Anthony Rota’s controversial ad

Why is it controversial? The ad was published in the North Bay Nugget on September 23rd, 2008 (during the writ period) and it doesn’t appear to contain the words “approved by the official agent for Anthony Rota”. If my eyes do not deceive me, this would be in contravention of s.320 and s.321 of the Elections Act.

Those sections are,

320. A candidate or registered party, or a person acting on their behalf, who causes election advertising to be conducted shall mention in or on the message that its transmission was authorized by the official agent of the candidate or by the registered agent of the party, as the case may be.

321. (1) No person shall knowingly conduct election advertising or cause it to be conducted using a means of transmission of the Government of Canada.

(2) For the purpose of subsection (1), a person includes a group within the meaning of Part 17.

This appears to be an ad authorized by Anthony Rota as an MP. If that’s the case, he’s advertising himself (he’s now a candidate) using his MP office.

UPDATE: Rota’s campaign explains that the ads were bought prior to the writ drop. According to them, this makes it legal. Since Rota couldn’t have known when the writ period was going to be, this is an understandable oversight. However, according to my reading of the law, the act is clear on these two sections. Rota should have cancelled the ads. I wouldn’t accuse Rota of cheating because of this. Instead, I’d chalk it up to an unfortunate coincidence that could be interpreted as a violation of the Act.

Elections Canada disagrees and claims that the content doesn’t appear to be election advertising. Then again, Elections Canada is quite a subjective arbiter on what constitutes election advertising and in who’s name elections advertising is done (MP/candidate and federal/local). I suppose the Prime Minister now has the green light to circumvent the spending limit by buying the back page of every single paper in the country (with taxpayer money, natch) to say “Hi, I’m the PM” and as long as he doesn’t say “Vote for me, I’m the PM”, it’s all good.

Cruikshank apologizes for Mallick column, recognizes CBC’s left-wing editorial bias

A mea culpa from CBC News publisher John Cruikshank concerning this column by Heather Mallick published on the CBC website.

In the column, Mallick calls American voters “white trash”, Republican men “sexual inadequates” and Sarah Palin a “hillbilly” among other slurs.

Here is Cruikshank’s letter (emphasis mine):

More than 300 people have taken the trouble this month to complain to the CBC ombudsman about a column we ran on about Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Sept. 5.

The column, by award-winning freelance writer Heather Mallick, was also pilloried by the National Post in Canada and by Fox News in the U.S. Despite its age — it is three weeks old, several lifetimes in web years — this posting remains a subject of fascination in the blogosphere.

Vince Carlin, the CBC ombudsman, has now issued his assessment of the Mallick column. He doesn’t fault her for riling readers by either the caustic nature of her tone or the polarizing nature of her opinion.

But he objects that many of her most savage assertions lack a basis in fact. And he is certainly correct.

Mallick’s column is a classic piece of political invective. It is viciously personal, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan.

And because it is all those things, this column should not have appeared on the site.

Healthy restraint
On the whole, the CBC News policy handbook takes a very anxious view of any mixing of opinion in with the news business. It sees the two as nitro and glycerin, innocuous on their own but explosive together. This is a very healthy restraint for a public broadcaster.

But every news organization needs to have an opinion dimension. Access to different viewpoints helps readers, listeners and viewers make reasoned choices, especially during an election campaign.

As a public broadcaster we have an added responsibility to provide an array of opinions and voices to complement our journalism. But we must do so carefully. And you should be able to trust us to provide you with work that’s based on solid reporting and free from the passionate excesses of partisanship.

We failed you in this case. And as a result we have put new editing procedures in place to ensure that in the future, work that is not appropriate for our platforms, will not appear. We are open to contentious reasoned argument but not to partisan attack. It’s a fine line.

Ombudsman Carlin makes another significant observation in his response to complainants: when it does choose to print opinion, displays a very narrow range on its pages.

In this, Carlin is also correct.

This, too, is being immediately addressed. will soon expand the diversity of voices and opinions and be home to a diverse group of writers with many perspectives. In this, we will better reflect the depth and texture of this country.

We erred in our editorial judgment. You told us in no uncertain terms. And we have learned from it.

Here was CBC ombudsman Vince Carlin’s assessment of the complaints that followed Mallick’s column,

The battle for second place

As we enter the third week of the federal election campaign, one cannot help but be struck by how early poll numbers suggesting a Conservative majority government have held. Nanos/CPAC numbers were fairly consistent over the past three days indicating an approximate fifteen point margin between the Conservatives and the Liberals. As one senior Liberal strategist told Sunmedia’s Greg Weston, “For us to make any significant gains would require that just about everything go terribly wrong for the Conservatives.”

We’re about to see the opening of a secondary race; the race for Stornoway is going to be of intense media focus. Consider this: the NDP has a greater chance of tieing or surpassing the Liberals than Liberal leader Stephane Dion has of challenging Stephen Harper for the lead. When we consider this truth, the narrative changes: this is no longer a race to replace the Prime Minister, this is a race to hold him to a minority. And, as NDP and Liberal numbers tighten up, there’s a new math problem for the left-wing collective calculator to solve. Indeed, pollster Angus-Reid yesterday showed results of a national tie between the Dippers and Grits with a larger sample size than usual and a margin of error of just 2.5%.

The New Democrats have always battled with the Liberals to be champions of the left, and now a new entrant – the Greens – are proving to be a serious challenge for Layton. In the past, we’ve seen the estranged Liberal family unite under the banner of the Think-Twice Coalition that usually includes folks like Buzz Hargrove, Maude Barlow, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May. Will we see an 11th hour alliance between Liberals and the Greens or will such a move sour the goodwill that May has built by making a case for her inclusion in the leader’s debate?

If the Tories play things responsibly and do some smart thinking – twice if need be – and refrain from being too eager to respond to each and every opportunity to put out some pushback, this race will focus on the territorial skirmish on the left. This week’s debate may just help Canadians break from the psychology of the Conservative-Liberal dichotomy and a solid performance from Jack Layton is important for this to happen. In fact, look for Stephen Harper to be a willing combatant against Layton when the NDP leader challenges him this Thursday. Harper and Layton will balance this by doing their best to dunk Dion with their respective right and left feet whenever he tries to get his head above water but we’ll see Elizabeth May come to his rescue in order to get some valuable stage time. Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe will just muddle the left-wing message by taking up yet another podium and will do well to underscore the divide between a calm and collected Harper and the jumbled, disjointed side-show to his left. Though Canadians have been impressed with Duceppe’s English language debate performances in the past and are familiar with the Bloc leader, having a separatist voice among the muddled and crowded opposition will just lead more Canadians to side with Harper. If Layton finds his voice with Harper’s help, a strong debate performance by the NDP, in concert with the surging of his party’s poll numbers and the darkness embracing the Liberals may change the media narrative (and Canadian psychology) to think of the NDP as the champion of the underdog left. It is doubtful that the media will then focus on Harper vs. Layton for the rest of the race. They will, however, treat the Dion-Layton-May contest as its own.

The combination of these factors will put the Liberals in crisis mode as their war-room, faced with a question of survival, not only electoral but institutional, debates on whether to spend the limit or bank the few dollars that come its way during the rare fundraising event that is a general election.

What hasn’t been discussed may in fact be the clincher for a Harper majority this election. With so many parties eating each other’s lunch on the left, that magic 40% threshold for a majority may in fact be old math. Jean Chretien, facing a fractured right won a 155 seat majority with 38.5% of the popular vote. The left has pushed for proportional representation in the past in order to buck unity of ideology for increased representation in Parliament. After October 14th, as May, Layton and whoever replaces Dion work over the new math they might come to realize that unity presents the only way forward. For now, the left battles itself with four divided voices and the prize is second place.

Stephane Dion fails leadership test on Lesley Hughes

Much is being written and said about former Liberal candidate Lesley Hughes and her bizarre conspiracy theories that are more appropriately scrawled on the front of newspaper boxes rather than enunciated by a mainstream contender for Parliament.

As the story progressed from the unearthing of Hughes’ quote, to the firestorm that erupted, all the way to Dion’s delayed disposal of Hughes’ from the Liberal Party, the easy conclusion is that Hughes’ views are not only divergent but dumb but the looming question that we should ask is what does this say about Mr. Dion’s leadership?

Former Liberal candidate Lesley Hughes in her own words,

“German Intelligence (BND) claims to have warned the U.S. last June, the Israeli Mossad and Russian Intelligence in August. Israeli businesses, which had offices in the Towers, vacated the premises a week before the attacks, breaking their lease to do it. About 3000 Americans working there were not so lucky.”

And then this release from the Liberal war-room while Hughes is under fire from Conservatives for her anti-semitic remarks (h/t Janke):


Sent: Sep 25, 2008 6:51 PM

For Immediate Release

September 25, 2008

Statement from Lesley Hughes, the Liberal candidate for Kildonan-St. Paul

As a journalist I have spoken and written passionately about the Holocaust. I am a lifelong friend and supporter of the Jewish community in Winnipeg and I am deeply distressed by any suggestion to the contrary. I find any interpretation of my journalism as anti-Semitic personally offensive and I heartily apologize for that perception.


Liberal Party of Canada Press Office

Note that this release comes from the Liberal Press Office, not directly from Ms. Hughes herself. The Liberal Party would like you to know that Ms. Hughes is “offended” by her critics. This sort of apology is good enough for Stephane Dion.

Then when this non-apology is worked over by reporters, Liberal supporters start yelling at them. Look at the leadership Stephane Dion shows when faced by further questions by reporters on an issue un-resolved. Remember, Hughes said that “Israelis” had advance knowledge of 9/11. What would you do if you were the leader of a political party?

A Liberal supporter takes over the press conference and pushes back on journalists for the Liberal leader. CTV quoted Liberal supporters as saying that questions were “trivial and irrelevant”.

When it became clear for Dion that Ms. Hughes was turning into a political liability, Dion still wouldn’t dump Hughes from the campaign. Instead, he sought the advice of the Canadian Jewish Congress as to what is right or wrong. Of course, like anyone with any sense the CJC said the comments were wrong. Mr. Dion didn’t need to outsource his decision making here. What to do about a nutty conspiracy theorist that suggests the Americans and Israelis orchestrated their own mass-murder in order to build a case for war is about the easiest test of leadership there is; it’s Leadership 101, this person has no place in any serious political party.

Mr. Dion did the right thing in the end, but only after facing embarrassing questions and only after delegating his judgment to an outside group. This incident speaks to the disturbing presumed acceptance of these views in some of the parties on the left but more importantly, it show that when faced with perhaps the easiest test of leadership, Mr. Dion failed.

twitter releases clone

Today, twitter released its own version of a website I developed in the summer and launched about a month ago.

Twitter Election 2008, like its predecessor called that I coded, aggregates twitter mentions of John McCain, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin in real-time as a constant stream of data updated using asynchronous javascript and xml (AJAX).

I contacted some of the folks at twitter about my idea on July 22 when I was developing the website. The release of their version of the idea today is nicely designed and I’m flattered that they’ve released it to a wider audience. When a big player like twitter validates your proof of concept, you say thanks! So a big thank you to twitter!

Of course, for your Canadian fix you can check out Twitter has yet to touch the Canadian election in an official way. I hope they do soon.

LiberalTour (LiberalTour) is now following your updates on Twitter

I just received this email on my Blogging_Tories twitter account. Somebody in the Liberal war-room has been spending their afternoon following everyone and their brother on twitter.

At the time of this writing, liberaltour on twitter is following 1,963 people while being followed by 532 people.

Perhaps the Liberal strategy is to follow as many people as they can in order to build reciprocal followers. When people follow others on twitter, the followee receives an email indicating that they’re being followed and this gets them to reciprocate with the person who is following them. So, is the Liberal campaign building a following by blasting twitter users email inboxes with follow notices? It appears that they are succeeding somewhat as the number of people following the Liberal tour has also increased this afternoon.

At 2:45pm, liberaltour had just over 1,300 people that they were following, up to 1,600 at 3:15pm, to 1,731 at just before 5pm, and now at 1,932 (5:16pm).

Here are the current standings (as of 5:15pm on September 25 2008) among the five federal party leaders:

Account Following Followers Ratio Updates
jacklayton 909 920 1.01 84
pmharper 854 807 0.94 35
premierministre 17 58 3.41 28
liberaltour 1,962 532 0.27 36
tourneeliberal 0 10 10.0 1
gillesduceppe 171 182 1.06 69

Taking the English and French twitter feeds together for each campaign, the Conservatives have a ratio of 0.99 Following/Followers, the Liberals have a ratio of 0.28, the NDP has 1.01 and the Bloc 1.06.

Most campaigns follow as many people that follow them. However, the Liberals follow more than are followed in the twitter race.

The Liberal campaign should be careful, the folks at twitter advise

A Twitter account may be suspended for a variety of reasons. The most common of which is automated mass following or other types of spammy behavior.

Twitter is a growing social platform that all campaigns are trying to figure out during this campaign and it’s impact on Canadian politics has yet to be seen. If you like, you can follow me on twitter and check out political updates on twitter in real-time at

Ottawa West-Nepean fight gets heated

A couple of days ago, I attended the all-candidates debate at the Nepean Sportsplex where incumbent John Baird faced former Liberal minister David Pratt, Marlene Rivier from the NDP and Green party candidate Frances Coates. Despite their politics, I was quite impressed by the debating ability of Rivier and Coates. Pratt came off as a bit of a curmudgeon as he took almost opportunity to attack Stephen Harper and John Baird. It’s understandable from his perspective as he hopes to be the giant killer, but in a campaign many have labeled as negative, Pratt just fueled people’s perceptions of the same.

I’m not convinced that too many undecided voters attend all-candidates meetings. In fact, I’m certain that there were only a handful there. The theatrical display in that hall a few nights ago was put on in front of political partisans who tried to out-cheer or out-boo the other side’s cheerers and booers. A long train of people rushed to the microphone when it was time for questions from the audience; there was no chance that everyone would be heard as this section was alloted approximately one hour and each question would take the panel about four minutes to answer. Predictably, the moderator kept to time and a shorter but still extensive line of people behind the lucky last person to ask a question seemed disappointed and returned to their seats. After the panel had answered the last question, a woman grabbed the microphone and realizing she wouldn’t be recognized by the moderator, started yelling in the mic at John Baird which was followed by a shower of boos from the audience towards the woman that disrespected Baird but more importantly the room which patiently respected the process. She kept yelling and was largely inaudible with the surrounding boos and cameramen present rushed to capture a story in progress. The timekeeper, sitting next to the microphone grabbed the mic and pulled the micstand down. Then the woman tried wrestling the microphone away from the timekeeper bending down to shout into the mic now clasped in his hands. Flustered, she turned around and turned around and quickly paced to the door leaving the room.

Outside, a reporter wanted to get her story. Apparently, she was upset about the Conservative government’s record on science, technology and innovation. The reporter asked for her name to which she replied “Christine”. “And your last name?”, the reporter asked. After hesitation she responded “Pratt”. “Is that a coincidence,” asked the reporter.

“No, I’m his sister”

Pratt’s sister yells at John Baird

She tried to wrestle the microphone from the man who holds the stopwatch and the yellow and red cards to indicate time to the candidates.

Here’s the perspective of another blogger that was there,

I attended my riding all candidates debate last night. Stupid politics. It made the news this morning to. I am now more mixed up than ever. David Pratt did not handle himself at all well. He did nothing but attack Baird and the conservatives (ok….to an extent, rightly so, but there is a time and place, and a way to balance it), and spent very little time on talking about what he would do, even when asked directly “What would you do for X, Y, or Z”. He also frequently ran over his time, and powered through to the end of his statement with the moderator trying to talk over him saying his time was up. John Baird is actually a pretty clever man despite my abhorrence of his policies. He came off looking like he had a clear moral high ground, stayed polite, stayed in time, played some very clever political theatre for the crowd, and kept attacks on Stephane Dion to a minimum. Baird’s supporters on the other hand were a disgrace. Yelling, heckling, drowning out Pratt and making him use up his time, shouting down people asking questions critical of Baird, they were quite frankly an embarassment. Pratt had his own embarassment however, after the moderator declared we were out of time except closing statements, a woman muscled her way to the microphone and start yelling at Baird (only to be outright verbally abused by Baird’s supporters for her efforts). I learned this morning, she was David Pratt’s sister, and it was a very stupid move to do when the moderator had already closed down questions from the audience, and David made no attempt to dissuade her.

I am seriously questioning my volunteer contribution to Pratt’s campaign office. I still want to see Baird out of a job, and Pratt has the only real chance to pull that off, but right now, I’d have trouble being sincere doing door to door canvassing. “Please sir or madam, I’d like to ask if David can count on your vote, even though his performance at the debate probably didn’t earn it”