Thursday, February 09, 2006

Day Four Media Notes – Adler, Garth Turner’s Blog, Mike Duffy Live, Newsworld’s Politics

This afternoon Charles Adler led with the Emerson story again, playing Emerson’s quote about how he is “flabbergasted” about the partisanship in politics.

His first guest was Democracy Watch spokesthingy Duff Conacher, who is alleging that Emerson’s role at Canfor precludes him from any involvement in the softwood lumber file. But Adler quickly moved on to a screaming match with CH-TV’s Mark Hebscher over the NHL betting story.

Sun Media’s Greg Weston was Adler’s next guest, repeating his thesis that Harper has seriously damaged himself with the Emerson and Fortier appointments, and suggesting there is more to come on the Emerson file (based on the Star story).

Next up was the ubiquitous (in a good way) Andrew Coyne, commenting on the Star story, Gresham’s law and how he fails to see how the Emerson move is consistent with Harper’s talent for playing the long game.

And while Monte Solberg has unfortunately wound down his very droll blog, Halton MP Garth Turner is continuing his, which includes his views on the Emerson affair:

I am a democrat who believes everyone in the House of Commons, including the cabinet members who make up the government, should be elected. They should sit in Parliament as they were elected. If they decide to change parties, they should go and get re-elected.

It would be a great idea for Mr. Emerson to do that, and hopefully he will decide that’s the right course of action. Given his new high-profile and powerful position, one would expect voters would be impressed enough to elect him as a Conservative. But maybe not. That’s their choice.

I am not demanding the guy resign today, given the fact he has just been handed huge duties and Harper surely had sound reasons for his decision. But it would look very good indeed on David Emerson to say something like this: Yeah, I understand the feeling of those people who are disturbed that I switched parties. I have decided my real home is with the Conservatives, and I am honoured to serve the PM, but I also realize it’s not all my choice. So after I’ve proven my worth in this job, and when the time is appropriate, I will go back to the voters.

End of story. Canadians are reasonable, even forgiving. Just be reasonable back.

What am I going to do about? Lobby for Parliamentary reform of the kind the prime minister promised and the Gomery Report recommended. More free votes. More powerful MP committees. An elected Senate. And more accountability, which should include legislation that, as Brian Mulroney used to say, means you dance with the one that brung ya.

You may also wish to check out the next item on Garth’s blog, “Torches & Pitchforks” for some grassroots reaction.

Mike Duffy Live on CTV’s NewsNet led off with the news that Emerson had cancelled a conference call scheduled for 4:30 EST because he was “caught in traffic.” He played the tape of the conference operator apologizing and explaining Emerson’s no show was due to Ottawa’s gridlock.

Garth Turner and NDP MP Peter Stouffer were Duff’s first guests. Stouffer spoke about Bill C-251, his private member’s bill, noting that half the Conservative caucus voted for it, while no Liberals did. The bill provided that those desiring to cross the floor would have to resign and run in a by-election under the new party or sit as an independent for the remainder of that Parliament.

Turner expressed sympathy for the plight of voters whose MPs cross the floor, noting that his constituents would be pretty angry if he had crossed the floor: “People should stick by their colours, if they want to change their colours they should go back to the people.” Turner added that he acknowledged Emerson’s ability, but that Emerson needs to clear the “hurdle” of democracy.

Turner scoffed at Stouffer’s suggestion that the Conservative government had already achieved the level of arrogance that it took 12 years for the Liberals to achieve. While Turner again defended Emerson's abilities, he said “the public perception is a negative one. We have to address that.” Turner was careful to say that Emerson should be given some time to prove himself, but the democracy issue needs to be addressed.

Turner also appeared on Don Newman’s Politics show on Newsworld (today hosted by Susan Bonner), but I only caught the last few seconds. Turner is coincidentally meeting with Harper today, so look for a report on the meeting on Turner’s blog.

Bonner’s next guest was new caucus chair Rahim Jaffer. Bonner grilled Jaffer on the Emerson issue and the floor-crossing legislation that 40 Conservative MPs had endorsed. Jaffer made a good defence, saying that the caucus is free to discuss all these issues and there was no fear of debate on the issue, but that there are currently no rules on floor-crossing.

On a panel of party spinners, the Liberal, NDP and Bloc spokesthingys took the opportunity to pile on Harper. Conservative spinner William Stairs, displaying unusual levels of energy and alacrity (it's like somebody moved his turntable from 33 to 45 rpm), provided a spirited defence of the Emerson and Fortier appointments.

After a detour to interview sole Liberal leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay, Duffy returned to the Emerson story, in particular the allegations in the Star about him supposedly nixing a softwood lumber deal with the U.S. He interviewed the head of the Fair Lumber Trade Council, then moved on to a journalist panel to talk about the supposed deal. CTV's Robert Fife excoriated the PMO for the communications handling of the issue, saying that they could have had innumerable spinners available to tout Emerson’s attributes, but failed to do so.

Back to Newsworld: Bonner led off her pundit panel by also playing the pleasant voice of the conference operator advising reporters that Emerson was not going to make his news conference call. The pundits immediately speculated that there must be a bigger reason for the cancellation. Like Fife, Sun Media’s Greg Weston condemned the communications tactics of the government.

As they often do, the pundits on both NewsNet and Newsworld were probably overstating their cases, but neither Duffy nor Bonner challenged their conclusions, nor urged the pundits to put recent events in context.


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