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Propaganda in Action: CBC News anchors uncritically parrot Tory talking points on Senate appointments

stephen-fletcher-cbc-senate-appointmentsToday two news anchors uncritically parroted Conservative Party talking points on Harper’s senate appointments, gave on air rebuttals to opposition parties’ talking points without doing the same for the Tories’ talking points, and only gave air time to the Conservative Party spokesperson without affording the same courtesy to opposition parties.

No, it wasn’t a broadcast of Mike Duffy Live where political opinions are expected and encouraged.

On the contrary, this was the putatively neutral news anchors of CBC News who are failing to uphold even the most basic rules of journalistic practice.  Moreover, factually incorrect statements — some may go so far as to call them lies (see bolded text below) were allowed to pass without correction or indication that they were lies.

Partial Transcript:

“Canada has 18 new senators and a whole new partisan squabble.  The prime minister made the appointments to the upper chamber despite his own reluctance to do that…”

This opening sentence says a lot in relatively few words.  By setting it up as a partisan squabble and then only giving the Conservative Party a chance to explain why these appointments were necessary what this really implies is that — in the absence of contravening soundbites from the opposition — the government is doing something necessary and the opposition parties are the ones engaging in ‘partisan squabbles’.

“… So Margot, I guess that tells a little bit about the government’s position.   Presumably you would expect to see the opposition saying something about this.  Have they come out yet?

“Well they have come out yet and they’ve been very critical about what the government has done.  Obviously they’re saying that the government is being hypocritical because the prime minister has always said he didn’t want to have an elected senate, that he wanted to have it appointed.  But it never happened.  He couldn’t get the legislation through parliament and only two provinces agreed to actually have their senators elected, so the opposition is already saying that this is pretty hypocritical.  But we did speak to the Minister for Democratic Reform, Stephen Fletcher, a little earlier in the hour and he explained why they needed to do this.

Stephen Fletcher: “There were so many vacancies in the senate that it wasn’t able to function. There was 18 vacancies, we had an unelected body blocking legislation from an elected body, the House of Commons, and it wasn’t a sustainable situation.  The Prime Minister is committed to Senate reform, we are going to bring forward the legislation, these Senators are committed to Senate reform, they have a limit of 8 years and they have also committed to stepping down once an election is held in the province in which they represent, whichever comes first.”

For the purposes of this story, we will ignore the fact that Stephen Fletcher is a known racist and that it boggles the mind that any reputable news agency would let an avowed racist on their airwaves who unapologetically called Japanese people “Jap bastards”.  [Note: apologizing with “I am sorry if anyone was offended” is not an apology]. See also: Non-apology apology.

Turning to what Fletcher actually said: we see that no hard questions were asked of Fletcher.  Most importantly, if Stephen Harper’s plan to not appoint any Senators was causing Parliamentary gridlock as the Conservatives were claiming (it wasn’t, but let’s assume that it was) then one would presumably expect a question directed to Fletcher around the lines of “So then the Prime Minister admits that his strategy of not appointing Senators was fundamentally flawed?”  No such question is shown.

Fletcher also states that the Senate was not able to function due to it’s lack of membership.  This is a blatant lie that any journalist should have picked up on.  Parliament hasn’t yet sent any legislation to the Senate since the election because Parliament was prorogued by the Governor General.  The first item to be sent to the Senate was to be the economic update and that wasn’t allowed to be voted on by the prime minister because he knew he would lose the vote.

Fletcher also states that these Senators would have a term limit of 8 years which is not only a lie, but it is actually unconstitutional, against constitutional convention and unenforceable to ‘require’ these Senators to step down after 8 years.  No document — not even a contractual document — can force a Senator to step down before his or her constitutionally-protected term is expired.

The broadcast then concludes:

Margot McDiarmid: “Now Danielle, there is another political reality to the appointments today.  The prime minister did say shortly after he prorogued Parliament that he was actually going to make these appointments.  And the reality is that he is also concerned that if Parliament comes back at the end of January and his government loses a nonconfidence vote for its budget, the Liberals may come back in and form the government and then appoint yet more Liberals to the Senate and it will remain top-heavy for years to come.  So he needed to make these appointments now before Parliament resumes at the end of January.

Danielle: “Fascinating strategy, thank you very much Margot.”

So it’s just factually obvious that Harper needed to make these appointments now, according to the CBC hosts.

How much more propaganda will progressives take before they grow a pair and begin challenging the ridiculous Blogging Tory claim that CBC stands for “Communist Broadcasting Corporation” and counter with the far more tenable counter-claim that it is more aptly characterized as the “Conservative Broadcasting Corporation”?

Multiple new polls: If Tories continue to collapse like this, they won’t form government

With three polling firms now reporting in confirming this fact, it is now clear that the governing Conservatives are, for the first time in this election campaign, facing some real trouble.

Since September 27th, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have dropped 4.8% in the Paulitics Polling Resource.  What is more, this precipitous drop has now been confirmed by each of the big three polling firms which release daily tracking polls.

As the calculation illustrated right demonstrates, if the Conservatives continue on their current trend, it seems to me unlikely that they will form government even if all of this loss in support goes to the NDP, Greens and/or Bloc and not to the Liberals.


If the Tories don’t get a majority, thank the Bloc not the Grits, Greens or NDP

Having just finished a massive update to the Paulitics National Polling Resource, the Provincial/Regional Polling Resource, and the Seat Projection Meta-Analysis, there is one fact that has become abundantly clear:

If the Conservatives don’t get a majority, we should thank Gilles Duceppe’s Bloc Québecois, not the Dion Liberals, the May Greens, or Layton’s NDP.  Of all of the data uploaded this evening, the astonishing rise of the Bloc in Quebec (pictured below) is perhaps the most impressive.

Because of the Bloc’s rise, the Conservatives have dropped 10% in Quebec since September 13th.  In other words, 1 in 3 Tory supporters in Québec have abandoned that party since September 13th.

Tories recover on eve of election, but still down from 2006

The latest polls are certainly to be viewed as a mixed bag for all five of the major federal parties, save the Bloc Québecois.  For the latter, of course, there is little ‘mixed’ about the situation.  The Bloc’s situation appears to be moribund.

For the Tories, the latest polls have given them a slight bump (which will be accentuated when the latest Environics poll pegging the Tories at near-majority government level support is included in the Paulitics Polling Resource).  However, the Tories still remain down from their 2006 election showing by statistically significant margins despite being flushed with cash and despite their aggressive recent media buys.

For the Liberals, the recent polls have shown them slumping on the eve of the election — not exactly the best time to have a slump in popularity — and have not been able to break beyond a statistically-significant margin of their 2006 support in well over a year.  Still, on the other hand, the Paulitics Polling resource does show the Liberals as one of only two parties to rest above their 2006 levels of support, even if it is by a statistically insignificant margin.

For the NDP, after dipping badly in support, the recent polls have shown what must be a welcome up-tick in popularity back to within the margins of their respectable 2006 finish.  However, much like the Grits, the NDP have not been able to break out above their 2006 levels of support by a statistically-significant margin in well over a year.

For the Greens, after flirting with the 12 percent threshold in the Paulitics rolling-5 poll average for a time, the latest polls have witnessed a dramatic slump for the Greens back down to the 8 percent area of support.  That said, even if the Greens are able to hold on to this comparatively low level of support through to election day, they will still have roughly doubled their level of support since the previous election which is something that the other parties shall ignore only at their own peril.

For the Bloc, I have yet to update the Paulitics Provincial Polling Resource, so a complete picture of the carnage is not yet available at this time.  But, with that in mind, the latest provincial poll results from Leger Marketing put them at a dismal 30%.

Overall, even without the possibility of a legal battle over the constitutionality of the election itself, the election is shaping up to be an interesting one.

If this is the Tories’ idea of protecting children, I’d hate to see their idea of not protecting them

It’s funny how the Tories will talk the good talk of defending children when it suits their ideologically narrow world view only to turn around and actively exploit even more vulnerable children by having them guard our military assets and killing machines.  It’s of course, not ‘ha ha’ funny, but rather more on the sardonic side.  If this is what protecting children means to the Conservatives, I’d hate to see their definition of not protecting the children.

An excerpt from an article by Thomas Walkom in today’s Toronto Star:

“Back in 2002, Canada signed on to an international treaty aimed at rehabilitating child soldiers.

In fact, Canada was the first to ratify the so-called Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that requires signatories to give special consideration to captured enemy fighters under the age of 18.

The treaty says they are to be segregated from adult combatants. As well, those who capture children must make every effort to reintegrate them into society.


Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, and Andy Knight, a University of Alberta political scientist, make the case that, in Afghanistan, Canada is running afoul of the very treaty it once championed.

I first heard the pair on CBC Radio’s The Current. Yesterday, I phoned them up. Attaran, who has been a vocal critic of Canada’s detention policy in Afghanistan, points out that government documents released in a court case last fall show that Canadian troops in Kandahar indeed capture child fighters, only to turn them over to Afghan security forces for what is usually a brutal interrogation.

That, he says, is a clear violation of Canada’s international obligations and – depending on how the children are treated by the Afghans – almost certainly a crime under Canadian law.

Citing press reports, Knight told me that there is also some suggestion of Afghan teenagers being used, with NATO co-operation, to guard military facilities.

A national defence spokesman told me yesterday that the Canadian Forces hand over suspected child insurgents to the Afghan authorities who incarcerate them in a juvenile wing at Kandahar’s main prison.

But the two human rights experts say this isn’t sufficient. They say that when Canadian troops capture children, they should hand them over to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. It operates a rehabilitation centre in the country for former child soldiers and so far has successfully demobilized 7,400.

Confidential documents released as part of a court case brought against the government by Amnesty International point out that Ottawa is well aware of the UNICEF project. Yet none of the minors captured (and thanks to the ongoing federal court case, we know there have been at least three) has ended up there.


“Canada was once at the top of the heap in this regard,” says Attaran. “Now we’re keeping company with those at the bottom.”

As a Marxist, I’m obviously not prone to quoting from the Bible, however one quote does spring to mind:  It’s the Biblical definition of the hypocrite outlined in Matthew 7:4:

“cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then
thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

Just how big is Quebec’s shift away from the right wing? Pretty big

Given the recent provincial by-election results in the province of Quebec, bloggers and politicians everywhere have been talking about the results and their implications.

As with any event, it helps to actually review what happened and then, based on this, generate an analysis.  If we do it the other way around, we risk being like a Conservative cabinet minister who, during a Question Period session shortly after the by-elections, tried to ridicule Gilles Duccepe by saying that the by-elections were a huge victory federalists and a huge defeat for the PQ.  (I don’t remember which Tory cabinet minister it was who said it, but I remember being shocked when I heard it).

In fact, contrary to the Tories’ contention, both the by-election results and the recent provincial polling results show a rather different story.

First, the by-election results.

Simply put, the Tories’ closest provincial ally, the ADQ, witnessed a staggering collapse.  This is rather significant since the far-right ADQ is lead by Mario Dumont, a man who attracted the attention of the international press in 2007 and who was (appropriately, in my opinion) called “Canada’s Le Pen” by the U.K.-based newspaper The Independent (source).

In the three by-election ridings, the ADQ’s support collapsed to just over 1/3 of their formerly mighty self.  Now, even though none of these ridings were strong ADQ ridings, nothing I think could have prepared political observers for just how spectacular of a collapse the ADQ made.  For instance, in my riding (Hull), the ADQ dropped from being the 3rd place party to being dead last among the 5 main provincial parties with both the Greens and Québec solidaire (which is an amalgamation of left-wing provincial parties including the Quebec Communist Party) finishing above them.  In fact, only the tiny Parti indépendantiste did worse then the ADQ in my riding.

Turning to the province-wide provincial polling results since the last provincial election, we see an equally bleak picture for ‘Canada’s Le Pen’ and the far-right ADQ.

Following the last provincial election, the ADQ had actually improved over their provincial results and were polling as the #1 provincial party with seemingly prohibitive odds of forming the next provincial government, either minority or majority.

As you can see, Quebec’s repudiation of far right politics since that time, clearly extends beyond merely the three ridings which had by-elections earlier this month.

Now that it seems as though the Québecois are well on their way to throwing out their version of Le Pen and become once again a beacon to progressives throughout Canada, maybe Canadians can learn from this and get to work on throwing out their version of George W. Bush.

Government to Canadians: Struggling only makes it harder for you

This past Wednesday, I was hosting my cousin who was up visiting Ottawa from Toronto.  As a part of the sites he wanted to see, I took him to Parliament to watch Question Period since he’d never been.

Usually, the press only covers the first few questions that Dion, Duceppe, Layton and also usually Ignatieff ask, and then uncerimoniously catch up on the fine art of sleeping with one’s eyes open.  Thus, had I not actually been in the gallery, I’d likely have missed this gem of a question from Conservative MP Patrick Brown (Barrie) directed to the Minister of Labour since it was the last question of the day. 

From Hansard:


Patrick Brown (Barrie, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, some members of this House may be aware that a recent study found that in 2005, Canada lost more days of work due to labour disruptions, both lockouts and strikes, than any other G-7 country. The big picture is that these numbers represent $700 million in lost annual gross domestic product.

    Could the Minister of Labour inform this House how he is addressing this very serious issue?

Hon. Jean-Pierre Blackburn (Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC):  

    Mr. Speaker, I am concerned about those numbers. Work stoppages hurt workers, their families and their communities and they are also bad for businesses.

    As Minister of Labour it is my responsibility to look for new ideas to keep the talk going on between unions and employers. I have launched a study on the causes and impacts of work stoppages. The study will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on ways to improve labour relations in our country.

    An expert, Mr. Peter Annis, will consult with unions and employers and will submit a report to me with recommendations.

unions.pngSo, memo to unions:  The Minister of Labour doesn’t understand what causes strikes nor does he understand the impacts of work stoppages.  I’ll give the minister a hint:  in 1905, before any massive strikes began and struggles against capitalism began, the average worker’s wage was pennies per hour and there was no minimum wage, no safety standards and no government assistance for the poor.
But, as for the other point about “struggling only makes it harder for you”, that sent a shiver down my spine.  Is this going to be the Conservatives’ new campaign slogan?

Is Harper trying for a record? 3 instances of hypocrisy in 3 weeks.

For your consideration: Three items of hypocrisy from the government of Canada all occurring in the past three weeks.

Item #1:  Organ donation = good.  Gay organ donation = bad.


According to the CBC, Canada’s Conservative government changed a federal government policy in order to forbid homosexuals from donating organs.  The catch?  There’s four of them:

a) The government of Canada neglected to tell key groups and medical professionals involved in minor, unrelated fields — fields such as organ donation — that the organ donation laws had been changed.

b) The government of Canada is still willing to accept homosexual women’s healthy organs, just not homosexual men’s healthy organs.

c) The government of Canada is still willing to accept homosexual men’s healthy organs provided they abstain from homosexual activity for a period of 5 years (although our gay brothers can take solace from the fact that, presumably,  the government has no problem with them engaging in ‘relations’ with women during said five year period).

d) The government of Canada is still willing to accept without question wildly promiscuous heterosexual men and women’s organs as well as the organs of heterosexual couples who engage in anal sex.

Item #2:  Canada opts out of UN global anti-racism conference because… racism will be discussed.

The government of Canada just announced that it will not be attending the annual UN global anti-racism conference because one possible topic will be:  anti-Arab racism and specifically anti-Arab racism in Israel.

The catch?  Talking about the racism of our enemies towards us and our allies is fine and good and worthwhile.  Talking about the racism of our allies towards our enemies is beyond the pale, a waste of time and, to quote a government official, a “gong show”.  Incidentally, the government isn’t alone on this front.  Former Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler aptly summed up the party line of both major parties in Canada when he said last year, with a straight face and unquestioned by the mainstream media that:

“the most virulent of hatreds [is] namely, anti-Semitism.” (source)

more-equal-than-others.pngThus, hatred isn’t all equal.  Hatred towards our allies is the “most virulent of hatreds” while hatred of our enemies is somehow less “virulent” or horrendous.

Or perhaps we’re just reading too much into this.  Perhaps all hatreds are equal but some are just more equal than others?

Item #3:  Canada says threatening the world with nuclear weapons is unacceptable…. except when we do it.

Last April, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated publicly and unequivocally that given  “the kind of values it [Iran] stands for…  I think our allies have a completely legitimate case in being concerned about a regime like that gaining access to nuclear weapons.” (source)

dr-strangelove.pngSeems reasonable.  The government of Canada would never support an offensive, bellicose regime having nuclear weapons.  It’s true that our allies may have nuclear weapons, but they would never be offensive or bellicose with them nor would they threaten to use them except, as has been official policy since the end of the Cold War, in retaliation against a nuclear attack.

The catch?

It turns out that an official NATO panel consisting of highest-level representatives from our nuclear-equipped allies (representatives including Britain’s former Chief of Staff Field Marshal the Lord Inge and the United States’ former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili) have just released a NATO policy document advocating a more aggressive, bellicose and offensive nuclear weapons stances for NATO.  This policy document includes reversing long-standing NATO policy and advocating in favour of first-strike, pre-emptive nuclear strategies for NATO.  The dossier also advocates “the use of force without UN security council authorisation” under some circumstances (source, source, source)dr-strangelove-2.png

Just as an aside, if a panel of Iran’s highest officials and generals just advocated Iran adopt such a position towards us, how do you suppose the North American media would react?  Do suppose maps would still bother depicting a chunk of land called “Iran” located in between Iraq and Afghanistan?



See also:

Propaganda in Action: The Iranian Hostage Crisis

Propaganda In Action: Canada as a force for peace in the world

Is socialism violent or is liberalism hypocritical?

The hypocrisy of anti-copyright campaigns

Israeli lobby group has begun to pay students to agree with Israeli policy

Globe and Mail grossly inflates Tory support in Atlantic Canada

A Decima poll has just been released to the press which, for the first time in a very long while, shows the Liberals regaining the lead over the Conservatives.

However, in their reporting of the poll, the authors of the Globe and Mail piece falsely claim that the Conservatives have been leading in the polls in Atlantic Canada.  The article states that

“In Atlantic Canada, where the Conservatives had been leading for most of the year…”

This is so far from the truth that it even stretches the imagination as to how the Globe and Mail could be so completely and demonstrably off in its research.

To illustrate how the Conservatives have actually not  in fact been, as the Globe suggests, leading in Atlantic Canada for the past year, consider this rolling average of all polls conducted in the region by all polling firms. 


So, not only have the Tories not been leading in Atlantic Canada for most of the year (or any portion of the year for that matter) but the Tories are actually down from their 2006 election results by a statistically significant margin (and indeed have been down from said showing for quite some time).  (see also Polling Report’s stats for Atlantic Canada which confirm what my stats are showing above, albeit in a much more messy fashion).


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