The Ottawa bubble vs. the not-Ottawa bubble -

The Ottawa bubble vs. the not-Ottawa bubble

Stephen Harper’s former director of communications considers the clash between Conservative faithful and the Parliamentary Press Gallery


You don’t know Earl Cowan, but if you’re a member of the Media Party™, he wants you to get off the Prime Minister’s lawn.

According to ornery Earl, the press are lying pieces of sugar, honey, and iced tea. Their crime? Asking the Prime Minister a series of questions about Nigel Wright’s testimony at the Mike Duffy trial.

Upset at the Prime Minister’s treatment by members of the four-letter worded estate, Cowan vented his frustration with an un-parliamentary rant in front of a bank of cameras, thus earning his (small) place in Canadian political history.

Memo to Earl: save your breath. What do you expect from a pig but a grunt?

Related: Earl Cowan, the fly in the Conservatives’ rally ointment

Now before my friends in the media tell me to go stuff myself, I only mean to say that Earl shouldn’t get mad at you for doing your job, i.e. challenging the people in power or those clamouring for power. (Ok, fine, I also thought a farm metaphor might help Earl understand you better.)

But nor should the media get too upset at Earl. He isn’t the vanguard in the assault against democracy. He’s a regular guy who had a bad day – maybe it was too little Metamucil in the morning? Or too much? We’ll never know.

I suspect all in the hotel ballroom that day were disoriented by a type of vertigo that descends whenever the Ottawa bubble brushes up against the not-Ottawa bubble.

You see, the press covering the Prime Minister don’t often run into to people like Earl Cowan. And Earl Cowan definitely doesn’t run into people like the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

The media who cover politics for a profession obsess over the ins and outs of official Ottawa. The die-hard political supporters who show up to campaign events obsess over the ins and outs of things that have absolutely nothing to do with Ottawa.

When the two meet, s–t hits the fan.

This gap in interests—let’s call it the Cowan Coefficient—illustrates how insular a town Ottawa can be.

Which isn’t to say that what the Parliamentary Press cares about doesn’t matter. Only that it doesn’t necessarily matter, or even register with, the people who are deciding which party they want to mind the store for the next mandate.

To wit, Mr. Cowan thought the whole Mike Duffy affair was about the Senator cheating on his tax returns. Or about CTV reporter Laurie Graham not doing hers. Like I said, it was disorienting.

Now I don’t know Earl myself, but the Conservative Party of Canada makes it their business to know a lot about Earl and people like him.

They know that low taxes, tough-on-crime bills, and a smaller government is what Earl wants. His crowd worry about having a job and paying the bills, keeping their kids out of harm’s way, and having enough saved away for retirement.

And so when Earl goes to an election event and hears a question about why the Prime Minister’s answer from yesterday’s press conference on Mike Duffy has deviated by three words from today’s first answer on Mike Duffy, he wants to tell reporters where they can go.

The great worry for the Conservatives is that the Ottawa bubble seeps into Earl’s bubble and bursts their electoral hopes. Lost in the hysteria over Cowan was the fact that his fellow supporter that day was eagerly telling media that he didn’t believe Harper on Duffy and wanted “the truth.”

If even a small sliver of the Conservative faithful start acting like the Ottawa Gallery, it’ll be Harper that gets stuffed on October 19.

Andrew MacDougall is the Senior Executive Consultant at MSLGROUP London and a former director of communications to Stephen Harper.


The Ottawa bubble vs. the not-Ottawa bubble

  1. Cowan is what the Con party looks like to Canadians

    • Cowan is a Canadian, sport. But, I know there are lots of Lib’n’Dips who think THEY are Canada. It’s part of what makes the left so darling!
      As you lefties wallow in self-righteous indignation at a Tory using foul language, take a look a the left defacing the Canadian flag by scrawling “F Harper” all over it; and putting an “F Harper” t-shirt on a toddler. For you literally stupid lefty punks reading this: both instances (and there are many others) included the whole word. You lefties don’t know when you’re wrong. Oh but don’t stop; Canadians just LOVE watching you fool score these own goals!

      • I’ve heard lots of laughter.
        I think that’s the natural reaction to a spittle-flecked gramps screeching in rage that the media is asking too many questions about Duffy, while simultaneously demonstrating that the media apparently isn’t providing enough coverage to give gramps even a rudimentary understanding of what Duffy is on trial for.
        Add the unintended irony of accusing those reporters of ‘lying’ while wholly fabricating a story that they cheat on their taxes, and you’ve got comedy gold.

        Where can we find this “self-righteous indignation” you speak of?


      • Cowan is an angry ole white guy living in the 50s and shouting ignorance . Canadians aren’t.

        And I’m not a leftie

  2. As soon as I saw that this piece, two things showed its lack of credibility:
    — It’s by spin-meister and boot-licker Andie McDougall.
    — His use of the tired cliche ‘Media Party’, also makes it laughable.
    Wonder if Andie was angry at the ‘Media Party’ when they were covering the Liberal sponsorship scandal wall-to-wall, when they were all over Paul Martin?

    • why so angry Lou?
      Does it bother you when the PM lies?

  3. Cowan may be a lot of things, but he’s not a Joe Everyman having a bad day.

    This was his (shouty, unsolicited) opinion of Olivia Chow during a mayoralty debate in Toronto:

    “She wants Chinese currency here for exchange. And she speaks with a less-than-Canadian accent, even though she’s been here for half a century. And she was on the public housing system in Canada. You can’t have it both ways. If she wants to be a pretend-China, then go back to China.”

    I’ve been talking to a guy I grew up with recently, who has developed into a hardcore Conservative. He has so much of this blunt, inarticulate anger that I wonder how log it’s been since he’s met someone not ensconced in the right-wing echo chamber.

    • I totally agree with you. MacDougall is trying to portray Cowan as a simple conservative Everyman, when he is likely in the inner circle of the CPC in Etobicoke, working for Doug Ford and Opitz.

    • “the right-wing echo chamber” — so true! Reminds me of my mother-in-law (almost 90) and another Ford Nation™ oldster I know, who will start spouting the same untrue rage-filled right-wing points that partially come FROM the media (SUN newspapers and FOX news etc., and occasionally Macleans before Coyne finally gave up on Stephen Harper;), like they’ll shout out of nowhere “THERE’S A WAR ON CHRISTMAS! It’s illegal to wish someone a Merry Christmas now in downtown Toronto!” The polls vs. the results of the last U.S. election show just how far from reality the conservative bubble (INCLUDING its own media bubble) has gone

  4. I believe that Mr. Cowan may be in early stage Dementia or Alzheimers. His misunderstanding of the Duffy issue, thinking it’s about income taxes, is typical of the confusion that many experience when in the grip of that disease. His Ford button indicates that he may not know what election this is, or even what year it is.
    His anger and belligerence are also typical.

    I urge Mr. Cowan, or his family, to speak with a doctor. He may need care, if not now, then in the near future.

    • The Duffy affair may not be about taxes, but the taxman may be interested in Duffy receiving a $90,000 gift. Gifts are not taxable, but there are limits to their value, and I haven’t nor will look into these limits, but this is a big amount for a gift. It could be deemed taxable income.

      • That may be true, but is nothing like what Earl Cowan claims it’s about.

  5. If anyone is in a bubble it is Mr. Harper. He will only speak to Canadians who have been vetted and approved. Even in the office his closest advisers keep him hermetically sealed. After all, he claims he did not know what they had cooked up to make the Duffy problem go away.

    You wrote a cheque, Nigel? I had no idea.

  6. Why does the author think that the NDP took Alberta? Part of the reason was that the former Premier announced that he was going to cut back on health care workers. This issue is always a good one.