Some missed facts about that anti-Ignatieff piece in the Guardian

There was a bit of a buzz yesterday about an article published in the left-wing pages of the Guardian, a British newspaper, by Michael Stickings. However, most commentators missed a few important points about its significance. First though, here are some quotes from the piece,

“Why did Ignatieff do what he did? Because he has no interest right now in bringing down the government and thereby being compelled to share power. Because his political career has been about his own glorification, about his desire – for it seems to be the only reason he entered politics in the first place – to be prime minister. He may generously be called a chameleon, a shifty academic difficult to pin down, but perhaps more accurately he ought to be called an egotist who is sure of his own superiority and who seems to lack any real passion for the country he intends to lead.”

As the Toronto Star’s Haroon Siddiqui put it back in December, Ignatieff has been even more of a George Bush cheerleader than Harper:

As is well-known, Ignatieff supported the war in Iraq, a position he only semi-retreated from last year, in year four of the botched occupation. Even then, he argued that he had been wrong for the right reasons (saving the Kurds from Saddam Hussein), while opponents of the war may have been right for the wrong reasons (ideological opposition to Bush).

He also supported the use of such harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects as sleep deprivation and hooding, even while saying he opposed torture.

He was also an advocate for American exceptionalism in defiance of international law.

“To me, though, he has never seemed to be much of a Canadian, and certainly not enough of one to be our prime minister. It’s not that he has spent so much of his life overseas – mostly in Britain and the US. It’s that he has seemed to aspire actively to be anything but Canadian, and more specifically to be American. Which is fine, in a cosmopolitan sort of way, but he comes back to Canada with an air of condescension about him, as if he has seen the world and conquered it and has now decided, with the coaxing of a party eager for him to lead it back to the promised land, to sully himself in the world of politics supposedly on our behalf but really because he just wants to be prime minister, so great would it look on his resumé, a capstone to a long and successful career.”

So who is Michael Stickings? Some have pointed out that he’s a Liberal-minded fellow who writes a blog. But let’s dig a bit deeper.

Michael Stickings isn’t just some grassroots Liberal-minded blogger, he’s a senior policy adviser in Dalton McGuinty’s public service! Stickings is listed as a senior member of the Ontario government’s “Strategy and Results Branch” of which reports to the Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Stickings, now a senior public service staffer in McGuinty’s government, supported Bob Rae for the latest round of the Liberal leadership,

“I supported former Ontario Premier Bob Rae for the leadership, but Rae pulled out of the race late last year”

What we’re seeing here is an explicit shot across the bow and not one by just some Liberal-minded blogger against the federal Liberal leader, this is much more.

A senior policy adviser to Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario public service and admitted Bob Rae booster wrote this about the Liberal who will run to be Prime Minister in the next election,

To me, though, he has never seemed to be much of a Canadian, and certainly not enough of one to be our prime minister. It’s not that he has spent so much of his life overseas – mostly in Britain and the US. It’s that he has seemed to aspire actively to be anything but Canadian, and more specifically to be American.

This isn’t just some wannabe Liberal hack. This shows that there are some serious questions about Ignatieff among well-placed Liberal supporters.

Leaked CBC memo shows Mother Corp will ask for more cash

According to my source that sent me this unsent internal CBC memo, this was intended to hit the inboxes of CBC employees tomorrow:

(emphasis mine)

Of course, as noted, this occurs within the context of the global economic crisis. Despite this, CBC received $1.1 Billion from the taxpayer last year. According to the CRTC, CBC employs 10,200 people paying out $771,074,000 in salaries and benefits. This means that the average payout per employee at the CBC is $75,595.

Comparatively, the total numbers of employees at private broadcasters in this country is 7,402 with total salaries and benefits of $576,900,000. The average payout per employee is $77,938.

Is the CBC trimming the fat, or do they need some central planning from the government to help them do so? Months ago, it was reported that the executive VP for French-services expensed over $80,000 for travel, meals, and theatre tickets.

If any of this is making you sick, the next fact won’t make you feel any better. The CBC lost $15 million in 2006-2007 paying for 68,000 sick days for its employees.

In any self-respecting story about taxpayer abuse, there’s a no-expense-spared trip to Paris. The CBC doesn’t disappoint as that same executive VP that billed $80,000 in expenses also bought a $6,000 plane ticket to the French capital and billed over $2,000 in hotel, meal and cab expenses. Nice work if you can get it.

This lagresse is offensive when private news outlets such as Canwest and CTVGlobemedia are slashing jobs, dropping bureaus and cutting expenses. For example, CTV opted out of the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner this year while Canwest has cut 5% of their workforce and even asked reporters and staffers to voluntarily return their cellphones because the company can’t afford to equip everyone that needs one. Jobs have also been cut at the Globe and Mail. The news business is hurting across Canada and CBC asks the government for “financial flexibility”.

The press gallery won’t let old partisan attack go

From the Obama visit to Parliament Hill yesterday, the CBC’s Susan Bonner assesses what made an impression upon her and her media colleagues,

“The impression seemed to be that Stephen Harper had a message that he wanted to deliver directly to Americans about the border and about security and about trade and he was pushing those media messages directly to talk to an American audience. So those were the money comments from my point of my and from my colleagues in the room’s point of view, from the Prime Minister of Canada. From the President, the stand-out for all of us in the room was “I love this country”, President Obama saying that. Remember back to a couple of election campaigns [ago], one of the first questions asked of Stephen Harper was if he loved Canada because he seems to be, at the time it was seen that he was awkward with this kind of language and yet you saw the President of the United States volunteering this and saying it quite casually and warmly so that was the buzz among the media as we waited, penned up, to be released to get out here and talk to our various outlets.” — Susan Bonner, CBC

A couple of noteworthy items here. What made an impression upon the media was the Prime Minister’s talk about bilateral policy issues. What made an impression about the President was his emotion — “I love this country”. While the PM made an impression about public policy, the press was swooned by Obama’s love.

Also, you’ll remember, the Prime Minister was asked “Do you love your country” and he was asked this in 2005! This was two election campaigns ago! So, when the pack mentality of the Parliamentary Press Gallery got buzzing amongst themselves yesterday they remember Obama’s toss away line most clearly and also the finer details of a partisan attack from 2005.

Get over it guys. Focusing on the unsubstantial, equating Harper’s public policy positions with Obama’s “love” as the take two take-home messages, snapping pictures with your cheap digital cameras during a bilateral meeting with the President of the United States so you can tag it on Facebook and email it to your friends reflects upon your professionalism. I’m surprised I didn’t see a flack standing behind Obama talking on his cellphone waving at his buddies watching on television. The guild has strict policy against using “media tools” for “non-journalistic purposes” (this is a subjective and institutional definition) in the Parliametary precinct. For instance, you might see Press Gallery officials chide tourists for taking pictures of a scrum as they pass by on their tour. For this press conference, it was predetermined that there were to be four questions asked from four reporters but yet there were 40 members of the media present. I watched the news conference on the pool feed. I suppose this freed me to watch like everyone else instead of playing political tourist on Obama day.

But the biggest impression of reporters at the press conference? That Obama states that loves Canada “casually and warmly” and Harper, well that guy shakes hands with his kids, right?

Does Harper love Canada?

Let it go.

Obama, Harper and Ignatieff

Extraordinary Rendition:
The extrajudicial transfer of terror suspects from one state to another, usually to states with lower standards on human rights in their treatment of prisoners.

Barack Obama on extraordinary rendition:

“Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.” — LA Times

Michael Ignatieff on extraordinary rendition:

Arar is a case of rendition: the Torture Convention –Canada is a signator — forbids the rendition of anyone to confinement in a country where there is a reasonable chance that the person will be tortured. Arar claims he was tortured in Syria. But that’s not the only violation: the Americans can turn back a Canadian citizen to Canada, but surely have no right to deport him to a third country.

Stephen Harper on extraordinary rendition:

What I would like to see is obviously the United States government come clean with its version of events [Arar rendition], to acknowledge … the deficiencies and inappropriate conduct that occurred in this case, particularly vis-a-vis its relationship with the Canadian government [Canada wants to hear that] these kinds of incidents will not be repeated in the future.”

Same-sex marriage:
Stephen Harper on same-sex marriage:

“I have no difficulty with the recognition of civil unions for non-traditional relationships but I believe in law we should protect the traditional definition of marriage.” — Stephen Harper interviewed by the CBC

“We made a promise to have a free vote on this issue, we kept that promise, and obviously the vote was decisive and obviously we’ll accept the democratic result of the people’s representatives … I don’t see reopening this question in the future.” — Stephen Harper after MPs reject to re-open same-sex marriage debate

Michael Ignatieff on same-sex marriage:

For Liberals gay marriage is an equality issue. The [Liberal] government’s position gets the balance right. We will not compel religious communities to perform ceremonies that go against their beliefs, but we will not deny marriage rights to Canadians on grounds of sexual orientation.

Barack Obama on same-sex marriage:

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix. … I am not somebody that promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions.

Enhanced interrogation:
Michael Ignatieff on enhanced interrogation:

“As Posner and others have tartly pointed outif torture and coercion are both as useless as critics pretend, why are they used so much? While some abuse and outright torture can be attributed to individual sadism, poor supervision and so on, it must be the case that other acts of torture occur because interrogators believe, in good faith, that torture is the only way to extract information in a timely fashion. It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience. The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur. I submit that we would not be “waterboarding” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — immersing him in water until he experiences the torment of nearly drowning — if our intelligence operatives did not believe it was necessary to crack open the al Qaeda network that he commanded. . Indeed, Mark Bowden points to a Time report in March 2003 that Sheikh Mohammed had “given US interrogators the names and descriptions of about a dozen key al Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting terrorist attacks.” We must at least entertain the possibility that the operatives working on Sheikh Mohammed in our name are engaging not in gratuitous sadism but in the genuine belief that this form of torture—and it does qualify as such—makes all the difference.”

The Globe and Mail infers Stephen Harper’s government’s stance on enhanced interrogation by other governments aided by Canada:

“The Harper government knew prison conditions were appalling long before The Globe and Mail published a series of stories last April detailing the abuse and torture of prisoners turned over by Canadian soldiers to Afghanistan’s notorious secret police, documents released this week show.” — The Globe and Mail

Israel:
Michael Ignatieff on Israel:

“I was a professor of human rights, and I am also a professor of the laws of war, and what happened in Qana was a war crime, and I should have said that.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict

“Canada has to support the right of a democratic country to defend itself … Hamas is to blame for organizing and instigating these rocket attacks and then for sheltering among civilian populations.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hamas conflict

Barack Obama on Israel:

“My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction”

Stephen Harper on Israel:
[The] source of Israel’s strength and success, in my view, is its commitment to the universal values of all civilized peoples: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. …

… Our government believes that those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada, because, as the last world war showed, hate-fuelled bigotry against some is ultimately a threat to us all, and must be resisted wherever it may lurk.

In this ongoing battle, Canada stands side-by-side with the State of Israel, our friend and ally in the democratic family of nations. We have stood with Israel even when it has not been popular to do so, and we will continue to stand with Israel, just as I have always said we would.

I know that we all hope and pray that someday freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law will be a reality for all the peoples of the Middle East.

Abortion:
Stephen Harper on abortion:

“I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion” — Speech at 2005 CPC Policy Convention

Michael Ignatieff on abortion:

Strong majorities of Canadians believe that while abortion should be rare, it should be a protected right for all women. … I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.”

Barack Obama on abortion:

“I trust women to make these decisions in conjunction with their doctors, and their families and their clergy… When you describe a specific procedure [partial-birth abortion] that accounts for less than one percent of abortions that take place then naturally people get concerned, and I think legitimately so.” — Barack Obama

Iraq:
Stephen Harper on Iraq:

On Iraq, while I support the removal of Saddam Hussein and applaud the efforts to establish democracy and freedom in Iraq, I would not commit Canadian troops to that country. I must admit great disappointment at the failure to substantiate pre-war intelligence information regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Michael Ignatieff on Iraq:

The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president … But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion.

Barack Obama on Iraq:

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars. — Barack Obama, October 2nd, 2002

On capital punishment:
Stephen Harper’s government on capital punishment:

Citing the “wrong signal” it would send to Canadians to plead for mercy for convicted killers, the Conservatives said they would no longer attempt to convince the United States or other democratic countries to commute death sentences meted out to Canadians.

The government later said it would review such situations on a “case-by-case basis.” — Montreal Gazette

Michael Ignatieff on capital punishment:

Canadians do not support capital punishment… I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.

Barack Obama on capital punishment:

“While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes — mass murder, the rape and murder of a child — so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment” — Barack Obama from The Audacity of Hope

Watching Obama’s visit on Facebook

There were only about 1000 people on Parliament Hill today to greet President Obama as much of downtown was locked down. There were barricades and security officials on the MacKenzie King bridge and checkpoints a plenty as the Parliamentary precinct was secured for Obama’s seven hour visit. Barricades also line Wellington street past Sussex through Rideau and also cover the street to the US embassy.

Staying away from the fray, I’m tracking the Obama visit passively via status updates on Facebook. Here’s a sample.

F – if this was Bush, they’d be calling it a police state.

J is irritated that Air Force One delayed flights at Ottawa International today, and that all of Ottawa is going crazy b/c of President Obama…

S is chuckling at the Canadian news media who are all experiencing the big O.

R can’t shake the feeling that there’s something going on here today. I guess everyone else is excited about the Oilers taking on the Stars tonight too.

N saw obama in his motorcade, and did not experience any change.

B is demanding 20 minutes with Obama as well.

A is happy for Ottawa’s leper community today.

R is Obamatastic!

E just missed barack in the stairwell… saw his entourage.

S questions the sanity of the people calling in to cpac.

C counted from his office window 40 vehicles and 2 helicopters in the Obama entourage

B is stuck in traffic, why didn’t the President just fly to the Hill like a superhero? Or he could have walked on the canal proving he can walk on water.

L just saw the motorcade go by! Video to follow!

H is going to the Obama press conference!

J is wondering – can Canadian media get any stupider over a Presidential visit? “Yes they Canada!”

Z thinks that if they’re going to close the city down, it might as well be a holiday.

J is wondering were the anti-war protesters are?

E – OBAMA IS HERE! EVERYBODY FREAK OUT

Obama motorcade arrives in Ottawa

Picture taken on Sussex today just outside the US embassy.  President Obama’s motorcade arrives in Ottawa.

The Presidential limo is just out of frame on the right.  There’s an indent on the door where a magnetic presidential seal is affixed when the President is in the limo.  The second vehicle to the right in the photo is a Chevy Suburban and has an interesting feature that any self-respecting motorcade should have:

There are usually 15 cars in the motorcade including two “presidential” limos. One limo serves as a security decoy and both are missile proof.

Perhaps Harper’s “Bush-like” motorcade can upgrade itself to “Obama class”,

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s motorcade has acquired a presidential look.

But one MP says the big black SUV now cruising at the rear of the entourage is a bit too remindful of President George W. Bush.

And its gas-chugging potential raises other issues, even for a prime minister who ditched the Kyoto accord, says New Democrat Pat Martin.

Michael Ignatieff’s uncertain position on the civil liberties of terror suspects

“We have to chart a path somehow in which we make some hard choices, some lesser evils, that is to say I’m not sure we can keep to a pure civil libertarian position all the way, for example we might have to engage in the preventive detention of suspects on lower standards that we would use in a criminal case, we might even have to engage in certain forms of targeted assassination of terrorist enemies. These are evils in the sense that people get killed, people get hurt, we don’t keep to the fullest standards of due process, but they avoid greater evils which is that our society lays itself open to constant terrorist attack and in response we still do worse things to our constitutional fabric.” — Michael Ignatieff

“I think you can draw a relatively clear line between interrogations that subject a terror suspect to a certain kind of stress, a certain kind of sleep deprevation, a certain disorientation and you can keep that clear of torture.” — Michael Ignatieff

And in a letter he co-signed with Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP leader Jack Layton, (a lot of tri-partite letters have been signed lately) Ignatieff argues,

“It is also clear that Mr. Khadr has been subjected to conditions of confinement and interrogation that Canadian courts have found violate international prohibitions against torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.” — Michael Ignatieff

I find Ignatieff’s ambiguity on this topic to be notable.

Also, Ignatieff is calling for the repartiation of Omar Khadr whereas Khadr should instead be granted full due process and face his accusers in the United States. Let’s clear up that matter before we embrace him with open arms and “call upon Prime Minister Harper to cooperate in these efforts [to repatriate Khadr] and ensure that appropriate arrangements are made through the provincial government of Ontario and appropriate members of civil society to provide for Mr. Khadr’s supervision and reintegration into the community upon his return to Canada.”

CBC gets Obama

There are reports today that the CBC has secured a pre-visit interview from US President Barack Obama.  Congratulations to the team at the public broadcaster, for any network that’s what they call an exclusive in the biz.

These sorts of of coups are usually a combination of networking, of credibility and of audience, but to be serious, it’s mostly like anything else in politics, media or business; it’s the strong interpersonal contacts that one builds up that open most doors.

This reminds me of when I found myself at the intersection of US politics and the media.  Last year, during the election at which Obama would ultimately succeed, his GOP opponent John McCain took a history-making detour to Canada.  Never before had a major-party candidate for President visited our country during an election.

Since the event was political, and in Ottawa, the political flacks of this town registered through their centralized guild that is the Parliamentary Press Gallery.  Since the press conference would occur off of Parliament Hill and outside of the sphere of control of the Gallery, I called the press office of the McCain campaign.  Could a blogger get credentials for a press conference with a presidential candidate? Yes.

During McCain’s speech at the Chateau Laurier a producer from CBC spotted me and was puzzled by my media credentials and asked how I got credentialed.  I told them that I called the campaign and easily set it up.  The producer then explained that it had been very difficult for them to get a one-on-one interview with the GOP nominee and asked if I could make a call to set up an interview for the CBC.  Political capital is a real currency in both Washington and Ottawa.  Though I have some friends over at the public broadcaster, I wasn’t about to spend any capital on the CBC that day.

At the press conference, I asked a simple question to get McCain on record for his first foreign trip if he should become President.  I asked if it would be Canada, he cracked a joke but then mused seriously, “why not?”

This week President Obama will make that first foreign visit of the 44th Presidency.  In the tradition of Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Canada will be his first international destination.  And, as in most “gets” in news media, it does come down to who you can get on the phone.

My congratulations to the CBC for their good connections — already established and newly formed — into the Democratic Party, it will serve them well as they cover the Obama administration in Washington.  However, nobody was shocked when Fox News scored exclusives with the 43rd man to serve as POTUS during his two terms.

I wouldn’t be surprised if CTV and Canwest are now looking into the rights to such CBC favourites as “Fahrenheit 9/11“, “The World According to Bush“, and “The Unauthorized biography of Dick Cheney: Ascent to Power“.  It’s a pity that CBC’s invested capital in “The Arrow“, “Trudeau: The Man, The Myth, The Movie“, “Trudeau II: Maverick in the Making” and “The Fifth Estate: Mulroney” isn’t paying dividends in the domestic market.

FINALLY: Partisan bickering and CBC institutional teasing aside, the Obama interview is a great get and the people who set this up deserve a lot of credit.

Preston Manning townhall

Thanks to everyone that tuned in. We had a bit of a technical glitch going in that prevented the recording of the video but we’ve addressed the problem now.

We’ll be doing more of these in the future on a regularly scheduled basis with other voices from the conservative movement so I hope that you’ll tune in.

We also experimented lightly with Twitter for this townhall, allowing people to submit their questions live as they watched the video. We’ll be using it as a channel in from the community so that we can increase interactivity during these events. The political model is not broadcast out from politicians to democratic stakeholders, it’s narrowcast in from democratic stakeholders to politicians.

Announcing RightofTwitter.ca

Today, I launched RightofTwitter.ca, a communitizing website for the right-of-centre twitter community in Canada. In one stop you can view (and follow) Canada’s leading right-of-centre voices in one place and track the live discussion of right-wing Canadian politics at once by tracking the #roft hashtag. There’s also a handy how-to guide for new Twitter users.

Still not on twitter and wondering what it is? Think of it in a few ways. Imagine a Facebook status update about what you’re doing or thinking, make it more public and searchable. Also, think of it as micro-blogging. Twitter users are limited to 140 characters per post (the size of a SMS text message), so Twitter essentially lowers the threshold to online discussion and self-publishing because it doesn’t require that you keep an audience by writing something extensive and on a regular basis and it’s more transactional. Twitter “posts” are more like statements and a good way to pass on links and dissemenate information.

The value of it to the conservative community in Canada is that each and everyone of us on Twitter are following/being followed by members of other communities and interest groups. When you post on a Canadian conservative topic, that can be disseminated and retweeted through other communities. Blogging Tories communitized Canada’s conservative blogging community and RightofTwitter.ca aims to do the same with Canada’s conservative tweeps (twitter lingo for twitter users).

If your name isn’t on the list and you’re on Twitter, send me a tweet @stephen_taylor and if you’re not on Twitter, sign up here.