Will Ontario Get a Fair Leadership Debate?

X marks the ballotDeciding who will form the government is the province of eligible voters. In order to perform this duty, we must first have all the information we need to be able to make informed choices.

Leadership Debates are important because they are in essence a job interview. Just as employers are unlikely to hire someone without an interview, voters want to get a good look at the people in the running for the top job at Queen’s Park. Any leadership debate should include all the potential job applicants.

Anything less is a disservice to the citizens who will shortly be heading to the polls.

Yet the media Consortium formed to decide such things is considering excluding Ontario’s Green Party leader Mike Schreiner from participating in the televised Leadership Debate scheduled for June 3rd.

Although it doesn’t seem to be explicitly stated anywhere, the Consortium’s rule would appear to be that a party leader who has not been elected to the Legislature is prohibited from participating in the debate.

For previous leadership debates at the federal level we have seen Elizabeth May excluded on similar grounds. Yet the Green Party is known to field a full slate of Candidates across Canada. Meanwhile, recent federal leadership debates have included the leader of the Bloc Québécois. Gilles Duceppe actually stated the truth that he cound not become Prime Minister during one such televised debate. But just because the Bloc elects Members of Parliament, even if every Bloc candidate was elected unanimously, there is simply no way the leader of a regional party could become Prime Minister of Canada under our current electoral system. It certainly seems nonsensical for a leadership debate to exclude someone who might get the job while including one who can never get it.

The Green Party of Ontario isn’t just an an upstart fringe party that will be gone tomorrow, it is an established respected Provincial Party with a well thought out comprehensive political platform. Unlike the Bloc, the Green party could produce a Prime Minister or Premier. But the broadcast Consortium chooses to exclude a Party that has fielded enough MPP candidates that it could actually form a majority government.

There is no good reason not to include the Green’s Mike Schreiner in the Leadership Debate.

So I’ve written a letter:

Dear Mr. Weiers:

As you yourself pointed out in your article B.C. election proved campaigns matter more than ever, anything can happen in an election. The most important job for the news media is to ensure citizens have access to the best information. This is why any leadership debate must include any leader who might become Premier. This would certainly include the Green Party of Ontario leader, Mike Schreiner.

The argument that an unelected party leader should not be included simply doesn’t hold water. None of the party leaders thus far included in the debate have been elected to the 41st Ontario Parliament, nor is there any guarantee any of them will secure a seat. Perhaps you might want to think back to the last days of the Mike Harris or Mulroney governments. Anything can happen.

I believe maintaining TVO and CBC are important because impartial public broadcasters are an essential part of achieving balance in any modern democracy. If the consortium excludes the Green Party from the debate, Ontario citizens will not get the information we need to make informed choices. Such a decision would be anything but balanced, nor would it be good for democracy in Ontario.

We citizens need to hear from all the leaders. Now is the time for CBC to take a leadership position and ensure that Ontario gets a fair shake.

Sincerely,
Laurel L. Russwurm


Even if the Ontario Green Party doesn’t form the next government, it certainly has enough support to deserve a voice in the debate. While wearing their broadcaster hats the members of the Consortium should remember that fresh minds bring new ideas and lead to lively discussion and good television.

Looking at the issue from a democratic standpoint, surely a consortium of corporate broadcasters have no business deciding which party leaders that citizens are allowed to hear during an election.  Not very democratic, that.

It would only be fair for the Consortium to welcome Mike Schreiner, the Green party Leader, to the televised Leader’s Debate. Not just for Mike, but for all of us.

As they say on Twitter, #letmikespeak

ontario border


To lend your voice to the effort to bring the Green Party to the Leadership debate, you can Tweet directly to the media consortium head, @bobweiers (CBC’s Bob Weiers, the senior producer of CBC News for Elections & Live Events), and/or email the consortium members:

As always, you are welcome to borrow any parts of my letter that may help you to write your own.

P.S.  The Green Party has a “Let Mike Speak” Petition you can sign too..


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When Conservative Isn’t

Canadian flag twisting in the wind (cc by laurelrusswurm)

$90,000 “expenses”

Conservative Senator Mike Duffy’s idea of “expenses” is a little different than mine.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s internal economy committee wants to have another look at Duffy’s expense claims amid growing questions about his conduct, including new revelations that he filed claims for Senate business while campaigning for the Conservatives in the last federal election.

“Documents revealed that Duffy billed taxpayers for being on official Senate business while he was campaigning for the Conservatives during the 2011 federal election. If it is confirmed that Duffy attended eight campaign events and submitted Senate expenses, he could be in trouble for double-billing.”

Damning findings removed from Sen. Mike Duffy’s audit report: documents

Wasn’t Prime Minister Stephen Harper going to reform the Senate?

$90,000 “gift”

Nigel Wright Resigns As Stephen Harper’s Chief Of Staff (TWITTER REACTS)

One might think “Harvard-educated Bay Street lawyer and banker” Nigel Wright would know better than to write a cheque to cover Senator Mike Duffy’s exense irregularities.

“It goes without saying that a cheque for such a large amount is far from a customary standard of hospitality, nor a normal expression of courtesy,” [MP Charlie] Angus wrote in a letter.

“The NDP MP also suggested that Duffy, Wright, or both may have breached section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act which prohibits a senator from receiving compensation for any services rendered.”

Mike Duffy Resignation: Senator Leaves Caucus, Will Sit As Independent

I’m always surprised when government tells us “throwing money at” education and health care are a bad idea. Properly funding social programs makes a lot more sense to me than covering up bad behaviour. I guess we just have different priorities.

$321,000 “expenses”

[Pamela] Wallin, a former journalist who now represents Saskatchewan in the Senate, has claimed about $321,000 in travel expenses since September 2010 that are the subject of an audit by an outside firm.

Senator Pamela Wallin leaves Conservative caucus: Wallin to sit as an Independent during audit process

Consequences?

Senators Duffy and Wallin both claim to have withdrawn from the Conservative caucus, but both plan to stay on as “independent” senators.

Uh huh… Does anyone actually believe they will suddenly stop supporting Conservative interests? Seriously?

$170,000 “expenses”

Another Conservative Government appointee, Daniel Caron, the head of Library and Archives Canada has also resigned over $170,000 of dubious expenses.

Since LAC is the official government repository of Canadian heritage,this one bothers me in particular.

Coping with a $10-million federal budget cut, Caron oversaw major staff downsizing to the department, reduced funding to scores of tiny archives across Canada, halted most acquisitions of historical artifacts, closed the National Archival Development Program, and stopped a system of inter-library loans through which Canadians could access material from its vast collections.

Library head Daniel Caron resigns as $170,000 in expenses found

When you consider that what Mr. Caron considers personal expenses would support as many as ten or fifteen families on social assistance for a year, it calls into question the word “conservative.”

Accountability

The National Post gets this one right: Andrew Coyne: Fear of audits led Conservatives to cover for Mike Duffy

Canada badly needs meaningful electoral reform. If we had a democratic system that actually represented Canadians ~ Proportional Representation ~ our government representatives and appointees could be held accountable.

What a difference that would make.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Politics and Media

While Ontario was poised to discover whether or not our provincial minority government would be converted to a majority in today’s By-Election, we looked at TV news to see what was happening. It’s been years since I’ve had television; normally I get me news online, but I was away from home so we tried it out.

CTV has a 24 hour news channel. Unfortunately it wasn’t running anything about the election.

Granted, By-elections usually don’t change the status quo, but this was different. One seat could make a huge difference to all Ontarians, by transforming a Liberal minority government into a majority.

With our winner-take-all electoral system, minority government is the closest we get to democracy.

The results of this By-Election will impact on the whole province. So there is a lot of interest in this one. So why wasn’t CTV’s news channel covering it? Maybe they think Canadians aren’t interested in politics?

Okay, there was one little factoid squib floating across the ticker along the bottom periodically, but the news they were covering? Well, they kept cutting back to Jo Biden droning on and on live from the American Democratic Convention. This wasn’t news, this was filler. Although the outcome of the American Democratic convention will likely have impact on the rest of the world, this wasn’t it.

Catherine Fife at Fair Vote WRC Politics in the Patio

And it certainly wasn’t more important than the actual breaking news of an important Ontario election in Ontario.

CBC has a news channel too. Although they had a piece on the Quebec provincial election, they weren’t actually covering the breaking news of the Ontario election results ~ they were cutting back to the American convention as well.

Maybe they think we aren’t interested in Canadian politics?

Poppycock.  Maybe the “news media” isn’t doing the job we think it is.

Breaking out my computer I popped into Twitter and lo and behold, breaking news.

Turns out that the Liberal Candidate Steven Del Duca won in Vaughan as expected.

But the Kitchener-Waterloo riding was a different story: NDP Candidate, Catherine Fife won big.  Here are the unofficial results

The television part of the mainstream media has certainly failed us; it is, at best, entertainment, not news. Real news lives online.

Just as our antiquated 18th Century electoral system fails us every time.

Although I am quite pleased with Catherine Fife’s win in Kitchener-Waterloo, the disturbing reality is that, although she won the vote handily, 59% of Kitchener-Waterloo voters did not vote for her.

In spite of all that, I’m sure she’ll do an excellent job, so I’d like to congratulate Catherine Fife, Kitchener-Waterloo’s new NDP MPP.

Happy American Censorship Day

American Flag hangs down

You know, as a Canadian growing up north of the 49th parallel, I learned an awful lot about freedom of speech from American Movies.   Films like

1984
and

Brazil

Were stunning. Although there was a particularly good French film, (based on the Ray Bradbury story) ofFahrenheit 451, too.

The Hollywood community knew all about censorship, you see. The Hollywood fight to prevent censorship from without by creating their own censorship in the form of the Hayes code is legendary. For decades film makers tried every ploy imaginable to sneak things past the Hays Office.

My own personal brush with industry self censorship was when I was working on Hot Shots and Night Heat, which were Canadian-American co-productions. I was never aware of any such directive from CTV, the Canadian network that ran the shows in prime time. But even though CBS ran the series’ as part of CBS Latenight (at a time when all the children ought to be asleep) although I don’t believe it was written down anywhere, I certainly recall the verbal ground rules we writers had to abide by. A 1 hour episode was allowed to contain as many as ten “hell”s and/or “damn”s, and one of either “bitch” or “bastard. All bets were off if a character could be legitimately talking about a female dog, or an ‘illegitimate’ child.

It always boiled down to the idea that self censorship would prevent externally imposed censorship. And films get banned in different places anyway, as can be seen from this Wikipedia list of banned films. (The most bizarre to me is the Manitoba ban on comedies.)

Free speech is something many Americans value in the extreme.

But it’s awfully hard to have either creative freedom or free speech if there is external censorship. The unique aspect of the proposed American SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) law isn’t that it allows the state to censor, it sounds as though it will allow anyone to censor anything. Some people think this is a good thing, because they will be able to stop the the free speech of others, speech they disagree with. Of course, they never realize that it can also be used to silence them.Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"

If the American “Protect IP” or “SOPA” law passes by Christmas, as intended, the Internet as we know it will be over. I have to wonder, too, if the rush to get our Canadian DMCA, Bill C-31 passed by Christmas is connected.

The Irony, of course, is that all of this censorship, and all these repressive measures are being driven by Hollywood, the former champion of free speech.

This little (non-Hollywood) film explains it better than I can:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDX8Lyl16Qs

If you have video issues, you can watch the webm version here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/fftf-actionkit/Protect_IP_Act_Breaks_the_Internet.webm

If you’ve never read George Orwell’s book “1984”, or seen the movie “1984”, now would be a very good time. This is the “1984” movie trailer.

You can also follow the grass roots Occupy Wall Street Movement all over the interwebs (at least until they get shut down) at http://www.ustream.tv/TheOther99

In solidarity with our American friends trying to convince their government not to break the Internet with IP Protect, I have also posted “Stop Censorship” on my personal blog, the StopUBB blog and my family website.

go to American Censorship websiteCanadians: tell our government not to pass Bill C-11, which will have much the same effect on Canada. 😦

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

whose election is it anyway? #elxn41

Elected Members of Parliament from the previous session of parliament are by no means guaranteed a seat in the next Parliament.

The clearest example of the change that can take place in the course of a single election can be seen by comparing the 34th Canadian Parliament and the 35th Canadian Parliament.

Every registered political party running candidates in the election should be treated the same. Because NO ONE has been elected yet.

Gilles Duceppe on the Campaign Trail with Berard Bigras

During the televised “Leadership Debate” Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe stated:

“Mr. Layton, you know this just as much as I do.   I, say it, will never be prime minister. And you know, you won’t be prime minister either,”

—Gilles Duceppe, “Duceppe says he has saved Canada from a Harper majority

Although M. Duceppe is quite correct in stating that he can not hope to be Prime Minister of Canada, it is because thus far his party exists only in La Province du Québec. Even winning every possible riding in La Belle Province can not garner enough seats to form a Canadian Federal Government. If Mr Duceppe wishes to be Prime Minister of Canada, he first needs to extend his base of support beyond Quebec’s borders.

This is not true of Jack Layton’s NDP.

The New Democratic Party of Canada has fielded Candidates across the country. This means that enough NDP MPs could be elected to form a federal government. Which would transform Jack Layton into the Prime Minster of Canada. Not impossible.

Jack Layton at rally, standing in front of flag.
Prime Minister Layton?

Particularly considering the ideological bankruptcy of both the CPC (Conservative Party of Canada) and the LPC (Liberal Party of Canada).

Prime Minster May?

The same is true for Elizabeth May. The Green Party of Canada (GPC) has fielded candidates all across Canada. If enough Green Party candidates are elected, as the leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth may would become our Prime Minister.

This is why the televised Leadership Debate was such a travesty. The arbitrary rules set by the consortium are in fact meaningless. In a first-past-the-post democracy, it does not matter who formed the last government. That’s old news. Just because they have been elected in the past doesn’t mean they will be elected again. That’s history. All the leaders of all registered parties should have been included.

Every election is a fresh start, as Anne of Green Gables would say, “with no mistakes in it.”

Because no one has been elected, all the candidates are supposed to start on a level playing field.

Canadians have been under the apparently mistaken impression that the Elections Canada mandate was to ensure a fair election. To ensure as level a field as possible. Yet it seems Elections Canada was powerless over the televised Leadership Debates. The way the “debates” were conducted was left entirely in the hands of “the consortium.” This utterly unaccountable media consortium decided that the only leaders allowed on the televised debates would be the ones with elected representatives.

Elections Canada lacks any authority to mandate any rules of fairness.

Previous governments have written laws allowing these unaccountable media corporations to define the terms of election broadcasts. This places the broadcast media in control of what the electorate is allowed to see.

More than ever before, this election is being held at a time when the unaccountable consortium of broadcasters is a special interest group.

Who is in charge of Canada’s mainstream media “consortium”?

Ahem. Bell Canada Enterprises just happens to own the CTV Network, The Globe And Mail, much of Canada’s land and cell phone networks, as well as a huge chunk of the Internet backbone. The supposedly arms length CRTC has failed Canadians by granting the gigantic Bell more and more control over the Canadian media when in fact a good regulator would be breaking it down into smaller parts to diminish the unhealthy stranglehold this corporation has over the Canadian digital economy. Usage Based Billing is just one of the perks that Bell has attempted with the assistance of the CRTC.

Suffice it to say that Elections Canada should be calling the shots, not media special interest groups.

democracy #fail

The deliberate exclusion of Green Party candidates by the media in the supposedly non-partisan meetings seems the recurring theme for this election. The media supposedly “covering” these all candidates meetings and debates is actually controlling them.

The Renfrew Conservative candidate walked out of a debate that had excluded the local Green Party candidate.

Then there was the “Kitchener Centre Forum” put on by the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce at Kitchener City Hall on April 21st. This forum only invited four of the seven candidates registered to run in this riding. Stephen Woodworth (Conservative Party of Canada), Karen Redman (Liberal Party of Canada), Peter Thurley (New Democratic Party), and Byron Williston (Green Party of Canada) were allowed to attend while Mark Corbiere (Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada), Alan Rimmer (Independent), and Martin Suter (Communist Party of Canada) were excluded.

Canadian media coverage used to be equitable to all the candidates.

Instead of fair election coverage, Canadians are getting scripted debates and reality TV.

up close and personal: local level debates

I missed the first Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meeting in my riding since it conflicted with the televised leadership debate.

What I heard went on revealed it to have been something of a travesty. Albert Ashley, the Green Candidate was absent altogether (out of the country), making the “All Candidate” meeting short one candidate. Like the televised “Leadership Debate”, this local debate was rigidly controlled by the media companies, in this case, Rogers Cable and The Record newspaper. Apparently candidate answers were limited to 30 second sound bites, making the answers, for the most part, shorter than the questions.

The published Record story downplays the fact that the incumbent Albrecht’s ‘office’ had been caught out for registering his opponent’s domain name and putting spurious content online.

What would have been a major scandal back when we still had a watch-dog press, instead came out in the Record as a partisan whitewash. The characterized this breach of ethics (if not law ) as “website pranks.” In fact it is very close to Identity theft, and may well constitute libel or fraud in the business world.

What the Record would call it if someone were to register the http://www.thekwrecord.com/ domain name and load it with spurious content?

Apparently Harold Albrecht laid off the responsibility for this attack on “an overzealous volunteer,” named by the Record as “his former chief of staff Jeff Chatterton.” Apparently Albrecht offered to sell the domain names to Liberal Candidate Bob Rosehart.

A closer look reveals Jeff Chatterton is no eager innocent, but rather a former journalist who hung out a public relations shingle and cut his teeth in damage control for the City of Walkerton during the Walkerton water crisis. Chatterton’s bio indicates he has made a career of characterizing scientific findings in opposition to his corporate client’s interests as “junk science.” According to Chatterton’s Facebook Page, the tag line for his company, Checkmate Public Affairs, is “Keeping clients OUT of the news – and doing it alarmingly well.”

Which makes me wonder what other improprieties are conducted in Mr. Albrecht’s office that can be blamed on underlings.
What ever happened to personal responsibility?

Possibly the most disturbing thing about the article is the Record implication that the Green Party candidate’s absence is spurious. Scheduling an all candidates meeting for a date when one of the four candidates is out of the country, and then blaming that candidate for the absence is masterful politicking.

But it is not what one would expect from an unbiased media.

looking over a creek at a very nice neighborhood in winter

The Elmira All Candidates Meeting

Put on by the “Greater KW Chamber of Commerce,” and again run by the media, this time the local 570 News Radio station. There were perhaps 200 to 300 seats, all filled, with an additional 50 or so standing room only attendees.

This indicates a far larger turnout than expected. (Interestingly, I also heard that Tuesday’s Kitchener-Waterloo All Candidates meeting was also standing room only, but their reported overages were in the hundreds.)

The format of the meeting was to pose a series of questions, which each candidate had the opportunity to answer. And at the end, “if time permits” they said they ‘might’ take questions from the audience. In other words, the corporate radio station decided the questions to be asked, while the citizens in attendance would only be allowed to pose questions on sufferance.

[They did, in fact, take audience questions at the end, and the moderator made a bee line to a young man in a suit whose first question exposed him as an embarrassingly blatant conservative shill.]

Applause

While it is may be reasonable to applaud a panel of candidates when introduced at the outset of such a meeting, it is wholly inappropriate to applaud each answer.
hands clapping

Since time was supposedly an issue, no applause should have been allowed. Interestingly, the applause was loudest and absurdly long for the only professional candidate, the Conservative incumbent, Harold Albrecht.

The applause reminded me of those talent programs where the loudest cheering section, not talent, decides the winner. It doesn’t matter how talented or not the participant is, the contest is won by how many friends they can bring. This bit of showmanship is important only as a demonstration of political power.

Which is, of course, precisely why applause should not be allowed at an ostensibly non-partisan political meeting held during an election. I wonder how much that influenced the trickle of attendees who walked out though out the show…
er, meeting.

Party Platforms

The theme of all answers given by both the Conservative Party incumbent and the Liberal Party challenger was to attack each other’s ruling party record. Of course the Conservative cheering section applauded Harold Albrecht’s Liberal attack-answers just as the Liberal cheering section applauded Bob Rosehart’s Conservative attack-answers.

The worst of it is, both cheering sections were right. Every bad Liberal deed that Albrecht pointed out was true, just as every bad Conservative deed Rosehart mentioned was. The problem is that the partisan cheering section doesn’t seem to care that the team they cheer … er their party … has done bad stuff, too.

Many who blindly pick a leader and a party will follow them no matter what bad deeds they have done or are going to continue to do. They have made a choice to allow someone else to decide what to think and who to vote for, and are not going to change. And that’s their right. Where it becomes a problem is when they pack a hall and engage in an “applause battle” in an attempt to exert peer pressure, itself a form of bullying, to pressure others to vote for your team… er, party.

Since the NDP and Green Party haven’t ever had the opportunity to rule, they weren’t included in the slagging match, and had no choice but to answer the questions. The Green Party’s Albert Ashley made it clear that his candidacy was last minute, so he was really just getting up to speed, and clearly not as conversant with his party’s platform as the other candidates. He did manage to crack up the audience with the observation that no one had hijacked his domain name. NDP candidate Lorne Bruce answered all the questions posed concisely and well, something not often seen in a campaign.

Ironically, one of the key topics was the decisions that lay ahead for the Region in regard to the expansion of public transit. The implication was that these decisions for the region would be made at rarefied stratas by the rich and powerful who do not have to actually use public transit. Which may explain why both Conservative Harold Albrecht and Liberal challenger Bob Rosehart champion the sexy LRT expansion option, rather than the more prosaic NDP intention to expand bus service to ensure citizen access before adding luxury bells and whistles.

But clearly, any citizens actually needing public transit have been excluded from the Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meetings.

IXpress bus driving in urban area

As it turns out, a third All Candidates meeting was added for the Kitchener-Conestoga riding tonight. When I first heard, I thought it would provide an opportunity to allow citizens reliant to transit access to the electoral process. Silly me. This one was held in New Hamburg, and again without and public transit access. I didn’t attend this one.

Since all four candidates are on Facebook, yesterday I asked them all this question:

Laurel Russwurm
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?

I do understand that time is short, and social networking is anything but universally adopted. It takes time to master, and there is an election to run. So I don’t hold it against the two candidates who have not yet responded. Still, the responses I did receive were interesting.

First, I need to mention that I included the link to my Voter Apathy article with the question, as I felt it provided background on the disenfranchisement of voters. And three of the four candidate facebook pages allowed the link to be posted.

The only one that didn’t was Harold Albrecht’s. His Facebook page is also the only one that does not allow visitors/fans to initiate content. So the only way to post my question was to attach it to an existing Harold Albrecht status as a comment. So I did.

Imagine my surprise when someone other than Harold Albrecht responded for Mr. Albrecht. This is the exchange:

Laurel Russwurm
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?

Jeff Chatterton
Laurel – Harold is no more to blame for All-Candidates Meeting locations than you or I. He simply goes where the meeting is held, he doesn’t organize them.

Laurel Russwurm
I asked what he will do to compensate for the fact no “All Candidates Meetings” are being held in transit accessible venues. How is he reaching out to the citizens that rely on public transit?

Greg McLean
Harold, your re-election office is less than 2km’s to my neighbourhood. Haven’t seen you or any or your team door-knocking.. how come?

Harold Albrecht
‎@Laurel, I’m reaching out to citizens with or without access to public transit the same ways: advertising, doorknocking, a website, this facebook page, and participating in All-Candidates’ Meetings. As was noted above, I do not control w…ho invites me to attend ACM’s.

@ Greg, it may be that we’ve knocked on your door and missed you, or it may be that we haven’t reached your neighborhood yet. It’s physically impossible for me to meet in person at the doorstep with the 100,000+ citizens I’m privileged to represent, but as the thousands of people I’ve had the privilege to meet during this campaign will attest, I’m trying my best.

Thank you both for your questions.

Harold Albrecht’s Facebook Page

At the time I received the defensive answer from Jeff Chatterton I had no idea who he was. Possibly a zealous Albrecht booster, but more likely a staffer. Having discovered he was Harold Albrecht’s “former campaign manager,” the speed and firmness of his defensive response makes me seriously wonder how “former” his association with Harold Albrecht really is.

The other response I got was from the NDP candidate, Lorne Bruce.

Laurel Russwurm
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?

Lorne Bruce
Laurel, I understand how you feel about this issue. Many of my campaign staff use transit as well. Because we do not plan these all candidates meetings we have very little say in where they are held. The best we can and have been doing is organizing car pools for those who do not drive. There is one debate left in New Hamburg on Tuesday. If you would like us to try and arrange a carpool give us a call or email @ 519-569-4040 ndp@kcndp.ca and we will do our best.

Lorne Bruce Facebook Page

It was refreshing to hear someone wasn’t making excuses, but putting an effort into addressing the inequity.

All in all, I am left feeling quite disturbed about the way this election is being run.

Why are business associations and media special interests allowed to dictate the course of the election process?

It is disturbing that previous governments have granted so much unaccountable power to corporations. They have put in place election rules and legislation that allows this undemocratic manipulation. If these practices continue, we are likely to end up with some new form of corporate feudalism. Personally, I’d rather see a restoration of democracy.

The Conservatives and Liberals are more concerned with attacking each other than Canada’s problems.

Perhaps because they are responsible for many of them.

Four Canadian political parties have fielded enough candidates to form the 41st Federal Government. I think it is time for a change.

Don’t you?

Conservative NDP Green and Liberal logos



[note: Public figures and their staff are fair dealing to quote particularly during an election; private citizens, however, are not.   I have included Greg McLean’s permission to include his question, which I thought particularly germane to the Voter Apathy issue.]

Image Credits
Gilles Duceppe on the Campaign Trail with Berard Bigras photo by davehuehn under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License

Jack Layton photo by Matt Jiggins

Elizabeth May photo by Grant Neufeld, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5) License

“Applause” cc by laurelrusswurm

All political logos reproduced as fair dealing.

Human Rights Day #freebyron #chargeflanagan

I’m not a lawyer, so I mistakenly thought the Straight.com article meant that University of Calgary Professor Tom Flanagan would be charged once the complaint was filed.

Article 7.

* All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

the Universal Declaration of Human Rights>

Ordinary people may be able to make such comments as calling on Presidents to assassinate people as a “joke,” but people with strong ties to a sitting government should not be making such statements on news magazine programs that are being broadcast across Canadian’s national television broadcaster, CBC.

No doubt Mr. Flanagan was on the program in question because of his strong ties to the Canadian government.

For a political scientist employed at a Canadian University professor teaching young Canadians it was an unconscionable thing to say.

This reflects badly on all Canadians. I do not want my government either condoning (if serious) or trivializing (if not) something as heinous as assassination. If nothing is done about it, the implication left with the world is that this is how Canada is run. Not my Canada.

But it’s an unusual case, so no one really seems to know how to proceed with it. And it was couched as a “joke”, so some people don’t take it seriously.

Yet the man whose assassination Tom Flanagan has called for is under attack from all sides right now. Other threats to his life and liberty and his family have been leveled at him. I doubt he finds it a laughing matter. I am horrified at the thought that my country would condone such a thing.

Yet nothing is being done about it. No one seems to want to do anything about it.

I wrote to Gail Davidson of the Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), the lawyer who made the complaint. Ms. Davidson initially tried to report to the RCMP, but they referred her to the Vancouver Police Department, where she made her complaint, which was assigned a file number (10-206617).

464 Except where otherwise expressly provided by law, the following provisions apply in respect of persons who counsel other persons to commit offences, namely,
(a) every one who counsels another person to commit an indictable offence is, if the offence is not committed, guilty of an indictable offence and liable to the same punishment to which a person who attempts to commit that offence is liable; and
(b) every one who counsels another person to commit an offence punishable on summary conviction is, if the offence is not committed, guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

464. Criminal Code (R.S., 1985, c. C-46).”

Gail Davidson has since learned that the Calgary Police Department (Tom Flanagan’s current location) has opened a file. From the RCMP, to the Vancouver Police Department to The Calgary Police Department, no one seems to want to do something. Is it because they don’t know how to proceed? Or is it that there is no law to cover it?

equal before the law

Yet the authorities managed to arrest and charge Canadian businessman Byron Sonne on the basis of Twitter remarks protesting the G20.

Byron Sonne is currently being held without bail, and may remain so incarcerated,

deprived of his liberty maybe for years pending trial.

Without having been convicted of anything.

The question then becomes: is it that there is no will to proceed because Mr. Flanagan has strong ties to our government? Charges are not even brought against one man, while another man without such ties is deprived of his liberty.

Maybe a court would find one or both guilty. Maybe not. I don’t know. The point is this issue is serious enough that a court must try.

How does it look to the world?

Canadians engaging in peaceful protest are arrested and brutalized during the G20. Citizens expressing dissent like Byron Sonne are punitively incarcerated.

While a University Professor calling for the assassination of Julian Assange – on National television – in an infamous clip seen around the world, is given a free pass.

Canada looks very very bad indeed.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Making it even worse:

According to this CTV article a Toronto woman received threatening email from Mr. Flanagan, but the police in Calgary will not do anything about it unless she makes a complaint in person:

Woman felt threatened by Flanagan email

To lend your support to the complaint against Tom Flanagan, you can contact:

Vancouver Police Department,
or the Calgary Police Department.

Free Byron

If I ran the zoo…: Advertising II

Part II: Party Advertising

Inside Ignatieff's Head MacLeans Magazine cover
When an election is called and the candidates are running for office, their platform is of interest to viewers and readers.

The news media will report what they say.

That’s called “news”.

Political parties don’t need to buy advertising. Or at least they shouldn’t have to.

Stephen Harper

Why do the political parties expend so much energy fund raising to purchase advertising when they can get news coverage for free?

What’s the difference between media news coverage and advertising?

News coverage

is supposed to present the facts. News coverage might cover a press conference and select key statements made by a politician to put in the broadcast, or perhaps make a documentary about an issue, candidate, party or a campaign. They might include a panel discussion, a public consultation, or a political debate.

What is covered and the focus is decided by the news media editorial department, not the political party.

a spread of 9 February  newspapers from across Canada

Realistically, the news media is at least partially entertainment, and like anything else carries bias. The bias may be an official policy of the news outlet, or it might be handed down from on high, or it may have developed based on the bias of the people in editorial department, or even informed by the readership. When there is bias, and there is always bias (it’s only human) how the politician or issue is presented will be influenced by that bias to a degree. If the media takes a shine to a politician, they will be careful to present them in a good light, but if they dislike someone, they have the power to show only unflattering angles and emphasize verbal stumbling or contradictions.

The news media will report what they say. Good and bad.

Thus the politicians and/or the political party can not dictate the “spin”.

Advertising Coverage

graphic TV screen which says BUY NOWTo sell a product: in this case, the politician or the party, nothing works like advertising.

Facts are not necessary, the only goal is to make the politicians or the party look good.

Political Party advertising doesn’t have to actually say anything. In fact it is probably better if it doesn’t.

You want your candidate to look their best, and because you can take as long as you need to get it right, your candidate WILL look their best.  Photo Ops are good… baby kissing, cuddling pets, whatever works.

Then there are attack ads designed to make the opposing candidate or party look bad.  I think the assumption is that if the other guy looks bad, our guy looks good.  Unfortunately, these ads don’t come across as “whistle blowing”, they look much more like bullying.  I guess that might work for the bullies of the world, but I think this kind of advertising makes the party paying for it look bad.

I don’t need you to tell me what the other party has done wrong, I need to know what you will do right.

Advertising must be paid for. So yes, the parties need to find the money– this is what they are fund raising for.

Because they pay for the ads, they are the client.   Thus the politicians and/or the political party have control over the “spin”.   Advertisements only tell us what the party wants us to know.   So advertising is good for the party, but not necessarily good for the voter.

Is this really how we want to select our government?   Based on how good their advertising campaign is?

money and money

logo collage of some Canadian broadcasters

There are two different ways advertising money needs to be spent. The obvious part is the money that is spent on the creation of the advertising materials… the writers, producers, actors, camera men…

We don’t often think of the other place advertising money goes… to the media outlets. Space has to be purchased from magazines and newspapers to run print ads, while time slots must be bought from radio and television in order to broadcast commercials.

Political advertising represents an enormous revenue stream for media outlets. The income generated is what pays for the news media. Do you think maybe a TV network that receives a great deal of advertising revenue from a particular political party might be influenced in what news coverage that party receives? Is it unreasonable to think that large advertising budgets may lead to more favorable news coverage for the political parties?

Those are scary enough prospects to begin with, but the one that bothers me the most was the article I read in yesterday’s The Hill Times:

Right now the party is working on solidifying its policy positions, and boosting revenues from fundraising. The Liberals raised $9.6-million in 2009, which is vastly improved from 2008 when they brought in only $5.6-million. But while the Tories’ fundraising haul declined from $21-million in 2008, they were still light years ahead of the other parties, bringing in $18-million last year.

When Mr. Apps became president of the party last year he pledged to match the Conservatives in fundraising by June 30, 2011, and he said the party is on track to meeting that goal.

“In one year we’ve cut the gap in half. If I can cut it in half again this year, so the gap instead of being under $8-million it becomes $4-million, I think it’s very achievable to meet that goal in 2011,” he said.

But the Liberals are not there yet, and after four years in opposition, they have learned to fear the Conservative machine, said one insider.

The Hill Times: Liberals not ready to defeat Tories in spring

Political Cartoon shows Stephen Harper on the Canadian five dollar bill which says vote tory

The upshot certainly seems to be that The Liberal party is afraid to challenge the Conservative party and possibly trigger an election.

Not because they don’t think they are in the right. But for one reason only: they don’t believe they have enough money for advertising, and therefore believe that they cannot win.

Is it really true that our Canadian democracy boils down to the party with the biggest advertising budget will win?

More than anything that is a sign that political advertising needs to be stopped.

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"

If I ran the Zoo er Country…

the only advertising I would allow political parties to engage in would be lawn signs. If the party wanted to appear in the media the candidates would have to do something newsworthy.

Maybe if we got beyond sound bites we could find out what the different parties actually stand for. Instead of throwing all their creative juices into fooling us into voting for them, maybe they could really find out about the issues, and maybe even engage in public consultations and come out with workable platforms.

That’s what I would do if I ran the zoo country.



Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation or anything else! You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us.
Find your Member of Parliament

Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

The government gives more weight to postal mail: you can mail your comments without a stamp!!:

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.