Narnia found!

Michael Ignatieff recently filmed some relatively bland ads where he told us that Canada needs to reach out India and China and make the new green jobs of tomorrow. The ads were largely panned as too light and I speculate that they served to re-introduce the Liberal leader through a softer lens rather than allow the Tories to solely define Ignatieff as “Just Visiting”. Andrew Coyne joked that the ads looked like they were filmed in Narnia, and I was only too happy to take the meme and run with it.

Today, I’m pleased to report that Narnia has been located! The ads were shot at Cherry Beach in… wait for it… downtown Toronto. As critics rip into Michael Ignatieff for taking his advice from a tight circle of downtown Toronto Liberal advisers, as the Liberal leader appears out of touch with Quebec (let alone the rest of Canada), and as the Liberal Party is lovingly dubbed the Liberal Party of Toronto by both its detractors and realist supporters, Michael Ignatieff shoots his definition ad in downtown Toronto.


Michael Ignatieff in Narnia? Algonquin park? The hundred-acre wood?


Michael Ignatieff’s new favourite park. Cherry Beach in downtown Toronto.

Michael Ignatieff once famously said “The only thing I missed about Canada was Algonquin Park”, it appears that Ignatieff doesn’t miss it too much these days as he couldn’t be bothered to drive more than 3km from the airport, or 15 minutes from Rosedale or Yorkville.

Michael Ignatieff tells us that we need to reach out to India and China, while he himself is loathe to reach out past his Toronto bunker. Ignatieff tells us that we need to create green jobs as he lectures us from a park located on an man-made island peninsula in Toronto.

PM’s Priorities

Here’s is a letter sent to the Parliamentary Press Gallery by Stephen Harper’s spokesman Dimitri Soudas,

Today the Prime Minister was in Ontario to promote Canada as an attractive place to invest and a great place to do business. The occasion was the landmark decision by Tim Hortons to reorganize as a Canadian company.

Michael Ignatieff has criticized today’s focus on the economy, claiming that the Prime Minister should be at the United Nations talking about climate change – not back home focused on the economy.

In synchronized attacks, the Liberal Party issued a press release denouncing the Tim Hortons visit, while MP Bonnie Crombie and a handful of Liberals carrying United Nations flags protested outside the PM’s announcement – essentially picketing a Canadian economic success story.

Our priority is the Canadian economy. Nothing takes precedence over the economy.

The decision to picket the Canadian homecoming of Tim Hortons is shameful: further proof that the Ignatieff Liberals care more about political games than the Canadian economy.

The Prime Minister’s speaking spot at the U.N. General Assembly (Friday, 5:00 p.m.) conflicts with attendance at the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh. The PM is attending the G-20 summit because our priority is the economy.

The Ignatieff Liberals feel that speaking to the United Nations is more important than working on the economy with other G-20 leaders. We disagree.

Nothing is more important than the Canadian economy

By the way, the Liberal attacks conveniently omit key facts: Prime Minister Harper and other world leaders worked on climate change at a U.N. meeting last night, and today Canada’s seat in the General Assembly will deliberately be vacant during the speech by Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

(It’s also worth noting that if Michael Ignatieff had his way, this week we would be in the middle of an unnecessary, opportunistic election. So much for his concern about attendance at the U.N.)

Dimitri N. Soudas
Associate Communication Director/ Press Secretary
Directeur des Communications associé/Attaché de presse

Prime Minister’s Office
Cabinet du Premier ministre

Yesterday, the Liberals (Bonnie Crombie’s office) picketed Tim Horton’s.

Also yesterday, we saw the Liberal line appear unattributed on Elizabeth Thompson’s blog.

Michael Ignatieff is trying to differentiate himself as an internationalist who wants to “regain Canada’s position on the world stage”.

Unfortunately for Ignatieff, while he was away Canada’s international role has matured from peacekeeper and “honest (nuanced) broker” to peacemaker and a country that is heard. We’ve earned our role and found our voice to act and speak with moral clarity, without ambiguity or hedging, on middle eastern policy particularly when it comes Israel and Iran. Canada is a country that is doing the heavy lifting and is now at the sharp end of the spear when it comes to taking a leadership role in rebuilding and securing Afghanistan. While Mr. Ignatieff insists that we need to “regain” our place on stage, he hasn’t noticed that we’ve earned our spot at the table.

Instead of making waffles with other “middle powers”, we’re grilling steaks with the US and the UK.

And while Mr. Ignatieff would have us pass the syrup and listen to some more feel good speeches at the UN, the Prime Minister is at the G-20 working for everyone that balances a chequebook in this country rather than just those that tut tut and pass the cheque.

Stop the Presses! Website changes!

Today’s non-story from the breathless Ottawa press comes from Bruce Cheadle of Canadian Press who writes this National Newswatch headlining story,

“Harper photos removed from government website”

The background from this story is that the opposition has been complaining about the nature of the government’s advertising of their “Economic Action Plan” and have described the website of the plan as overtly partisan describing “Harper’s government” and taglines allegedly promoting the longevity of the government, “we can’t stop now”.

In this frame, Mr. Cheadle determines that the Economic Action Plan website is missing 20 photos of the Prime Minister. The Action Plan website contains about 34,500 pages. And, the significance of 20 “removed” photos? According to Cheadle, this may show a reaction to criticism and an acknowledgement of a guilty “Harper government” partisan conscience.

This website here at stephentaylor.ca, and many websites created after 2003 change on a regular basis. When I write a new post on this blog, content appears on the top and then drops off the bottom and is archived. I do not remove the content, but the website changes.

But goodness, 20 photos are suddenly not visible in the same way as the day before? This must be indicative of a vast conspiratorial government cover-up.

On the main homepage of the Economic Action Plan there is a timeline of “real actions” which features a series of photos that link to news stories about the government’s economic stimulus under the plan. One presumes Cheadle is talking about this timeline slideshow because the Prime Minister is still visible in 75% of the photos under the “Action plan highlights” section which dominates the top third of the homepage. Further, photos on press releases and other pages seem to remain in place.

As for the timeline, these photos link to news releases describing the stimulus underway. This timeline updates, ahem, over time and when new content becomes available — or is highlighted — old content is archived. In fact, a Google search shows 421 news releases available on the Action Plan website. Since a showcase of 421 news releases wouldn’t in fact be a “showcase”, a select number is highlighted. The controversy here is that this timeline has changed over time. Does the showcase timeline today reflect less of Stephen Harper’s happy face? Possibly. But fret not, tomorrow we may see more of it!

And to top it all off, a late breaking update of the wire story shows us that the bureaucrats (non-political staff) at PCO deny that the PM’s pictures were removed! (The conspiracy goes deep…)

Monday evening, the same PCO spokeswoman called The Canadian Press with a single talking point that can in no way be reconciled with the altered appearance of the site:

“We have not removed any pictures of the PM,” said Myriam Massabki.

“Single talking point” and “can in no way be reconciled”? Sounds like it’s the government of Canada’s word against Bruce Cheadle, amateur web surfer. In fairness, I’m glad Cheadle updated the story to include the quote even though he shows us that he doesn’t believe a word of it.

The point? The site changed because that’s what sites do over time. Content was not removed, it is still available on the government’s server. In fact, all of the non-removed Action Plan news releases (with pictures) can be viewed here.

You can judge for yourself:
Here is Economic Action plan as it appears today
Here is the same site as cached by Google on September 16th

Finally, let’s consider what this is all about. The criticism is that Prime Minister is a partisan advertisement for the implementation of government policy. Isn’t this argument absurd?

ASIDE: Another criticism highlighted in the CP story is that the latest round of Economic Action Plan ads cost the government $5 million compared to $2 million spent on H1N1 ads.

Here are two issues that have a psychological component.

For economic stimulus, a large part of its purpose and success is affecting consumer confidence. As for H1N1, handwashing and vaccine readiness helps but fueling hysteria does not.

UPDATE 7:43pm: The Prime Minister’s office has just put out the following,

ACTION PLAN WEBSITE: CORRECTING THE RECORD

Canadian Press reporter Bruce Cheadle has falsely reported that photographs of the Prime Minister have been removed from www.actionplan.gc.ca .

These reports are not true. Here are the facts:

* No photographs of the Prime Minister have been removed from the Action Plan website;

* Canadians have a right to know where and how the Government’s stimulus is being spent, and the Action Plan website helps provide this accountability;

* In addition, the website contains important information for Canadians on certain stimulus measures like the Home Renovation Tax Credit that are only available for a limited time.

Stop the presses! PM snubbed by Barack Obama!

Yesterday, I reported on a desperate Liberal attempt to downplay, and the Canadian media’s attempt to diminish Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to the White House. Because Mr. Harper was greeted by someone other than Barack Obama, this was seen to be a snub.

Today, on the LA Times blog, there’s an interesting account of the meeting between Harper and Obama,

[The] U.S. chief executive granted Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper a coveted media availability in the Oval Office, a privilege not granted to someone as lowly as Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown not so long ago.

That doesn’t sound like the Prime Minister was snubbed.

Let’s look at other world leaders “snubbed” by the White House!


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines snubbed!


Diplomacy bajanxed! Irish PM Brian Cowen was right feckin snubbed!


Iraqi PM Nouri al Maliki snubbed! Shukran for nothing Obama!


Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai snubbed from White House shura!


Oy vey! Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu snubbed!

and as I mentioned yesterday…


Obama is such a prat! British Prime Minister Gordon Brown witnesses the piss poor diplomacy at the White House as he was snubbed!

Of course, these world leaders including Stephen Harper weren’t snubbed at the White House.

The Canadian embassy in Washington DC, when contacted for comment explained:

“The White House Chief of Protocol just called the Ambassador (proactively) to say, essentially, ‘this is nonsense’. It’s not the White House practice, under this Administration, for the President to go outside to greet his guests. That’s done by the Protocol Office.”

PM snubbed? Not so fast, bub

David Akin is reporting a conversation he saw on CTV News Channel between anchor Dan Matheson and a DC radio host who characterized Prime Minister Harper’s welcoming at the White House today by some “[unknown] woman”

Here is UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown greeted at the White House by Acting US Chief of Protocol Gladys Boluda on March 3rd of this year.

Was this an “unbelievable insult and snub” or a radio host less familiar with protocol than say, the acting US chief of protocol?

I can’t mesh these two statements together because they must not relate to the same:
“unbelievable insult and snub” and “I must be fair, when it came to Gordon Brown, they did the same thing”

So is it a snub, or is it standard operating procedure?

To the Liberals and media making a story out of this… you can do better.

Here’s the CTV News Channel conversation reporter by Akin:

Matheson: Mr. Plotkin, I take it that it matters who greets you at the White House. I didn’t see Barack Obama there as Stephen Harper was being ushered in.

Plotkin: I’m not being hyperbolic or inflammatory but I thought it was an unbelievable insult and snub. If you are – quote – important, the president comes out and greets you as you depart from the car and ushers you in.

I am supposed to know something about American politics, and believe me, I do not know who the woman was who greeted [your prime minister].

I tried to find out and I was told by the national security press advisor that supposedly that was the deputy chief of protocol, not the chief of protocol of the state department.

… I don’t know if it was deliberate or accidental, but it surely was not a symbolic gesture of friendship and it was really, in my mind, demeaning.

Matheson: Does this go hand in glove with the way [UK Prime Minister] Gordon Brown was treated? At one time, the Brits were called the greatest friend America has in the world, and that was a couple years ago, and we, of course, are American’s greatest trading partner. What’s going on here? What do you make of this?

Plotkin: Well, what I think of it — I scoured the Washington Post which every – quote – opinion maker reads and there were two scintillas of mention – very, very brief about this visit.

One just said [Harper] was meeting with [Obama], and then there was some other passing reference that had nothing to do with the visit, but just with Canada, and how you’re our good neighbor. You don’t cause any trouble. You don’t have drug wars that we know about. You don’t plan to invade … and you’re taken for granted. You’re the neighbor who we can count on and we can rely on and is really our very nice neighbor but we really don’t invite them in for holiday parties or when there are serious things. So this, to me, is a very pro forma visit. I must be fair, when it came to Gordon Brown, they did the same thing. I’ve been told here that Canadian reporters are getting one question [of Harper and Obama] and an American reporter is getting one question and that’s it. If you are really significant, important, big, huge, you get something in the east room which is a joint press conference where the prime minister and the president would stand there with their flags and they would receive inquiries and questions. To call this downplayed visit is an overstatement.

You have 1 new Duffy-gram

Mike Duffy knows your name! Or at least the automated Duffy has a whole bank of names to read from in the Conservative Party’s latest innovative fundraising and voter ID widget that is scheduled to roll out later this evening.

The folks at Conservative Party HQ sent me a preview of their new product which includes the senator and former newsman outlining the Conservative record, while asking for your ranked issues, feedback, postal code and email address. The product also is customized to deliver localized content via geotargeting.

A senior Conservative explained that the the shiny new Duffy-gram is the brainchild of the party’s executive director Dan Hilton who has been moving the party to find new ways to push the envelope in the online space.

Also of note is a new slogan for the party which may yet brand a national campaign if we see one in the coming weeks. “Moving forward” suggests momentum, progress and an ongoing job. Contrast this with the Liberal Party slogan of “we can do better” which suggests failure of the incumbent, inclusion of Canadians and the Liberal Party “we” to solve a problem. Both slogans acknowledge a difficult situation and while the Conservative slogan is more punchy and complete, the Liberal slogan leaves a question open: “better than what?”. Further, the Liberal slogan opens them up to attack as a Conservative narrative is that Michael Ignatieff thought he could do better abroad rather than improve his career among Canadians looking to do the same.

Conservatives have led the Liberal party in databasing Canadians and their levels of partisan and issue-based support since at least the late days of the Alliance. The Liberals have had quite a time playing catch up as they’ve gone shopping for proven software, even approaching the Obama campaign in the Dion days. Yet, while Liberal national director Rocco Rossi is paddling up the Rideau Canal asking folks for money along the way, the Conservatives are showing that they continue to innovate.

Just where does Ignatieff stand on the HST? Or on anything?

A week ago, I wrote about BC Liberal party MP Ujjal Dosanjh’s characterization of the BC HST as the “Harper Sales Tax”. I pointed out that it was quite a stretch for the former NDP Premier of that province, given that the party he formerly led in that province put the blame squarely on the provincial policy writers — the BC Liberal government.

Dosanjh responded to my comments explaining that the BC Liberals and federal Liberals are two different parties and suggested I was trying to link the two, but yet he’s the one who went out of his way to shift his scorn from those Liberals to the Conservatives in Ottawa. Politics is local and Dosanjh — scraping by with a narrow victory in 2008 by 22 votes — is tapping into a hotly debated populist issue in that province. But is this wise for him?

Despite this, does he have a point? While Dosanjh acts as an apologist for Liberal premier Gordon Campbell, essentially decrying that “Harper made him do it”, tax harmonization was suggested and incentivized at the federal level. However, if harmonization is unpopular in BC, voters are likely to blame those that signed off of on the policy and implemented it into law — ie. the jurisdictional authority — the BC Liberal government. And while we awkwardly parse how related or non-related these Liberals are to those Liberals and which Liberals like taxes and which ones don’t, the overall story then evolved.

Dosanjh’s words rang a bit more hollow this week when Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan — a Liberal himself — said that Michael Ignatieff had approved of the HST and would help Ontario along its path to harmonization should he become Prime Minister. These Liberals, as Mr. Dosanjh will undoubtedly note, are very much related to their federal Liberal cousins.

Yesterday, Ignatieff’s finance critic John McCallum cited a “miscommunication” when it came to his leader’s position on the HST, while today Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty said that Ignatieff gave him the “clearest of impressions” that he would support the tax.

These days it seems difficult to nail Michael Ignatieff down on any controversial issue. His position on a number of issues from Iraq, to George W Bush, to coercive interrogation, to a Liberal-NDP coalition, to harmonization have evolved drastically over time. By refusing to settle on any particularly substantive issue, Ignatieff is trying to give the impression that he supports your point of view on public policy (whatever it may be). A cynical observer might suggest that this strategy may work for the disengaged soft Liberal supporter.

However, as anyone that runs a focus group will tell you, on the issue of taxes Liberals have always had an wide credibility gap to bridge. Now that two Liberal provincial governments are implementing a harmonized sales tax while the federal Liberal leader seems to at best support it or at worse waffle on it, Liberals — of varied associations — are finding the gap becoming a gulf. For Ujjal Dosanjh, whose riding lists crime as the other top-of-mind issue — another focus group nightmare for the Liberals — perhaps its time to focus on new messaging.

Ujjal Dosanjh’s terrible ten-percenter

The topic of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is a quite unpopular one in British Columbia.  It was introduced by Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell in late July and will be implemented mid-2010.

The British Columbia NDP is very much against Gordon Campbell’s HST and even has a petition site against it.  The website explains,

Stop the HST

Gordon Campbell’s $4 billion tax hike is going to hit you hard.

The BC Liberals didn’t tell the truth about the HST.

Before the election, Campbell promised he wouldn’t impose a Harmonized Sales Tax, or HST. Shortly after election day he broke that promise, without any consultation.

Here is Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh’s ten-percenter against the HST. Dosanjh used to be the NDP leader in BC and even served as an NDP Premier in that province, but today he finds himself as a federal Liberal MP who narrowly squeaked by in the last election by 22 votes.

One can see what Dosanjh is doing. Instead of blaming the BC Liberals — the party that actually brought in the HST, and a party with which his federal party shares its name — Dosanjh is fabricating by telling his constituents by blaming the unpopular tax on his main threat: the federal Conservatives.

But is it truthful Mr. Dosanjh? Hopefully more than 22 people will know better next time around.

UPDATE: If you’re wondering what Dosanjh’s colleagues in the federal Liberal party have said about the idea of the HST, here’s a sample:

“We support harmonization, but that’s not the problem.

“The issue is deal by deal federalism with the provinces. We have no criticism of the provincial government’s budget. We think it’s a courageous budget in difficult circumstances. Our criticism is with Harper’s let’s make a deal federalism, which seems to me to put strains on the federation” — Michael Ignatieff (CTV Newsnet, March 27, 2009)

McCallum on the HST:

John McCallum, the party’s finance critic, was asked what he thought of the deal after Question Period and replied that it is “absolutely what the doctor ordered for the economy.” (National Post, March 27, 2009)