Liberal Party website: French an afterthought?

The Liberal Party of Canada launched quite an attractive new website this week. It features a large photo slider panel, well-designed action tabs at the top, and great integration of blogs and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

However, what the website lacks is representation of the linguistic duality of Canada that Liberals so often get red-in-the-face when chastisizing Conservatives. Take, for example this press release put out in October of 2007 by then Liberal Party president Marie Poulin criticizing Conservatives for ignoring french-Canadians,

New Conservative Site Snubs Francophones

Francophones across Canada have every right to feel a little snubbed by the Conservative Party of Canada, Liberal Party President Marie-P. Poulin said today.

That’s because their language doesn’t show up on the front page of the party’s new site.

“The party that has trying [sic] to reach out to French-speaking Canada has a strange way of showing they care,” Ms. Poulin said. “You’d think something as prominent as your new election web-site would have at least one French word on its front page.”

The Conservative Party’s new web site, launched this morning, has a background of Conservative blue featuring a photo of the Prime Minister, his name, and six bold white words – none of which is in the French Language.

“The Liberal Party of Canada cares about Francophones across Canada and has ensured that every word on our web site is printed in both official languages. Clearly, the Conservative Party cannot say the same,” said Ms. Poulin.

-30-
For more information, please contact:

Liberal Party of Canada Press Office

Elizabeth Whiting
(613) 783-8405
ewhiting@liberal.ca

Poulin misfired as I wrote on my blog back in 2007.

Liberals are always finding outrage where there is none. Indeed, the Conservative website was recently redesigned and it is true that there aren’t any French words at Conservative.ca. However, if you go to Conservateur.ca (that’s the French word for “conservative” by the way), you’ll find a lot more French words!

Unfortunately, for the Liberals, the frech word for “Liberal” is “Libéral” so they cannot easily split content across two domains. But what happens when you go to Liberal.ca?

ENGLISH! (click the small link in the top-right to switch to French)

Francophones can access the Liberal Party website in French by going to http://www.liberal.ca/fr/. Anglophones can go to http://www.liberal.ca/.

Even web browsers with French language settings as the default go to the English version of the page.

To solve this dilemma, Liberals might try this bit of code:

<?php
$lang = substr($_SERVER[‘HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE’], 0, 2);
if ($lang == “fr”) {
load_french_page();
} else {
load_english_page();
}
?>

This would load up the relevant page depending on self-selected settings of the end-user’s browser. You could still include links to the other language in the top right corner just to show you care…

(I changed my browser language to French for the purposes of testing the Liberal website above. The page loaded in English)

The latest EKOS poll

Big news today in Ottawa is the new Governor General appointee and the EKOS poll showing Liberals flirting within 0.3% of their worst polling result in recent history. At 23.9% the Liberal Party of Canada has no fared so poorly since December 4th, 2008 when the country put the Conservatives into the Canadian polling stratosphere as Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe tried their bid for a coalition government.

The coalition attempt was a dark time for the Liberal Party, a once mighty Canadian political institution now reduced to banding together with socialists and separatists in an attempt to remove their unpopular leader while gaining power at the same time.

Stephane Dion never led a non-coalesced Liberal Party so unpopular as the current Liberal Party under Michael Ignatieff if these latest numbers are to be believed. Dion was never believable as a Prime Minister but he was a likable fellow. Unfortunately for Michael Ignatieff, one can see him as Prime Ministerial, however he’s not very likable. In a conversation with a senior Liberal last year, it was explained to me that Ignatieff suffers a sincerity gap. Is he believable? Does he fight for things he believes in? What is it that he believes in?

Here’s the breakdown of the EKOS poll:
CPC 34.4%
LPC 23.9%
NDP 17.9%

This is the lowest level of support that I can remember for the Liberals during a non-event. Indeed, these numbers come in after the G20 where Michael Ignatieff was MIA as a political leader in reaction to events.

If we take a closer look at the numbers too, we learn that they might actually be skewed against the Conservatives.

The EKOS poll’s polling sample included
404 French speaking (31% of weighted sample)
1312 English speaking (69% of weighted sample)

Out of Canada’s, only about 21% are francophone (of population).

EKOS’ poll finds support for Conservatives to be lacking among francophones:

CPC support
English speaking 36.3%
French speaking 13.5%

LPC support
English speaking 30.6%
French speaking 18.5%

If francophones were over-represented in EKOS’ sample, is the news worse for the Liberals?

A Liberal MP wakes up

Glen Pearson is the Liberal MP for London-North-Centre and is an avid blogger. He has some criticisms of the modern Liberal Party of Canada. I think he’s onto something. Here are some of his quotes:

“Like it or not, today’s Liberal Party is often viewed as elitist, out of touch with daily pressures of average people and groups.”

Michael Ignatieff is currently in China, getting in touch with the lives of everyday Canadians.

“Gone are the days when the Liberal Party could attract candidates from unions, social agencies, environmental groups, anti-poverty advocates, and even small business associations. This hurts, but it’s true.”

Three Liberal candidates have quit in the past month.

“[T]oday’s Liberal Party spends an inordinate amount of time talking about institutional politics and policy as opposed to the key role of the citizen as an agent of progress.”

Indeed, it’s more difficult to attract candidates when the reality of forming government seems too distant, but you need to attract candidates that are in it to make the individual lives of citizens better, not for a retirement plum or for a chauffeured car.

“One of our key weaknesses as a national party at present is our distance – physical, emotional, empathetic – from the average lives of citizens.”

Is it a problem of leadership? Of abandoning rural Canada and their concerns?

Is Pearson right? What do you believe plagues the Liberal Party of Canada?

Michael Ignatieff’s Summer Roadtrip off to a bad start

Michael Ignatieff has gassed up the RV, packed the cooler, and is hitting the road this summer to meet “the Canadians”. Most details are still sketchy, but we hear that he is meeting with voters and bringing them a message of hope and inspiration.

Take for instance, Ignatieff’s recent meeting with undecided voters party faithful at a conference in Vancouver. Here’s one Liberal blogger’s take:

At the Policy Matters conference in Vancouver today Michael Ignatieff took to the stage, speaking on the hard work that lies ahead for the Liberal Party. Though for the most part his words roused the audience of party faithfuls, one statement left an uncertain and questioning resonance with the crowd.

In the latter half of his speech, Ignatieff said, “Before you speak, think, if you’re not going to say anything to help us win, shut up!” Preceding the last two words was a slight pause, and with their utterance, a strong loud emphasis.

Following Ignatieff’s statement the awkwardness was palatable, speaking to two members afterwards, both felt unsure of the Liberal Leader’s need to be so harsh. Another Liberal pointing out that it was not as if Ignatieff was speaking to some opposing Party, or that these Liberals did anything that deserved such a rebuke.

Telling Party members to shut up if they have a different position of the party or any criticism of it, is sensational and rude. At a time with Liberal support is at almost record lows, the Leader shouldn’t be so disrespectful to the people he so dearly depends upon.

It’s ok to start your summer tour in your comfort zone, among your friends, even if the experience is, well, um, uncomfortable.

If this is how it goes among party members, some of whom are skeptical of their leader, we can’t wait to see how it goes among the unconverted skeptics.

Liberals on Quebec healthcare

April 8th, 2010, Michael Ignatieff:

To that end [Ignatieff] welcomed the provincial Liberal budget idea of looking into new ways to finance the health-care system — possibly through new fees. He said the provinces have to be allowed to advance ideas on their own.

“We have to be open to letting the provinces experiment within the framework of the Canadian law,” Ignatieff said. “We have to protect universal access to the health system. The government of Quebec knows it.

“I salute the fact it is launching a debate that is important for all Canadians.”

April 7th, 2010, Carolyn Bennett:

The Zombie of Health Care Policy: User Fees

Dr. Bob Evans has called user fees the ‘zombie’ of health care policy – just when you think that the evidence has killed them dead – it rises again. It is like a bad video game…. user fees keep coming back from the dead.

The government of Quebec has said in the budget speech that it will enter into consultations re this user fee proposal. It should be rejected based upon evidence alone.

I am concerned that the budget document states: ‘In that respect, the Canada Health Act should not impede the search for solutions that will ensure long-term funding for our health care system.’

I would interpret that to mean that they KNOW this is OUTSIDE the act …

The backlash in Quebec has begun…. we need all Canadians to educate themselves and immunize themselves against this ‘zombie’ of health care policy. It may like a simple fix but it is bad policy – bad for health outcomes and bad for the solidarity that we have in Canada to help one another when fellow citizens bear the burden of sickness.

UPDATE: Ignatieff flip-flops… April 14th, 2010, after caucus:

Quebec’s proposal to charge $25 for a visit to the doctor would violate the Canada Health Act, according to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff who departed sharply Wednesday from earlier indications that he was not opposed to the idea.

“I want to make it very clear that our party, and I personally, am a passionate defender of the Canada Health Act and we understand that provinces are facing substantial challenges facing the financing of their health care systems but we wanted to say that . . . if the government of any province were to introduce user fees it is our belief that that would be in contravention to the Canada Health Act and we would oppose it.”

H1N1, issues management and disaster response

Would it surprise you, gentle reader, that every morning (early morning!) a senior staffer from each ministry gathers with their peers from other ministries at Langevin to discuss the issues of the day and what fallout — both actual and political — may come from events that have either happened or may transpire?

If this doesn’t surprise you, it may indeed shock you (ok, it probably won’t) that issues management has a greater concern about political fallout and much of this focus is centred upon not so much the opposition’s line of attack on an issue but the media’s distillation of what the government of the day is doing about it?

Let’s put this in perspective and consider a real failure in this approach as it informs not simply the shuffling of public funds, but of a nation’s emergency response to potential disasters.

Remember H1N1?

Back in the fall it was all the rage. Bodybags sent to native reserves, an opposition raising a five-alarm fire for the government’s vaccines on order to the President of the Liberal Party describing H1N1 as “Harper’s Katrina”.

And one of the shallowest measures and glibly tangible critiques of the government? A comparison of spending on those “clandestinely partisan” (critics say) ads telling Canadians that — good-golly-gosh — the economy is going to get better and that government is leading the way, with the government effort on those “sneeze in your arm, not on your hands, you yob” adverts.

Here is a Liberal blogger’s summary of her party’s critique of the whole episode,

After being publicly embarrassed by the media, the Harper Conservatives have said they will act on H1N1 television advertising. After the CP report on the government’s spending five times more on its economic action plan ads than H1N1 preparation loudly made the rounds Sunday afternoon, the Conservatives started the damage control Sunday night. It’s not a tough concept to grasp, after all. Nobody likes a government spending money in its own interest to the detriment of a major public health issue

Issues management kicks into high gear! Bruce Cheadle of the Canadian Press, a wire reporter turned impassioned advocated for the commercially unbalanced, did indeed take a swipe at the governing party over their ‘too blue’ and ‘too Harper’ website on the Economic Action Plan and found that spending on economic ebullience was taking precedence over pandemic placation.

I remarked on this fallacy at the time,

Another criticism highlighted in the CP story is that the latest round of Economic Action Plan ads cost the government $5 million compared to $2 million spent on H1N1 ads.

Here are two issues that have a psychological component.

For economic stimulus, a large part of its purpose and success is affecting consumer confidence. As for H1N1, handwashing and vaccine readiness helps but fueling hysteria does not.

Now that we’ve had a chance to see the virulent dust clear, we have word that the government…over-reacted?,

The federal government spent $37-million on advertising and other communications around the H1N1 flu pandemic, more than it devoted to anti-viral drugs or managing the outbreak combined, according to newly divulged cost figures.

A prominent critic of government response to H1N1 said much of that ad blitz came after the epidemic had peaked, urging Canadians to get flu shots at a time when they were virtually pointless.

“If it’s well spent for a legitimate medical emergency, that’s fine,” said Dr. Richard Schabas, Ontario’s former chief medical officer of health, who has repeatedly argued that public-health agencies over-reacted to the pandemic.

“It was the persistence of the immunization program, the persistence of the advertising after the outbreak had passed that really I find most offensive.”

Digging up a Liberal press release,

Last week, the House of Commons adopted a Liberal motion calling for the allocation of the $400 million in pandemic response funds to help the provinces deliver vaccines to Canadians, plus additional planning support, and the diversion of partisan Economic Action Plan advertising funding towards a large-scale H1N1 awareness campaign.

Dr. Schabas’ position is alluded to without specific reference to his actual view in the press release dated November 10th of last year. The Liberals advocated for a massive diversion of funds into an awareness campaign “as Canadians grow increasingly concerned that they won’t be vaccinated until well after the peak of the H1N1 flu”.

Our mothers always said that it’s better to be safe than sorry, but Schabas is actually criticizing the over-response and wasted spending on H1N1 advertising! Misallocation of H1N1 funds, needled into the wrong place, could have had a disastrous effect.

I’d argue that this is a way in which politics and media sensationalism hurts good and measured public policy informed by the most pressing facts. Issues management became a reaction to political fallout at the expense of a good and measured response. To be sure, the worst case scenario would have been if for some reason the politics had skewed the response in the other direction and the event had been much more pronounced.

How do we safeguard our consideration of real and informed concern when it faces an unhelpfully loud and very present sensationalism motivated by unrelated selfish considerations?

A real issue to manage. Unfortunately, it’s apolitical.

Liberal hot air on climate change

Michael Ignatieff had the following to say about Stephen Harper in a speech to students at Laval University on the topic of climate change,

“Stephen Harper doesn’t understand the environment, either. He’s turned Canada into a veritable saboteur of international climate change negotiations.” — Michael Ignatieff

The “Fossil of the Day” award, sponsored by AVAAZ.org, is an award that “is given to countries that block progress at the United Nations Climate Change Negotations.”

While Michael Ignatieff is tut-tutting about Stephen Harper’s realistic targets of 20% reduction of GHGs by 2020, under (forgive the cliche) thirteen years of Liberal rule, how did Canada do on the GHG file? According to the Fossil of the Day, Canada “won” 89 awards, beating out the Saudis with 88.


Source

FLASHBACK: How does the media cover Canada’s environmental record (Conservative vs. Liberal)?

UPDATE: Michael Ignatieff agrees!

Liberals in support of new citizenship guide

The new guide released this week for newcomers to Canada has been generally well accepted by the mainstream of Canada. Of course, some on the left are criticizing the guide for focusing on Canada’s “militaristic” history and for not mincing words when it comes to “barbaric cultural practices” not in line with Canadian values.

Liberals are finding it difficult to oppose the guide as some of their heavy hitters are already backing up the government.

Marc Chalifoux was Michael Ignatieff’s former political assistant and he is quoted in the government’s press release (along with Margaret McMillan, Rudyard Griffiths and Jack Granatstein):

“Discover Canada should be in the hands of not only new Canadians, but every high school student in Canada,” said Marc Chalifoux, Executive Vice-President of the Historica-Dominion Institute. “All citizens, whether they were born in Canada or not, need to understand how the institutions of this country came to be. This guide tells them how.”

Former Paul Martin Director of Communications Scott Reid had this to say on CBC’s Power & Politics:

I think that the citizenship quiz actually is a good initiative. I like the updating. Vimy Ridge, Louis Riel, these are references that ought to be part and parcel of it. You know, when you take a look at the people that guided its reshaping: Canadians of unquestioned qualification.

Former Liberal Party President Stephen Ledrew also gave the guide thumbs up on his CP24 show yesterday.

You can peruse the guide here: