Responding to Paul Wells…

Today Paul Wells wrote a piece in which he supported the thesis of a post I wrote back on July 22. However, he thought he noted a bit of an inconsistency between my post and later tweets,

I’ve been mystified by Stephen Harper’s willingness to squander so much political capital on an issue as trivial as the long-form census. Only slightly less so by the media’s piling on, treating this as a matter of great national importance, and by the level of emotional investment so many apparently attach to census-gathering.

The opposition? They’re just reveling in the unexpected bounty of low-hanging political fruit, and Tory self-inflicted injury.

I don’t get it. It’s just not that big a deal – either way.

— Charles W. Moore, New Brunswick Telegraph Journal, today

Stephen Harper seeks to diminish or destroy the Liberal Party to replace them with the Conservatives as Canada’s default choice for government. His greatest challenge is to dismantle the modern welfare state. If it can’t be measured, future governments can’t pander.

— Blogger Stephen Taylor, July 22.

That’s the choice, I suppose. Either what the Harper government is doing with the long-form census doesn’t matter, or it does. Obviously Moore has a lot more company than Taylor does. Indeed, lately Moore’s company includes Taylor: since July 22 this whole business has gotten too hot for Stephen’s liking and in his blog and on Twitter he’s joined the nobody-cares crowd, arguing that this whole business is an invention of the “push media,” by which he means news organizations that cover a story he doesn’t like for longer than he likes.

There is obviously a bit of confusion because after I wrote that blog post, I took to twitter and wrote this:

When members of Parl ConCensus Gallery aren’t push reporting stories on Census/Prorogation, they’re auditioning for Iggy’s PressSec on #lpcx — @stephen_taylor

I noted a similarity to that earlier sleepy story of the year called prorogation when the Toronto Star breathlessly plastered its front page describing a “fury” of Canadians against prorogation because 20,000 people had joined a Facebook group! Sure enough, while 20,000 people seeded interest in the story, the media took the ball from there and covered it and covered it for the next three weeks and it wasn’t too surprising that the millions of dollars in free media coverage netted that Facebook group over 150,000 members!

To address Wells specifically, he sees a bit of a disconnect between my suggestion that the PM is really using the census issue to dismantle the welfare state and my assertion that “nobody cares” about this story.

However, in my original article I wrote this:

QMI’s David Akin exclaimed surprise that from his cell within the beehive of special interests that is Ottawa, he was shocked to find that a full half — that other half — of Canadians aren’t upset about the changes to the census when it seems that’s the only thing the other bees seem to be buzzing about. The story that “just won’t go away” is a flurry of activity “inside the beehive”, because until you go outside, you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Two things: I still standby my thesis that I believe that chucking mandatory nature of the long-form is a move to dismantle the welfare state (and that this is a move in the right direction). And two, nobody cares outside of the beehive. It’s the media that is pushing the story outside of the beehive walls propelled by the loud buzz of special interests.

If you were to poll typical Canadians and asked them, “what is the biggest issue facing you and your family”, I’d venture a guess that most would not respond that “the changing of the long-form census to a voluntary survey” ranks high on their list.

“Nobody cares” is a simplification; nobody cares outside of the beehive. The swarm of special interests sure does care. Other Canadians? They’re at the cottage, or BBQing on their decks. Does bugspray keep bees away too?

As for my trouble-making behaviour, I make no apologies. Sometimes it’s fun to throw rocks at beehives.

Selected readings from Derrick Snowdy’s Facebook wall

Derrick Snowdy, the private investigator behind the allegations of drugs and “busty hookers” that got Helena Guergis kicked out of cabinet, has recently become a very public figure. Since the time when he (probably) sourced The Star’s Guergis story, he has been a bit unreachable, jetting off to the Bahamas and… locking down his Facebook profile.

Here are some of Snowdy’s recent status updates from Facebook. I’ll only quote updates that are relevant to the media scrutiny of Guergis/Jaffer/Gillani/Snowdy.

Derrick Snowdy is planning a few days away from the circus. I think next week looks like a good time to go to DisneyWorld
Yesterday at 7:58am via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy no hearings huh, hmmm me thinks someone spilled the beans toJack. now he wants it hushed
Mon at 8:14pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

[name withheld] Taliban Jack?
Mon at 8:23pm

Derrick Snowdy Yep, I guess he knows now how close this is going to hit home with a certain NDP and he needs time to prep
Mon at 8:25pm

Derrick Snowdy today was interesting… if you all only know what I know now!!!
Mon at 12:08pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy is changing the tune
Sun at 12:47am
2 people like this.

[name withheld] Heh, when do we hear about the book deal?
Mon at 11:56am

Derrick Snowdy is a about to spill the beans on just how much the Liberals paid him………yeah right…like i would take money from Liberals….they so don’t know me at all
April 17 at 9:21am

Derrick Snowdy GONG SHOW journalism….the killer is
nobody is investigating Gillani
April 17 at 9:34am

[name withheld] take thier money and then donate it to the conservatives :) once you hit your cap buy more guns with the rest :)
April 17 at 9:35am

Derrick Snowdy is dividing up the 13 million….who wants some. Does anybody think somebidy will start asking about CATSA soon?
April 17 at 1:38am

Derrick Snowdy is thinking that the first reporter to pay my cell phone bill will get an interview
April 15 at 7:43pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy I can’t come to the phone righr now, I’m busy driving around in my Tank burning 100 dollar bills
April 16 at 10:04am

Derrick Snowdy is wondering where this media gets this weird story from……
April 15 at 7:30pm

[name withheld] and which weird story would that be?
April 15 at 7:32pm

Derrick Snowdy This lost money investor thing
April 15 at 7:43pm

Derrick Snowdy They are claiming I fucked over all the employees at epic and stole all the money. As manager of HR Geoff what do you think
April 15 at 11:42pm

[Geoff] Nonsense. I’m not sure how ensuring your workforce transitions into equivalent positions at another firm constitutes screwing your employees but I’m all ears if someone can explain it to me.
April 16 at 12:25am

[name withheld] They have no clue what you did at the end for the employees of Epic. You could have just locked the door and walked out, but you didn’t. Like you said to me way back when… The only thing you cared about was giving people jobs.
April 16 at 11:32am

Derrick Snowdy Feel free to send them an email, Kinnaird is sending lots of annon garbage
April 16 at 11:36am

[name withheld] It’s the cover story on the cover of the Star. But they spelt your name wrong.
April 15 at 6:00am via Facebook for iPhone

Derrick Snowdy they always do
April 15 at 10:29am

Derrick Snowdy suggests reading tomorrows Toronto Star….Mr. Kevin Donovan
April 14 at 11:09pm

Derrick Snowdy believes that everytime Michael Ignatieffs opens his mouth he confirms the fact that somewhere a village is being deprived of its idiot
April 12 at 11:49am

Derrick Snowdy is heading out of town for a few days. Message me if you need me
April 11 at 1:09am via Facebook for BlackBerry

[name withheld] Does this have anything to do with all those papers you were shredding the other day ???? :D
April 11 at 2:56am

Derrick Snowdy I shredded nothing….lost, misplaced and encoded are another story LOL….
April 12 at 11:48am

Derrick Snowdy hmmm, this will be interesting. break out the paper shredder
April 9 at 12:56pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy as a life long Conservative the proposed itax has me ready to puke…
April 1 at 9:52am via Facebook for BlackBerry

and in case you were wondering… Snowdy does play Mafia Wars on Facebook.

The pulse of a nation

measured by Facebook

It was quite a game yesterday and one of those defining moments sure to be included on an updated version of the Canadian immigration quiz. I awoke yesterday hearing Foster Hewitt’s classic cry “Hennnnnderrrsssson” from the classic 1972 Canadian-Soviet series when Henderson scored with 34 seconds left in the final game, playing over and over in my head. I didn’t know then but it turned out to be a good sign.

When Zach Parise scored a tying goal with just 24 seconds left, almost 30 years to the day of the famed American “Miracle on Ice”, Canada’s heart felt a jarring palpitation as seen by the first spike of status updates in the chart above.

The second spike would come about half an hour later when Sidney Crosby scored the overtime goal against the US to enrich an already golden games for Canada.

ASIDE: I was somewhat amused (and actually impressed) by Jack Layton’s ability to find a camera as we all watched the gold medal game. Jack was watching at Gretzky’s bar in downtown Toronto and kept popping up in reaction shots when CTV would show different crowds watching the game around Canada. I missed it the first time, but our friends at the Torontoist show us Jack’s gold medal determination at a sport he has dominated for quite some time.

I believe / J’imagine Jack.

A sample of articles about the history of prorogation in Canada

Page 1 (Drummondville Spokesman – May 27, 1930) has a bit of a parallel to today’s prorogation. The PM wanted to set a new direction with a new budget and new multinational economic unit. The Economic Action Plan of the 1930s?

Page 2 (Glasgow Herald – March 16, 1939) is a two inch column describing a potential prorogation of Parliament by the King himself.

Page 3 (Ottawa Citizen – June 30, 1938) describes a 200,000 strong group (and this before Facebook) to protest the government’s move to jail violators of a media blackout law on reporting election results! The article describes that ministers would not meet with delegates of the group due to a “rush to prorogue Parliament”.

Page 4 (Montreal Gazette – March 15, 1939) – Describes the King coming to Parliament to prorogue the session or give royal assent to bills if session business is not complete

Page 5 (Montreal Gazette – June 11, 1928) – Mackenzie King – “We have concluded all the business of the session, so far as the Government is concerned”. I have not been able to find reference to the Toronto papers called King a tyrant or a despot.

Page 6 (St. John Sun – July 13, 1906) – Description of prorogation and reintroduction of House business when parliament resumes.

Page 7 (Toronto World – May 17, 1916) – Controversy as GG not present for prorogation proceedings. Prorogation to be completed by Chief Justice instead (who was deputy GG)

Page 8 (St. John Sun – April 5, 1902) – Description of prorogation despite 28 bills on order paper in a provincial parliament.

Page 9 (Ottawa Citizen – May 19, 1916) – Prorogation unusually quiet and with lack of ceremony. Did the PM request prorogation via telegraph?

Page 10 (Ottawa Citizen – Mar 13, 1911) – A member of parliament suggests that Parliament prorogue due to Typhoid epidemic sweeping through Ottawa.

Page 11 (Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand) – June 13, 1914) – Prorogation and Senate politics. A delay in prorogation causes a deadlock in the Senate with Senators refusing to pass a bill increasing the number of Senators in the Upper Chamber.

Page 12 (Montreal Gazette – May 18, 1909) – A rush to prorogation

Page 13 (Montreal Gazette – September 9, 1911) – The government insisted it prorogued because it could not get money bills through while the opposition accused it of blocking an inquiry into a slush fund.

Page 14 (New Zealand Evening Post – January 8, 1903) – Obituary of Canadian journalist who numerous parliaments that had “assembled and prorogued”

Page 15 (Ottawa Citizen – October 28, 1985) – Broadbent dismisses PM Mulroney’s valid option of resetting Parliament due to “disasterous” session to come back with new Throne Speech

Page 16 (Ottawa Citizen – November 26, 1983) – description of business prior to potential prorogation by PM Mulroney.

Page 17 (CBC – November 13, 2003) – Report of prorogation of Parliament by Chretien to allow Martin to assemble new cabinet.

There are numerous other stories regarding prorogation. According to a deep news search going back before the turn of the 20th century, today’s particular instance of Prime Minister-recommended prorogation has produced the most news stories in Canadian history.

For perspective, Google News shows that 1,561 articles have been written by the Canadian media in the last month regarding prorogation (as of the time of this blog post).

Comparatively, 1,351 articles have been written about H1N1 over the same time period by the Canadian media.

If we search for Google News stories concerning “prorogation” OR “prorogue” AND “Facebook” we learn that the Canadian media has written 424 stories, while the Facebook group protesting prorogation has 208,744 members. This amounts to 492 new members to the Facebook group for every MSM article referencing the group over the past few weeks. This number does not include television, magazine and radio coverage of the Facebook group. And to think, it all started with a “fury” of 20,000 when the group was in the budding stages of becoming an MSM darling.

An historical perspective shows that prorogation is quite a common parliamentary procedure in the country and most prorogations have passed without too much ink spilled on the pages of Canada’s historic newspapers.

So why the media fixation on prorogation? Canada’s news organizations are facing hard times and this news is evident to those who regularly buy newspapers — which, it seems, is not a lot of us. Budgets of Ottawa bureaus have been slashed with some offices closing completely. Prorogation may be a threat to those that report the news because of a sparser parliamentary calendar and a move by parent companies to prioritize resources elsewhere. An annual prorogation, as bandied about by the PM earlier, would not serve the Ottawa news business well.

Furthermore, the current vacuum of news content slices two ways; the frustration by many without content to fill columns and airtime and the news vacuum that now exists without anything else going on in Ottawa.

Michael Ignatieff’s Prorogation Vacation

In Ottawa, depending on their content requirements, Hill reporters are loving or loathing the prorogation so far. For activists, a second prorogation in little over one year has those on left seething in anger over what they perceive to be an “affront to democracy”.

To be sure, this isn’t to be dismissed lightly; despite your political inclination, there is a tangible perception that Stephen Harper is firmly in control of Parliament and its functions, for better or worse. While our Parliamentary system and it’s advantages and shortcomings may be formally debated at another time, some online activists have taken to Facebook to informally vent their frustrations. The CBC’s Terry Milewski reports on the Facebook group with over 25,000 people:

Too bad Terry wasn’t the The National’s senior national affairs correspondent last year when the anti-coalition Facebook group soared to over 125,000 in a week. To be fair, this week has been slow while last year’s coalition story was the busiest week we’ve had in Ottawa in years and there were many other non-Facebook stories to report!

Anger over prorogation is a parliamentary issue, so one wonders, where is the parliamentary political leadership? A healthy democratic grassroots movement is forming online and the would be leaders are… on vacation!

As Milewski remarked, and as CTV’s Roger Smith confirms below, Michael Ignatieff is on vacation in Europe while Jack Layton is snorkling in Belize. Opponents to prorogation have remarked with some hyperbole that “MPs just gave themselves a three month vacation”. While the Conservative line is that MPs are indeed working in their ridings consulting with constituents on the next phase of the economic recovery, it is Stephen Harper’s opposition that is on vacation. Grassroots Canadians on the left are upset that their Parliamentarians aren’t “working” in Ottawa, while their partisan leadership jets off for a little R&R.

Smith reports that the Prime Minister has been in Ottawa working.

This isn’t the first time that Michael Ignatieff has been criticized for being out of touch with the grassroots of his party and of course, this will just feed into the Conservative narrative that the Liberal leader is aloof and on “academic time”.

This month, The Walrus has an interesting description of Ignatieff’s working style,

“Indeed, there were rumours that he needed a nap in the afternoon or turned into a snarling wolf by nightfall.”

and from the Toronto Star, his adamant defense of “Iggy time”,

Also, Iggy’s staff misled Canadian media about his 2006 vacation – they told the media that his mother-in-law was ill, when in fact he was off on a European holiday. “There is no health crisis. There never was… I’m entitled to a holiday.”

Last year, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Ignatieff’s family has a villa in the south of France where “property of similar size in the area sells for upwards of $1.8 million”. It is unknown if he has made time to visit the estate while on vacation.

Meanwhile in Canada, are we seeing the budding of a significant political movement? If so, where is the political leadership?

UPDATE: Did Michael Ignatieff forget to tell his staff that he went on vacation?

Watching Obama’s visit on Facebook

There were only about 1000 people on Parliament Hill today to greet President Obama as much of downtown was locked down. There were barricades and security officials on the MacKenzie King bridge and checkpoints a plenty as the Parliamentary precinct was secured for Obama’s seven hour visit. Barricades also line Wellington street past Sussex through Rideau and also cover the street to the US embassy.

Staying away from the fray, I’m tracking the Obama visit passively via status updates on Facebook. Here’s a sample.

F – if this was Bush, they’d be calling it a police state.

J is irritated that Air Force One delayed flights at Ottawa International today, and that all of Ottawa is going crazy b/c of President Obama…

S is chuckling at the Canadian news media who are all experiencing the big O.

R can’t shake the feeling that there’s something going on here today. I guess everyone else is excited about the Oilers taking on the Stars tonight too.

N saw obama in his motorcade, and did not experience any change.

B is demanding 20 minutes with Obama as well.

A is happy for Ottawa’s leper community today.

R is Obamatastic!

E just missed barack in the stairwell… saw his entourage.

S questions the sanity of the people calling in to cpac.

C counted from his office window 40 vehicles and 2 helicopters in the Obama entourage

B is stuck in traffic, why didn’t the President just fly to the Hill like a superhero? Or he could have walked on the canal proving he can walk on water.

L just saw the motorcade go by! Video to follow!

H is going to the Obama press conference!

J is wondering – can Canadian media get any stupider over a Presidential visit? “Yes they Canada!”

Z thinks that if they’re going to close the city down, it might as well be a holiday.

J is wondering were the anti-war protesters are?

E – OBAMA IS HERE! EVERYBODY FREAK OUT

Rally for Canada today!

Today, in 24 cities coast-to-coast-to-coast, Canadians will assemble at legislatures, city halls and other gathering locations to send a message to Ottawa.

They will let the Parliamentarians know that they are concerned about political games at a time of economic crisis and that the last thing Canada needs now is political instability. Many Canadians breathed a sigh of relief when the Governor General granted the Prime Minister a prorogation of Parliament. This is encouraging because the Minister of Finance will continue to tend to Canada’s books and there over the next 90 days at least, we’ll see a sound and stable political direction on the economic file.

I had no idea that RallyforCanada.ca would receive such a response. Since Monday, the website has received hundreds of thousands of hits and tens of thousands of people have signed up with their email addresses to indicate that they either want to organize or participate in a rally today. It is a grassroots movement; a couple of guys named Matt O’Brien and Ed Woolley started a Facebook event while I kicked off RallyforCanada.ca to draw as many people as possible to the somewhat bizarre idea of rallying for the status quo and against a threat to its stability. We want to rally for the democratic principles of Canada, to let Parliamentarians know that while they within their technical right to flip power at any time, doing so after a Prime Minister earns a mandate on the issue of the economic downturn lacks moral authority and is nothing but a cynical grab for power.

If you’re headed out to a rally today, I’d love to hear your story when you return. Drop me an email or put a comment in this thread. Rally participants will be twittering, youtubing and flickr-ing so hopefully we’ll have some content up soon.

Dress warm, stay safe and enjoy the day.

“A few thoughts on how the Liberals must face some inconvenient truths”

This was passed on by a reader who is a member of Sean Godfrey’s election group on Facebook. Godfrey was the Liberal candidate for Oshawa and apparently sent this message to his group after the election. (emphasis is that of my correspondent)

Does the SHAMBA foundation risk losing its charitable status?

UPDATE: Globalive’s PR people gave me a call

UPDATE: Liberal/SHAMBA association suggested by form found on Liberal Party website

Gerard Kennedy, the former Liberal leadership contender and current Liberal candidate for Parkdale High Park is holding a fundraiser tonight in order to pay off his leadership debts.

Here is the Facebook page for the event

The fundraiser is to take place with the help of the SHAMBA foundation, an organization that oversees the SHAMBA space. The concept is simple but quite original; the SHAMBA space is a rooftop patio lent out to charitable organizations to hold events. According to the foundation’s website:

The fun part – and the cornerstone of the SHAMBA foundation – is the creation of a brand new 2,500 square foot rooftop terrace designed for fantastic events that raise money for great causes. The SHAMBA Space, as we call it, is available for local charities to use at no cost to host events. In addition to donating this exquisite space, SHAMBA also negotiates sponsorships with food and beverage partners to ensure that the bulk of funds raised at an event actually go directly to the cause.

The generous concept is that of Globalive CEO Anthony Lacavera, a Gerard Kennedy leadership supporter according to data at Elections Canada.

Gerard Kennedy, like some other Liberal leadership candidates, needs to pay off his Liberal leadership debts by June 3rd or else he will run afoul of Elections Canada. Anthony Lacavera seems like a good friend with a great foundation that is helping Kennedy pay off his debts. So what’s the problem here?

The SHAMBA foundation is a registered charitable organization according to the Canadian Revenue Agency. Also, registered charities are prohibited from partisan political activity under the law.

A registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities. A political activity is considered partisan if it involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for public office.

One hopes that Gerard Kennedy will move his fundraiser to a different venue because the purpose of the SHAMBA foundation is to provide free event space for charities. According to the Facebook page, the foundation is the location for the event. If the space is not being provided for free, one hopes that Kennedy is paying fair market value for event space that never seems to be rented for a fee. Even so, should this charity be mixed up with partisan political activity?

UPDATE 5/30 4:30pm: Globalive’s PR people just gave me a call to admit that the Gerard Kennedy fundraiser was erroneously billed/described by the promoters of the event. The SHAMBA space is used for charitable events but for the intents of the Gerard Kennedy event the space should be thought of within the Globalive domain (a company) rather than that of the SHAMBA foundation (a charity); the Gerard Kennedy fundraiser took place on Globalive property rather than that of the SHAMBA foundation and though it is the same space the space takes different identities depending on the – or rather this – context. I was assured that Gerard Kennedy paid fair market value for use of the space from Globalive and that the space was not made as a donation from the company.

UPDATE 5/31 5:55pm: Here is the registration form for the event (still live on the LPC(O) website). The form clearly has the logo of the SHAMBA foundation (a registered charity). This doesn’t seem to simply be an erroneously written Facebook listing. The event is officially billed as a SHAMBA foundation/Gerard Kennedy event. I think that the earlier PR call may have been a sort of after-the-fact damage control revision of history. Charities cannot participate in partisan political activity. This form from the Liberal Party website suggests that the SHAMBA foundation and the Liberal Party have an association.

Read this doc on Scribd: Political Ideals Celebration

CBC, politics and Facebook

The other day, I discovered a tool on Facebook for advertisers that allows a prospective ad buyer to narrow down a potential target group for the purposes of showing an advertisement to a particular demographic. For example, one could select the United Kingdom, the city of London, females, aged 18-35, who like “Painting”, and have selected their relationship status as “engaged”. You’ll find that out of a pool of 1,612,980 people in London (or of 6,407,580 on Facebook in the UK), you’ll be targeting your ad to 140 people specifically based on the breakdown above.

facebook-london.jpg
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So, I thought another breakdown might be interesting.

Facebook boasts 7,361,720 accounts in Canada. Of these accounts, 1,340 are at “CBC / Radio Canada”. If one then checks off “Liberal” as a delimiting factor, we’re left with 180 accounts. If we uncheck “Liberal” and check “Moderate” we get 40 accounts. Now, if we uncheck “moderate” and select “Conservative” we get “fewer than 20″ (Facebook seems to measure accounts for this application in blocks of 20. I assume that less than 20 could mean anywhere from 0-19 accounts).

So, to summarize, there are 1,340 Facebookers at CBC. Of this group, 180 have self-declared as Liberal, 40 as Moderates, and 0-19 as Conservatives.

Of course, this isn’t a scientific breakdown of political inclinations at CBC. After all, it could be possible that Conservatives are much more shy about posting their “Political Views” on Facebook. Further, one cannot confidently say that Facebook is representative of the population at large. This is simply data presented “as is”, for your consideration.

cbc-facebook.jpg
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cbc-facebook-liberal.jpg
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cbc-facebook-moderate.jpg
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cbc-facebook-conservative.jpg
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UPDATE: For those that have asked about the Canadian breakdown on Facebook, out of 7,361,720 Canadian accounts on Facebook, 618,240 are self-declared Liberal, and 281,840 Conservative. This is a 2.2:1 Liberal:Conservative ratio. In contrast, CBC has at least a 9:1 Liberal:Conservative ratio among its self-declared political people with Facebook accounts.