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MB Podcast – Week Two of #Elxn44

The latest episode of the Magpie Brûlé podcast is now live. In this episode, Cam & Alise talk about the latest developments from Afghanistan, the questions being asked of the current government, how this might impact the ongoing election, the state of play in the campaign itself, where the parties stand at this point of the campaign and a couple last words for Elections Canada. You can listen to it below, download it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you download the finest podcasts.

Talking the Resignation of Dr. Fisman from the Ontario COVID Science Table with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Lindsay Maskell & Kate Harrison for “Political Heat” panel. We talked about the resignation of Dr. David Fisman from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table, what this says about the transparency from the provincial government on this, the politics that might be at play here, the Trudeau Liberals caught sharing “manipulated media” on Twitter, what it says about the state of the Liberals campaign & the make up of the invitees to the Federal Leaders Debates. You can listen below starting at the 14:00 minute mark.

Talking the First Week of #Elxn44 on CTV News Channel

Saturday I joined CTV News Channel with Akshay Tandon for the “Political Pulse” panel along with David Zimmer and Marisa Maslink. We reviewed the first week on the campaign trail, the current state of the polling, the fact that the questions about why this campaign was necessary are still alive and well, the impact of the surprise Progressive Conservative win in the Nova Scotia provincial election, and much more. You can check it out below.

Talking Twitter Scolding the Liberals on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Will Stewart. We discussed the start of week two of the 44th General Election campaign, the current state of the campaign, the Liberals getting their wrists slapped by Twitter, what that episode might say about how the Liberal campaign is going, the tightening polling in the race, Maxime Bernier correctly being left out of the leaders debates and much more. You can listen to it all below.

Ten Years Ago Today

During the 17 months of the COVID pandemic that we’ve lived so far, there have been so many moments when so many of us have commented that time seems to be moving so fast. We’ve all had those moments, when either something that happened just prior to COVID comes up and it feels like it happened an eternity before. It’s been a discombobulating part of these past months and this pandemic.

But on days like these, even in this pandemic, I have a hard time believing it’s been so long with some things. That was the case back on May 2nd, when we hit the 10-year anniversary of Jack Layton leading the NDP to our greatest heights ever. As I pointed out about that night, “at the time we didn’t know what was to come”. We surely didn’t know that before the end of that summer Jack would no longer be with us. Yet that was how quickly things did happen.

This period is so etched into the stone of my memory, probably because of the effect this had on me personally. I remember watching Jack’s press conference in July with my colleagues, announcing he was stepping aside to fight the return of that bastardly cancer. We were all brought together that July afternoon, because Jack wanted us to know before it went to the media (that’s how he was). We had been through this before, during his first cancer diagnosis in 2010 so when we came into that room, we were confident that he would beat this too, just like before.

The thing I remember the most about that press conference was his voice; I barely recognized him. I just remember how that shook me and how it confirmed that this time was different. From that time forward, we all knew the gravity of the fight that Jack was in. Deep down we probably all knew what it meant, but we weren’t focused on that; Jack had beaten cancer before, and he would again.

The morning of August 22, 2021, started like any normal Monday morning in the summer on Parliament Hill. I got into my office a bit after 8 am and started my usual morning routine; checking my emails, doing a quick media scan, seeing what priorities had to be dealt with that day. As a part of that, I turned on the TV in my office, which was already tuned to CBC News Network. While I was doing that, I remember glancing out of the corner of my eye at the TV and seeing Peter Mansbridge there. I thought that was odd, because what was Mansbridge doing on at 8 am on a sleep August Monday morning? He would only do that unless it was something big. It was only then that I finally focused on the chyron at the bottom on the screen and it all made sense.

I sat in my chair, stunned, sobbing, devastated in the moment. Everything stopped and I didn’t know what to do. I called my boss and when I got him on the phone, he was also sobbing. He had already gotten the news too and he was also trying to process it all. What happened next was the start of a week in my life I’ll never forget. My colleague and friend Andrea decided to get access to our caucus room in the Centre Block and get some coffee, tea, water and some things to nibble on for people to come together and talk. We didn’t want to go home, we wanted to be around our friends and colleagues (both old and new), and just talk about Jack. We sat in the Official Opposition caucus room sharing stories about our experiences with Jack, our own stories and it was a comforting moment. Later we heard that a memorial was building around the Eternal Flame, and we slowly trickled outside to join in.

It was a strange week because we were asked to continue certain things “as usual”, which for me included the opening of my boss’s constituency office in Val d’Or. I still remember going out for lunch with my boss and new riding colleagues. It was a Wednesday and there was a TV playing in the background with Radio-Canada on, showing the start of Jack laying in state in the Centre Block. It was a moment that was as strange as it was painful. It was strange because I saw all these people walking up to his flag-covered coffin, like happens in these times. But these weren’t nameless strangers to me; these were my colleagues & friends. These were people who I have known for a fair amount of time and while to everyone else in the room these were just those nameless faces, it clearly was different for me. It was painful because in that moment, I just wanted to be there with them. It felt wrong to be where I was and not there. I don’t know how else to explain it, but that’s how I felt.

Later that week came the state funeral in Toronto, and I got to see firsthand just how Jack had affected others too. I drove into Toronto the Friday before, staying with a friend downtown. I woke up that morning and started to get into my dress clothes, only to realize that I had somehow grabbed the wrong dress shirt, which didn’t come close to fitting. I was freaking out, and quickly rushed out in a panic to try to find one. I ended up at the Sears in the Eaton Centre, frantically trying to find something, anything that would fit. I’m not a small man, and normally finding dress close in a regular department store just doesn’t work out.

A gentleman working at Sears noticed me and offered to help. I explained my situation and that I needed anything he had that would fit on me. It was strange because once I mentioned I was going to Jack’s funeral, stories started to pour out as he dutifully dug through shirts trying to find something that would work. It took twenty minutes, and we shared stories about Jack. It was oddly comforting, just hearing from this random stranger in this moment, not only helping me but understanding why I was in my state. Eventually he found one shirt, one and only, that would fit me. It was a rose-pink dress shirt, which somehow felt right in the moment. We saw each other off, but that stuck with me.

Then later when my boss and I went to City Hall for our visitation with Jack, it was sobering to see the mass of people lined up to see him, to see ever square inch of available concrete covered in beautiful chalk art, and to see people sharing their stories. The rest of the day felt like that, people sharing their stories, experiences and how Jack touched their lives. Where earlier in the week I felt a bit alone in my grief, in that moment I felt more like I was in a common community of people who all had been touched deep down by Jack. That feeling continued inside Roy Thomson Hall during the funeral, as we listened to more people talk about how Jack touched them. They brought us to our feet in cheers of love and admiration, and then to tears of sorrow and sadness. When Steven Page sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, I broke down in my seat overlooking the scene and cried uncontrollably. It was such a release of emotion, as I looked around through my blurred vision to see others doing the same. It was alright, because we were all feeling the same.

There are few things I can remember so clearly after so much time, yet that week won’t go anywhere. Neither will the impact that Jack had on me, my life, my family and our country. Jack’s last words sit framed in my bedroom, as I see them every morning as a reminder of how we should be to one another and how much better we can be. My daughter is now at an age where she asks about those words and the man behind them. I know I’m not the only one having that experience with their children, and to me that’s part of the Layton legacy.

Even though he never formed government, he showed the effect that anyone can have in our public life when given the chance. Today I’m going to resist the urge to think about “what ifs” and instead will reflect on what did happen and what Jack did do to make our country better. Marsee Jack for everything, we continue to fight for that better Canada that you were working so hard to lead us towards. Let’s continue to strive to uphold his spirit, his vision and become the best we can be.

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Source: Jack Layton’s Last letter to canadians, August 20, 2011

What You Need to Know: A #CdnPolicast – #Elxn44 Week One

The latest episode of Bluesky Strategy Group’s “What You Need to Know: A #CdnPolicast” with my colleagues Susan Smith, Neil Brodie and Alyson Fair is now out. In this episode we talk about the start of the 44th General Election campaign, who had a good start & who struggled, the appearance of wedges at the start of the campaign and what we’re looking for during Week Two. You can check it all out below:

A Bad Pandemic Candidate Vetting Fail

I keep saying that this election that we are now in is one that will be a good case study somedays, because of the unique circumstances that it’s happening in, namely the COVID pandemic. Obviously, that’s having some tangible effects on how the campaigns are running, how people will vote and how people are feeling about certain issues. But as the campaign rolls out, it’s interesting to see how these circumstances further affect other things that are common parts of the modern political election campaign.

One of those parts is candidate vetting, and the importance of trying to catch potential problematic information or acts by said people to protect the party or leader. No campaign wants to be thrown off for a day, having to apologize for the words or actions of some random candidate who had no chance of winning to begin with. It throws off the national campaign, local candidates are affected by it too and it’s something that a good candidate vet can help avoid all together. So when that vet fails, it’s usually because of a failed vetting of said person. But what might qualify as problematic or to what degree pre-pandemic can look very different now in this context. I’ve been curious to see how this unique context would rear its head on this front and it turns out that we now have an example to test this on, coming out of the Liberal camp:

Everyone, say hello to Jessica Dale-Walker, who is running for the Liberals in Calgary Nose Hill against Michelle Rempel Garner. According to reporting from CBC, Ms. Dale-Walker managed to hit an interesting combo of candidate vet fails. Two tweets were flagged by the Conservative campaign to the media, one which would be a problem at any time, and another that’s really bad in this specific moment. The first came in March 2020 where, when was talking about certain Alberta politicians, she wrote that Alberta needs to “fit in or f–k off. We Alberta need to start fitting in. Because quite frankly, we are not as superior as our government touts.”

Ouch, that’s bad folks, seriously. That’s bad at any time and more than fair grounds to remove as a candidate at any time, but I’ll come back to that in a moment. The second Tweet came in November 2020, less than a year ago. This time she decided to weigh in on COVID vaccines and, well, these words speak for themselves:

“I chose to allow the entitled to flock for the vaccine like they demanded to be the guinea pigs, that way should there be problems those with brains were left behind,” Dale-Walker tweeted in November 2020.

Source: cbc.ca

Entitled guinea pigs? Excuse me? If you want to talk about entitled and sneering, smug behaviour, that’s an awful condescension that is just ugly as Hell. It also puts those comments from March in a different light, as I can imagine those “eff yous” being launched with the same kind of “better than thou” smugness that this damn Tweet drips in. This is particularly ugly given the context in which it happened and that we find ourselves in now. How in the sweet Hell did the Liberals all someone with such ugly comments about such an important thing as getting vaccines ever get on a ballot for them? That’s not just a vetting failure, that’s a vetting fiasco. Seriously, she tweeted that if you trusted science and experts in medical science somehow a part of some entitled flock of dumb people. In her twisted view, only those of her view were truly smart. And she was so “smart”, she Tweeted that out to everyone then decided to run for public office and apparently thought it wouldn’t matter. Arrogance, it clearly knows no ends.

But while all of that blows my mind, let me take a quick detour here to address something else that she had to say in that tweet; she basically called the vast majority of Canadians “entitled guinea pigs”. Clearly Ms. Dale-Walker needs to get out of her high tower of genius a bit more often because she clearly doesn’t know what an entitled guinea pig looks like. You want to see one? Here:

Everyone, meeting Ossie (also playfully called Ossington), my daughters guinea pig. This is one entitled-ass guinea pig. It demands nothing but the finest hay, the best water, premium chips to walk on top of in its spacious cage and more. It’s demands for fresh kale and carrots knows no bounds and when he doesn’t get it, he sneers and glares down his long muzzle at you as if you were lower than low. Yep, he’s an entitled guinea pig, not folks lining up to take medically approved and scientifically proven vaccines to do their part to fight this global pandemic.

But back to the issue for the moment, while the vetting fail here is bad, honestly the Liberal reaction to it is even worse. The Liberal campaign issued an apology on Dale-Walker’s behalf, followed by a statement of apology of her own. In that statement, she said that statement was “certainly not how I feel today.” Yeah, that’s exactly what you’d say now that you’re running for public office. She also claims that she is double vaxxed, which really doesn’t settle this matter either. Does that mean that she admits that she was wrong? That we “entitled guinea pigs” were right all along? No comments on that, just a weak tea attempt to make this all go away.

And that’s what makes this the biggest fail in my mind for the Liberals. As I mentioned at the start, her first comments from March 2020 were bad enough to toss her. Those comments about vaccines that she made mere months later were even worse given this context, making it all the more justifiable to remove her as their candidate. In fact, I would argue that it’s more damaging for her to remain on the ballot than the removal itself. That apology was not fulsome, came at a moment of her highest self-interest and as a result, is suspect. Furthermore, it’s not like this is something she did a decade ago and goofed; the anti-vax comments came like 9 months ago! To say something like that is “certainly not how I feel today” just sounds all the worse because, seriously, how much are we expecting her to have changed in 9 months? And if she had truly changed, why in the Hell hasn’t she removed crap like that when she “saw the light”? All legit questions that are left open here, casting a shadow on that weak apology.

There is no way that this candidate should still be on the ballot and the longer she stays there, the longer this issue will remain a millstone around the neck of Justin Trudeau. This was a real “put up or shut up” kind of moment for the Liberal leader, and he failed on that count. And all of this is because someone didn’t do their homework at the start of the campaign. I’ll be curious to see if more cases like this come out but if they do, other leaders would do well to learn from this response and do the opposite. If you’re truly supportive of public health and stopping this pandemic, you can’t have candidates on your slate out there Tweeting anti-vax crap like that. You’d think that would be a bare minimum right now, but hey, maybe some people are so entitled that they think the laws of political gravity don’t apply to them. That could explain a thing or two here.

MB Podcast – The Starting Line

The latest episode of the Magpie Brûlé podcast is now live. In this episode, Cam & Alise talk the start of the 44th General Election, the attempts at wedge politics at the start of this campaign (and the wedgies it brought), what the current state of polling tell us about how things are going at the beginning, the effect of Tuesdays election result in Nova Scotia and a couple last words with some rare praise for Doug Ford and the photo of Erin O’Toole that everyone is talking about. You can listen to it below, download it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you download the finest podcasts.

“Our Platform Language Stands”

During an election everyone has their strategies, their bases, their places for growth and the people they are trying to attract. Those competing priorities can create some very awkward and uncomfortable situations and decisions for parties to make, or to try to avoid making at all costs. When it comes to the social conservative movement and the issues that motivate them, this has been an ongoing problem for the Conservative Party. They depend on them for money and volunteers, and in turn allow their MPs to push for greater restriction on abortions and push against measures to support the LGBTQ+ community. But at the same time, they try to distance themselves from that, saying they are tolerant and aren’t out to limit the rights of those. Heck, here was Erin O’Toole trying to walk this tight rope publicly last night in Quebec:

That’s quite the statement, but not for the reasons why Mr. O’Toole would hope. First, he admits that his party has a problem with “not always being clear about its position on social issues”, which is true. For as much as Conservatives complain loudly about being tarred with the old “hidden agenda” attacks, those exist because they aren’t clear on these matters and try to have their cake and eat it too. His apparent response to this was to be “clear” now with everyone; he’s pro-choice. And he’s always been pro-choice. Sure, that’s fine. I don’t deny that Mr. O’Toole himself may be pro-choice, but is that personal belief trickling down to the party in which he leads? Well more clarity on that story started to come out last night and, shockingly, there seems to be a fair bit he’s not being clear about again:

Source: https://www.conservative.ca/plan

Oh no, HIDDEN AGENDA!!! So well hidden that it’s right in the party’s platform, behind the glossy cover and Mike Holmes mimicking cover. The CTV story on this covers it well, including the history behind the issue of “Conscience Protection”, as the Conservative platform puts it. Simply put, the Conservatives suggest that medical professionals should be able to deny any service that they are not morally okay with. And by that, it’s not just a matter of having to do the procedure. Those who have been pushing for this take this so far as even to refuse to refer patients from seeking these procedures from any medical professional. What “Conscience Protection” means to those social conservatives is the right to use their morals and beliefs to dictate the medical care that you should get. Doesn’t sound very “pro-choice” does it? What exactly would this apply to? Well here’s a list of procedures that CTV News cited in their reporting, of things that those pushing for this kind of measure have wanted to apply this to:

  • Abortion
  • Contraception
  • Tubal ligations
  • Vasectomies
  • Infertility treatment
  • Prescription of erectile dysfunction medication and
  • Gender re-assignment surgery
  • Medically assisted dying

Yep, that’s a pretty long list of procedures and medical treatment that they want to not just perform themselves, but actually prevent their patients for accessing, period. I guess for these “medical professionals”, the beliefs, wishes or views of their patients don’t count into anything here. So what the O’Toole Conservatives platform appears to be suggesting is choice for the medical professionals, but less choice and more bureaucratic barriers to access for patients.

What about any of that is a “pro-choice” position exactly? That’s exactly the kind of thing that progressive parties have warned against when it comes to the Conservatives. You know, that “hidden agenda” that many conservative supporters sneer about. You’d think that if we were getting this all wrong, that the Conservatives would jump at the chance to correct the record and set us all straight, tell us how we’ve got it all wrong. Well CTV News gave the O’Toole Conservatives that chance and here is how that played out, in one concise line:

A party spokesman refused to “speculate” about the change in wording, saying only that “our platform language stands.”

Source: CTV news, August 19, 2021

“Our platform language stands.” Yep, no clarification, no explanations, no attempt to distance itself from the implications of what this policy would mean or even to suggest that CTV’s assessment is wrong. Nope, just a statement that basically says “we mean it”. You see, when trying to have your cake and eat it too, you can’t turn on the cake when the hypocrisy gets pointed out. O’Toole is doing everything he can to try to keep social conservatives in his tent. If he actually pointed out what “Conscience Protection” actually meant in real life practice, he would be forced to either defend allowing doctors to deny their patients the care they want, by hook or by crook, or he would be forced to denounce it and risk losing that part of their base. Welcome to Erin O’Toole’s world.

The Conservatives suggest that “the last thing Canada can afford to do is drive any of these professionals out of their profession” but I disagree. If COVID has taught us anything, if you’re a medical professional who’s more concerned about  your beliefs than allowing your patients full access to legal and safe medical care, then you are in the wrong, not them.

In the end this is how you end up in a place where you start the day openly admitting that your party “not always been clear about its position on social issues” in an attempt to turn the page, only to be caught doing exactly that before the day is out. Hypocrisy, thy name is Erin. Erin O’Toole may be pro-choice himself, but his party is clearly not, and he clearly does not have the convictions of his own beliefs to push for his own beliefs in the platform that bears his name and chiseled frame. In the end, the Conservative “hidden agenda” continues because it’s still there. It’s hiding in plain sight, and just because they don’t like it being pointed out doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be there.

The Sideshow Heads to Cochrane

In all election campaigns most of the attention is paid to the “main event”; the major national parties, their campaigns and platforms, who’s up and who’s down, all that good stuff. Yet in every campaign, just like in life, there are sideshows that happen at the same time that sometimes draw out attention. Some of those sideshows are humorous, others are grotesque, and some they are downright dangerous. This campaign appears to be no different, as one of the worst sideshows in Canadian politics is rearing its ignorant and ugly head. Which one is that? Well check it out for yourself:

Source: dereksloan.ca/events

Yep, it turns out that Derek Sloan has decided to crawl out of his hole in the ground to re-appear, but not in the riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington, where he was first elected in 2019. We knew he was going to run again and has even said he was going to be creating his own new party, but we’ve yet to see any clear evidence of that. But then this started to make the rounds in social media today, about Sloan making a big announcement tomorrow night, in Cochrane. No, not the sleepy Northeastern Ontario town of Cochrane, which is a good ten-hour drive from Sloan’s home base in Eastern Ontario. Nope, instead it will be in the community in Alberta instead. Which is more than 3,000 kilometres away and two time zones away from his home base.

When you look at the clipping above straight from Sloan’s website, it appears pretty clear what this guy is up to. He’s “moving” to Alberta to run, trying to save his political career in the riding of Banff-Airdrie. It’s as conservative as conservative gets, with incumbent Conservative MP Blake Richards having won their last time with 71% of the vote. What’s amazing is that Sloan would be basically the 4th “some kind of “C”” conservative to be running there in this election. Aside from Richards and Sloan, they also already have both a PPC and a Maverick Party candidate. Talk about flooding the zone!

What exactly is his angle going to be, that will somehow separate him from the crowded conservative pack in this riding? Well from the message on that event page, it appears he’s going to try to go the full MAGA. If you want to know what that’s going to look like, we’ll just take a look at what he Tweeted out this afternoon:

Sexist jokes at the expense of the Prime Minister? Yep, that’s some pretty MAGA-ish crap right there. I’m not sure what part of making cheap, sexist jokes on social media fits into his supposed belief in putting “Faith, Family & Freedom first again”, but as we’ve seen from Sloan all along, consistency or basic human decency hasn’t exactly been his strongest suit. Of course, the irony of him making sexist jokes about someone being defeated, when he’s staring defeat clearly in the face again, isn’t lost on me. It’s clear that he wasn’t going to stand a snowballs chance in Hell of getting re-elected in the riding where he won in 2019, so he literally is running clear across the country and carpetbagging it into Cochrane. Yep, that’s exactly what I expect of a “deeply unserious” politician with no scruples and less political acumen.

In the meantime, we’ll likely here a few yips and sounds from whatever it is that Sloan does in Cochrane tomorrow night but in the grand scheme of things, it seems to be of little to no consequence. His chances of beating Blaine Calkins are slim to none, and he’s fighting with the Mavericks and the PPC to be that slim. This isn’t going to end well for Sloan but that’s exactly how it probably should be; a political opportunist, getting voted off the political stage in one last blaze of crass, political opportunism. That’s what sideshows are all about, political or otherwise.