96 posts categorized "soapbox"

December 04, 2008

The Real Dean

"Immediately after Question Period this past afternoon, the NDP’s Libby Davies rose and asked that Conservative Dean Del Mastro be made to withdraw various invectives hurled in the direction of the New Democrats. Apparently Del Mastro had referred to Ms. Davies and her peers as “traitors.”  Del Mastro stood and twice, instead of apologizing, defended his slurs. His fellow Conservatives applauded him."
Macleans.ca: 'A lot of fear and anger and hatred.'

Found via Accidental Deliberations: On Political Violence

Rusty Idols: Violent Language Encourages Violent Acts

MyKawartha.com: Video of Two Rallies in Peterborough -- Dean Del Mastro Rousing the Crowd - Conservatives Confronting Coalition Supporters - Coalition Supporters Explaining Their Views (found via Maxwell's House)

December 03, 2008

The D Word

Do any of these techniques of persuasion sound familiar to you?

Comparing apples to oranges. For example, "Our government has spent more on culture and heritage (and sports and recreation) than the previous government spent on the arts.

Demonizing the enemy. For example, identifying political opponents as a threat to democracy or the country's future (e.g., describing a perfectly legal course of action under a parliamentary democracy as "undemocratic" or describing the proposed coalition government as Liberals and "socialists" supported by "separatists").

Straw man. For example, distorting an opposing position and then arguing against that distortion (e.g., the attack ads on Stephane Dion, which literally turned the Leader of the Opposition into a cartoon representation of himself; the gross misrepresentations of what the Green Shift and other Opposition policies and platforms were all about during the last election).

Loaded question or loaded statement. For example, posing a question -- or making a statement -- with an implied position that the opponent does not have. (For example, during the Federal leaders' debate, Harper made this statement which totally misrepresented Dion's position and thinking: "Last night, Stephane, you panicked. You came on the set and announced a whole new economic plan in the middle of a national debate. I know why you did that because you look at your platform. Your platform says we will spend billions of dollars we don't have and go into deficit. (You) will raise taxes that will kill jobs.")

And, of course, there are other similar techniques that have become all-too-familiar to political observers -- like telling half-truths, omitting key facts, and attempting to rewrite history by way of selective amnesia.

They have a name for a political leader who has mastered this political modus operandi: who holds on to political power by capitalizing on popular prejudices; preying on people's emotions and fears; resorting to propaganda campaigns to sway the electorate; and who encourages his followers to "Rally for Canada" by showing their support for him and his party.


"Demagoguery invites the externalization of hatred and anxiety, it is an institutional aid to projection; it justifies tabloid thinking, stereotyping, and the conviction that the world is made up of swindlers...There is no middle ground...the ultimate objective is vague, still the need for definiteness is met by the rule, `Follow the Leader.'"
- Gordon Allport, The Nature of Prejudice

Deceivin' Stephen, Honest Ed, the GG, and the CBC

Askme CBC.ca is asking

If you were the Governor General, what would you do?

Here's my response:

I would give the coalition government an opportunity to have the chance to govern. It is the best alternative, given the other choices. And our system of parliamentary democracy provides for this option. (Any Canadian who is not clear about how parliamentary democracy differs from the US system of government should tune into The National every night to get the facts from the country's top constitutional experts.) [ Subscribe to podcast feed of relevant segments here. ]

Here's something else to consider. We Canadians pride ourselves on resolving things through mediation and cooperation in our daily lives. It only seems fitting that we carry this spirit right to Parliament Hill.

We need a government that understands this and that is willing to work in the best interests of all Canadians during a time of economic crisis. Prime Minister Harper has lost the faith of 62 percent of Canadians because of his insistence on putting partisan politics ahead of policy. If he had been willing to govern responsibly, we would not be in the situation where we find ourselves today. What's unfortunate is that his current campaign of political half-truths and misinformation is causing great anxiety amongst Canadians when there is no need for such anxiety.

If Harper would, for once, act like a statesman and a gentleman, this situation could be resolved quickly and painlessly and our leaders could move beyond the political crisis and start dealing with the economic crisis.

Now click through and offer your opinion, too.

One final thing, while I've got your attention.

How will history remember Harper?

Brian Mulroney got stuck with the not-very-nice moniker "Lyin' Brian." (And we'll be hearing more about him this week on The Fifth Estate. It's no wonder Harper & Company don't like the CBC much, with timing like that. Ouch.)

Do you think Harper is doomed to be stuck with a nickname like Deceivin' Stephen?

Ed Broadbent thinks so. Broadbent accused the Prime Minister of lying during an interview on CBC Radio's The Current this morning. And what an informative interview it was. Honest and straight to the point.

December 02, 2008

Sign Spotted at Political Rally in Peterborough, Ontario -- Quote from THE NATIONAL on CBC

Political Sign Spotted at Pro-Coalition Rally in Peterborough, Ontario

First in a series of photo posts from a noon rally in Peterborough.

Related: CBC.ca coverage about Harper government and public reaction to coalition government.

Pin the Minority on the Donkey Rally in Peterborough at Noon TODAY


From Emily Berrigan of The Green Party:

"TODAY (Dec. 2nd) at noon the Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro is holding a "Rally for Canada" across from Peterborough City Hall to show [his] disgust for a possible coalition government.

Please join me at the same rally in showing disgust for an unrepresentative government and support for cooperation in Canadian politics! (no matter what your stripe!)

We'll be playing 'Pin the Minority on the Donkey!'"

RSVP on the Facebook group


Peterborough Examiner story

November 10, 2008

Building Bridges and Delivering Trains: Can Del Mastro Do It All?

"The Kelowna Accord...there is no such thing. It was nothing but a press release."
Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro,
newly appointed Parliamentary Secretary
to Heritage Minister James Moore

Figurineandclock It will be interesting to see how other members of the Peterborough community respond to Dean Del Mastro's appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore.

We've already heard from the arts community, but cultural workers aren't the only ones who will be affected by Del Mastro's appointment.

Canadian Heritage is responsible for arts and culture, citizenship and identity, international activity (international events, international expositions, trade and investment), diversity and multiculturalism, sport, and youth. See this comprehensive A to Z index for an overview of everything this Ministry oversees. 

The Peterborough business community will no doubt be enthusiastic, looking for opportunities to benefit from trade and investment opportunities abroad.

And the sports community will be delighted to have sports being overseen by someone based in Peterborough. (Peterborough has long claimed ownership to anything related to the world of hockey, as any local can attest.)

But as for those parts of our community affected by government decisions related to diversity and multiculturalism; citizenship and identity; and youth -- they may not be quite as enthused.  Along with arts and culture, there are many parts of the Canadian Heritage file where Del Mastro has more learning and much bridge-building to do.

It sounds as if Del Mastro is going to be busy. Very busy. And yet he told the Peterborough Examiner that he won't be too busy to deliver the goods as an MP: "Ultimately I won't allow it take away the focus away from delivering the many things I have been working on for our riding."

Good thing. On top of all his new responsibilities, he still has to follow through on his promises to deliver the train, the battery plant, the Little Lake resort, and the legislation guaranteeing property rights. Etc.

No MP Left Behind

Radar Dean Del Mastro's big news wasn't the talk of Toronto, and because that's where I was this past weekend, it wasn't until this morning that I got the scoop on the second biggest news story in Peterborough: that Dean Del Mastro has been named Parliamentary Secretary to Heritage Minister James Moore. (The really big news in Peterborough these days is that Serena Ryder's second album is due out tomorrow.)

Harper certainly works in mysterious ways. It wasn't that long ago that Dean Del Mastro was at the bottom of the learning curve on this file. And now he'll be one of the key influencers.

No MP left behind.

The response from the Peterborough arts community has been less than enthusiastic, as you might expect. It seems that the only one around town who is gushing about this appointment is Del Mastro himself. Surely Del Mastro wasn't expecting much more. This is the same community, after all, that

The Peterborough Examiner's coverage of Del Mastro's appointment included these comments from ARTSPACE Executive Director Iga Janik, who generally acts as a spokesperson for the broader Peterborough arts community:

Artspace director Iga Janik expressed concern that Del Mastro is too inexperienced and not involved enough in the local artistic scene to handle the file: "I don't know how qualified he is considering I don't see him at any of the cultural institutions or events in Peterborough," Janik said. "In light of all the cuts to the arts that the Conservative government have made, Del Mastro and Mr. Harper have a big job ahead to rectify the situation."

Janik made reference to the $34 million dollars in arts funding cuts. That's how much the Conservative government cut to cultural and heritage granting programs such as the Heritage Sustainability Program, Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund and the National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector on the eve of the election. Moore has since announced the Harper government has no plans to reverse those cuts. What's more, the spin-cycle of carefully crafted political messaging about arts funding has started up again.

The strategy is consistent with what we saw before the election -- attempt to confuse Canadians by talking about the entire Canadian Heritage budget, which includes arts, culture, sports, and recreation funding -- rather than sticking to the arts funding portion of that budget when arts funding is being discussed.

Here's Del Mastro quoted in the Peterborough Examiner (November 8, 2008):

"I'm proud to say that no government in the history of Canada has put more money into the Department of Canadian Heritage than ours has, that includes direct funding of arts and culture and promotion of arts and culture in Canada."

This kind of political double-speak does not bode well for Del Mastro's relationship with members of the arts community, local or national. Why not just talk about what you've actually spent on the arts -- and just the arts -- when that's the issue on the table?

Here's the thing. Artists are a tell-it-like-it-is kind of crowd with very finely tuned spin radar. They don't have a lot of respect for double-speak and carefully crafted political messages that dance around the truth

That's why musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, dancers, singers, songwriters,  and every other kind of cultural worker you can think of rallied behind Obama in the US election.

That's why musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, dancers, singers, songwriters, and every other kind of cultural worker you can think of rallied against Harper in our election.

Oh yeah. One more thing. The anything-but-Conservative election strategy wasn't just about the funding cuts.

It was also about the lack of respect for Canadian artists and what we do; and Harper's inability to appreciate what Canadian culture is and what it means to Canadians. 

The good news is that artists are the cultural canaries. We're good at reading cultural, political, and social trends; and finding compelling ways to let people know that the canary is sick, dying, or in danger of being murdered by its keeper.

The canary has been being plucked of its feathers for quite some time. The canary can't go on like this much longer. Hopefully, it will only be a matter of time until the rest of Canadians decide they want something better for their country; that they can feel that sense of hope and renewal our neighbors to the south experienced last Tuesday night.

Until that happens, the artists will continue to paint, dance, film, write, and storyboard the visions of what was, what is, and what could be. Stay tuned.

Dean Del Mastro on public vs. private funding for Canadian broadcasters: Canadian Heritage Committee Meeting in June

October 19, 2008

Stéphane Dion: When Was the Last Time There Was This Kind of a Show of Grassroots Support for a Canadian Politician?

And when was the last time a group of everyday Canadians were moved to take this kind of political action on behalf of a Canadian politician? You'd probably have to think back to the days of Pierre Trudeau to think of a time when ordinary Canadians felt this strongly about a political party leader. 

Over the weekend, ordinary Canadians

to urge Stephane Dion to stay on as leader and to protest the disrespectful treatment of Dion by some anonymous sources within the Liberal Party in recent days.

Will it be enough to prevent Stephen Harper from achieving what he set out to do on Super Bowl Sunday in January 2007, when he launched the now-infamous attack ads on Stéphane Dion: to prevent Canadians from ever experiencing a Canada under Dion?

Only tomorrow will tell.

Img_1397 In the meantime we might wish to ponder what Canada may have lost: a man of integrity and vision. Rather than pandering to the polls, true leaders put forth a bold new vision that inspires us and shows us the way forward that we need to take if we wish to realize our full potential as a nation. Dion did that brilliantly and Canadians let him down by allowing getting sidetracked by Harper's promise of a balanced budget (well on its way to becoming a broken promise) and solid economic leadership (solid because he cribbed it from Dion).

Dion has everything it takes to make a brilliant party leader, if given the opportunity to grow in the job. He's a man of intelligence, integrity, and vision -- and he also cares passionately about his country and its people. Politics, for him, is a means to an end; not an end in itself.  If he's replaced, he'll no doubt be replaced by Mr. Charisma, Mr. Business, or Mr. Shake Everybody's Hands and Refill the Party Coffers. What they won't find is another Dion. He's a once-in-a-generation kind of party leader. And, should he resign, he will be sorely missed.

October 17, 2008

My Letter to Stéphane Dion -- and Why I Wrote It

Yesterday, I wrote a letter to Stéphane Dion. It was a letter of gratitude and encouragement. It was also my way of dealing with what, for me, has been a terribly painful election outcome: an election in which political manipulation triumped over truth and integrity. What does that say about our country and our values, circa 2008? That's the question I've been pondering at both the local and the national level for the past three days.

I'm posting my letter for you to read in the hope that sharing my perspective on this sensitive, principled, visionary leader will help other Canadians to understand what a terrible injustice has been done to him -- and how our country has been diminished as a result.

Think back to the excitement that accompanied his election as Liberal Party Leader -- and how, almost instantly -- Harper and his rove-ing band of political thugs felt the need to launch a preemptive strike against Dion -- right at the get go. You don't take that kind of approach with an ordinary political adversary. You save it for someone you view as an extraordinary threat. Someone who is offering Canadians a bold new vision of what is possible. (CBC RealMedia file | Time: 17:41) Someone who threatens your own political ambitions.

If Dion tenders his resignation on Monday, as many are indicating he will do, I will hold the Prime Minister of Canada personally responsible for the sequence of events that led to that decision -- namely, for authorizing a 22-month-long attack ad campaign designed to destroy a man's political career and to turn him into a national joke. I'm talking about personal defamation and political bullying or, to borrow one of the Prime Minister's favorite phrases, misappropriation of personality. The attacks didn't stop there, of course. Anonymous Liberal Party insiders and -- in recent days -- would-be furniture-movers piled on as well: party politics at its most ugly and most vicious.

If Dion resigns, it will be to the detriment of every Canadian: a political possibility lost. We will never know what kind of Prime Minister Dion might have made or what kind of Canada we might have had if his vision of a greener, fairer, and more economically sustainable Canada had been realized.

I am only one citizen, but I am hoping that other Canadian citizens will finally hold their Prime Minister accountable for what was allowed to happen in our country to a truly decent man and visionary politician like Stéphane Dion. A true leader would accept responsibility for his actions and offer a sincere apology to the leader who has been wronged. If Harper is not willing to do that, some may start saying that Harper is not a leader.

Susan Riley, Dion deserved better, Ottawa Citizen.
Far and Wide: Outside the Beltway: Roundup of blog posts and detailed discussion about why Dion should not be pushed out as party leader.

Hon. Stephane Dion with Betsy McGregor
Photo: Stéphane Dion with Betsy McGregor,
Federal Liberal Candidate, Peterborough Riding
(2008 election).

October 15, 2008

Political Fix-It List: ONE: Political Advertising

This is the first in an occasional series of posts designed to highlight systemic problems with our political system and to begin to suggest possible ways of getting at the solution.

Political advertising

We need a truth-in-political advertising law that requires that all political advertising be rigorously fact-checked for accuracy before being released to the public and that heavily penalizes candidates who deliberately seek to sabotage their opponents' campaigns and defame their reputations through attack ads and smear campaigns.

As it stands, there is no penalty for launching attack ads designed to damage the public's perception of a political opponent; for making false claims about political achievements (past, present, or pending); or  deliberately misrepresenting key facts about the campaign platforms and personal/professional backgrounds of political opponents.

We have truth in advertising laws governing other types of products and services. Why should politicians and political parties -- who are making product claims about their ability to govern our country -- be exempt from such legislation? Just because we've always accepted dishonesty and false claims -- and, increasingly, attack ads and blatant misrepresentations of the other candidates' campaigns -- doesn't mean that we should tolerate this in any future election campaigns.

 "We need a system in which purveyors and sponsors of misleading political ads will be penalized for doing so. We need a system that would look at each ad and investigate it, that will break down the message and its claims, that will track the facts and not fear calling such ads "misleading," "exaggerated," "spin." This should help viewers evaluate the ads, and the candidate who "approved this message. Free speech should not entitle a candidate to lie."
- Marc Raizman, Daily Camera

"There's no reason consumers should be protected from disinformation any more than citizens should. Our democracy hangs in the balance."
- Julian Friedland, Daily Camera