By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 0 Comments
The governor of the Bank of Canada stops by a gathering of reporters.
Carney seemed reluctant to speak on-the-record about the political controversy. He did make it known, however, that he believes suggestions that he was engaged in partisan political activity are baseless and that partisans of parties other than the Liberals had also sought him out with an eye towards recruiting him. He also said he has not yet started searching for a home in London, England.
I was at the bar last night, but didn’t speak with Mr. Carney. I just sat back and observed the scene with bemused amusement. (Mr. Carney and I did meet once, briefly, on a street corner in downtown Ottawa—which is to say we were introduced by a mutual acquaintance upon crossing paths—but otherwise I don’t believe we’ve ever spoken.)
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 6:50 AM - 0 Comments
Mitchel Raphael on Baird’s Crown jewels and Rae’s bondage moment
Baird on the Crown jewels
The star of the 2012 Press Gallery Dinner was Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. In a mock awards ceremony, Baird was given the Rule Britannia Award for combining resources between Canadian and British diplomatic missions. He beat out Peter MacKay for bringing back the word “royal” to the Navy and Air Force. In a satirical acceptance speech, Baird said he considered other mergers, like combining the CBC with the BBC, but when the BBC was told they would have to take Power and Politics host Evan Solomon “they told us to f–k off.” He joked that there was talk of a display of the Crown jewels in Ottawa but “unfortunately Prince Harry was not available.”
Tory Sen. Patrick Brazeau received the Bad Sport Award for being famously beaten by Justin Trudeau in the boxing ring. Brazeau said all the Liberals should be thanking him “because if I had won, Justin Trudeau would have never run for the Liberal leadership race.” Trudeau was absent from this year’s dinner. One of his leadership organizers noted: “There are no votes here.” Another dinner regular, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, was also absent. One of his staffers noted: “There are no votes here.” Kenney was busy getting a diversity award at the MidWeek South Asian Awards of Excellence in Toronto.
Tory MP John Williamson sported a black velvet jacket, which he says he wears only on Halloween and at Press Gallery dinners. He bought the jacket 20 years ago at a Ralph Lauren outlet sale. Tory Sen. Nancy Ruth wore a head-turning sparkling necklace of flowers. “I could have sold my necklace 20 times,” she said of the reaction to her jewellery all night.
The gallery dinner was hosted by La Presse’s Joël-Denis Bellavance and CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian, who asked attendees to tweet as to who they felt was the politician most like Christian Grey, the protagonist from erotic bestseller 50 Shades of Grey. The winner was Justin Trudeau. Accepting the award on his behalf was interim Liberal leader Bob Rae who was presented with a pair of handcuffs. His wife, Arlene Perly Rae, later kept them safe in her purse.
Speaker’s child-friendly Halloween
Speaker Andrew Scheer held his second annual “Hilloween” party in the Speaker’s dining room. Hilloween used to be organized by the “confectionery caucus”—MPs who have confectionery manufacturers in their ridings—with candy companies providing buckets of treats. It was felt there was too much lobbying with that format and Scheer, who has four kids, wanted to make the event more child-friendly. He co-hosted it with Tory MP Scott Reid and Assistant Deputy Speaker Barry Devolin. With their kids’ help, the deputy speaker’s wife, Ursula Devolin, made all the cakes, including one in the shape of a skull and another as the Cataraqui Cemetery where Sir John A. Macdonald is buried. Barry Devolin took it upon himself to make the first cut into the creative cakes to be sure nobody would be shy about eating the treats. Meanwhile over at Stornoway, Thomas Mulcair was reaching out to the West on Halloween. The NDP leader sported a cowboy hat and sheriff badge as he handed out treat bags to kids. A drink table included jugs of vampire blood and green goblin juice.
NDP MP ‘Shark’ Fin Donnelly
As NDP MP Fin Donnelly waited his turn to record a Remembrance Day message in the Centre Block’s Hall of Honour, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird approached. Donnelly let Baird go ahead of him. The NDP MP is hoping Baird will support his private member’s bill, which would ban the import of illegally harvested shark fins to Canada. Baird has taken to calling the MP “Shark Fin” Donnelly and said, “What are the chances that someone bringing a bill to ban shark fins is called Fin?”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 8:11 AM - 0 Comments
After taking 15 questions yesterday from reporters about other topics—John Baird’s speech at the United Nations, Barbara George, Omar Khadr and Rob Anders—Bob Rae suggests his own topic.
Well, that’s not—the issue is—that’s an issue for Mr. Harper to deal with but the specific issue of Mr. Anders’ comments have to be brought to ground. Is no one interested here in contaminated food? I’m kind of amazed at the questions today. Like you’ve got to—you know, I can’t quite believe the— everybody comes here with an agenda but like is nobody aware of what’s going on? You have a minister of the crown who told us last week that no contaminated food had found its way onto the shelves and now we have a situation where over nine people are sick and a little girl has just had an operation. I mean I would have thought that would be a subject of interest for the media.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Bruce Cheadle reviews the political and journalistic challenges created by the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce.
The tactic is becoming an issue for journalists in what is being called the “post-truth” era of political messaging, especially during a heated U.S. presidential race. Major publications such as the New York Times and the Atlantic Monthly are having anguished discussions, played out on their editorial pages, over how to report fairly and accurately in the face of relentless distortion campaigns that don’t pause when fact-checked.
“The media thinks that once they’ve said it once, they’re bored with it,” said pollster Allan Gregg, the chairman of Harris-Decima who once advised Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney. ”So if you’re only relying on an earned media strategy to rebut this stuff, you’re going to lose.”
For the NDP, the challenge of responding to this charge is probably the same as the challenge of responding to any charge: How do you counter an opponent’s message? Do you respond directly? In what proportion? In what ways? What options are available to you? How capable are you, financially and organizationally, of mounting a response (be it a response that directly addresses your opponent’s charge or a response that presents a different message of some kind)? The basic questions are probably the same for any political party responding to any kind of attack.
For journalists and media outlets, this is more complicated than usual. There is important context that needs to be presented to report the matter fully and accurately (although it seems really silly to identify that as a challenge). There are questions of language and policy—”carbon tax” versus “cap and trade”—to be navigated. And there are existential debates to be had about the media’s role in pursuing the truth and covering partisan politics.
In this case, I wonder if we’d be having this discussion if the issue of carbon pricing had been covered better and more exhaustively in 2008. I say that without having gone back and reviewed what was written and reported at the time. But four years later there does seem to remain a great deal of confusion around the idea.
Here, again, are the reasons why the Conservatives’ current position is farcical.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 11:39 AM - 0 Comments
The Conservative party has issued a release in response to Thomas Mulcair’s deferring to the press gallery. Apparently Mr. Mulcair is trying to “co-opt journalists” into defending his cap-and-trade proposal.
It’s a sad fact that Mulcair thinks the media will protect his economic policies from being scrutinised, and that he will be able to get away with a carbon tax scheme that will raise the price of everything including gas, groceries and electricity.
Conservatives will not hesitate to tell the facts to Canadians about carbon taxes even if Mulcair thinks and hopes he can avoid the media scrutiny which the economic program of the Leader of the Opposition ought to attract.
And here is Stephen Gordon’s guide to carbon pricing.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 10, 2012 at 12:02 PM - 0 Comments
In the process of reporting on a dispute between the Conservative party and the CRTC, Stephen Maher demonstrates—with three words—how to refer to what one side is saying, while also reporting the truth (emphasis mine).
In May, he recorded a caller from “supporter services” seeking money. The caller starts by saying that NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair had revealed that “he wants to impose a carbon tax on Canadians,” which isn’t true.
Here, again, are the reasons why this is farcical.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 27, 2012 at 4:31 PM - 0 Comments
The big unions who participated in this scheme include the United Steelworkers, the Canadian Labour Congress, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Machinists Political League, the International Association of Firefighters, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. This last union represents many members of the media.
The Maclean’s newsroom is unionized through the CEP, which obviously explains everything I’ve written over the last six years.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 3:32 PM - 0 Comments
Firstly, for these two stories, it seems that Canadian news media are not uniformly negative … Secondly, the political media are not nearly as preoccupied with partisan wrangling as is commonly believed … While our evidence challenges two of three common allegations against the news media, it supports the charge that the news media is not very informative. Our evidence suggests that citizens must sift through many news stories to find the information they seek. We also found a direct relationship between the focus of a news story and the amount of information about politics that it provides. It should be noted that it is not impossible to find informative process or political game stories, as we actually did find some. But the important point is that information on the issues in political game or process stories is rare.
(Note: Stories from Maclean’s were not included in this survey and so I am now free to sneer and shake my head at the failings of others.)
The survey covered a three-month period last fall—a majority government situation during which neither the New Democrats nor the Liberals had permanent leaders—and, in terms of Parliament Hill, looked specifically at coverage of three pieces of legislation. Given those terms, the second count—is the media too preoccupied with partisan brinksmanship?—likely requires further investigation. What sort of results, for example, would have come from a comprehensive investigation of the minority government years? Or perhaps the year before the next election?
The first count is a bit difficult to figure. I know and understand what Samara was trying to measure and I think I understand the general complaint, but I’m not sure I can say what the significance is of what they’ve found.
The third count, I think, is most relevant. I think it gets at a legitimate complaint and something the political press had to think seriously about. To what degree is political coverage difficult to understand or simply impenetrable to the casual observer? How many readers or viewers struggle to either keep up or, if coming to a story late, get up to speed? Anecdotal evidence is dangerous, but I’ll note here that the most popular thing I’ve written so far this year (at least in terms of pageviews) was this rough guide to C-38. That was published more than a month after the bill was tabled and owes a great deal to my editor’s judgment that it needed to be written at that point. I, having published dozens of blog posts and a magazine piece already on C-38, likely wouldn’t have otherwise paused to explain what was going on. But it seems to have met a need that existed.
This is ultimately, I believe, an argument for political coverage to be more comprehensive and thorough. (And online coverage more easily enables something like a rough guide to the budget implementation act: in a daily newspaper or nightly newscast that kind of piece might be lost or discarded by the next day, but online that rough guide can linger for more and more people to read and come back to.) And there is probably useful information in this Samara report for an industry that is presently struggling to figure out how to make itself valuable to consumers.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 11:25 AM - 13 Comments
Rest assured, the Canadian news media isn’t nearly powerful enough for anything like the News International scandal to happen here.
But if a phone-hacking scandal is unlikely in Canada, it’s not because politicians and journalists here are inherently more ethical. It’s more a reflection of the fact that Canadian politicians simply don’t need the news media in the same way they do in Britain. ”Canadian newspapers are such a niche market — so few people actually read most of them — that they just don’t have the impact in Canada that News of the World did in the U.K.,” Harper’s former chief of staff Ian Brodie, told The Canadian Press in an email.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 3:52 PM - 21 Comments
The Boston Globe compares what Barack Obama was asked about during yesterday’s Twitter town hall with what journalists asked during the last two weeks of White House press briefings.
A similar experiment here would likely produce similar results: comparing, for instance, what Michael Ignatieff was asked about during his various town halls with what the departed Liberal leader was asked about during scrums would probably find the same disconnect.
You could theorize all sorts of reasons to explain that disconnect, but it is perhaps worth wondering whether something should be done to shrink the gap.
From the American standpoint, Matthew Yglesias sees the “leading failure of the press”
By Erica Alini - Monday, July 4, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 9 Comments
John Allemang profiles Terry Milewski.
“I happen to think that Canadians can be a little too complacent and pacific,” says Mr. Milewski, the lone-wolf outsider slotted in among the power-lunchers at Hy’s Steakhouse. “Our job as reporters is not to meekly accept whatever answer we’re given, but to challenge and provoke and press.”
Mr. Milewski was, somewhat famously, shouted down by Conservative partisans during a media availability with the Prime Minister during the last campaign. He has since been singled out for not showing proper deference to Mr. Harper.
Fans of irony will note that a decade ago it was Conservative MPs—including Stephen Harper—who rallied to Mr. Milewski’s cause when the CBC journalist was hounding Jean Chretien.
By Philippe Gohier - Friday, May 6, 2011 at 3:18 PM - 21 Comments
This speech from Hugh Winsor is a few months old, but likely remains relevant, perhaps even as an inadvertent commentary on the election just passed.
University of Guelph historian William Christian once wrote that “Parliamentary democracy is what you can get away with.” In many ways, the media establish the limits of what the government of the day can ‘get away with” and so there is a direct correlation between the vigour, intellect, judgement, relevance and financial stability of the media and the quality of our civil society.
My concerns about media’s inadequate scrutiny of the current government and the current Parliament are inevitably tangled up with the massive structural changes that are coursing through the media industry … Those structural changes are not my principal thrust, however. Rather, it is changes in attitude and philosophy that concern me more, regardless of the format. One of the biggest impacts of the new platforms is the massive ramping up of the pressure for immediacy … The emphasis on immediacy means that coverage is essentially episodic, dealing with the here and now, with little context and almost zero followup.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 8, 2011 at 6:17 PM - 2 Comments
A dispatch from Jack Layton’s campaign.
The plane emblazoned with his name is taxiing down a runway in Halifax and Jack Layton is talking about sheep. Specifically, he is talking about Dall sheep: a species adept at mountain climbing and often seen perched on high, steep cliffs. He saw some during a trip to Nahani National Park some years ago. And the NDP, he figures, is like the Dall sheep, forever running uphill. “If you put us on a flat surface, we’d fall over,” he laughs. “We’d be in a completely foreign environment.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 4:23 PM - 40 Comments
Walter Wymer considers the role of the press during an election campaign.
The point is that reporters who cover politics know the politicians, their style, and their priorities. Rather than covering an election as if it were a horse race, educate voters on the leadership style of candidates, their political beliefs, and policies they will promote. Buyer’s remorse among voters leads to apathy, an unrepresentative government, and a weaker democracy.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 1, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 16 Comments
Michael Ignatieff promises more access.
“I’ve been a working journalist. I’m not going to sweet talk you. I’m not going to say we don’t have an adversarial relationship. You’ve got a job to do, I’ve got a job to do. But … we have to do things differently. I just find the atmosphere poisonous.”
So what would the Prime Minister’s Office do differently under Mr. Ignatieff? “Do what we’re doing now. Sit down and talk,” he said. “I mean, I don’t want to spin you about this. We’ve got a message to get out. We want to shape the debate. Every government wants to do that; that’s legitimate. But you’ve got to have access. You’ve got to be able to hold me accountable.”
He says he’ll be more available than Mr. Harper, to hold more scrums and answer more questions. “I don’t want to sound like a Boy Scout. We’re going to have scrappy moments,” Mr. Ignatieff says. “Why not? Why not? That’s the other thing to say, why not?”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 5:40 PM - 104 Comments
The reporters travelling with Mr. Harper’s campaign used some of their few questions today to ask Mr. Harper why he permits so few questions. Mr. Harper typically takes five questions each day: four from the reporters travelling with him, one from a local reporter. For the sake of comparison, Jack Layton took 22 questions by my count this morning. My notes for Mr. Ignatieff’s media availability in Montreal four days ago list 13 questions.
For a number of reasons, disputes between politicians and journalists are rather fraught and problematic. In this case, Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald is siding with the the man who appointed him to the Senate. One of the reporters named by Sen. MacDonald is defending her profession.
But regardless of profession, partisan affiliation or distrust for either journalism or politics, perhaps we could agree that, as an objective observer of Canadian politics once observed, “Canadians’ freedom is enhanced when journalists are free to pursue the truth, to shine light into dark corners, and to assist the process of holding governments accountable.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 4:17 PM - 70 Comments
The reporters travelling with Stephen Harper have one less subject to consider asking him about each day.
Conservative officials later announced the national Harper tour would no longer take questions on local campaigns. ”There are 308 local campaigns and local campaigns can speak to what they are doing locally,” Conservative campaign spokesman Dimitri Soudas said.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 5:45 PM - 37 Comments
Mark Kennedy reports from the Harper campaign.
After the announcement, Harper holds a news conference. He only provides one news conference per day, and it is specifically designed to ensure that it is not freewheeling. Journalists who are travelling with his campaign are, as a group, only allowed to ask four questions. One more question goes to a local journalist at the news conference.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 28, 2011 at 11:05 AM - 10 Comments
Susan Delacourt reflects on the lessons of campaigns past.
Reporters will make “fit to govern” judgments based on how well the tour buses perform in the area of feeding and accommodating the media. Campaign buses that get lost or break down or fail to provide three square meals a day to reporters will be pronounced abject failures at political leadership/competence.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 10:55 AM - 87 Comments
That the public is generally disinterested in the business of Ottawa is something I blamed for the current state of the House of Commons. Scott Reid blames, in part, the press gallery for the fact that so few are interested.
We can begin with a Parliamentary Press Gallery that, increasingly, is dazzled by political tactics, bored by substance and disinterested in the awkward obligation of challenging authority. With too few exceptions — and one fewer with the sad passing of the Star’s Jim Travers — reporters seem more interested in sounding like in-the-know party strategists than detached observers.
It is they, in particular, who tell us repeatedly that “no one cares.” And all too frequently, there is little, if any, suggestion that part of the media’s function is to serve as a check on abuse of authority. Put another way, if Woodward and Bernstein had followed the same method we sometimes witness in Ottawa, they would surely have shrugged off Deep Throat, explaining that no one cares about such a technical, complicated story and that, in any event, Nixon’s triumph over McGovern rendered the matter moot.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 9:02 AM - 31 Comments
House attendance is just one of the tasks of a politician, but, in the past decade, the House has never sat more than 130 days in a single year. MPs have enough time to attend to their parliamentary duties. MPs should let the sunlight in, and the House of Commons should actually levy the fines that are supposed to be slapped on the worst truants. MPs could learn from their unelected counterparts in the Senate, where attendance records are released monthly.
This seems a fair enough proposal. But like the frequent laments for civility and decorum, this complaint also seems to deal with a symptom, not the disease. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 28, 2011 at 12:03 PM - 10 Comments
Last year’s budget was tabled on March 4 and, after the defeat of two amendments, passed the House the following week. Assuming roughly the same sequence, we can look forward to another 41 days of this.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 1:02 PM - 15 Comments
@dsmartin56 Still trying to justify your false, market-moving story on potash? Pathetic, Don. Just apologise and move on.
Where’s Globe&Mail opus “Stephen Harper’s Autumn”? @johnibbitson touted big essay on Autumnus Horribilis of PM (and me). Instead we did well
NSW great, but rest drivel from pompous, little man www.tinyurl.com/27v6n28 Ignores Canada’s Economic Action Plan, strategic brand building.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 10, 2010 at 1:19 PM - 28 Comments
Last year. “For anyone who believes that our governments should be honest, open and accountable, this is a travesty. But it’s devilishly clever.”
This year. “But there is a certain Machiavellian logic to it, despite the apparent idiocy of ever using the ‘p’ word again.”