Friday, May 15, 2009

Shorter Ryan Sparrow: It's not fair!!

Do you think its easy to make nasty attack ads and not look like hypocritical boobs? Not according to Conservative Party communications director Ryan Sparrow.

If you haven't been following at home, instead of considering bi-partisan proposals from the opposition parties to reform the employment insurance system to help the thousands of Canadians suffering through this economic crisis, the Conservatives have launched attack ads pillorying Michael Ignatieff for following in the footsteps of great Canadians such as Wayne Gretzky and Michael J. Fox, and not as great Canadians such as Diane Haskett and David "Axis of Evil" Frum, who have found success in their fields internationally.

Someone who has spent so much time outside of Canada, the Conservatives contend, couldn't possibly be fit to make a substantive contribution to our Canadian society. Or so goes their theory, which must be troubling to those in the research community that have been fighting to reverse the "brain drain" and bring talented Canadians home. Sorry scientists, stay away, you're not welcome...

Anyway, the Conservatives followed-up their ad blitz with an e-mail solicitation from party boss Doug Finley, again attacking Ignatieff's Canadian bona fides, and asking for money.

Did you know that Michael Ignatieff spent over 30 years away from Canada – more than half his life? Did you know that while away he went so far as to call Britain and then America his country?
This led Aaron Wheery to point out the irony of Finley being the one tapped to pass judgment on Ignatieff's Canadianess:
Fun facts about Mr. Finley: He was born in England, raised in Scotland, first entered politics as a Scottish Nationalist and appears to have come to Canada at the age of 22. He is reported to prefer Celtic and Manchester United.
Aaron later noted he'd recieved an e-mail about the post and he issued a clarification apologizing if Finley took offense, and was just making a point.
I believe wholeheartedly that no citizen should have his or her commitment to this country questioned on the primary basis of time spent living or working abroad.
As do I. And that goes for both Doug and Michael. Anyway, at that point the letter writer was anonymous, but now they've been unmasked as none other than Ryan Sparrow, communications director for the Conservative Party. Here's his full letter:
Aaron, I noticed your post today attacking Doug Finley for being a Scottish immigrant. It is unfortunate that a reputable publication such as MacLeans is now lowering itself to posting partisan attacks on unelected political staff. Doug Finley is a Canadian citizen and has lived in Canada for over 40 years. Doug Finley is not running to be Prime Minister of Canada, Michael Ignatieff is. Michael Ignatieff wants to be Prime Minister and has not lived in Canada for over thirty years Canadians deserve to know the facts about him. I think you owe Doug an appology.
Sparrow, Sparrow, where have I heard that name before?
The Conservatives have suspended their director of communications for suggesting that a father of a slain soldier spoke out on Canada’s Afghan mission because he is a Liberal supporter.

Party spokesperson Ryan Sparrow has been sidelined for the duration of the campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed at a campaign event at a winery in Ste. Eustache, Que.

“Somebody in our war room sent out an inappropriate email questioning the motivation of a father of a deceased Canadian soldier who questioned our policy on Afghanistan,” Harper said.

“That individual has been suspended from the campaign. He has apologized to the individual in question,” said Harper.

Right. So, clearly a classy guy. But back to the issue at hand.

The Conservatives are trying to draw some ridiculously stupid lines here, very narrow lines that make little sense except to prop-up their feeble attacks. Basically, it's only fair to question the patriotism, fitness to lead and love of country if they're running for Prime Minister. And are a Liberal named Michael. Raising the same issues against anyone else who isn't running for PM, and isn't named Michael, isn't tall, and doesn't have big eyebrows, is a no-go zone and anyone who does so should apologize.

(Actually, their narrow lines make more sense when you begin to consider the biographies of some of their MPs and cabinet ministers. It's not about principle, it's about trying to launch partisan attacks without hypocritical "be as I say, not as I am" blowback.

First of all, criticisms based on national origin or time spent outside the country should be offbase for EVERYONE, even if they called potato chips "crisps" one time. Period.

If you're going to go down that road though, you can try to draw all the fine lines you want, but it's completely nonsensical. Why not hold cabinet ministers to a similar standard? Why not MPs? How many years exactly can you be away before you can't be PM? What's the cutoff? Is it lower for cabinet ministers? If so, why? How about Canadians that were born outside of Canada, but came to Canada as toddlers? What if they emigrated as adults? What positions are we going to allow them to hold? Is there a glass ceiling?

These are the kinds of questions the Conservatives start to open themselves to when they start to make these kinds of attacks. That's what happens when you try to create classes of Canadians.

And this isn't new for them either. They told us the Canadian citizens trapped by the war in Lebanon were not real Canadians. They told us Stephane Dion was unfit because, by virtue of his mother's birthplace, he held dual French/Canadian citizenship. They say Michael Ignatieff should be disqualified because he lived outside the country. And, of course, Peter Van Loan infamously told us only Conservatives are real Canadians.

I'm sorry Conservatives, but you don't get to slice and dice the definition of Canadian to fit your expedient political ends. Whether you were born here or emigrated here in search of a better life, whether you barely left the country and never had a real job until you became Prime Minister or you have lived and worked around the world before returning home to apply your leanings to the betterment of your country, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. Period.

So, I'm sorry Ryan. You and Doug Finley are due no apology. Especially since he wasn't even attacked, but just had the hypocrisy of his behaviour pointed-out. The only apology due would be "sorry Doug for pointing out what a hypocritical boob you are."

Except I wouldn't be sorry about that either.

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1 comment:

kenlister1 said...

I offer you 4 suggested talking points:
1. Alice Wong MP, Richmond BC, "lived more than half her life outside Canada."
2. Myron Thompson, Former MP Wildrose Alberta, served in the US military, tried out for the yankees, "not a Canadian"
3. Nina Grewal MP, Fleetwood Kells BC, born in Japan, educated in India, lived in Liberia, "Just Visiting"
4. Stephen Harper, born in Ontario in 1959, moved to Alberta in 1978, moved back to Ontario in 2002 until the present, NOT AN ALBERTAN