Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Leader gaffe goes almost unnoticed

I don't know why it's so hard to find Layton's direct quote in his interview with Thomson Rueters, wherein he expressed an opinion about interest rates, leading to criticism from other parties and a mea culpa from Layton on Friday.

It's good that he took the step back. He's right, that interest rates are going to strangle a generation of debt-addicted Canadians, but that's at least partially the fault of the historically-low interest rate we've had in Canada since the recession started. Too many Canadians have purchased houses and increased other personal debt based on the affordability of the carrying cost, without considering what happens when rates reset to normal. But holding the rate low would extend the problem, and start to produce unsustainable inflation. It's the debt itself, not the interest rate, that's the real problem.

On the larger scale, governments can only take hold of so many levers of the economy at one time without breaking the entire machine.

I can be pretty forgiving of Layton for a while yet, because he did back away from involving himself in Bank of Canada decisions so quickly. He's never governed, and no one in the NDP has any institutional memory of governing federally, so there's no one to steer him away from this sort of mistake. If he ends up Prime Minister, he's going to have to put some extra trust in the civil service, particularly in the Department of Finance, until his cabinet gets some experience under their belt. I think he's smart enough to know this.

Nonetheless, it exposes a real weakness about the NDP, and the other parties have used Ralph Goodale and Jim Flaherty to stress the point. It's a gaffe, no matter how ignored the story is. Prom 3, Sig 1 = 3 for the NDP. Sig should be higher, but the media's eyes tend to glaze when there's math. It's kind of pathetic.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thank goodness for alert readers

This one completely escaped my notice, and Google alerts. (I might need to tweak my search.) Cam Stewart, a Liberal candidate in Calgary, complains that his south Asian opponent has his workers intimidating and threatening opponents' volunteers - fair game to call that out - "like Indian Politian's" - whoops!

The press release came out following an altercation between South Asian CPC supporters who gathered to support their candidate at a nearby Pakistan Canada Association meeting, and what appears to be South Asian campaign workers at the Liberal candidate's campaign office. Here's more of the press release, as reported in the story:
Devinder Shory is running his campaign like Indian Politian's do, intimidating and threatening opponent candidate's volunteers and supporters. This behaviour is not acceptable in our civilized democracy.
Would I be wrong in saying that doesn't sound like the sentence construction and word choice, much less the spelling and apostrophe use, of someone who writes in English as a first language? I think it's possible Cam Stewart is covering for a campaign worker's mistake here.

Anyway, he took responsibility, and immediately apologised, and he's not going to be winning the seat anyway. 1x1 = one point for the LPC.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The West Wing election

Once again, the campaign is starting to have eerie parallels to the 2006 Presidential election. You know the one: Santos - Vinick.

Okay, maybe not a lot of parallels. But we did have the chickens. Now it turns out, the best opposition research is done by one's own people. Thanks, Tom Flanagan! Forget everything I said about you. Oh, except that thing where you called for the murder of Julian Assange. I stand by that being entirely dickish. But still! This makes up for it some!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Burying the lead

Pogge has expressed his frustration at the clear disparity between what Michael Ignatieff said to Peter Mansbridge, and how it was reported. Now let me express my concern that Stephen Harper's interview is being likewise misrepresented:

Here's the headline:
Harper vows not to form government without most seats
And here is my transcription of the key part:
Peter Mansbridge: What if the situation was reversed, and Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Layton was in first place....
Stephen Harper: Right.
Mansbridge: ... with the most seats...
Harper: They will form the government.
Mansbridge: They will form the government.
Harper: Yes.
Mansbridge: And they...
Harper: Now, I shouldn't speculate that, because I'm – we’re in this to win, and I think we're going to win. But that's, that's…
Mansbridge: I appreciate that, but you've raised the issue of the hypothetical situation, so...
Harper: Yeah.
Mansbridge: ... that's one as well. Whoever, whichever of those two parties does not gain the confidence of the House. The Governor-General comes to you, because that's the way it has to happen, and says "Mr. Harper, second-place party, the first place party couldn't achieve the confidence of the House. I’d like you to try"
Harper: Well, look, I think if the other guys win, they get a shot at government, and I don't think you challenge that unless you're prepared to go back to the people. And I think one of the reasons...
Mansbridge: So you would say no to that.
Harper: Yeah, because I think one of the reasons...
Mansbridge: You'd say to the Governor-General "No, I wouldn't do that."
Harper: (over Mansbridge) Yeah, absolutely. No, because I think, no, because I think one of the reasons, people don’t want another election. And that's another thing about this whole discussion...
Mansbridge: No, but that would be a way of preventing another election.
Harper: ... But Peter, these guys throwing up these scenarios, where govern... party may win, but we’re not going to let the government govern, we’ll be into another election before too long. That's why I think we need a majority mandate. I think this has gone on long enough. I think we’ve got a good record, so obviously we're appealing to the people to get behind us, and let's move the country forward. We have some pretty important economic challenges that remain in the world, in this country, and I don't think we can afford to continue to go around in circles like this, with any kind of minority.
Mansbridge: Alright, alright, I just want to be clear, because it is a different position than the one that you suggested in the letter that you wrote with Mr. Layton and Mr. Duceppe in 2004 about the Martin government, when you wrote the Governor-General suggesting there were other options, and one can assume that had to be the option you were talking about.
Harper: One doesn't assume that, because the option I was talking about, Peter, was that we try to influence the government's agenda, and if we want to defeat the government, we have to get our own mandate. I never suggested otherwise.
Mansbridge: Why do the two of them swear up and down that there was no question that what was on your mind was to become Prime Minister.
Harper: Why are they saying this now, instead of saying the opposite, they didn’t say this in '04. The reason, Peter, is because they're considering the option of combining with the Liberals to form a government without an election. That's why. That's why they changed their story.
So, the headline is strictly true, but not the most interesting thing here, I don't think. Let's parse this a little:

- The 2004 letter to the G-G. The reason Peter assumes the letter must be to request a shot at governing following a defeat is because there's no other practical reason to contact the G-G at that moment. Harper et al wrote a letter telling the G-G they are going to try to influence the government's agenda? "Good for you!" replies the G-G, "but what's this got to do with me?" "Oh, nothing," says Harper. Yes, that sounds like an entirely likely scenario.

- He implies earlier in the interview that he intends to introduce the same budget the government introduced before the government was defeated. He then says here that Canadians don't want another election. So, if the budget is immediately rejected by the other parties, representing the views of the pluralities that elected those members, either result - another party tries to gain the confidence of the house, or we go to another election - is antidemocratic. Therefore, the only democratic choice for opposition parties is to go along with what the government says. Neat!

- He thinks he can turn down a request from the Vice-Regal representative of Her Majesty. Stephen Harper is a republican, in the truest sense of the word. But we already knew that, didn't we, when he successfully pressured our last G-G to prorogue Parliament, in the face of the single guiding principle of a Westminster parliamentary system - the supremacy of the individual member. Stephen Harper either doesn't understand that, or doesn't approve of that, and Stephen Harper is a pretty smart guy, so one of those seems more likely than the other. There's your lead.
Don't you people know how to dog whistle?

A Conservative incumbent candidate from Saskatchewan thanks local anti-abortion groups for the signatures that helped defund Planned Parenthood International. Bring on the conversations about the hidden agenda!

My short read of Brad Trost's history seems to suggest he's one of the useful idiots the CPC likes to have around. They don't want to be seen as social conservatives, but they do want social conservatives to be motivated to vote Tory. And so, a fellow like this gets a long leash to complain about his own government's financial support of Toronto's Pride Week, for instance.

Anyway, I suspect he's been told by his party that there's a right time for talk like this, and that the writ period isn't it. A prom of one to a backbencher who will never be anything else, but a sig of two (or three? Discuss) for bringing hidden agenda talk to the fore.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's going on?

Campaign teams, I count on you to screw up. A lot. Did you learn so much from the pre-debate tomfoolery that you've all straightened up your acts? What happened to our error-prone candidates?

Oh! They're hiding.

(h/t pogge)

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Thank goodness I'm not scoring the Green Party, or we'd have to have some discussion about this jackass:

A Green Party candidate in British Columbia has resigned after concerns were raised about him posting a comment about rape on his Facebook page.

Alan Saldanha, who was running in the riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells, resigned Wednesday afternoon after it was revealed he posted, "If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it!" on his Facebook profile. The comment has since been taken down.
So, here's the thing. This probably isn't meant as literal advice, but as a metaphor - rape standing in for some terrible or at least unpleasant inevitability beyond one's control. The specifics of Saldanha's use here, I can't imagine - the story doesn't make it clear. Maybe Saldanha didn't specify. (Maybe he didn't get it as a metaphor either, which brings up other concerns about the candidate's competence.) But others who have used the same line have traditionally been more specific.

Don't get me wrong - it's a terrible metaphor. But the conversations are nonsense unless we admit that it is a metaphor.  The story describes the line as "... a comment about rape...".  Hey, remember when Ignatieff was attempting to say nothing about coalitions, and the media would talk about the elephant in the room?  Yes, I certainly enjoyed all those news articles about elephants.

I heard Newsworld anchor Carole MacNeil suggest candidates should consider sensitivity training before running, and perhaps that's true. But meanwhile, the media should take some courses in literary devices and comedy, because they seem completely deaf to both.

Edited to add: CBC reporter Kris Reyes did acknowledge the candidate's explanation a few minutes after noon MDT, but dismissively. My favourite part what when she explained that the candidate had been told it was a quote from Confucius "... but I hardly doubt that," she helpfully gaffes. I believe the candidate has confused the real historic figure and the old joke construction suggesting barroom wisdom of some sort, "Confucius say...". In fact, two minutes of Google searching turns this up:

22 July 1971, Winnipeg (Canada) Free Press, pg. 1, col. 6:
Winnipeg Police Chief Norman Stewart countered municipal opposition to one big Greater Winnipeg police force Wednesday with the flat statement that such a force is inevitable.
Quipped the chief:

“To them I say what Confucius said: ‘When rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.’”
So, in conclusion, I think the CBC should be better funded, so it can afford some fancy Googling contraptions.  Or something.
Set dressing

A Tory operative sends out a letter asking local ethnic organizations to bring members wearing "ethnic costumes" for tonight's event with the Prime Minister in Etobicoke. I might have let this slide, if the Conservatives hadn't already treated brown faces as props, rather than as voters. 1 x 1 = 1.

Edited to add, Friday morning: I underestimated the ire this was raising among ethnic voters. This dominated a news cycle that included post-debate analysis. SIG = 2, though I have no choice but to take the CPC at their word about who was responsible, so PROM remains 1. Going forward, the Tories may have to carry a "very ethnic" penalty for any perceived cultural insensitivity, because that's become a big part of this election narrative.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Twitter is the "no zone defense rule" of the gaffeometer.

Is the basketball reference too obscure? How about "Twitter is the removal of the red line"? Twitter makes scoring more likely, is what I'm saying right here.

Anyway, an attentive reader notes another Tory twitter dimwittery, this one from an Ontario incumbent. Stephen Woodworth insensitively uses the word "crippled" in the punchline of a joke, leading to much faux outrage and a faux apology, and then the deletion of the Twitter account. The joke was not funny, not because of the insensitive language but because it wasn't funny, so overall it seems like a big waste of ink (well, electrons) to me. If you want to see actual insensitivity married to actual comedy, may I suggest Gilbert Gottfried's recent twitter work?

Anyway, another 1 x 1 for the CPC.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Non-gaffe (so far)... edited to add, now a gaffe.

Montreal Conservative candidate Larry Smith says it's normal for government-held ridings to see more government largesse. "Normal" is interesting, but the rest, that it happens thusly, is objectively true, even if you aren't supposed to say it out loud. So we'll see if he backpedals, gaffing it up in the process.

Edited to add, Saturday morning: He hasn't apologised or changed his tune that I've seen, but Harper is contradicting him, thereby saying something objectively false. This one might turn into a score yet.

Edited to add, Monday morning: I rethought this over the weekend, and decided if the leader of your party has to contradict you, it's gaffish enough. 1 x 1 = 1.
Where's the gaffe?

Wednesday: "Look, I think when the other guys are complaining we're turning people away, and they can't get people, I think that tells you how this campaign is going, I want to get our message out to as many people as are interested in hearing it... I think it's better when you’re turning people away than when you can't get people to come out."

Thursday: "If anybody is kept out of any of our events that is there to hear our message, we obviously apologize to them."

Making people who are interested in attending the Tory Leader's tour events register was not a gaffe, it was a plan, so that doesn't score. Keeping out or removing anyone suspected of showing less than full-throated support for the Prime Minister was part of that same plan (the term "bubble boy" has begun to spread in the media), so that doesn't score either. But, in the face of criticism, Wednesday's lame attempt to pivot served only to give the story more oxygen. Prom 3 x Sig 2 = 6.

I leave Thursday's quote here as well, because to my way of thinking, this was no apology at all. There are very few in the media agreeing with me. Perhaps they understand this is as close as we'll ever get to hearing a real apology, so like an exhausted parent, reporters decide to say "close enough" and let it slide. I'm prepared to add more points if the narrative changes, but for now, it seems these words, letting a few unregistered students into last night's event, and releasing the platform this morning has finally ended this story. Total, six for the CPC.
Liberals on the board

John Reilly might be a star candidate in some ways - a prominent judge, published author, and expert in the field of restorative justice. But he's running in Wild Rose, where the Liberal Party hasn't cracked 15% in at least 25 years. Prom = 1

Reilly argued against mandatory minimum sentencing on Dave Rutherford's radio show, arguing that a charge like Sexual Assault covers a wide spectrum of actions, and that mandatory minimums take away a judge's opportunity to differentiate along that spectrum. Agree with this or not, this argument appears to me to be well within reasonable political discourse. Mark your calendars - Tom Flanagan and I agree.

But no - wait! The Conservatives pointed this out to the media, who dutifully went crazy, and both Reilly and Ignatieff apologised unreservedly, so now it's a gaffe. And the timing couldn't have been worse for the Liberals (and gosh, do you think this is why the Tories were scouring the hustings for anything that could be trotted out this way?), producing a story that would run side-by-side with Harper's non-apology for the rally vetting. The timing is what pushes this to a Sig = 2. Total, 2 points.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Scorecard now, explanations in the morning.

Decisions have been made, but I'll spare you the details until coffee is involved. Cons 10, Grit 2, Bloc 3, NDP's shutout continues. They must have with Luongo in goal.

But does he have any promises for the 41st Parliament?

Stephen Harper promises another tax break, this one an extension of TFSAs, to be applied just as soon as the budget is balanced. Of course, even by the government's own budget projections, that won't happen until 2016, by which time even Harper's wished-for majority is going to have to call an election.  I suppose that's unless that government has suspended elections, in order to protect us from the anti-democratic possibility of a coalition.

It's worth remembering also that the Conservatives reduced corporate taxes last year, making it harder to balance the budget. I'm sure they were relieved to find out that they didn't have to wait for a balanced budget to get their cut.

On a gaffe-ier note, the Prime Minister mumbled his way through a not-apology ("If anyone was removed from a meeting who was there to listen, behave, and cheer wildly at each pronouncement, then I'd feel kinda bad about that..." I don't have the precise quote, but it was mealy-mouthed) for the rally ejections, and I'm definitely scoring something for the whole debacle. Tonight I'll attempt some precision.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


I heard it on the radio this morning, but I can't find a link, and no one seems to have noticed or cared, so my initial instinct to score this was perhaps wrong.

I'm talking about Harper joking about vetting rally attendees, saying it was better to have to turn people away than it is to have to beg people to come. Really? How are people not pointing at this as evidence of the Prime Minister's arrogance?

Comments encouraged.

Edited to add: found a link, anyway.

Dated racist mutterings or memberships, even discovered during the writ period, is not a gaffe in the current campaign.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Dear Bill Mah, Edmonton Journal:

Here's some other stories you could do:

Salespeople at Goldline say it's a fantastic time to invest in precious metals.

A car salesman at a car show says it's an exciting time to be a car buyer.

Here's someone in the business of selling private islands. He gives tips to help you determine if a private island is right for your portfolio. (Spoiler alert - it is!) The story is a bit outdated, but certainly as of October of 2009 there was never a better time to buy a private island. You know, you should give Chris Krolow a call, because I bet he'd confirm there's still no better time to buy a private island.

Look. I'm not saying Real Estate will go up, I'm not saying it will go down. I'm just saying that writing a real estate projections story, using only the predictions of someone who makes his living convincing people to buy real estate, is just short of churnalism.
Mock the vote

The CBC reports on young people who won't cast ballots opening with the following:

University of Toronto linguistics student Filip Tisma voted in the last federal election, but has no intention of casting a ballot this time.

"I'd rather just not vote and send a message that way that I'm unpleased with how the voting system is turning out in this country," said Tisma, 22.
Bad news, Filip - the few people who notice you missing from the polls on May 2 will assume you're just another disengaged twenty-something among legion. Political parties will continue to prefer the issues of concern to older voters, safe in the knowledge that post-secondary funding and addressing youth unemployment are not vote winners. The more Filips out there who are not casting ballots, the more the choice falls to people like me - married white men in our forties and in comfortable financial circumstances. More power to me! Nuts and gum, together at last!

(Filip seems to be complaining about the system - the constituency-based first-past-the-post system. No doubt advocates of proportional representation will use the low turnout and quotes like this as evidence of the need for change. I'll save my own thoughts on that for another post, but in this case I think Filip might be making an excuse.)

Helping to discourage young voter engagement is the Conservative Party of Canada, screening event attendees for radical affiliations, like being a Liberal. I'm certain the Conservative Party will say that they're only trying to avoid hecklers, or people who would make a scene. And why not? That's for CPC MPs themselves to do.

I've been asked if kicking people out of their events is a gaffe by the Conservatives for scoring purposes. I think the only gaffe is that they got caught. It's unbelievably stupid, and I hope it continues to blow up in their faces, but keeping the crowds friendly through screening was premeditated as part of their communications strategy, and therefore not a gaffe.

FWIW, QOTD goes to Michael Ignatieff: "We are in a very bad place when you have got a prime minister who does a background check on his audience at a democratic crowd and doesn't seem to do a background check on the people he hires in his Prime Minister's Office, like Mr. Carson." FTW.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Thanks goodness for readers (Cons 4 BQ 3)

Another alert follower of the Gaffeometer has let me know about BQ incumbent Yvon Levesque's racist nonsense. Actually, he was only saying that his constituents are racist, but let's not split hairs:

Yvon Levesque, the incumbent MP for the riding of Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou, had to apologize Friday after he said "certain voters won’t choose the NDP anymore because they are fielding a First Nations candidate."
Wow! That's pretty stupid, especially in a riding that contains much of Quebec's north. It's pretty stupid, from a party that represents themselves as left-wing, but appeals to a certain pure laine cohort whose Quebec nationalism doesn't include immigrants or Quebec's first peoples. It's pretty stupid.

Actually, I will split hairs. Levesque is probably right, in that some of his constituents are precisely the sorts of ethnic nationalists Mordecai Richler wrote about nearly twenty years ago. But unless the context of his remarks (which I haven't really found) was "They won't vote for the NDP candidate because he's Cree, and that's a terrible reason to vote against someone," it doesn't get a pass.

I'm uncertain how prominent Leveque is around Quebec, but he seems from here like a bit of an invisible backbencher, so I'm going to tentatively say (Prom)1 x (Sig)2 = 2 more for the BQ.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Leftover gaffes (Cons 4, BQ 1, Liberal and NDP no score)

This is the last time I'm going backward, I sincerely hope.

Commentors point out that I've ignored a couple more minor gaffes. First, right on day one a Conservative incumbent tweeted the name of the Liberal leader as "Igaffi". Then she apologised, again via tweet. Honest to God, if I start reading every candidate's Twitter feed to keep track of boneheadedness, then Dan will be proven wrong here - parties will only be able to dream they can hold a score to 33. 1x1 for Cheryl Gagaffey Gallant.

BQ candidates won't talk to Maclean's, except that they will. I'm not sure I can chalk this up to anything more than one staffperson, albeit one who is consistently identified as a "BQ spokesperson", feeling pissy that afternoon. But she does seem senior enough, and as I keep mentioning, apologies are usually deciders for me, and one was issued here. 1x1 for the BQ, already surpassing their 2008 blank card.

As for a French-language Liberal ad, which included an audience shot of a former NDP candidate and presumably current NDP supporter, they dropped her from the ad as soon as she objected. As far as I'm concerned, she was in the crowd, so the Liberal party can hardly be blamed for having her in crowd shots. As for their use of stock photos, so what? Common practice. No score.