Political Perspectives is produced by the students and faculty of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, Canada's oldest journalism school.

OCT 2008

Searching for doctors

Posted by cwaddell under Election 2008, Election 2008 Student articles

Kate Scroggins

When Michelle Desrosiers felt a dull ache in her neck, she cringed. It wasn’t so much the pain she experienced when she tried to move her head, as it was the thought that she would have to drive about 40 minutes to the nearest hospital to get it checked. 

But Desrosiers knew it was her only option. 

Read more…


New voters

Posted by cwaddell under Election 2008, Election 2008 Student articles

Ryan Hicks, Ryan Price, Monique Muise


Watch a story about new voters in Ottawa at Centretown News Online.


Ryan Hicks, Ryan Price, Monique Muise are students at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University.


Wrestling with poverty

Posted by cwaddell under Election 2008, Election 2008 Student articles

Ryneisha Bollard

A debate held in a Centretown church Monday about the issue of poverty in Canada became a squabble between audience members and federal election candidates from Ontario and Quebec. Read the details in Centretown News Online.

Ryneisha Bollard is a student at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University.

OCT 2008

Web of mystery

Posted by padams under Election 2008, Election 2008 Media commentary

Paul Adams

Bill Fox, who was once Brian Mulroney’s communications advisor, has had some of the sharpest insights into the media’s role in this campaign in his contributions to the Globe and Mail.

In today’s column in the Globe he talks about the role that the satirical video by Michel Rivard about the Harper culture cuts has played in the cratering Tory campaign in Quebec. (Now available on You Tube, by the way, with English subtitles.)

Fox notes quite rightly that the Rivard video exploded virally into the election campaign in Quebec before the mainstream media could react. Nonetheless, its full impact was not felt until traditional media picked up the story and ran with it — spreading the news of the video to a much wider public. If the Conservatives fail to get a majority in this election, it may well be because they don’t get their coveted breakthrough in Quebec, and that the Rivard video will be viewed in retrospect as the pivotal event in that failure. But the mainstream media echo chamber was crucial to disseminating the story.

CBC Montreal reporter and current Carleton grad student, Amanda Pfeffer, has pointed out to me, that despite all the attention that the English mainstream media have lavished on the internet in this campaign, they were slower than the francophone media to recognize the impact of the Rivard video, despite its national implications — but that’s another story. In general, in English Canada we have seen the same pattern as in Quebec of the internet having its full impact only by reverberating through the mainstream media. Most of us learned about the puffin pooping on Dion and the NDP candidate with the mouth full of reefers not directly from the net, but from TV and newspaper coverage of those stories.

In a survey we did at EKOS, released earlier this week, we found that television remains the most important source of election information for Canadians, followed by newspapers, radio, and only then online sources. More people cited the leaders’ debates as an important source of election information than cited the web.

It is reporters, of course — and people like me who are personally or professionally pre-occupied with election news — who are most deeply embedded in the online world. We are the ones who obsessively sweep through the net looking for information, stories, gaffes and good ideas. Of course it is journalists (and journalism students and professors) who also obsess about whether the new media will displace the old, distort professional principles, and maybe most importantly, change or eliminate jobs.

But as Fox points out, this history has been that new media elbow their way to a place at the table without actually displacing the old. This is what happened with newspapers after the advent of radio and television.  (Though, admittedly, it has been a while since I have seen a movie newsreel, or heard a traveling minstrel singing about wars in the Holy Land.)

The internet is a new and important element in election campaigns, but it is not quite as instantaneously transformative as we may sometimes be tempted to think.

Paul Adams is a former political reporter with the CBC and the Globe and Mail, and is now a member of Carleton’s journalism faculty, and executive director of EKOS Research Associates.

OCT 2008

Dueling debates

Posted by cwaddell under Election 2008, Election 2008 Faculty links

Andrew Cohen

In one of those magical moments brought to you by television, Canadians could watch their leaders debating each other at the same time as Americans were watching theirs. The contrast was illuminating.

The candidates spoke in different countries on different topics. But if you opted for the split screen, you could learn something sad about politics in America.

And if you’re Canadian, you could feel superior about your country. Smugness comes too easily to Canadians, yet this time with reason.

Consider the vice-presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden of Delaware and Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. Actually, consider Ms. Palin.

After her performance, commentators drew liberally from a fund of flattering adjectives. She was “feisty”, “quick”, “resilient”, “aggressive”, “combative.” She was also “folksy”, “colloquial”, and “populist”.

The normally sensible David Brooks of The New York Times was sympathetic while Rich Lowry of National Review was smitten. Others were more neutral. Beyond the paid partisans on CNN, few dismissed her out of hand.

And yet, to other eyes, her performance in the debate in particular – and her candidacy in general – is a farce. Opéra bouffe. An absurdity. Only a few conservative commentators (such as David Frum and Charles Krauthammer) have had the courage to say so, most choosing more genteel words.

Perhaps they worry about alienating the folks who love Ms. Palin. Perhaps they worry about being seen as elitist. They don’t want to call her what she is: incurious, untutored and unready — Annie Oakley without Annie Oakley’s virtues.

But in the dominion of the dilettante, Sarah Palin is queen. She isn’t just the descent of politics; she is, in a sense, the end of politics – a conventional politics of standards, rules and minimum expectations.

Up to now, candidates for the vice-presidency have had credentials. Since 1960, they have included Henry Cabot Lodge, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Ed Muskie, Sargent Shriver, Walter Mondale, Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, Robert Dole, Geraldine Ferraro, Jack Kemp, Lloyd Bentsen, Al Gore, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman.

 Some would become president. Most would not. All were persons of distinction, both in politics and in life. Even those who were failures – the corrupt Spiro Agnew and the dense Dan Quayle – could be seen as credible, if unorthodox, running mates when they were chosen.

Sarah Palin is neither credible nor distinguished, and she hasn’t the humility to see it. Her audacity is breathtaking. Once upon a time she would have been disqualified from consideration, even if she were from a strategic vote-rich state, which she isn’t. No serious nominee would have named her.

But the standard has so fallen so far that it is now acceptable – indeed laudable – to invite an ingénue like Sarah Palin to run with a septuagenarian who has had four bouts of cancer.

It doesn’t matter that she has been governor for just 18 months. Or that she attended five colleges in six years. Or that she cannot name the magazines or newspapers she reads. Or that she has travelled nowhere. Ideology trumps everything.

In the debate she struggled stringing together a sentence –Eliza Doolittle before Henry Higgins taught her to talk. Droppin’ the ‘g’s”, exclaiming “doggone!” she was like a jumped-up cheerleader in pompoms running for Student Council. She mangled words, mispronounced names. She consistently ignored questions, which the weak moderator allowed to go unchallenged.

Predictably, she “exceeded expectations.” She stood and spoke and neither drooled nor fainted. That was good enough.

Against her, Joe Biden was reserved, authoritative, polite and polished. She called him “Joe” and he called her “Governor.” He responded coolly to her volley of misrepresentations and veil of lies – deceit being her currency, from bridges to earmarks to Russia. She cannot even quote Madeleine Albright correctly.

Now, intoxicated with self-importance, she barnstorms around America tying Barack Obama to a terrorist and suggesting Mr. Obama is unAmerican. This is now the strategy of slur and smear. And if you wondered, John McCain approved this ad.

So, if you needed some relief the other night, you could turn the channel to Stephen, Stéphane, Jack, Gilles and Liz. Their discussion was barbed and stormy, but also useful and intelligent.

In terms of education, experience or intellect, no one could say the leaders of the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats are imposters. They spoke in both English and in French, over two nights, gamely accepting that a second language is a requirement of leaders in Canada.

All three have earned their stripes in the politics. None is charismatic or inspiring or Ms. Congeniality, though each has some humility.

Whatever their views, they spoke well of us and our politics. No, none is Barack Obama. But none is Sarah Palin, either.

This column first appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on Oct. 7

Andrew Cohen, a professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University, is the author of Extraordinary Canadians: Lester B. Pearson. 



Posted by cwaddell under Election 2008, Election 2008 Campaign strategy

Christopher Waddell

Confidence or the lack of it is the reason why governments in the United States and Europe have had to bail out their banks. In Canada it’s confidence – or lack of it – in the economic future that seems set to determine the outcome of the federal election.

Economic policy has dominated many elections but the debate has been about the economic conditions at the time of the campaign. This election is different as the economy is in good shape now but every day reveals more and more evidence that conditions are going to get worse – perhaps a lot worse – in the months to come. No one knows how bad it might be and that’s what undermines confidence, particularly when economic shocks arrive on a daily basis.

It’s that lack of confidence that Stephane Dion tapped into with his five-point plan to address future economic problems announced at the start of last week’s French language debate. The plan isn’t much beyond initially scheduling a round of meetings to assess the situation and so Stephen Harper attacked it at the opening of the English-language debate, suggesting Dion panicked and criticizing its lack of specifics.

The Conservatives missed the point. The public didn’t want specifics perhaps because no one knows what is going to happen. They needed the confidence that their political leaders were aware of the pending downturn and were prepared to asses the situation and act as needed. Dion’s statement seems to have met that test. Liberals have new confidence and suddenly the Conservatives are playing catch up with growing doubts about whether they can get a majority after all.

Stephen Harper’s speech today in releasing his party’s platform was all about how the Conservatives have seen the problems coming for a year and have taken measured steps in response that will ensure Canada does not face the economic crises now rolling through the U.S. and Europe. In other words, he’s now playing to the same need to build confidence that Dion did last week. 

But he is somewhat constrained in what he can say and do. On the campaign trail he is talking as leader of the Conservative party but to the rest of a nervous world, when he speaks, he is talking as the Prime Minister.  So every thing he says will be dissected internationally for any hints of problems in Canada.

Last night in Quebec the Conservatives started a renewed attack on the Liberal Green Shift (which Dion has conspicuously stopped talking about) arguing that an unpredictable economic future is no time to impose new taxes (while omitting that the Liberal plan includes significant income tax cuts the Liberals say will offset new carbon taxes).

Having misread the public mood and with just a week to go in the campaign, the question is whether the Conservatives have the time to convince enough Canadians both that they care too and that their calm, measured response is the right one for an uncertain future. If they can’t do it, it looks like their best hope is another minority government.

Christopher Waddell is associate director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University and a former Globe and Mail Ottawa bureau chief, former CBC-TV parliamentary bureau chief and election night executive producer for CBC TV News.


And that other election….

Posted by padams under Election 2008, Election 2008 Campaign strategy

Paul Adams

As the Canadian election heats up at the end….seemingly becoming closer by the minute, the race south of the border is headed the other way. Check out Pollster.com‘s excellent map.

Paul Adams is a former political reporter with the CBC and the Globe and Mail, and is now a member of Carleton’s journalism faculty, and executive director of EKOS Research Associates.

OCT 2008

Small fluctuations can make big differences in seats

Posted by padams under Election 2008, Election 2008 Campaign strategy

Paul Adams

first posted at the EKOS election site.

It’s a nail-biter. We are entering a stage in the election campaign when small regional fluctuations in support could make huge differences to the futures of the parties and their leaders. In a universe where there are many three-way races, and even some four-way races, quite small changes in popular support can dramatically alter the arithmetic in terms of parliamentary seats.  

A case in point: 

Yesterday evening, EKOS released the weekend’s results from its tracking poll, which on the surface showed very little change. The Conservatives and the Greens were down a percentage point from Friday’s three-day roll up and the Liberals were up a point. Otherwise no change. 

However, there were some subtle shifts in the regional numbers, most notably in the Atlantic provinces where the Liberals are doing better, and in British Columbia where the race between the Tories and NDP has tightened considerably. There were also smaller fluctuations in other regions. 

The results in terms of our seat projection model were quite dramatic. 

On Friday’s numbers, the Conservatives were achingly close to a majority – just three seats shy. And the Liberals were headed to winning almost 90 seats fewer than the Tories. 

The weekend numbers suggest a different story, however. The improved Liberal strength in the Atlantic provinces swings many seats over to the Liberals. They also creep up a few seats in Ontario at the Tories’ expense. The suggested result: a Conservative Party barely improving its seat performance over the last election. 

Small shifts: big implications for the potential result. 

This is not so much a prediction of the outcome of the election October 14, as a reminder that with so many seats exquisitely poised among the various contenders, very subtle shifts in public mood over the remaining days of the campaign may greatly alter the political landscape of the coming years. 

Seat Projection Oct 3

CPC 152

Lib 60

ND 41

BQ  54

GP  0

Oth 1

Seat Projections Oct. 5

CPC  130

Lib     78

NDP   42

BQ     58

GP       0

Oth     0

For detailed tables with regional breakdowns, go to www.ekoselection.com

Paul Adams is a former political reporter with the CBC and the Globe and Mail, and is now a member of Carleton’s journalism faculty, and executive director of EKOS Research Associates.

OCT 2008

Who’s talking? Our little secret

Posted by jsallot under Election 2008, Election 2008 Media commentary

Jeff Sallot

Reporters often have to make difficult choices about when to accept information from sources who want to remain anonymous. Whistleblowers frequently have legitimate fears about losing their jobs if they talked openly about corruption or other wrongdoing where they work.

What if the information on offer is not about criminal activity, but rather an opinion about the how the boss is doing? Maybe it is an unflattering anecdote that provides fresh insight into the character of the person who’s being talked about. Or maybe it is a political insider who is being honest and candid. Do they need anonymity?

Tough calls, sometimes.  Every case has to be considered on its own, weighing the public interest against the harm that can be done to the reputation of individuals. The political coverage in this weekend’s Globe and Mail provides case studies.

My former colleague at the Globe, Michael Valpy, came up with a fascinating nugget  involving Ian Brodie, Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff in the PMO. Brodie, a political science prof, reportedly told an academic seminar at the University of Toronto last week that the Conservatives don’t have an urban strategy in the current campaign and have virtually written off fertile electoral ground in Toronto and Montreal.

Other political observers have said as much. The punch in Valpy`s story is that he’s paraphrasing  a former key insider in the Tory camp. Or is he?

 Reading further into the story, Valpy says he couldn’t actually get Brodie on the phone or online to confirm what he is reported to have told the seminar. Valpy`s sources are  three political scientists who attended Brodie’s talk. The academics are paraphrasing Brodie. This is where it can get murky.

Anyone who has attended a faculty meeting will be familiar with the academic who starts off, “I think what you are really trying to say…”  Is this what’s going on: an interpretation of what Brodie might have said? Who are these academics? Valpy doesn’t say. Nor does he say why the three felt they needed anonymity.

Jane Taber, one of the Globe’s political reporters in Ottawa, is  keeping an eye on the Liberal campaign. In a look ahead at this week in politics she uses  a number of anonymous sources –  “some Liberals,“ and “ senior Liberal strategists,“ and a “senior member of the Dion team,“ and a senior Liberal “who is close to“ Mr. Dion.

That`s a lot of  Liberals who are ready to talk about the campaign, but don`t want their names attached to their views. So what were they saying that was so hot?

They say Dion should try harder to court potential NDP and Green Party voters. He should talk about the human cost of a poor economy. Liberals think they can attack the Conservatives on their platform when it comes out this week. And one senior Liberal felt the party could still form a minority government. In Liberal circles is any of this controversial?

Taber gets one former Liberal insider on the record. She quotes Steven MacKinnon, the party’s former national director, saying Dion “needs to get the votes that are most accessible to us, which are largely on our left and not on our right.“

The best political report I saw this weekend was a profile of Stephen Harper by the Globe`s national affairs columnist, Jeff Simpson, and Ottawa bureau chief, Brian Laghi.

The journalists found five people who have known Harper for years – schoolmates, colleagues, and Calgary friends – who talked candidly and on-the-record.

Laghi and Simpson rely on anonymous sources as well. But when they do their anonymous sources actually say things that are new and interesting. What emerges is a richly detailed portrait of a complex politician.

Jeff Sallot teaches journalism at Carleton. He`s a former Globe and Mail Ottawa bureau chief and has covered nine federal elections.

OCT 2008

Candidates tackle gay health issues

Posted by cwaddell under Election 2008, Election 2008 Student articles

Toni Petter

Federal election candidates in Ottawa Centre said health issues are at the forefront of the battle for gay liberation and sexual freedom during a public forum Tuesday at the Ottawa Public Library. Read the details at Centretown News Online.

Centretown News is a publication of hte students of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University.

Toni Petter is a student at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University.