Regarding the rewording of O Canada, the PMO speaks…

“We offered to hear from Canadians on this issue and they have already spoken loud and clear. They overwhelmingly do not want to open the issue. The Government will not proceed any further to change our national anthem.”

“Nous avons consulté les Canadiens et Canadiennes sur cette question, et ceux-ci se sont exprimés haut et fort : par une immense majorité, ils ne veulent pas ouvrir ce dossier. Le gouvernement n’ira pas plus loin en vue de modifier l’hymne national.”

Dimitri Soudas, official spokesman for the Prime Minister

Jumping into today’s climate hoax

Many of you have now heard of the well-organized hoax against Environment Minister Jim Prentice this morning that involved a fake Jim Prentice Twitter account, a fake Wall Street Journal Article, a fake follow-up press release and now an “accusation” by the Prime Minister’s Spokesman Dimitri Soudas as reported by the “accused”, Equiterre:

Equiterre’s reaction on allegations from the Associate Director- Press Secretary of Prime minister Stephen Harper, Dimitri Soudas

Copenhagen, December 14, 2009- Equiterre reacted in the following terms regarding allegations made today by the Associate Director- Press Secretary of Prime minister Stephen Harper, Mr. Dimitri Soudas. Mr. Soudas accused Steven Guilbeault, cofounder and Deputy Director of Equiterre, to be the source of the spoof on Environment Canada that promotes an important change in the federal government’s climate change policy, The information can be found at the imitation website: www.enviro-canada.ca/index.php.

“Mr. Guilbeault clearly indicated that he is not the source of this spoof. Neither is Equiterre. It is shameful that Office of the Prime Minister is making such accusations without any proof. Mr. Guilbeault and Equiterre are asking Dimitri Soudas to retract his accusations and to present his excuses.

We also deeply regret that Canada’s position on cilmate change is nowhere near the one presented on Environment Canada’s fake website.

Equiterre suggests that the Associate Director, Communication/Press Secretary, Dimitri Soudas, from the Prime Minister office, should stop throwing baseless accusations. A better way to use his time would probably be to advise the Canadian government to change its deeply flawed position on climate.”

– 30 –

Source :
Marie-Eve Roy
Équiterre
À Copenhague
+ 45 41 63 37 95

Éveline Trudel-Fugère
Équiterre
À Montréal
514-605-2000

Where did the “accusation” come from? Soudas had send this email out to the media regarding the Prentice/WSJ spoof:

Dear media,

You may have received a release entitled:

“CANADA ANNOUNCES REVISED FIGURES FOR EMISSIONS REDUCTIONS, RELIEF FUNDS”

This is not a government of Canada press release.

We’re told it may have been issued by mr. Guilbault from equiterre.

If that’s the case, time would be better used by supporting Canada’s efforts to reach an agreement instead of sending out hoax press releases.

More time should be dedicated to playing a constructive role instead of childish pranks.

What made Soudas suspect Guilbault? Apparently, Guilbault forwarded the spoof press release to people and press attending the Copenhagen climate change summit.

UPDATE: A group calling themselves the “Yes Men” have claimed responsibility for the elaborate hoax.

Anonymous sources say…

The Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt wrote an article a couple of days ago quoting an anonymous source that told her that a “trio” of Liberals were in high level talks with Conservatives to cross the floor over to the government benches.

OTTAWA–A Conservative government official said Monday there have been discussions with three Liberal MPs interested in crossing the floor to the Tory side over the past month.

Liberals immediately dismissed the talk as Conservative “mischief” and said it is the government that is on a raiding mission.

Then it all started to smell a bit funny and Ms. Delacourt published the following on her own blog:

Q. Is it possible that the Conservative source made up this story to make “mischief,” as Liberals allege?

A: Yes it is. But our usual practice is to “out” the source if we find out it was a deliberate lie, so stay tuned. Seasoned political people know that you only get to lie once to a reporter.

and then the next day we get this under Delacourt’s print by-line:

OTTAWA–The Prime Minister’s Office sought Tuesday to distance itself from reports coming from Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office about possible defections of Liberal MPs to the Conservatives.

Dimitri Soudas, a PMO spokesperson, said there was no truth to claims made to the Star by Kenney’s communications director, Alykhan Velshi, about three Liberal MPs interested in crossing the floor to the Conservatives.

Nor could Soudas explain why he was “outing” Velshi on Tuesday afternoon as the source of the tip to the Star. Soudas went on to explain that only the PMO knows certain information and Velshi wouldn’t have had the kind of facts the Star was seeking.

Read that sentence a couple of times to see if it makes sense logically. “Nor could Soudas explain why he was “outing” Velshi on Tuesday afternoon as the source of the tip to the Star.”

First Ms. Delacourt suggested that she herself was on the verge of outing Velshi as the source. And that brings up an interesting question. Wasn’t she the one guarding the identity of Velshi as her tipster? We Conservatives may share one big evil hive mind according to some, but I’m not sure how Soudas was able to “out” Velshi as Delacourt’s source to Delacourt. How did Soudas come to know that it was Velshi that told Delacourt the tip?

Somebody should ask Soudas how he came to learn that Velshi was the tipster.

Dion to apologize to Dimitri Soudas or get sued

Lawyers for Dimitri Soudas have filed notice to Liberal leader Stephane Dion for what they claim is defamatory libel against their client. Attached below is the letter on behalf of Mr. Soudas that was hand-delivered to Stephane Dion this morning. Soudas is the deputy press secretary to Prime Minister Harper. According to the National Post, over a year ago Mr. Soudas arranged a meeting between Public Works and Rosedev, a development company from Montreal. Conservatives reject this as well and insist that Soudas only requested information from ministerial staffers with respect to a court case. Despite this assertion, impropriety has been alleged regarding the meeting, which Soudas rejects. Dion, in his classic communications style may have bitten off more than he can chew.

Mr. Dion is quoted in the Canwest papers this morning:

“That means that there was an attempt to extort taxpayers funds to benefit a party supporter and therefore change the decision process and (they say) it’s not important because it didn’t succeed. I think the prime minister has a lot to explain.” — Stephane Dion

UPDATE: Dion says he’s sorry, sort of

Don Newman’s politics

Did anyone else catch this editorial by one of Ottawa’s most respected news veterans?

This lambasting of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been featured on CBC’s Politics website for most of this week. Let’s take a look:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has gone out of his way to let the reporters in the Parliamentary Press Gallery who cover him know that he doesn’t care very much about what they think.

Uh oh. PMO vs. Parliamentary Press Gallery politics was so early summer 2006, non? Don Newman seems to lament that Stephen Harper and Ottawa reporters were born in different pods. Besides, it’s Stephen Harper’s job to run the country. It’s the PPG’s job to care about what Stephen Harper thinks, not the other way around.

When he arrived in office with his minority government in 2006, Harper immediately had his communications staff tell the Gallery he would not hold news conferences in the theatre in the National Press Building.

He did, yes.

Never mind that every prime minister from Lester Pearson to Paul Martin had used the theatre to meet the press, along with a host of politicians, dignitaries and other notables. Even one of Harper’s heroes, Margaret Thatcher, held a news conference in the National Press Theatre during an official visit to Canada in the early 1980s.

No, Harper wanted to meet reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons, with the Chamber doors open behind him and Canadian flags in the background. A better visual image on TV. And if it looked a bit like the White House, so be it.

Yep, it seems we’re going there. As a veteran newsman, Newman knows that nothing appeals to his type of Canadians more than reductio ad americanum. What is Newman criticizing here? That the builders of Parliament made the foyer and House look like the White House from a certain angle, or that our Conservative cowboy Prime Minister chose it. From one angle, we see the House of Commons. From another (which bends around a few planes of reality), it’s the White House.

But the change of venue wasn’t the cause of friction between the Prime Minister and the people who cover him.

Really? (See above)

At Prime Ministerial news conferences in the Press Gallery Theatre, the President of the Press Gallery is the chairman of the event. The President is elected for a one year term by his or her peers.

And the Prime Minister’s government was elected by the people of Canada. Who’s authority are we appealing to here? The Parliamentary Press Gallery – and by extension, its President – are not elected by the people of Canada, does not exist by any law or statute written or ratified by the people’s representatives in Ottawa (or any other jurisdiction). The PPG is a club, with limited and exclusive membership.

Questioners are selected on a first come basis as they identify themselves to the President.

This would seem fair, however, first and foremost it would seem that a press conference is a consensual affair entered into by two (or more) participating parties. Further, the President and the gallery doesn’t recognize anyone outside of the club. The Gallery fashions itself as the gatekeeper to access to federal politicians in this Canadian Parliament. I remember reading of a time when freedom of the press was something that some journalists fought for. They used to fight for access, now they control it.

But in the new world order of Harper press conferences,

yeah, he went there. But let me take this opportunity to contrast the “old world order” that Newman is accustomed to with that which exists today. Twenty-four-hour cable news, blogs, gaffe-amplifying Youtube, the online social network, and even Peter C. Newman’s hidden tape recorder are today’s norm. The Prime Minister may wish to limit access because the demand for access has gone up as reporters try to score the next “Puffin” piece to wedge between commercials for sit-down showers and CHIP reverse mortgages.

a list of questioners is prepared by a member of the Prime Minister’s staff, from the names of reporters who indicate they want to ask a question. With control of the list, the Prime Minister’s staff can control who gets to ask a question. People the Prime Minister doesn’t like, or who ask tough questions, can be ignored.

When the Toronto Blue Jays or General Motors holds a press conference, is it not generally run in the same way? There is a press secretary/liaison that calls upon journalists with their hands up. Oh, the lessons we learned in kindergarten. The teacher may not call upon the bratty kids, but knows that those kids/reporters will still act in a way or write what they like.

When the Harper regime

regime!

tried to install

install!

this system after taking office, it was claimed the new approach was needed to provide more decorum around the Prime Minister. But formal news conferences by Prime Ministers have never been impromtu scrums. Reporters sat in theatre seats and only got to ask a question when their name was called by the Press Gallery president.

It was clear immediately that control

control!

of the list, not decorum, was the issue. At first no one in the press gallery agreed to the new procedure. But after a couple of months, under pressure from the owners or managers of their companies, the solidarity of the gallery

solidarity! (but not forever, sorry). Isn’t the press supposed to be in Ottawa to observe? It seems that they are participating in politics.

cracked and a number of reporters now go on the list of the Prime Minister’s flack

Dimitri’s a stand-up guy, I’ll have you know.

and ask questions when he holds a news conference.

Privately, friends and supporters of the Prime Minister admitted Harper wanted to limit the press because he believes most reporters were not sympathetic to his political programs. And he didn’t want to encourage any problems that might create.

In some circles we call that hearsay. We finally learn of the Prime Ministers real motives and it’s backed up by private conversations?

And pushed around or shut out, you might think that members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery would be attacking Harper at every chance they got.

Pushed around, shut out, attacking! What an image of a violent struggle.

But a funny thing has happened.

Harper has received generally benign coverage. Why?

Because Harper has abandoned or paid only lip service to most of the progams considered either controversial or far to the right on the political spectrum.

Considered by whom? This is your opinion piece, Mr. Newman…

Instead he has adopted entirely new attitudes on climate change, Quebec, and a number of other issues.

Attitudes most in the Press Gallery think are more moderate, more mainstream, more “sensible” than his previous positions.

It’s fantastic that our unelected, access-self-entitled, exclusive club of journalists in Ottawa have work-influencing and expressed opinions on policy matters and whether or not they are “sensible”. Those private conversations, Mr. Newman? Do you get the sense that the Prime Minister may have a point that his coverage extends beyond dispassionate and unbiased analysis?

So it has fallen to Harper’s former employee at the National Citizens Coalition, Gerry Nichols and others in the Conservative movement, to point out and criticize what are clearly major policy reversals. Policy reversals his former allies say are the “Flip Flops” of Harper the Prime Minister.

Harper just can’t win! He’s applauded for taking “sensible” mushy positions on one hand but on the other he’s a flip flopper on conservative principles and still draws criticism from Newman via Nicholls!

For the most part, embattled as they are with Stephen Harper and his communications helpers, Parliamentary Press Gallery journalists have not raised the “Flip Flop” issue.

“Embattled” is a press term that we hear when journalists believe that a news figure is in trouble (usually with their political party or the electorate). Since “embattled” is a subjective term, what happens when the press uses it to describe the Prime Minister’s relationship with itself?

The Prime Minister may have changed his mind but if he now agrees with most reporters, that kind of a “Flip Flop” is clearly enlightenment.

Don Newman’s politics indeed.