Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

'liberal media bias' revealed

For a big, tough Calgarian hockey dad come to whip us Toronto Star tea-drinkers into shape, PM Harper is pretty easily damaged. He has now invoked the Blogging Tories in last-ditch imbecility.

This notion of a liberal (or Liberal) media bias is one that has perplexed myself and my co-blogger from some time. There's the Star, granted. But what else? The Sun, which amounts to the local newspaper of every mid-sized Canadian city - well, no. The Post? CanWest Global? Globe and Mail - maybe sometimes, although with an opinion page dominated by Christine Blatchford? Yes, the CBC has run mini-series about Tommy Douglas and Pierre Trudeau. But who watches CBC mini-series? (Other than me - because Colm Feore's Trudeau is cinema's zenith).

Anyways, here's the truth. This was published last fall:

Canada: No Evidence of Liberal Media Bias

October 4, 2005


Source: Toronto Star

Here we go again. Once more, as we edge closer to a federal election, conservative commentators accuse the news media of being out of touch with the real public, of having a liberal bias. It's a predictable pronouncement that elicits knowing nods from the right.
The problem is, what hard evidence there is about Canadian newsrooms shows that just isn't true. The Canadian News Directors Study, a national survey of the political leanings of television news directors, found otherwise.

We asked news directors — journalists in charge of setting news agendas — dozens of questions about what they think and what they do. Guess what? When it comes to voting patterns, our key TV journalists are not much different from their viewers. Their political allegiances are very much in line with those of the general population — in sharp contrast to what has been found in the United States.

In 2002, 46 per cent of news directors we surveyed said they would vote for the Liberals.
Environics polls conducted about the same time showed that between 40 and 46 per cent of the population intended to vote Liberal. Fifteen per cent of news directors intended to vote for the Conservatives and just over 10 per cent for the Canadian Alliance.

Environics estimated that between 15 and 18 per cent of Canadians said they intended to vote for the Tories and between 14 and 18 per cent for the Alliance.

Yes, the news directors' numbers were a little lower than the public's when it came to the Alliance. But that should be weighed against the fact that only 10 per cent of news directors intended to vote for the New Democrats. In Canada, NDP support at that time measured between 13 and 16 per cent. In short, TV news bosses are more in the middle than, well, the middle.

So what does this tell us? At least among decision makers, Canadian broadcast newsrooms are not crawling with a disproportionate number of leftists.
And, speaking of lefties, in case you're wondering about the CBC, here's another reality check: 13 per cent of CBC news directors said they would vote for the NDP. Again, this is right in line with the public, in fact a little on the low side.

No CBC news directors said they intended to vote for the Alliance but more than 11 per cent of news directors in the private sector did — so just a little channel surfing should smooth the furrowed brow of any fretful social conservative.

There's a history of this kind of thumping of the media elsewhere, most notably in the U.S. where research shows the vast majority of journalists are Democrats and also that there's a gap between their views and those of the general population. Republican pundits make much of this.
The Canadian right may wish to import that research as evidence that Canadian journalists really do not reflect their readers and audiences. However, the data we gathered show that this baggage really ought to be stopped at the border for much closer examination.
Recently, Peter Kent challenged journalists to assess liberal bias in the upcoming federal election. Kent, deputy editor of news at Global TV, will run as a Conservative candidate in a Toronto riding.

In his challenge, he conceded that "the liberal tilt isn't reflected in news content ... That's because — most of the time — responsible practitioners of our noble craft sublimate personal and political inclinations in their news-gathering and reporting."
We hope that's true. But it's important that Kent and others know it goes beyond that. Even in the privacy of the polling booth, at least in television news, agenda setters closely match the public they seek to inform.

There is no conspiracy, folks. And the numbers so far bear this out.

Marsha Barber and Ann Rauhala are co-authors of the Canadian News Directors Study and journalism professors at Ryerson University in Toronto.

- Mike (SCG)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

a solution for Caledonia

When the barricades are dissembled for good, a lengthy process of healing will begin. Bringing about any sort of actual resolution promises to be even lengthier still.

Thus far, my feeling – and I know it to be a feeling shared by many in the First Nations community – is that I know this country better. I’ve been surprised and disappointed by the reaction of Canadians at large, if you will humour me the obviously unfair generalization.

The response in Caledonia was predictable, if occasionally irrational and often incendiary. Faced with personal inconvenience, the Caledonians lent their weight to removing what inconvenienced them.

But beyond municipal borders, the overwhelmingly negative response made less sense. There are few Canadians outside of the University of Calgary faculty that don’t cluck their tongues at the troubled history of broken promises that First Nations have been subject to. Yet, when these arguments are posed in all their starkness, and when we are asked to consider how we might atone for these mistakes, our response is anywhere from unwilling to combative.

Our answer has been one-sided in the extreme. Read the Hamilton Spectator, for instance, and you may feel strangely compelled to light a candle for the brave martyrs of the Citizens of Caledonia. It strikes no one as odd that today’s Toronto Sun editorial seems suddenly in line with the mainstream.

Read the discussion on Steel City Grit and suddenly this left-of-centrist-constitutionalist-individual rights proponent is some tribal radical.

We are only vaguely aware that there are arguments at play at all. The contention is usually dismissed in the last two lines of the article. Scroll to the bottom of the news item website – you’ll see it: The Six Nations think the land belongs to them, the government tells us it doesn’t. Odd that this is one instance where we so readily accept the politician’s position. We forget the federal government’s certainty that there was no burial ground in Ipperwash Provincial Park – a certainty that lasted until a few weeks after the death of Dudley George, when documents to the contrary were ‘uncovered’. We ignore the obvious incentive our government has to deny the validity of the claims –anything else would create an expensive precedent.

Is this because Canadians aren’t nearly as cosmopolitan, as progressive, as empathetic as they believe themselves to be? I don’t think so. I think that our problem is twofold:

Firstly, there is a dramatic knowledge gap. We just don’t know how valid these land claims are. If the conservative cowboys paused greasing up their saddles and examined the Six Nations contention in detail, they would find some very relatable arguments. These are arguments that orbit around a demand for equitable administration of the law, a guarantee of property rights, etc.

Secondly, there is simply too much emotional capital invested. The reason for this is not difficult. European-Canadians have established their own fundamental connections to the land. We fear loss.

If these are our challenges, then we need to find a way to divorce land claims disputes from both ignorance and emotion. Inevitably, then, they cannot exist under the purview of politics.

The solution is an independent Land Claims Tribunal. It needs to be established with cooperation by First Nations and the federal government. It needs to be constituted by representatives of all communities. If it lacks legitimacy at its foundation, than it will serve no purpose. It needs to have teeth. If its conclusions can be ignored, than it will only serve to magnify the unresolved contentions. Its apparatus needs to be accessible. If the front door is maintained too strictly, it will be quickly filed amongst other solutions of unrecognized potential.

This is not a new idea – Mike Pearson campaigned on such a proposition but promptly forgot about it – but it is a good one. The extraneous elements of the discussion – invariably the violence causing elements – will be removed from the equation. In their place will be, simply, truth.

- Mike (SCG)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ignatieff in London

Michael Ignatieff was in London Friday afternoon. I was pleased with the format, in which Ignatieff gave a short speech (following an introduction by Jim Peterson), and proceeded to answer questions, as I had though it may be a more informal meet and greet type event.

The speech touched upon what is shaping up to be a major theme in the Ignatieff campaign, namely the nature of the Liberal Party as a national institution. In this sense he argued Liberals must have national representation. He stressed dealing with Quebec along previously-stated lines ("recognition and respect" etc.), and the need to bridge rural-urban and regional divides. It's refreshing to see someone arguing so passionately for the value of this party beyond being an "election machine." Still, I would like to see a discussion as to how he would attempt to bring such rural and Western voters into the fold.

Ignatieff spoke at some length about immigration, and what he described as a mess in family reunification, tying it to national unity and the economy, and the need for skilled workers. This was along the lines of the recent Ontario convention speech available online.

Not a barnburner, nor meant to be in the more relaxed luncheon atmosphere, there were nonetheless highlights. His French, though used briefly, was impressive. I was also pleased to see him stick to his guns over his "centre-left" comment. The criticism of this has basically been a front for those preferring a move in the other direction, couched in terms of it being outdated rhetoric, which if meant to suggest ideological rigidity makes no sense when referring to Ignatieff, as my blogging colleague pointed out recently. Personally, though it got little reaction, I found his statement that where we should plant the Liberal standard is where Mike Pearson planted it, in the centre of Canadian life, as well as referencing the legacy of that era's Liberal social programs (though unfortunately still seeming to skirt around Trudeau) to be dead-on and well-said.

The questions began with the usual Iraq, torture, statement/question. I'm going to assume you've all read this answer or heard it elsewhere. Along the same lines. On Afghanistan, he answered similar to his House of Commons statements, and spoke about being committed to aiding Darfur. This included a mention of the NDP's seeming lacking of depth of understanding of the differences between the conflicts, with Ignatieff insisting we should not expect Sudan to be anything but difficult. He was asked about legal aid, to which he professed an interest in strengthening (along with investment in Post-Secondary Education, and R & D). He concluded by commenting on a Canadian national academic being detained in Iran and ways to work towards securing his release.

It would have been nice if there was time for more questions but the ones that were asked seemed to get a good back and forth. His engagement with the audience in question-and-answer, including challenging questions, seems strong.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Pearl Jam -Two Nights in Toronto

Hey, this is a little belated, but I had meant to say something about Pearl Jam's two-night stand in Toronto last week and I while I questioned its inclusion on a liberal blog it appears I'm not the only one to take notice. Good to see, leave Hot Hot Heat or whoever for the trendy NDP bloggers.
Anyway, two great shows to kick off the new tour. Pick up the new album it is phenomenal...though anybody that says they've "returned" from like the early 90's is dead wrong, and really that's just an excuse for being too lazy to seek them out.

The Air Canada Centre can tend toward poor atmosphere and the band's show there last fall was the least engaging of the Southwestern Ontario ones, but these shows were outstanding. They clearly have a place in their hearts for Canada (as evidenced by this past fall's Canadian tour as well) with the band in high spirits. I've seen them many times and I can tell anybody that there excitement on night 2 was above and beyond the norm. By the way, these shows can be downloaded (I'd much prefer CD but they are only being sold online, otherwise I wouldn't promote it) on their website. First night great use of the new stuff, both shows exhibiting a good amount of rarities for the hardcore fans.

As a nod to our blogging host here, I will note that the last time the band seemed so fired up was in the Steel City.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Feng Shui Federalism

While the brilliance of Stephen Harper's election campaign rested on the slogan "Stand Up for Canada," now that the house has been bought and the dust has settled our new prime minister has a problem: his internal clock is set to a different era. Slogans aside, as Canadians consider their nation-building options for the twenty-first century, Harper's concept of our state remains rooted in the nineteenth century. Eschewing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the magnanimity of redistributed wealth across a vast and variegated landscape, and the current pressing question of a new deal for cities, Harper sees his job as resuscitating the 1867 British North America Act. In dealing with the supposed "fiscal imbalance" between Ottawa and the provinces—framed as ballooning federal surpluses versus escalating provincial deficits—expect him to give us first a history lesson and then a magical carpet ride backward in time.

That's from this Walrus article. I thought it wasn't bad. Parts of it, in the middle particularly, are pretty standard fare. But nevertheless, I feel like I should read the Walrus more closely.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Darfur vs. Afghanistan?

Gordon O'Conner's recent comments have added an interesting dimension to the Afghanistan "debate." He tells us that we have the military resources to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely (somewhat chilling rhetoric) but are unable to commit any ground troops to a humanitarian intervention in Darfur. We are now presented with a tangible cost that our foriegn policy must sustain if we are to continue in Afghanistan. That is, of course, beyond the human cost of loss of life that we already face .

It feeds into an already existing debate on activism in Darfur, as well. Today's London Free Press dug up some relevant comments made by failed rookie Liberal candidate Glen Pearson. Glen Pearson - if I may sidetrack for a moment - is one of the great living Liberals. His CV includes serving as a firefighter for 28 years, founding the London Food Bank, consulting with all levels of government on poverty issues, and founding the organization Canadian Aid for Southern Sudan. Pearson travelled often to the Sudan. He build a YM/YWCA nearbye and was personally involved in freeing slaves - one of which he adopted as a daughter.

He was defeated in London-Fanshawe by New Democrat Irene Mathyssen, whose CV includes 'good at being po-mo cynical about stuff' (paraphrased).

Pearson has argued that the presence of Western/UN troops in the Moslem country would generate a tremendous deal of ill will. He questioned the willingness of either Russia or China to allow the Security Council to initiate such an intervention with an appropriate number of troops. Instead, he suggested that Canada and other Western Nations become active in promoting health care, in policing, and in providing technical support for thhe troops of the African Union.

So can effective aid reach Darfur if it isn't shuttled in militarily? If not, does this affect the way we conduct our foreign policy elsewhere. It'll be interesting to see how some leadership candidates respond to this challenge. Ignatieff, for example, has been vocally supportive of the Afghanistan mission. However, a human security agenda seems also to be central to his platform. How, then are the two reconciled?

- Mike (SCG)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

And so it begins...

If you missed Saskatchewan MP Maurice Vellacott's comments on the weekend, the story is here.

Thus begins two phenomena that are to guide our next political year. Firstly will be Harper's failure to rein in his party's crazies. Secondly, Vellacott has fired his government's warning shots across the bow of liberal democracy (and a division of powers, specifically).

The quote is as follows:
"...when [judges] step into [a judicial activist] role, all of a sudden there's some mystical kind of power that comes over them by which everything they ever decreed is not to be questioned and they actually have these discerning and almost prophetic abilities to be able to come and know the mind of the public and they take on almost these godlike powers.”

Any good Reformer understands that there is room for only one supreme deity in government, and He resides in the legislature.

He has subsequently felt the backside slap of the PMO paddle and apologized. Have no fear though - he can't be finished yet. Vellacot has been quietly eroding his legitimacy for years now. Here are some other Vellacot gems:

- He defended the policemen charged for dragging an Aboriginal man into the country and leaving him to die. I would expand on this further, but the story has been picked up by the news media so I will leave it to them.

- When the Calgary Herald published an abortion editorial entitled "Choice, yes, within reason" in February, he shouted his appreciation from the mountain tops. The editorial decried Canadian abortion law (or lack thereof) as being radically and dangerously liberal, and wonders why "Canadians cannot create a moderate, well-conceived law." He deplores the current state of affairs, in which women are allowed to choose an abortion without fully understanding just how wicked, sinful, and damaging the act can be.

- He has insinuated in House of Commons debate that it is "goofy" to consider Same Sex Marriage a human right. Fine - most or all Conservatives would agree with him. But he pushed the rights argument further, actually insinuated that allowing SSM would violate articles 3 and 7 of the UN conventions on the Rights of the Child.

Hey David Sweet - your compatriot is facing some pretty steep criticism here. Perhaps it's time for you to weigh in?

- Mike (SCG)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

LPC(O) AGM - Leadership Impressions

Here, in no particular order and without much forethought, are the impressions I gleaned over the course of this past weekend. I had more of a chance with some candidates than others, but I feel generally that I have solidified my understanding of most.

I think it is unfortunate that our (mine and his) politics are as disparate as they are, because on a character and leadership qualities level I was considerably impressed. To corroborate a point that Steve made in a very recent post, Brison is presenting the most tangible and carefully conceived platform of any candidate. In a campaign thus far soaked in banality, Brison is able to answer just about any question he receives with a specific and detailed policy proposition. He demonstrated this particularly on Saturday afternoon, when he spoke to young Liberals in a smaller forum. On these grounds I find him to be considerable ahead of his competition. To be clear, I don't like his policy platform, but I like that he has one. On top of that, he is witty and genuine.
It wasn't all good, though. He came closest to criticizing the rest of the field than any other candidate. That alone doesn't bother me, but his criticisms missed considerably. He repeatedly emphasized that he didn't feel leaders should be locking themselves in to a right/left ideology. He essentially paraphrased Ignatieff's "plant the standard of liberalism in the centre-left" line in illustration. He said that this was an ideology of the 1960s, and that the world is more complicated now. The latter point is, obviously, utterly ridiculous. Making policy is complicated, yes, but one wonders what has changed that makes it particularly so. The criticism particularly falls short when addressed to Ignatieff. This is a distinctly leftist individual who has come out in support of what are received to be right wing initiatives. In other words, no candidate seems less likely to become locked in to one ideology rather than approaching policy on a pratical case basis.

An excellent barn burner of a speech on Friday night. I thought his and Ignatieff's were the best (with Hedy Fry close behind - and I absolutely mean that). He began with a focus on the Kelowna Accord and spoke exceptionally well. Say what you will about his record as a premier, he did take some strong strides with the First Nations people of Ontario.
He was also impersonable and shockingly rude, for one who is seeking support. I'm not terribly bothered by that, though. I'd have trouble feigning interest in me if I were in his position.
Right-hand man Greg Sorbara, on the other hand, was more than willing to engage me intensely. He told me, via some convoluted baseball analogy, to stow my idealism and understand that picking a leader is about picking someone who can win an election. Michael Ignatieff, he told me, can not win. "Electability" talk always drives me crazy anyways, but it's particularly hard to receive from a Rae supporter at an Ontario convention.

Over the course of the weekend, he both near-impressed me and near-cast me from his cause with a vengeance. His French, firstly, is really very bad. I'm with Geoffrey Simpson on that one. This "fluently bilingual" stuff is utter mythology. He's not much better than Brison, and Brison has been killed for language ability. That should be a major concern for any Kennedy supporter. Secondly, he has a very sexy voice.
So how was I near-impressed? I didn't think much of his Friday speech at all, but on Saturday afternoon he said some very interesting things. He announced his intention to create a cohesive national plan for engergy production and consumption. In doing so, he actually came within an eyelash of saying something very positive about the old NEP. With seeming deep pride he told the gathering that he had been present when the NEP was signed. This takes courage. He also, at that same Saturday afternoon address, announced that he did not want to see government reduced in any way, shape, or form. He took this a step farther, saying that he was not afraid to raise taxes if he had to. Given the vast task resources the Tory government has just forfeited, this is a conversation we are going to have to have. Again, a courageous statement.
Having said this, my previous frustration with him remains. To once again paraphrase Geoffrey Simpson, there just isn't much substance there. He still relies on rhetoric. He still has yet to present anything in the way of actual policy. He still tends to say things like "I follow a philosophy of respect for people." When asked about environmental policy, his response ran something along the lines of "We should strive to meet objectives." It is often difficult to glean from him anything beyond that he is in favour of Canada, and opposed to evil. That isn't enough for this Liberal. The bottom line is that I feel I share with Kennedy some basic values - I'm told repeatedly over the weekend by one rabid supporter that he is the candidate of the "little guy" - but I need to see substance before I would begin to think about support.

Great speech on Friday night. I thought he represented himself well. He has developed an icy glare, with which he scours his audience. He is an orator, unquestionably. On Saturday I was able to attend a private audience that he held for bloggers. I looked forward to this intensely. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to ask him for particulars, about settling First Nations land claims, about Federalism, etc. It wasn't - although through no fault of his. Instead, the discussion became quagmired on the issue of blogging itself as an evolving medium. An interesting topic, perhaps. But not surprisngly, Ignatieff had little insight to offer (whereas I believe he would've had some pretty serious insight about Michael Ignatieff). Although he looked a little bored (and I was right there with him), he did his best to respond to what was asked of him. He has an underrated sense of humour.

He did this thing in his speech where he alternated dynamics. He'd start out speaking softly and lull you into complacency, and then he'd say something loud and emotive. It wasn't very effective.

She has that husky, throaty voice that I associated with sorority girls on Saturday morning. But I think she's an underrated candidate. It's unfortunate her organization isn't larger than it is.

Ditto on the underrated comment. She delivered a damn good speech, and I afterwards she really impressed me when we spoke one-on-one. If that opens me up to ridicule, so be it.

Not charismatic in the traditional sense, but he is able to invoke sympathy.

I didn't see enough of the others to glean any sort of impression.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Across The Great Divide

This is overdue. I (Steel City Grit) am on temporary hiatus. That hiatus is actually close to ending, so this post would've made more sense a week ago. Nevertheless...

This is to say nothing of Steve, who may or may not deliver some posts.