Is it possible to get a fair hearing?

by Aaron Wherry

Last week our Andrew Coyne argued that now is the time for Michael Ignatieff to deal honestly and directly with the deficit and the state of government finances going forward. In response, Glen Pearson wonders if the press gallery is ready to do likewise.

Let’s be honest: No political leader in their right mind dares to be as truthful as Coyne challenges because it would be the media itself that couldn’t withhold its skepticism long enough to truly investigate the merits of that leader’s case. Opposition parties would immediately pounce and all manner of bloggers, pundits and columnists would discuss the scary ramifications of such a daredevil proposition. I recall when Ignatieff came to London following a visit to Cambridge, in which he stated no leader would be worthy of the name if he or she didn’t place the possibility of raising taxes on a long list of future considerations if a deficit couldn’t be brought under control. Political staffers mulled around, worried that it would be taken out of context, which it inevitably was … The very next day in the House, Conservative members used every possible occasion to ridicule Ignatieff, calling him just another “tax and spend” Liberal. The media ate it up.




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Is it possible to get a fair hearing?

  1. This is a bit of historical revisionism on Glen's part.

    Ignatieff got hammered by the media because he said, in response to a question about the deficit, "We will have to raise taxes". The "no politician worthy of the name…" thing that Pearson refers to was in fact Ignatieff attempting to backtrack.

    • Funny how the 'hammering' as you so revisit it includes your own spin. Look back at what he really said then. I dare you. And then ask who's the revisionist.

  2. NO. YOU'RE the one revising history john g. Ignatieff has been consistent in what he is saying. He argues that taxes shouldn't be raised while we are still in a recession but that it would be irresponsible for any leader to rule out the possibility of raising taxes once the economy stabilizes in order to get the deficit back under control.

    http://www.timescolonist.com/news/canada/Future+h

    http://news.therecord.com/article/520203

    And the fact that he "got hammered by the media", and the fact that guys like you are still misrepresenting and oversimplifying what he said, proves Pearson's point.

    I would LOVE an honest discussion about public finances/taxes but frankly Canadians, and especially our media, haven't shown themselves capable of engaging in one.

    • I'm not misrepresenting or oversimplifying anything. "We will have to raise taxes" is a direct quote from the second article you linked. Everything else that came after that quote was an attempt to soften his stance. And to say that Ignatieff has been consistent on anything except his inconsistency is a joke. If all he said was that a tax hike couldn't be ruled out then I would agree with the premise of this post. But that's not all he said, and no amount of wishful thinking will change that.

      I would also love an honest discussion about it as well, but would love someone to pick up the torch in favour of cutting spending, rather than have all the parties involved wishing to leave spending as it is or increase it.

      • Anyone who is really interested in having an adult conversation would be asking very serious questions as to how the present govt under Harper can cut taxes and increase spending (as they had been doing the past 3 years on both counts) while pouncing on someone, be it an opposition leader or anyone else, who points out correctly that we will have to pay the piper off the backs of future generations of Canadians.

        • So then Iggy is not interested in having an adult conversation, since he's clearly too afraid to admit that he would have to raise taxes as PM, right? Well, at least sometimes he's too afraid to admit it, including now.

          • You have just made the point why it is not possible to have an adult conversation with some people. Have a good day.

          • yes, the maturity of the CONbot crowd would be amusing if not scary. It's the same kind of mind-think that brought the world eight years of George W, which helped lead to the biggest economic flush in recent memory and a killing field that continues to flourish today. Here's hoping their evil spawn is happy just staring into his magic mirror…

  3. Shorter Pearson: I'm not saying anything, because the meanies will make fun of me.

    Just the sort of approach you look for in a party leader.

    • Shorter Madeyoulooky: Hey, my guy wouldn't dare tell us what he's thinking of doing, but I'm all for mocking and trumping up the charges of the other guys…

      • Dan has trouble keeping up, so I will try to help, yet again…

        Dan, I don't HAVE a guy anymore.

    • Shorter Wherrey….god I hate writers block, oh new post from Pearson.

    • Shorter madeyoulook: "This is what it looks like when someone has nothing to say but says it anyway."

      • Well, that's the perspective of one observer. I'll try to recover from the pain and anguish. Good news: already recovered!

  4. Trudeau: ridicules Bob Stanfield during 1974 election for his plan to introduce price and wage controls during a recession. Once re-elected Trudeau proceeds to..yes..introduce price and wage controls. Fondly remembered by many Canadians as one of our best PMs.

    Mulroney – Spends most of his political career attacking Liberals as tax-and-spenders. Runs very large deficits. Introduces the GST. Wins 2 majority governments.

    Chrétien: said he would cancel the GST. Kept it in place. Three straight majority governments.

    Harper: claims he is a fiscal conservative. Runs up 56-billion deficit and counting. Raises EI taxes. 2 straight election victories.

    Dion – Campaigns honestly on a plan that would tax fossil fuels and re-direct monies to personal income tax cuts and social programs. Gets defeated badly.

    Ignatieff – Briefly muses about the possibility of raising taxes in light of aforementioned 56-billion deficit. Gets trashed by media. Harper misrepresents his statement. Media lets him get away with it. Draw your own conclusions.

    • Difference between politics and a graduate seminar….and not just politics, anywhere you have to put some kind of policy in place, business, academic administration or running a church.

      I think the PPGallery and Canadians would welcome a conversation, but you can't put ideas out there and not expect to have to defend them or worse expect everyone to laud you and praise your brilliance. Which seems to be the expectations here. National politics isnt like senior kindergarten.

      If you have a stand then defend it, if you dont then say nothing.

      Oh and if you cant get your ideas/policies across without being taken out of context?…..geez, what job does he think a Party Leader and a political party is supposed to do? The advisors were right, but for the wrong reasons.

      Ignatieff and more importantly the Liberal Party are not ready for prime time yet….but blaming everyone, press, the conservatoives, the voters, the weather, the quality of the tape only delays the needed changes. right now Pearson reveals himself to be part of the problem and not the solution for his parties problems.

      What a whiner.

      • Somewhat off topic, I've never understood how people get away with the "this is the real world, not like Harvard/graduate seminar" line.

        I know from recent experience that the average graduate student has absolutely no faith in democratic will-formation. None. They know full well that the world is a complete mess, and that sober deliberation is mostly a fantasy. It's hard to overestimate how jaded the average PoliSci PhD candidate can be.

        It's politicians that trumpet how everything should be easy, and that everything will be fine once we have one of those "fair-hearing" debates.

        Canadians don't want a debate. The last ten years (Liberal and Conservative) have been all about avoiding the structural issues of the day by each one outspending the other – hence the past few years' grotesque partisanship coupled with a Wellsian "Grand Coalition."

        That whole Harvard/University/Real World meme is totally backwards. But I totally agree that Ignatieff et al. just aren't very good at their jobs.

        • Its not about cynicism versus pollyanna….I would argue that too much cynicism belongs in the graduate room as well. it is about about practicality vesus theory. how you get your ideas communicated and implemented.

          Showing up is just the beginning, participating is point. So grad students are always cycnical, it is a detatchment that breeds that. If Iggy can't communicate his ideas or organize his party or co-ordinate a press conference then what is he doing asking to be PM? none of those things are what make a good PM on their own, but not doing the guarantees being a bad PM, or a bad Opposition leader in Dion's case.

          The academic view is that either the innocent one that ideas alone should prevail, or the charicature that politicians can only succeed by being scheming devious liars….Pearson and Iggy seem to inhabit both of those senitments. They both need to grow up and figure out how to actually make a party work and how to lead.

          Practicality, not cycnicism or onnocence is what marks the non academic view.

          • Ok, now I get where you are coming from. I would agree with you then. I clearly read too much partisan stuff into your post. My bad.

            And, to reiterate, I definitely agree that the Liberals need to start acting like professionals.

    • This wasteful spending is only taking place because the Libs, NDP, and the scumbag Bloc for this on us. Either wasteful spending or the Bloc directing national policy! Plain and simple. I know I will be attack for this but its the truth plain and simple!

  5. Well the straight talk isn't going to come from Harper.

    Ignatieff is probably the only leader who could deliver a no nonsense state of the economy address. But Ignatieff is still an inexperienced politician and party leader. Igantieff is finding his own voice and it is more challenging than in the past.

    The Conservatives have the money and tendency to package communication "from the Liberals", spinning the tales with more frequency and colour than real life. Most of the media, including social media, dances with the Conservative spun Liberal messages.

    Our only hope for a no BS future is for the media to get real with the politicians (all parties). Politicians, like hockey players will treat the media like referees in a hockey game. Politicians and players see no benefit to following the rules if the opposing team is winning by breaking rules without penalty from the ref.

    Poor officiating can destroy the market for a sport, ask ice dance. The writers and those that post need to be more responsible. It looks like Glen Pearson has stepped up and taken Coyne at his word. Let's get our democracy back on track.

    • One thing i'd like to see our media address is the question of partisan advertising outside of the political writ. It's like no-one's even questioning it. Right now it's benefting the cons, but the worm can easily turn. It'll only get worse. We don't need it. It mocks honest debate and in the case of the Dion and Ignatieff adds is pure propoganda. However, i don't like censorship so to my mind all bets are off once the writ gets dropped.

  6. Pearson's missed on of AC's key points. You don't charge in like a bull in a china shop and start talking about raising taxes. Many astute observers aknowledge that this may in fact become necessary. At which time raising the GST is the best tax to raise. But if you don't start by addressing the balloning govt deficit [ prior to stimulus] you run the risk of looking like you want to raise taxes and continue with Harper's record spending. Ignatieff still has a lot to learn – an old lobo wolf like Chretien would have grasped Coyne's point instinctively.
    Pearson misses the overall thrust of Coynes advise – yes be bold and daring, but don't be a fool about it. Seems like Pearsons concluded that if being bold gets you picked on, then timidity is the better part of valour.

  7. Unfortunately, the media won't even come clean that they are addicted to Harper's manipulation, including the hidden cost of the 'stimulus spending' he's directing their way, to even honestly examine his lack of clarity. It is really too easy to go 'Boo!' instead of asking the 5 W's… In other news, US media has yet to admit culpability in echoing charges against John Kerry's patriotism/war record as spun by the Republican sleeper campaign of 2004.

  8. One problem that journalists face is that they are required to report the "news", even if such news is carefully crafted to manipulate the public. While (some) people want to read deeper analysis of the events of the day, most people also want to know what is happening right now. If a news organization didn't spend time covering the latest products of the spin merchants, they would lose readership to those that did.

    And many news outlets don't have the financial resources to deploy reporters to cover both in-depth stories and daily events. In such cases, the former suffers.

  9. In other words, Iggy has become completely spooked by the prospect of what others, including the media and the government, will say about any "honest" proposals he has to offer. Hey, that's leadership!

    • wresting the deficit under control with no new taxes?

      No, that's leadership……

      • and it's a type of leadership being displayed by who exactly at the moment?

        • Only problem is that there's no wrestling, no interaction on the issue, in fact, your team continues to provide smoke and mirrors when it comes to fiscal responsibility that they harp on about their opponents. Harper isn't providing leadership, but like good sheeple, you're following anyways. I think your initials really say all we need to know about you…

          • dan – You need to be a little more specific, it'll take him all day to figure that out.

          • Yes, kcm, we all know that all you have in response to me is this partisan childishness. Lord forbid you address the issue at hand. It's just easier to fart, isn't it. Good for you.

          • So, you don't have an answer to the question either. lol. Next.

  10. This is unfair! This is unfair!

    Where have we heard that before?

    The Liberals would like to talk policy but they can't because:

    a) The media and the opposition would misrepresent their policy proposals and/or

    b) the Conservatives would steal them.

    So we can't blame Liberals for their present predicament.

    It's everyone else's fault.

    • Just like the deficit is the fault of the opposition parties who forced SH into spending….

      The Canadian Coat of Arms is quickly becoming crossed arms with fingers pointing in opposite directions

      Open both eyes and you'll see all sides playing this game.

      • Michael Ignatieff took major credit for the last budget, it's all on the pubilc record.

        Now he blames the Conservatives for the deficit in large measure caused by the budget he took credit for.

        And now Ignatieff and Glen Pearson are moralizing and chastising others to become truthful and consistent.

        The Liberal Party of Canada has plumbed the depths of political hypocrisy more than any other political party known to mankind. Pearson should look at his own Liberal Party's hypocrisy before casting the first stone.

        Are these guys for real.

        • Is Jarrid for real!

          • Why wouldn't he be, especially when the question comes from someone like you. lol. Or did I miss the part where you actually has something of substance to rebut him with? Geez.

            Do I think the Liberals are the worst hypocrites in world history? Of course not. But at least jarrid makes some points along the way. You?

          • Actually i respect jarrid's tenacity if not content, we go back away. Not that i'd expect you to notice or care – Troll.

          • You wrote: "Is Jarrid for real!" How in the world is that an example of showing respect for the guy? lol. Next.

          • Jarrid has a sense of humour – you meh. Troll.

  11. Fact is we have a media deficit……..to think they're our source for info and news.

    ……sigh……..

    • You forgot to include pollsters in there too OT, they're a hopeless bunch, why even Nanos is letting the Lib side down these days.

  12. Pearson is not doing any favours for his leader by casting him as some kind of hothouse flower.

    • Well Pearson apparently belongs to same "sensitive" school of politics.

      • What a stupid thing to say.

        • Really?

          his beahviour seems to indicate otherwise, whinging to other MP's about not attacking his leader, criticizing all others for criticizing his party and leader, getting upset that if only others would listen his leader would save the country….only Michael can do it……

          Pearsons pleadings recently have been all about how badly treated the Liberals and Ignatieff is/are. If that isnt the sensistive school I dont what is. Dont criticize, dont expect a defence, dont do the work…..you dont like sensitive…pick one of these words they all apply

          delicate, easily affected, emotionable, emotional, hung up, hypersensitive, impressible, nervous, oversensitive, supersensitive, tense, ticklish, touchy, touchy feely, umbrageous…..I particlarly like the last one, it means apt to take offence.

  13. Glen's right – there's a vast media conspiracy in Canada, against informed and sensible debate. Check the UK papers to see how differently this same debate is unfolding there.

    • Canadian politics is a strange animal all right. Not enough you have to face the full might and majesty of the govt . You've got to skate into a 30knot blizzard and uphill and…what's the use of whining. Life's tough, get tough liberals.

  14. Ones gets the impression that Mr Ignatieff expected to be handed the prime ministership just like he was handed the Lib leadership – on a platter.

    He needs to learn to do things the old fashined way – earn it.

    • One gets a sense that Harper expects to be handed a majority the same way he took control of the conservative movement in Canada — financed by unknown supporters, based on one major lie and a hundred mini ones, where so many of his actions fly in the face of his words but still somehow manage to stick because of the power of negativism. And the platter? Long as it provides a reflection, Harper's happy.

  15. It's hard to pin down just when Canadians (citizens, parties and candidates, reporters and editorialists, etc.) became so obsessed with what they call small-ball down south. Really important trends and issues seem to have faded from the agenda and most parties pussyfoot around them most of the time. This is no dig at Conservatives, who have identified this desire among the population to not be bothered by any big issues and have been very savvy at taking advantage of it. The two biggest parties, for instance, seem happy to ignore an eight-year-old war in which we are on the losing side.

    I think the clearest example was the retail politics of the GST cut two campaigns ago. It wasn't a pressing matter at all, did nothing to benefit most Canadians, hurt government finances and was a step backwards in the eyes of most economists from the left and the right. But we ate it up. Despite the majority of federal funding coming directly from our income taxes, we actually went for a piddling cut to a consumption tax, little of which trickled down to the consumer. Almost everyone knew it was at best dopey and at worst stupid, but we went for it nonetheless. Even commentators who pointed out its silliness — and the opportunity cost vs. more meaningful changes to our tax policies — celebrated the "Tim's Crowd" meme and quickly moved on to some Montreal girl's dress.

    Here we are with massive, yet finite, natural resources, but do we have a long-term industrial plan like Norway or Qatar, to prepare for when resource stocks or prices collapse? Does anyone care that manufacturing industries that have employed hundreds of thousands now get by with a just few thousand? Or that, by some measures, we trail Belgium in the export of professional services? That half of the voting age population can't find 20 minutes to participate in an election? That our cities — where most Canadians live and work — have no real way to raise their own capital for investment? That rural Canada is losing its ability to employ young people and support families?

    I have a feeling that, Conservative or Liberal or indifferent, this small-ball will come back to haunt us.

    Man, it really is Monday morning, isn't it?

    • Good stuff.

  16. "In response, Glen Pearson wonders if the press gallery is ready to do likewise."

    Glen Pearson is correct in saying that MSM would tear Ignatieff to pieces but the real question is this:

    Should that stop him?

    • Agreed. Better to burn out …

      • Anyone know where we can find a fiscally conservative party around here? Liberal or conservative, either or!

    • Well.. given that Canadians elected the party with "No Platform" over the one that put a platform out and got savaged.. I'd say the evidence suggests it should if he wants a chance to enact any sort of platform at all.

    • Well.. given that Canadians elected a party with no platform over the one that put a platform out and got savaged.. I'd say the evidence suggests it should if he wants a chance to enact any sort of platform at all.

  17. Didn't Pearson recently write about what a wonderful leader Iggy is and he's the only person qualified to lead us into 21st century economy? And now Pearson says that Iggy can't be expected to hold on to his ideas/plans in the face of one or two days of mediocre headlines. It is like TwoYen kinda says, Libs have sense of entitlement – media and others are expected to carry Lib water each and every day.

    • No, just some libs.

  18. I know that memories tend to be short in politics, but the Harper Conservatives were first elected to government on a very specific policy platform. Once parties form governments, however, they usually run on their record in implementing that platform, or on their record in general.

    For opposition parties to for government, they have to convince the electorate that the status quo is untenable, and that the alternative that they're presenting is preferable. So, far, I think the Liberals have been a failure on both fronts, but goo thing Iggy didn't get his election yet. Time could be his friend, despite himself.

  19. Remember back in the last election when Dion mused that we might need to run a deficit to deal with the recession?

    Harper did his best "I'm blind!" act to claim there was no recession and that he would never run a deficit. The media reported it as a huge gaffe on Dion's part.

    They were right. Telling the truth during an election campaign? Huge mistake! Nobody smart would ever do that! The correct response is to promise a bunch of stuff that you have no intention of delivering, because telling people the truth will get you skewered in the media, while transparent lies are perfectly safe.

    Pearson is absolutely right. Political reporting in this country is focused entirely on "gotcha!" moments and not on substance. Not that the media will ever acknowledge that, it makes them look bad and they really hate that.

    Iggy talking about takes? Major mistake. Nevermind that huge deficit that we might want to pay off at some point. The approved media position is that taxes must go down, and the deficit fixes itself somehow later.

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