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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#Flanagan again

Tom Flanagan  in front of a Fraser Institute backdrop

Is it just me?

Am I the only one angry that the current administration of the University of Calgary doesn’t think Tom Flanagan has done anything wrong?

In case you missed it, Tom Flanagan, formerly a mentor/adviser to our sitting Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, currently a Political Science professor at the University of Calgary, broke the law while on the CBC news program “Power and Politics with Evan Solomon” when he “counsel[ed] other persons to commit offences.” The indictable offence he advocated was the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

at New Media Days

Some people think Tom Flanagan’s remarks are a joking matter.

Julian Assange does not

find this assassination threat amusing, particularly in light of other threats of physical harm leveled at himself and his family.

Some, like the National Post’s George Jonas, think Tom Flanagan can be excused because they say he intended it as a joke.

Maybe it could be taken as a joke if Tom Flanagan was a telephone lineman, a museum curator, or a manicurist.

But he’s not. The media is downplaying Tom Flanagan’s strong ties to the Canadian government. Flanagan wasn’t just “a Harper aid.”

Tom Flanagan was a chief of staff and policy adviser for the Prime Minister of Canada.

Jack Bauer is played by actor Kiefer Sutherland, pictured holding a gun, standing in front of a California map, with digital clock style numeral 24 inset

Tom Flanagan has been described as a mentor/adviser/strategist to the Prime Minister.  He ran political campaigns and walked the halls of Parliament.

This is a man who most certainly knows better.

Tom Flanagan would very likely know and be known by the Canadian CSIS equivalent to Jack Bauer, and almost certainly have contacts within the American government security forces.

I do not know Tom Flanagan, but he comments regularly on CBC and Evan Solomon clearly took Tom Flanagan’s statements seriously, in fact giving Flanagan an opportunity to back down by making it a joke. That an astute political player like Flanagan did not strongly indicates how serious he was.

Evan Solomon was not soliciting a man-in-the-street opinion from a computer programmer or a supermarket cashier or a priest, he was conducting an expert interview with one of his “regular cast of star panelists“.  Tom Flanagan was on the program to provide credible expert commentary.

Tom Flanagan’s commentary is credible BECAUSE he is a professor of Political Science, employed to teach some of the best and brightest Canadian students, at the University of Calgary.

Tom Flanagan’s commentary is credible BECAUSE of his strong ties to the sitting government.

THIS is what qualifies him as an expert, and this is WHY he must be charged for this crime.

ethics & reputation

The only response offered by the University administration has been this weak statement made December 7:

“The University of Calgary’s position remains that the opinions expressed by Dr. Tom Flanagan on CBC news last week were made as an individual. Dr. Flanagan spoke on a matter unrelated to the university, and his comments, for which Dr. Flanagan has expressed regret, do not represent the view of the University of Calgary. “

Yet the University of Calgary has declined to administer even a slap on the wrist to Tom Flanagan for his unacceptable behavior. The University’s position of refusing to make the barest of reprimands to Flanagan implies University support of Flanagan’s crime. A school that unquestioningly supports an educator who blatantly commits a crime television is simply not qualified to speak about “ethics.”

My child will not attend a school that condones assassination.

What does Tom Flanagan teach at the University of Calgary:  Assassinate the opposition? 
His words have certainly assassinated the University’s reputation internationally.

Left unchallenged, Canada’s reputation both at home and abroad is seriously damaged. As a citizen, I am furious.

If you have any doubt about whether there has been damage to our national reputation as a result of Flanagan’s crime, all you need do is watch the animated video titled Wikileaks Keeps Publishing despite arrest” published on YouTube December 7th, 2010. I first saw it on a Dutch web page. Two weeks later the video has had nearly 300,000 page views. That doesn’t count the web pages like this one that have embedded it. That’s a lot of of page views, particularly considering that it doesn’t top the WikiLeaks list:

For those with accessibility issues, I am also hosting the OGG version here.
crest above words University of Calgary Alumni with woman's hands above and below

Reading the comments on the YouTube page, and all over the Internet, citizens around the world have expressed dismay and outrage over this reprehensible incident.

U of C Community Outrage

Clearly, the University of Calgary community is not happy with the current state of affairs. 60 U of C alumni along with 25 others (current U of C students/staff/supporters across Canada & abroad) sent an open letter asking the University to address the situation. To date there has been none.

You can read their original letter and the follow up on the dedicated blog: Censure Tom Flanagan: Open letter to University of Calgary President Dr. Elizabeth Cannon regarding Dr. Tom Flanagan’s remarks

There is also an online Petition that anyone can sign here:

Graffiti portrait on a brick wall

To: University of calgary

Dr. Elizabeth Cannon
University of Calgary

Dr. Cannon,

The last time there was a live televised order to assassinate someone was the religious edict issued by Ayatollah Khomeini to kill Salman Rushdie, the Author of Satanic Verses. Unfortunately in November 2010, Dr. Tom Flanagan called for the assassination of Mr. Julian Assange, the Founder of the Wikileaks website. Based on Canada’s criminal code incitement to commit murder is a crime, not to mention a gross unethical and immoral act.

We, signatories of this petition, demand Dr. Flanagan’s immediate expulsion from University of Calgary. We hope that University of Calgary does not squander its reputation by associating with someone who condones murder in the name of politics.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned
PETITION: Dr. Tom Flanagan’s immediate expulsion from University of Calgary

And there’s a FaceBook page:

Facebook Page: Investigate Tom Flanagan for inciting murder against Julian Assange

People feel strongly about the issue because the University’s implied support casts a pall on the reputations of staff, students and alumni. The institution’s inexplicable silence is only making things worse.

Letter: Dismiss Tom Flanagan

Peter Bowal: Double standard on free speech at U of C

If you wish to write a personal letter, you may do so by writing to:

Elizabeth Cannon, the President of the U of Calgary. Her email is
president@ucalgary.ca
and you might wish to CC this suggested list:
chair@ucalgary.ca
senate@ucalgary.ca
jim.dinning@senate.ucalgary.ca
alumni@ucalgary.ca
eosler@ucalgary.ca

sitting in front of a wine rack and Fraser Institue banner

Compounding the Situation

Because Tom Flanagan said these things on CBC, and because of who he is, his remarks have been heard around the world.

Canada used to have a reputation for being a good world citizen. Allowing these remarks to go unchecked makes us all look bad.

Tom Flanagan didn’t just make an empty threat on CBC, he didn’t just encourage the assassination of someone he disagrees with, he also threatened a woman who sent him an email he didn’t like. One may have been a mistake.  Two makes it a whole different ballgame. I have to wonder, what other things has Tom Flanagan said or done that went away because of his powerful friends and allies?

Tom Flanagan’s “joke defense” goes up in smoke when you add the threatening email into the mix.

This is world class bullying.

Either Flanagan doesn’t get the point, or else is confident he may act as he pleases with impunity.

Apparently he’s right.

All he had to do is say “I’m sorry” and all is well with the world.  Why do we waste money on a criminal justice system if all that’s necessary to get out of criminal charges is an apology? The Toronto Star reports that the Toronto Woman Gets Apology from former Harper Aid

So all is well, right? Except it is not.

The Pirate Party of Canada is planning a “Rally To Support Wikileaks”
Saturday, January 15, 2011 · 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Location University of Calgary, outside the social sciences building.
Calgary, AB
“Join with the Pirate Party of Canada and Pirate Parties around the world in peaceful assembly to support WikiLeaks, open government, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. Take a stand against calls to assassinate journalists and whistleblowers.”
For more information contact mikkel@pirateparty.ca
https://www.pirateparty.ca/

implications of not charging Tom Flanagan

Friendly Media Relations

The law is written clearly and specifically to provide for prosecution whether or not the counseled indictable offence is ever carried out. Counseling assassination breaks the law as much as actually carrying out an assassination.

The media is downplaying Flanagan’s crime as a joke.

And perhaps his friends in our government don’t want him inconvenienced.

Was this “joke” was made with the blessing of our government. Was this a way to publicly threaten WikiLeaks with political deniability?

No one should be above the law.

Since politicians are the usual targets of assassination, I would have thought our governments would be very careful about allowing such cavalier advocacy.

Tom Flanagan has broken the law.  That’s clear enough. Tom Flanagan should NOT be able to break the law on National Television with impunity.

Tom Flanagan must be charged.   If he’s not, it makes a mockery of Canada’s criminal justice system.

A court of law must decide.

“Something has to be done to let the people who have received his message know that assassination is murder, and a crime in every country of the world,”

–Gail Davidson, The Montreal Gazette: Charge ex-Harper aide for ‘assassinate Julian Assange’ comment: lawyer

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves


Image Credits:

Tom Flanagan at OPUS Hotel photo by Urban Mixer / Raj Taneja on Flickr released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

Julian AssangeThis photo by New Media Days / Peter Erichsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

“Jack Bauer” – Wallpaper by Tim Norris under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License

University of Calgary Alumni photo by damclean under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

Ayatollah Khomeini by travfotos / Terry Feuerborn under an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License on Flickr

Tom Flanagan at OPUS Hotel photo by Urban Mixer / Raj Taneja on Flickr released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

Tom Flanagan at OPUS Hotel photo by Urban Mixer / Raj Taneja on Flickr released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

OGG conversion via TinyOgg

Serving the Public…?

technical ineptitude

Minister Moore's Twitter Picture

Reading the response Russell McOrmond received from MP James Moore I am appalled.   Canada’s current Heritage Minister, James Moore, has represented himself as a technologically astute legislator.   This is important because the Heritage Ministry holds sway over both the CRTC and matters of copyright and the Internet.   Unfortunately, no one has explained to him that the ability to “tweet” on Twitter is not the same thing as possessing technical expertise.

Dubbed “the Ipod Minister,” Moore was one of the ‘forces’ behind last year’s Copyright Consultation and this year’s Digital Economy Consultation.   Still, Minister Moore’s technical savvy seems limited to purchasing and promoting Apple products; this letter incident highlights Moore’s woeful lack of technical expertise, which ought to make him a poor choice to occupy a position of power over Canada’s digital economy or copyright reform.

Canadians deserve to have legislators who at least understand the issues.

politics

But there is a wider concern.   Every time we have an election the main stream media takes the populace to task for lack of participation.   Only a fraction of eligible voters turn out for any given election at any level of government.   Yet no one ever seems to mention the many ways Canadians are disenfranchised before we even consider going to the polling station.

writing letters to our Government

Most of us put real effort into the letters we write to our MPs.   Many federal issues go beyond the scope of our individual MP, and depending on the issue it may be necessary to correspond with all the members on a committee, or the Minister in charge of the issue or even the Prime Minister.   Sometimes it might even be best to send a message to every Member of Parliament.

To facilitate this constituent—-representative contact Canada Post delivers mail from citizens for any or all of the above mentioned correspondence to our representatives in Ottawa free of charge.   Naturally Canada Post employees don’t perform this service out of the goodness of their hearts, this democratic service is paid for by the government.   Presumably because they want to hear from their constituents.   So they can serve us better.

I understand why we need to write letters to our representatives in government.   If we don’t tell them our views about about issues important to us, our concerns will not be considered, and laws may well be passed that are contrary to our interests.   Laws contrary to the public good.

So why don’t the responses we get back from our elected representatives actually answer any of our concerns or questions?

form letters

I’ve sent a few in the past year or so, and the responses take a very very long time in coming.   Do they think that if they take months to reply we will have forgotten what we wrote?   I guess they don’t realize most of us keep copies of the letters we send.   At a time when most of our letters are written on computers and copying is easy.

Yet the supposed “response” they give us doesn’t indicate anyone has actually read anything we’ve written beyond our name and address.   Invariably a form letter, the responses they send seem more like press releases.   Many people seem to accept this as the way our government conducts its business.

Perrin Beatty circa 1970's

But I don’t.

Before I was even old enough to vote I wrote a couple letters to my representative at the time, Conservative MP Perrin Beatty.   I got a written response to one letter and a personal phone call from the man himself for the other.   That is the way it is supposed to work.

This year, when I wrote a letter to my current (Conservative) MP to protest the government’s premature prorogation, the envelope I received was addressed to me but the letter inside was not.   It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

When we send our elected representatives to Ottawa they get access to administrative staff paid for out of the public coffers.   People to deal with scheduling, email, letters from constituents.   Every letter we send to anyone in out parliament should be read and answered properly.

Perhaps they think sending a response like this gives the appearance of responding.

It doesn’t.

who pays for this?

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"
As a citizen, it makes me angry that we taxpayers foot the bill for these unresponsive “responses”.

Every response that isn’t a real response is a waste of money.

But the much higher price we pay is in the certain knowledge that our elected representatives can’t be bothered to listen to us let alone reply.

This is a clear message to Canadians that our voices as citizens are not merely not being heard, they are being ignored.   It is certainly a disincentive to citizen participation in the democratic process.   And I think this is very possibly one of the most blatant causes of the legendary Canadian “voter apathy”.   Why bother: they don’t listen. The first step in disenfranchising citizens.

This is not acceptable in a democratic nation.

Canada’s ‘public servants” may be able to say the word “democracy” but some of them don’t seem to understand what it means.