Ryan Hastman interview

Ryan Hastman is the Conservative candidate for the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona. A former staffer in the offices of Minister Stockwell Day and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ryan recently moved back to Edmonton where he will run to replace NDP MP Linda Duncan in the next election.

Michael Ignatieff appeals for expat dollars

I’ve received this letter addressed to expat friends and readers from America to Africa. The letter is written by Michael Ignatieff and appeals to expats for dollars, dinars, and drachmas and tries to draw a link between the Liberal leader’s 34 year absence from Canada and the career paths of other expats.

(Click the pages to enlarge)

Ignatieff can’t seem to help himself as he boasts of his own experiences in a closing paragraph of the letter,

“My own path has taken me across the airwaves of the BBC to the pages of the New York Times, from the remote villages in Afghanistan into the lecture halls of Paris, Vancouver and Boston. And now that path has brought me here — to the country that has always been my home, as Leader of the one party that can set Canada back on its own path.”

Remember that Michael Ignatieff, when he wasn’t running to be Prime Minister said that the only thing he missed about Canada was Algonquin Park. When asked by a British interviewer after the Quebec referendum if Ignatieff was actually suggesting that Canada, as a concept, has failed, Ignatieff said that he can’t see what sort of future we have [as Canadians]. And, there is of course, this:

Michael Ignatieff left Canada in 1969 only to return to become Prime Minister. If these expats have the same sort of attachment to Canada, it’s doubtful that they will donate any money. Yet, if they not only miss Algonquin park, but also Flin Flon, Oakville, Grand Falls or wherever else in this country they call home, they’ll recognize that, unlike them, Ignatieff as a man without a deep sense of attachment to this country but rather a profound sense of entitlement to it.

Stockwell Day interview

It’s been a summer of swine and seals in the office of the International Trade Minister, Stockwell Day. Colloquially, H1N1 is called swine flu and it’s been causing some trade sniffles for Canada as we’ve been affected by cases in almost every region, while other countries are taking it as an excuse for trade protectionism. Another file on Day’s desk is the EU decision to ban the marketing of seal goods. I had a chance to chat with the Trade Minister on these topics and briefly on the topic of free trade.

Telegraph Journal apologizes to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Today, we learn from the Telegraph Journal:

On Wednesday, July 8, 2009, the Telegraph-Journal published a story about the funeral mass celebrating the life of former Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc that was inaccurate and should not have been published. We pride ourselves in maintaining high standards of journalism and ethical reporting, and regret this was not followed in this case.

The story stated that a senior Roman Catholic priest in New Brunswick had demanded that the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the communion wafer which was handed to Prime Minister Harper during the celebration of communion at the funeral mass. The story also said that during the communion celebration, the Prime Minister “slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call ‘the host’ into his jacket pocket”.

There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published, nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now. Our reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras, who wrote the story reporting on the funeral, did not include these statements in the version of the story that they wrote. In the editing process, these statements were added without the knowledge of the reporters and without any credible support for them.

The Telegraph-Journal sincerely apologizes to the Prime Minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused. We also apologize to reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras and to our readers for our failure to meet our own standards of responsible journalism and accuracy in reporting.

Here is the original story (portions highlighted in red concern content that has “no credible support” and portions highlighted in orange are therefore not newsworthy and are unsubstantiated gossip and speculation):

A senior New Brunswick Roman Catholic priest is demanding the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the sacramental communion wafer Stephen Harper was given at Roméo LeBlanc’s funeral mass.

During communion at the solemn and dignified service held last Friday in Memramcook for the former governor general, the prime minister slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call “the host” into his jacket pocket.

In Catholic understanding, the host – once consecrated by a priest for the Eucharist – becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It is crucial that the small wafer be consumed when it is received.

Monsignor Brian Henneberry, vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John, wants to know whether the prime minister consumed the host and, if not, what happened to it.

If Harper accepted the host but did not consume it, “it’s worse than a faux pas, it’s a scandal from the Catholic point of view,” he said.

Henneberry said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office is in order.

“If I were the prime minister, I would at least offer an explanation to say no offence was meant, and then (clarifying) what happened to the consecrated host is in order,” he said. “I would hope the Prime Minister’s Office would have enough respect for the Catholic Church and for faith in general to make clear whatever happened.”

On Friday, during the mass, Harper reached out with his right hand and accepted the wafer from a priest.

A television camera lingered long enough to show New Brunswick Lt.-Gov. Herménégilde Chiasson, the next person to receive the host, raise his to his mouth.

But the tape shows that Harper does not consume the wafer before the camera cuts away several seconds later.

If Harper was unclear about what was appropriate during the funeral mass, said Henneberry, it “would say to me it’s time to get new protocol people.”

Harper and his senior spokespersons were en route to Italy on Tuesday for the G8 leaders’ summit.

Harper will spend five days in Italy and on Saturday he has an audience with Pope Benedict.

Requests for comment left with Harper’s media office were not immediately returned on Tuesday.

What Harper did or didn’t do at the ceremony quietly raised questions at the ceremony in Memramcook Friday.

When Harper took the host, “everybody just paused and said, ‘What did he do with it?'”‚” said one official who watched the pool feed with reporters who were not inside St. Thomas Church in Memramcook.

“You could see he was, ‘Uh oh, I don’t know what to do with this.'”‚”

The curiosity among Catholics has not gone unnoticed among Liberal insiders in Ottawa, either.

Henneberry said he has received a call on Harper’s actions from a concerned Catholic, and he doubts that she is the only one puzzled and perturbed.

“She said she was very upset,” he said, adding he had not seen the footage.

“She said, ‘All weekend long it has been bothering me and I know I can’t do something about it, but someone should.’

“She can’t be the only one in this country that is thinking that.”

Harper’s religious affiliation raises a separate but related question about his accepting the host: As a Protestant, should he have politely declined it?

The fact it was a national event that was televised live likely complicated the situation for everyone – the priests and Harper, Henneberry said.

“If the prime minister is not a Catholic, he should not have been receiving communion and if he comes up it places the priest in an awkward position, especially at a national funeral because everyone is watching,” he said.

But Rev. Arthur Bourgeois, who delivered the homily, did not have a problem with the prime minister accepting the host.

“Usually, to partake in holy communion in the Catholic Church, you have to be a member of it, but if you’re not, exceptionally sometimes at major occasions (it is different),” Bourgeois said.

“If you are up there and giving holy communion you are not going to stop and asked everyone if they are Catholic or if they are not Catholic.

“You say the Lord provides.”

Monsignor André Richard, who is Bishop of the Diocese of Moncton, gave Harper communion but said he didn’t see what Harper did with the host.

“I didn’t see anything wrong there “¦ because I was busy doing something else.”

Bourgeois said it is acceptable to decline the host by simply folding one’s hands, which signals the priest to bless the person.

Rev. James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop of Winnipeg, said if Harper was not given good advice before the ceremony about what to do, it is a regrettable oversight.

“I would feel very sorry for the prime minister if he wasn’t informed about what the procedure is,” Weisgerber said. “I would find it terrible if we put him in an embarrassing situation.

“My concern is at a funeral of that level everyone knows what the protocol is.”

Harper could have simply consumed the host shortly after he was off-camera; or he could have hesitated because he expected a priest would soon invite everyone to consume the host once everyone present had received it, as occurs in some Protestant churches.

His own faith tradition certainly does things differently, says an evangelical Christian journalist who specializes in religion and politics.

Lloyd Mackey’s 2005 book The Pilgrimage of Stephen Harper traces Harper’s political and faith journey.

Given his church background, Harper might not have known exactly what was expected of him as a Protestant at a Roman Catholic mass, Mackey suggested.

“I don’t think by himself as a Protestant adherent he’d be aware of the nuances,” said Mackey, who added there would be people in his inner circle who should have advised him.

For a number of years, in Calgary and in Ottawa, Harper has worshipped at churches within the Christian and Missionary Alliance, said Mackey.

Communion in Alliance churches is typically held once a month.

It would involve the seated congregation passing along wafers and, in small individual glasses, unfermented grape juice.

Harper grew up in a background with United Church of Canada and Presbyterian influences, but he was something of a skeptic until he was a young adult.

Mackey’s book says Harper’s journey to a committed personal faith was influenced by fellow politician Preston Manning, among others, and came after reading much-admired Christian apologists C.S. Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge.

LeBlanc, 81, died in late June. He had been the country’s first Acadian and Maritime governor general, and before that, a senator, MP and press secretary to two prime ministers.

That’s quite an edit!

I’ve learned from a source close to one of the journalists that at least one of them may have gone so far as to seek advice and consider a lawsuit against the newspaper if the paper did not retract the story and absolve (no pun intended) the journalists of fabricating a significant portion the article.

Printing such a false hit piece can get a journalist frozen out of any future access to the PMO under the current administration. It’s a rare sight to see journalists defend their integrity against their senior management in the newsroom, however, in this case it may have been a matter of professional self-preservation.

What motivation was there behind torquing over three quarters of the story? Did somebody in Ottawa (or Toronto) pick up the phone and push a more interesting story to the editors instead?

Some observers will remember that “Wafergate” led CBC’s flagship newscast The National rather than the story about the Prime Minister’s participation in the G8 conference. UPDATE: Errr… this observer didn’t seem to remember correctly. My friends from CBC (yes, I shockingly still do have a couple of them — and they’ve been better to me than I have to them lately, but I digress) inform me that I am mistaken by the order of their reports (they did G8 and did “Wafergate” later in the broadcast). I also mistakenly made this reference on the Charles Adler show. I ironically acknowledge this and regret these errors.

Where is Michael Ignatieff? Is he just vacationing?

Everyone in Ottawa is starting to wonder. Unlike the Prime Minister, who has official duties representing this country at events like the G8 and at funerals for past Governors General, as Opposition leader, Michael Ignatieff doesn’t have any real obligations when the House isn’t sitting beyond representing his constituents in Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

Being the type who would have his own passport stamped in the country of its issuance, Michael Ignatieff has been rumoured to be clearing customs at other ports of entry. Michael Ignatieff updated his twitter on July 17th and 18th to suggest that he’s been in Ottawa, at least recently, but many observers have noted that he hasn’t even been spotted on the hamburger circuit pressing the flesh with us regular folk besides his $40 a head, no hat, no cattle pancake breakfast fundraiser during Stampede. Instead of beating a party-building path flipping burgers and chewing the fat with the locals coast-to-coast, Ignatieff has been spotted in London giving a lecture on Liberalism and “tough times” to his friends who attended the Isaiah Berlin Lecture. This shouldn’t be so easily dismissed; this is a rare piece of work where the Liberal leader has mused openly about the economy, yet is characteristically light on what to do about it. His office has denied it, but besides London, Dr. Ignatieff has also been rumoured to be stimulating the economy in Provence, France, where his family has owned a villa for decades.

If so, I say let the man have his rest. He got himself worked up over EI before the summer break and when it was all over he couldn’t even get the Conservatives to concede the colour of the blue ribbon committee to investigate reform of the system. While some Conservatives may suggest that Ignatieff’s true employment insurance is Harvard should he lose the next election, for now Michael Ignatieff deserves a break before more concessions in the fall.

Ironic press release of the day

The Liberal Party put out this release today:

OTTAWA –The Harper government must stop their ongoing complicity in human rights abuses against Omar Khadr by bringing him back to Canada, Liberal MPs said today.

“An independent report has just found that Canada’s spy agency failed to take human rights concerns into account when interrogating Mr. Khadr,” said Liberal Consular Affairs Critic Dan McTeague. “This finding strengthens the case for bringing Mr. Khadr home and calls for stronger government oversight on how CSIS conducts its business.”

SIRC, which is the oversight body that monitors the work of CSIS on behalf of Parliament, reported this week that CSIS ignored human rights concerns when interrogating Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay prison.

Ah yes, who was the minister responsible for CSIS at the time of Omar Khadr’s interrogation? Khadr was interrogated and filmed by CSIS during February 2003. Wayne Easter was solicitor general of the Liberal government at the time.

Here’s CP:

OTTAWA — Canada’s spy watchdog says the Canadian Security Intelligence Service may need major changes after finding it ignored concerns about human rights and Omar Khadr’s young age in deciding to interview the Toronto-born teen at a U.S. military prison.

By Liberal logic, if the “Harper government” is complicit to human rights abuses by not bringing Khadr home, the Liberals are most complicit for having ministerial oversight over CSIS when the alleged abuse took place.

And then, the Liberals go on to lecture the Conservatives (their leader is a human rights expert, so I’m told):

Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae said the Harper government’s record on standing up for Canadian citizens abroad shows that they either don’t care about the expectations of a “contemporary democratic society,” or they don’t understand them.

“Whatever the case, it is unacceptable, and their complicity in human rights violations around the world must stop,” said Mr. Rae, adding that Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan’s response to the report was highly inadequate. “Our laws make it very clear how Mr. Khadr should have been treated. Clearly, there needs to be better oversight on how CSIS conducts its business overseas. And clearly he must be brought home.”

www.kinsellasfortruth.com

Like Warren Kinsella, I’ve stayed out of much of this whole story about RepublicansforIgnatieff.com. First, it was because I was enjoying the blogosphere’s reaction to the website, and then the media’s reaction to the website, and then the reaction to it by Michael Ignatieff’s war room chief.

Today I became “Kinsella-famous” (as one reader emailed to say). Warren Kinsella states that he thinks that I am behind the website that insincerely lauds Michael Ignatieff.

True, I’m no stranger to online activism and politicking; I launched Iggyfacts.ca to help define Michael Ignatieff enabling users of Twitter to retweet facts about our favourite accidental tourist. In December, I launched RallyforCanada.ca to help organize nationwide protests against the Ignatieff endorsed unelected coalition government supported by the Bloc Quebecois. Please forgive the tone here, it is just to make the point that I am more that likely to put my name on my projects.

As for RepublicansforIgnatieff.com, I’d like to thank Kinsella for the kind words; the website has caused a lot of stir and it’s deeply complimentary to for him think that I’d be the one behind it.

In Ottawa, the politics of distraction is the process story. RepublicansforIgnatieff.com is a bit of mana from heaven for political journalists who think that communion wafers, G8 photo-op flops and PM apologies are played out. RFI.com is a perfect process story to hit web browsers and newspaper readers for a period of days, if not a couple of weeks. For someone that trades in process stories, Kinsella however recognizes that this story deflects from the main storyline and only Liberal-driven process stories are beneficial to his team. So how to kill a story that isn’t?

A lesson that I’ve learned from online politics and media in this town is that official still matters. You or I could make commercial quality Youtube videos everyday until the next election, but unless they were official party efforts, they would be largely ignored because of significance of source. If Stephen Harper made a Youtube video slagging Ignatieff, it would be national news. Iggyfacts.ca is a decent enough website, but while it got some buzz in the blogosphere, it didn’t get too much play in the mainstream media. If the Conservative Party had financed it and put the “paid for by the Conservative Party of Canada” tagline on the bottom, it would get much wider attention. The significance of source is measured and assessed when a process story is written and we shouldn’t be too surprised by this.

Now to RFI.com. The source of this website is unknown. It’s a decent enough website, but is it Conservative Party, NDP, Republican, or me? The mystery around the website itself has become most of the story. By trying to tag me as the author of the website, Kinsella seeks to eliminate the mystery, and the story.

“You mean some guy made it and its not a Karl Rove or Doug Finley production? Moving on…”

Over the last couple of days, I’ve watched, with some astonishment, the efforts of Liberal partisans to investigate the website and, if not address the arguments made there, the person who made the site. Sometimes a wise communications strategy for an individual under fire is to stop talking about what’s antagonizing them. It’s a much more difficult task to integrate this strategy into the Liberal collective.

Unfortunately for Kinsella (and for me), I did not create RepublicansforIgnatieff.com. The Liberal war room chief unfortunately misattributes a quote from a Liberal partisan named “Ted” (Ted Betts) to a sometimes Conservative partisan pen-named Raphael Alexander as shaky evidence of my involvement. I denied making the site about a week ago.

So who is behind the website? I really don’t know. I have my suspicions, but for now the process story will spend another day in the sun as the Liberals keep talking about it.

For your consideration

I’ve learned that this is what the Conservative Party MPs will be sending out in short order regarding Michael Ignatieff and his previous comments about the Ukraine and Ukrainians.

The ten-percenter shows the now famous image of the Liberal Party leader from the Just Visiting ad series.

It includes two Ignatieff quotes:

“Ukrainian independence conjures up images of embroidered peasant shirts, the nasal whine of ethnic instruments, phoney Cossacks in cloaks and boots, nasty anti-Semites” – Blood and Belonging p. 73, 1993

“Somewhere inside I’m also what Ukrainians would call a great Russian and there is just a trace of old Russian disdain for these little Russians.” – Blood and Belonging p. 81, 1993

CRTC drops references to egregious abuses by HRCs from final report on broadcasting in new media

The CRTC released a report on June 4th, 2009 titled “Review of broadcasting in new media, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-329.”

However, on the CRTC website the following notice appears,

Broadcasting regulatory policy:

The Commission replaces the concurring opinion appended to Review of broadcasting in new media, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-329.

What was the amended document that with which the CRTC replaced the original? Here’s is the new version of the report:

What changes were made?

I’ve run a software-based PDF comparison tool on both documents and I’ve found that the documents are almost identical except for the following omission from the final version:

“The history of the regulation of speech in this country does not engender confidence that such powers will be used wisely. Canada has experienced several instances in recent times where regulatory commissions of another type and armed with a different mission have challenged the right to say controversial things. The struggles of Ezra Levant,14 Mark Steyn15 and others have served as important warnings that regulatory authorities charged with combating racism, hatred, and other evils have consistently expanded their mandates, have abused their powers and eroded fundamental liberties. Wherever there is official orthodoxy, disagreement is heresy, and where there is heresy, there is usually an inquisition to root it out. After centuries ridding ourselves of thought control agencies, 20th century Canada re-invented them.”

Now that’s interesting. Why did the CRTC feel that it was necessary to omit references to Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn’s battles with “regulatory authorities”?

Introduction to Canadian media and politics

If there is one constant in Canadian federal politics, it is the mainstream media process stories about how warring political factions are offending to key groups of voters. See here how stories are floated to underpaid reporters and columnists in order to tick off key Trudeaupian voter blocks as politicos tick off key constituencies off their lists.

Women:

“Meanwhile, there are rumblings among some grass-root Liberal women that Mr. Ignatieff doesn’t quite share that view. Mr. Ignatieff has few female caucus members in key critics’ roles and has one senior woman in his entourage: communications director Jill Fairbrother . (Stephen Harper doesn’t have a single senior woman.) The rumblings are that if more women were in high places, seeking consensus, we might not have come to the brink of another federal election this month.

Ukrainian-Canadians:

Ignatieff’s sin, the protesters feel, was to pen “derogatory remarks” about Ukrainians in his 1995 book Blood & Belonging.

The UCC’s press release cites two offending passages. “From my childhood in Canada,” Ignatieff wrote, “I remember expatriate Ukrainian nationalists demonstrating in the snow outside ballet performances by the Bolshoi in Toronto. ‘Free the captive nations!’ they chanted. In 1960, they seemed strange and pathetic, chanting in the snow, haranguing people who just wanted to see ballet and to hell with politics. They seemed fanatical, too, unreasonable. Hadn’t they looked at the map? How did they think Ukraine could ever be free?”

Gays:

Toronto’s Pride Week may have seen its last cheque from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government after this year’s $400,000 contribution provoked a backlash from within the ranks of MPs and Conservative supporters.

Chinese-Canadians:

Another controversy relates to comments made by a senior Ignatieff advisor, Warren Kinsella. In a Youtube video posted earlier this year, Mr. Kinsella claimed he was planning to enjoy some “barbecued cat” (Ottawa Citizen. January 31, 2009). After extensive coverage of his statements in the Chinese-Canadian media and pressure from Chinese Canadians, Mr. Kinsella apologized. (Globe and Mail. January 31, 2009)

Lebanese-Canadians:

During the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006 Mr. Ignatieff’s observations angered Lebanese-Canadians when he first said of civilian deaths in Lebanon: “This is the kind of dirty war you’re in when you have to do this and I’m not losing sleep about that.” This statement angered many Lebanese-Canadians. (Toronto Star. August 2, 2006)

Catholics:

A senior New Brunswick Roman Catholic priest is demanding the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the sacramental communion wafer Stephen Harper was given at Roméo LeBlanc’s funeral mass.

During communion at the solemn and dignified service held last Friday in Memramcook for the former governor general, the prime minister slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call “the host” into his jacket pocket.

Korean-Canadians:

Past comments by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff are coming back to haunt him as members of the Korean community accuse him of suggesting he would starve North Koreans.

While at Harvard in 2005, Ignatieff said, “I strongly support reductions in food aid” to strengthen the international community’s negotiations with North Korea on nuclear weapons.

“Is that a difficult human rights problem? You bet. But that’s where I would go,” he said at the time. “I would look at the food aid, and all the bilateral stuff we are doing that keeps this odious regime going.”

Why are these stories written? Because they’re easy, because they sell papers and each side believes that on sum, they’ll emerge from the fray less thrashed and bruised than the other guy. Before you think that the end result of this is more people voting Green, consider my own entry into this theatre of the chronically offended.

Guilty of this myself, I suggest that there is wisdom in the following rap lyric (as I say in my most terrible impersonation of an ironic James Lipton): “don’t hate the player, hate the game”

And therefore, if the players remain constant, how do we change the game?

Click here to read my proposed solution. I’ve argued that it’s the way that our politics is funded.

An excerpt:

Under the current Canadian system, we give welfare to parties for being best able to convince Canadians of the other parties, “No They Can’t”. If we made politics about the positive (Yes), responsibility of self (We) and enablement (Can) rather than the negative (No), what one’s opponent would do (They) and a need to stop them (Can’t), perhaps we could reduce voter apathy both at the ballot box and when parties pass the hat. If we gave voters more power to finance those they support rather than sustain those they least detest we could shift Canadian politics for the better.