CBC and Terror

I watched an interesting interview on CBC yesterday with Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean author and left-wing activist that documented Pinochet’s rise to power. This post, however, is not an analysis of that history or an opinion on that period. Rather, I wanted to point out an inconsistency of the CBC and its use of the word “terror”.

Here is a clip of CBC journalist Brian Stewart describing the rise of Pinochet:

Stewart describes the “Pinochet terror” as a “homicidal terror”.

Of course, CBC has struggled with its designation of events as “terror” (here the root of the word “terrorism”), most notably with its labeling of “militancy” or “insurgence” when referring to jihadism either against the American forces in Iraq, cafe patrons in Jaffa or club patrons in Bali, or the innocents in the World Trade Centre and Pentagon on 9/11/2001.

CBC has published an internal memo on this topic which is reproduced here:

‘Terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’: Exercise extreme caution before using either word. Avoid labelling any specific bombing or other assault as a “terrorist act” unless it’s attributed (in a TV or Radio clip, or in a direct quote on the Web). For instance, we should refer to the deadly blast at that nightclub in Bali in October 2002 as an “attack,” not as a “terrorist attack.” The same applies to the Madrid train attacks in March 2004, the London bombings in July 2005 and the attacks against the United States in 2001, which the CBC prefers to call “the Sept. 11 attacks” or some similar expression. (The BBC, Reuters and many others follow similar policies.)

Terrorism generally implies attacks against unarmed civilians for political, religious or some other ideological reason. But it’s a highly controversial term that can leave journalists taking sides in a conflict.


The guiding principle should be that we don’t judge specific acts as “terrorism” or people as “terrorists.” Such labels must be attributed.

As CBC News editor-in-chief Tony Burman has pointed out: “Our preference is to describe the act or individual, and let the viewer or listener or political representatives make their own judgment.”

As a dispassionate observer and journalist following CBC’s policy, maybe Stewart should have refrained from labeling Pinochet’s regime, or the CBC should not be so selective in its application of the word terror to events or viewers may see a subjective policy at the state-run broadcaster.

Ariel Dorfman, who did make for an interesting interview, did draw a direct parallel between the “terror” of Pinochet’s coup on 9/11/1973 and the WTC and Pentagon attacks on 9/11/2001. However, he is the invited guest and not subject to the editorial direction of the CBC.

Perhaps it is a distrust of the United States that causes this inconsistency of the use of the word terror by journalists and editors at the CBC. After all, it was the United States who helped in Pinochet’s rise to power (according to Kissinger). Yet, when Islamic terror strikes the US or Israel, the CBC is “careful” to label it an “attack”. Is it caution in not using a politically loaded word with respect to current events or is it a form of Western guilt that stems from a view held on the left that the current perpetrators of “terror” militancy are acting out as victims of American “imperialism”? So now, why use “terror” to describe Pinochet instead of “militancy”? There ought to be a consistency in describing both. However, America was on different sides of both events. Could this explain the inconsistency in labeling “terror”?

Consider this clip which describes optimism regarding the evolution of the left and the quick correction by Stewart on the word neo-liberal, which is called “neo-conservative up here”.

What are CBC’s views with respect to neo-liberalism “neo-conservatism” (for our viewers at home keeping score)? The word neo-conservatism is thrown around a lot these days to describe “privatization” agendas, “imperialism” and nation-building, or even to describe a program where the government hands out $100 monthly cheques to parents to raise their children! Language can affect our perceptions of people, political platforms and events, especially when it comes filtered through the media, especially when the words used are both subjective and selective. Therefore I ask, is the word “terror” similarly applied selectively depending on world view?

“Canadians don’t want an election right now”

The line “Canadians don’t want an election right now” is becoming an interesting bit of spin now used by both the Liberals and the Conservatives regarding both the lifespans of their respective governments and now by the Liberals, in Opposition.

I suppose that part of the rationale for this new but now becoming ensconced in the political lexicon is that for the past three years and three months, we’ve had two successive minority governments and the possibility of an election falling upon Canadians by parliamentary discordance has become more and more probable. The last time we, as Canadians, had a majority government it was up to the Prime Minister to determine when Canadians wanted an elected (or didn’t, whatever the strategy may be). However, now that Prime Minister Harper has passed legislation taking this out of the hands of future majority Prime Ministers, elections will happen for majority governments on fixed dates and the mood of the electorate on such timing issues is moot. Yet, here we are with two successive minority governments and “electoral mood” is something to consider, even if it is unmeasured and declared by party spokesman for whatever strategic reason.

Consider Paul Martin’s minority government in the spring of 2005. The Opposition Conservatives at the time pulled out all of the stops in order to force an election on Paul Martin, a frantic and frenzied leader who looked uncomfortable with the power he sought his whole life. Paul Martin wanted to govern. Desperately. Couple this with mounting scandal and a general consensus that the man that promised over 200 Liberal seats when he took over the reins was floundering and may at best only pull off another minority.

Governments in power declare that Canadians don’t want an election because of a sincere desire to govern. For Paul Martin, this desire to govern was a function of his desire to avoid the dreaded fate of another minority (and leadership review to follow) or worse, defeat to the Conservatives.

The good news for Prime Minister Stephen Harper is that today, there isn’t a looming scandal and the barbarians in Opposition aren’t taking a battering ram to the gate of his small but secure fortress. Indeed, Stephane Dion is at the weakest point in his leadership since he was chosen by Liberal delegates in December of 2006. Harper doesn’t have the benefit of 13 years in power and thus doesn’t as much of a record to run on. When Harper says that “Canadians don’t want an election right now”, like Martin it means that he wants to govern, but unlike Martin it means that he wants to build a solid foundation of trust with Canadians rather than desperately try to patch together the semblance of a working government build upon the cracked concrete of waste and scandal.

Most recently, we’ve seen Michael Ignatieff muse in Opposition that “Canadians don’t want an election right now.” First of all, it is the Opposition’s role to oppose the government. Is this the deputy Liberal leader’s way of lowering expectations for what we should expect from the Liberals on their “opposition” to the Throne Speech. Is Ignatieff preparing us so that we aren’t shocked when Dion and only a handful of Liberals show up to symbolically vote against? But on the topic of the desirability of an election to Canadians, to the best of my knowledge, this poll question has not been asked as of late, so we can safely assume that this is rather a reflection of Liberal wishful thinking that Canadians will spare political parties of judgment at the polls, at least for the next little while. It is indicating, yet not surprising that the Liberals fear judgment of their party, rather than the incumbent Conservatives.

Nobody could reasonably spin that Stephen Harper fears the voters, yet it doesn’t take much creative interpretation to muse that the Liberals are terrified of their own electoral prospects. For which reasons do Canadians desire elections? At a base level, Canadians desire to make their democratic will known at least every 5 years. But to want an election for reasons beyond that, there has to be an overwhelming desire for change. Since such a desire does not exist, Ignatieff is likely right when he says that Canadians don’t want an election right now. However, his reasons (and those of his embattled caucus and leader) are clearly different from those of Canadians and if the Liberals hope to lead, their desires regarding election timing and change must be aligned with at least that of a plurality of the electorate.

Bits and pieces

  • The Prime Minister’s website is now featuring kitten adoption profiles. We get it… not scary, ok?
  • Dollar rises above $0.965US, the highest since February 1977.
  • Jason Cherniak will not defend what he has not read, nor condemn it, but that won’t stop him from giving an opinion, thankfully.
  • Steve Janke is tracking Stephane Dion’s gaffe on Chinese-Canadian political history
  • Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition accuses Her Majesty’s Government and Defense Minister of propagandizing a military conflict. “Propaganda” is not exactly a reserved word as people have thrown it around at their political opponents on a variety of topics. However to juxtapose “propaganda” with our government on military/war related matters? If you had heard that an opposition party in a foreign country had accused their government of military propaganda, what would you think? Let’s be more responsible shall we?
  • Probably not the best of photo-ops for Republican Mitt Romney. Again, an obvious problem of juxtaposition concerning the question of loyalties. Whether it’s Canadian Liberals accusing the government of military propaganda, or a Republican candidate for president posing with a sign that suggests that Democrat opponents are as undesirable as Osama bin Laden, we ought to raise the level of debate so that we don’t blur the lines between the opponents who are working for a better country (but in a different party) and enemies that would destroy it.

Harpers and Dions contrasted

In Chatelaine’s July magazine, the home lives of the Harpers and Krieber-Dions are both featured.

It is interesting to see the differences between the two families and what it those differences may mean to the much sought-after “ordinary” Canadian voter.

Of course, a key element of the Conservative message is family. Targeted tax relief for families that have kids in sports and a child-care tax credit are among the policies emphasized by the party to capture this key demographic. The Harpers are the First Family of Canada, and every time you check in with them, they become more and more like the family down the street (or even your own).

Conversely, the key message from the Dion camp has been the environment. The issue, with greenhouse gases, climate change, and radiative forcing seems a bit more abstract than the very tangential concept of family. The magazine even captures the extent to which no opportunity is lost to push the environmental message to the ordinary Canadian. Here’s Dion’s wife: Janine Krieber from the Chateleine article,

It was during these teenage years that Krieber took up acting, piano (she still plays) and painting. “With acrylics today – they’re environmentally friendly,” she quips.

The Conservatives will likely try and contrast the Harpers and Dions in the role of Canada’s first family and will portray the Harpers (genuinely) as traditional, nuclear and ordinary.

Consider this excerpt from the same issue:

“I’m happy with my life,” says Laureen of being Canada’s first wife … “but I don’t have the urge to see myself on the cover of a magazine. It’s just not my thing.” And she insists that she’s not the power behind the man. “That’s the story people want,” she says. “No, not true.”

Contrast this with the Dion article found a few pages over:

Dion may be the leader of the opposition, but Krieber is the CEO of Krieber-Dion Inc. She does the banking, writes the cheques, keeps the books, files the taxes and buys all of his clothes – even his underwear. … “He’s colour-blind. You don’t leave him in a house alone.” … It’s comments like this that have backroom Liberals shaking their heads. Says one, “Many suspect she controls him. She reads his briefing notes. He takes her advice and brings it back to staffers. She’s the one people need to go to in order to get to him. Who are people reporting to?” There’s even a suggestion circulating in Ottawa that Dion is saving a riding for his wife in the next election.

Ordinary seems to be the operating strategy of the Harpers; Ben and Rachel are the ordinary kids in hockey and gymnastics, Stephen and Laureen are such an ordinary couple that one or the other may forget an anniversary, similar to the story of any other ordinary Canadian couple. They’re just so darn ordinary those Harpers! Indeed, their ordinary nature has helped shirk their “scary/hidden agenda” characterization. However, accounts of Dion – such as the one above – simply plays into the Conservative narrative that “Stéphane Dion is not a leader”.

Mrs. Krieber is, to her credit, quite accomplished with complex sociological and academic views on terrorism and how it is driven by ideological radicals. However, with respect to “ordinary” Canadians, voters may find it more difficult to see themselves in the Dion-Kriebers than in the Harpers. Perhaps the last names of the two women are indicative as well to mainstream Canadian appeal. Mrs. Harper used to be Laureen Teskey before she famously stated “call me Mrs. Harper” after moving into 24 Sussex. However, Mrs. (Ms.?) Krieber remains Mrs. Krieber. Does the maiden name play with ordinary Canadians? The Harpers are banking that it doesn’t.

Conservatives will have a lot of success portraying Mr. and Mrs. Harper as the ordinary Canadian family. Mr. Harper is an ordinary guy, with ordinary hobbies (hockey) with ordinary kids and some ordinary cats. The party will likely be successful because, by definition, the “typical” person is “ordinary” and can therefore relate.

Can the Liberals make Dion an ordinary guy? Or is “ordinary” an inherent trait possessed by people like the Harpers (and a large number of Canadians).

UPDATE: Some people have expressed dismay that I would label the Harper family as more “ordinary” than the Dion-Kriebers. I do not attach these labels as a means of passing moral judgment on any familial arrangement, but rather note “ordinary” as the meaty part of a normal population distribution. This is a commentary on political strategy without endorsement (it is rather a deconstruction). In real terms, I do not consider the maiden name to be an issue for me personally (this was never a post about my own preferences), however, I merely note that it may have some effect on “ordinary” in an electoral sense since since a large proportion abandons the maiden name upon getting married. Also, when deeming a person as “ordinary”, this is by no means a compliment. Having a PhD for example would do much to disqualify somebody as “ordinary”. Such an accomplishment is rather “extraordinary” (ie. rare). The same praise could be given to a modern woman that keeps her maiden name. HOWEVER, in a statistical sense, women that keep their maiden names and anyone that has a PhD are somewhat extraordinary and ordinary people may not see much of themselves within these types of people. As I have noted above, it may indeed be the strategy of the Conservatives to portray Harper to be as ordinary as possible in order to appeal to the majority of the population that is “ordinary” (by statistical definition). This sort of analysis is nothing new in politics and the same argument has been applied to politicians from John Kerry to Andre Boisclair. Both men did not reside within the “ordinary” range in many respects and this was likely a detriment to their electoral success because they couldn’t connect (ie. voters may not have been able to relate). Again, this is not a commentary on whether or not the electorate is at fault for behaving this way, this is merely an observation and dispassionate analysis of strategy as it relates to demographics.

Here’s such a normal population distribution.


It can represent a variety of population characteristics that are normally distributed from IQ to marks of a particular English class to average weight in kg.

Since, as illustrated by the distribution, most people are in the ordinary range for a variety of traits that can be represented this way, Harper may do well to appeal to these people by being like them in as many ways as possible (and to find himself within the same range). In many ways, he already is. In other population distributions that are not normally distributed, it is arguably advantageous for Harper to find himself in the most heavily populated proportion of the distribution.

UPDATE: Due to the overwhelming opinion generated concerning this post (some supportive, a lot of it angry) I wanted to measure the opinion and determine what went wrong. Most people seem to still seem to be hung up on “ordinary” (ie. “how can you say I’m not ordinary, I feel pretty damn ordinary thank you very much”). Perhaps I will try one last time to explain: in a purely statistical sense, “John” is a more ordinary name than “Tim” because a larger proportion of the population is named John. It’s not to say that Tim isn’t “ordinary” per se, just that there are more Johns than Tims and thus Johns are more common/ordinary. Perhaps there should have been less emphasis on the dichotomy ordinary/not ordinary and more of a focus on degrees of more and less. And that’s as far as I can break that down. Harper is a more ordinary character than Dion because his traits are common to more of the population than Dion. Again, no moral judgment there… sometimes it’s advantageous to be less ordinary, sometimes it’s not. My thesis is that at some level people will elect leaders that reflect them. This thesis is actually supported by this political science research article.

Moving on…

I think that this post actually went south when I referenced maiden names and the propensity of a woman keeping them/losing them as a measure of more ordinary or less ordinary. Of course, this was meant to be a short reference to another example to support the overall thesis, but I’ve found that more people have become concerned by the issue than any other I’ve raised in this post. After I published this post, I ran it by a left-wing feminist friend of mine who works for the MSM (yes, they do exist) in Ottawa. While she disagreed with the thesis (see above), she did not find the post to be offensive to her in any way. In fact, she agreed that it was a dispassionate academic argument on a perfectly legitimate debate that has been going on in the “image” field of politics for quite some time. After hanging out with some of my other women friends tonight (all right-wing), I polled them. Half (2) thought that the writing was straight forward and well-explained, the other two thought that the post might be problematic. One explained that an issue such as retention of one’s maiden name after marriage is viewed as empowering to some women and that it’s generally a domain that men ought to tread lightly (if at all). Point taken and understood! So, I’d like to apologize to anyone that I’ve offended with respect to discussing the degree of “ordinary” in keeping one’s maiden name. I found myself out of my depth (and league!) In fact, I’ve learned a couple of facts including the fact that most women in Quebec keep their maiden name. I tried to weave the maiden name topic into my overall thesis but it fell flat. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have included it. From a few personal communications via email, I know that I have significantly offended a couple of people. My post was never meant to stir such emotion. For that I am so very sorry. For the record though, I should state that as a vocal promoter of other aspects of liberty, I fully support a woman’s choice with respect to choosing her last name in marriage.

The War on Warming

If the left argues that the War on Terror is simply a slogan to exaggerate a real but smaller problem in order for their right-wing counterparts to advance bad and expensive policy, then what of their War on Warming?

If we don’t do it for the polar bears, then what about the kittens? Won’t somebody think of the kittens?

Droves of cats and kittens are swarming into animal shelters nationwide, and global warming is to blame, according to one pet adoption group.

Several shelters operated by a national adoption organization called Pets Across America reported a 30 percent increase in intakes of cats and kittens from 2005 to 2006, and other shelters across the nation have reported similar spikes of stray, owned and feral cats.

The cause of this feline flood is an extended cat breeding season thanks to the world’s warming temperatures, according to the group, which is one of the country’s oldest and largest animal welfare organizations.

If Al Gore announces that he’s running for president, many observers predict that he’ll have a good shot at the White House. If so, are we about to see an escalation of The War on Warming on a full scale, spending billions upon billions to fight an invisible but determined enemy?

Liberal vs. Conservative narratives

in 2007 and post Liberal leadership, we’re seeing two narratives emerge on the federal political landscape. The Conservatives are telling us that Stephane Dion is not leadership material and the Liberals are pushing the idea that the Conservatives are weak on the environment and the Liberals will save the day.

Today, it’s about -21C (much colder with the windchill) and a friend of mine emailed to say that he counted just 56 Liberal MPs in attendance. Who can blame them, it is really cold out. But, that’s just part of the problem for the Liberals when it comes to their message. The environment as an issue became much less of an important issue for Canadians when they finally started to chip ice off of their windshields. The Liberals didn’t have enough dedicated members to carry Dion’s singular message: that Stephen Harper isn’t doing enough to keep the Earth from warming.

That brings us to the Conservative narrative: that Stephane Dion is not a leader. I believe that this narrative will be much more effective than the dual-citizenship of the Liberal leader. On the surface, Dion does not instill confidence. Back during the leadership convention, I met the man who would become Liberal leader and found him to be a very nice guy however, at the time I wrote that he’s not the kind of commander to lead his troops over the hill. Pundits at the time gushed that the two Steve’s would bring policy to the fore, leaving politics behind. Well, the honeymoon is over and politics is always a constant in this town.

Dion’s full investment in a single issue also makes his leadership a liability to the Liberal party. If the Conservatives are able to make progress on some green issues, show that the Liberals would be just as bad, or accomplish some from column A and some from column B, they will disarm this Liberal iteration and in my opinion, they will accomplish this soon.

Former Liberal leadership contenders are still passively organizing behind the scenes? Bob Rae just announced that he’ll be running as a candidate in the next election; the former Ontario NDP premier doesn’t want to miss the second act of the Liberal leadership contest. It is clear to anyone paying attention that leadership runner-up Michael Ignatieff doesn’t have much confidence in Dion. He almost looked ill after having to stand up and parrot Dion’s environmental attack on the Conservatives. Clearly, there’s much more that the former Harvard professor wants to discuss than how Stephane didn’t get it done and how Stephen won’t get it done.

The Conservative narrative is more likely to resonate with Canadians while polling shows that Canadians believe that the Liberals are just as bad as the Conservatives on the environment. The difference, Harper is in a position and appears so much more capable of getting it done.

Liberal meltdown

This week was the first week back after a break for Canada’s New Government. Climate change was expected to lead the agenda as it seems to be the sole issue on which the Liberals care to define themselves. Conservatives rose to power promising to clean up government after the most significant corruption scandal in Canadian history. The Liberals think that they’ll rise to power cleaning up… Carbon dioxide and water vapour? Canadians have perceived Harper delivering on the Federal Accountability Act while Canadians believe that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals will deliver on climate change.

In fact, I believe that this underlines a key weakness in Liberal messaging. While polling has shown that the environment is a top priority for Canadians, they’re not about to throw out the government on the issue when they actually go to the polls. If heathcare — an issue which actually has a direct effect on the life and death of Canadians — can be taken off the ballot of the electorate by a couple of weeks of warm weather in Toronto, it would seem that there aren’t any pressing issues that are really on the minds of Canadians. “Environment? Sure that sounds like something I should care about”

Unless a hurricane hits Toronto killing scores of people, the electorate is not about to uproot a government to install the old guard led by a sponsorship-era cabinet minister with no real record on the only issue on which he has chosen to define himself.

That’s why this week’s messaging was so puzzling. At the beginning of this week, a protester braved the freezing temperatures of downtown Ottawa to stretch out to play the part of a sunbathing polar bear. One wonders if the protester only had the suit rented for that day.

Liberals were sporting green ribbons in the House this week,
presumably to show that they care about the environment. Since Dion’s election as Liberal leader, the Liberal website has also incorporated a splash of green. Apparently this is to make it known that our Liberal friends care about the environment so long as the vehicle for their environmentalism is the Kyoto protocol. According to the popular narrative these days, one does not believe in saving the environment if one does not believe in a global, bureaucratic, statist wealth transfer agreement. In fact, one also does not believe in the science of climate change if one does not also believe in such a one world collectivist approach to saving the Earth from certain doom (according to our latest amended models). In fact, while Michael Ignatieff was lecturing the government to meet global Kyoto targets, the green ribbon-clad Ignatieff had his own words thrown back at him when environment minister John Baird quoted Ignatieff questioning Kyoto by saying “nobody knows what Kyoto is or what it commits us to”.

Thursday afternoon, Mark Holland, part of the new Liberal rat pack, had a meltdown (actually he didn’t flinch) when he said on Charles Adlers’ show that a Liberal government would control oil sands development in Alberta. Sacrificing the Canadian economy just because green has become fashionable will have Canadians thinking twice about the Liberal party. (The Liberal Party of Canada is already dead to Albertans).

Earlier on Thursday, Dion had a poor question period performance as he bizarrely stated that Harper was “paralyzing the world” when it came to Kyoto. Somebody ought to proofread Dion’s notes before QP, but I imagine this would be a difficult talk as I hear that Dion is very top-down in his approach and has no time for criticism from his staff.

All in all, a bit of a bizarre week for the Liberals on their climate communications. We heard some whispers about an old Harper letter calling Kyoto a “socialist scheme”, but the Liberals didn’t seem to get any mileage on it.

Why would the Liberals spend this frigid week lecturing the Conservatives on the global warming file (one on which they themselves have a dismal record). Is there really nothing else to talk about? Did the Liberals really spend the week telling Canadians “We got nothing”?

BONUS BAD MESSAGING: Bill Graham demanded Conservative action on Guantanamo Bay, a bizarre request given that Graham was foreign affairs minister in the years after 9/11.

Also, Dion called Harper fat?

PMO’s letter of complaint to the CBC

This letter’s been floating around among a few reporters. I received the following text in my email’s inbox this morning.

Dear Mr Gilbert,

To be sure, freedom of the press is one of the foundations of our democratic life and the vitality of public debate in Canadian democracy. In that respect, we are fortunate in Canada to live in a political and media environment characterized by a lack of political interference that might undermine the credibility and impartiality of our media institutions, including public broadcasters.

I must admit that I was perplexed by Mr Guy Gendron’s report on the program ” Zone Libre Enquête” on Friday, January 19, 2007, which covered the oil sands industry in Alberta. Indeed, at times, Radio-Canada indulged in unacceptable innuendos, the most striking of which were as follows:

“…the day after the election of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in Canada, U.S. oil industry leaders met in this hotel in Houston, Texas, together with promoters of major oil sands projects in Alberta.”

“Talks, sometimes secret deals, as discovered by our colleague from ‘Zone Libre Enquête,’ Guy Gendron. “

“The Radio-Canada program ‘Zone Libre Enquête’ reveals that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President George Bush cut a secret deal last year .”

“So far, the Conservative government, as you know, has withdrawn… Canada is the only country to have withdrawn from Kyoto among the 35 signatories.”

Finally, I would draw your attention to the following statement:

“The oil-sands have a road map to a production level of 5 million barrels a day,” A “Current projections are more like 2-to-3 million over the next ten years.”

That quotation dates from September 8, 2004, and was made by the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources under the former Liberal government.

By beginning with the election of a Conservative government, the report neglected to highlight the decisions by the former government.

The “secret” report, “Oil Sands Experts Group Workshop Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America Houston, Texas January 24-25, 2006 Oil Sands Workshop SPP Report,” which is also available at http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/oilgas/publications/oilgas_generalpubs/oilsands_spp_report.pdf , says that:

“President Bush, Prime Minister Martin and President Fox officially announced the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North American (SPP) agreement in March 2005. The energy activities of the SPP encompass a trilateral effort among Mexico, the United States and Canada, to create a sustainable energy economy for North America. The Canadian oil sands are one of the world’s largest hydrocarbon resources and will be a significant contributor to energy supply and security for the continent. As such, the three countries agreed to collaborate through the SPP on the sustainable development of the oil sands resources and an ad hoc Oil Sands Experts Group was formed that includes the U.S., Canadian and Alberta Government representatives. The first deliverable for the Group consisted of the following: ‘By January 2006, building on joint discussions with key stakeholders and scientific experts, issue a report that discusses the mid- to long-term aspects of the oil sands product market development and the infrastructure and refinery implications for increased oil sands market penetration.’ To meet this deliverable, the Group convened a workshop in Houston, Texas, on January 24-25, 2006, that was jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). […] The workshop brought together experts representing the oil sands industry, refiners, marketers, pipeline companies, and government.”

On several occasions, the SRC blamed the current situation on the Conservative government. As you know, the situation is much more complex, and goes beyond the election of a Conservative government on January 23, as suggested by Radio-Canada.

It is noteworthy that the report by Natural Resources Canada is made up of recommendations, whereas the reporter implied that it is binding and that the Conservative government approves the recommendations from the outset.

The SRC story contained a number of factual errors, including one regarding the appointment of the former environment minister, Ms Rona Ambrose. The story indicated that Ms Ambrose was appointed on February 16, when in fact she was appointed minister on February 6, 2006.

The report took a sensationalist tone and sought to draw a direct link between oil sands development and the election of the Conservative government, a link that is more than dubious.

On the program “Tout le monde en parle,” host Guy-A Lepage stated that the report might bring down Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative government. How could he make such a claim when most of the facts occurred under the Liberal government led by Paul Martin?

The wording used suggested to viewers that there was a link between the two events. How can any kind of link whatsoever be drawn between that meeting by oil industry leaders in Houston and Prime Minister Harper’s election the day before? There is no link between these two completely separate events. The timing angle, by which the events were depicted as occurring together within a broader environment, was unacceptable as worded in the report. There was no further clarification that would enable viewers to realize that these two events were completely separate from each other.

If the reporter felt it was important to indicate the timing of the meeting in Houston, a more nuanced wording -notably with regard to syntax- such as “Incidentally, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was elected on January 23,” would have had the advantage of dispelling any ambiguity. And as you know, the meeting of oil industry leaders was convened under the Liberal government of Paul Martin.

Furthermore, Radio-Canada spread misinformation that Prime Minister Harper and U.S. President George Bush met secretly. That information is completely false: no secret meeting or deal took place between Prime Minister Harper and President Bush.

A lot of things happened on January 24 and 25, 2006. I hope that not all those events that took place the day after January 23 have a direct link with our election. That would be rather bizarre timing.

I also want to clarify once again that our government was sworn in on February 6, 2006, which means that on February 6, 2006 , the Liberal Party of Canada was still in power.

This incident in no way diminishes my confidence in the excellent work carried out by the Société Radio-Canada. Media impartiality is essential in the knowledge and information society. The quality of our media institutions depends on it, as does the maintenance of the high degree of journalistic integrity that characterizes the SRC. We acknowledge that we are at odds with the SRC’s position. We are calling on you to consider the facts properly, so that the truth can come out of this misunderstanding.

I hope this meets with your expectations.

Yours sincerely,

Sandra Buckler
Director of Communications
Prime Minister of Canada