Saturday, June 11, 2005

Playing with the numbers

The Globe: Tories take hit as voters turn their attention to leadership Canadians are growing increasingly negative in their impressions of Tory Leader Stephen Harper . . .

CTV: Conservatives, Harper both lose support: poll The Conservative Party has lost more support, a new poll has found -- and that can be tied to a popularity drop for its leader Stephen Harper. . .

London Free Press: Liberals must hope Harper hangs on It's a sure sign Stephen Harper is in big trouble when the Liberals are desperately praying the Conservative leader won't quit before the next . . .

580 CFRA Radio: Canadians Have Unfavourable View of Harper, PM 60 per cent of Canadians surveyed by the Strategic Council had an unfavourable view of the Conservative leader, compared to 40 per cent who view him positively . . .

The common thread the headlines and opening statements is that Harper is a liability to the Conservatives and people don't like him.

Further in each article you'll read that 60% of people view him negatively, compared to 56% who view the Prime Minister negatively.

This is a poll that is considered accurate to +/- 3.1%, nineteen times out of twenty.

Does that not mean that Harper and Martin are statistically tied in terms of negative perception?

Should it not be bigger news that the country hates the Prime Minister at least as much as the guy they didn't vote in?

The media keeps trying to tell me that there is no media bias, and in truth, I am finding less of it on the opinion pages -- but this sort of story is a news item. Its presentation is supposed to be neutral.

Playing up Harper's negative numbers, and playing down Paul Martin's similar negative numbers is hardly neutral. It is a distortion of the poll results which can only have been done for one reason -- to lead the reader in a particular direction.

I don't doubt the polls accuracy, or the professionalism of those conducting the polls -- the bias comes from those who report the polls. By choosing to focus on Harper's negative numbers -- which are hardly surprising in the week where the media had jumped on the 'doctored tapes' bandwagon -- and just breezing by Martin's equally abysmal showing much later in their articles, these media outlets have downplayed the PMs consistently negative ratings in the polls.

Bias in the news pages is far more troubling than bias in columnists -- and yet time after time, we see opinion and skewed information passed off as impartial fact.

I still think polls create public opinion rather than reflecting it. They are self-fulfilling snapshots: a brief blip in time becomes the final print because the image becomes etched in people's minds.

There is no way to counter-spin this kind of reporting -- once it's out there -- it's just out there.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Election on the horizon?

With the Liberals sizeable lead in the polls here in Ontario, it wouldn't surprise me if they orchestrated their own defeat on Tuesday.

The Libs know they're not likely to recover in Quebec -- not now, not 7 months from now. Gilles Duceppe is probably going to stay, so the Bloc will stay where they are in the polls, or go up. Either way, it won't affect the Liberals positively, so they have nothing to lose by going now.

They also know that the Conservatives have dropped in the polls, and nothing in the immediate future is likely to make them rebound.

Yesterday's court ruling puts the Libs in the 'saviour' role yet again. They never mind speaking with a forked tongue, and will not hesitate to suggest that it is not inconsistent to accept court rulings over same-sex marriage and reject them over health care.

The Liberals have seen that their own rancid behaviour tends to have a negative affect on the Conservatives. Things are about as bad as they can be for Tories. The Libs can use innuendo and speculation throughout a campaign. The RCMP has still not commented as to whether there will be an investigation into the Grewal tapes -- which, after this much time leads one to believe that they don't think it's too big a deal. The Ethics Commissioner is ages away from reporting on anything. It seems unlikely that the Libs would want to delay an election because there is always the risk that he might actually do his job competently in this case.

Gomery is over, and appears to have fizzled.

Allowing themselves to be defeated now would take away the basis for the Conservative claim that they bought, or sought to buy votes because they would do anything to stay in power. What better way to show that Grewal was lying, than be defeated? Winning by losing -- in this twisted country, that actually makes sense to me.

An election now due to a defeat on a money bill, would allow the Liberals to campaign on the NDP budget, and paint the Conservatives as 'against the environment', 'against post-secondary education', 'against affordable housing'. They could continue to promise this $4.6 billion giveaway in one breath, and say 'contingent on there being money to pay down the deficit' in the next. They'd please the leftists, while giving the nudge and wink to business.

They are in the best possible position to win an election now, and it would be unlikely that they will ever have to follow through on any of their promises. Ontario and Atlantic Canada will vote for them and no one else matters.

When the election is over, everyone will blame the lack of a credible alternative for the re-election of the most blatantly corrupt, immoral and nefarious regime in the western world. They will be wrong, but that never stopped them before.

So, what do you think?


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Those uppity immigrants

In the Post's Issues & Ideas section today (free for the moment due to a publishing glitch), writer Bradley Miller suggests ethnic minorities are doing themselves harm by lining up beside 'fringe Christians' at rallies against same-sex marriage.

Miller suggests that by standing up for what they believe in, immigrants run the risk of 'stigmatizing (their) leaders as intolerant.'

The entire column is filled with invective for those immigrants who would go public with their beliefs:

These minority communities are making a strategic mistake. By opposing gay rights, they are betraying the very ideals that won them a place in Canadian culture. They are also encouraging an anti-immigrant backlash among those who already fear that immigrants are a threat to tolerant Canadian values.

And apparently, average Canadians are bound to start quaking in their boots about immigrants (not radical-leftists) co-opting the culture.

Trends in other proudly multicultural countries are instructive. Across liberal Western Europe in recent years, political parties have fought and won elections on anti-immigrant platforms. In Belgium, Switzerland, Scandinavia and elsewhere, politicians have capitalized on fears of swarming hordes of visible minorities co-opting the culture. Likewise, the recent defeat of the EU constitution in France was, in large part, an expression of fear at the idea of Muslim Turkey joining up and sending its workers west.

To Miller, apparently pluralistic and leftist are synonyms:

Even in the Netherlands, Europe’s most proudly tolerant state, the gleam has gone off multiculturalism. In the 1990s, after 30 years of heavy immigration from the Muslim world, the Dutch began to realize that many newcomers — North Africans in particular — hadn’t integrated into Dutch society and accepted its pluralist outlook.

And this is the most shocking portion:

Since his assassination days before a general election in May, 2002, (Pym) Fortuyn’s influence has dominated the political mainstream. Holland’s government has approved tough measures against immigrants and asylum seekers, and even held a commission to inquire into the activities of the country’s Muslim population. At the funeral of provocative filmmaker Theo van Gogh — murdered in the street by a Muslim fundamentalist last November — one government minister told the 10,000 mourners that Dutch tolerance “stops here and will go no further.”

This is the new face of the anti-immigrant movement. Rather than cast immigrants as libertines and layabouts who would threaten the traditional, Christian social order — as generations of bigots have done — the new nativists see immigrants as a threat to liberal values such as tolerance and secularism. As that idea spreads, it will find a natural home in Canada. Polls here have always shown that although Canadians don’t have many hang-ups about skin colour or religious affiliation, we want our immigrants integrated.

By bringing up the European public's reaction to two high-profile murders by radical Muslims, Miller is effectively equating those murders with peaceful protests by Canadian ethnic minorities, and suggesting that Canadian reaction will be to close the borders if immigrants don't close their mouths.

Irwin Cotler admitted yesterday that there really can't be guarantees of religious freedom under this same-sex marriage law. I think what we're being told is that if we just shut up, and change our beliefs to coincide with the 'correct' point of view, everything will be okay.


Polls and pundits

I've only just finished reading Greg Weston in today's SUN .

Greg, I know polls are exciting numbers that it's hard not to write about because they are soooo important. They are like a snapshot in time -- and they make you feel like for a brief instant you 'get it.'

That said, I know how much you like to point out the flaws of Stephen Harper. You're very good at it --- you'd almost think you wrote for the Star. Well, it might have escaped your notice -- but those polls reflect just about the time when the Liberals started chanting 'Doctored tapes! Doctored tapes! Doctored tapes!' and the media said 'oh! If the Liberals say so . . .' then ran and did some analysis of those tapes -- well, not those tapes-- because they don't have them -- details, details.

Sooo then, the media started announcing the results of 'expert' testing of those tapes. It's true! A few radio guys, a musician, and a guy who might or might not have a degree from somewhere all analysed, well no, not the real tapes -- they're with the RCMP -- but copies that were either of the originals, or maybe from the Internet. Either way, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Stephen Harper is standing up for a liar when he supports Grewal.

In the meantime Mr. Weston, I know it's just another detail -- but nowhere have I seen an angry Stephen Harper -- except your columns and Don Martin's.

People are inclined to forget Paul Martin's minor indiscretions (and big fat blunders!) -- do you suppose it could be because once it's happened, and Paul squishes those little fists together and laughs -- you all forget to write about it again?

Like I seem to have missed your column about how the PM keeps lying in the House. Last week he said that Grewal solicited an offer from his Chief of Staff. He ignores that when he answers questions and now, he's getting Tony Valeri to get up every day like a broken record and say 'no deal was offered. No deal was made. If you have any information for the RCMP . . . ' That isn't the question. Tony knows it. Paul knows it. You know it. Funny you haven't mentioned it.

Personally, I feel like going to Ottawa, grabbing the Hansard from any of day last week and hand delivering it to the RCMP.

No point really. It seems they are really, really, really understaffed. They might not even get a chance to look into the Grewal thing for a long, long time. Maybe they could hire an expert from the Globe or the CBC . . . But their lagging doesn't matter when you media types already have the goods on Harper. Once you can nod and say 'it was Harper!' you don't really have to even look into it anymore. Everyone is happy just to say 'figures.' And move on. Funny how the Libs get 'due process' and Harper just gets slammed.

No Greg, Harper isn't the problem. The problem is you and your pals. You've been having beers with Liberal insiders and forgetting all about their news this week. Instead you've been busy drudging up things from a month and two months ago on Stephen Harper -- things that wouldn't have been news then, except you decided they were.

It's too bad you aren't as dedicated to recalling the nasty deeds of the Liberals and their leader as you are to remembering that Stephen Harper was 'inappropriately' angry over a huge corruption scandal and the Prime Minister's televised act of contrition.

I can just see Greg Weston's wheels churning: "Can you imagine? Stephen Harper gets angry when the government lies, cheats and steals. What nerve! How vile! Better write a column about it -- no not about the Liberals lying, cheating and stealing -- about that nasty temper of Harper's. That's news. After all, we've come to expect the worst for the Liberals, it just doesn't ressonate."

When the pundits get off their barstools and start writing about what matters, newspapers might start being relevant again.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Starting Over -- Again?

Mike Brock puts the question out there -- should Harper stay or should he go? Mike puts forward cogent arguments for his position, but I respectfully disagree.

My short answer is that Harper has to stay. The Conservative Party would self-destruct if its leader felt compelled to step down because polls say so, or because his PR team hasn't scored points in the MSM.

I've said previously that the reason the Liberals weather storms is because they gather under an umbrella and push on. Conservatives scatter and scurry for cover.

It isn't Mike's fault. It isn't Harper's fault. It isn't the MSM's fault -- it is the nature of conservatism. We don't do 'group think' the way socialists do. We tend to say what's on our mind -- thinking principle first, party second.

I keep seeing calls for ordinary people like Mike, or MPs like Randy White, to be muzzled. Yesterday I saw Mr White on television saying Gurmant Grewal being on 'stress leave' was bizarre (my word) and that part of being a parliamentarian is dealing with stress because that's what it's all about. Randy White was absolutely right -- but in speaking out, it sounded like he was challenging his leader's decision. That's poison for the Conservative Party -- but it is part of being a conservative. White wasn't going to obfuscate and equivocate -- it isn't who he is. He was asked a question and it never occurred to him to answer anything but his truth -- not the 'party' truth -- Randy White's truth.

There are so many different conservative truths that no leader is ever going to mirror all of those sometimes polarized ideals. To pretend that a new face would somehow change things is to ignore the conflicted history of the various conservative incarnations.

If Harper can't sell the Conservatives to conservatives, maybe he shouldn't be leader -- it isn't my call -- but there are those who would prefer to purge the party of its Reform roots, and ousting Harper might well do that. Along with him might go all the social conservatives and grassroots reformers who are insulted that their party finds them a liability.

We might end up having two right-wing parties. What a novel idea.

Divide and conquer is usually a strategy to defeat an enemy --- unfortunately for conservatives, it is our self-inflicted modus operandi.


In defence of Harper's defence of Grewal

Whatever you think of Grewal, Stephen Harper is doing the right thing by not expelling him from the party and simply allowing him to take 'stress leave'.

I find the 'stress leave' thing a little silly, but if Harper were to abandon Grewal completely, he would be abandoning any revelations the tapes hold.

When Paul Martin and Tony Valeri stand in the House and shamelessly defend Dosanjh and Murphy -- and ignore questions about the Prime Minister's own statements in the House, I find it odd that conservatives feel the only way to purge ourselves of the taint is to climb on the Liberal bandwagon and distance ourselves from Grewal.

The reason the Liberals weather storms is because they gather under an umbrella and push on. Conservatives scatter and scurry for cover.

This is not in defence of Grewal -- it is in defence of Harper. The Speaker continues to allow statements in the House by the Liberals about 'altered tapes'. If Harper were to have expelled Grewal, this would only add fuel to those accusations.

The tapes may be a PR dud according to the polls, but if the Conservative Party treats Grewal more harshly than the Prime Minister does his Health Minister and Chief of Staff, it would be like Harper accepting blame.


Free speech and hate crimes

The Prime Minister and MPs who supported bill C-250 in 2003 and early 2004, insisted that it was no big deal, and would not infringe on freedom of expression. They minimized the concerns of those who argued against it by calling them alarmist etc.

Here is the criminal code on Hate Propaganda

1. Subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code is replaced by the following:
Definition of "identifiable group"

(4) In this section, "identifiable group" means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.

2. Paragraph 319(3)(b) (defences) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;

What Bill Whatcott does is extreme, and personally I find it creepy. I think his tactics are a distraction from honest debate, but his opinion is based on a religious text -- why was he convicted.

I am not for the distribution of this kind of flyer because they tend to be taken for the views of all Christians who are against SSM and concerned about the homosexual agenda. All Liberals should not be painted with the scandal brush, but all Christians are usually painted with the 'extremist' brush.

That said, those who said that this amendment to the criminial code would not infringe on freedom of speech were misleading us. What a surprise.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Stupid sound bites

Ralph Goodale keeps suggesting that because they did vote against, and plan to vote against bill C-48, the Conservatives are broadly against 'affordable housing, foreign aid, post secondary education and seniors'.

Does that mean that because the NDP voted for the original budget C-43, that the NDP is now for corporate tax cuts?


The 'right' words

A Macleans headline from yesterday reads:

Renegade MP O'Brien was small-c conservative in Liberal party

When Belinda jumped ship, the media decided Belinda was a 'moderate' conservative, escaping an 'extremist' party -- but when O'Brien takes a walk, there are no questions about the extreme agenda the Liberal party is pushing.

It's so typical that O'Brien is labelled a small-c conservative, and people in the Conservative party who hold similar views are called 'social conservates' and 'the religious right' or 'right wing extremists' (or bigots, fascists, or homophobes).


Book Tagged . . .

I've been book tagged by Linda at The Great Pumpkin, Civitatensis, and Victor at The Files of the Phantom Observer.

1. How many books do you own?
Impossible to count. I'd estimate two or three thousand. I cull them every once in a while, but everytime I go to toss some books, I end up buying more. It's fun to go through them all and rediscover old favourites hiding at the back of the shelves.

2. What was the last book you bought?
Pure Chance - The Memoirs of Dame Felicity Peake, first Director Women's Royal Airforce. Dame Felicity served at Biggin Hill during the Battle of Britain and later at Bomber Command. She was instrumental in ensuring that women in the Services were treated equally with men. I've long been working on a novel, set during WWII and at first I found there to be a derth of information available on the role of women in the Royal Air Force, but have since found many sources. Some are out of print, and I've been able to find them through ebay and Amazon shops. It is astounding to read the accounts of strong women who served their countries during wartime -- pre-women's lib, pre-feminism.

3. What was the last book you read?
Divorcing Marriage -- Dan Cere, Douglas Farrow
This book is a series of essays by educators, politicians, sociologists etc. discussing what the subtitle calls: Unveiling the Dangers in Canadas New Social Experiment
I have read books from the other side as well, like Discerning the Word by Paul Gibson.
As an Anglican, this issue keeps coming to the fore. I think it's important to try to hear both sides.

4. Which 5 books mean a lot to you?
Unlike most people have been tagged, the books that mean the most to me are almost all fiction. These days, I mostly read non-fiction, but the ones I treasure are ones I first read long ago and am now sharing with my kids. And, when I come across an author who can make me laugh, they go in my 'keep pile'

To Kill a Mockingbird - by Harper Lee. I first read this book in grade 8 and I've always loved it.

Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery.

To Say Nothing of the Dog - by Connie Willis. I've never been a big sci-fi fan, but my daughter bought me this book so I read it. I've ended up buying more of Willis' books because this one was so much fun.

Mere Christianity - C. S. Lewis. I read this in highschool, and it gave me the best non-biblical understanding of Christianity that I've ever read.

C.S. Lewis: Always a Poet - The Rev. Dr. Roland M. Kawano. Father Kawano, an Anglican Priest in Toronto, is a friend. He allowed me to follow the process from manuscript to publication. It was an interesting journey.

5. Can you tag 5 more victims--er, interested bloggers?
I've picked six. Five amongst bloggers, one from Livejournal:
Elizabeth at purplefeltangel
Les at Spiderman's Web
Michael at
The Blue Maple Leaf
Jason at
Reasonable and Right
49erDweet at
Minding the Gap
Charles at
Peg City Kid


PM reaching out to knuckle-draggers

CTV is announcing that in order to placate the social conservatives (read: people of conscience, not knuckle-draggers) in his ranks, Paul Martin has agreed to make changes to Bill C-38.

They include:

  • Stronger guarantees that Charter rights will not override religious freedoms
  • Justices of the Peace who do not want to perform civil marriages of same-sex couples will not have to do so
  • Churches are not required to rent out their halls for same-sex weddings
  • Religious educational institutions will still be allowed to preach that homosexuality is against God's law, without being subject to hate crime laws

I wonder though, if same-sex marriage is a right, how these amendments will stand up under a Charter challenge.

The amendments don't go so far as to protect individuals who are not members of the clergy (such as Sunday School teachers, Youth Leaders, students, Lay Leaders and parents).

I don't think the same-sex lobby is going to be pleased with the proposed changes and I have no doubt that at the first opportunity, many of these issues will be brought before the courts.


Monday, June 06, 2005

Standing Orders Don't Apply

Prior to Question Period, the Speaker of the House read a brief statement, advising that the Ethics Commissioner was investigating the recent goings on between the Member from North Delta and the Minister of Health. Mr. Speaker asked that all members of the House refrain from questions pertaining this during the on-going investigation. The Speaker insisted that he would be vigorously enforcing this mor

Gilles Duceppe and other members of the Bloc asked several questions -- not directly to do with the tapes, but rather about Tim Murphy. Duceppe repeated the question more than once. He said that the Prime Minister had said in the House that no deal was ever offered, but that a deal was sought, and did the PM's Chief of Staff inform him that a crime was being committed, and why did the Prime Minister not call the RCMP.

705Tory talks about Question Period too, and quotes some of the answers given to this line of questioning. All of the answers had to do with the tape being altered -- never 'allegedly altered' -- and nothing to do with the questions Duceppe asked.

Not once did the Speaker intercede and tell the Liberals to stop referring to the tapes. Several times Duceppe told the Liberals he was not asking about the tape, but about statements made by the PM and other Ministers in the House last week. As their defense against the tapes, they had used accusations that Grewal was trying to sell his vote. Even the Prime Minister said that more than once. Duceppe only wanted an answer as to why they did not report this criminal activity. They answered by attacking the tape.

The Speaker abdicated his responsibilities today and allowed the Liberals to freely pass opinion on the authenticity of the tapes, based on the Globe & Mail's 'expert' analysis. Read Angry in the Great White North for details about this.

By now, with Grewal apparently self-destructing, it is likely that the tape issue will be dropped and nothing come of it. The real tragedy about this is that with each subsequent scandal, and each ensuing shrug from the media and the public, the Liberals get bolder and more aggressive. It's no longer even necessary for them to hide their dirty deeds because people seem quite willing to look the other way.


Conservative Bashing

I know it shouldn't matter what an analysis in The Star says about Stephen Harper, because the paper is predisposed to being anti-Conservative. But I can't help but be irked when I read such vitriolic diatribes such as the one by David Olive on Sunday.

Olive's piece was headlined on the front page as follows:

David Olive on why children don't like Stephen Harper.

Can the Star get any more absurd -- that's as bad as the Globe's recent nonsense about Christians.

Olive's analysis takes several Harper quotes, and seeks to impute meaning to them.

When Danny Williams nudged Hearn and Doyle to vote with the government on the budget, Harper said:

"What's the next thing? We're going to have a bunch of mafia people working for the government because it might give Danny Williams money a week earlier?"

Olive suggests Harper was referring to Liberal MPs:

'Who are these organized crime figures on the public payroll? Carolyn Bennett? Ken Dryden? Right-to-lifer Roger Gallaway?'

Apparently Olive doesn't have cable, and hasn't watched any of the Gomery inquiry. Besides, the people he listed don't work for the government -- they are the government -- therefore they supposedly work for the people.

Olive says that Harper questioned the patriotism of Liberal voters a few weeks back, when he said voting for the Liberals is:

'quite frankly imperilling the future of the country.'

Harper is one of millions of Canadians who see the Liberal Party of Canada as corrupt, self-serving, anti-democratic and irresponsible. It stands to reason that if you view those characteristics as bad, you would see voting for a party whose foundations seem to have been replaced with these dubious pillars would tend to imperil the future of the country.

Olive seems to forget that during last year's election campaign and since, Paul Martin has openly suggested that anyone who votes Conservative is unCanadian.

This is a quote from Paul Martin from March 4, 2005:

We stood up for the Charter in the last campaign. We’ve stood up for it in this session of Parliament, protecting rights with the civil marriage bill while at the same time safeguarding religious freedom. Let me renew our pledge, my pledge, here before you tonight: We will always stand up for the Charter of Rights. I will always stand up for the Charter of Rights.

All of us here this evening, Liberals, are united – by an unshakeable belief in the values that have made our country one of the fairest, most respectful and most progressive in the world.
I am proud to follow in the foot steps of those who have come before – men and women whose great vision and hard work made the Liberal Party the party of multiculturalism and medicare, the party of bilingualism and the Charter, the party that led this nation in wartime and then committed it to keeping the peace.

Now, there are those in another political party who hold a different set of values. They too will be gathering for a convention this month. And Canadians will again be reminded, as they were during the election campaign, that the government and the opposition in Parliament – that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition – present two starkly different visions of what this country can be and where this country must go. The choice was clear during the election. The choice is clear today.

And when Scott Brison looked to the new Conservative party for modern Canadian values, and when he could no longer find them there, where did he turn? To the Liberal Party.'

There are times when I look around the House of Commons. At the Conservatives, a party that no longer calls itself progressive, and for good reason.

And, here's another quote from a speech by Paul Martin, from June 2, 2005 in Montreal:

'We do not share the Conservative ideology of every man for himself . . .'

'The person I cannot understand is Stephen Harper.

He doesn’t appear to realize that his underhanded dealings with Gilles Duceppe are threatening our country’s stability.

We know that he wanted to take part in the Iraq war and re-open the anti-missile shield file, and that he does not believe in protecting the rights of all minorities, but how to explain his common agenda with the separatists?'

Martin's quotes all tend to suggest that as a conservative, my values and my patriotism are suspect. As Prime Minister, Martin has a responsibility to represent all of us, not just Liberal voters. His comments are insulting and disparaging to all who continue to vote Conservative.

How convenient are the memories of Liberal journalists.