I was busy on election night, but I set a couple of PVRs to record election night TV broadcasts so I could review them for you. It took a while to get through all the broadcasts from all the networks (and I was busy doing other things too) but here you go, almost two weeks later. How the various broadcasters fared.
Tag Archives: federal election
Are parties more likely to have female candidates in no-hope ridings?
Every election, after the final list of candidates is published, there’s some analysis of how many of a particular group (usually women, because they’re the easiest to count) running for office overall or for each political party.
50% of the population of Canada and 25% of the representation #elxn42 #Fifty25 http://t.co/4cVtQjQvpz pic.twitter.com/MVtHP7aKnK
— CBC News (@CBCNews) October 15, 2015
This election, those numbers show either how we’ve made significant progress over the years (in 1980, we had only five female MPs) or how far we still have to go because women make up half the population and no party has women making up more than half its candidates.
The increase in the number of female candidates is encouraging, but I had this nagging doubt in the back of my head: Not all candidates are the same. An NDP candidate in rural Alberta has much less of a chance to get elected as one in Toronto or Vancouver. Ditto a Conservative candidate in downtown Toronto, or a Liberal in Quebec City, or a Bloc candidate in the West Island.
What if the parties were padding their numbers by putting women as candidate-poteaux in ridings they knew were hopeless?
To find out, I did some number-crunching. I took all 338 ridings and used the projections from ThreeHundredEight.com to separate the candidates into “winnable” and hopeless based on a simple criterion: If the candidate was 15 points or less behind the leading candidate in that riding projection. (This includes candidates who are leading.) Then I counted what percentage of those candidates were women.
Here’s what I came up with:
- Bloc Québécois: 33% (13/40) vs. 28.2% (22/78) overall
- Conservative Party: 18% (32/178) vs. 19.5% (66/338) overall
- Forces et Démocratie: 0% (0/1)
- Green party: 100% (2/2) vs. 39.8% (134/336) overall
- Independent: 0% (0/2)
- Liberal Party: 31% (64/206) vs. 30.7% (104/338) overall
- NDP: 38% (45/120) vs. 43.2% (146/338) overall
Among parties with more than two winnable seats, the difference between the number of women in winnable ridings and those running overall is at most 5.2 percentage points. And in two of the four cases the percentage of women in winnable ridings is higher.
Now, there are a lot of caveats in this calculation. The 308 projections are an incomplete science, and the numbers I used come from after the deadline for candidacies — the number of winnable races for the Liberals has greatly increased since then, and decreased for the NDP. A lot of candidates are considered unwinnable according to the calculation that pundits think could have a shot (Maria Mourani, Anne Lagacé Dowson, Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, Allison Turner, Pascale Déry). And it doesn’t account for other factors like incumbency (you can’t take as much credit when you’re running a female MP for re-election), or how contested the nomination race was.
The NDP, for example, shows 43% female candidates overall, and 38% in winnable ridings. But if you exclude Quebec, where a bunch of women were elected in 2011 by surprise and are now incumbents (names like Ruth Ellen Brosseau, Charmaine Borg and Laurin Liu), only 27% of the winnable ridings in the rest of the country have female candidates.
That raises a bit of an eyebrow. Maybe it’s just chance, or maybe it’s subconscious. But overall, as a rough guide, these numbers are enough to convince me that women aren’t being systematically dumped in unwinnable ridings.
It makes for a less interesting blog post, but at least my curiosity is satiated.
(By the way, you should read that CBC story about women in politics. It includes some interesting statistics and comments from female MPs.)
“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 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.
In the end, not one of the four parties’ seat totals would fall within these projected ranges.
You’ll be hearing a lot over the coming days and weeks about the dozens of new NDPers elected to the House of Commons:
- There is, of course, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the
unilingualanglophone who works at an Ottawa bar and vacationed in Vegas during the campaign but still managed to win in the riding of Berthier-Maskinongé. (UPDATE: Turns out her abilities in French have been underestimated – she struggles, but she can speak the language)
- There’s Isabelle Morin, the
unilingualfrancophone elected in mostly-anglo NDG riding (prompting some to ask: why didn’t they switch those two?) (UPDATE: Like Brosseau, it seems Morin’s bilingualism has been underestimated).
- There’s 19-year-old Pierre-Luc Dusseault in Sherbrooke, the youngest man ever elected as an MP.
- There’s 20-year-old Charmaine Borg in Terrebonne-Blainville (who a local paper tried unsuccessfully to locate during the campaign but found on election night) and the other McGill students.
- There’s Eve Peclet, the Un souper presque parfait contestant, and Alexandrine Latendresse, who the Star’s investigative team found out doesn’t like George Bush.
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.
Cyberpresse creates political donation map
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.
Cyberpresse publishes English electoral map
Cyberpresse, which spent quite a bit of effort creating an interactive Google map of 2008 federal election results by individual poll, has decided to release it in English after seeing how popular it became in English Canada.
The web application allows the user to choose any riding in Canada and see a colour-coded map of how each poll in that riding voted. In even the smallest riding – Papineau in Montreal – you can see the breakdown of votes: Solid red in Park Extension, and mostly blue in Villeray before trending back red in St. Michel.
Large residences that have their own poll are represented by large squares (mostly red, because old people vote Liberal). Ties and polls with no results are marked with white.
It’s an impressive feat of programming, but the fact that Cyberpresse has produced English content is the most interesting part of this. It was a trivial move – the data is already bilingual – but I can’t recall a previous instance of this kind of thing happening before.
Other media outlets (at least those with the resources to produce major projects like this) should take note: The Internet allows you to expand your audience far beyond your regular readership, and language can sometimes be much less of a barrier than you might think.
UPDATE: Cedric Sam, who created the map, said it took him about a week and involved some code he recycled from previous projects.
Perhaps the best feature we had for the Cyberpresse and didn’t on the previous projects was the fallback on Google Maps. It means all the people on work computer, tablets, can visit and use the website.
I coded a program in Python that generates KML, the Google Earth format. Then, Google Maps reads this as well and displays it.
Media’s election post-mortem
Looking at my feeds, here’s a roundup of links about media coverage of the campaign and especially election night:
- J-Source has a good piece about how the media did in this election campaign (spoiler: they did horribly, letting the campaigns set the narrative).
- Meanwhile, it seems some bloggers did break the Internet blackout on results, though it doesn’t sound like it was too widespread.
- The Globe and Mail reports that some cable subscribers in B.C. got Newsworld and CPAC election results too early. Apparently a cable provider was a bit slow on the blackout button.
- The Gazette’s Mike Boone looks at how the TV networks did on election night.
- Canwest’s Alex Strachan looks at the national anglo TV networks briefly.
- Richard Therrien looks at the French network coverage. He says he preferred RadCan.
- Patrick Lagacé (who liked TVA’s coverage better) has some highlights (lowlights?) from the teevee, including a testy exchange between Stéphane Dion and CTV News.
- TV writer Bill Brioux makes some sexual innuendo jokes at CBC’s expense.
- Le Devoir reports that TVA beat RadCan on the call by seven minutes, and they are therefore superior in their reporting (instead of, say, just being less cautious)
- Hugo Dumas leads with the same non-issue in his analysis for La Presse.
- Looks like TVA won the ratings wars on the French side, and CTV on the English side.
- The anglo networks had battling press releases. Global heralded calling the election first, CTV says it had the highest ratings, and CBC says it had the highest ratings. (In reality, both played with the numbers to make themselves look good, something we’ve seen a lot among these networks)
- Plenty of talk about how André Arthur starts his TQS show the day after winning a seat as an MP. TQS didn’t cover the election results at all.
- Steve Proulx’s liveblog.
My big screwup (and other election night anecdotes)
There’s nothing quite like working as a journalist on election night. Reporters, editors, TV anchors, data analysts, managers and technicians are all running on adrenalin, impatiently awaiting results, and excited about all the surprises.
But before I go on, a little mea culpa: I screwed up. Big time. The worst mistake you could make on election night: calling a race for the wrong candidate. Throughout the night, I was editing two pages, each with a close election: North-end Ahuntsic and south shore Brossard-La Prairie. Both were stolen from the Liberals by the Bloc in 2006, and throughout the night the results went back and forth between the two sides.
As the final deadline approached for late editions at 1:30 a.m., both ridings showed the Liberal ahead slightly. For Brossard, it was a difference of only 42 votes, so the final headline expressed that it was probably going to head for an automatic recount. The final margin was 143 votes, or 0.24 percentage points, above the 0.1% cutoff for automatic recounts.
In Ahuntsic, the margin was larger, and we declared victory for the Liberal Eleni Bakopanos. The Bloc wouldn’t concede, but we were as sure as we could be. After the paper was sent out, the race turned again, and the final margin was 142 votes, with the Bloc’s Maria Mourani coming out the winner. So this story didn’t end quite the way I thought it did.
The error was compounded elsewhere. Not only was there the riding story itself, but there were general recaps with seat totals, there were pictures of prominent Quebecers (including Bakopanos) saying how they fared (she was given a win), and the results page, which actually marked Mourani as elected even though at that point she was trailing in the number of votes.
It’s the kind of thing that happens in every election, but it’s no less embarrassing.
My election night
This wasn’t my first election working for the Gazette. I was there on election night in 2006, as well as the 2005 municipal election. But I’m still new enough to find the atmosphere during an election fascinating. And this time I was closer to the action than I’d ever been.
I was one of three people whose sole job of the evening was handling election pages. But in reality, it was all hands on deck. Eight pages in the A section, plus an eight-page B section meant 16 pages of election coverage. My responsibilities were B5 and B8 (if you notice any other mistakes, feel free to blame me for them too).
The shift started at 6pm, which isn’t all that unusual for me. What was unusual was seeing so many managers and reporters around at a late hour. For the occasion, we got treated to free food, and naturally I overindulged.
On each of my two pages were three articles for three Quebec ridings that were expected to be close (links go to the late-edition articles that appeared in this morning’s paper):
- Vaudreuil-Soulanges (the Michael Fortier riding)
- Honoré-Mercier (east end Montreal)
- Brossard-La Prairie
- Laval-Les Îles
- Brome-Missisquoi (in the Eastern Townships)
Each of those ridings had a reporter filing live copy. (Having six reporters under my control did leave me a little drunk with power.)
At first I felt a bit sad that I didn’t get any cool ridings like Papineau, Outremont or Westmount, but as it turns out I had plenty of excitement.
With three editions, whose deadlines are an hour and a half apart, each article needed to be filed and edited three times (and headlines, decks, pullquotes and even some photos also had to be changed between editions).
The reporters, of course, were mostly out at the ridings themselves getting quotes from the candidates and reactions from the campaign supporters. They would file their stories by magical methods from their laptops. That worked out brilliantly until the system broke down for almost an hour.
Oh, I should add one other difficulty. You see, there’s a byline strike currently in effect, so when a reporter would call and say “it’s Brenda” or “it’s Charlie”, I’d have to go through my notes to figure out what riding they’re in and what page the story for that riding is on. Even at the end I couldn’t remember which was which.
The early stories, which had to be in by 10pm, didn’t have any results. We knew by then that it would be a Tory government, but most of the meat inside was filled with background. It’s rather difficult to come up with headlines for stories about races in individual ridings when you don’t know who won yet. As the first edition deadline approached, we had the option of including the first few polls (literally two or three), but that would have told just as little.
Because I was so busy with my own work, I wasn’t keeping track of what was going on elsewhere, including a crisis with the website that resulted in it being down for about an hour and riding results pages not working during the most important period on election night.
After the final deadline at 1:30am, the newsroom quickly evacuated as everyone headed across the street for drinks on the boss (thanks boss). Most of us ended up closing the bar, discussing the upcoming U.S. election, reporters’ stories from the field (one had just driven back from Brome) and all sorts of random other stuff.
I finally got to bed about 5:15am. Thankfully, I had today off.
Crunching the prediction numbers
As the results finally become known in all 308 ridings (some recounts may occur, but none were apparently close enough to qualify for an automatic recount), the two big seat-by-seat projection websites did a self-analysis to see how they did:
DemocraticSPACE got 25 of 308 ridings wrong, for a 91.9% accuracy rate
Election Prediction got 27 ridings wrong, for a 91.2% accuracy rate
Those sound like impressive numbers, but I wondered how significant that is when so little changed. They both got Edmonton Strathcona wrong, for example, but then again so did all the pundits. They also didn’t predict three seats shifting from the Liberals to Conservatives in New Brunswick.
Looking at the election results (Wikipedia has a riding-by-riding breakdown on one page), I see that the incumbent (or incumbent’s party) won in all but 41 ridings. So if you blindly picked the incumbent to win in all 308 ridings, you’d have an 86.7% accuracy rate.
That makes 91% sound a lot less impressive.
Then again, in an election where only 25 of 308 winners got more than half the vote, predicting anything is a throw of the dice.
Interesting results when you look deep
It was boring, yet fascinating. The big picture didn’t change much, with the Conservatives still just below majority territory, then the Liberals, Bloc, NDP and two independents. But looking at the individual regions, plenty of stories to be told:
- Alberta: I’m a bit tired, but did the NDP just knock off a Tory in Alberta? Even the NDP candidate can’t seem to believe it. I’ll spare the dozens of links to predictors who joked about how much of a risk they were taking in predicting a blue Alberta sweep (ok, maybe just one. And one in today’s paper that got it wrong – more on that below). The Edmonton Journal marks this as a win for democracy, consistent with their earlier message that the Tories shouldn’t take Alberta for granted. Now, we ask: Is this the new Landslide Annie?
- With the NDP wins in Alberta, Quebec and Newfoundland, the NDP have MPs in eight provinces and a territory. Only Saskatchewan (ironically, the birthplace of the party) and P.E.I. don’t have NDP representation. The Liberals are in nine provinces (Alberta the exception), and the Conservatives also nine. The one missing province for the Tories?
- Newfoundland/Labrador. The ABC campaign worked, ridding the province of its three Conservative MPs and replacing them with two Liberals and a New Democrat (who won by a landslide). It worked so well, in fact, that premier Danny Williams has declared victory and said the war is over.
- Prince Edward Island. They saw this one coming, but the Tories have ended 20 years of Liberal rule of the province’s four ridings by eking out a narrow victory in Egmont. The last time any of PEI was painted blue was in the Tory landslide of 1984.
- Nova Scotia. Only two ridings of note here, and neither surprised anyone. Peter MacKay beat Elizabeth May handily in Central Nova, and ex-Tory Bill Casey won in a landslide in a riding whose name is too long for me to even cut and paste here, becoming one of only two independent MPs elected.
- New Brunswick. The Tories become the dominant party, replacing the Liberals by taking three of their seats, including Andy Scott’s old Fredericton riding.
- Quebec: A narrow win for André Arthur, who is the other independent MP. Tom Mulcair wins re-election (though it looked for a bit yesterday like it was going to go the other way), and remains Quebec’s only New Democrat (sorry Anne). Michael Fortier: No seat for you, and the Tories are once again shut out of Montreal. How Harper will deal with this problem is a good question, since he needs a cabinet member to deal with the regional portfolio.
- Ontario: The big story here, I think, is Garth Turner losing Halton as a Liberal. It’s a shame because, despite what you may think of his policies, Turner spoke his mind directly to the electorate, and has been replaced by what will undoubtedly be a party-loyal backbencher. Olivia Chow is going back to Ottawa to represent Trinity-Spadina, but the NDPs will focus on nearly sweeping northern Ontario, gaining five seats in the province.
- Manitoba: The Conservatives picked off two Liberals (including Tina Keeper), leaving only one left in Winnipeg South Centre. There’s plenty of NDP orange left in the province though.
- Saskatchewan: Ralph Goodale is a single red dot in an otherwise completely blue province, winning his Wascana riding.
- British Columbia: Few surprises here. I keep hearing about rural, coastal B.C. being ripe territory for a Green Party breakthrough, but no evidence of that is emerging and the Tories are dominant. Their best showing was in Okanagan-Shuswap, where they came in third with 17% of the vote.
- Territories: The Tories won Nunavut, marking their first win up north since 1984, when they swept all three ridings. That leaves the three parties each with a slice of the northern pie.
I’m sure I missed some other interesting local stories. Feel free to comment below.
Election coverage tonight: 9:30 on TV, 10 online
Thanks to Elections Canada rules about not divulging the outcome of a vote to a region that is still voting, news outlets will have to be careful about their results tonight. That means that CBC Newsworld and other national news networks won’t be providing results until 9:30pm (ET), when polls close in the Eastern, Central and Mountain time zones, and these networks will be blacked out in British Columbia and Yukon until their polls close a half hour later.
For online, unless news outlets want to put trust in geoblocking services, expect no results until 10 p.m., when all the polls are closed and there are no restrictions on broadcasting. This will be a full three hours after the polls close in Newfoundland.
Of course, don’t expect everyone to play by the rules. Some people who are either clueless about the law or unclear on how it applies will no doubt be leaking information early.
I’d be looking at that, plus live-blogging coverage of the vote and analyzing news websites as the results come in, but I’m working tonight as one of the election copy editors. Feel free to use the comments section as a forum to point out anything you notice.
If I notice something late tonight or tomorrow I’ll post it then.
Tories win again in newspaper endorsements
In 2006, with the central issue of the vote being the sponsorship scandal (or at least that was what the media was telling us was the central issue), many newspapers who had previously (but begrudgingly) endorsed the Liberal Party switched sides and said the Conservatives deserve a chance to govern.
Most newspapers in the Canwest, Sun and Gesca chains backed the Tories, as did the Globe and Mail. The two main dissenters were the Toronto Star, which continued to support the Liberals, and Le Devoir, which steadfastly stood behind the Bloc Québécois.
This year, not much has changed, except for the reasons behind the endorsements. Talk of Gomery, Gagliano and Guité has been replaced by acknowledgments of apologies and discussions of steady hands that can guide us through economic difficulties.
Here’s how it breaks down this time:
Endorsing the Conservatives
The National Post, unsurprisingly, hits on just about all of the conservative talking points in endorsing a Conservative Party majority. Taxes, national defence, Canada-U.S. relations, and the avoidance of “large-scale Trudeauvian social-engineering schemes” (i.e. health care, education and other spending) and having no plan for the environment that might adversely affect the economy. It talks about Harper’s management of “the Quebec file,” which as a Quebecer I find somewhat patronizing.
The Globe and Mail takes a softer approach, endorsing Harper but also giving a list of demands for the next term. Though it doesn’t specifically say Harper should lead a minority government, it suggests that this is inevitable, and seems to be comfortable with that. Again, lots of talk about steadyhandedness and how Dion is “not a leader,” a phrase right out of the Tory handbook. The Globe also, laudably, defended its endorsement to readers in a live Q&A session. Both pages also include links to previous endorsements, which other newspaper websites either forgot or were too lazy to do.
The Winnipeg Free Press spreads the blame around, and in fact talks about Harper’s failings at length before turning around and endorsing the Conservatives. The reasons for this aren’t particularly clear, but seem to have to do with Harper’s steady hand on the economy. It also suggests that a Harper win would cause some major shift in Canada’s political system, with Dion getting kicked out as leader, the left deciding to unite and maybe the Conservatives splitting into two parties. I’m not sure what they’ve been smoking, but that’s a pretty bold prediction.
The Ottawa Citizen‘s endorsement is mainly about respecting Harper for formal apologies in the House and his decision not to go to Bejing. Interestingly, it also endorses the Liberal Green Shift plan, and suggests that Harper essentially steal it and use it to fill the giant green gap in the Conservative Party platform. I think this part might touch a lot of Canadians who don’t think Dion should be prime minister but who don’t want the Green Shift idea (taxing carbon and offsetting it with other tax cuts) to die with Dion’s political career.
The Toronto Sun and the Calgary Sun and the Winnipeg Sun run identical national editorials prepared by Sun Media, ridding everyone of any suggestion that these newspapers have some sort of editorial autonomy. The piece itself describes Harper as a strong leader, and describes Dion’s Green Shift as “inexplicable” (really? I figured it out pretty quickly), but also makes mention of the fact that Harper has no environmental plan to speak of.
The Ottawa Sun at least writes its own editorial endorsing Harper, for much of the same reasons, and includes the same criticisms. It declares this to be the most important election in recent times, which I think is a bit of a stretch.
The Edmonton Sun also writes its own editorial, this one from an Alberta perspective. It endorses Harper, while blasting the Conservatives for ignoring a province whose seats are all in the bag for them already. It also makes it clear that they ain’t gonna let no carbon tax prevent them from pollutin’ whatever they want.
The Edmonton Journal says Harper is better on the economy and Afghanistan, but also suggests that if Alberta ridings were more competitive, the Conservatives might not ignore them as much as they are currently.
The Calgary Herald focuses mostly on foreign policy and the economy, with mention of Harper’s record on China, Gaza, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
The Vancouver Sun (which, unlike the other Suns, is owned by Canwest) focuses on the economy (see a trend here?), and specifically endorses a majority Conservative government.
The Vancouver Province (also owned by Canwest) says the Tories need more B.C. representation, and the answer to an economic crisis is not more taxes, as they say the Liberals and NDP would institute.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Record is all-economy, and comes out strong for Harper. It criticizes Dion’s Green Shift, calling it a “leap of faith” that we can’t afford in tough economic times. (For all the criticisms of the Green Shift, this one actually makes sense – its weak point is that it’s unpredictable how the market will react.) It also says that there hasn’t been any evidence of a Tory hidden agenda. Of course, the Conservatives haven’t had a majority government yet, and there have been Tory threats to arts funding and abortion rights.
My own newspaper, The Gazette (which didn’t consult me before making its endorsement), talks a bit about how Conservative policy is best but focuses mainly on telling people to cast ballots strategically to defeat the Bloc. Since the Bloc has no hope of being in power, and sovereignty is not on our doorstep, it seems a strange position to take. The big question is whether the Tories will have a majority or minority government, and lumping the federalist parties together ignores that issue. In fact, if anything I’d think many Quebecers are for the first time considering not voting strategically for this very reason. At the end, it also endorses individual candidates in Montreal-area ridings, basically naming all the star candidates (with Gilles Duceppe being the notable exception): Dion, Michael Fortier (C), Thomas Mulcair (NDP), Irwin Cotler (L), Marc Garneau (L), and Justin Trudeau (L).
Finally, The Economist, which sees the need to meddle in our affairs, endorse the Conservatives, but also Dion’s Green Shift (or some form thereof), saying Harper’s dismissal of a carbon tax shows a lack of leadership. The magazine also, notably, says that a minority Conservative government is probably the best bet for Canada.
Endorsing the Liberals
The Toronto Star just doesn’t know when to quit them. Canada’s liberal voice spends much of its endorsement blasting Harper with the usual left-wing talking points, using scary terms like “neo-conservative.” Its endorsement of Dion’s leadership abilities is weak at best, and it talks about the Liberal team to make up for it. The Green Shift, of course, also gets lauded, as the only Liberal platform point anyone can recite from memory.
Endorsing the Bloc Québécois
Le Devoir‘s endorsement of the Bloc, a foregone conclusion for about a decade now, almost forgets to talk about the party or its leader. It spends most of its time attacking the Liberals and Conservatives on their many mistakes. When it comes down to giving people a reason to vote for the Bloc, it gives the usual vague point about how the Bloc represents the interests of Quebec first, without giving any supporting evidence that they have done so.
La Presse, which signs all its editorials and endorsed the Conservatives last time, has taken the cowardly populist position that no party is good enough to lead this country. It rakes the Liberals and Conservatives, though André Pratte points out that Dion’s campaign wasn’t as awful as had been predicted by everyone but him. Instead of endorsing a national party, the editorial suggests people look at the individual candidates in their riding and choose the one which best represents their interests. It doesn’t name any specific names.
The Victoria Times-Colonist breaks from the Canwest bloc by refusing to endorse a candidate, with the cliché statement that it’s the voters who should decide. It then goes around stating the obvious (Dion can’t speak English very well, Layton’s chances of becoming PM are slim).
Have I missed any? Link to others (big media or small) you find in comments below.
But are they biased?
Newspaper endorsements are worth the paper they’re printed on, and usually only given attention by the candidates they endorse. Certainly Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will make a point of all the endorsements they’ve received in order to reassure voters that they’re not evil or scary.
But the thing with these endorsements is that they’re written by owners and managers of large newspapers, who are usually quite well-off. They’re worried about the economy, but not about whether they’ll be able to put food on their table. They care about the price of a car, but not the price of a bus ticket. They’re not so out of touch that they don’t know what the price of milk is at the grocery store, but there’s clearly a bias here. Opinion polls put the Conservatives in the lead, but still well below 50%, meaning most Canadians don’t support the party.
I don’t know if there’s an easy solution to this. Perhaps newspapers should take votes of all their staff, or stop endorsing candidates. Or just leave everything to me.
UPDATE: J-Source points to a piece by the Star’s public editor about the nature of newspaper endorsements.
Journalism, politics sink together to a new low
I was busy dealing with real news tonight, so I completely missed the broohaha over this incident with Stéphane Dion and ATV News.
For those who haven’t heard of it, you’re lucky to have limited exposure to the echo chamber of political gossip reporting. Here’s the deal: ATV (an Atlantic TV network owned by CTV and rebranded CTV Atlantic) had Stéphane Dion on for an on-camera but pre-taped interview. Host Steve Murphy asked Dion a question about what he’d do about the economy if he was prime minister today, and Dion started answering before realizing he didn’t quite understand the question. It was an awkward exchange with a few false starts.
Dion asked if they could re-start the interview, and Murphy agreed. Murphy also, according to CTV, “indicated” that the bad part of the interview would not be aired.
Except later, after the interview, people at the network huddled and decided to go back on their word and air the outtakes, deeming them to have some news value.
Thanks to Stephen Harper’s decision to devote a whole press conference to this “gaffe,” it’s been analyzed from all angles:
- Mike Duffy aired the outtakes on his CTV NewsNet program, leading a Liberal panelist to accuse him of making fun of Dion’s physical impairment.
- Canadian Press has analysis of the journalism ethics implications
- Colby Cosh looks into Murphy’s grammar and how a non-native English speaker might have trouble understanding it
- The Globe and Mail has the Liberals’ reaction to the Tory attacks, as well as a specific response from Dion saying he just didn’t understand the question
- Norman Spector points out that this kind of thing has happened before
- Canwest has reaction from Gilles Duceppe, who points out that francophone federal leaders are held to a different standards, while anglo leaders don’t have to know French at all.
- Richard Martineau has his usual fake outrage. And similarly from the other side of this non-story.
- Andrew Coyne takes the view closest to my own, mainly saying that this is a non-issue and the backlash to it is just as stupid.
I don’t have much to add, so I’ll keep it brief:
- CTV’s transgression was not a breach of journalistic ethics. There was no promise of confidentiality, no pre-agreement, and no information was gained through deception. Murphy did, however, go back on his word by airing the outtakes after he “indicated” he wouldn’t.
- Dion’s campaign is right when they say the purpose of airing this was to embarrass Dion. It’s a secret every journalist keeps, even to the point of deceiving ourselves. Political campaigns so ruthlessly control the narrative, that latching on to something they don’t want you to talk about gives us a thrill. It’s not that CTV is biased against Dion. It’s simply biased against politicians and in favour of scandal.
- CTV wasted minutes of airtime putting this interview out there. This time could have been spent on news, and the interview outtakes posted to a blog somewhere. Had that happened, we would not be discussing journalistic ethics here, but the clip would have gotten just as much traction online.
- The clip has little news value. It shows that Dion is a logical thinker, perhaps to a fault, in trying to wrap himself around the exact hypothetical situation. But that’s not why CTV chose to air it. The fact that they did not specify what news value it contained is a good indication that there was none.
- Some have mentioned that Dion has a hearing problem and that may be related. It’s not. The question was clear and the room was quiet. It was a logical comprehension question, mixed in with some grammar issues.
Conclusion: Steve Murphy and his cohorts at ATV are douches, and Stéphane Dion a human francophone who can be annoyingly professorial at times. And it’s just a matter of time before someone unearths an interview outtake of Stephen Harper that makes him look bad.
Now can we get back to the issues?
UPDATE (Oct. 24): J-Source looks back on this story with some interesting background on what happened at ATV and CTV News offices.
Iz tha green shitz
Train wreck watch: Stéphane Dion is visiting MuchMusic tomorrow, trying to sway the youth vote (who watch MuchMusic?) with his ubercoolness.
Liveblogging the leaders’ debate
Take your pick, everyone’s doing it:
- The Gazette’s Don Macpherson
- La Presse’s Patrick Lagacé
- Journal de Montréal’s Marco Fortier (forum only, no liveblogging)
- The National Post (using crazy Flash technology)
- The Star’s Linda Diebel
- Ottawa Citizen’s Laura Drake
The debate itself is an unintelligible shouting match, so I don’t think there’s much analysis to get out of it.
But feel free to analyze the liveblogs themselves below. Which is funniest? Most astute? Quickest?
UPDATE: My initial reactions: most of these liveblogs sound more like transcripts. Are these for people who can’t access TV? They seem to think that knee-jerk snark can replace rapid analysis. As the king of knee-jerk snark, I wonder why I’m not being paid to liveblog this.
My winner is the National Post, which has special software which works properly, has comments from a team of writers instead of one personality, and includes (moderated) comments from visitors with the liveblog comments. Losers include Le Devoir and Canoe, which didn’t have liveblogging at all.
UPDATE 2: Paul Wells has a franco blogger roundup of debate analysis.
UPDATE 3: Regan Ray at J-Source has a taste of the liveblogging action.
Le Devoir enters the blogosphere
Le Devoir, the black sheep of Quebec media online (the only major paper in Canada that still locks articles to subscribers) has joined the blogosphere with an election blog.
It’s hardly a big splash considering the vast number of election blogs out there, but it’s a start. Here’s hoping some of their journalists continue to inch closer to the big scary Internet out there.