Patrick Muttart used to be the director of strategic communications in the Prime Minister’s office and was the strategist behind Prime Minister Harper’s successful 2006 election, the result of which saw the Conservatives replacing the Liberals in government. Muttart crafted the strategy behind finding accessible voters and “activating” them for the Conservatives with specific policy planks.
Muttart was on the Roy Green show yesterday where he continued the Conservative narrative against the CBC’s affiliation with pollster Frank Graves. Graves came under fire when a column from the Globe’s Lawrence Martin quoted Graves recalling his strategic advice that he gave the Liberals. His advice, to start a “culture war”, wedging against Albertans and Conservatives, depicting them as xenophobic racist homophobes who would vote for Sarah Palin.
And therein lies a bit of a contrast between strategists, one Liberal and one Conservative (though Graves will tell you that he’s part of the Canadian mainstream and thus his Liberalism is implicit). Muttart helped Harper win elections by performing strict addition while Graves is advising Liberals to perform addition by division.
ROY GREEN: The president of the Conservative Party of Canada sent a letter to the ombudsman of the CBC questioning the CBC’s practice of hiring EKOS pollster Frank Graves after Mr. Graves, among other things, said this concerning the Liberal Party of Canada to the Globe and Mail, quote: “I told them that they should invoke a culture war, cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy.” Then Mr. Graves is quoted as saying, “If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.” And EKOS executive director Paul Adams is quoted in some newspapers as having described those words as Frank Graves providing, quote, “hypothetical advice”, end quote, to the Liberals. It’s also been reported on the Elections Canada website that Mr. Graves donated just over $11,000 to the Liberal Party while giving $449.04 to a Conservative candidate in Ottawa. EKOS maintains it has never polled for any political party or been under retainer to a political party. Now, with me on the Corus Radio Network is Patrick Muttart. He is a Conservative Party strategist and former deputy chief of staff to the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Harper. Patrick, the concern of the Conservative Party, then, is a perceived relationship between EKOS, the Liberal Party and the CBC, if I understand it correctly, so what is it you want from the CBC, and then perhaps more importantly, what are you expecting?
PATRICK MUTTART: Well, I think you hit the nail on the top of the head when you introduced me as a Conservative, and as a former advisor to Prime Minister Harper. That was the right thing to do because your listeners deserve to know that I have a partisan affiliation. It’s relevant to everything I say on this program or any other program. And that’s the problem that a whole lot of people have with the CBC right now. Their pollster on party politics, Frank Graves, as you said, is not only a regular financial contributor to the Liberal Party, but he’s giving strategic political advice, and you know, that’s a clear conflict of interest, and I would argue that he shouldn’t be the CBC’s pollster on party politics, but at the very least, the CBC should provide full disclosure to its viewers. This is something that you done…you did on this radio program with me, but that the CBC does not do on television with Frank Graves.
ROY GREEN: Now, EKOS says there’s no professional relationship between it, the CBC or the Liberal Party, and that Frank Graves was only offering hypothetical advice to the Liberals during the interview with the Globe and Mail.
PATRICK MUTTART: Well, that seems to be contradicted by Frank Graves’ quote as quoted by Lawrence Martin in the Globe and Mail, and we see the journalist who wrote the column, Lawrence Martin, sticking by his story. I mean, look, it’s clear: he admits to being a Liberal supporter. The record is there in terms of his donations. Not only is he giving them advice, he’s giving them advice which is, you know, inflammatory and incredibly divisive, and it just strikes me as being extremely odd, extremely inappropriate that the CBC, which is there to serve all Canadians, would actually put this guy on as a neutral pollster on party politics.
ROY GREEN: On Friday the Globe and Mail also quoted Mr. Graves, this was the follow-up quote: “I do believe,” and this gets more subtle, “that there’s a higher incidence of people who are less tolerant to homosexuals and more wary of other races within the Conservative Party. I can demonstrate that empirically. That does not mean that Conservatives or Albertans are homophobic or xenophobic, but it does mean that many people, and more people statistically that have those points of view, end up in that party than in other places. That may be a statement that people don’t want to hear, but it’s empirically accurate and has been for a long time.” What do you say?
PATRICK MUTTART: Well, I think it demonstrates further why he shouldn’t be the CBC’s so-called neutral pollster on party politics. You know, this guy is telling the Liberal Party that they should go out and attempt to divide Canadians by, you know, putting the Liberals on once side of tolerance and the Conservatives on the side of racism and a whole bunch of other things. Now, Graves, in his half-hearted apology, said he doesn’t believe that the Prime Minister is a racist. He simply believes that the Prime Minister attracts a disproportionate number of racists as party supporters. It’s offensive, it’s inappropriate, and it just demonstrates how unacceptable it is that the CBC has him on as their neutral pollster on party politics.
ROY GREEN: If we look at the CBC specifically, do you believe that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation provides the same consideration and same objectivity to the Conservative Party and stories, new stories that concern the Prime Minister, as the CBC would provide to, say, the Liberal Party and their leader, or the NDP and their leader?
PATRICK MUTTART: A lot of people have had concerns about the CBC’s biases for a long time. There’ve been three incidents over the last number of years which have caused me and a lot of people to kind of look at the CBC and shake our heads. There was an incident in 2004 when a CBC producer was actively looking for people who, you know, vehemently disagreed with and disliked the Prime Minister to participate in a town hall meeting. There was a controversy in 2008, I believe, where a CBC reporter was writing questions for Liberal members of a House of Commons committee, and now we have this latest incident, which is Frank Graves, where he’s making Liberal contributions and providing strategic advice to the Liberal Party, and there’s no disclosure from the CBC.
ROY GREEN: There was another story as well where on The National the Prime Minister was shown to be saying one thing in a clip, in a news clip, then the reporter came back, and then they showed another clip without identifying that other clip from being from a completely different story at a completely different time. They tied them together to make it look as though it was one story and it made the Prime Minister look very bad, and then the CBC had to apologize on The National for doing that.
PATRICK MUTTART: Yeah, they did apologize, and I think the CBC has…
ROY GREEN: But it shouldn’t be necessary. That is…you know what, that is deceptive journalism. It’s not journalism, it’s just deceptive broadcasting.
PATRICK MUTTART: It shouldn’t be necessary, and I think the CBC has to remember that it is owned by the people of Canada. It’s a crown corporation. It’s a national public broadcaster, receives over $1 billion a year from the taxpayers. The CBC belongs to all Canadians, whether they’re Liberal, Conservative or supporters of other parties, and I think that just gets back to the core issue here, which is how unacceptable it is that Frank Graves can be their neutral pollster on party politics when he’s so clearly identified as being both a financial supporter of the Liberal Party as well as an advisor to them on their political strategy.
ROY GREEN: Well, I haven’t done any objective studies of the CBC, but I do watch to see what’s going on, see how my money is being spent, and I have to tell you, Patrick, that when they go to experts for so many of their news stories, when they go to people to provide input on a basic news story, it will more often than not and significantly more often than not in my observance be people who are very much to the left of centre they go to, and unabashedly.
PATRICK MUTTART: I think what you’re seeing is over time the CBC has been losing viewers for its news coverage. There’s a steady downward trend of viewership for CBC television news programs. They have spent a considerable amount of money on revitalizing their news operations. It doesn’t appear to be paying off in terms of new viewers, and I think this demonstrates that there’s a growing disconnect between the CBC and large numbers of Canadians.
ROY GREEN: So what is it specifically the that the party wants, the Conservative Party wants? You’ve given them a deadline of April the 28th to respond. The CBC (inaudible) will respond in, quote, “due course”, end quote. What do you want from them?
PATRICK MUTTART: I think first of all the Conservative Party simply wants an explanation. I think the bigger issue here is that Frank Graves should not be the CBC’s pollster on party politics, or at very least, if the CBC insist that Frank Graves should be on its programs, they should be providing full disclosure to their viewers that when Frank Graves gives an opinion, offers analysis, provides commentary, that he is speaking as someone who not only has been giving money to the Liberal Party, but also has been providing strategic advice in terms of their election positioning.
ROY GREEN: Thank you for the time, Patrick. Appreciate it.
PATRICK MUTTART: Thank you, Roy.
ROY GREEN: Patrick Muttart on the Roy Green Show on the Corus Radio Network, Conservative Party strategist, former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and again, Frank Graves, through his executive director, has said all he did was provide hypothetical advice to the Liberal Party of Canada.