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.


“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.


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?”


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.


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)


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)


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.


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.



27 thoughts on “Introduction to Canadian media and politics”

  1. Hi Stephen,

    I agree with the “free market” philosophy behind your proposal. But how would you address the scenario in which a candidate has the support of 100,00 small donors, but is still out spent by the candidate with just 10,000 deeper pocketed donors? How can we truly make sure that voters are doing the talking, not money, in our system?

  2. In one of the replies to a commenter in the link you provided (November 7, 2008 entry) you said this: “My argument is that the system makes it necessary to take the low road and this can be changed by shifting the way parties are funded.”

    Maybe I'm missing your point entirely – I've done it before – but I fail to see how changing the way political parties are funded will change the kind of low blows political parties and the media engage in, some with wild abandon.

    Perhaps it should work in reverse: whichever MP, party or party strategist makes derogatory remarks about their opponents should be fined – heavily. Scott Reid and Warren Kinsella, start opening your wallets.

    But then of course, the problem arises: what is considered derogatory? Who should be the arbiter? And how would fines, or for that matter changing the way political parties are funded, change the media or the kind of belligerent, in-your-face attitude that masquerades nowadays as political discourse?

  3. Here's the basic thesis:

    political parties depend on money and votes. In the current system parties that slag and slag don't get money from donations (for their good ideas) they get money from the vote subsidy (for portraying others as bad). Votes in this current system come from saying we're not as bad as those other guys instead of “hey we're great because…”. If we change the funding equation so that parties have to appeal for donations instead of salt the earth to collect the remaining votes, then I argue we'll see bright ideas rather than brash invective. A political party (like any other agent in an economic model) will minimize investment to maximize return. Since parties are funded per vote, it's easier to draw votes by destroying your opponent than it is to bank on long term constructive policy ideas. Change the system and you'll get parties appealing for money from their sincere supporters rather than “support” that comes from voters that vote for the lesser evil of all political parties.

  4. Thanks for the short version.

    But … I'm not too sure we'll see “bright ideas rather than brash invective.” I supported the idea of decreasing public party funding (cutting it back to $1/per vote) because I thought that move would accomplish two things:
    1. Cut down the amount of subsidies to the Bloc, which raises little money from donations AND fields only 75 candidates, so it doesn't have anything approaching the kind of expenses other parties have.

    2. Because we were entering the recession, cutting back on political party funding would have been an example of good will on the part of political parties by showing voters politicians were willing to tighten their belts too, just like the rest of us were expected to do. The cherry on the cake, of course, would have been no cost of living increase for MPs, which they gave themselves anyway, if I'm not mistaken.
    You know, lead by example and so on (and I mean ALL politicians, no matter their political party) …

    3. And yes, perhaps get more people involved in politics. If MY $1/1.95 is going to a particular party, wouldn't I be more interested in how that party fares?

    When I first heard about the public party funding back in 2002 (?) I was completely against it because I was under the mistaken assumption taxpayers (i.e. me) would be funding parties whose philosophy I disagree with. Once I learned how it really works, well I saw the value of it.

    As far as Obama is concerned, didn't financiers like George Soros contribute huge amounts to his campaign? I'm not so sure Obama's fund raising methods are necessarily something we want to emulate.

    However, I am definitely in favour of improving the tone of our party. Let others use “sturm und drang” histrionics. Let us adopt a 3-c approach – cooler calmer course – instead of the 3-b approach now used by all the parties: bellowing belligerent backbiting.

    Now, improving the media … well, that’s another kettle of fish …

  5. Stephen, is this part of the reformatories cover up of the stupid way they handled the PM's pocketing of a sacred host. What a bunch of losers. They can't even tell a simple truth when the facts hit them in the face.

  6. Addendum:
    Oh, and improving the posts of some commenters who behave like pests …

  7. I think corporate funding should be allowed. The holier thna thou approach whereby large corporations give “bonuses” to employees so they can go to fund raising dinners is hypocritical as all parties know its happening.

    On commentors behaving like pests…that's no way to speak abour our host!!! and not the one Generalissimo Harpo pocketed. LOL

  8. On a slight side note. I was just on the front page of and saw a picture of Harper and Obama. The caption reads, “President Barack Obama, left, talks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during G8 meetings, Thursday, July 9, 2009, in L'Aquila, Italy.” Maybe I'm nit-picky and/or paranoid, but I'm pretty sure that in a picture of Obama and Harper it's not necessary to point out who is who…other than to point out that Obama is “left”.

  9. Stephen, I've cross-posted this at Joanne's as well. I believe it is relevant in this thread.

    Amid all the noise about the eucharistic host being consumed or not, the PM’s tardiness at G8 meetings, speculation on whether he had gone to the loo again, and all other such irrelevant matters, this information went completely unnoticed.

    I saw Bob Geldof a while back in a snippet of a news report where he said Canada had bested its aid promises to poor nations.
    Now, I’m not a fan of rich stars who pontificate on how rich nations should help others, but then hypocritically pursue their own very rich and excessive lifestyles.
    Had Geldof dissed Canada, I’d bet the media reports would be wall-to-wall. But … has much attention been paid to Canada meeting its aid commitments?
    I’ve listed some of the few reports I could find on this topic. You may notice of the 5, only two are from Canadian sources. I find that telling.

    Mike Blanchfield, National Post, May 20, 2009
    “Ms. Oda said the Conservative government’s focus would be to make Canada’s aid spending more accountable at a time of great economic hardship across the globe.
    The Canadian International Development Agency will now focus on three core policy priorities: increasing food security, stimulating sustainable growth and alleviating problems that affect children and youth.
    A new feature will require CIDA to table an annual Development for Results report in Parliament ‘ ‘that will show Canadians how their tax dollars are making a difference.’ ‘ … “

    June 18, 2009 by Bob Geldof
    “The United States, Canada, and Japan are meeting or beating modest targets. This group includes last year’s G8 (the G7 countries plus Russia) host and next year’s G8 host. Though their targets were less ambitious than those of the European members of the G8, they have legitimacy because they are meeting them. …”

    11 Jun 2009 Source: Reuters
    “When it comes to aid effectiveness, Britain ranked first followed by Canada, Japan, Germany, France, the United States and then Italy, the report said. … ”

    Fri June 12, 2009 CNN
    “Despite the economic downturn, the United States, Japan and Canada have followed through on the financial promises they made, according to the report.”

    By The Canadian Press Fri. Jul 10 – 11:37 AM
    “Canada won rare praise from aid groups for being one of the few G8 nations to fully meet its previous G8 promise, stemming from the 2005 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, to double aid to Africa by 2010. …
    “Canada’s doubled its aid, but it needs to set a new, more ambitious target into the future,” said Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada. … ”

    The Canadian Press felt the need to qualify the praise as “rare” – as if Canada never does its share – proving the truth of the maxim “never a prophet in one’s own land.”

  10. Gabby..the lone QC tory

    1. Accountability and the tories don't go together. they plaster people with all sorts of verbal diaherra but don't deliver. witness the manner in which they are treating the PBO guy. Their overall accountability perfromance is zilch.

    2. So they are meeting targets? That is not what provincial premiers are saying. I call BS.

    3. That was also true in the Libs days in power and probably a carryover from those days because generalissimo Harpo hasn't been able to find time to cut more aid.

    4. I think its still too early to make those comments factual. Lets see where they are in their September report card. The first one was full of marshmellows, all soft and squishy.

    5. and guess who mad ethat agremeent in 2005…thanks for the liberal praise.

    Nice try Gabby!!!!

  11. Terry . the only response you have is BS. No concrete proof that Gabby is wrong.
    If there ever was a non accountibily Government with the give me, give me theme it was the Chretien Liberals.

  12. well well another expert in dumb down stuff. Put this in your pipe and smoke it. this is the kind of true legacy left by chretien and Martin not the sleazy and low down dirty stuff played by the useless reformatories who have no economic policies other than downloading debt to the public.

    So it is that the Tories are obsessing about another North American political success story, that of the Canadian Liberal Party, which swept to power in 1993 and proceeded to implement the biggest reduction in government spending in the country's history, eliminating a crippling C$42bn (£22bn) budget deficit in just four years. The international acclaim was raucous: The Wall Street Journal had proclaimed Canada “an honorary member of the Third World” in 1993, when its national debt was heading towards a peak of 72 per cent of the size of the economy; in 1998, Paul Martin, the finance minister, was heralded by Business Week magazine for having produced “a maple leaf miracle”. The centrist Liberal Party went on to further electoral success – and Mr Martin inherited the prime minister's office. No wonder the Conservatives are salivating.

    Note well that they are not salivating about Canadian Tories who are phoney conservatives and really run by religious right nutbars.

  13. Here's more of the tory dirt they can't wait to spew even if its not true;how embarrassing and stupid:
    STEPHEN HARPER just couldn’t hold it in any longer.

    The prime minister had kept his Wolverine-style, dagger-like claws retracted for a spell, calling a smiling truce with the Liberals late last month for the greater good.

    But just like X-Men’s brooding hero, the knives eventually popped out, this time causing some political embarrassment and raising questions about Harper’s instincts and about his advisers.

    Harper was forced to apologize to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff on Friday after he launched into an unsolicited — and it turns out unwarranted — tirade against his political rival.

    He took time out of a closing news conference at the G8 summit in Italy to attack Ignatieff for something the man never said and no reporter had asked about. The misattributed comments were about Canada possibly becoming irrelevant at major international summits, and were made by an academic.

    keep supporting these idiots Omanator and then look in the mirror and see what kind of Canadian you really are.

  14. Stephen you are right. If all parties had to apply for donation and operate via donations only
    We would have different system and ” see bright ideas rather than brash invectives”
    Which is why the oppositions parties went nuts in the house when cancellation of money per vote was proposed. Besides we see every day, how the media is trying to destroy Stephen Harper. The issue with the host is one fine example. If they had bothered to let the Camera run they might have seen that he consumed the host. As a Catholic I have no problem with this
    and PM has openly stated that he will accept the host and consume it when it is offered.
    Of course that would not be in the inerest the all the lefties. By the way I wonder if this system is not the underlying reason why so many people don't vote. Could it be they don't want to give their vote to a party even as the lesser evel, who then gets money for this vote?

  15. Stephen you are right. If all parties had to apply for donation and operate via donations only
    We would have different system and ” see bright ideas rather than brash invectives”
    Which is why the oppositions parties went nuts in the house when cancellation of money per vote was proposed. Besides we see every day, how the media is trying to destroy Stephen Harper. The issue with the host is one fine example. If they had bothered to let the Camera run they might have seen that he consumed the host. As a Catholic I have no problem with this
    and PM has openly stated that he will accept the host and consume it when it is offered.
    Of course that would not be in the inerest the all the lefties. By the way I wonder if this system is not the underlying reason why so many people don't vote. Could it be they don't want to give their vote to a party even as the lesser evel, who then gets money for this vote?

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