Conservatives raising money off of CBC and Graves

I received an advance draft of a fundraising letter that is going out to Conservative members soon in order to raise money off of the CBC/Graves relationship. Here it is.

Here we go again.

Yes, I am writing to you about the CBC. Canada’s national public broadcaster. A Crown Corporation that receives over one billion dollars per year from taxpayers. A network with a mandate to serve all Canadians.

In recent days we have learned that the CBC’s pollster on party politics, Frank Graves, has been providing both money (at least $10,762.81 since 2001 according to Elections Canada) and strategic advice to the Liberal Party of Canada. His contributions are huge and his advice is incendiary. Graves wants the Ignatieff Liberals to wage a divisive “Culture War” that would pit East against West, young against old, and urban Canada against rural Canada. He even suggests that if people don’t like the Ignatieff Liberal vision of Canada they can move to the United States (an odd statement given Michael Ignatieff’s fondness for America).

Week after week Graves expresses opinions about Canadian politics under the guise of being the CBC’s neutral pollster on party politics. And just until recently viewers have been kept in the dark about his Liberal contributions and his Liberal advice. But the CBC continues to stand by Graves, their “neutral” pollster.

This episode demonstrates – once again – that we Conservatives are up against a powerful array of vested interests. Vested interests who want to go back to the days of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. Back to higher taxes. Back to a weakened military. Back to political correctness. And they’re willing to support a highly divisive “Culture War” to take us back.

We can’t afford to go back. We can’t afford to let Frank Graves and the Liberal “Culture War” to prevail. Because Canada, after years of drift, is once again moving forward. Our world-leading Economic Action Plan is delivering results. Our military is being re-built. And there’s a new spirit of national pride taking root across the country. These changes did not happen by accident. They are a result of strong Conservative leadership. Never before has the choice in national politics been so clear.

I am asking you to do two things.

First, write to the CBC and tell them it’s unacceptable to present Frank Graves as a neutral pollster on party politics. You can reach the CBC’s ombudsman by email at ombudsman@cbc.ca, or by phone at 1-416-205-2978.

Second, please make a contribution to the Conservative Party of $200 or $100 right now by following this link. Unlike the Liberals, we can’t count on the vested interests. We rely on donations from proud patriotic Canadians like you.

Doug Finley
Campaign Director

Senator Doug Finley Interview on Freedom of Speech

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview Senator Doug Finley on the inquiry that he is asking for in the Senate regarding the state of free expression in Canada. I wrote about this move by Finley late last week when he first rose in the Senate on the issue. I asked the Senator about his initiative, his concern over recent events, whether s.13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be repealed and if there should be a special section of the criminal code for those that inhibit freedom of expression. I also ask about Elections Canada and the in-and-out appeal by the non-partisan arbitrating body.

Senator Finley calls for an inquiry on the erosion of free speech in Canada

Today Senator Doug Finley rose in the Senate to give notice that he would “call the attention of the Senate to the issue of the erosion of Freedom of Speech in our country” and that this would be done through an inquiry.

Under the rules of the Senate, a minimum of two days must be given before a sponsoring senator can speak to an inquiry he or she would like to initiate. This means that Senator Finley is expected to speak to the issue next Tuesday at the earliest. Also, the sponsoring senator can provide a reply at the conclusion of the inquiry.

This move by Finley is likely in reaction to recent events by university officials and students at the University of Ottawa to intimidate US conservative commentator Ann Coulter from appearing on campus. Coulter’s scheduled speech was cancelled due to safety concerns this past Tuesday. The Senator will also rise during a time when federal and provincial human rights commissions have run amok, hearing complaints by politically offended groups and individuals.

The Ann Coulter cancellation at the University of Ottawa has further mainstreamed public opinion against censorship of speech drawing defense of the American firebrand by a broad cross-section of Canadian opinion-makers.

Finley’s call for a Senate inquiry will promote discussion of the values of free speech and will draw lawmakers to consider the broader view of how far this freedom has slipped away in Canada.

UDPATE: Hansard record of Finley’s notice.

Erosion of Freedom of Speech

Notice of Inquiry

Hon. Doug Finley: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:

I will call the attention of the Senate to the issue of the erosion of freedom of speech in our country.

New Senators

The new senators:


Quebec

Claude Carignan

Judith Siedman

Jacques Demers

Ontario

Doug Finley

Linda Frum

New Brunswick

Carolyn Stewart-Olsen

Manitoba

Don Plett

Nova Scotia

Kelvin Ogilvie

Nunavut

Dennis Patterson

Senate appointments tomorrow

I’m hearing that the Prime Minister will be naming nine new senators tomorrow by 2:00pm.

Here are the party veterans that I’m hearing are sure bets
Manitoba – Don Plett
New Brunswick – Carolyn Stewart-Olson
Ontario – Doug Finley
Nova Scotia – Brooke Taylor
Quebec – Jacques Demers

In the running:
Ontario: Bob Runciman, David Braley
Quebec: Judith Siedman
Nunavut: Dennis Patterson

I’m still digging on this. If you’ve got any tips (anonymity guaranteed) please send them via email or bb pin.

UPDATE: Appointments will be announced between 1 and 2pm tomorrow
UPDATE: Brooke Taylor is a surer bet than Macdonald for NS from what I hear. Finley upgraded to a sure bet now that I’ve heard from more than a few sources.
UPDATE: Brooke Taylor sure bet for NS
UPDATE: Added David Braley to the shortlist of potential senators from Ontario
UPDATE: hearing rumour that the PM will only appoint 8 of 9 tomorrow, but cannot guess why
UPDATE: Senate seat from Nunavut open. Hearing that the PM met with appointee last week while on the northern tour
UPDATE: Added Dennis Patterson and Paul Okalik from Nunavut. Bet on Patterson.

Senate picks

Newfoundland and Labrador (1 seat) – Fabian Manning

Price Edward Island (1 seat) – Mike Duffy

Nova Scotia (3 seats) – Dr. John Hamm, Michael MacDonald, Stewart McInnes

New Brunswick (2 seats) – Bernard Lord, Doug Finley

Quebec (4 seats) – Mario Dumont, William Shatner, Tasha Kheirridin

Ontario (2 seats) – Irving Gerstein, Sandra Buckler

Saskatchwan (1 seat) – Leave open

British Columbia (3 seats) – Michael Walker, John Weissenberger, Lorne Mayencourt

Yukon (1 seat) – Leslie Neilson

The appointment of Fabian Manning to the Senate from Newfoundland would send a signal to Premier Danny Williams that if he wants to deal with the federal government, he’ll do it through the man into whose fields he’s been plowing salt for the last few years.  Newfoundlanders would respect and admire the cheekiness of that move.

In PEI, Mike Duffy would be a good choice. Duffy’s been a veteran broadcaster and public figure for decades. He’s also the island’s favourite son and would be a good representative in the Red Chamber.

In Nova Scotia, former Premier John Hamm is a stateman for Nova Scotia and is respected by all no matter their partisan stripe. Michael McDonald has been Harper’s point man in Nova Scotia for years serving on National Council and running twice federally and thrice provincially. He also serves as a liason between federal and provincial parties. Stewart McInnes is a fixture in Nova Scotia PC politics. A former Mulroney cabinet minister, McInnes resigned as fundrasier for the PC Party of Nova Scotia just hours ago .  Does this mean he’s up for another job?

New Brunswick has an obvious choice in Bernard Lord. The former PC Premier has been integrated on the strategic side of federal politics for some time. Lord was the national co-chair of the 2008 federal campaign and provides a bridge to the Charest side of the conservative family.  Current director of CPC operations Doug Finley is a shoo-in for the Senate, in my opinion. Senator David Smith has run campaigns for the Liberals for some time from the Red Chamber so the appointment of Doug Finley would be seen as an acceptable move by the PM.

Quebec presents a challenge to Stephen Harper as the PM has toiled spending the last few years building a fledgling organization in that province. There aren’t too many Conservatives there who have been around for a generation of the modern Conservative movement. Mario Dumont made his exit from Quebec politics this week and may find his return as a senator from Quebec. Dumont has been an ally of the Prime Minister and this would satiate the smaller ADQ elements in Harper’s Quebec machine.  William Shatner is a conservative from Montreal and was the first Canadian in space (he did and did so boldly). Shatner would be a nod to Quebec’s arts community and would be noteworthy because in itself! Women will be on the PM’s shortlist for the senate and Quebec author and standard-bearer for the conservative movement in Quebec Tasha Kheiriddin would be a good choice.

In Ontario, senior Conservatives that I’ve spoken to would be surprised if Irving Gerstein was not named to the Senate.  Gerstein is the head of the Conservative fund, the fundraising organization for the Conservative Party.  Sandra Buckler’s name has also made the short list for Senate.  As Stephen Harper’s director of communications, Buckler is and remains a loyalist who fought for the PM in the trenches and pushed the Conservative agenda against the rough grain of the MSM.  I would be very happy to see Buckler return to the fold so that she can have the resources to fight even harder as a hard-nosed, no prisoners activist for Conservative cause.

Saskatchewan presents an interesting challenge. The province has committed to hold an election for the Senate next year. Let them. If Harper holds off on appointing a senator and a coalition government swoops in and does this anyway, the damage to those parties in the province would be irreperable. If the Prime Minister does appoint a senator from Saskatchewan, my choice would be Elwin Hermanson, the founder of the Saskatchewan Party.

In British Columbia there are a few people lobbying for a seat, among them is Gurmant Grewal (not gonna happen).  Another person’s name I’ve heard passed about has been that of John Reynolds.  Likely senators that the PM may appoint include Michael Walker (founder of the Fraser Institute), Lorne Mayencourt (party loyalist) and John Weissenberger (former ministerial chief of staff and founding member of the Reform Party).  Weissenberger is the type who would resign immediately to elect a senator if given the chance.  Longer shots are former MP Betty Hinton and Conservative national councillor Hamish Marshall.

Yukon territory also has a senate seat free. I’d pick Leslie Neilson because he’s a prominant conservative Canadian from the Yukon and his brother Erik was deputy Prime Minister. Neilson is most famous for the Naked Gun movies and has campaigned for charity for the March of Dimes.

I find it deeply unfortunate and immensely frustrating that the PM has been forced into this position of appointing senators. Ideally, as conservatives, we’d like to have them all elected.  The appointment of Senators is a defensive measure by the PM as a coalition government would appoint senators uninterested in senate reform or worse, with separatist sympathies. I would want the PM to secure a pledge from any appointed senator that they would resign and/or stand for election at the earliest opportunity. The appointment of Senators should only be a temporary measure as provinces commit to holding elections.

UPDATE: As some readers point out correctly, Shatner (77) and Neilson (82) are too old (in the constitutional sense) for the senate. The lower age limit is 30 and the upper limit is 75. Could Shatner launch a successful Charter challenge? Or could he slingshot himself around the sun and return to 1986?

So we have a couple of spots open in Quebec and one in the Yukon. Who would you name to the Senate?

22 Minutes on CBC bias and blogging

Airing a week ago on January 22nd, CBC’s This Hour has 22 minutes weighed in on the complaints that CBC received from Doug Finley, Conservative Party chief of political operations (background and first letter, second letter).

CBC ended up reassigning the reporter at the centre of the collusion allegations to Toronto. CBC’s news publisher John Cruikshank explained, (read the whole response)

When, as in the present instance, it is revealed that a reporter has been collaborating, even if only obliquely, with one party or another, an appearance of partisanship emerges that cannot be dispelled by claims that this is how political reporters interact with their sources. — John Cruickshank, CBC News

CBC’s recognition of Conservative concern and it’s action on the complaint shows that the CBC is at least reluctantly receptive to complaints of impartiality when discussed broadly by senior political officials and other news media.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the horribly biased news team at 22 minutes.

We must demand accountability in fake news!

Please write them on their website with your complaints, or spew your crap all over the comments below.

Krista Erickson reassigned

CBC just sent out this release:

TORONTO, Jan. 21 /CNW/ – CBC News today released the following letter:

Doug Finley,
Director of Political Operations
Conservative Party of Canada

January 21, 2008

Dear Mr. Finley:

This letter is in response to your complaint to the CBC Ombudsman about “collusion” involving one of our reporters during the recent Mulroney/Schreiber hearings in Ottawa, during which questions were asked about lobbying efforts by Mr. Mulroney directed toward the current federal government.

Following an investigation by senior management of CBC News, we have determined that our reporter Krista Erickson did, in fact, provide questions to a Member of Parliament in the lead up to the Ethics Committee meeting in December. Those actions, while in pursuit of a journalistically legitimate story, were inappropriate and inconsistent with CBC News policies and procedures, specifically under our Principles, Sec. 3:

“Credibility is dependent not only on qualities such as accuracy and fairness in reporting and presentation, but also upon avoidance by both the organization and its journalists of associations or contacts which could reasonably give rise to perceptions of partiality. Any situation which could cause reasonable apprehension that a journalist or the organization is biased or under the influence of any pressure group, whether ideological, political, financial, social or cultural, must be avoided.”

Our investigation determined there was no bias in related news coverage.
However, our reporter, acting on her own, used inappropriate tactics as a
result of journalistic zeal, rather than partisan interest. CBC News
management has made the decision to reassign its reporter from the story and
to Toronto, effective Jan. 21.

Given the potential risk to the journalistic credibility of our Ottawa bureau, its reporters and CBC News generally, we have chosen on an exceptional basis to make the detailed outcome of our disciplinary process available to you, our employees and the public at large.

I trust this addresses your concerns.

It is also my responsibility to inform you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC’s journalistic policies. The Ombudsman may be reached by mail at the address shown below, or by fax at (416) 205-2825, or by e-mail at ombudsman@cbc.ca

Sincerely,
John Cruickshank
Publisher
CBC News

Box 500, Station “A”,
Toronto, Ontario
M5W 1E6

cc. Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman

CBC-Liberals update

Conservative Party of Canada Director of Political Operations Doug Finley has sent another letter to CBC Ombudsman Vince Carlin. Finley demands satisfaction!

January 8, 2008

Mr. Vince Carlin
Ombudsman
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
P.O. Box 500, Station A
Toronto, Ontario
M5W 1E6

Dear Mr. Carlin:

Back in December I wrote to you and asked that you, in your capacity as CBC Ombudsman, look into an allegation of CBC-Liberal collusion made by former Liberal cabinet minister and current TVA reporter Jean Lapierre. As you will recall Mr. Lapierre told a national television audience that CBC wrote questions for Liberal members on the House of Commons ethics committee.

On December 15th, Canadian Press reported that CBC spokesperson Jeff Keay admitted that a reporter pursued a story in an “inappropriate way” that was inconsistent with the Corporation’s “journalistic policies and practices”. Further, Canadian Press reported that the particulars of the matter were being investigated by the CBC and that disciplinary action was possible.

Given Mr. Keay’s admission to Canadian Press back in December, I was troubled to read his comments in yesterday’s edition of the Hill Times. Not only did he refuse to name the reporter who allegedly wrote questions for the Liberals he said he wasn�t sure when the CBC would be willing to do so. Further, he said he was unwilling to characterize the type of discipline the reporter could face.

Mr. Carlin, the CBC has already admitted that inappropriate practices were followed by one of its reporters. Given this I believe it is incumbent upon the Corporation to:

* Update Canadians on the status of the investigation and estimate when the investigation will be completed; and

* Commit to releasing the name of the reporter in question and outline what disciplinary measures have been or will be taken.

While recognizing that Mr. John Cruickshank has, according to CBC policy, up to 20 working days to respond to the substance of my December 14th e-mail I’d ask that you specifically assure me that the Corporation will commit to releasing the name of the reporter in question and outline what disciplinary actions have been – or will be – taken to ensure that Canadians view the CBC as a non-partisan source of news and information.

Sincerely,

Doug Finley
National Campaign Director
Conservative Party of Canada

CBC responds to Doug Finley

CBC News’ publisher John Cruikshank took issue with the Conservative Party’s letter to its members outlining the latest CBC controversy. I’ve reproduced Cruikshank’s letter below and offer my own responses to this senior manager at CBC in between paragraphs.

Dear Mr. Finley,

I have reviewed your pre-Christmas fundraising letter.

I write this public response to you because I believe that by its inaccuracy, innuendo, exaggeration and expressed malice towards hundreds of Canadian journalists you risk damaging not just your target, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but also public faith in our political process

The underlying issue here is the potential damage done to Canadians’ faith in the public broadcaster’s ability to deliver a non-partial news report and to remove itself from the political process. Your statement is akin to blaming the victim. The political process? Again, allegations of conspiratorial parliamentary committee manipulation between the Liberals and the CBC are so egregious because the questions went far outside of the mandate of the committee and if the allegations of collusion are true – it goes without saying – they extend beyond the mandate of the CBC.

I understand that a private association like the Conservative party does not have the sort of transparent and reliable complaints process that we have at the CBC. That is regrettable.

You say “private” like it’s a bad thing. Besides, it is not the transparency and accountability of the Conservative Party that is in the spotlight here. Again, it is that of the CBC.

I understand that you have already availed yourself of access to our Ombudsman, complaining that a member of the CBC News staff communicated suggested questions to Liberal MPs in advance of a public hearing. I appreciate this show of confidence in the integrity of our process. I wish you had reflected that respect for our commitment to answer any and all complaints about our work in your unfortunate letter to potential donors.

This isn’t so much a show of confidence in the process but rather an indication of the limited number of avenues of accountability that the Conservatives can seek of the institution. The only method by which one can cry “foul” to the material reported by the CBC is to write to an ombudsman. We cannot use our remotes or our wallets to demand accountability as the CBC receives $1 Billion in tax revenue every year from the government. Even the government is elected; it is directly accountable to the voter via the electoral process. CBC directors are not popularly elected and they may not even represent the Canadian reality. As a private institution, the Conservative Party is accountable to Canadians. The party cannot operate without donations from Canadians and we gave the party our confidence to the tune of $18.9 million in 2006 (2007 annual figure not yet available). One wonders of the extent of the sum that the CBC could raise (even without $1100 donation caps) if it faced the direct accountability of Canadians via the market.

You were well aware when you sat down to write your appeal for cash that CBC News had publicly condemned the behaviour you complain of and had called a disciplinary meeting to look into it.

An appeal for change and for action should neither be dismissed nor diminished because of the process underway. The Conservative Party seems to seek preventative action rather than put its faith in process that only comes about when malpractices (alleged or not) come to light.

Your suggestion to your potential contributors that the CBC was waging a partisan campaign against your party and the government of Canada was flatly contradicted by every step we had taken before you composed your cash appeal.

Again, it is the initial allegations of journalistic malpractice that likely concerns the Conservative Party. You are arguing that since there is now an internal investigation (again, only after the fact), that this dispels the cloud. It is absurd to say that an investigation of alleged partisanship itself disproves partisanship.

We accept that you are not the only, or even the first, Canadian political party to use CBC News as a whipping boy for fundraising purposes.

The Liberal party accused us of bias on several occasions when it fit their agenda.

By this argument you suggest that the CBC isn’t non-partisan but rather that it is bi-partisan. The Ombudsman that seems to be the most hopeful lever of accountability has recently concluded on CBC missteps towards the Conservatives. The Liberal Party may have accused the CBC of skewed reporting, but the ombudsman has convicted the CBC of it following conservative concerns.

As a public broadcaster we take our responsibilities to all Canadian shareholders very seriously. This is more than just a glib promise.

Hey John, where can I sell my shares?

Unlike any other broadcaster in the country, the CBC has a journalistic standards and practices book. This book is given to each reporter, producer, editor and host working at the CBC. It outlines in explicit detail the code of conduct for our journalists. It covers conflict of interest; it covers issues of journalistic fairness and balance.

Conflict of interest?

Conflict of interest?

Fair and balanced ?

It is clear, and it is binding. It is also a living document. We talk about it and refer to it daily when we are dealing with difficult ethical issues. It is also freely available to the general public to see, so they know exactly what standards we aim to maintain.

I would be delighted to share a copy of it with you.

CBC News is especially sensitive to how we cover partisan political debates. The CBC is non-partisan. We do not want to be seen to be a creation of any party (although, as you know, it was a Progressive Conservative government that brought our organization into being.)

Here, the PC reference isn’t simply offered by you as trivia, you suggest some introspection for the Conservatives as if the Conservatives behaviour is inconsistent by your implying that both entities are the same. Yet this controversy started by alleged manipulation of a Parliamentary committee by the CBC outside of the committee’s mandate as the Liberals (via the CBC, allegedly) tried to tie Harper to Mulroney.

While all our journalists try to live by our code of conduct, CBC News is not infallible. But we are accountable. When there are errors of judgment, or misunderstandings or improper interpretation of the journalistic standards and practices, we investigate. When we discover shortcomings, we change our standards and practices.

No other news organization in the country operates within such a demanding ethical regime. For you to sully the reputations of so many dedicated Canadian professionals is utterly unacceptable. Your denigration of our ethical standards can only contribute to the public cynicism about public life that is already far too pervasive.

I take issue with your circling of the reputational wagons of hundreds of so many Canadian professionals around an institution which may have serious faults to address. There are good, capable and professional people that contribute to reporting for the CBC and they should not be your shield. Further, the Conservatives are not denigrating the Corporation’s ethical standards, they are concerned about staff that may fail to meet set standards and managers and directors that fail to enforce them and/or meet such standards themselves.

Yours sincerely,
John Cruickshank,
Publisher,
CBC News