I was in question period yesterday to see a bit of Canadian history unfold.
Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as part of our campaign promise for democratic reform, our Conservative government put forward Bill C-43, which establishes the national process for consulting Canadians on their preferences for Senate appointment through election. We have recently learned that Senator Dan Hays, who holds the seat from Alberta, will be retiring from the Senate after it rises for the summer.
Could our Prime Minister advise the House, Canadians and Albertans on how he will be filling this vacancy?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): First, Mr. Speaker, let me take the opportunity to congratulate Senator Hays on his long public service, including his role as leader of the opposition and Speaker of the Senate.
We do have Bill C-43 tabled. On the other hand, the province of Alberta did some time ago hold a popular consultation for the filling of a Senate vacancy. When that seat comes due, I will recommend to the Governor General the appointment of Mr. Bert Brown.
This is fantastic news for western populists who have been championing senate reform for the past 20 years.
The resignation of Hays has allowed Harper to accelerate the appointment of an elected senator and to realize an old Reform Party ideal.
Once the process of appointing senators becomes normalized, it will be difficult for Prime Ministers to make unelected appointments.
Senate reform may become a key aspect of this Prime Minister’s legacy, despite the fact that it began with the less than ideal appointment of Michael Fortier.
What follows is a personal theory that I’ve been assembling from observation over the past month. There are only three people, I believe, in the Conservative Party who actually know about an election, and I’m certain that even they squabble over timing.
Here’s my take.
There won’t be an election this spring or summer.
First, the Conservatives have been doing everything in their power to convince us of the opposite. Consider the training conference that the party just held in Toronto. This affair was no small feat and if I were a Liberal watching from the outside, I’d be anxious. Further, the Conservatives just showed off their 17,000 sq. ft. war room to the media. Can you remember a party in recent history that has done something like this? Why show the media one of the cards in your election hand? Again, I believe that this had the effect of sending shock into the spines of Liberal Party officials.
Stephane Dion, and his communications and strategy teams have been reacting to Conservative actions rather than taking the time to forge out their own long-term plan. Instead, the best Dion has been able to muster so far has been to complain that Harper is being “unfair” and that the Conservatives are bullies. The Liberals have not even begun to effectively present and communicate a long term policy plan for Canadians to consider.
Stephen Harper is also enjoying some of the highest polling numbers that he’s ever experienced. He’s got the opportunity to plateau these numbers rather than pick the spike and hope he’s got enough of a gentle slope to ride down on the way to E-day. Back in 2004, when the news came out that Harper was in “majority territory”, this was the kiss of death. Soon after, Ontario voters reacted to the news in order to put Harper back into a comfortable place in their minds.
With respect to comfort, this has been a key aspect of the Conservative plan, in my opinion. Stephen Harper’s strategy has been in part to be the status quo Prime Minister. Harper and his planners have done everything in their power to prevent Canadians from thinking that they’re rocking the boat. Take the latest budget, for example. Conservatives looking for a conservative budget were largely disappointed. “This is a Liberal budget” they exclaimed. The budget was heavy on spending and par for the course for most Canadians. Harper is hardly causing earthquakes in Ottawa. In fact, the more that Stephen Harper can do to be the Prime Minister in the back of the minds of Canadians instead of in the front of their minds, the better.
Harper has indeed been enjoying polling numbers that would give him a majority government. Some analysts have remarked that the best ally that Stephen Harper has is time. The longer that he is Prime Minister, the more that the concept becomes comfortably entrenched in the minds of Canadians. Pair this with Harper’s status quo Prime Ministership and he can ride out high numbers without those numbers themselves becoming an offensive concept in the minds of Canadians. The summer is coming up and most will, as usual, disconnect from politics. The Prime Minister is hoping to be riding high going into the summer so that he can park his numbers there as Canadians get used to the concept of Harper in majority territory.
I’m also getting the feeling that Harper may ride out his numbers far enough so that media observers will go from blaming him from being opportunistic if he were to call an election, to questioning his political acumen for not calling an election with such a good position in the polls.
So, for those of you who think that Harper’s on the verge of calling (or orchestrating) an election, I think that it’s time to reassess. Perhaps that’s only what the Conservatives want you to think.
I was sent this video by a friend who wanted to bring it to my attention. I’m glad that he did because the video speaks a few lessons and appeals to me on a few levels.
First, watch the video:
Also, watch the comments (here and here) for more context.
If the context presented in the video is truthful and complete, then this sort of practice is unacceptable.
As someone that follows politics, as a democrat, a grassroots conservative, and a blogger that occasionally films items of interest for my readers, I find the events that unfolded in the video disgraceful.
Last week, I was called by a reporter at the Toronto Star asking how blogging and “YouTube” will change the next election. Of course, I’m becoming almost evangelical about blogging, video blogging, and their roles within an open democracy. The most striking evolution that I highlighted was that the cost of video recording, editing, processing and delivery is dropping at such a rate that almost anyone with a hobby-like (or less) dedication to the medium can use the tools. The effect of blogging is similar; the act of publishing one’s thoughts to a worldwide audience is now next to nil. Case in point: the lowest barrier to overcome is the public library’s internet access. In Canada, every citizen is entitled to participate in democracy. Classically, for most this has meant filling out an “X” next to their candidate of choice, every time an election is called. However, blogging enables greater participation, direct action and political participation by contributing to the many debates, advocating on the various issues and holding our public officials to account.
In this age, one does not need to be an “accredited” member of the press, an “approved” opinion maker, or a “certified” talking head to have a “value-added” role in politics and in our democratic process. Indeed, I have been struggling to define and understand what it means to be some of all three in the political process over the past few years.
For Scott Ross, the harassment that he faced from local Conservatives at the Open House was unacceptable. And political parties should take note. Ross’ video will cause more damage to a party that has campaigned on transparency than any footage that he could have recorded from locals complaining about the budget or any other policy. As I told the reporter from the Toronto Star, video/audio recording is becoming ubiquitous. When one pairs this with democratic participation, we all benefit. Parties not only ought be mindful of the now famous “macaca” moment, as Sen. George Allen (R-VA) experienced during the ’06 campaign, but they should never be seen to be restrictive of a constituent with a camera in an open community forum.
The “Youtube” effect will do much to amplify any mistake and any hypocrisy encountered on or off the campaign trail. Perhaps this will have a positive effect on weeding out candidates that don’t walk the walk and talk the talk when they are in less guarded situations such as town halls or coffee parties.
Is this situation limited to local Conservative riding associations? Of course not. Those with control (whether earned or not) and those that wish to retain control are in the position to do as the Conservatives of Kelowna-Lake Country did to Ross. Personally, I’ve witnessed the same on many levels including, but not limited to the Liberal Party, the Parliamentary Press Gallery and the sandbox of university student council politics.
If we are to practice what we preach, we ought to be removing the barriers to our political representatives and those that wish to become them. A free press is a free press, no matter how it is becoming redefined.
UPDATE: Never trust a Liberal? Mel Wilde gives his account. Apparently he was there: I sat at the next table from the guys who wanted to disrupt the meeting. The video was out of context and only covered what the Ross wanted. For those of us who went to the meeting for the opportunity to talk to our M.P., we lost out. It was obvious that these people were organized and committed to disrupt. Folks do have freedom to protest, but should they have license to prevent others from participating in a meeting called to allow discussion with an M.P.? Makes me want to go disrupt the next Liberal Party meeting. I won’t because I respect the rights of others, Which Ross obviosly does not.
When Mark Holland and Marlene Jennings carted property of the Conservative Party of Canada outside of the Wellington building, did they enter into another legal jurisdiction?
The Liberals retained the Conservative boxes full of confidential documents for over one year and rifled through them, looking for dirt. This while documentation was available to them that clearly indicated that these boxes were processed for delivery from the former Conservative OLO to the Conservative Resource Group. One might argue that the boxes were stolen. (If one intercepts your mail, opens it, keeps it for a year, photographs it and then returns it, did one in fact steal it?)
Parliamentary precinct security is the purview of the Speaker. The Wellington building, of course, falls under the Speaker’s jurisdiction. The boxes were to be delivered to the third floor of the same building to the Conservative Resource Group. However, Holland and Jennings took Conservative property outside of the building and paraded it down Wellington street down to Langevin Block and to the PMO. Wellington street is outside of the jurisdiction of the Speaker and indeed within the jurisdiction of the Ottawa Police Service. If Holland and Jennings had returned the boxes without fanfare, one could reasonably argue that they were finally doing the right thing and returning property that clearly wasn’t theirs (albeit their actions still suspect). However, since they coordinated a media stunt around the returning of the boxes, one could argue that the two Liberal MPs were not only in possession of stolen property but that they got use of that property in the municipal jurisdiction of Ottawa.
Do Holland and Jennings have to worry about the possibility of having committed a crime outside of the comfort of the Speaker’s jurisdiction and within that of the Ottawa Police Service? Were Jennings and Holland in possession (and use) of stolen property on Wellington street in Ottawa?
I arrived back in Ottawa this past afternoon exhausted from attending the much talked-about Conservative Party boot camp in Toronto.
Of course, I won’t unleash all of the evil Tory secrets that I learned within the confines of the Toronto Congress Centre during those intense few days but I will say that whenever an election comes, the Conservative machine is ready.
Who would have thought in 2004 that 5000 Conservatives would have gathered in Toronto (of all places) to cap of a successful training session to take in a pre-election speech by Prime Minister Harper, enjoying incredible momentum which may steamroll over the Liberal opposition leader on the way to a majority government? Liberal spinners estimated 2000 attendees, but I’m told that the RCMP estimate was 5000. Further, about 40% of the crowd were women and about 35% were new Canadians (I was greeting people at the door to the rally and helping direct some traffic in the hall)
This momentum is particularly important for the Prime Minister to deliver his plan for Canada today as his Finance Minister unveils the second Conservative budget. I’m feeling that the opposition will find it difficult to vote against the Conservative plan for a stronger, safer and better Canada and I don’t think that the government will fall on this particular piece of of legislation.
The budget will be a fundamental plank in how this government will seek to define itself to the Canadian electorate. I’m looking for a particularly strong focus on the law and order agenda and believe that if we are to face an election call in the next couple of months, an election will be precipitated on the stark differences between the Conservatives and opposition on this file.
Are you a student? Do you have an interest in working in political Ottawa? Do have an interest in carrying the Conservative message to your fellow Canadians?
You should apply for the Conservative Party of Canada Internship Program!
The deadline is fast approaching for applying to this unique opportunity. Applications are due March 9th at 11:59pm.
I have a few friends who have gone through this program and who have worked as interns on the Hill (and now work in regular jobs in politics). It certainly is a good way to get your political career started in Ottawa.
The Globe and Mail recently published an article on Monday about appointments to the Judicial Advisory Committee, a group of volunteer individuals that help select a pool of candidates for consideration for the Minister of Justice.
The Globe notes the following,
At least 16 of 31 recent appointments to the panels have Conservative party ties, according to a survey by The Globe and Mail. Others, while not directly linked to the party, have expressed right-of-centre views about the proper role of the judiciary.
Canada’s “newspaper of record” also goes on to cite seven separate authorities on the issue decrying the sure first steps to the implementation of a radical right-wing conspiracy in Canada. Stephane Dion is quoted:
“The only reason he’s stacking the committees is to select judges who will cater to his neo-conservative agenda,” said Mr. Dion, demanding an end to what he called a “blatant” effort to politicize the judiciary.”
Gilles Duceppe, the NDP, a University of Ottawa law professor, the Dean of Osgoode law school, the president of the Canadian bar association, even Beverly McLachlin expressed “concern” when the Globe and Mail contacted them to comment on its narrative. One doesn’t get the sense of balance from the article.
Partisan appointments to a panel which makes recommendations to the Minister of Justice?
On closer inspection, one discovers that the Globe’s math is a bit of a stretch and designed to be alarmist. I count over 115 names on the Judicial Advisory Committee and the names have been fully disclosed on the website for a month.
So why does the Globe deem this story to be newsworthy and why now? Well, it all fits into a narrative that the evil Conservatives don’t believe in the Charter and that if we aren’t vigilant, it’ll be gone tomorrow.
In fact, the Globe article comes during a week-long feature in the National Post about the Charter to coincide with a conference at McGill that focuses upon the “Charter @ 25″.
Is the Globe and Mail trying to fan the flames on the issue of judicial appointments?
One wonders if the Globe is as vigilant reporting on partisan appointments to the bench (rather than a non-binding advisory committee). Consider, for example, this list of judicial appointments.
Also, if one digs a little deeper into previous Judicial Advisory Committees, we discover that partisan Liberals have previously packed the JACs under Liberal justice ministers. Here’s a list:
From 2004-2006 Irene Lewis New Brunswick Women’s Liberal Association (1994-1998)
James Hatton Federal Liberal Candidate in the 1988 Federal Election (North Vancouver)
Sharon Appleyard President of 2005-2006 Executive-Liberal Party of Canada (Manitoba)
Elizabeth Wilson Member of interim peers panel for Liberal federal candidates 2006
Roger Yachetti Donated $128.10 to Liberal party of Canada in 1999
Karolyn M. Godfrey (P.E.I)-Liberal donation $486.80 in 1999
Marc Letellier $1000 donation to Liberal party of Canada in 2000
Fernand Deveau $128.33 donation to Liberal party of Canada in 1998
Simon Potter prominent Liberal activist as well as being a lobbyist and counsel for Imperial.
Anil Pandila Donated $390.12 to the Liberal party of Canada
From 2002-2004 Claudette Tardif Currently a Liberal Senator (Alberta) – appointed by Paul Martin
Lou Salley Former Chretien B.C. organizer, B.C. organizer for Dion in 2006
Rodney Pacholzuk Former Organization Chair for the Kelowna Federal Liberal Riding Association
George Cooper New Brunswick Campaign Manager for the Ignatieff Campaign
Annette Marshall Co-chair of the 1993 Liberal Election Campaign – Nova Scotia
Lorraine Hamilton Former President of the Burlington Federal Liberal Association and EA to Paddy Torsney, M.P.
Roberta Hubley Former P.E.I. Liberal MLA
Everett Roche Lawrence MacAulay’s Official Agent
Yes, these are partisans who served on judicial advisory committees. As I wrote on Macleans.ca, I’m still looking for the Globe and Mail article concerning these (Liberal) partisans. I don’t think that I’ll find it.
Can we instead thank these volunteers, regardless of political stripe, for their commitment to public service?
I’ve been doing a bit of digging on the topic of Conservative french-language attack ads (since we all know they’re coming, and since the english-language versions were successful in English-Canada).
Will they attack Dion on his dismal environmental record (since it’s a big issue in Quebec)? Will they discuss Adscam Liberals being invited back into the party-fold?
I’m about 90% confident that the Tories will be making an announcement this morning detailing french-language ads to run in Quebec.
“Stéphane Dion n’est pas un lee-der”
UPDATE 1:02am: Upgrade to 99%. Just received word that Bernier’s running point on the presser mid-morning and that the ads will be “totally different” than the English ones (in footage of course, but in style too).
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.
Yesterday, I broke the story about how a regulatory body of Canada’s private broadcasters was apparently holding back advertising produced by the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA).
The reason for the rejection of CRFA’s advertising? Insufficient size (and duration) of a disclaimer describing who produced the ad spots as TVB categorized the commercials as “Issues and Opinions” due to the buzzworthy nature of renewable fuels.
However, CRFA was given another bizarre reason for the rejection of one of their ads: a two second clip of Stephen Harper stumping during the previous election on a renewable fuels promise needed a “letter of attestation” from the Conservative leader in order for it to appear in the commercial. In other words, CRFA needed Harper’s permission to use Harper’s image even though the use of such an image was from a public event and without media restriction. The clip was used by CRFA to remind Canadians of the promise made by the Conservatives during the previous election on renewable fuels.
CRFA cried foul and rightly argued that such a stipulation for advertising would mean that public figures that debate and write legislation for the public could have an automatic veto over any commercial that they don’t like that featured their image. It should be noted that the issue of ownership of the video content was never in dispute, but rather that the subject of the video (Harper) had not signed off on it’s use.
This got me thinking. Surely there are other examples of commercials produced using the images of elected officials. Election advertising and especially attack ads come to mind.
During the closing days of the previous election, I doubt that Stephen Harper signed off on the blurry, war drum fade-in of his image while Liberals warned of “soldiers with guns. In our cities. We’re not making this up”. Why would he give his permission for such a spot? Further, if TVB is responsible for editorial control over commercials that air on private broadcasters, why on Earth did a spot showing women hunched over cowering while a voice-over falsely accused Harper of being an ideologue that would prevent a woman from her right to choose get approved, while Corn Cob Bob got canned for using an innocuous clip of Stephen Harper (for about two seconds on less than 5% of the screen).
The TVB apparently greenlighted obviously slanderous ad copy while rejecting a happy-go-lucky ad about renewable fuels.
During the last days of the 2006 election, after the Liberals made those war drum spots (we’re not making this up), the Conservatives responded with their own ad with clips of Liberals saying the soldier ad was a “bad idea” etc and a clip of Paul Martin admitting that he approved the ads. The Liberals were quick to condemn the ad in a press release dated January 15th, 2006:
Conservatives Called on to Withdraw TV Spots January 15, 2006
The Conservative Party of Canada has produced new television ads which the Liberal Party of Canada believes are in violation of Canada’s Copyright laws.
The Liberal Party of Canada calls on the Conservative Party to withdraw these ads.
Here’s the ad:
The Liberals lobbied to have the ad pulled because they claimed that the Conservatives violated CBC copyright by using a clip of Paul Martin admitting that he approved the controversial Liberal attack ads. A CP story from January 16th, 2006 gives us some more perspective:
OTTAWA (CP) — A new Conservative TV ad is reminding voters some of Paul Martin’s own candidates disapproved of a controversial Liberal attack which some say implied a Tory government would send tanks into the streets.
The Conservative ad recycles quotes from prominent Liberals including John McCallum, former defence minister, who last week called his party’s ad a mistake.
The 30-second Liberal spot was based on a campaign promise by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to station 500-member battalions of Canadian Forces personnel in major cities for deployment in emergencies.
The Liberal ad outraged military personnel, who said it implies the Tories were advocating some form of martial law.
It was quickly yanked from the Liberal party’s English website, but a French version aired on television in Quebec.
Martin has said he gave an initial go-ahead, then changed his mind and pulled the ad, which McCallum and Keith Martin, a former Reform party MP and now a Liberal incumbent, later criticized.
The Liberals called on the Conservatives to withdraw the ad in a statement Sunday, saying they believe it violates copyright laws by using CBC footage which they did not have permission to use.
But the Conservatives said all their ads were approved by the party’s legal counsel and Telecaster, the Canadian advertising authority. They added they haven’t received any complaints about the ad from the CBC.
Telecaster (TVB) initially approved the ad for distribution, however, the Liberals complained and the ad was subsequently pulled.
TVB’s greenlight of controversial Liberal ads, the rejection of CRFA’s ads which favourably portray Harper’s environmental policy, along with the pulling of the previously approved Conservative response ad during the past election after Liberals complained raises a few red flags.
As with other elements of our democracy, the approval of private advertising of election ads (and non-election advocacy ads) should be accomplished on a level playing field. Why should one party (whether Conservative or Liberal) have an advantage over the other when trying to get advertising approved for consumption by the public on private networks? Of course, private networks are free to do business with whomever they choose, but would it be a scandal if the umbrella group that is is in charge of editorial content control for these networks controlled for preferred partisanship rather than what they are supposed to control for? (hate speech, indecency, promotion of unlawful acts)
According to the Television Bureau of Canada’s website, the president of the organization is a man named Jim Patterson. In this document we find out that Jim Patterson also goes by the name James and that his middle initial is D.
I decided to search the Elections Canada donations database for donations from people named Jim/James D. Patterson. The following results describe one individual who, according to Elections Canada, lives in Lakefield Ontario with the postal code K0L 2H0.
Lloyd, Diane / Liberal Party of Canada / Peterborough
Jan. 11, 2006
Individuals / Part 2a
Is this the same Jim/James D. Patterson that is the head of the Television Bureau of Canada, the private regulatory body that has editorial control over “Issues and Opinion” advertising?
If so, should a partisan be in charge of approving ads during a time sensitive period (such as an election) where parties depend on television advertising for their most critical rapid responses? Also, would it be appropriate for a partisan to have an advanced look at a competing party’s ads?