Introduction to Canadian media and politics

If there is one constant in Canadian federal politics, it is the mainstream media process stories about how warring political factions are offending to key groups of voters. See here how stories are floated to underpaid reporters and columnists in order to tick off key Trudeaupian voter blocks as politicos tick off key constituencies off their lists.

Women:

“Meanwhile, there are rumblings among some grass-root Liberal women that Mr. Ignatieff doesn’t quite share that view. Mr. Ignatieff has few female caucus members in key critics’ roles and has one senior woman in his entourage: communications director Jill Fairbrother . (Stephen Harper doesn’t have a single senior woman.) The rumblings are that if more women were in high places, seeking consensus, we might not have come to the brink of another federal election this month.

Ukrainian-Canadians:

Ignatieff’s sin, the protesters feel, was to pen “derogatory remarks” about Ukrainians in his 1995 book Blood & Belonging.

The UCC’s press release cites two offending passages. “From my childhood in Canada,” Ignatieff wrote, “I remember expatriate Ukrainian nationalists demonstrating in the snow outside ballet performances by the Bolshoi in Toronto. ‘Free the captive nations!’ they chanted. In 1960, they seemed strange and pathetic, chanting in the snow, haranguing people who just wanted to see ballet and to hell with politics. They seemed fanatical, too, unreasonable. Hadn’t they looked at the map? How did they think Ukraine could ever be free?”

Gays:

Toronto’s Pride Week may have seen its last cheque from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government after this year’s $400,000 contribution provoked a backlash from within the ranks of MPs and Conservative supporters.

Chinese-Canadians:

Another controversy relates to comments made by a senior Ignatieff advisor, Warren Kinsella. In a Youtube video posted earlier this year, Mr. Kinsella claimed he was planning to enjoy some “barbecued cat” (Ottawa Citizen. January 31, 2009). After extensive coverage of his statements in the Chinese-Canadian media and pressure from Chinese Canadians, Mr. Kinsella apologized. (Globe and Mail. January 31, 2009)

Lebanese-Canadians:

During the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006 Mr. Ignatieff’s observations angered Lebanese-Canadians when he first said of civilian deaths in Lebanon: “This is the kind of dirty war you’re in when you have to do this and I’m not losing sleep about that.” This statement angered many Lebanese-Canadians. (Toronto Star. August 2, 2006)

Catholics:

A senior New Brunswick Roman Catholic priest is demanding the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the sacramental communion wafer Stephen Harper was given at Roméo LeBlanc’s funeral mass.

During communion at the solemn and dignified service held last Friday in Memramcook for the former governor general, the prime minister slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call “the host” into his jacket pocket.

Korean-Canadians:

Past comments by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff are coming back to haunt him as members of the Korean community accuse him of suggesting he would starve North Koreans.

While at Harvard in 2005, Ignatieff said, “I strongly support reductions in food aid” to strengthen the international community’s negotiations with North Korea on nuclear weapons.

“Is that a difficult human rights problem? You bet. But that’s where I would go,” he said at the time. “I would look at the food aid, and all the bilateral stuff we are doing that keeps this odious regime going.”

Why are these stories written? Because they’re easy, because they sell papers and each side believes that on sum, they’ll emerge from the fray less thrashed and bruised than the other guy. Before you think that the end result of this is more people voting Green, consider my own entry into this theatre of the chronically offended.

Guilty of this myself, I suggest that there is wisdom in the following rap lyric (as I say in my most terrible impersonation of an ironic James Lipton): “don’t hate the player, hate the game”

And therefore, if the players remain constant, how do we change the game?

Click here to read my proposed solution. I’ve argued that it’s the way that our politics is funded.

An excerpt:

Under the current Canadian system, we give welfare to parties for being best able to convince Canadians of the other parties, “No They Can’t”. If we made politics about the positive (Yes), responsibility of self (We) and enablement (Can) rather than the negative (No), what one’s opponent would do (They) and a need to stop them (Can’t), perhaps we could reduce voter apathy both at the ballot box and when parties pass the hat. If we gave voters more power to finance those they support rather than sustain those they least detest we could shift Canadian politics for the better.

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