Iggy criticized, aka I can’t believe it’s not journalism!


I picked up The Globe and Mail from the doorstep this morning. The headline on the front page read: “Ignatieff draws criticism for letting MPs break ranks.” I was intrigued. So, Iggy’s being criticized for allowing those Newfoundland and Labrador MPs to vote against the budget, eh? Interesting. I read on. I was curious to discover who was criticizing him.

The first person to criticize Ignatieff in the article was Tom Flanagan. As many of you will remember, Flanagan was – for an extended period of time – Stephen Harper’s right-hand man. Flanagan called Ignatieff’s decision “a sign of weakness in the brutal world of politics.”

The second person to criticize Ignatieff, in a single anonymous quote, was “one long-time Liberal.” This “long-time Liberal” said, “It looks bad.”(Wow, Long-time Liberal builds a convincing argument!)

The third person to criticize Ignatieff in the article was… no one. There was no third person.

So let’s recap.

1. The Globe and Mail apparently considers it front-page news when the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff, a Conservative, criticizes the Leader of the Opposition, a Liberal. This sets the journalistic bar a tad low, doesn’t it? Stop the presses everyone! Tim Murphy thinks Stephen Harper sucks at Boggle!

2. The Globe continues to grant anonymity to its political “sources” for reasons that can best be described as, “Uhh, why?” Anonymity should protect those providing important information at personal risk, not some gutless political hack with an axe to grind and some spare adjectives to emit. There’s always someone who disagrees with a political decision – it kind of matters who that someone is, doesn’t it? Is it Bob Rae criticizing his new leader? Or is it some old guy in Saskatoon who thinks the party’s gone straight to hell ever since Louis St. Laurent passed?

But if you’re going to be so lazy as a journalist, why stop with telling us what “one long-time Liberal” thinks? Don’t leave us hanging. What does “one Liberal MP” think? Where does “one former Liberal strategist” stand? How is “a senior party official” reacting to the news? How are we going to get the whole inaccurate and biased picture if we don’t get the full range of pointless and slanted quotes?

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Iggy criticized, aka I can’t believe it’s not journalism!

  1. How are we going to get the whole inaccurate and biased picture if we don’t get the full range of pointless and slanted quotes?

    a brilliant comment on the inept struggles of the Globe as it tries to response to charges that it is anti-Harper

    but to be fair, it appears Flanagan is Mother Nature herself as he clearly abhorts a (journalistic) vacuum. With Taber’s piece (of …) and the earlier op-ed I propose the following verbing

    flanagan: 1) to provide horrible advice unsolicitied to ones opponents in the vain hope that they will forget it is coming from their worst enemy
    2) to provide ridiculus comment to really objecitve and naive third parties in the hope that they will transform it into 1) and print in national media

  2. If that’s the best the Globe can do for a front page headline how much of the real news as opposed to opinion being fronted as news, has been buried to make way for this nonsense.?

    This is my favourite phrase from your current post,. “some spare adjectives to emit.” Most writers know that too many adjectives in the pot spoil the stew.

  3. Good for him…cheers to democracy

  4. From Chantal Hebert’s column of this morning:

    “Furthermore, St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe suggests that his province’s MPs might actually be more effective if they sat as an independent bloc in the Commons. O’Keefe does not mention the Bloc but the parallels are obvious.”

    How can Iggy lead the country if he can’t lead his caucus. Do the Newfoundland’s MP’s answer to Danny Williams or to Michael Ignatieff? It sure looks like the former. In a sense their allegiance is to Danny since he helped them get elected.

    Is the Liberal party a true national party?

    Outside of Toronto, the island of Montreal and West Vancouver, and a few seats in the three maritimes that’s about it. They no longer have effective control of their Newfoundland caucus.

    • I thought MPs were ultimately accountable to their constituents, not Michael Ignatieff? I guess that is a Liberal view of representational government in Canada however. Perhaps kicking dissenting MPs out of a party and attempting to have them charged for theft and embezzlement is a better method of governing, especially when there is no evidence. After all, such false allegations and leaked RCMP reports don’t make front page news in this country.

      • No, in the minds of Conservatives, the Party Leader trumps an MPs constituents. The Tories would (apparently) NEVER allow an MP or group of MPs from their party to vote differently from their leader. Not even with the leader’s permission. If we don’t all follow Dear leader unflinchingly, then the nation is at risk.

        • I call this the Daddy MethodTM of leadership.

    • You can always count on Jarrid for a knee-JERK comment…

  5. The mayor should stay out of it. If they were independant, they wouldn’t have much say, financial backing, wouldn’t be on committees, etc.

    If they keep it up, all Canadians will get fed up with them. They (NFLD) should learn when they are crossing the line.

    • “They (NFLD) should learn when they are crossing the line.”

      Have they been told they’ve crossed the line by Iggy? Iggy is letting them draw their own lines.

  6. I don’t recall the Liberals ever having their caucus split on a confidence vote, or any other vote in the House for that matter, under Dion.

    Not an auspicious debut for Iggy.

    The whole caucus if necessary, but not necessarily the whole caucus.

    One thing I’ll say for Iggy, he’s consistent in hid refusal to take a stand. If I’m a Liberal, I’m starting to wonder if this guy knows what it takes to lead. Iggy, you’re going to start disappointing your fans. The Liberals have suffered mightily with two spineless leaders in a row. Don’t make it three in a row. Don’t make it three in a row.

    • I can see that if this keeps up, Jarrid, you are going to be left with no choice but to withdraw your support for the Liberals. That would be a shame.

      • I believe he’s already been booted out of caucus.

        • Really? Damn fascists…


    • Yeah, under Dion they would have abstained to the last man.

      I hardly see how it’s relevant if a few Liberal MPs vote against the budget. It’s not like they are enough to keep it from passing (far from it).

  7. This whole saga of the NL MP’s is a great example of the power of representative democracy, which half of us spent the last two months attacking.

    If Newfoundlanders had been directly electing a PM, their votes would not now count — Harper became PM after the election, and overall the Tories had the highest % of the popular vote.

    If Newfoundlanders had been voting under a PR system, their votes would not now count — having voted (generally) Liberal, the Liberal leader has decided to support the budget.

    Either way, all power is entrusted to a national leader.

    Under good old-fashioned representative democracy, by contrast, each individual MP faces the fact that he/she is going to have to face his/her constituents in an election. So even if we only vote every 4-5 years (or 6 months, as the case may be), the MP is constantly feeling the heat, constantly having to respond to constituents’ concerns.

    By contrast, a US-style Presidential system might well kow-tow to The People at all times, i.e. govern by poll; but it would reckon with them only in the aggregate. A president couldn’t care less about local concerns per se. In a country as regionally divided and prone to bickering as ours, I don’t see how that could work.

    So, while I don’t understand the NL Mind when it comes to Canada, “fairness,” or equalisation, I have to say that in this case the system is working perfectly.

    • Canada more than any other country, relies on national parties that forge a consensus. That is how the Liberals and the Conservaties have governed the country since confederation in 1867. The great national parties have a crucial role in keeping Canada united politically. If the great national parties break down it will be chaos. Pierre Trudeau would have quelled this revolt immediately. Another reason he’d be turning in his grave at what the modern day Liberal Party has wrought.

      “So, while I don’t understand the NL Mind when it comes to Canada,“fairness,” or equalisation…”

      J@ck, there ain’t much to understand, Danny Williams thinks that in this time of economic restraint, his province should get a pass. NL already has a better deal than other provinces on equalization. He’s just being greedy. His MP’s are doing his bidding. They are now effecitvely his MP’s, they answer not to Iggy in Ottawa but rather Danny in St. John’s.

      • All hail the “great national parties”!

        Apparently they’re the only thing keeping us all from anarchy.

        The Tories ought to use this line of reasoning as a slogan next election. “Vote for the party, not the person, or we’re ALL GOING TO DIE!!!”


        • LOL

      • For myself, Jarrid, I’m 100% in favour of Canadian unity — and like you I find the endless regionalism nauseating. It’s just depressing that many Canadians think of Canada as little more than a Get Rich Quick club, or at least treat it like one.

        Still, I don’t think the way to build Canadian unity is by centralising power. I think Canadians themselves need to be shown / convinced that Canada is vital, that national concerns should trump regional concerns: if they don’t believe that, false unity will only stir up more and more resentment. Once they do believe it, they can vote for it.

        This NL scenario is a good example. The MP’s are voting against the budget, and against the Liberal line, because, as you say, they’re in Danny’s pocket. Well, that actually is the situation on the ground in NL — a tyrant rules the Rock, backed up by (as I understand it) massive popular support. How could it be good for Canada if the federal MP’s defied such aggressive local sentiment? All it would do is send the signal to Newfoundlanders that federal politics is irrelevant or pernicious.

        We need somebody to make the case that Canada is a) not a Get Rich Quick club, b) more important than regional grievance, c) worth a few compromises. We could start by carving in stone exactly what the relationship is between the federal government and the provincial governments, in terms of jurisdiction and in terms of moolah — some sort of Covenant. But right now we don’t seem to have any national leader with the necessary political capital.

      • Are provincial politics healthy in this country? We all focus on the federal scene but look at the mess in NL, no real opposition to king Danny. AB is another case, no change in 40 odd yrs. It’s not healthy!

    • So even if we only vote every 4-5 years

      Every 4 or 5 years? I’ll have you know that we have fixed election dates in this country!

      By the way, I completely agree with your other points. Journalists are doing Canadians a great disservice by constantly misrepresenting how the parliamentary system works.

      • “I’ll have you know that we have fixed election dates in this country!”


        That just never stops being funny!

  8. Let me guess…. The said “lazy” reporter is Jane Taber?

    • That’s what the byline said, but there was no mention in the story of Laureen Harper being stylish, gracious and generous, so we can’t be 100% certain.

      • Once people understand that Taber is in fact a gossip columnist, her “articles” become much easier to swallow.

      • Yes, but there was mention of the food and wine served at the dinner, as there was in Taber’s story about Belinda Stronach’s first meal as a Liberal with Paul Martin; and in her piece on Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc’s Last Supper as leadership contenders with Michael Ignatieff.

        So, it’s a good bet.

        Hey, here’s an idea for a fundraiser: a book of Jane Taber’s political recipes! Gleaned from the pages of the Globe & Mail, each recipe will allow at-home cooks to dine like real Canadian politicians.

        That’s news you can use!

        • It’s funny – I actually got most annoyed at the food comment.

          I mean, if it’s the globe’s editorial stance that Canadians should know what politicians serve their private guests, then sure, go for it. I’d love to see the published rationale behind it.

          Otherwise, if this is just illustrative flourish, then I’d ask Feschuk’s question: why? who cares?

          Because, in all honesty, I can’t see any other reason anybody would find this interesting other than it tying in with the Conservative narrative of Ignatieff’s being fancy-dancy.

          To be clear; I’m not calling Taber out as biased, just an equal-opportunity but lazy muckraker who connects the dots between juicy storylines. She does this to Tories too.

          • Of course the food is important!!! The fact he drank an Ontario Chardonnay instead of Newfoundland Screech speaks volumes doesn’t it?

            Plus it helps up the word count.

      • no mention of cats, either

  9. I thought all the Senate position were filled…?


  10. Taber is great. Where else would we go when we want to know what they ate at the secret meetings?

    I think the headline, Ignatieff draws criticism, is accurate but not nearly backed up in the article. Iggy’s decision to allow NFLD 4 to vote against budget while making the rest of his caucus vote for it would have been controversial within caucus and the Lib party.

    Don’t know what to do about anon quotes. You hope the reporter has some ethics/sense and uses quality sources but who really knows. I find the practice in some American papers to explain why the person was granted anonymity to be quite odd. You often get something like, ‘the person was granted anon because he/she was not authorized to talk about it in public’. You have to hope reporters have standards, I guess, but I have little faith in reporters nowadays.

    • i honestly think the solution is very easy – no anonymous quotes, ever, simply to criticize a political rival. such quotes are absolutely useless to readers unless they know who the person is and can judge for themselves the person’s motives.

      meanwhile, you can still allow the judicious use of anonymous quotes to shield the identify of those who reveal factual information that might be of use or interest to readers.

      am i missing something?

      • Is it easy to draw the distinctions you mention? I have no idea. I imagine reporters/editors would be up in arms if newspapers adopted those standards because they would have to some real reporting. Also, many of us political news junkies seem to enjoy political gossip/drama/backstabbing and it would be hard to do without anon quotes.

        I think, overall, Libs love of anon quotes helps their party. Their willingness to talk/gossip ensures Libs are always setting the agenda in daily news cycle. I am not certain banning some anon quotes would be helpful to Libs but it would make newspapers more credible.

      • Yes, down with anonymous quotes – I hate it when people hide behind punctuation marks!

        Maybe Jane could compromise and start using avatars. Like “long-time Liberal” becomes “Cookie Monster” and “senior party strategist” becomes ‘Arniold Ziffel”. Then we can at least know if she is exclusively going to the Cookie Monster for anonymous quotes, or whether she sources are from more than one production company.

      • The Times’ rule is that more information has to be provided . Eg, if instead of a long-time Liberal it said “a senior member of Michael Ignatieff’s staff” or “a long-serving back-bench MP” it is much more justifiable than a ‘long-time liberal’ which tells the reader nothing.

        Additionally, there should be a good reason for being anonymous – that Michael Ignatieff will be annoyed is not sufficient.

        • I think how they describe the anon source does tell you something. I was just looking at past Taber columns and they are not all the same. I think ‘long-time liberal’ tells you the source is not very close to centre of power or else they would be described as ‘Lib insider’ or ‘Lib MP’ (both descriptions were used for anon sources in her article on message control a few days ago).

          I understand the NY TImes rule but I think it is odd at the same time. They give some weird reasons why the person was granted anon.

      • No, you nailed it. Your commentsabout this not being a story are true. The fact that Flanagan would disagree with a Liberal has never been news. If he agreed with one now THAT would be news. Anonomous quotes really don’t mean much, just like anonomous entires in blogs.

  11. GLOBEBOT ENGAGE: Funny post Scott, and a fair point as far as she goes. Of course, this is not exactly a novel tactic the Globe has all of a sudden come up with. It is never “Politician does something”, it’s always “Politician criticized for doing something”, and the critics are almost invariably anonymous sources or partisans opposite. Type in any politician’s name and the words “takes heat” into Google, and you’ll get a few examples.

    The reason they do this, is because to the layman, doing something is boring, but getting criticized is interesting. It intrigues people like you, as evidenced in the first paragraph of this post. Is it the Globe’s fault they can see a sucker from a mile away?

  12. I don’t think Flanagan expected his quote to make it into frontpage news. But, I think we can see the beginnings of an “IGGY – Not a Leader” ad campaign starting.

    Flanagan may also be trying to balance things out after calling Harper’s budget “creepy” last week.

  13. The manifestations of ADHD are pretty acute today among the young ‘uns. Is Canada experiencing a Ritalin shortage I’m not aware of?

  14. A long but relevant post, here’s the Times’ Bill Keller on anonymous sources this week (Jane Taber, please take notes):


    “Anonymity is both a vital tool and a serious hazard for journalists. Used carefully, an agreement to withhold a source’s name allows us to extract valuable information from people who would otherwise fear reprisals from an employer, legal jeopardy or other consequences. In extreme cases — reporting from Zimbabwe comes to mind — to name a source may be to mark that person for arrest or death. Much of what the public learns about official malfeasance, about corruption, about threats to our security or civil liberties, or, less dramatically, about how powerful institutions in our society actually work, starts with sources who will not talk without a measure of protection.

    At the same time, casual reliance on unnamed sources, as the readers above suggest, corrodes our credibility and, in cases that are rare but not rare enough, may abet journalistic malpractice.

    The Times policy, which was significantly tightened after a reporter was caught fabricating stories in 2003, is as follows: First, reporters should press sources to go on the record. The best reporters manage to write some extremely sensitive stories with few or no anonymous sources — see, for example, David Barstow’s expose of the Pentagon’s program to co-opt “military analysts” who appear as impartial commentators on TV, or Chris Chivers’s account of alleged torture in Chechnya. Second, an editor should know the identity of any unnamed source, and should push for attribution (or eliminate the material from the story) if anonymity is not justified. Third, where anonymous sources are used editors are expected to assure that reporters reveal as much as we can about the veracity of the source (that is, how do they know what they’re telling us?) and any potential bias (does the source have an ax to grind?)

    Like any lazy practice, anonymous sourcing tends to proliferate if it is not watched. So thanks for a timely shot across the bow.”

    • During the last campaign, I wrote to the editors of the G&M, CBC News, NatPost and some others. I asked for a statement or summary of their policies concerning the use of unnamed or anonymous sources.

      I receive no replies. Not one.

      Canada’s press is, I’m sad to say, in a very sorry state.

  15. ROFL – The CPC don’t need to advertise that Iggy is having trouble making the tough calls as he is loudly proclaiming it himself. My favorite bit is about the gutless political hack and the anon sources as the only time you ever hear this old refrain is when you don’t like the news. Of course Iggy’s being criticized he did something stupid and took the easy way out as his MP’s in NFLD were more afraid of King Danny and losing their seats in the next election than they were of any consequence from Iggy .. this fact alone should give serious pause to anyone on the fence about Iggy. Even Dion would have figured out a better way to get out of this mess. The usual crowd of Harper haters can keep up the old tirade about evil meanie stevie and the like, but as is now plain and clear for anyone that when it comes to making the tough calls and taking the heat he will roll over (so far that is). Iggy as of now is in a whole new ball game and only time will tell. Next stop Quebec MP’s – lining up for a dinner with Iggy no doubt – so the question is next time a tough call made will Iggy roll over again?

    • Wayne stop projecting! And stop leaking, anonymously of course!

  16. There is another more cynical pov here. [ one that i naturally disavow ] If anon quotes are out, what will happen to half of the serious journalists in this country? Will they all become novelists.[ This has absolutely nothing to do with any reluctance on my part to see the CC grants diminish in size due to increased demand.]

  17. Scott, you can quote me, an elderly former Alliance/Conservative member who is looking for an alternative to the current Conservatives AND THE LIBERALS AIN’T IT. Iggy-if will stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. So now there are two up front criticizers of the Liberals. Besides, all you Liberals should be happy…you got a Liberal budget that focused on Ontario and Quebec.

    • Why do you call this a Liberal budget? Harper has been a big spender ever since he became PM.

      • Because Ron and his ilk are honest-to-god convinced that they can blame a ‘Tory times are tough times’ budget on anyone but the government they support. Stephen Harper: Don’t Blame Me, I Just Wrote The Budget.

        Also, NEWSFLASH: elderly former Alliance members don’t consider the Liberals an alternative.

        • Please note I said I was a FORMER Conservative. I don’t like this budget anymore than many others.

  18. I get the distinct impression the G&M’s parents are heavily invested in western oil. I’ll probaby spend the next few weeks adjusting my political lens to the observation Alberta is using Ottawa to stiff the competition and the best “national dialog” available is striclty personal. Shouldn’t be too tough. Its not like its any sort of paradigm shift or anything.

    just business as usual.

    speaking of herds.

  19. Someday, Saskatoon will no longer be a joke. I just know it.

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