Political Perspectives is produced by the students and faculty of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, Canada's oldest journalism school.
Following the early East Coast results on Twitter election night while TV and radio broadcasts were still blacked out in my time zone was like stepping through a door into another universe that was being run by the Mad Hatter and the cast of Saturday Night Live.
It was bizarre and often funny, but the sober morning-after message is clear: we better damn well fix our voting laws here in Canada before the next election to accommodate this new parallel universe where real-time communication has a global reach.
If we don’t we risk corrupting the electoral process.
And those of us in the journalism biz may find the value of our coin – credibility – greatly debased. Read more…
There has been a proliferation of seat projections in this election campaign, as people try to get their heads around the NDP surge and what kind of parliament that might produce. There’s is an excellent article on seat projections in Pundits’ Guide this morning, and I want to add just a few thoughts.
For the record, I am generally a believer in the usefulness of seat projections, and continue to be so in this election, which promises to be historic in some ways. However, I also think that there are reasons to be more cautious about them in elections where there is potential structural change, and where there is volatility late in the campaign.
A few projections have caught the attention of media in this campaign more than the others. At the outset, many reporters relied on the 308 website because it was frequently updated and took account of all the polls. But the 308 model is deliberately cautious, which also means that it is less sensitive to sudden changes in party support as we have seen in this election. Because it didn’t dramatize the NDP surge story line, reporters suddenly lost interest in it.
The Sun Media Corp., which now includes the Sun News Network on TV, likes to mix some fun with its political coverage. So it wasn’t any great surprise that the flagship Toronto Sun ran a Photoshopped picture of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff on its front page last week to go with a story inside the paper.
Labeled (in small print) a “photo illustration,” the picture showed Ignatieff wearing a desert camouflage army helmet. It might not have been immediately apparent to readers the photo was a spoof, a digital equivalent of an editorial page cartoon.
The accompanying story suggested that Ignatieff was in bed big time with the Pentagon and the Bush administration in the run up to the Iraq invasion by the U.S. Ignatieff has always acknowledged his political support for the invasion. But the Sun story suggested Ignatieff, who ran a Harvard think tank at the time, helped with Pentagon war planning.
The story didn’t have the kind of legs it needed to become an election issue last week. But in a strange twist that could change with Sun Media’s acknowledgement today that the story was peddled to the news organization by a Conservative political operative, Patrick Muttart, who used to be Stephen Harper’s deputy chief of staff. Read more…
At a town hall meeting in Vancouver last night, I had a chance to see Michael Ignatieff personally for the second time in this campaign. He was, as I remarked upon earlier in the campaign, a surprisingly capable campaigner in front of a partisan crowd. He was sharp, witty, self-deprecating, and handled questions from the audience deftly. Despite the polls of recent days, he seemed to be enjoying himself. At the end, he said he felt almost tearful that this would be his last town hall (of the campaign, I think he meant, though maybe not).
But this threatens to be an earth-shattering election for the Liberals, in which even if they hold on to most of the seats they have at the moment, they may find themselves no longer the obvious alternative to the Conservative government because of the unexpected rise of the New Democrats in Quebec, British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces.
Ontario appears to be an exception for the moment, and remains the place where the Liberals would hope to hang onto the bulk of their seats. But it tells quite a story when one of the country’s leading pollsters, Nik Nanos, explains the failure of the New Democrats to break through in Ontario in terms of memories of the Rae government in the early 1990s.
My contribution to the confusion can be found here:
Week two and are we seeing the first glimpses of the NDP’s nightmare? The party complained in the last two elections that it and leader Jack Layton were being ignored in much of the campaign media coverage. Prior to this campaign there were rumours that some media organizations in a bid to cut costs would only travel with the NDP part of the time.
Last week CBC, CTV and Global nightly national newscasts all featured stories on the NDP campaign almost every night but this week has started out very differently.
Only CBC led with the election – Global led with Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 problems and CTV focused on the sentencing in adult court of the two young offender murderers of an 18 year old girl in BC.
Jack Layton had a press availability in Sudbury this morning after his event-of-the-day, on recruiting and training more doctors to practice in smaller centres. The questions showed that there is a new storyline emerging among reporters on the NDP plane.
Reporters who had been on Layton’s previous campaigns pointed out that he has not been speaking to large crowds as he has done in the past, and that he is doing fewer events each day than the other leaders.
What they are probing for, of course, is whether Layton’s health — he is suffering from prostate cancer and a recently fractured hip — is inhibiting his capacity and performance on the campaign trail.
Now, it seems extremely unlikely that anyone outside the NDP campaign bubble will have noticed this, assuming the journos’ assessment of his campaign is correct.
During the last week of the 2008 election campaign, a news photographer caught a humorous scene. Stéphane Dion, whose campaign was foundering, was sitting on a television news set. Behind him was a weather graphic: five days of unremitting dark clouds and pouring rain ahead.
Dion was a complete innocent in this embarrassing photo of course: a hapless victim of a clever photographer. Even Robert Stanfield actually had to fumble the football before his cringing-inducing moment was plastered on the front page of the Globe and Mail. What the photographers had done in both cases, though, was to find a symbolic pictorial representation of a broader media perception about the success of the candidates and their campaigns.
This morning I arrived a little late to see Michael Ignatieff make an announcement on his day care policy at a pre-school in Winnipeg South (the constituency I grew up in, as it happens). I had not seen Ignatieff at a political event in person for about a year, and what surprised me was his obvious comfort and self-confidence. He seemed like he was enjoying himself, which has not always been a given for Ignatieff in his time as leader.
The CBC’s Vote Compass feature, which claims to help you figure out which of the five political parties most closely aligns with your views and values, has been a phenomenal box office success. Almost 700,000 people have already used the interactive feature on the CBC’s website as I write, and the number is growing by more than 100,000 a day. While the growth may settle down as we move into mid-campaign, you’d expect another surge as voters get closer to having to make their final decision on May 2.
Like anything popular — Justin Bieber round my house for example — it has critics as well as enthusiasts. Today the Ottawa Sun ran a story headlined CBC Vote Tool Flawed: Prof, quoting a Queen’s political scientist, Kathy Brock, as saying she used several strategies — giving the same answer to every question (e.g., “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree”) — and always came out Liberal. Similarly, someone (obviously a Tory) has posted a video purporting to illustrate that the Vote Compass is “totally rigged” towards the Liberals.
The Sun quotes a researcher who worked on the project as saying that since the questions are deliberately split between the left and the right of the spectrum, if you give the same answer to everything you end up in the middle. In other words, if you strongly agree that Canada should get out of Afghanistan immediately and that military spending should be increased, that the problems with oil sands are exaggerated and that there should be a carbon tax, you are not only nuts, you’re a Liberal!
- 04 May 2011 Twitter and elections: ta...
- 04 May 2011 The Conservative fork in ...
- 03 May 2011 Ignatieff’s pre-mat...
- 03 May 2011 Final Observations
- 30 Apr 2011 Counting up the newspaper...
- 29 Apr 2011 Seat projections…do...
- 27 Apr 2011 Royals versus politicians...
- 27 Apr 2011 Outing a Tory dirty trick...
- 26 Apr 2011 Those advance polls
- 26 Apr 2011 The trouble with Liberals...
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