Liberals are still obsessed about the old game

The Winnipeg Free Press published this piece on their website today,

(see update below…)

The Liberal leader was in Winnipeg on the weekend campaigning for Winnipeg North candidate Kevin Lamoureux when he accused the Conservatives of fighting dirty by running a Filipino candidate in the riding.

Voters, he said, deserved “a straight-up fight” and not “a bunch of games.” He was apparently referring to speculation that the Tories were trying to weaken Mr. Lamoureux’s support by running Filipino Julie Javier in a riding that traditionally supports the New Democratic Party and which has a high number of Filipino residents.

Once again, does anyone know what Mr. Ignatieff is talking about? Is he really suggesting that the Conservatives should have fielded a non-Filipino candidate to make it a fair fight for the Liberal contender? Is it his view that Ms. Javier is a fake candidate who has cynically offered her name to spoil Liberal ambitions and ensure an NDP victory?

Mr. Ignatieff’s comments were an insult to voters in general and Filipinos in particular. To be fair, it doesn’t look like he anticipated the question, but the leader of an institution like the Liberal Party of Canada should be smarter on his feet. In the big leagues, you’re only allowed so many stupid mistakes.

Let’s play the Liberal game for a moment and check some of the boxes of identity politics…

A Conservative Prime Minister stopped blocking the right of women to vote in 1919. Conservatives had the female cabinet minister in 1957.

Lincoln Alexander was the first black MP in 1968, he was a Conservative. He was also the first black cabinet minister and served in a Conservative cabinet.

Other Canadian firsts achieved by Conservatives? Conservatives elected the first Chinese Canadian MP, first Japanese Canadian MP, first Muslim Canadian MP, and the first Hindu Canadian MP.

The best part? This “game” is less and less relevant in this day in age. Canadians elect members that represent them, but perhaps not in the way that Liberals have yet realized.

Julie Javier, the Conservatives hope, will be representative of Winnipeg North. Not by her identity as per the Liberal “game”; if she is ultimately successful she will more importantly represent the values of the voters of Winnipeg North.

While Conservatives can go toe-to-toe with the Liberals whenever they bring out the identity politics playbook, Conservatives win on what really matters in this day and age: the values a candidate brings to the forum.

If you need any more proof of this, look to Jason Kenney’s work over the past number of years. And his critic in Liberal caucus? A fellow whose father defined many rules of the old game, Justin Trudeau.

UPDATE: The Winnipeg Free Press misses the mark, big time. Here’s the transcript of the actual exchange between the press and Ignatieff,

Media question: The race in Winnipeg North, there’s been some speculation that the Tories are running Julie Javier… because might siphon off Kevin Lamoureux’s strong Filipino vote allowing the NDP to win, what do you think of that speculation?

Michael Ignatieff: Let’s not insult the voters of Winnipeg North, let’s give them a real choice – the right choice is Kevin Lamoureux. Let’s have a straight-up fight. Let’s not have any political games here. Let’s give the voters of Winnipeg North a clear choice. Kevin Lamoureux has 20 years of public experience… Kevin Lamoureux is the kind of guy who goes down to McDonald’s and holds clinics to help citizens with their problems and he’s doing it for 20 years. He’s the kind of guy Winnipeg North needs in the House of Commons and everything else is a bunch of games and we’re not here to play games, we’re here to win.

Ignatieff talks a good talk about getting away from identity politics, asks for a fight on quality of the candidates and suggests that the press is trying to frame the fight inappropriately. This is a good sign. As for the Winnipeg Free Press? Terrible. Opinion of an exchange is healthy, but do make sure that it has foundation in fact.

Previous: Winnipeg Free Press gets it wrong on Vic Toews

Follow-up on Winnipeg Free Press vs. Vic Toews

A few days ago, I wrote an article outlining a smear by the Winnipeg Free Press against Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. The WFP went after Toews for “not disclos[ing] $18,000 in annual pension payments as required by law in a conflict-of-interest declaration for the public registry he personally signed.”

A letter from the Ethics Commissioner states, “In the spring of 2006, Minister Toews disclosed to our Office his pension rights under the Government of Manitoba Civil Service Superannuation plan.”

So why has the Winnipeg Free Press not retracted their article? The disclosure was made and the rules were followed as they existed as are being followed as they read this current day according to Toews’ staff.

Toews’ office has asked the WFP to correct and retract the article which they have not done.

Here is a letter from that office to the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press that was forwarded to me.

Hi [Editor of WFP — name withheld] –

The fact of this matter remains that the Winnipeg Free Press decided to run a misleading and false article this past Friday. This is unacceptable. The WFP’s refusal to acknowledge this troubling reality is an affront to the ethical standard of journalism deserved by its readership.

Alleging the Minister failed to disclose is in direct conflict with the lead statement by the Ethics Commissioner stating otherwise (“In the spring of 2006, Minister Toews disclosed to our Office his pension rights under the Government of Manitoba Civil Service Superannuation plan”). It is also clear from the Ethics Commissioner’s statement that the administrative oversight was that of the Ethics Commissioner – not Minister Toews (“Due to an administrative oversight on the part of our Office, the documents sent to Minister Toews for his review did not reflect the information he had provided to our Office with respect to the receipt of pension income from September 2007 onward, although they did make reference to pension rights from the Government of Manitoba”).

I’ll note that these are both facts communicated by our Office (“As confirmed by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, Minister Toews disclosed the existence of Government of Manitoba pension income in 2006”) and the Ethics Commissioner (“Margot Booth, manager of communications for the ethics commissioner’s office, said she could not comment specifically on Toews’ situation other than to say a misunderstanding or administrative error could explain why information was missing on the public registry”) by deadline on Thursday.

Despite this, the WFP decided to allege: “Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has not disclosed $18,000 in annual pension payments as required by law in a conflict-of-interest declaration for the public registry he personally signed”). http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/mps-pension-not-listed-on-registry-98586379.html?viewAllComments=y

I will not be amending my comments. They are accurate. We have always been clear that Minister Toews has disclosed all property to the Ethics Commissioner, including a pension related to prior employment outside of politics, as required. These disclosures were first made in 2006 and this disclosure has been acknowledged by the Ethics Commissioner.

Best,
Chris [McCluskey]
[Communications, Public Safety]

Winnipeg Free Press takes a run at Vic Toews

Mia Rabson and Dan Lett of the Winnipeg Free Press make a story out of what they perceive to be a non-disclosure of pension income from former Manitoba MLA Vic Toews, now Minister of Public Safety in the government of Canada. Rabson and Toews have sparred before in print and this story suggests that Toews has neglected to follow requirements for full disclosure and is running afoul of his party’s pledge of accountability.

The story as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press:

MP’s pension not listed on registry
Court documents show Toews receives $18,000 annually from province

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has not disclosed $18,000 in annual pension payments as required by law in a conflict-of-interest declaration for the public registry he personally signed.

The Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons requires all MPs to disclose assets, liabilities and sources of income over $1,000 outside their MP salary. If they earn income over $10,000, that fact is to be made public in a disclosure summary posted on the ethics commissioner’s website. There is no pension income listed in Toews’ most recent summary he signed on March 5, 2009. All MPs are required to review and sign the annual summaries before they are made public. Toews’ office insists he made the disclosure although it has never appeared on the summaries made available to the public over the past four years.

There are 48 MPs from all political parties who have pension income listed in their disclosure summaries.

Documents obtained by the Free Press show Manitoba’s senior federal cabinet minister has been earning the pension since 2007.

In an affidavit filed in Manitoba court April 10, 2010, Toews acknowledges earning $18,267.84 a year from the Manitoba Civil Service Superannuation Board. Those pension payments began when he turned 55 in September 2007.

Also included in court documents is an email Toews wrote to his lawyer in May 2007. In that email, Toews indicates he had not disclosed to the ethics commissioner the pension he was about to start receiving or a condo his wife owned in Gatineau, Que.

When the Free Press asked about that email in June, Christine Csversko, Toews’ director of communications said “the email is not accurate.”

Ethics have been a key flashpoint on Parliament Hill since the sponsorship scandal helped lead to the defeat of Paul Martin’s Liberal government. The Harper Tories came to power largely on a promise to raise the ethical bar of the country’s federal politicians by introducing a new era of accountability and transparency.

The Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons has been in place since 2004 and is intended to enhance public confidence in both MPs and Parliament, demonstrate to the public that MPs are held to standards that place the public interest above their personal interests and provide a transparent system for the public to judge whether or not that is true.

Each year, MPs must disclose to the commissioner assets and liabilities, including outside income over $1,000, property, businesses, investments, and debts such as loans, mortgages and credit card debt. Only certain things are made public, such as the existence and source for mortgages and loans, businesses owned by the MP and outside income over $10,000 annually.

A spokeswoman with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner told the Free Press via email Thursday “income over $1,000 received in last 12 months and during the next 12 months must be disclosed to our office. It is only made public (source and nature, no value) if the income is over $10,000.”

Margot Booth, manager of communications for the ethics commissioner’s office, said she could not comment specifically on Toews’ situation other than to say a misunderstanding or administrative error could explain why information was missing on the public registry.

Toews’ spokesman, Chris McCluskey, said he has confirmed with the Office of the Ethics Commissioner that Toews “disclosed the existence of Government of Manitoba pension income in 2006.”

McCluskey did not respond Thursday when asked to explain why the pension income is not on any disclosure summary.

All that is contained on the latest summary for Toews dated March 5, 2009, are two blind trusts. According to Toews’ 2006 disclosure summary, those include an RSP and an investment account.

And a statement from Vic Toews’ office:

“Contrary to the false and misleading information disseminated by the Winnipeg Free Press in its July 16 edition, Minister Toews has properly disclosed all income to the Ethics Commissioner, as required. This includes a pension related to prior employment outside of politics. This disclosure was first made in 2006 and disclosure has been acknowledged by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner. Minister Toews is not in receipt of any pension income as a result of holding any political office.”

The statement from the Office of the Ethics Commissioner is provided for your reference below:

“In the spring of 2006, Minister Toews disclosed to our Office his pension rights under the Government of Manitoba Civil Service Superannuation plan. At the time, he provided a statement of his deferred pension benefits indicating that a monthly pension would be payable commencing September 10, 2007. At the time, it was the practice adopted by our predecessor (the Office of the Ethics Commissioner) not to include any future income in the Disclosure Summary signed by MPs. This practice has recently been revised to better reflect the requirements of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. The annual review of the compliance arrangements of MPs is currently underway and the source and nature of income over $10,000 to be received in the next 12 months, if any, will now be included in the public disclosure of MPs.

In accordance with established practice at the time, the Disclosure Summary signed by Minister Toews on May 31, 2006 did not include any information concerning income to be received in the next 12 months. Pension rights are not subject to public disclosure.

An annual review of Minister Toews’ compliance arrangements next took place starting in November 2008 and was completed in March 2009. Due to an administrative oversight on the part of our Office, the documents sent to Minister Toews for his review did not reflect the information he had provided to our Office with respect to the receipt of pension income from September 2007 onward, although they did make reference to pension rights from the Government of Manitoba. Minister Toews returned the documents to our Office without an annotation concerning the receipt of pension income. A Disclosure Summary was prepared by our Office and signed by Mr. Toews on March 5, 2009.

In summary, although Minister Toews could have corrected the deficiency in the documents, the Office did have the information on file that pension income had been anticipated. Not including it in the Disclosure Summary for his signature was an oversight on the part of the Office. An annual review of Minister Toews’ compliance arrangements is currently underway and a new and updated Disclosure Summary will be signed and deposited in our Public Registry once the review is completed.”

Chris McCluskey, the aforementioned spokesman for Minister Toews posted the following comment on the Winnipeg Free Press’ story,

The reporter requesting comment, Mia Rabson, was advised by e-mail from the Office of the Minister of Public Safety yesterday afternoon at 2:56PM EST that the statement expressed in this article is false. Her question, and our response, were as follows:

“Q: We would like to know why the pension income is not listed in his disclosure summary. Was it in fact disclosed? If not why not?

A: As confirmed by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, Minister Toews disclosed the existence of Government of Manitoba pension income in 2006.”

In spite of this, the editors of the Winnipeg Free Press went to print with a news item containing a statement which they knew to be false. The Minister’s Office has requested a retraction. We have been waiting for an acknowledgement of this request since 3:30PM EST this afternoon.

The statement released by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner is clear:

“IN THE SPRING OF 2006, MINISTER TOEWS DISCLOSED TO OUR OFFICE HIS PENSION RIGHTS UNDER THE GOVERNMENT OF MANITOBA CIVIL SERVICE SUPERANNUATION PLAN”

We continue to wait for confirmation of receipt of our e-mail to the Winnipeg Free Press, accompanied by a reasoned answer as to why the article containing false statements was intentionally printed. We believe the readers of the WFP deserve no less.

The comment still does not appear on the story and is currently being held in moderation (McCluskey emailed me a copy). The WFP story still appears on their website despite information that they have received from Toews’ office and from the Ethics Commissioner.

Media endorsements

Globe and Mail
“On balance, Mr. Harper remains the best man for the job in the tough times now upon us. He deserves if not four more years, at least two more years.”

National Post
“Faced with these high stakes, we believe, Canada would be best served if Stephen Harper’s Conservative government were to receive a second mandate, this time in majority form.”

The Economist
And yet, in a sinking world, Canada is something of a cork. Its well-regulated banks are solid. Growth has slowed but not stopped. The big worry is the fear that an American recession will drag Canada down with it. Mr Harper says, rightly enough, that his government has taken prudent measures to help Canada weather a storm it cannot duck: he has offered tax cuts and selective aid to help vulnerable manufacturing towns. But it is his seeming non-reaction to what is so far a non-crisis that looks likely to deny him the majority he was seeking, and could even let in the opposition. In what is the first credit-crunch election in a big Western country, Mr Harper’s ejection would set a dispiriting precedent that panic plays better politically than prudence.

Toronto Sun
While we respect all the national party leaders, realistically, Canadians Tuesday must choose between Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion to lead us through tough economic times. To us, the choice for prime minister is clear. It’s Harper.

Vancouver Sun
So on the ballot box question that’s on everybody’s mind – the slowing economy – we trust Harper to navigate the rough road ahead. A majority government for the Conservatives led by Stephen Harper is our choice.

Montreal Gazette
“On balance, however, we believe that considering the Conservative record and the goals, policies, and personnel of the other parties, it is the Conservatives who deserve to be re-elected on Tuesday. Amid all the unfair and misleading advertising of this campaign, one Conservative message is truer now than when the writ was dropped: Constancy and prudence with the country’s finances are even more important when we’re in the economic doldrums.”

Ottawa Citizen
“We believe that Canadians should return the Conservatives to government on Oct. 14, but not because Stephen Harper is an inspiring figure. He is not. There are no Obama-esque promises to repair the world. But Mr. Harper offers the steadiest hand and clearest judgment to steer Canada through the rough waters that lie ahead.”

Winnipeg Free Press
“Under the shrill cacophony of the opposition’s cries for action, Mr. Harper’s Conservatives have remained calm. Look at the last two years, the prime minister says, correctly claiming that he has offered generally competent government. In the face of this crisis, he promises more of the same. On Thursday, two major international financial institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the World Economic Forum, agreed with him, saying that Canada was on the right course to weather the storm. Mr. Harper’s economic policy is clear and practical and worth supporting on Tuesday. To turn the old saying on its head, this time, hard times should be Tory times. As The Economist said Thursday, if Canadians reject the Conservatives, it would ‘set a dispiriting precedent that panic plays better politically than prudence.'”

Edmonton Journal
“And in that real world, both Canada and Alberta in particular will be best served if Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are re-elected with the strength to be more than caretakers until we have to go through all of this again.”

Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Each voter will have to respond to this question as he or she sees fit. The way The Record’s editorial board views the situation, there are only two viable options, one coming from Harper’s Conservatives, the other from Stéphane Dion’s Liberals. And when we weigh things as fairly and carefully as we can, we conclude that Harper and his party deserve another term in government.

Ottawa Sun
In every election campaign there comes a moment when someone declares it to be the most important election in a very long time. This is that moment for us. What Ottawa and Canada need now is a strong Conservative government led by Stephen Harper.

Calgary Sun
But on the big question — who should be our prime minister — there’s no question. It’s Harper.

Edmonton Sun
Still, after assessing all the party promises, the Edmonton Sun believes the one that will inflict the least damage on our economy and way of life is the platform presented by Harper’s Conservatives.

Vancouver Province
Rather than roll the dice, protecting Canadians during these difficult and unstable times calls for proven, rational measures from a federal government that uses workable fundamentals, such as keeping taxes low, paying down debt and maintaining controlled spending. That’s why we are endorsing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives and urge voters to give them a majority on Oct. 14, a majority incidentally that should include stronger representation from B.C.

Winnipeg Sun
Harper has also proven himself on the world stage. He’s unafraid to make tough decisions and, unlike the Liberals, committed to properly funding our military and giving it a clear mandate and mission, before sending our soldiers into harm’s way.

Brantford Expositor
Like many Canadians, we have been fairly satisfied with Harper’s government since it took office in January 2006. The Harper government has cut taxes and the national debt. It has promised to remove our forces from Afghanistan. It has belatedly responded to the crisis on the stock markets.

Calgary Herald
“Thus, the choice is simple. The Calgary Herald endorses Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. They deserve to be re-elected based on their record, competence, and on the prime minister’s steady hand as Canada heads into uncharted, choppy economic waters.”

Windsor Star
“Harper has come under fire in some quarters for not empathizing more with Canadians fearful about their finances but Canadians don’t want their leaders to feign emotion and pretend to “feel their pain.” They want their leaders to alleviate it through sound policies rather than sound bites, actions rather than words. Canadians need sturdy leadership in these uncertain times and Harper offers it.”

Toronto Star
For all these reasons, Harper and the Conservatives do not deserve to be re-elected on Tuesday. We prefer Dion and the Liberals.