speech, from when he was with the NCC surfaced, his spokesperson said that his comments were made when he was a private citizen and that he no longer hated Canada.

When Tom Lukiwski's drunken video surfaced, he said that he no longer hated women and gays.

Apparently there are two sets of rules in Harper/Nixon world.

The Conservatives Have Found a Replacement for Flaherty

And the good news is ... HE CAN COUNT!

Canadians have learned today that after the abysmal performance of Jim Flaherty, they were able to find a suitable replacement, even on such short notice.

They call him 'The Count' and without using notes or anything, he's already out performing his predecessor.

In a speech to the House of Commons today, he outlined his reasons for replacing the former finance minister, and why he would do things differently.

The Count's maiden Speech:

One.... One mistake I would not make.

Two ... Part two of the muster and bluster.

Three - Part three of the pure hogwash.

Four ... Four upset premiers.

Five ... Five minute specials ... Canada for sale.

Six ... Six Brain Cells working

Seven -- Seven say recession not mild.

Eight ... Eight eye blinks per nanosecond

Nine ... At least Nine times worse than imagined

Ten - Ten year plan?????

Big Bird is already running attack ads calling the Count an intellectual elitist who thinks he's better than everyone else simply because he can count. Our new finance minister countered by telling Big Bird he was just yellow.

Bert and Ernie were unavailable for comment. They are still reeling over Harper's views on same-sex marriage.

Fate Brings Anthony Panayi to Canada With Fateful Consequences

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

Tony Panayi arrived with his parents to Canada when he was just four-years-old. Of Middle Eastern descent, his father a Greek Cypriot and his mother a Canadian. This was 1965 and by 1972, his parents had separated, and he would spend the rest of his childhood in a high-rise apartment in Toronto.

He cut his political teeth campaigning door to door with his mother for her boss, Ontario Tory MPP Bill Hodgson. However, he was never a Progressive Conservative at heart, and in fact his political beliefs were what is now called neoconservative.
"What I saw on the front of Time magazine, which I read religiously every week, was this failure of the American democratic impulse," he remembers. "Around us was the fall of Vietnam, the emasculation of American power, Watergate .... What I remember was the frontal assault on American power, and the encroachment by communism all over the world. And in Canada, there were the failed experiments of Pierre Trudeau. His economic experiments were a shambles, his anti-Americanism wasn't getting us anywhere, the increasing role of the state in all aspects of our lives was, in my view, creating more problems than it was solving. And then in 1978 you had this woman named Margaret Thatcher, who proved you could turn back some of the awful things done by socialism and set things right again. And then in 1980 you had this guy Ronald Reagan. They showed you could have conservative principles and still win." (1)
Unfortunately, Clement was misguided by his heroes. Margaret Thatcher was a train wreck:
When Margaret Thatcher was elected I started my first year at university. Very quickly in the face of her Reagan-inspired "hard economics" and austerity treatment I saw every possibility of employment at the end of my course evaporate. 3.3 million were unemployed with no hope of a job. The economy went into recession and the dole was being withdrawn unless you could "prove" you were actively searching for work. It ruined millions of people's lives and put millions more into unproductive boredom and hardship. It cost the country £40b in lost productivity and the only thing Margaret did was make it worse. (2)
And Ronald Reagan, while he preached small government, actually expanded the government and his horrible economics made the rich richer and created the most homeless people in the history of the United States. (3) He also increased the debt by two trillion dollars, while increasing federal spending and federal staff. (4)

Nonetheless, Panayi "... arrived at the University of Toronto in 1979 filled with missionary zeal to bring the faith of Thatcher and Reagan to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario ..." (1)

But he also arrived with something else ... a new name. His mother had just married former MPP John Clement, and though already an adult more or less, Tony decided to take his stepfather's name, reinventing himself as Tony Clement.

The same year, 1979, another young man would enrol at the University of Toronto, but would only stay for two months, opting to move to Edmonton to take a job in the mail room at Imperial Oil, the company his father had worked for. This would be his only real job outside of politics. Also an avid fan of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, Stephen Harper would go on to help found the Reform Party, lead the Alliance Party and eventually become the movement's first prime minister. (5)

It's unlikely that Clement and Harper met at the school, but Tony did find willing accomplices in fellow students Alister Campbell, Tom Long and Mitch Patten, all sharing the same ideology.
"At a time when the rest of the country was enchanted with the charismatic prime minister [Trudeau] and his vision of Canada, simply being a Conservative was an unusual choice. To be committed to the neoconservative agenda of Thatcher and Reagan during this period was nothing short of suicidal, politically speaking." (6)
And yet this small group of young radicals were able to take over the campus Conservatives, increasing it's membership from being almost nothing to 500, with gimmicks (Clement once dressed in a penguin costume), and aggressive marketing. Did they change minds? It's difficult to know, but they presented a platform that was anything but the status quo:
They believed that governments needed to cut taxes in order stimulate spending and increase individual choice, that they needed to balance their budgets in order to escape the trap of escalating deficits, that they needed to get out of most economic regulation in order to let the market reward winners, punish losers, and generate wealth for everyone. Most important, governments needed to abolish most of their social programs, which took money from people who earned it and gave it to people who hadn't. Such a doctrine was anathema to moderate Conservatives, who felt, as former federal leader Robert Stanfield argued, that the market should not be trusted more than was necessary. (7)
And not content with simply drawing in the conservative minded they also sought to change the views of the left:
Eventually the young PCs at the University of Toronto also decided to take on their left-wing enemies on campus, launching a campaign against a proposal to double the compulsory fees levied against each student in support of the Ontario Federation of Students. The Tories accused the federation of wasting money on a bloated administration, and of worrying more about helping the Sandinistas than representing student interests. (Among other things, the Tories put up a sign in an Engineering building proclaiming "Three dollars will get you the Ontario Federation of Students or seven beers at the Brunswick House. Take your pick.") They won a referendum on the issue in a landslide. (7)
They quickly became a force to be reckoned with:
By the early 1980s, as Mike Harris was first finding his feet as a young MPP, the neo-conservative youth were an increasing power within the provincial Conservatives. Long—a bit older than most of the others, passionate and uncompromising—led the troops. "There were huge fights over who was going to control the campus wing of the party," Long remembers. "That got settled in the late seventies, and for about ten years or so my faction controlled the campus wing." In 1982, Long managed the campaign that secured control for the neo-cons of the executive of the Progressive Conservative Youth Association. Both the campus and youth wings of the party were now firmly led by ideologues of the far Right. These wings were important to the party, both for the influence they wielded at leadership conventions, and for the legions of indefatigable volunteers they supplied during campaigns. (7)
But they would soon move on to bigger challenges as they steered toward taking over not just a university campus, but an entire province.


1. Promised Land: Inside the Mike Harris Revolution, By John Ibbitson, 1997, ISBN: 0136738648, Pg. 30

2. 1979: Looking back at the Thatcher era, By Mike Rumfitt, May 4, 2005

3. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2

4. Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy, By Will Bunch, Free Press, ISBN: 978-1-4165-9762-9

5. Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, by William Johnson, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3

6. Jeffrey, 1999, Pg. 164

7. Ibbitson, 1997, Pg. 31-32