Tagged: Peter MacKay

Why pols use talking points

Professors of journalism or public relations would do well to save a copy of today’s episode of CBC Radio’s “The House” for a classic example of how a politician can use talking points to hornswoggle an overly deferential interviewer.

At about 14 minutes into the program, Evan Solomon asks International Trade Minister Ed Fast an obvious question about the recent spate of US protectionist measures aimed at Canada:

Why are you being caught off guard by these sudden protectionist measures coming out of the US?

Fast responded with a set of talking points so scripted, you can almost hear him rhyming off the bullets:

  • We’re focused on removing trade barriers rather than erecting new ones.
  • Canada and the US have a strong, mature, longstanding trade relationship.
  • It’s the biggest trade success story in the world.
  • And when we see our cousins to the south introducing new barriers to trade, obviously that raises concerns with us.
  • That’s why I’ve been engaging with my counterpart in the US, US trade representative Ron Kirk. I’ve spoken to him on a number of occasions. I’ve spoken to his deputy on a number of occasions.
  • My colleagues in the house of commons have also been engaging with their counterparts in the house of representatives and the senate.
  • We are impressing upon the Americans that trade barriers actually hurt both Canadian businesses and American businesses because out economies and our supply channels are so integrated.

The heavy-handed messaging couldn’t quite obscure one obvious fact: Fast never answered the question. So what did Solomon do? He ignored the omission and moved on to the next question. A better response would have been:

Excuse me but, I didn’t hear why you are being caught off guard by these sudden protectionist measures?

I don’t mean to gang up on Solomon, but I wish he and other press gallery habitues would curb their recent habit of addressing cabinet ministers as “Minister.” We expect this formal obsequiousness from the tribe of ministerial aides who populate The Hill, but when reporters adopt this style, it contributes to the deferential atmosphere that lets responsible cabinet ministers dodge questions and escape obvious follow-ups.

J-school profs will get a bonus from today’s House episode. In the show opener, Solomon questions Defence Minister Peter MacKay about the seemingly endless increases in the cost of those second-hand submarines Canada bought from Britain. Current estimates stand at $1 billion, and could triple before the subs are fully operational. In response, to his credit, MacKay passed up a chance to slang his Liberal predecessors for the buying the subs in the first place, but he couldn’t resist exploiting the recent death of a Canadian soldier for rhetorical effect.

Let’s not forget one important fact, and that is, we have men and women in uniform who literally put their lives on the line in service of Canada to protect our citizens. Men like the gentleman who gave his life, Janick Gilbert, who was a SAR-tech, who gave his life on a rescue mission this week near Hall Bay, Nunavut. These are exceptional citizens, to say the least, and they require extremely sophisticated and, yes, expensive equipment to do that work. When it comes to putting people in harm’s way, but giving them world class protection, and that’s the calculation and that is the measure that we have to make.

This time Solomon did not disappoint:

Well you mentioned, speaking of world class equipment, that the ideal piece of equipment would be a nuclear submarine, not the diesel-electric submarine. Therefore if you want to be committed to the best equipment for the men and women serving, are you considering purchasing nuclear submarines?

MacKay:

No we’re not….We don’t live in an ideal world. My grandmother had a saying that, “If wishes were horses, beggars could ride.” We don’t have unlimited resources and we’re not contemplating nuclear submarines.

Ah, so it turns out that protecting men and women in uniform who “literally put their lives on the line in service of Canada to protect our citizens” is, like everything else in life and government, subject to financial limits and budgetary constraints.

Lastly, points to Solomon for knowing how to pronounce the word “nuclear,” unlike the Minister of National Defence.

Ships start singing here

The Canadian Beaver Band offers a jaundiced musical view of Halifax’s spankin’ new ship contract [possibly NSW].

H/T: Charlie Phillips

How to cast a strategic vote in Nova Scotia

I don’t usually repeat posts, but this election is important, so for any who missed it, here is Contrarian’s Guide to Strategic Voting in Nova Scotia.

In the latest Angus Reid poll, 49 percent of Liberal voters and 36 percent of NDP voters expressed a willingness to consider voting for a candidate other than their true preferences, in order to “avoid a specific outcome.”

If you are one of those Liberal, New Democratic, or erstwhile Progressive Conservative voters, and you want to avoid the specific outcome of a certain authoritarian demagogue getting unfettered control of the House of Commons, you may be wondering how to vote Monday. This guide is for you.

Contrarian’s Guide to Strategic Voting in Nova Scotia

With three-way races and a still dynamic vote swing underway, this is a hard election to predict. Seven of Nova Scotia’s 11 federal ridings appear to be in play — an unusually large number.

Two of these — Halifax West and Dartmouth—Cole Harbour — appear to be tight contests between Liberal incumbents* and NDP challengers. They will not affect the size or strength of the Harper caucus, so vote your personal preference in those races.

Five are tight contests where the Harper candidate could win, or could fall to a New Democrat or a Liberal.
Central Nova
Peter MacKay faces a tough challenge from high school physics teacher and former Pictou town councillor David Parker, brother of MLA Charlie Parker and a shrewd electoral tactician in his own right.

MacKay has committed many unprincipled acts in his political career, but the alacrity with which he took on the task of vilifying whistleblower Richard Colvin was surely a nadir. Colvin is a genuine Canadian hero, a civil servant who put aside his own career interests to expose Canada’s complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees. As a civil servant, he could only remain mute in the face of MacKay’s character assassination (although opposition members of the Commons did eventually call him back for a lone round of dignified rebuttal testimony). For this alone, seeing MacKay go down would be altogether sweet. Vote NDP.

South Shore—St. Margaret’s

This is a tight race between incumbent Harper guy Gerald Keddy and former New Democrat MP Gordon Earle, with another former MP, Liberal Derek Wells, well behind. Liberals and Greens should vote NDP.

Sydney—Victoria

For months, Cecil Clarke has mounted an energetic campaign against nice guy farmer MP Mark Eyking. The NDP usually run second in this riding, but Kathy MacLeod, their candidate this time, is weak. The orange tide may boost her vote, however, and it’s hard to say which potential winner she will hurt the most. This race is much tighter than national pundits realize. In particular, the strategic voting site Project Democracy has mistakenly declared it a safe Liberal seat. Vote Liberal.

West Nova

This riding constantly swings back and forth between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Incumbent Harper guy and former Buchanan cabinet minister Greg Kerr faces a stiff challenge from former Liberal MP Robert Thibault. Vote Liberal.

Kings—Hants

Steven Harper visited this riding Saturday to shore up support for defeated provincial cabinet minister David Morse, his candidate to replace Liberal Scott Brison, a floor crosser who fled the CPC. New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives (real conservatives) should Vote Liberal

Four ridings are not in play. Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, sadly, will stay in Harper’s camp. Cape Breton—Canso is safe for Liberal Rodger Cuzner, and both Sackville—Eastern Shore and Halifax are safe for NDP incumbents Peter Stoffer and Megan Leslie. The latter was thought to be in trouble early in the campaign, but the Liberal collapse ended that threat.

* A few parliamentary purists, including our old friend Ian McNeil, object to the term “incumbent” in Canadian elections, because once the writ is dropped, former office-holders are no longer MPs. It is (or for years, was) CBC style not to use the word. I regard this as silly unnecessarily fussy. Everyone understands the term to mean, “seat-holder at dissolution.”

Contrarian’s guide to strategic voting in NS

In the latest Angus Reid poll, 49 percent of Liberal voters and 36 percent of NDP voters expressed a willingness to consider voting for a candidate other than their true preferences, in order to “avoid a specific outcome.”

If you are one of those Liberal, New Democratic, or erstwhile Progressive Conservative voters who would like to avoid the specific outcome of a certain dangerous demagogue getting an unfettered majority in the House of Commons, you may be wondering how to vote Monday. This post is for you.

Contrarian’s Guide to Strategic Voting in Nova Scotia

With three-way races and a still dynamic vote swing underway, this is a hard election to predict. Seven of Nova Scotia’s 11 federal ridings appear to be in play — an unusually large number.

Two of these — Halifax West and Dartmouth—Cole Harbour — appear to be tight contests between Liberal incumbents* and NDP challengers. They will not affect the size or strength of the Harper caucus, so vote your personal preference in those races.

Five are tight contests where the Harper candidate could win, or could fall to a New Democrat or a Liberal.
Central Nova
Peter MacKay faces a tough challenge from high school physics teacher and former Pictou town councillor David Parker, brother of MLA Charlie Parker and a shrewd electoral tactician in his own right.

MacKay has committed many unprincipled acts in his political career, but the alacrity with which he took on the task of vilifying whistleblower Richard Colvin was surely a nadir. Colvin is a genuine Canadian hero, a civil servant who put aside his own career interests to expose Canada’s complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees. As a civil servant, he could only remain mute in the face of MacKay’s character assassination (although opposition members of the Commons did eventually call him back for a lone round of dignified rebuttal testimony). For this alone, seeing MacKay go down would be altogether sweet. Vote NDP.

South Shore—St. Margaret’s

This is a tight race between incumbent Harper guy Gerald Keddy** and former New Democrat MP Gordon Earle. Liberals and Greens should  vote NDP.

Sydney—Victoria

For months, Cecil Clarke has mounted an energetic campaign against nice guy farmer MP Mark Eyking. The NDP usually run second in this riding, but Kathy MacLeod, their candidate this time, is weak. The orange tide may boost her vote, however, and it’s hard to say which potential winner she will hurt the most. This race is much tighter than national pundits realize. In particular, the strategic voting site Project Democracy has mistakenly declared it a safe Liberal seat. Vote Liberal.

West Nova

This riding constantly swings back and forth between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Incumbent Harper guy and former Buchanan cabinet minister Greg Kerr faces a stiff challenge from former Liberal MP Robert Thibault. Vote Liberal.

Kings—Hants

Steven Harper visited this riding Saturday to shore up support for defeated provincial cabinet minister David Morse, his candidate to replace Liberal Scott Brison, a floor crosser who fled the CPC. New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives (real conservatives) should Vote Liberal

Four ridings are not in play. Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, sadly, will stay in Harper’s camp. Cape Breton—Canso is safe for Liberal Rodger Cuzner, and both Sackville—Eastern Shore and Halifax are safe for NDP incumbents Peter Stoffer and Megan Leslie. The latter was thought to be in trouble early in the campaign, but the Liberal collapse ended that threat.

* A few parliamentary purists, including the ineffable Elly Alboim, object to the term “incumbent” in Canadian elections, because once the writ is dropped, former office-holders are no longer MPs. It is (or for years, was) CBC style not to use the word. I regard this as silly. Everyone understands the term to mean, “seat-holder at dissolution.”

** An earlier iteration of this post misidentified the CPC candidate in SSSM as Derek Wells, who is in fact the Liberal candidate, a former president of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, and, like Conservative Keddy and NDip Earle, a former MP in this very riding. My apologies to both. With the Liberal collapse, Wells is an also-ran. Liberals who place a high value on preventing a Harper majority should vote for Earle.

Dredge it and Cecil will be LG?

Perhaps this post deserves elaboration.

By any measure, dredging Sydney Harbour is a dubious use of public funds. It may yield modest increases in commercial shipping, but dreams of a container terminal here are but a fantasy. Despite the massive boom in world shipping that characterized the 2000s, the two container piers in Halifax continue to limp along at half capacity. Plans for a third pier at Melford are years ahead of those for Sydney, where a putative terminal proponent seems to have vanished.

Yet the Cape Breton public has been massively oversold on the concept as the only possible salvation of Cape Breton’s economic future, to the point it has become a political sacred cow, and anyone who opposes it a Judas.

This is the worst possible message for Cape Bretoners: to promise a single, steel-plant-scale silver bullet to solve our problems — with the silver furnished by federal and provincial taxpayers, of course. Most area politicians and business leaders recognize this campaign as a cynical fraud, but the political momentum behind the concept is such that none dare speak against it.

New Dems want to protect their slender Cape Breton base in an election that promises to be much more difficult than the one that catapulted them to power. Liberals don’t want to give the other parties an edge in that election. Cecil Clarke wants to give his campaign for Parliament a boost.

Clarke cannot beat MP Mark Eyking in a federal contest. No one running on a Harper ticket could, and Clarke barely held his own provincial seat last year. Clarke will lose, but will he also win by losing? Insiders quietly ask what federal plum Harper and Peter MacKay have dangled to induce him to run.

On the steps of Province House last evening, a New Democrat MLA offered a chilling prediction: Clarke will be Nova Scotia’s next Lieutenant Governour, when the incumbent’s term expires next year. At a cost of $38 million in matching federal-provincial tax dollars.

Where is Dennis Ryan when you need him?

Canada’s Progressive Tories?

First Fivethirtyeight.com gets Canadian politics bassackwards, now the Daily Dish’s Andrew Sullivan compounds the error:

The Americanization of British politics continues. First the TV debates, now fixed parliamentary terms. If that’s true, it means that the new government will not be a caretaker before another snap election, but a potential fusion of the Liberal and Tory brands over several years – perhaps the embryo of a whole new center-right party. It feels a little like Canada’s Progressive Tories. [Emphasis added.]

Canada’s Progressive Tories? How is it possible for US* journalists to misperceive Canadian politics so utterly? The Conservative Party of Canada was formed when an ultra-right party persuaded the right wing of a centre-right party to amalgamate,** leaving its time-honored moderate elements to choose between banishment (Joe Clark) and copious servings of humble pie (Peter MacKay). Successive minority governments have forced Prime Minister Stephen Harper, chief architect of this union, to water his wine ever so slightly, though not into anything that could be termed remotely progressive. The one time he thought he could rule as if he had a majority, Harper proposed a sweeping series of far right measures, touching off a Constitutional crisis that led to his full retreat. The measures never became law.

Harper did push through a law fixing the date of Canadian elections in 2006, but broke it (along with oft-repeated promises) less than two years later, when he judged, mistakenly as it turns out, that he could win a majority.

* Sullivan is an British citizen, but his journalistic career has been centered entirely in the US.

** Technically, the merger took two steps, from here to here, thence here.

Text of ambassadors’ letter

The following is the full text of the open letter from 38 former Canadian ambassadors, protesting the Harper government’s attacks on Richard Colvin:

The issues raised by the Richard Colvin affair are profound. Colvin, a Foreign Service Officer dedicated to discharging his responsibilities to the best of his ability under difficult circumstances, was unfairly  subjected to personal attacks as a result of his testimony provided in response to a summons from a parliamentary committee.

While criticism of his testimony was perfectly legitimate, aspersions cast on his personal integrity were not.

A fundamental requirement of a Foreign Service Officer is that he or she report on a given situation as observed or understood. It is only in this way that any government can draw  conclusions knowledgeably and make its considered decisions, even if at variance with the reports received. The Colvin affair risks creating a climate in which Officers may be more inclined to report what they believe headquarters wants to hear, rather than facts and perceptions deemed unpalatable.

Serge April, Marc Baudouin, Michael D. Bell, Rod Bell, Eric Bergusch, Fred Bild, Marius
Bujold, Robert Collette, Jacques Crête, Brian Davis, Anne Marie Doyle, Paul Durand, James Elliott, Nick Etheridge, Marc Faguy, Robert Fowler, James George, Stan Gooch, John Graham, Nick Hare, Jean-Paul Hubert, Rick Kholer, Gabriel Lessard, Daniel Marchand, Patricia Marsden-Dole, Émile Martel, François Mathys, Carolyn McAskie, John Noble, Gar Pardy, Jacques Roy, Michael Shenstone, Joseph Stanford, Howard Strauss, William Warden, Christopher Westdal, Jack Whittleton, Ron Wilson.

Ambassadors condemn Peter MacKay’s attacks on Colvin

Twenty-three former Canadian ambassadors have condemned the Harper Government’s treatment of diplomat Richard Colvin in a letter released to The Globe and Mail. The ambassadors singled out Peter MacKay, who accused Colvin of accepting the word of “people who throw acid in the faces of schoolchildren.”

“[MacKay] savaged [Colvin] in public, and ridiculed him, and that’s not the way to treat a guy who’s doing his job,” Paul Durand, a former Canadian ambassador to the Organization of American States, to Chile and to Costa Rica, told the Globe. “He is not a whistleblower. He was hauled before a parliamentary committee and had to state the truth.

The Ambassadors wrote:

The Colvin affair risks creating a climate in which officers may be more inclined to report what they believe headquarters wants to hear, rather than facts and perceptions deemed unpalatable,

A fundamental requirement of a foreign service officer is that he or she report on a given situation as observed or understood,” the former heads of mission said. “It is only in this way that any government can draw conclusions knowledgeably and make its considered decisions, even if at variance with the reports received.

The Globe did not print the full text of the ambassadors’ letter, but if someone would like to send it to us, we will post it.

MacKay stoops lower

A Contrarian reader writes:

If only it were true that they were back peddling. In tonight’s news, MacKay is heard sinking to new depths of loathsomeness by accusing Colvin of impugning the integrity of Canadian troops. He obviously hoping Canadians will turn against Colvin if he can be made to look as if he’s attacking the military. How much more cowardly and disgusting can you get than using the military as a red herring to draw attention away from your own behaviour. I’m beginning to feel slimy just being in the same country with this guy.

Contrarian is out of the country, where my ability to follow the torture scandal over the last few days has been fragmentary. If my correspondent’s account of MacKay’s performance today is halfway accurate, it deserves the appellation loathsome. I hope others will call him on it.

As a placemarker, I want to flag another point for later elaboration: As first noted by Kady O’Malley in our raucus panel on CBC’s Power and Politics Friday, many in the mainstream media have done an exceptionally good job covering this story. The bits and pieces I’ve seen yesterday and today (in part thanks to tweets and e-mails from WLR at National Newswatch) has featured a steady stream of new revelations from Canadian Press, the Star, the Globe and Mail, CBC, and others—none of it flattering to the Harper Government’s crude spinslingers. Confirmation yet again that there is no substitute for good old-fashioned reporting.

How Colvin got to Kandahar

Contrarian is relieved to report that whoever kidnapped Stephen Maher and published Saturday’s bizarre column under his byline has released him. His column this morning offers a useful reminder of the circumstances under which Richard Colvin went to Kandahar in the first place.

In January 2005, Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry, the political director of the provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar, was killed in a suicide bombing that wounded three Canadian soldiers.

After Mr. Berry’s death, while the Foreign Affairs Department was struggling to find diplomats to serve in the dangerous and challenging country, Richard Colvin volunteered to go to Kandahar to do Mr. Berry’s job for several months in 2006.

This is the man Peter MacKay portrays as a patsy for Canada’s enemies. Some patsy.

The whole column is worth a read.

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