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Friday, May 6, 2011

A Deceptive Democracy: The Annihilation of Stéphane Dion and the Media's Complicity

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

"For the first time in Canadian political life, attack ads have been launched outside an election cycle. The Conservative "Not a Leader" tag line for Stephane Dion was drummed into voters' heads in January 2007 — mere weeks after Stephane Dion won the Liberal leadership. The increasing prominence of a presidential-style prime minister is steadily denigrating the traditions and institutions of Canadian democracy." - Elizabeth May (1)

From television ads to tax payer funded ten percenters, the Reform-Conservatives hammered the message that Stephane Dion was not a leader, based on nothing more than a fabricated perception of weakness.

And when that wasn't enough, they resorted to lies. The MP from Blackstrap Saskatchewan, Lynne Yelich, used her taxpayer funded handouts to suggest that Mr. Dion was going to end the Universal childcare benefit, when he had never said such a thing. He was only promoting a national child care plan, instead of throwing crumbs at a problem. But that never factored into Yelich's attack. Fear mongering was her only goal.

They also used a soundbite from the leadership convention, when Dion asked Michael Ignatieff "Do you think it's easy to make priorities?", when in fact the translation would have been to "keep". And besides, if we were going to use comments made at leadership conventions or during leadership races, the Conservatives, when they were Reform and then Alliance, were ruthless. You could write a book.

And if the push-poll handouts, TV ads and fabrications weren't enough, they even resorted to spying, using our employee James Murray to run covert operations.

But the worst was yet to come.

The 2008 Undemocratic Election

In their book: The provincial state in Canada, Keith Brownsey and Michael Howlett, referred to the 1999 election campaign of Mike Harris in Ontario as "probably the most undemocratic Electoral campaign that post-war Ontario had witnessed." (2) If that was the most undemocratic in modern Ontario history, the 2008 Conservative federal election campaign, was hands down the most undemocratic in Canadian history.

First off, there should not have been an election at all. Not only did Stephen Harper break his own law to call a snap election, but there was a criminal investigation underway against his party for the "In and Out" election scheme. An investigation in which he was doing everything in his power to squash.

According to Dr. Joan Russow of the Global Compliance Research Project:
There should never have been an election in Canada. The Governor General should have refused to accept the Right Honourable Steven Harper’s request for an election when there was an outstanding investigation into the fraudulent practices of the Conservative Party during the 2006 election. The investigation was underway by the Parliamentary Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. With the calling of the election, the Committee was disbanded. In addition, there was a similar investigation by Elections Canada. (3)
I think that was probably one of the main reasons the election was called. It halted the investigation and gave Harper a chance to get a legal team in place.

And they had not even dealt with the Chuck Cadman affair, when Stephen Harper was caught on tape admitting that he knew of the one million dollar bribe presented to the dying MP for his vote. (4)

But the Conservatives were confident that they had irrevocably damaged the reputation of the Liberal leader, and were going to ride that to a majority.

The Campaign Hits a Snag

One thing that the 1999 re-election campaign of Mike Harris, and the 2008 re-election campaign of Stephen Harper had in common, was Guy Giorno. He handled them both, but despite leaving nothing to chance and keeping Stephen Harper in a bubble throughout, they still found themselves in trouble.

The environment was becoming an election issue, and Harper's climate change denial was already well known. Then a group of Nobel prize winning environmentalists came out in favour of the carbon tax, which was considered by many to be the best in place to fight global warming.

The Liberals then started to rise in the polls and Stephen Harper was in trouble.
The fallout from the French and English debates shows the previous pre-debate 10 point Conservative margin is now four percentage points. Tracking shows incremental movement in favour of the Liberals and Stephane Dion. Dion registered his highest score as the person Canadians think would make the best Prime Minister. (5)
Enter CTV*, Steve Murphy and Mike Duffy

We probably all remember the airing of the false starts, when Stephane Dion appeared on Steve Murphy's program. False starts that were later made into a Mike Duffy episode, and a rare press conference by Stephen Harper. But what most people may not know, considering that the media buried the story, is that both Steve Murphy and Mike Duffy were charged with ethics violations, as a result of their complicity in influencing the results of an election.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released two decisions concerning the broadcast of three false starts of an interview by CTV anchor Steve Murphy with Liberal leader Stéphane Dion during the October 2008 federal election campaign. Each restart had been requested by Mr. Dion and granted by Mr. Murphy, CJCH-TV (CTV Atlantic)’s news anchor.

One decision related to the first broadcast of the false starts (which were followed by the broadcast of the full 12-minute interview) on CTV Atlantic’s newscast CTV News at 6 on October 9. The other related to the rebroadcast by CTV Newsnet of the restarts on the public affairs discussion program Mike Duffy Live Prime Time later that same evening. The CBSC concluded that both broadcasts violated certain provisions of the Radio Television News Directors of Canada (RTNDA) Code of (Journalistic) Ethics and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics. (6)
The CRTC also found that the question asked (I wonder who wrote it?) was convoluted and in violation of media fairness:
The CBSC’s Atlantic Regional Panel examined the CTV Atlantic broadcast, while the National Specialty Services Panel adjudicated the Mike Duffy Live broadcast. The Atlantic Panel reviewed the complaints under the provisions of the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics and CAB Code of Ethics relating to accuracy and fairness, as well as an article of the RTNDA Code that requires journalists to treat people with decency and courtesy. The Panel observed that the phrasing of Murphy’s question was “confusing, and not only to a person whose first language is other than English. In the strictest grammatical sense, Steve Murphy’s question mixes not only tenses (present and past), but also moods (subjunctive and indicative),” so “blame for misapprehension cannot simply be laid at the feet of the interviewee.” (6)
They also found that:
In the rest of the full interview, which continued from that point but was not broadcast on the Duffy show, the Liberal leader, in response to Murphy’s several questions, dealt with what he would say “to ease the minds of Canadians”, the Liberal economic plan, the proposed carbon tax, deficits, the green shift, taxes, comparable European national policies, and Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan. The transcript of that interview can be found as Appendix A to the Atlantic Regional Panel’s decision in CJCH-TV (CTV Atlantic) re CTV News at 6 (Stéphane Dion interview) (CBSC Decision 08/09-0196+, January 12, 2009). (7)
And even the airing of the false starts by Murphy raised questions:
As anchor for that newscast, Murphy introduced his full interview session, including all restarts, with Liberal leader Stéphane Dion as follows: "Someone once said that in politics a week is a lifetime. Well, it’s now several weeks since we last spoke with Stéphane Dion and a great many things have changed. The world markets are now in turmoil, interest rates and the dollar are falling and the Liberal Party has seen its popularity rise in the polls after the two leaders debates. Against that backdrop, we sat down this afternoon with Stéphane Dion. I began by asking Mr. Dion about his comments that the prime minister has done nothing to put Canadians’ minds at ease about the current economic problems. I asked him, quote, “If you were prime minister now, what would you have done that Mr. Harper has not done?” After beginning to answer that question, Monsieur Dion asked to start the interview again because he did not understand the question.

After a second false start, a member of Monsieur Dion’s staff explained the question to Monsieur Dion and there was also a third false start. Perhaps we shouldn’t have agreed to restart with the questioning and the Liberal campaign was anxious that this exchange not be broadcast and initially we indicated that it would not be. However, on reflection, CTV News believes we owe it to you to show you everything that happened." CTV Atlantic then proceeded to broadcast the full interview, preceded by the false starts and retakes. The false starts consisted solely of a head shot of Stéphane Dion, Murphy’s voice being heard off-camera. The complete interview reflected the more traditional cutaways to the interviewer. (8)
Two months after the election, on December 22, 2008; Mike Duffy was given a plum senate appointment for his efforts. But considering the fact that he had not only violated ethics, but had grossly interfered in the democratic process, should there not be a parliamentary ethics investigation? Should he not be removed from senate?

I don't think he can simply walk away from this, especially when he's still on our dole. What do you think?


*Peter MacKay's fiancee is an executive at CTV. (they have since split but were together then)

1. Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and Crisis in Canadians Democracy, By Elizabeth May, McClelland & Stewart, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5760-1, Pg. 8

2. The Provincial State: Politics in Canada's Provinces and Territories, by Keith Brownsey and Michael Howlett, UTP Higher Education, 2001, ISBN-13: 978-155111368, Pg. 193

3. Canadian Election: Perhaps the most absurd in Canadian History, By Joan Russow (PhD), Global Compliance Research Project, October 8, 2008

4. Cadman confided Tory offer, 'hurt' daughter says, By Petti Fong, Toronto Star, February 29, 2008

5. CPAC-Nanos Daily Election Tracking CP 34, LP 30, NDP 19, BQ 10, GP 7, October 4, 2010

6. Airing of Stéphane Dion Interview False Starts Violated Broadcast Codes, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, May 27, 2009

7. CTV Newsnet re an episode of Mike Duffy Live Prime Time (Stéphane Dion Interview), CANADIAN BROADCAST STANDARDS COUNCIL, national specialty services Panel, April 6, 2009

8. CJCH-TV (CTV Atlantic) re CTV News at 6 (Stéphane Dion interview), CANADIAN BROADCAST STANDARDS COUNCIL, Atlantic Regional Panel, January 12, 2009

The Politics of Opportunity: Election Tampering

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

A vote of non-confidence on November 28, 2005, resulted in the fall of Paul Martin's government and the beginning of an election campaign. At the time the Liberals were running about 10 points ahead of Harper's Conservative-Alliance coalition.

On the same day, NDP finance critic, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, sent a letter to the RCMP requesting an investigation into allegations that some people had made stock market gains through advance knowledge of the federal government's decision not to tax income trusts. "The media has reported a sharp and unusual increase of trading in income trust investments in the hours immediately preceding the Finance Minister's [Ralph Goodale] announcement. There has been speculation in the press that a leak about the government's decision could be responsible."(1)

What happened next continues to remain a mystery, but what is clear is that members of the RCMP were involved in election tampering, that went straight to their former boss, Giuliano Zaccardelli.

Zaccardelli responded to the NDP MP's inquiry, suggesting that they had already started an investigation. But her offices were closed for the holidays so he took the unprecedented step of calling her personally to make sure that she read the letter. Wasylycia-Leis not only posted it on her website, but also called a press conference to announce that the Liberals were the subject of an RCMP investigation. This caused an immediate drop in Liberal popularity (2), a surge in Conservative momentum, and was instrumental in Harper becoming prime minister.

And to make matters worse, the RCMP actually mentioned Liberal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale by name, a man with a squeaky clean reputation, and though he was cleared of any wrong doing, that cloud continues to hang over his head, as evidenced by comments posted now and then by Harper supporters.

So Why Did Giuliano Zaccardelli Do It?

Lawrence Martin believes that the RCMP chief had an axe to grind with Paul Martin.

The Mountie intrusion into the election campaign led to accusations that the force was biased against the Martin Liberals. This was a telling piece of irony for the Conservatives, who had long suspected the Mounties of being too close to Jean Chretien. During the uproar over alleged conflicts of interest in the Shawinigate controversy, Conservatives had howled in protest at how the Mounties appeared to be backing Chretien at every turn.

Giuliano Zaccardelli, then the RCMP commissioner, enjoyed a close working relationship with Chretien. One time at an American embassy reception he told a journalist just how that relationship had benefited him. He described how he was now a celebrated figure in his Italian home town because of his status as commissioner. What had helped him succeed, he explained, was that he had backed the right Liberal horse. His fellow Italian, Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua, didn't enjoy the same status in his home country, Zaccardelli said, because he had sided with the wrong guy—Paul Martin. (3)

Paul Martin recognized the animosity but believed that it was because Zaccardelli was upset when he called an inquiry into the Arar affair that put him him right in the thick of it. He describes the events:
The decisive moment in the campaign came three days after Christmas. I was in a hotel room in Halifax when Alex Himelfarb reached me by phone with the news. I realized the significance right away. What had happened was unbelievable and built on a falsehood, as subsequent events have proven. It was nonetheless devastating.

Guiliano Zaccardelli, the then still-respected commissioner of the RCMP, had written a letter before Christmas to the NDP'S finance critic, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, saying that the RCMP had launched a criminal investigation into the possible leak of a planned change on the taxation of income trusts announced by Ralph Goodale the previous month.

There is no doubt in my mind that what Zaccardelli did was improper. The only question there can be about the incident is whether it was an act of ineptitude or of malice aforethought. My own view is that no one can be that inept ... Was it my decision to call the Arar inquiry? (4)
He also hints that the Conservatives may have been involved, which gains credibility given the actions of the Harper government when they came to power. Maybe they just owed Zaccardelli a debt, but they went well beyond simple gratitude, raising even more questions about the entire affair.

Following the election, there was no immediate call for an inquiry. For the defeated Liberals to have demanded one would have appeared self-serving. The NDP had played the role of willing enabler for the RCMP plan, so it was not keen to demand accountability. And Prime Minister Stephen Harper, unlike Paul Martin and his zeal to appoint Judge Gomery to uncover his own party's scandal, had no interest in investigating a scandal that had helped the Conservatives win.

On September 18, 2oo6, the inquiry Paul Martin had launched into the illegal rendition of Maher Arar to Syria by U.S. authorities, headed by Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor, reported its findings. Maher Arar was completely exonerated, but the O'Connor Commission found that the RCMP had passed incorrect information about Arar to the Americans. It found that Commissioner Zaccardelli had misinformed the solicitor general both about the likelihood that Arar was tortured, as well as darkly hinting that Arar had real terrorist links. Heads should have rolled, but Commissioner Zaccardelli kept his and he was not asked to submit his resignation when the report was issued. (1)

Instead the Harper government built a wall around the commissioner, and went to extraordinary lengths to protect him.
Within days, there were allegations that the Prime Minister's Office and the office of Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day had ordered the commissioner not to appear before the Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee. In the House of Commons on September 24, 2006, interim Leader of the Opposition Bill Graham repeated former RCMP Commissioner Norman Inkster's claim that Zaccardelli was being muzzled by the Harper government. It was a subject of much media speculation when Zaccardelli refused to appear before the House Committee. A confidante of Zaccardelli approached the media to assert that Stockwell Day had written Zaccardelli to instruct him to avoid the House Committee. (1)
When it was later determined that he had lied under oath he was forced to resign but never really punished. (5) And even after that his name came up once more in a criminal investigation over the misuse of pension funds. And again the Harper government stepped in:

The next troubling scandal was over the misuse of RCMP pension funds. A month before Commissioner Zaccardelli resigned, an RCMP whistle-blower, Staff Sergeant Ron Lewis, sent a package to every member of the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons. The package documented allegations of RCMP senior officers misusing RCMP pension funds. (1)

And when a House Committee was formed to look into the matter:
The members of the committee voted down proceeding with an investigation. To be more precise, the five Conservative members of the committee acted as a group to block any investigation. And they did so repeatedly from the fall of 2006 until they lost by one vote and the RCMP whistle-blowers finally appeared in April 2007 ... At every key point when the committee voted to deal with the issue, they [the Conservatives] blocked it or tried to block it. The Conservative committee members also blocked pursuing reports from the auditor general that all was not well within the RCMP. (1)
In a column Don Martin wrote:
It's incredible and inexplicable why a government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which wraps itself in the uniform of aggressive law and order, would vote repeatedly to deny RCMP officers access to the spot-light when they were willing to risk their careers telling a disquieting truth . . . there's no sensible explanation for why Conservatives, who usually act in unison in committees, would circle the wagons against RCMP insiders seeking to blow the whistle ... (6)
This was a very serious situation. We have our national police force getting involved in an election campaign, essentially winning it for the Conservatives. And we have those same Conservatives breaking every rule in the book to make sure that the head of that police force does not have to answer to serious allegations against him in both a torture case and the possible misappropriation of funds. (7) Things like this happen in third world dictatorships, not western democracies.

And where is Giuliano Zaccardelli now? Someone obviously pulled some strings because he is now a senior official with Interpol in Lyons, France, heading its “OASIS Africa” program which aims to help African police forces more effectively combat international crime.(8) Unbelievable.


The Politics of Contempt: The Nixon-Harper Ticket

The Politics of Hate: Where Will it Lead?

The Politics of Conceit: "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better"


1. Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and Crisis in Canadians Democracy, By Elizabeth May, McClelland & Stewart, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5760-1, Pg. 132-147

2. Income trust a major campaign turning point, Canadian Press, January 22, 2006

3. Harperland:The Politics of Control, By Lawrence Martin, Viking Press, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-670-06517-2, Pg. 30

4. Hell or High Water: My Life in and Out of Politics, By Paul Martin, McClelland & Stewart, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5692-5

5. RCMP's Zaccardelli resigns over Arar testimony, By CTV News Staff, December 6 2006

6. Block Party? No Clear Explanation Why Tories Obstructed RCMP Whistle Blower, By Don Martin, National Post, April 3, 2007

7. RCMP officers accuse top ranks of coverup, CBC News, March 28, 2007

8. Wikipedia

What is the Role of the Police in the Country Now Known as Harper?

In his book Duty: The Life of a Cop, Julian Fantino praises Guiliano Zaccardelli, the disgraced former RCMP commissioner, who interfered in the 2006 election, helping to win it for Stephen Harper. Of course an endorsement from Fantino is dubious at best. He rose up the ranks because of his friendship with Mike Harris.

He was a terrible cop.

The late James Travers had been writing frequently of the politicizing of the RCMP, and now Tim Harper has picked up the issue. We can't let it go until we are given answers from Stephen Harper himself. (as likely as his ever balancing the books)

But what Zaccardelli did was a very serious offense in a democratic country.

During the 2008 election campaign, Conservative Rob Clarke had a uniformed RCMP officer delivering his lawn signs.

Conservative MP Shelley Glover, told Evan Solomon that "it's a known fact that all criminals vote Liberal and all cops vote Conservative."

And the RCMP often use physical force against journalists daring to ask Stephen Harper a question.

So who do they work for now?

The hiring of Conservative insider Bill Elliot, is only one questionable decision in a long line of questionable decisions.

And learning that the RCMP are screening those attending Conservative rallies, shows that they no longer even pretend to be independent of the Conservative party.

If Stephen Harper gets another mandate, this will only get worse. Lawrence Martin may tell Harper that Canada is not a police state, but our votes or lack thereof, could confirm that it indeed is.

We will be giving him permission to continue this course. Are we really prepared for this?

The Glimpse of a Police State in Kingston

Quite an ordeal in Kingston on Friday and a real eye opener.

We knew that Stephen Harper would be attending a rally at 1:30 at a local restaurant. So wanting to be early, my husband and I decided that we would have lunch there and that way possibly be inside.

We arrived about 11:45 but there was already a heavy RCMP presence and they had the sniffer dog combing the bushes. We waited a bit to see if there would be protesters. I knew the Prison Farm supporters were attending but not sure where they would be setting up.

I saw a small crowd gathering at the back of the lot, so while my husband waited in the car, I went over to see where they were from. It was the prison guard union. They plunked a sign in my hand and before I knew it I was marching. But mostly I just spoke with them. Imagine a group of prison guards marching against the injustice of Harper toward inmates?

My husband soon joined us, along with not only a large Prison Farm contingent, but youth groups, pensioners, the Native community and many ordinary citizens.

We were soon told that we would not be allowed on the lot. Big problem. Our car was there and my husband had locked my purse in the trunk. We asked if we could move the car (the lot was still just about half full and Harper not due to arrive for at least a half hour), and the police officer said that we could, but then we'd be charged with trespassing.

We were told we'd have to wait until the event was over.

As it was approaching 2:30 we grew concerned. The disabled grandson we are raising would be home at 3:30 and someone had to be there to take him off the bus. No cell phone and the protest was so noisy you'd have to move away from it to be heard.

So we approached a police officer, just to see if they'd let me get my purse. Again he said be my guest, but as soon as you set one foot on the lot you'll be arrested for trespassing. I explained the problem and he smiled and said I should have thought of that before I parked on private property.

I told him that we often eat at that restaurant and if they just got someone from inside, I'm sure they'd recognize us. He again just smirked.

So my husband ended up walking home (took him 45 minutes) and then took a cab back to get me.

The officer in the photo at the top was the worst. He warned us about crossing a line (an imaginary line). One woman asked where the line was and he said never mind where it is, but if you cross it you'll be arrested.

Jeff Peters, one of the organizers of the Prison Farm protest group, was walking along the curb with a megaphone, but he lost his footing on the curb and literally fell over the line. The police officers grabbed him, threw him across the car and arrested him on the spot. For falling.

Another man crossed the line (I didn't see where), and another arrest. For crossing an imaginary line.

Welcome to the new Canada.

Michael Ignatieff Not the Only Victim of Smear Campaign

Though the media had been both perpetrators and spectators to the horrible character assassination of Michael Ignatieff, we find that across the country similar smear campaigns were taking place on Liberal candidates.

We knew this election, with everything on the line, Harper and his team would fight dirty. But we were not prepared for what took place, in what is becoming clear was the most fraudulent election campaign in Canadian history.

Harper's former VP when he was running the National Citizens Coalition, called it guerrilla warfare. And it was indeed an undercover operation. A small group of combatants whose mission was not only to win, but to destroy every Liberal in its path.

The Conservatives even disbanded their 'NDP Unit' just before the election to focus their attention on a single enemy.

And one of the victims of this war, was Glen Pearson, a decent man and hard working Member of Parliament. He never let partisanship destroy his integrity, but in the end it destroyed him.

He explains what happened on his blog: Transitions – Brutal In Their Despondency
It was expected by most that I would win and the media sent its staff to my campaign office to cover the victory party that wasn’t. It became clear as the evening progressed that the vote split between myself and the NDP was proving fatal. Yet I’d had something of a premonition of the outcome during the last few days of the contest. At doors I canvassed I kept hearing certain stories about how I spent too much time in Africa, or that my voting presence in the House wasn’t too impressive. When I informed them that I only spent one week a year on that continent (Sudan), and that I take it on my holiday time over New Years and on my own dime, I could sense the hesitation in their voice. “Oh … that’s not what we heard when the Conservatives phoned us last night.” Something that hadn’t been an issue heretofore was suddenly looming large in the final days.

It was frustrating, but I didn’t know who to talk to. It was only when the election was over that a good Conservative friend informed me that they had actually been utilizing a central office for phone calls and that none of them emanated from London itself. They had poured big money from afar into influencing my riding. What I had thought to be a local campaign had suddenly taken on national dimensions.
Mr. Pearson does volunteer work in Africa. Who knew that the Conservatives would stoop to the level of using it against him.

Sadly his story is not unique. Riding after riding, is reporting the same dirty tricks, reminiscent of Karl Rove and the way he stole elections for George Bush.

But in the process, people's lives are being destroyed. As Andrew Potter said recently of the destruction of Michael Ignatieff, Canada is 'No country for good men'.

Sadly, we are now a country where good people will be afraid to run for office. If Glen Pearson can be destroyed, anyone can.