Theresa Spence ends — whatever it was she was doing

Notice the difference between how CTV and CBC are reporting the story. Today, CBC was still calling this farce a “hunger strike”.

CTV labels Theresa Spence’s protest a “liquid-only diet”
CBC calls Theresa Spence’s protest a “hunger strike”

Lisa LaFlamme replaces Lloyd Robertson. New beginnings or an era that has now passed?

Prior to the Olympics I heard an interesting rumour from a source close to the business that CTV’s Lloyd Robertson would be pulling up anchor and moving on after the company’s high profile gig of playing host network to Canada’s 2010 Vancouver Olympics. It was the kind of information that you’d want to triple-check and the kind of tidbit of info that you’d want to ensure isn’t confirmed from sources who had only heard the same from the original rumour monger. While it was never enunciated broadly, it graced the front of one media watcher’s blog and threatened to make its way onto talk radio. Robertson himself acted to quash the rumour declaring that he had no announcement to make and that he’d be staying on for the nightly newscast.

That is, until last evening.

The man that anchored CTV’s flagship newscast and who had done so since 1984 told friends, colleagues and the industry that it was time to wrap it up. Anchor politics have been relevant to the mainstream news business in the past and indeed, with recent shakeups including the entry of Sun News on the scene, anchor politics are in play again.

In the United States, the retirement of Dan Rather and introduction of Katie Couric set off a lot of chatter. The passing of the torch between an outgoing Tom Brokaw to an incoming Brian Williams represented a similar “seismic” shift over at NBC.

But are such events as relevant as they once were?

In an evolving media landscape, the news consumer has more options than David Brinkley vs. Walter Cronkite. As they unfold, national and international news events are disseminated in a less fixed (or indeed less anchored) manner, but rather more in a diverse, disparate, and distributed fashion. One time, sitting on a political panel for one of the Canadian networks, I found it telling and perhaps unsurprising that the host was keeping on top of emerging stories not via the news wire, but rather via National Newswatch — an amateur independent news aggregator that is well-read among political types in Ottawa. Former CTV political host Mike Duffy famously kept us up to the minute via tips sent to his Blackberry. And even since, I’ve learned that while even the Prime Minister’s Office keeps on top of news via National Newswatch and similar news aggregators, much of their breaking media monitoring operations has shifted to tracking emerging chatter on Twitter. Whole government departments are now contracting social media monitoring to keep on top of issues and to conduct their media management. The department of Heritage sought a social media guru to keep track of anti-seal-hunt chatter to provide intel of possible disruptions during the Olympics and even in the aftermath of the G20 violence, police are using social media networks to identify perpetrators.

Regarding packaged content that can be monetized, companies are scrambling to understand the landscape as it shifts. Google is set to make a serious entry later this year with its Google TV offering which will allow the further convergence of search/web/television and make it accessible to the average end-user. Google’s YouTube announced YouTube Leanback this week which previews the socially-aware web-television interface where whole channels of content will be dedicated to videos produced and shared by one’s Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Google contacts. The format promises to be open to developers and therefore we may yet see new imagined methods of information consumption emerge.

The significance of this? The media space and the distribution of content is becoming less top-down. Today, in contrast to ten years ago, it matters less to the Prime Minister’s Office to get their story on The National. Much has been written about the Conservative’s strategy of narrow-casting to local and ethnic media. Even more has been written about the waning influence of broadcast news to cable. Former PMO Director of Communications Kory Teneycke is banking $100 million of Quebecor’s money on this newer front. What may yet be the newest frontier is tapping into the emerging importance of building online networks of influencers bottom-up from a populist rather than top-down elite information distribution model.

What happens when the 500-channel universe and 15-minute news cycle gives way to an unbound media universe and “cycle” (soon to be a misnomer) consistently in flux? Will we need an anchor? Or will we be happy to float along the tide?

In old media, we see another changing of the guard and Lisa LaFlamme should be congratulated for her career accomplishments that brought her to anchor CTV’s newscast. However, it will be how she and her company adapt to a broader, more fluid and bottom-up media culture that will determine their success in the next phase. Because that’s the kind of era it’s been. Now to the future.

Have we finally chilled out about climate change?

and is the media being slow to catch up?

I actually had to go look for this article this year. Usually it finds me. Here’s the story from CTV:

Extreme heat wave example of climate change: expert

Canadians should expect more extreme weather like the current heat wave baking southern Ontario and Quebec in the future because of climate change, a leading climatology professor says.

“My strong opinion is that these kinds of extremes are something you would expect in a warming world, and expect to happen more frequently,” Harry McCaughey, a professor of climatology at Queen’s University, told CTV.ca.

McCaughey says climate models show that overloading the climate with carbon and water vapor (a byproduct of a warming globe) makes the system much more unstable.

Ok, typical short-news-cycle-driven story about something observed (it’s hot!!) that’s happening now but exists in geological time (tens of thousands of years).

Even more telling is the “climate change fatigue” expressed in the comments section of the post which seems to be in a condemning consensus about this news story:

“That global warming sure is horrible, look at all those pictures of people having fun at the beach ! We should really try and stop this thing immediately, call your local politicians, I know I am ! On second thought ……….. last winter was horrible, bring on global warming !” — NM

“There was a three to four day spread in December in Edmonton last winter where it was record setting cold, -49 w/ windchill of ~ -55 to -60. Where was Mr. McCaughey then ? In fact last winter was the coldest in some areas in over 30 years, remember ice in Florida where they lost over $100 million in orange crops. I really don’t care if global warming is happening or not, but seriously the more the marrier if that means I have to go through another winter like last year !” — Sure …….

“As a child I remember summers always being hot in July. Southern Saskatchewan was always 90 to 105 degrees. IMO we are just too used to our comforts-central heating in winter and airconditioning in summer.” — jjaycee

“I was wondering how long it would take until the media blamed this latest of many heatwaves dating back hundreds of years on climate change.*sigh*” — Mike

“Yes, it is called summer, Dr. Doom. Normally, summer is preceded by gradual warming following winter, which can be extremely cold.” — Lou

Liveblogging the PM’s address

6:59pm: PM’s address on Global delivered via Youtube!

7:00pm: Canadians selected the Conservatives on October 14th to bring Canada through the economic crisis

7:00pm: First points past intro are details of the Conservative economic measures.

7:01pm: January 27th will be a budget.  Additional measures there.

7:01pm: “We are consulting with the opposition [on the economy]”

7:02pm: “Instead of a new budget, they propose a coalition that includes a party that wants to break up the country.”

7:03pm: “This is a pivotal moment in our history”

7:04pm: “will use all legal means at our disposal to protect our democracy”

7:06pm: Media coverage: Bob Fife of CTV speculates that if the GG turns down the PM’s request to prorogue, the PM may resign creating urgency for the GG to appoint a new PM.

7:07pm: Craig Oliver upset there was no contrition in the PM’s speech.

7:15pm: Fife suggests Conservatives are actively trying to poach Liberal MPs or have them miss the confidence vote on Monday.

7:16pm: Peter Donolo slamming the PM on CTV.  CTV presents Donolo as a pollster instead of Jean Chretien’s former Director of Communications.

7:17pm: Fife complains that Dion’s hasn’t presented a tape to CTV yet.  Lloyd complains that network time is expensive.  They presumed that they’d be back to prime time television by now.  Fife reveals that Layton wanted equal time as part of the coalition.

7:25pm: CBC says that Dion’s tape delay shows poor communications by the Liberals.  Maybe Dion didn’t understand his own speech.

7:26pm: Liberal tape has a poor start.

7:27pm: Jeffrey Simpson’s global warming book on Dion’s bookshelf.

7:28pm: Dion mentions the Bloc and the Green party will support the Liberals (on issues of confidence – what?)

7:28pm: Dion: Consensus is a great Canadian value

7:29pm: “Rivals are working together elsewhere in the world.  Why not here?”

7:29pm: Dion messaging against possible prorogation.

7:30pm: Dion outlining a potential economic platform.

7:31pm: Dion moves past allotted network time.

7:32pm: Dion describes his letter to the GG.  Outlined his suggestion to her not to prorogue.  “If [Harper] is to suspend parliament, he must face a vote of confidence.”

7:32pm: Dion says he’ll work day and night on the economic crisis.

Here’s Prime Minister Harper’s speech

RallyforCanada.ca by the numbers

It is now just before 11am on Wednesday. Since I launched RallyforCanada.ca at 10am on Monday morning, the rallies have attracted a lot of attention.

After 48 hours, here are some stats:

127,149 hits on the website
20,400 people signed up with their email addresses (and province)
358 followers on twitter

I’ve done a lot of media on the rallies:
CBC: Don Newman’s Politics
CTV Alberta
CHCH
CBC: The National
Citytv

National Post
Le Devoir
La Presse
Metro News (Ottawa)
Canadian Press (CP)
Toronto Star
Hill Times

CHQR (2 hits)
CJAD
CFRB
CBC Winnipeg
CBC Montreal

On my Blackberry, I have 1121 unread emails.

I’ve received calls of support from across the country and a small trickle of hate mail.

Perhaps the most bizarre call I got was from a group calling themselves “les jeunes patriotes du Quebec”. They described themselves as a group of separatists that are against the Bloc joining the coalition and selling out to Stephane Dion. They wanted to know if they could rally with us.

“You want to rally? ‘for Canada’?” I asked.
“Uh, yes” they said.

How disgusting, I thought. This was hardly a group coming on side to support strengthening our country with rallies. I tried to tease as much information out of them as I could by sounding as if I was perhaps considering their ludicrous idea. I invited them to send me an email with their info and request so I could expose it here on the blog. They never did. Too bad.

I think that what bothers Canadians most about this crazy week in politics is the proposed coalition government’s association with the Bloc. If the rogue-faction from the separatists want to rally, they can have their own. As for the rest of the separatists, they can rally with the “Progressive Coalition” which is supporting the proposed NDP-Liberal-Bloc coalition government.

Poor CTV

and now this:

(would someone pay the bandwidth bill at CTV!)

Consider too:

Last time I checked, funding for the CBC went up to $1.2 Billion under the Conservatives.  While we’re talking about propping up and subsidizing organizations like the Liberal Party and Bloc Quebecois, perhaps we should instead be talking about letting organizations that inspire and provide a competitive product compete on a level playing field with those that don’t and unfairly receive welfare from the Canadian taxpayer.

Liveblogging Flaherty’s economic statement

4:09pm: Persuant to a standing order I do not recall, the Minister of Finance tables his economic statement.

4:10pm: Time of unprecedented economic deterioration. Uh oh, this sounds bad.

4:11pm: IMF projects global growth weakest since ’93. Good thing the IMF puts Canada in the best fiscal position of the G7.

4:13pm: CTV reports that the Liberals will not support the economic statement. This statement is a matter of confidence and if defeated would precipitate an election.

4:14pm: Reformation of global finance will be done with global partners.

4:15pm: Trade will be expanded.

4:15pm: Opposition mocks Flaherty for saying the government planned for the downturn last year.

4:15pm: Taxes have been reduced by $200B. Investments have been made in infrastructure, S&T and training.

4:16pm: Funding for infrastructure projects. Taxes down by equivalent of 2% GDP. Sustainable and permanent tax relief.

4:19pm: Canada will come out of the crisis in a strong position because it went in a strong position.

4:21pm: Will not engineer a surplus just to say we have one.

4:21pm: Budget is balanced for now, but future injection of government stimulus may move Canada into deficit.

4:22pm: Days of chronic structural deficits are behind us.

4:23pm: Tax dollars for political parties and tax credits for donations brought up. Flaherty talking about the $1.75 per vote subsidy. Political parties should pay their own bills without excessive tax dollars.

4:25pm: $1.75 subsidy gone as of April 2009.

4:26pm: Spending growth will follow sustainable track.

4:27pm: Spending review will also look into crown corporations. Government will save $15B over the next five years because of expenditure management system.

4:28pm: re: public sector… New legislation will put in place “annual wage increases for the federal public administration, including senior members of the public service, as well as Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers, and Senators, of 2.3 per cent in 2007–08 and 1.5 per cent for the following three years, for groups in the process of bargaining for new agreements.”For groups with collective agreements already covering 2008–09, the 1.5 per cent would apply for the remainder of the three-year period starting at the anniversary date of the collective agreement. In addition, the legislation would suspend the right to strike on wages through 2010–11.” Some honourable socialist members: “oh, oh”.

4:32pm: Largest increase in infrastructure spending. $6B in spending. Aim is to provide new jobs.

4:33pm: Flaherty wants more power to help sustain the banking industry. These powers would include:
– Funding in the unlikely event that there is a draw on the Canadian Lenders Assurance Facility.
– The Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) to establish a bridge bank as a further resolution tool to help preserve banking functions.
– An increase in the borrowing limit of CDIC to $15 billion to reflect the growth of insured deposits since the last increase in 1992.
– The Minister of Finance to provide the CDIC Board of Directors broader scope of action when systemic risk concerns may result from the potential failure of a member institution.
– The power to direct CDIC to undertake resolution measures when necessary to prevent adverse effects on financial stability.
– The provision to CDIC of greater flexibility in the timing of preparatory examinations.
– The Government to inject capital into federal financial institutions to support financial stability, with appropriate provisions to protect taxpayers.

4:37pm: taking action to allow RRIF holders to keep more money in their RRIFs.

4:40pm: increase available credit to the exporting sector. $350 million injection of credit for these businesses.

4:41pm: Inject an additional $350 million of capital to the BDC to help SMEs.

4:44pm: “The greatest histories are written in the toughest times”

4:45pm: Scott Brison to respond for the opposition. Demands a “real action plan”. Brison accuses Conservatives of symbolism over substance. Conservatives have provided gimmicks instead of a game plan. “Nothing for manufacturing, autos”.

4:46pm: Brison: PM wants to change the channel from economy to politics. Canadians are hurting. They want talk on economics rather than politics.

4:48pm: Brison bringing out the personal anecdotes describing real Canadians and real concerns. Liberal are making this statement out to be about that $1.75 vote subsidy cut.

4:50pm: Brison accusing the Conservatives of huge spending and huge cuts at the same time.

4:51pm: Brison: government is selling the house to pay for the groceries.

4:51pm: Brison calls Flaherty “Deficit Daddy”.

4:52pm: NDP will not support economic statement.

4:53pm: CTV reports that the government is digging in their heels on the $1.75 subsidy.

4:55pm: Brison brings up Obama and speaks about his economic team and accuses the Conservatives of schemes.

5:00pm: Brison calls for “a new deal”. Brison’s seat mate earlier called out “FDR”

5:01pm: Gilles Duceppe responds for the Bloc. Duceppe: hat was presented was not an economic statement but an ideological statement.

5:02pm: Duceppe: government blind to urgent need to stimulate the economy. Government is attacking democracy, women’s rights and worker’s rights. Government has attacked Quebec.

5:03pm: Duceppe: government has sparked a democratic crisis.

5:03pm: Duceppe: economic statement runs against Quebec’s interests.

5:04pm: Duceppe: Bloc will not cave in on its principles.

5:06pm: Duceppe: Bloc ready to support the reduction of the size of the state.

5:12pm: Bloc Quebecois will oppose the economic statement.

5:13pm: Layton responds for the NDP. He’s got his wounded face on.

5:14pm: Layton: government has failed to act on the economic crisis. Layton is speaking quietly and slowly to show concern and disappointment.

5:15pm: Here comes the anger. Now Layton is doing some finger pointing.

5:19pm: Layton applauds Duceppe and Brison for “standing up to ideology”.

5:21pm: Layton reiterates NDP’s position that they will vote against the economic statement.

Memo to CTV’s So You Think You Can Dance Canada

Popularizing the military-uniform-complete-with-red-armband-look done to hip hop probably isn’t the most brilliant move, considering the folks that have worn such uniforms have never been friends of human rights, liberty or freedom. Call the HRC? No. Learn some 20th century history? Yes.

Watch the video here

I’m sure there was no harm intended, however it shows a level of ignorance that should be addressed.

“Clearly, our leader won the debate”

You’ll hear this line from every party but the first public utterance of it that I saw was from the Liberal camp on twitter:

“Stéphane Dion won decisively! He clearly demonstrated that he is the only leader with a credible plan for Canada’s economy!”

This might be the same “credible plan” that was introduced on the floor of the NAC tonight by Dion that CTV commentators admitted reminded them of Paul Martin’s “Hail Mary” Not Withstanding Clause policy at the 2006 leader’s debate. Nobody heard about this plan until tonight. Having already released their platform, which was or wasn’t about the Green Shift depending on what polls Liberal strategists were reading in a given day, the Liberals seem to have released a second draft of their platform tonight. On the economy, is Stephane Dion making it up as he goes along?

The Liberals are stuck in a difficult place during this election. The Green Shift was a train that had already left the station and for Mr. Dion one that was already serving dinner in the dining car when Canadians suddenly became fixed upon the economy. For a serious political party that is vying for power, it is not simply enough to attack a party on an issue — especially one on which one’s rival is strong — but one must also define the path that a party’s leader would take should he or she become Prime Minister. What is astounding, is that Dion is reacting to the global economic crisis like an investor that gets the market numbers from the local TV news between the weather and sports. On the twenty-third day of the election campaign, Dion derails the train and tries to make it hop the tracks. Instead of being proactive on the economy, Dion is reactive.

For the Conservatives, this is an easy pick-up because it underlines the message they’ve been carrying as one of their main themes since this campaign started: Harper represents stability and Dion represents risk. What a disaster it was to see Mr. Dion drop his bombshell so quietly on the debate floor while the other leaders simply paused and moved on. Mr. Dion appeared but as one of four opposition voices — hardly dominant — against the Prime Minister and for Mr. Harper, representing one pole of a polar argument doesn’t exactly hurt his chances.

The most heated exchanges during the debate occurred between Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe, the two front runners of the election in Quebec. On the issues of 14/16 year-olds going to prison for serious crime and repeat offenses, Harper with rare emotion for the evening responded by backing up his plan with third party endorsements of the idea from a police union president and the head of a victim’s rights group. On the Quebec nation and Mr. Duceppe’s two day hesitation and subsequent reversal on the motion that declared Quebec a nation within a united Canada, Mr. Harper demonstrated strength. However, on most other issues such as the environment and the arts, the four-on-one atmosphere that Duceppe led for most of the evening showed the Prime Minister defending his record, the default position for any incumbent.

Will this debate move numbers in Quebec? Likely not. For Mr. Harper, this may mean that he might need a scripting change for that province in order to produce a game-changer that may light a fire under his numbers there. On the other hand, Bloc support may have firmed up on the island of Montreal and the numbers breakdown outside of the city may float Mr. Harper in the more conservative regions of la belle province in order to secure that majority.