Turnergate synopsis

It all started quite innocently enough. CPAC, the Canadian parliamentary channel which provides an incredible service to Canadians by providing a unbiased tracking of politicians on the campaign trail, was trailing Progressive Conservative-turned-broadcaster-turned-Conservative-turned-Independent-turned-Green tease-turned-Liberal MP Garth Turner door-to-door as part of a hustings profile they were making for the riding of Halton.

As I’ve alluded above, Turner is a controversial figure who has been forced to shop around for a party that would take him after – the governing Conservatives allege – he violated caucus confidentiality by posting private discussions on his blog. There is no doubt that Turner and his Halton seat are being specially targeted for re-capture by the Tories.

As part of the CPAC profile, reporter Martin Stringer followed Turner door-to-door to get a snapshot of the typical candidate experience. The report was produced, taped, cut and aired on CPAC a short while later. As it aired, conservative blogger Matt McGuire snipped the video from CPAC showing Turner trying to sell Dion’s Green Shift to a constituent. McGuire wanted to make the point that Turner lacked confidence in pushing the plan.

An eagle-eyed viewer of this video noticed something else, however. The random constituent that Turner was door-knocking was the son of Esther Shaye, Garth Turner’s right hand and current campaign manager. The viewer emailed popular Conservative blogger Steve Janke and Janke got to work.

This caused quite a stir in the blogosphere and enraged the good people of CPAC. This supposed random door-knocker was the “last person” CPAC wanted to film because they wanted to show a typical constituent, not someone with a direct or indirect involvement with the campaign. CPAC’s reputation was on the line. The cable network prides itself on telling the story as straight as it can and here was this photo-op that it presented as non-staged. Looking for answers, CPAC’s anchor Peter van Dusen caught up with Turner on the phone while he was campaigning and pressed him to explain himself and why his campaign set up CPAC.  Turner was taken by surprise and squirmed during the call as he was prompted to explain why his campaign offered a family member rather than a random sample for CPAC to film.

CBC reporter Susan Ormiston is tracking how the internet is shaping this election campaign and to her this story had relevance since Steve Janke busted Turner’s campaign.  Ormiston produced a story for The National and, to her credit, provided some balance not immediately apparent in the Conservative blogosphere: the Halton Conservative candidate took CPAC to a friend’s store.  As Garth Turner tried to explain himself on his blog he lashed out at Ormiston and the process by which she took to produce the story.  Ormiston hit back at Turner expressing that his accounting of the story’s production wasn’t accurate.

This story, of course, goes to credibility.  In the age of the blogosphere and pushback on unfair reporting, the mainstream media is now very sensitive to demands that their reports are unbiased and fair.  CPAC alleges that Turner manipulated what was supposed to be a typical day in the life of a candidate.  CBC alleges that Turner’s accounting of their process was untruthful.  If nothing else, this shows the MSM’s intent on showing their effort to fulfill their new contract the blogosphere to go that extra step to report accurately.  However, as far as credibility goes, Turner has run into trouble before with those that have cried foul to his recounting of events.  If he is re-elected, as the Canadian public we may have more opportunities of witnessing such incidents as they unfold on the national stage and within the blogosphere.

Ormiston vs. Turner

From Garth Turner’s comment section, CBC’s Susan Ormiston describes how she tried to get to the bottom of the Turnergate story,

The facts Mr. Turner are as follows.

Our producer called you around 11 a.m. Monday morning. He identified himself as calling from CBC News. You spoke with him for a time, and then the producer asked if you would speak with me.. and said we’d like to call you back from a studio where we can record. You agreed.

We called you back within 10 mins. We were delayed a few more minutes as we tried to connect the phone call with the record booth, which we told you.
Then you and I began to talk. I started by saying we were trying to “drill down on the bloggers claims” and you responded as I reported “well I hope you are going to drill down on the kind of gutter politics that creates this crap”.

We talked for roughly 10-15 minutes. At one point you said and I am quoting from the interview transcript:

Garth Turner: “It’s one thing to have it on YouTube, you put this on CBC… ahh, I can’t prevent you, and you can do it if you want and I’ll do your little interview here.”

It is clear to us that you knew you were speaking to a CBC journalist and agreed to do so, and that you acknowledged you were doing an interview.

I might remind you when I tried to further clarify further the events of the doorknocking , you hung up on me.

At the end of the day, Mr. Turner, in your email to Peter Van Dusen of CPAC, copied to us, you were still putting blame on CPAC.
“The bottom line seems to be that CPAC was informed, prior to shooting, that the home in question was that of the son of my associate.”

CPAC has categorically denied that claim. We represented both your side and CPAC’s rebuttal, on our story Monday night.

Susan Ormiston
CBC News

Well, Susan, there are two sides to all stories and I’m flattered you feel it necessary to use my blog to get your message out, when a national TV network is insufficient. Actually, I was asked if I wished to be interviewed by you, but before agreeing, I wanted a conversation. When you became argumentative, the futility of speaking with you further was apparent. So, I did something useful. I went door-knocking. At no point did you indicate our words were being taped. You did not ask me, as Peter Van Dusen did, if you could record. In fact, I sent you the following email after our encounter, “Re: Our Conservation. It was not on the record, as you did not indicate so. Regards, Garth.” I copied Keith Boag, which he confirmed. BTW, you never offered an on-camera interview with me, as you did with Conservative blogger Janke and CPAC’s Stringer. But, whatever. You win. Now can we talk about issues affecting Canadians? — Garth

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.