Friday, September 12, 2008

Halton's New Tory Candidate Has Been Assimilated

How fascinating. Not only are Conservative MPs completely interchangeable when mailing 10 percenters into other peoples' ridings - apparently the same applies to quotes from candidates.

For example, today's Milton Champion quoted newly anointed Conservative candidate Lisa Raitt speaking about child care:

"When they compare leaders, parents face a clear choice," said Raitt. "With Stephen Harper they'll keep their $1,200 universal childcare benefit. With Stephane Dion, they'll lose it..."

But Raitt contended there's nothing false about the Conservatives' ad campaign.

"This ad is fair and factual," she said. "It serves as a public service announcement that reflects the true Liberal position on the $1,200 universal childcare benefit and it clearly demonstrates what's at stake in this election campaign."

Aside from the fact that this is a bald-faced lie, it's nice to see that the Conservative Party chose to quote our little local paper's interview with Raitt on their website.

Unless... wait a minute... Let's check the French side:

« Quand ils comparent les leaders, les parents font face à un choix clair, a dit la ministre Josée Verner. Avec Stephen Harper, ils garderont la prestation pour la garde d'enfants de 1 200 $. Avec Stéphane Dion, ils la perdront. »

« Cette annonce est juste et fondée sur des faits, a dit Mme Verner. Elle reflète la vraie position des Libéraux sur la prestation pour la garde d'enfants de 1 200 $, et démontre clairement ce qui est en jeu au cours de cette campagne électorale. »

My French is, well, pretty much non-existent, but even I can tell (and the Globe & Mail confirms) that that is precisely the same quote - verbatim - attributed to Josée Verner.

Of course, Verner and Raitt are both woman, so naturally they would have exactly the same things to say on the subject of child care. Or abortion. Or pay equity.

This isn't just talking points being repeated. This is a multi-sentence quote being presented as the words of a specific candidate - in fact, two specific candidates - where every single word and comma is obviously coming straight from Party Central. Even worse, the Champion article gives the impression that this was all from an actual interview with the candidate, when in all likelihood (unless Raitt has a photographic memory) it was just copied and pasted from a press release.

How sad. Not just for the state of local journalism, but that Conservative candidates are apparently not trusted to speak for themselves, and are so firmly controlled by party headquarters that any individual strengths or weaknesses, ideas or opinions, are completely subsumed by the hive mind.

You have been nominated. Resistance is futile.


  1. Even worse, the Champion article gives the impression that this was all from an actual interview with the candidate, when in all likelihood (unless Raitt has a photographic memory) it was just copied and pasted from a press release.

    Perhaps Melanie Hennessey at The Champion conducted the interview by email and Raitt copied and pasted her response? In any case, it'd be good to find out what is at that the root of this bit journalistic malpractice.

    Honestly, this is lame.

  2. "Honestly, this is lame."

    And so is the ad on the website that says the same thing. Don't we have a truth in advertising law? Or does it only apply to consumer advertising?

  3. It's those election-readiness binders the Cons had their government-paid staff prepare for them, duplicated for all 308 of their candidates. All the talking points in one neat, no doubt BLUE, binder. There was a story about this in the week or two leading up to the election call.

  4. ti-guy -
    I emailed Melanie to ask. I tried my best to be non-accusatory - just a "though you should know" message about the Globe article. It's even possible that she asked the questions on the phone and Raitt just read the answers off a sheet.

    chrystal -
    They call it "Campaign-in-a-Box", apparently. Just the kind of thing that makes me appreciate my loud-mouthed, opinionated, trouble-making MP even more.

  5. Having two contacts for both official languages is done in business all the time.

    They simply put out the press release with one contact in english and one contact in french as a point of contact.

    In this case, Lisa is the english contact on this issue and Vernier is the french contact. Just the same as one Liberal candidate is the "party spokesperson" for one issue being the critic for that portfolio etc...

    Its not some evil plot to keep peoples mouths zipped or a leader not trusting their MP's to speak on their own. Looking at the text of the Champion and the text of the press release its obvious that the Champion copy/paste the press release into the article. Its unknown that the reporter even talked with any of the contacts. Thats up for the Champion to explain.

    Its not some Star Trek, tin foil hat conspiracy theory going on fear not.

  6. Mike -

    Don't get me wrong - I take serious issue with the reporter's lazy journalism here. But I also find it telling that our much anticipated new candidate's first significant hearing in the local paper took the form of a press release that so obviously came from party HQ.

    I'm not so naive as to believe that government ministers or opposition critics personally write all the things they say at press conferences or put in press releases. However, I do expect those words to reflect their areas of responsibility and expertise, and for the most part, their own personal opinions.

    For example, the Liberal website has a press release talking about aboriginal issues that quotes Labrador MP Todd Russell and their Special Advisor for Aboriginal Outreach, Tina Keeper. The French version quotes the same two MPs. The same can be seen in a release on immigration in English and French, both of which quote (you guessed it) the Liberal Immigration Critic.

    Now, perhaps Lisa Raitt was secretly making a study of child care issues during her years as CEO of the Toronto Port Authority, but somehow I doubt it. I'm sure she does have her own areas of expertise like, possibly, business or transportation, and I might even be interested in hearing what she has to say on those subjects. But since the Party has apparently designated her their official "English Female Candidate with Children", I'm not holding out much hope.

    I guess we'll find out at the first debate.