TVO disagrees with Elizabeth May

Elizabeth May writes a statement on the Green Party website hoping to put the “Canadians are stupid” issue to rest.

Unfortunately, in her statement she writes,

“I reviewed all this on TVO with Steve Paikan [sic] more recently and he confirmed that no one in the room thought I had said Canadians are stupid.”

TVO wants to set thing right and expresses disagreement as their director of corporate communications explains,

For the record, I would like to clarify that at no point during his September 12th interview with Elizabeth May did Steve Paikin express such a personal opinion.

We feel this use of Mr. Paikin’s name – and by extension, that of TVO’s – is inappropriate. We ask that the above mentioned blog posting be corrected, along with any other Green Party of Canada postings or communications of a similar nature.

Here’s my post and YouTube video that started this controversy.

Here’s a good summary of May’s gaffe and explanation to TVO and CTV:

Does Elizabeth May fundamentally agree or disagree?

One thing that we can all agree upon is that Elizabeth May talks too fast and this has got her into some trouble in the past surrounding her February 2007 comments on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin where she says “All the other politicians are scared to death to mention the word ‘tax’. And they think Canadians are stupid — and cannot — and I fundamentally agree with that assessment.”

As I mentioned in my interview on CBC, I was never of the mind that she had said “I” rather than “they” in the sentence where she says “they think Canadians are stupid”. What stunned me was the part where she said “and I fundamentally agree with that assessment”. I didn’t realize there was ambiguity over the pronoun until it was raised by other who saw my video and made comment over at Buckdog.

Now, as it has been confirmed, the audio was “they” but now May reveals that the real difference in interpretation was that she either meant “agree” or “disagree with that assessment”. In Steve Paikin’s Friday interview of May, the Green Party leader explains that she said “disagree”.

However, on Sunday’s CTV Question Period May has a different story that contradicts her explanation to Paikin. May said that she said “fundamentally agree with that assessment” in reference to another panelist who had made an observation that wasn’t recorded.

Most people that run for political office do it out of a love of service for their fellow Canadians. I do not doubt that May’s heart is in the right place. However, her reported off-hand comments after the panel discussion might reinforce for us another element of her thinking. She said “No I want [Hummer drivers] shot actually, jail is not good enough for them!” Of course, any reasonable person would understand that May was joking. However, some might interpret this as a streak of elitism in Ms. May. Some Canadians may get the impression that while she wishes to serve Canada, she likely thinks she knows what’s best for us.

Green Party wilts, tape was not doctored

Concerning this story,

John Bennett, the director of communications for the Green Party as reported by thetyee.ca:

Fiction: “TVO is considering legal action as well”

Fiction: “It’s an attempt by the Conservatives through a front website to attack the credibility of Elizabeth May”

Fiction: “They took what she said, cut it up, then put it back together.”

From TVO.org:

Fact: “TVO confirms that the audio of the clip in question is intact”

Fact: “TVO is not and will not be pursuing legal action of any kind on this matter”

and finally (from me),

Fact: stephentaylor.ca nor Buckdog Politics are fronts for the Conservative Party. I am a conservative and want to see the Conservative Party elected.

Perhaps the first lesson of doing damage control against a viral message is to stop fuelling it. By threatening legal action and making a video even more interesting by trying to make it forbidden will only drive people’s interest. Of course, the interest will lead people to watch the video of Elizabeth May in her own words.

I’ve met Elizabeth May, I think she’s a nice person and I believe she is quite committed to her ideas, and this is in itself admirable. However, as my motive was questioned in an interview today, “why would you do this to May if you think she’s a nice person”, I responded by saying that May has gone prime-time and she’ll hit the national stage in the leaders debate and though she is not running for Prime Minister (she has already endorsed Dion), she is running to elect Members of Parliament to the legislature. May deserves scrutiny. My motive is that I support the Conservatives and wanted to put up May’s words, undoctored, for Canadians to understand. I think that May is wrong on the issues and wrong on her support for a carbon tax. Does Elizabeth May say Canadians are stupid? From the video, that was and is my honest interpretation of her words. What did it for me was her statement of agreement with the assessment that comes right after the words “[I/they] think Canadians are stupid.”

Perhaps May was expressing frustration in her belief that Canadians cannot understand the complexity of a complete reconfiguration of the Canadian government’s system of taxation. Poorly considered quips, asides and gaffes can happen to us all. Do I believe that May believe in her heart of hearts that Canadians are stupid? No.

And through this exercise, my credibility has been questioned and prior to their backing down I was called a liar by the Green Party of Canada. This isn’t the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of this sort of kneejerk smear but this usually occurs when leftwing partisan bloggers don’t want to believe what clearly sits in front of them on their computer monitors. As for the Green Party, Kady O’Malley quotes another GPC spokesperson Camille Labchuk who says that this “was a misunderstanding on John Bennett’s part about the way that YouTube works”.

Lying about TVO’s legal intentions, accusing me of doctoring audio and threatening bloggers with legal action from the Green Party? And it’s my motive that is questioned?

I’m still waiting for my apology John.

Leave Leftdog alone!

he may be a dog online, but he’s… a human.

There’s a lot of brouhaha in the blogosphere and in the Green politicosphere about this video:

A left-wing blogger named Leftdog re-posted it on his blog called Buckdog and got a legal threat from John Bennett, the director of communications to Elizabeth May.

I’d like to say leave Leftdog alone because I produced that video. You can check it out on my YouTube account here.

According to thetyee.ca, John Bennett told them “It’s an attempt by the Conservatives through a front website to attack the credibility of Elizabeth May… They took what she said, cut it up, then put it back together.”

Unfortunately for Bennett, truth is a defense and the May quote unedited and unspliced. I even provided further context to what she said in my original blog posting.

You can listen to the original show (which was TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin) here:
The Debate: The Long Goodbye to GDP

The quote is at 38:32 – 39:01.

You can read some original leftwing disgust to May’s comments at this rabble thread. The comments were posted just after the taping.

Who needs the MSM to debate? New media brings populism to political coverage

Yesterday, Green Party leader Elizabeth May learned the news that she will not be featured in the leader’s debate broadcast on the Canadian television networks. The arrangement by May of former Liberal MP Blair Wilson to form a Green caucus of one was risky given his infraction of section 83 of the Canada Elections Act. The Green Party argued that they met the same standard set by Deborah Grey of the Reform Party which allowed Preston Manning to join the leader’s debate in 1993. Differences that I would underline is that Wilson was elected as a Liberal while Grey was elected as a Reform MP and that the Reform party opposed all other parties while the Green Party supports the Liberals.

I was on TVOntario last night on a tech-politics panel with Dr. Greg Elmer, Warren Kinsella, Kady O’Malley and Andrew Rasiej of TechPresident.com (formerly of the Howard Dean 2004 campaign). My friend Kady and I dusted it up a bit when the topic of the mainstream media came up. I argued that social and new media is creating accessible tools to reject the purpose of a gatekeeping middleman between stakeholders in a democracy and the politicians that speak to them. I have my own experiences with this as the unaccountable and unelected Parliametary Press Gallery – the media guild that reins supreme over Parliament – used the state to enforce its monopoly over news as it relates to politicians on Parliament Hill. I noted at the time that it is disturbing in a democracy when those that fought for press freedoms become the gatekeepers to access. These are the same folks that bellyached when Stephen Harper made them sign up for a list for his own press conference and the same group admit journalists that write questions for MPs with the rare occasion to compel a former Prime Minister to answer partisan questions under oath.

The tools of new media that we discussed on the panel create the possibility of reducing one of the burdens that necessitate the organization of news producers and reporters into a corporation. Digital video cameras are becoming ubiquitous these days as anyone with $150 and a YouTube account can capture news in video format. Sites like Ustream.tv even allow “citizen journalists” like myself to interview the likes of Preston Manning or John Tory live online while visitors submit their questions. However, the wiser minds of the Parliamentary Press Gallery would disagree and as its President Richard Brennan told the Hill Times,

“They will be ejected and if they continue, they’ll be prohibited from coming into the main block, particularly here, I should say, the Foyer of the House. You’re not to use anything collected in the Foyer of the House, be it video or voice that could be used in some kind of a nefarious way. That’s what these guys want to do. They want to collect tape, video, voice, people making mistakes or saying something that’s not exactly correct, they want to use it for some kind of an attack ad. That’s what we’re afraid of. They’re not supposed to be here anyway. They’re not members of the Press Gallery. This area is for the members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery or visiting media only.”

As Dr. Greg Elmer stated on the program last night, capturing these sorts of moments is good for democracy because it increases the accountability of politicians. But the unaccountable PPG has their territory and this group will protect their turf if it means eroding the principles of free press and institutional transparency.

What stands between Elizabeth May and a debate (Stephane Dion has agreed to debate her) is the mainstream media. This elite cadre of corporate (CTV, Canwest) and public (CBC) interests seems to have shut out May and the 4.6% of Canada that voted for her party during the last election. But, this is their right. They are not obligated to broadcast any political debate by law and they can set the ground rules. CBC could invite me to debate Jack Layton and there are no election laws or rules that govern this (of course, this would be a bad decision for CBC).

Why not use the tools that promise to bring populism to the media? We can make the broad scope of media available (blogs, television, radio etc.) “mainstream”. Though they were broadcast on television networks, Youtube and Facebook sponsored debates in the primary cycle of the 2008 Presidential race in the US and MySpace will sponsor one or more presidential debates between Obama and McCain. As Clay Shirky writes in his book, Here Comes Everybody, the advent of user-generated content has the potential of doing to journalism as a professional class that which movable type did to the few elites known as scribes that copied books by hand. Scribes used to have an honoured and privileged position in society, but when the printing press was invented, the cost of printing books plummeted and society’s literacy rates increased. New media has the potential of tearing down the barriers set up by elite gatekeepers in the mainstream media. The tools of web 2.0 restrict May’s ability to debate by only those that would agree to debate her (now the singular limitation but one that she would face on television as well).

Elizabeth May should challenge the federal party leaders to debate via ustream.tv. The live debate (and subsequent video produced) would be easily embedded on blogs, on the Green Party websites, on other party websites and even on Blogging Tories. Democracy is literally the power and strength of the people and by its very definition, does not integrate the concept of an elite class. The internet has bandwidth in abundance and is not a scarce resource like the bands owned by corporate and public media. Further, the internet has the advantage that it is accessible to whomever would access it, whether a voter in Yellowknife or an absentee voter on the Yellow river in China. As stakeholders in democracy, we could choose (or choose not to participate) by extending the discussion online via twitter, blogs and other forms of social media. As site owners, if we opt not to feature May’s debate, there are many others that would.

In an evolving media ecosystem, the MSM may not be entirely replaced but perhaps the word “mainstream” will be redefined. No longer will the coverage and restriction of coverage be decided by elites that were the only ones capable of organizing and controlling vast networks of satellites and cable to distribute information. The network of media distribution and production is available to the people and as a nascent party, Elizabeth May should take advantage.