Tag Archives: federal politics

Posted in Business

Canadian Tire still doesn’t wave the flag in Quebec

Canadian Tire’s Quebec flyer for this week: Mentions Canada Day, but no Canadian flag on sale

I guess we should be used to it: Canadian Tire is still downplaying its Canadianness in Quebec.

I wrote about this a year ago when someone spotted that the chain was running different flyers inside and outside this province, with the ones inside the province being noticeably less patriotic. At the time, the company said it wasn’t hiding its Canadianness in Quebec, even though the bilingual flyer outside the province had “Canada Day” on it and the one inside didn’t.

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Posted in Video

Justin Trudeau calendar has 33 pictures of Justin Trudeau

One of the advantages of living where I do is that I happen to be in the Papineau federal riding. It’s apparently the smallest geographically in Canada because of its high residential density.

But more importantly, it’s the riding currently being represented by Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party superstar and the closest thing this country has to a political prince, making him an easy target for harmless fun.

Being a constituent apparently gets me one free calendar every year. This year’s came last week in my mailbox – almost four weeks into the year, far beyond the point when calendars in stores enter liquidation pricing. I don’t know if it’s a party expenditure (since it has the Liberal Party logo on it) or if it comes from his MP’s budget (since it has his parliamentary contact information on the back).

What I do know is that, like last year’s calendar (this is apparently his third), it’s filled with pictures of Trudeau, in most cases more than one on each page. As you can see in the video above, I count 33 pictures of Trudeau in his calendar, which is the same as I counted in last year’s. Some photos are captioned as “Justin”, others “Mr. Trudeau”, others are written in the first person, and the rest don’t have a subject.

But that’s not interesting. Nor is it interesting that his welcome message spends more time bashing the Conservatives than talking about his family. What’s interesting is that someone thought it didn’t look silly that a calendar with 12 months has 33 pictures of Justin Trudeau in it, and a year later decided that shouldn’t change.

Posted in Business

Canadian Tire not so Canadian in Quebec

Canadian Tire bilingual flyers for Ontario and Quebec

It’s the latest chapter in Canadian companies playing down their Canadian-ness in Quebec. (Remember when Tim Hortons cups here didn’t have maple leaves on them?)

For this week’s flyer, Canadian Tire produced different versions for Quebec and the rest of the country. This is partly because the flyer is for a week starting June 24, and the flyers in Quebec can’t show Friday specials since stores were closed in Quebec on Friday.

But there’s also that big special on a $10 Canadian flag. It’s not in the Quebec flyer, not even on the back page. And while the bilingual flyer on the left (for Alexandria, Ont.) notes that the specials are for Canada Day, the one on the right doesn’t mention it.

Maybe there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. The Quebec flyer covers both the Fête nationale and the run up to Canada Day, so maybe Canadian Tire didn’t want to be seen favouring one holiday over the other. The inside pages reference both holidays at the top. And you’ll notice the product shots in Quebec have Quebec flags in the background.

Or maybe, like Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire thought it was best to play down Canadian patriotism so it doesn’t piss off the separatists.

Montrealer Ted Duskes, who spotted this, writes:

Talk about pandering. This is the second year in a row that they have pulled a similar “disappearing flag act”.

Are they really “Canadian Tire” or are they planning a name change to go along with the missing “Canadian Tire” that they have removed from their red triangular logo. Maybe the new logo is blue, with a fleur-de-lys, but only for Quebec.

They really know how to annoy a 45 year (formally) loyal customer.

I’ve contacted Canadian Tire to ask for an explanation. Here’s what I got back from Communications Manager Sébastien Bouchard:

Canadian Tire has a long history in Canada, including Quebec, and we are proud to be a true Canadian retailer. Our country spans from sea to sea and, like other retailers, our customer marketing vehicles vary from one region to another. This year, in Québec we decided to use a red background with white maple leafs to create a color theme that clearly reflects the Canada Day long weekend. True to our roots, this year’s flyer was definitely designed to celebrate life in this great country of ours.

In other words, a non-answer.

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Posted in Media, Opinion

Be careful who you make fun of

QMI Agency reporter Julien McEvoy must have thought he had a pretty good scoop when he spotted an ad in a community paper from one of the new NDP MPs that contained some grammatical errors.

The ad was by Matthew Dubé, the former president of the McGill NDP club who had to quit because he got elected as an MP on May 2 in the riding of Chambly-Borduas (that’s the riding Jean-François Mercier ran in as an independent).

Politicians are always putting ads in community newspapers wishing them well during all sorts of holidays. But this one contained some errors. Specifically, two verbs were improperly conjugated, and the ad referred to the riding of Quebec (as in Quebec City), even though his constituency is just east of Montreal.

The Journal de Montréal printed the article on Page 2 on Wednesday (PDF), complete with a reproduction of the ad that circled its errors. At the end, it asks readers to weigh in on whether these kinds of mistakes will affect Jack Layton’s credibility.

McEvoy apparently made no effort to contact Dubé or the NDP for comment. They quickly responded after the story was published, saying it was the newspaper that was responsible. The NDP had not approved the final text of the ad, he says.

The party acted quickly, and got l’Oeil Régional to publish an apology on its website. The Journal and Canoë also published a follow-up piece.

But McEvoy didn’t back down. Despite the paper’s apology, he insists the error was still the NDP’s, that it was the party – not the paper – that drafted the erroneous text in the first place. He has also posted images of another NDP MP’s similar mistakes, and another ad that uses the logo for the NDP (in English, instead of NPD in French).

Perhaps this is why the original articles online have not been corrected or updated. Neither has this article, which erroneously refers to it as a card sent through the mail.

I shouldn’t need to explain why erroneous articles online need to be corrected. The mistake gets passed around a lot more than the correction. And people aren’t going to search the website of every article they read to see if a corrected article was published the next day.

Other articles posted online that used the QMI piece (without attribution or links) also sit uncorrected, including this blog post and this piece on CJAD’s website.

Whether you believe the paper or the NDP is ultimately at fault here (I’m more inclined to believe the latter, though I also think newspapers should proofread all their ads), there are some unfortunate implications of this story. It’s clear that the Journal and Quebecor have an agenda here and are pushing it. They feel the NDP MPs are incompetent and want to expose their troubles with the French language. This story is being fuelled as much by the usual sensationalist bias of the media (and particularly the Journal) as it is by Quebecor’s growing right-wing bias that puts the NDP in its sights.

There’s the fact that McEvoy appears to have made no attempt to contact a politician before publishing a piece designed to smear him. Whether or not such a smear is justified, basic journalistic ethics require at least an attempt to seek comment before publishing it. Had McEvoy done so, he would have learned of the NDP’s response and there would have been little need for a follow-up piece.

And then there’s the simple fact that L’Oeil Régional is now owned by Quebecor. Which brings up the question: Why were Quebecor newspaper employees not able to spot basic grammatical errors in an ad before it was published?

I’d ask these questions to McEvoy, but apparently the new rules of journalism say I don’t have to.

Posted in In the news, Media, Navel-gazing

Sacré orange!

Quebec consumed by an orange wave. Graphic from CBC's vote results map

“It’s all orange.”

I looked at the map of Quebec ridings about 10:30 p.m., and I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t just pockets of orange, or lots of orange. It was all orange. With the exception of a few ridings on the island of Montreal, ridings in the Beauce region, and the giant Haute-Gaspésie and Roberval ridings you can see above, it was all orange.

Montérégie is all orange. Outaouais is all orange. Quebec City is all orange north of the St. Lawrence. Laval’s four ridings all orange. Gilles Duceppe’s riding orange. West Island Liberal stronghold Pierrefonds-Dollard orange.

In all, 58 of Quebec’s 75 ridings elected New Democratic Party MPs on Monday, with the Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc Québécois left to share the handful that remained.

I followed the campaign. I even commented about it for CBC’s All in a Weekend show (you can listen to my discussions with host Dave Bronstetter and community activist Sujata Dey here: March 28, April 3, April 10, April 17, May 1). I watched the news about the NDP “surge” in Quebec and saw the poll numbers at threehundredeight.com. But even as it was projecting 30 seats in Quebec for the NDP, I was convinced those numbers were too high, the result of lots of soft support from people who, when it came to the ballot box, would change their minds and vote for one of the more established parties or more recognizable candidates.

As we all know now, those numbers actually far underestimated how the NDP would do here.

My night

My regular job kept me busy on election night. I’m not complaining, in fact I love working election nights. There’s excitement, unpredictability, lots of people, free food, and free beer after the last edition is put to bed.

Unfortunately it meant I couldn’t spend much time looking at the various networks’ coverage of the results so as to make snarky judgments about them. I had the Sun News Network live streaming feed on my computer, and I could see a TV tuned to RDI at the office, but otherwise my attention was focused on the results and my page.

Election night at any journalistic outlet is crazy, and The Gazette is no exception. Almost everyone is working that day, including most of the managers, and the work doesn’t stop until the final final edition, which had people in the office past 1:30am. So many are in at once that seating is arranged in advance so they can make sure there’s room for everyone.

I was assigned Page B5, a page in the special section devoted to results from Quebec. Reporters were taken off their regular beats and assigned to key ridings in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec. With another editor sharing duties on the page, I got files from four reporters who would write three stories (one for each edition): Jason Magder covering the two West Island ridings, Alycia Ambroziak in off-island Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Monique Muise in Laval–Les Îles, and Jeff Heinrich in Denis Coderre’s Montreal-North Bourassa riding.

With the exception of Heinrich, the reporters were surprised having to write about unexpected NDP upsets. Vaudreuil-Soulanges was one of dozens of Bloc ridings that went to the NDP despite the “star killer” power of Meili Faille. Laval–Les Îles was a Liberal stronghold, and even after the surprise retirement of Raymonde Folco it was expected to stay that way. A draft story even said it was expected to hold while the adjacent riding would see the Bloc candidate cruising to victory. In fact, all four Laval ridings would turn orange quickly, forcing reporters to scramble to find the winning candidate. He invited them to his campaign headquarters – at his house.

Lac-Saint-Louis was expected to be a tough fight. The Conservatives had put star candidate (and a one-time Gazette publisher) Larry Smith there against Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia. But Smith, who briefly led early voting results a couple of times, fell to third as the riding bounced back between Liberal red and NDP orange for most of the night. Scarpaleggia eked out a win in the end. Bernard Patry, who represented my parents’ riding of Pierrefonds-Dollard since 1993 and won with huge majorities in every election since, was stunned when he lost to a New Democrat most of the people there had probably never heard of.

All fantastic stories, but then these were only a few of the crazy results in Quebec that night.

TV coverage commentary

Without the ability to surf the networks from the comfort of my living room, I can’t really evaluate how the networks did on debate night. My PVR is limited to two simultaneous recordings, and I picked CTV (for its popularity) and Sun News (because it’s the newest).

Fortunately others were watching, and I direct you to a Gazette liveblog by Mike Boone and a blog post from TV Feeds My Family’s Bill Brioux. In The Suburban, Mike Cohen also praises the work of radio stations CBC and CJAD during the campaign.

Mario Dumont’s election night show (described by some as good considering its very poor resources) is all online. It also has the best line of the night I’ve heard so far, courtesy of Caroline Proulx: Quebecers electing a wave of NDP candidates is like having a one-night stand and finding out the next day that she’s pregnant.

I will add this, which I spotted today as I reviewed the CTV coverage. Their election desk did house projection ranges early in the night, as results were coming in and after they had projected a Conservative government.

CTV election seat projection as results come in

In the end, not one of the four parties’ seat totals would fall within these projected ranges.

Pylons

You’ll be hearing a lot over the coming days and weeks about the dozens of new NDPers elected to the House of Commons:

And these are the ones whose background we know about.

What you won’t hear are the stories of all the similar candidates for the other parties in no-hope ridings. The Liberal in Jonquière who works for a moving company. The Conservative in Papineau who’s a hairstylist, a mom and helps her husband work as a real estate agent. The Bloc candidate in Pierrefonds-Dollard who just started a degree at UQAM and whose previous work experience includes a job at the library at Collège Gérald-Godin and as a cashier at IGA.

And these are based on their official biographies posted to the party websites. One can only imagine if even the slightest digging was done into their backgrounds.

The ADQ had the same problem in 2007, when they unexpectedly rode a wave of popular support into official opposition in Quebec City. We all know how that turned out: The ADQ is all but wiped out and its former leader is now a TV host.

Everyone runs whoever they can find in no-hope ridings because they’re no-hope ridings. The parties want to be able to say they’re running someone in all 308 ridings across Canada (of 75 across Quebec, in the case of the Bloc) and don’t want to give up on any vote. But this is the natural consequence of that strategy.

This isn’t to excuse the NDP putting in phantom pylon candidates in ridings they didn’t think they’d be competitive in. Surely they could have put in the effort to find locals who were interested enough to try for a seat.

But nor should this small number of candidates with questionable issues be confused with the dozens of others whose only crimes are that they are young and/or not politically experienced. Many of those elected in 1993 for the Liberals, Bloc and Reform shared those qualities. And now many of those Liberals and Blocquistes are shocked at falling to political neophytes who were barely present in their ridings, resisting the urge to appear a sore loser by saying the people in their constituencies are absolute morons for electing someone who is horribly unqualified for the job.

I feel for the losing candidates. I even feel bad for the Bloc. Maybe, if Canada had a form of proportional representation, this problem wouldn’t occur. Voting for a leader wouldn’t be so easily confused with voting for a local MP.

Anyway, the votes are cast, and we’re not turning back time. These kids have been elected. Thomas Mulcair will be busy getting his caucus educated. And as the pundits are saying, the NDP is fortunate that a majority government gives them four years to get their affairs in order.

As someone who likes good stories, I have to admit that watching these brand-new MPs figure out how to be politicians will be fun. And we’ll finally figure out if the Conservatives have that “hidden agenda”, putting that issue to rest once and for all either way.

On the other hand, the journalist in me is saddened that the minority-parliament drama we’ve had since 2004 has finally come to an end. It made for great political stories, and sold a lot of papers.

Posted in Media, Technology

Cyberpresse creates political donation map

Political donations mapped by postal code from Cyberpresse

Cyberpresse has outdone itself.

Cedric Sam and Thomas de Lorimier, who brought us that poll-by-poll map of 2008 election results – and ported it into English so the Rest of Canada could enjoy it too – have mashed up a Google map with data from Elections Canada on party and candidate donations. It’s introduced here on Saturday by Martin Croteau.

As you should know, political donations are public information, and Elections Canada provides some raw data (though not all, see Sam’s comment below). Sam and de Lorimier used some Google Refine finessing to create an interactive map of donations, colour-coded by party. Each dot represents a postal code where a registered donor lives. Clicking on one reveals the name of the donor, the date and amount of the donation, and the party or local riding association the money was donated to.

It’s a fun tool if you know your neighbours and want to find out who among them is politically active. You can also search through the data. Or, if you don’t like the way they presented it, you can download the raw refined data yourself and create your own map.

Another example of the power of data journalism.

Posted in Montreal

Liberal candidate’s QR code leads to porn site

A poster for Justin Trudeau with erroneous QR code

The campaign organizers of Liberal Party candidate Justin Trudeau are scrambling to cover up parts of posters of him that have been put up all over his riding of Papineau, in the Villeray area.

The signs – like others in the party – have what’s called a QR code, a two-dimensional barcode that’s readable by devices like smartphones. Point the device’s camera at the code, run the program, and it spits out a website address or other information.

Unfortunately for Trudeau, whoever generated the QR code for his campaign poster made a typo. Instead of typing in “liberal.ca” – the website for the Liberal Party of Canada – he or she typed in “luberal.ca”, the site of an organization devoted to “encouraging the liberal use of lube” in sexual encounters.

Staffers, who were made aware of the problem on Thursday after someone complained, have been dispatched across the riding (fortunately for them, it is the smallest geographically in Canada) with stickers of the correct code on them.

In the meantime, the party acted quickly in getting the “luberal.ca” website offline and removing almost all traces of it from the Internet. According to the website’s owner, who said she “never asked for any of this attention” and didn’t want to be named, they’re in discussions about having the Liberal Party buy the domain name.

Posted in Opinion, Photos

Words speak louder than action plans

Spotted at Concordia University last week

Nice to know I have a government that will spend my tax money on giant, unnecessary signs that advertise to me other ways the government is using my tax money.

I wonder if there’s a similar sign outside Canada’s sign-making factories, saying the government is “investing” in them too.

Posted in My articles

This Week in Me: The New New Democratic Party

Democratic Party / Parti démocratique

Democratic Party / Parti démocratique

Page A2 of today’s Gazette was all me again this week (it’s going to be the case for the next few Mondays as well). Below the usual Monday Calendar is a Bluffer’s Guide to the NDP’s proposed name change (they want to remove the word “New” and become just the “Democratic Party of Canada”), wherein you learn that the previous name for the NDP was, in fact, the New Party.

The NDP is meeting in Halifax this weekend and will debate the name change there.

Posted in In the news, Opinion

Raitt’s fake

So Lisa Raitt apologized today, bringing out the waterworks a day after she found out that acting like a robot and refusing to address the issue during question period wasn’t a working strategy.

The video is all over the place (the news media have finally figured out that when you talk about “tearful” and “emotional” apologies, it’s best to have the video). So now all Canadians (and opposition MPs) who might have branded her a heartless politician for calling cancer treatment a “sexy” political issue now feel sorry for a crying woman who lost her daddy and brother to cancer.

What gets me about this isn’t that the tears seem so scripted, as if a political analyst backstage told her to go out and cry. It’s that the people who are so naive about politicians to think that they don’t all put their political ambitions ahead of basic human decency, the ones who were so outraged about Raitt’s candid comments as if they told us something we didn’t already know, those are the same people who are going to fall for this display, who think she will have learned her lesson and that either she didn’t mean it or she’s changed.

For the rest of us, her candid comments showed a rare honesty, and her emotional apology is unnecessary.

Sadly, the rest of us are the minority.

Posted in In the news, Media, Opinion

Raitt’s state

It’s the kiss of death for a cabinet minister when the prime minister issues a statement saying he has confidence in him or her.

“The Prime Minister has confidence in his Minister of Public Works” was the word from Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s spokesperson on Jan. 9, 2002, when the minister in question was a man named Alfonso Gagliano, who was facing allegations of patronage. Six days later, he was dropped from cabinet in a shuffle.

So you can imagine how Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt feels that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has confidence in her, after her latest embarrassment.

It seems her aide had mistakenly left a tape recorder with a mistakenly-recorded private conversation in a bathroom (this was before she was fired for mistakenly leaving “secret” ministerial documents at CTV), and that tape got into the hands of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.

After successfully fighting off an injunction to stop its publication, the Herald put the tape online last night and is going to see its hit count skyrocket over the next few days.

Opposition MPs are, of course, outraged to hear a cabinet minister think that a cancer treatment crisis is “sexy”. Except, it is sexy from a political and journalistic perspective, if not a human one. And opposition MPs were just as outraged at Raitt yesterday in question period.

Neverthless, Raitt’s days as a cabinet minister are numbered. Not because she’s incapable of handling the portfolio (though she probably is), not because she has poor choice of staff (though she does), and not because she doesn’t have a soul (she doesn’t, and neither does any other politician), but because she got caught talking about the stuff that every politician thinks but no one will admit publicly.

And so Raitt will be replaced by some other politician who’s better at lying and keeping things out of the grubby hands of the press. And our government will continue to be run by people who can manage their image instead of people who can do their jobs.

Such is politics, I guess.

Now if you’ll excuse me, question period is about to start. And it’s gonna be gooooood.

Posted in Opinion, TV

If you were a journalist now, what would you have done that Mr. Murphy has not done?

It was underhanded, mean-spirited, even arguably discriminatory. CTV executives decided to air the raw tape of an interview between ATV host Steve Murphy and then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion in which Dion has trouble understanding a grammatically confusing question. The network said it was because it had news value, but in reality it was because it wanted to make Dion look bad.

The move backfired, with public opinion turning against CTV. And now the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has agreed, with two separate rulings that the network violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics. (Two panels were actually convened, one regional panel to deal with the CTV Atlantic airing, and a specialty channel panel to deal with the Mike Duffy CTV NewsNet rebroadcast later that evening.)

Coverage from CP and Canwest. Still waiting for a news outlet that actually bothers to link to the decisions. Also no peep from CTV so far.

The decisions basically rule that Murphy’s question was poorly worded, that the network should not have aired the outtakes after promising not to do so, that airing them was unfair to Dion, and that his restarts were not newsworthy enough to justify their airing.

I find myself mostly agreeing with the analysis of the council, though their analysis of Murphy’s grammar is thorough to the point of absurdity.

The specialty channel panel wasn’t unanimous, with two members providing a dissenting opinion that favoured CTV. CTV’s arguments shouldn’t be dismissed here – they argue that restarts like these are rare, even in live-to-tape interviews like this one, and that it should be up to CTV, not the council, to decide what is newsworthy, especially when it comes to the most important interview a newscaster can give – a candidate for prime minister during an election campaign.

One argument that CTV didn’t make which I’ll add is that the question Dion was asked is textbook to the point of being cliché: What would you have done as prime minister? And politicians with even a moderate amount of public exposure should know how to bullshit their way to the next question if they don’t understand it (or don’t have the answer). Had Dion just picked an interpretation of his choosing instead of asking for clarification multiple times, this would never have happened.

But that doesn’t change the fact that CTV said it wouldn’t air the outtakes, and acted in a way that made it clear to Dion they wouldn’t be aired. Dion took advantage of an opportunity, and then got a knife stabbed in his back for his trouble.

UPDATE (June 2): ProjetJ looks at the differences between the CBSC and the Quebec Press Council. The latter has been losing members who also belong to the former (arguing they shouldn’t have to belong to two organizations that do the same thing). It also suggests the press council is more secretive, making its decisions anonymously.

Posted in Blogosphere, Video

Maxime Bernier has new technologies

There’s no way I can make this better than it already is. (via @mediabeat)

It occured to me I’ve never actually heard Maxime Bernier speak in English before (my attention must have been focused elsewhere). Now the new Conservative minister of nothing is putting it in practice with a new blog.

Don’t expect him to be too honest or outrageous though, the Tories don’t like honesty on their members’ blogs.

Posted in Opinion, TV

Low on cash? Just ask the gummit

The federal government, apparently spooked enough by Canwest and CTVglobemedia’s cries that the mediocalypse is here, is reportedly considering a $150-million fund that would help small-market television stations. This would be in addition to the Local Programming Improvement Fund which has the same goal.

As much as I’m not a fan of consumers paying for local TV stations they already get for free, even that would be preferable to a government bailout with who knows how many strings attached.