Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Getting to the issue

On this Bourque thing again, let me just say that I don't begrudge the guy's right to make a buck.

If his business plan is to slant his headlines to suit his advertisers and sponsors, and that can prove to be a sustainable business model, then good for him.

I think it would be the right thing to do to make your biases clear, but that's entirely up to him. I also think when you try to make a major scandal out of Dion crossing the street against the light (alternate spin: opposition leader ditches government car, walks to work) then your credibility tends to suffer, but again, entirely his choice.

Pierre is a businessmen and I believe in free enterprise. The market will decide the value of what he has to offer, long live the market.

My concern is more with the Conservative Party of Canada. As Warren notes today, it's no secret that Pierre sells headlines on his site. Heck, he even says so.


So my question is, given this line in the book excerpt I quoted yesterday:


Bourque Newswatch was a popular Ottawa-based site which published political news and gossip, and it had on occasion published items the Conservatives wanted out in the blogshpere.


And given the stridently anti-Liberal, pro-Conservative tensor of the headlines on Bourque Newswatch during the last election campaign, as this five day archive of headlines from the campaign indicates:


Dec 1

RCMP PROBES INCOME TRUSTS

LIBERALS ROCKED BY NEW SCANDAL

IGNATIEFF DEBACLE: ALF APPS' EMERGENCY EMAIL

TURMOIL EMBROILS IGNATIEFF'S CANDIDACY

COPPS: LIBERAL DEMOCRACY ? HA !

HARPER CALLS FOR OFFICE OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS

ADLER: HARPER THE NEXT PM


Dec 2

HARPER TO CUT GST TO 5%

PAPER: MARTIN LACKS RESPECT FOR VOTERS

HAMM ENDORSES HARPER


Dec 3

MARTIN OUT OF SYNCH

SLOWPOKES: PARTY HAS YET TO TURF ADSCAM LIBS

IS OPPOSING GST CUT HOMOPHOBIC?


Dec 4

HARPER KEEPS MOMENTUM

CHAREST REFUSES TO CAMPAIGN FOR MARTIN LIBS

LAYTON DEFENDS JEWEL THIEF CANDIDATE


Dec 5

TORIES LAUNCH STRAIGHT TALK ADS

HARPER: CANADIANS "MASSIVELY OVERTAXED"

CAW MEMBERS SNUB BUZZ'S PRO-LIB STAND, OPT FOR NDP INSTEAD

FREE SPEECH? MARTIN HECKLER JAILED 4 DAYS

LAYTON WAFFLES ON PRIVATE HEALTH CARE

MARTIN FLIP-FLOPS ON MIDEAST


I would like to ask Stephen Harper, John Reynolds and Michael Fortier these questions:

  • Has the Conservative Party purchased headlines, or other advertising and/or sponsorship, on Bourque Newswatch?
  • If so, did any of this spending occur during the writ period?
  • If it did, was the advertising expense properly declared and accounted for by the Conservative Party in its filings with Elections Canada?, and
  • If it did, did the advertising purchased on Bourque Newswatch by the Conservative Party during the writ period duly include the "Authorized by the Official Agent for…" disclosure as required by Elections Canada?
I would also put the same questions to any third party pressure/lobby groups supportive of the Conservative Party of Canada.

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7 comments:

Devin said...

Jeff:

The Scarborough smog must be getting to you. Do you really think you are going to get answers to those questions? The PM won't even tell us the names of the people who supported his leadership campaign...

Olaf said...

Jeff,

Is it really such a big deal if the Conservative government spent piles of tax dollars in an effort to further their own partisan interests? I mean, it's not like they used ad agencies as a go between or anything.

Can't you just cut Papa Harper a break once and a while?

Scotian said...

"Is it really such a big deal if the Conservative government spent piles of tax dollars in an effort to further their own partisan interests?" Olaf
9:01 PM, January 09, 2007

I do *NOT* believe I just read this! I have spent several years hearing and reading Conservatives, especially from the Reform/CA and now CPC about how one of their core beliefs is that governments should not spend tax dollars to further their own partisan interests but only those of the country as a whole. This was supposedly one of the main reasons the Liberals were unfit to govern and why things like Adscam could and did happen within such a party. By this statement Olaf (assuming you are being serious, I grant it is possible I am misreading this and if so I apologize but this is something serious if not meant in jest) you have just shown one of the core principles of the CPC and the Canadian Conservative movement of which you appear to be a member of in good standing (at least in the online world) to be nothing more than empty rhetoric.

If you really think Harper deserves to be cut a break on this then you have zero basis to claim the Liberals are any less ethically unfit for government than the CPC. Aside from the supposedly better ethics of the CPC there is little for most Canadians to find appealing given the social conservative and the major to radical decentralizers of power strains within the CPC. For a man that campaigns on the image of Mr. Clean and honest and direct this man is incredibly secretive, manipulative/controlling and disingenuine. Why for example is it such a bad idea for the Liberals (Chretien) to have appointed one of their Quebec *elected* bagmen to run Public Works and yet for Harper to do so with an *unelected* personal Quebec bagman he appoints to the Senate to boot despite it not being a legal requirement to sit in Cabinet is acceptable and even good government? While you do not defend all of the worst idiocies of the Harper government Olaf you really seem to miss some rather important truths.

Much of the problem Harper has with many that pay attention to their politics over the years is his morality crusade regarding good clean open accountable government. Despite its name the reality of the Accountability Act is far from what it is portrayed as by its supporters although it does get some things right while making others worse. Now you appear to claim that a government spending significant amounts of taxpayer dollars in blatantly partisan activities is acceptable after the CPC morality crusade from its creation decrying exactly that sort of thing as inherently corrupt and unethical by the Liberals. While you may be joking I can see many of your CPC admiring brethren would say such in all seriousness not even recognizing the massive fundamental hypocrisy or if so not caring now that it is their guys holding the whip hand.

Morality campaigns carry a price to them, the party that crusades on such is often held to the standard they themselves espoused so strongly to gain power with. Harper in particularly had a reputation in this before he came to power and since then has run this government in a more centralized manner than any I've seen. His cabinet appears as mostly shadows that occasionally show up outside of QP to be heard from but generally speaking Harper is the one either making the announcements of consequence or is there alongside with the Minister. The reason why it is fair to hold Harper to standards higher than say the Liberals practiced is because Harper himself made them out to be a core issue of principle for him and the CPC from day one. If one cannot hold a politician accountable for what they claim are the core beliefs of himself and his party then what *CAN* they be held accountable for short of criminal conduct which can be charged?

Devin:

You never know, a member of the Libs caucus could read this and get it into QP, and the refusal and spin could be interesting/useful in its own right. Even if it isn't they are fair questions be be asking and the more people that do the more chances eventually Harper will be publicly asked them as well.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Devin, hey, you never know...

Scotian, I believe Olaf is jesting. Surely, Olaf, thou jest?

And the question of the Canada's relatively new government possibly spending tax dollars on the...sponsorship, shall we say...of Bourque Newswatch certainly is an interesting one, good of you to raise it.

I was actually more interested here though in wondering if, during the last election campaign the CPC bought any services/advertising from the site. Because, if so, Elections Canada has very specific regulations that need to be followed, and clear penalties if they are not.

Anonymous said...

One thing I remember from Bourque just before the election was a push for 'donations' to keep the site running.

He was asking for donations of $500 or more dollars, and though he was not actually saying who gave the donations - he was publishing how many he'd gotten.

Personally, I think he might have been getting by certain rules in the writ period that way.

Say someone connected with the Harper campaign makes a large donation, because they use and enjoy the service, natch. Suddenly they find to their surprise that Bourque's headlines seem to have tilted in favour of their guy. Well that's just gravy, right?

Nobody's buying a service, they're just showing their appreciation. No need to claim any of that, right?

Bailey said...

Good point and good question. I can only hope someone in the Ottawa is reading this and filing the necessary Access to Information Report.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I thought the questions you ask at the end of this poist would be ones that a smart reporter would try and land in an interview.