Monday, July 30, 2007

On spin doctoring and odd journalism

Last week a story involving Natural Resources minister Gary Lunn went largely unnoticed. The NDP is alleging Lunn, also the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands (where he’s being challenged by former Green Party activist Briony Penn for the Liberals) spent some $25,000 of taxpayer dollars on spin doctoring work that could have been done by his staff.

First, the odd journalism. I thought this passage was weird:

New Democratic strategist Brad Lavigne rejected suggestions that the party was picking on the Natural Resources Minister.

Why would the reporter suggest the NDP was picking on Lunn? I mean, what is this, grade school. They’re raising concerns about government spending. That’s not picking on him, that’s doing their job. Hopefully they didn’t hurt Gary’s feelings.

Anyway, on to more spin doctoring. Here’s some from the NDP’s Dr. Lavigne:
He did note, however, that the NDP came a close second in Mr. Lunn's riding, one of the tightest races in a province with many competitive federal seats.

OK, so the NDP was a close second and it was a tight race. Hmm, what were the results then?
The NDP ran second in Saanich-Gulf Islands in the 2006 federal election, winning 26.5 per cent of the vote, compared with 37.2 per cent for Mr. Lunn.

Put that into raw numbers and Lunn beat the NDP’s Jennifer Burgis by nearly 7000 votes. Calling that a close second and one of the tightest races in the province* is a bit of a stretch for Brad, I’d have to say. He ploughs forward undaunted, however:
"We are the alternative to the Conservatives in that riding as in many other ridings in [British Columbia]," Mr. Lavigne said from Ottawa.

Alrighty then, let’s see how the Liberals did in that riding:
The Liberals came third with 26 per cent in the riding north of Victoria that Mr. Lunn has held since 1997 under Reform, Alliance and Conservative colours.

Actually, the Liberal candidate, Sheila Orr, had 26.09 per cent compared to the NDP’s 26.54 per cent. Again, in votes that’s a 301 vote gap.

The alternative would seem to not be as clear as Brad was spinning. Perhaps the race for second was the tight race he was thinking of? With Penn in the race this riding is very competitive.

*I don't have time a the moment to check the results for each riding in the province, but a quick check shows S/GI wasn't even close to the tightest race on Vancouver Island. Indeed, it was the second highest margin of victory. That honour of closest goes to my old stomping grounds of Vancouver Island North, where the NDP's Catherine Bell won a squeaker over the incumbent, Con John Duncan, whom she'll face again next election.

Here's the margins of victory for the Island ridings:

1. Vancouver Island North: NDP, by 616 votes over CON
2. Esquimalt Juan De Fuca: LIB, by 2,166 votes over NDP
3. Nanaimo-Alberni: CON, by 5,767 over NDP
4. Victoria: NDP, by 6,783 over LIB
5. Saanich-Gulf Islands: CON, by 6,971 over NDP
6. Nanaimo-Cowichan: NDP, by 8,943 over CON

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Scotian said...

I hate to have to nit pick, but Lavigne said " a Province", not "in the country" according to your own quoted excerpt. I must add that having to do this is for me like pulling teeth without painkillers as I really despise Mr. Lavigne.

Jeff said...

Right you are, my bad. But nevertheless the result wasn't particularly close by any standard. Heck, it wasn't even the closest race on Vancouver Island.

Anonymous said...

Keith Martin may be in trouble if the Libs numbers go up in BC.

Scotian said...


That doesn't surprise me in the least given the man's propensity for not just spin but outrageous spin as his default setting. It is for that trait that I despise him as much as I do, in many ways he comes off to me as the NDP's version of John Reynolds in that respect. I expect spin to have at least some direct if faint connection to reality, it is one thing to exaggerate/minimize, it is quite another to fabricate and/or treat theory as proven fact until conclusively disproved.