On second thought

by Aaron Wherry

Tom Flanagan talks to the Winnipeg Free Press about Michael Ignatieff, attack ads, the coalition and political party funding.

During last winter’s constitutional crisis, Flanagan wrote in The Globe and Mail that “Gross violations of democratic principles would be involved in handing government to the coalition without getting approval from voters.” A week earlier, Harper, too, claimed the opposition could not take power without an election.

Flanagan now appears to have shifted his position and backed away from Harper’s. “I wouldn’t rule out parties coming together to form a coalition and whatever Mr. Harper may have said in the heat of the moment I don’t think should be interpreted as constitutional theory because he was in a fight for his life.”




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On second thought

    • We shake our heads and ignore it, seems to be the way. *rolls eyes* *gah*

    • Then it's something they were forced to do by the actions of others.

  1. "and whatever Mr. Harper may have said in the heat of the moment I don't think should be interpreted as constitutional theory because he was in a fight for his life."

    Once again, the Harper Conservatives are never responsible for anything they do, or anything they say.

    What's Flanagan's excuse for lying to Canadians, by the way?

    • How exactly does the about-face of a UC Political Studies Professor demonstrate irresponsibility by the Harper Conservatives, exactly?

      • Flanagan qrote an op-ed in the Globe and Mail at the time echoing Harper's position that a coalition government was somehow a usurpation of power. Now Flanagan is claiming that HARPER shouldn't be held accountable for lying about the fact that coalitions are a legitimate part of our system of government, but FLANAGAN also lied about it (in the G&M). Flanagan is proposing excuses for Harper and conveniently ignoring that he committed the same sin.

  2. "Recently, Flanagan received a lot of media criticism for saying that political attack ads don't have to be true, they just have to be plausible."

    I would like to know why so many liberals think this is a devastating admission? 'Soldiers …. with guns …. on our streets' might have seemed truthful to a few partisans but most of the electorate thought it was over the top rhetoric.

    • 'Soldiers …. with guns …. on our streets'

      That ad was was nixed by Martin for broadcast.
      It appeared online before it could be pulled and hurt him anyway.

      • 'Soldiers …. with guns …. on our streets'

        That ad was was nixed by Martin for broadcast.
        It appeared online before it could be pulled and hurt him anyway.

        …bears repeating until the basement-dwellers stop comparing that brief episode to three years of attack campaigns.

        • They won't stop. It's what they do.

          • They learned the wrong lessons about the "broken record technique" from their assertiveness training courses.

          • "broken record technique"

            And that folks, is what I call "ironical". Second beaut in 36 hours!

          • Careful someone doesn’t start rooting in your irony deficit account. That’s if it wa worth the effort involved.

          • How is it "ironical?"

      • My point was that obviously many Lib partisans thought it was plausible enough to make an ad about. Luckily for Libs, Martin knew the ad was not remotely plausible, never mind truthful.

        Pols have been making accusations about their opponents that are not 100% accurate for centuries. Since when are pols known for being truthful?

        • The point you don't get is that Liberal partisans thought it unacceptable enough to never run the ad.

          • They never ran it because of the backlash, not because they had second thoughts about the truth.

            In the same batch of ads we had Harper abolishing abortion with young girls curling up in despair, abolishing gay marriage, and guns being pointed in the viewers faces for increased 'effect'.

    • Public discourse likes to operate in the realm of what should be, not necessarily what is. Partisanship and attack ads being concepts so connotatively negative, individuals can't help but react to them in negative ways.

      Then again, attack ads garner such a negative connotation at least in part because they often stretch the bounds of good taste. Puffin excrement being just another example, in addition to the one you note in your comment.

      • "individuals can't help but react to them in negative ways"

        If individuals react in negative ways to these ads, why have pols been making outlandish claims about their opponents for centuries? A few tender souls might react negatively to attack ads but I don't believe that to be true for population as a whole.

        • “If individuals react in negative ways to these ads, why have pols been making outlandish claims about their opponents for centuries”

          Nice spin attempt. But we aren’t living in the past where you just got up on a stump and maligned your opponent are we? It’s war now, all the time, 24/7. The game has changed enough to warrant charges of propaganda. Keep the attack adds within the election period – that is enough torment for us all.

          • I am referring to Flanagan's truth/plausible comment. Pols have been making less than 100% true statements for centuries. Watching Libs flapping their lips and generally behaving like Victorian Spinsters about Flanagan's comment is entertaining but not at all surprising.

            Harper wants to grind up poor people to use as mulch on his diamond farm = fair comment according to Libs.

            Calling someone a visitor to his country after he has lived more than half of his life abroad = completely out of bounds and despicable according to Libs.

          • No liberal adds have been running making this point [ not sure about NDP - but that's their claim re: both main parties] and if they did i woudn't applaud. I never thought much of the way the "hidden agenda" stuff was done either. Harper should have been forced into a position where he did have to outline his programme for the country. He partially did this, but a lot was left unsaid…therefore the impression remained that he had something to hide – again i would much have preferred journalists had asked these questions. Similarly with Ignatieff just visiting – a legimate question…why were you away so long? But they didn't stop with questions did they? " Just in it for himself" was a scurrilous attack one his character…contemptible. Again there is a forum for questioning why he came back. As to TF's truth/plausible remark, i agree it could be levelled at any politician who's ambitious…but that doesn't change the fact that it is unethical, and we should say so. Or are ethics passe' nowadays?

          • I am 99% certain that all parties would not agree what is 'ethical' and what isn't. That's why I only care that pols/parties are not actively breaking the law. Other than that, anything goes as far as I am concerned.

            Where is the forum to talk about Iggy and why he came back if not the public forum?

            My favourite part of politics is when they level scurrilous accusations against one another so I am not the one to ask about ethics and politics.

          • “Where is the forum to talk about Iggy and why he came back if not the public forum”

            Don’t know what forum you’re talking about? I’m talking about the one where this sort of topic used to stay. On political talk shows, amongst quality journalists, even around the coffee table for those so inclined. Technology and the ability to tap deep into the citizens personal slush funds – if you can keep them pissed for long enough [ and no body does that better than cons] has changed the game. Now you can bypass the professional pundits with your propaganda[ no need to be true remember] no need to actually defend your position anymore – go straight to the source, unvarnished.
            Anything goes as far as you’re concerned.. and i’m quite prepared to see limits placed on free speech, if that’s what it takes.Be careful what you wish for. It can only get uglier. Yes, i’d say you and i are many miles apart on this issue.

        • Because eventually, they work, rightly or wrongly. Just because people don't like them doesn't mean they don't hear the message, or start asking questions – just ask John Kerry how the windsurfing ad so helped his campaign.

          I don't think mudslinging is ethical or moral, but I'm not going to bother making the argument that it isn't effective.

    • I think part of the backlash has to do with the high horse this particular group rode in on. Also, the tendency of Harper and his posse to eschew basic decency and respect blurs the line between hardball political strategy, and outright pathological power lust. Most of us can live with the former, but some of us recoil from the latter.

      • "but some of us recoil from the latter"

        What did you think of Paul Martin, did you recoil from him? Martin had outright power lust, he had to fulfill his destiny to be PM to make up for his father not making it to the top. Martin was willing to blow up his party to achieve his dream.

        • Never was much of a Martin guy, myself. For some of the reasons you cite, and others. (But who gives a crap about the whole father thing with Martin, true or not?)

          There's also a big difference between doing damage to one's own party, and one's country. Say what you will about Martin's inept leadership, his long record of public service demonstrated motivations that went beyond sheer power.

          With Harper and the frat boys, all we get are the power games. And comparison to Liberal misdeeds when they get called out for anything. Not much to be proud of there.

          • "With Harper and the frat boys, all we get are the power games."

            I am not a Con or Lib supporter and I think your opinion applies equally to both parties. Libs don't have an ideology to worry about so all we get are power games, as far as I am concerned. Scott Reid and his comments about beer/popcorn or how someone should kill Harper is no better/worse than anyone on Con side.

            And I entirely disagree about Martin and his 'long record of service'. Martin ran for leadership around two years after he was first elected MP and had his people chanting despicable things about Chretien after he won leadership convention. The only reason Martin stuck around so long was because he had to wait for Chretien to retire to become PM.

      • I concur with recoiling from it when Harper displays it, as he not infrequently does.
        What always gets me, though, is those who seem to see it in Harper who never recoiled from it in Martin or Chretien.

  3. ‘Flanagan refused to agree with research showing that negative political ads are helping to push down voter turnout. Voter turnout has plunged from 72 per cent in the 1993 election to just 58 per cent in the 2008 contest. Research done by Angus Reid Strategies showed Conservative attack ads during the 2008 campaign persuaded 11 per cent of Canadians not to vote at all and had the hoped-for effect of depressing non-Conservatives from voting while inspiring the party faithful to go to the polls”

    Twerps like Flanagan wont be happy until polling levels reach around 30% of so…and all conservative die hards too.
    There is so much in this article that speaks to the lack of character and ethical bankruptcy of TF and neo con ideaology in general. On the bright side it does look like someone has given him a book to read on constitutional govt.

    • "Research done by Angus Reid Strategies showed Conservative attack ads during the 2008 campaign persuaded 11 per cent of Canadians not to vote at all and had the hoped-for effect of depressing non-Conservatives from voting while inspiring the party faithful to go to the polls"

      Does Angus Reid really believe 11% of the electorate was all ready to vote last election but a few ads kept them at home? And why do attack ads keep opposition at home? Do liberals or dippers say to themselves, 'Cons are being mean about my leader, I guess I won't vote for him then'.

      I would like to see this research because it sounds like a lot bs to me.

      • "Does Angus Reid really believe 11% of the electorate was all ready to vote last election but a few ads kept them at home?"

        Did Angus Reid assert that exactly?

        • I don't know what they asserted that's why I would like to see the research. But Frances Russell certainly makes it sound like that's what A-R is claiming.

          • "I don't know what they asserted that's why I would like to see the research."

            So are you going to dig deeper to find out, or is it sufficient for you to suggest there's good reason to doubt this research?

    • Don't forget that the article is written by a journalist who does not bave a reputation for maing unbiased opinions on conservatives. It is not surprising that Flanagan comes out looking bad. It is always worthwhile to keep in mind the bias of the journalist/commentator when reading thier comments.

  4. I'm calling it: Precocious senility.

  5. Ah so it's only okay to shamefully mislead Canadians about the basic facts of parliamentary democracy if you're in "the fight of your life". Glad that's cleared up.

  6. *yawn*

    • ‘Yet Flanagan defends his party’s perpetual ad campaign characterizing the Liberal leader as “just in it for himself” and “just visiting” Canada. Asked if he personally agrees with his party’s characterization of Ignatieff, he replied: “I don’t necessarily think that.” But he insisted it was up to Ignatieff to repudiate the “just visiting” claim. And he doesn’t know why the Liberals “don’t make their own plausible case” against the prime minister. “It wouldn’t be hard to write the ads”

      Anyone care to parse Flanagan here? I’ll give it a shot. Whether or not something is objectively true or not is not the issue. Since you have a chance to fling the crap too, what are you whining about? By the way the burden of proof of innocense of the politically acused and maligned is clearly on the defendant..er…Mr visiting…er er…Mr in it for himself…damn it…i meant Michael implausibility…why do keep asking me these leading questions? Can’t you see it’s your fault.

      • "Anyone care to parse Flanagan here?"

        Not without a copy of the DSM-IV nearby.

  7. Surely an act can be a gross violation of democratic principles while still being constitutionally acceptable?

    • That's something we all learned this last winter – the difference between democratic legitimacy and constitutinal law/convention. I tend to think we should have followed the latter, the former would surely have followed. This isn't what Flanagan is saying. His defence seems to be all's fair in love war and politics, and the devil take the hindmost.

      • Not necessarily. The populace could have stayed angry.

        But the coalition people would probably have done best had they held firm and tossed Harper. It was constitutional, and it was within their power, even after the six week break with prorogation — either they would have gotten government, or there would've been a snap election.

        Clarity, either way.

        • Except one way – the legal way would not have raised all these bogus questions surrounding coalitions – That's toxic now[ thanks Mr PM] The people would sill have got their say eventually. I'm sure you're not arguing that every time the people get upset they get to have their way, no matter what the law or constitution say. On top of which, when the dust has finally settled on this we may find Harper's greatest sin [ plenty on the other side too - political incompetence not being the least ] was to put the GG in an untenable position…essentially asserting the rights of a sitting PM to do whatever he/she so ever damn well chooses.

          • Can't do everything he likes: he put off the day of reckoning — can't get rid of it altogether; Parliament has to sit once a year. That's in the written part of the constitution.

            And the GG could have told the PM to get bent — at which point he'd have had to resign.

            Nothing illegal was done. It was messy, but still constitutional.

            ***

            The public doesn't always get what it wants. It's just that you ignore them at your peril, and only when you have _very_ good reasons.

  8. If you don't see the irony, it's beaut squared.

    • Someone's bitchy this morning.

  9. e to the power of beaut. This thing is going critical!

    • I genuinely have very little idea what you're talking about, except to gather that you're making the accusation that I've been behaving like a broken record.

      Believe me, I *can* but that has nothing to do with the point I made earlier in this portion of the discussion, which in fact, didn't address *you*.

  10. "Surely an act can be a gross violation of democratic principles while still being constitutionally acceptable?"

    Are you referring to prorogation here?

  11. On the main topic, that what our appointed prime minister Stephen Harper may have said in the heat of the moment should or should not interpreted as constitutional theory – Harper is always prime minister of Canada. He is responsible for what he has said. It's not as if he said he once – that he mispoke or anything. Our appointed PM encouraged the traitor-calling and civil disobesience.

    • I think it was more that the PM's Alberta MP minions propelled the astroturfing, along with some help at the municipal and provincial levels there. I guess TF, as a political science professor, can still learn from his earlier mistake.

  12. “I wouldn't rule out parties coming together to form a coalition and whatever Mr. Harper may have said in the heat of the moment I don't think should be interpreted as constitutional theory because he was in a fight for his life.”

    And there we go, folks. Tim Flanagan saying flat out that anything Harper says during "a fight for his life" aka threat of an election, should not be believed.

    Given that we're in a minority government and there's the threat of an election every day.. suddenly Harper's behavior becomes slightly more understandable.

    No more excusable, mind you, just understandable.

  13. There is nothing there to refute the concept of democratic constitutional principles, as outlined by the supreme court, which was part of Flanagans original argument.

    The constitution is purposfully vague on democratic principles, to allow adaptation and evolution. Although coalitions are clearly constitutionally valid, they may not carry democratic legitimacy…

  14. This has all the marks of “losers lament” … like a hockey team blaming a loss on the other team “playing rough”, etc. The Liberals and co. had all the tools at their disposal to turf Harper last year, but they couldn't muster it. Obviously it's not the ideal scenario to have anger be the motivating factor behind a change in government. That the charge to take down Harper was so emotionally-driven would not have helped it when it came time for the referee (GG) to make a ruling.

  15. [cont'd]__That the House passed the Conservatives' Throne Speech, even after hearing the Economic Statement, was their single biggest mistake. The Throne Speech is the first and most important test of confidence in a government, as it's Parliament's first opportunity to pass judgment on the government after an election. Even after that though, the opposition had many tools at their disposal that they failed to use. They should have moved Motions to Adjourn everyday the House was sitting, after making known their intentions to defeat the government. Such motions when successful are clear challenges to the government and immediately open up to question whether the government can command the House and enjoys its confidence. Surely no prorogation would've been allowed were such a question still up in the air. That Dion et al. couldn't muster even that much speaks volumes. I am sure that envoys in the GG's office were in contact with Dion, and the 2 hours or so that Michaelle Jean took to agree to Harper's request was Dion's last chance to marshal his forces and force the question. I also have little doubt that Ignatieff would've nixed such a recorded vote from occurring

  16. [cont'd]

    … if anything, he desired a steady Parliament for his leadership campaign.

    Me I just look forward to the next leaders debate, when the moderator will no doubt feel compelled to stress something like: “Just so all Canadians know, we do not elect governments in Canada, but rather a Parliament from which springs an executive. While tonight we are showcasing the current leaders of the major parties, it is not 100% certain that any of them will be our PM after the election. Very likely, but not 100% certain.”

    That, of course, is technically correct. But practically, of course, the average Canadian sees their vote as a vote for a government, for a certain governing platform, direction, etc. And they are right to view their vote that way, for what is the ultimate purpose of elections if not to have your say in how the country is governed?

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