The Media on poorly bilingual leaders

It’s the new low in a snake’s belly of a campaign.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion misunderstands a complicated question and the Conservatives trot out leader Stephen Harper to declare it the definitive proof this Liberal leader is unfit to serve as prime minister. (Don Martin in the National Post, October 9, 2008)

“Day, who lived in Quebec as teenager, is desperate to improve his mediocre French so that the Alliance may broaden its appeal to Quebec voters. He was the first to admit yesterday that his French needs work and brushed off previous reports that tagged him as perfectly bilingual.” (Windsor Star, July 28, 2000)

“Mr. Day read carefully from a written French text. Even with the text, it was obvious within two minutes that any claims to bilingualism are seriously exaggerated.” (Paul Wells, National Post, April 1, 2000)

“Compounding Reform’s problem is that its leader can’t tell Quebecers his message in their language. Manning is unilingual. But he’s trying. He thanked those present for coming by reading from a prepared text in French – a halting, tortured dialect exacerbated by his natural nasal twang.” (Toronto Star, July 19, 1994)

They were kids, but they didn’t handle Reform Party Leader Preston Manning with kid gloves when he spoke yesterday at an all-girls’ private school.

Manning, who wants to run Canada’s proposed new right-wing political party, was asked in French about his notoriously poor skills in the language by a student during a stop at St. Clement’s school.”(Kingston Whig-Standard, March 11, 2000)

“Despite the appeal to posturing and sound-bite simplicity, the televised leaders’ debates sent one undeniable message: Reform leader Preston Manning is not worthy of being Canada’s next prime minister. Despite the appeals to a Fresh Start, which is his party’s campaign theme, he has personally not made a fresh start by still being unable to speak French. A modern leader of this nation cannot have such a liability. Forty years ago, Canadians could forgive John Diefenbaker’s famously tortured French. In 1997, such bilingual ineptitude in a national leader is inexcusable.” (Kingston Whig-Standard, May 15, 1997)

“But national public life happens in both languages. The federal government serves Canadians in both languages, and if you were a public servant, you would want to be evaluated in the official language you feel more comfortable in – which is one of the reasons senior government jobs require bilingualism. You would think that anyone who wanted to engage in national public life, as opposed to local or provincial public life, would learn both English and French.” (Toronto Star, October 20, 2002)

“It first became clear that Preston Manning’s campaign to win the leadership of the Canadian Alliance was in serious trouble during the candidates’ debate in Montreal. Manning’s composure was shaken by his inability to perform in French; he looked, for the first time, as if he thought he was losing. Stockwell Day, on the other hand, looked like a winner.” (Toronto Star, April 29, 2001)

Dion will implement carbon tax even if there’s a recession

After a joint address to the Empire Club and Canadian Club yesterday, Stephane Dion faced reporters. The exchange between Richard Madan from City and Dion was interesting.

MADAN (Voiceover): But Dion has shifted his own tune lately, suggesting that Canada may be headed into recession. And he only mentioned his controversial Green Shift plan just once at the end of his speech.

MADAN (to Dion): You mentioned “recession” in your speech. So if indeed Canada does hit a recession will you delay implementing your carbon tax?

DION: First, it’s not that. It’s the Green Shift.

MADAN: No, I know. But the question is: if things get worse, will you delay implementing a carbon tax, Green Shift, whatever you want to call it? Will you delay it?

DION: It’s not carbon tax, it’s a Green Shift. It’s to put a cost…

MADAN (interupts): Will you delay it?

DION: No, because it’ll be good for the economy.

Did you get that? If Canada falls into recession, Dion believes his “don’t call it a carbon tax” Green Shift will be just want Canada needs to get out of the storm.

Recently, Maclean’s editor Andrew Coyne has stated that he believes that there may be something to it when Harper complains that Canada’s opposition is “cheering for a recession”.

The Opposition parties have gone mad with attacks explaining that Mr. Harper doesn’t care about the economy because he’s not panicking. The opposition will be upset to learn that the World Economic Forum has declared Canada’s banking system the most stable in the world.

There have been cries of dissent from Dion’s own ranks on the Green Shift and it’s timetable for implementation. Liberal candidate Shawn Murphy told the Charlottetown Guardian on September 12th, “This winter, I don’t think you’re going to see the green shift even if the Liberals got elected.” Former Minister of Revenue John McCallum conceded about Dion’s carbon tax, “I cannot say to you that no Canadian will be unharmed by this… it’s not going to be totally painless for every human being”.

Even former NDP Ontario Premier Bob Rae is
sounding more lucid on the economy as he suggested yesterday that the implementation of the carbon tax should be delayed.

There’s an old saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While Mr. Dion’s plan aims to address environmental concerns with his plan, the ballot question will ask who is the best manager of the economy as crises become a daily occurrence in foreign markets. Canada has a sound economic position — indeed, the fundamentals are strong — and while members of his own team have second thoughts about his carbon tax, Mr. Dion is ready to add new untested variables to the economic equation in a time that calls for the kind of stability that comes from an economist Prime Minister rather than untested tax theory from a man who is not.

Is Harper’s campaign in decline?

Recent polls would indicate that the Conservative campaign has experienced a steady softening in support since both federal leader’s debates. When polls go well partisans treat them like gospel and when they go poorly, the methodology is questioned. Supporters will point to a good poll, frame it, put it in the window well past the time it fades with age and relevance. And for bad polls, well, polls simply for dogs aren’t they?

With respect to one’s worldview, in recent weeks that of many Canadians — not to speak others around the world — has been shaken by the global economic crisis. Up is down and then up again before it goes back down and while Canadians are captivated by their investment portfolios, they find as much uncertainty with the future of politics as they do the economy and thus politics captivates us all as well.

In a time of global economic uncertainty, are we seeing a natural inclination of Canadians to be uncertain of politics as well? As the stock markets take dips and dives affected by factors outside of our borders it is understandable that Canadians are in a state of uncertainty on how they would shape the future political landscape of this country.

In the next week, Canadians will be forced to make a choice early, before all of the dust has settled worldwide and Canadians will look to what they know but they will be largely affected by what they will come to understand over the next week. These 6 days before the election are critical for the leaders to make their case and for them to shape perceptions of their ability to lead, to show stability and convince Canadians that their vision represents stability to allow the Canadian ship to weather the global economic storm.

I write this as I watch Stephane Dion address a joint meeting of the Empire Club and the Canadian Club of Toronto. The Prime Minister addressed the same organizations the day before at the Royal York and such speeches at this junction of the campaign can shape perceptions, firm up expectations and bring stability to uncertain political times.

Yet such hallmark opportunities to address Canadian business and economic leaders can be an early political indicator for the final close on election day. Declining campaigns show declining momentum; in the last days of the 2006 federal election, as John Tory’s bid for Ontario Premier came to a close last year, as Ernie Eves ushered in last dying battle cry of the common sense revolution, reports indicated dwindling numbers at rallies, diminished interest in speeches and rooms left half-full as leaders could do little to hide realities of a halted momentum in their campaigns. As an indicator of campaign viability, the Prime Minister’s campaign has positive momentum during these final days of the campaign. As suggested by Steve Paikin’s tweet just one hour ago from the Royal York, the same cannot be said for Stephane Dion, “the royal york is starting to fill up. dion is en route. harper had 1000 yesterday. only 300 for dion today.”

So, what of these polls that suggest a tightening between the Harper and Dion campaigns? Unlike financial markets that show volatility in real-time where investors can gain or lose their fiscal security in one single day, Canadians are fortunately not faced with the same demands as they make political decisions. As the economic world spikes and plunges before them, Canadians are taking stock of the political landscape and are doing their research before they lock in their investment on election day. The question is, when they vote, will they be bullish and choose high risk with uncertain yield or will they go with a safe investment which has shown a stable modest return?

A debunking by Kady? I’m sorry, I just don’t see it

For your own consideration on the Dion vs. Correl text. National Newswatch says Kady debunked Janke/Trusty Tory. I don’t see how she’s debunked much of anything here. Some interesting tangential points, but no debunking by my friend Kady as National Newswatch has claimed. (I don’t even think that was her goal)

Example of plagiarism by Stephane Dion?

You be the judge.

From an article written by Charles Mandel for Canwest on March 7th, 2008:

In a major forthcoming report on Canada’s changing climate, scientists warn of everything from increased severe storm activity in Atlantic Canada to hotter summers and poorer air quality in urban Ontario. British Columbia may face retreating glaciers and snow loss on its mountains, causing potential water shortages. The Prairie provinces will continue to struggle with drought, impacting agriculture rurally and potentially causing water rationing in urban areas.

On March 14th, 2008, Stephane Dion gave a speech on climate change which included the following paragraph:

In a new report released quietly last week by the federal Department of Natural Resources, 145 leading Canadian scientists warned that Canada’s changing climate will lead to everything from increased severe storms in Atlantic Canada to drought in the Prairies. British Columbia may face retreating glaciers and snow loss on its mountains, causing potential water shortages. There will be hotter summers and poorer air quality in urban Ontario. And the Prairies will continue to struggle with drought, affecting agriculture and potentially causing water rationing in urban areas.

Is all of this plagiarism stuff just getting silly or is turnabout fair play? Nonetheless, don’t expect to see this on the national news anytime soon. Some point out that both Dion and Canwest cite the same report. But it is fact that Dion uses the same words to describe the report that Canwest used and this suggests that Dion or his speechwriter cribbed from that news agency. The words that Dion uses in his speech are those of Charles Mandel, but we see no mention of the journalist’s name in Dion’s text.

Also, much like common rhetoric between Harper and Harris, there are likely examples of common rhetoric between Dion and Al Gore or David Suzuki (the climate crisis represents the greatest threat to humanity etc.) but this won’t get too much pick up because common mind and collective thoughts are benevolent on left-wing issues and conspiratorial on the right.

English debate, the next morning

Five federal party leaders squared off last night around the oblong table at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Coming off of a sort of dress-rehearsal last night for the English speaking viewers, leaders were coached all day yesterday on earlier missteps and new opportunities as senior scripters checked debate playbooks, wiped the blackboard clean and chalked out some final plays.

And though politics can be a contact sport, referee Steve Paikin kept the unnecessary roughness to a minimum and even straightened out a few players when needed. The format of the debate has been criticized by some Conservatives as too amenable to unbalanced debating particularly when four candidates (including one late-comer and one spoiler) focus their attention squarely upon the incumbent. However, if one contrasts this with the American Vice-Presidential debate last night, the table format led to more exchanges and discussion rather than moderator-induced conversation without direct confrontation between candidates. Indeed, the Palin-Biden debate was instead two separate interviews, occurring simultaneously in the same room. The Canadian debate format for this election cycle proved more interesting for viewers and provided an unvarnished look at the candidates as they were challenged directly by the other candidates.

Despite this, the current Prime Minister seemed at ease though at times I’m certain he wanted to leap across the table and give Jack Layton a better-balanced bludgeoning. Viewers of the French language debate joked that the Prime Minister seemed to have been sedated while partisans both friendly and not yearned for more emotion; the unfriendlies hoped for anger while Conservatives hoped for more passion from their champion to describe their common agenda. In the English language debate, the Prime Minister seemed to exude what is more appropriately described as confidence than calm as he took the barrage that came as the polarized players flailed their collective left-wing and labeled the Prime Minister everything from out-of-touch with the middle class — quite brazen coming from Elizabeth May — to a George Bush clone (the left will miss him when he’s gone).

Despite the constant attacks, Stephen Harper performed strongly by donning his figurative blue sweater vest appearing the most rational and collected candidate of the group. As one twitterer likely not voting for Harper put it, “It concerns me that Harper sounds the least crazy.” Jack Layton, the other strong debate performer appealed to the dramatic by twice making cynical references to the very same sweater the PM wears in the Conservative ads. Jack Layton and Stephen Harper needed each other to boost their debate performances and by focusing their heat on each other, they were able to wedge out Dion. Though the Liberals have never had a leader like Paul Martin that was richer, the critics couldn’t be fairer; the Liberals have never had a greener candidate than Stephane Dion and despite Martin’s failings, he was more animated than Dion was last night. Though Martin entered the election in the lead, Dion is coming from behind and failed to capture anyone’s attention last night.

Elizabeth May surprised last night as she was the most sober of the opposition leaders. In comparison with other leaders, May brought a calm, number- and fact-referencing persona to the debate and politely corrected leaders as to the “facts” (though many as she saw them). For many Canadians who look at the political landscape and see the same old players locked in a seemingly eternal stalemate, May brought a fresh face to the stage for Canadians to consider. The Green Party leader needed to show Canadians that she deserved to debate on the same stage as the party leaders. Despite real and valid arguments against her inclusion and a childish repeat of her fraud accusation leveled against Harper, last night she didn’t appear out of place. In that, May scored an impressive victory for her cause.

As the leader of a french-first-and-last separatist party from Quebec, Gilles Duceppe did not have much to gain or lose during the English language debate and the Bloc leader appeared to be the candidate most genuinely at ease during the two hours last night. Duceppe also appeared as a shadow moderator; when he was not advancing his ideology, bringing he brought realism against rhetoric particularly when he gestured towards Layton and Dion suggesting they knew they’d never become Prime Minister and then proceeded to address the sitting Prime Minister — indeed, seated directly across from him — speaking about Quebec’s issues as the Bloc leader saw them. Most observers note that this will likely be Duceppe’s last performance in this forum as the dean of the debate is expected to retire from federal politics before the next federal election.

The debate was interesting to watch and was more interesting than debates in previous years. It certainly brought a fresh perspective to the players that we see in Question Period when parliament is sitting. If more and more newcomers show up to claim their stake on the democratic frontier as May did last night, we might see this format degenerate into a collective browbeating of an incumbent. If democratic reform proceeds along the path which May advocates, do more voices create more noise or do the enrich the process? In the American primary process we’ve seen about ten voices crowd one stage at a particular time with the TV networks biased towards perceived front-runners. Democracy is by definition a dynamic process and the evolution of the Canadian leader’s debate will follow its own path. The method by which our leaders appeal to Canadians for their votes will be, for the most part, fixed directly to the format by which Canadians would choose to hear them. That is democracy.