09.17.2012 07:30 AM

A whiff of political B.S.: an Ontario case study (updated)

This morning, on the much-read National Newswatch, there was this headline:

NDP Surge to tie for First Place Provincially, Ontario Liberals In Third; 43% Want Liberal leadership review: Poll

When you click on the link, you are not taken to the web site of a news organization or a polling from.  You are taken to something called the “Broadview Strategy Group,” trumpeting a “poll” by Forum Research.

The name “Forum Research” should ring a few bells.  They were the firm that got the recent Alberta and Quebec elections wrong – and dramatically so.

We are not told who ultimately paid for the “poll,” but the Broadview web site modestly indicates that the report on the poll was written by one John Laforet.

When not working at his lobby firm – which, if you eyeball their web site, very much seems to be one guy, plus a receptionist – Laforet describes himself as a “volunteer” for something called Wind Concerns Ontario.  As I’ve written for the Sun, Wind Concerns is effectively an extension of the Conservative Party in Ontario.  As Metroland reported last September 8:  Laforet and Wind Concern’s main objective is “defeating the McGuinty government and getting Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak elected Premier.”  And, as Laforet said to the Tillsonburg News on August 24 of last year: “The idea is to mobilize [supporters] to go door-to-door, supporting the Progressive Conservative candidate to defeat the Liberals.”

Fine.  Laforet and his Wind Concerns aren’t shy: they’re an arm of the Ontario PCs.  Good for them.  But are they allowed to do that? How do they do that? Who pays the shots? Well, they’re set up as a non-profit, but not a charity – they don’t issue tax receipts, and the reason is that they don’t want to accept the limitations on political advocacy that being a charity entails. They’re open about this if you ask them.

They say they’re funded entirely by donors, but there’s no disclosure of any sources of donations that anyone has been able to find. Unlike charities, there’s no public disclosure of their finances by Revenue Canada.

Did Wind Concerns pay for the poll?  Who knows.  At a speech he delivered at the Empire Club in June of last year, Laforet was asked who funds Wind Concerns.  Here’s what he said:  “Nobody funds Wind Concerns Ontario, which is why I’m a volunteer. Wind Concerns Ontario’s budget for 2010 was about $8,900.”

If all this seems rather suspicious to you, you’re not alone.  To me, this morning’s innocuous headline has a bad, bad odour. Who paid Forum Research?  Was it Broadview, which is led by a Liberal-hating Ontario PC fan?  Or was it Wind Concerns, who supposedly have a budget of only a few thousand bucks?

And how did all of this end up on National Newswatch, which is – as noted – much-read and much-respected?

Good questions, all.  But if you want to know why so many people increasingly consider our politics to be B.S., and why they are voting less and less – well, this is a good case study to ponder.

UPDATE:  Note here. Christina Blizzard has written a column about the issue, not (she emphasizes to me) a news story.  I accept what she says, of course, but believe that Laforet’s background needs to be part of any straight-up news story or opinion column.  But that’s just me.  My apologies if I offended Chris!


  1. alinda white says:

    according to a recent REFORMATORY POLL by decima….the Ontario NDP are in THIRD PLACE in the province of Ontario….when being interviewed by Ledrew on CP 24 ..the MAIN MAN AT forum research….said polls always change the day before the vote,

  2. bigcitylib says:

    LaForet quit WCO after the provincial election. Around the same time, Mike DeSouza reported that the PWU was sponsoring a number of anti-green–energy bill astroturf groups. Though this particular effort was never linked directly to WCO, the group disintegrated immediately afterwards, squabbling over who was a going to pay its bills. Don’t know who’s left, but they don’t get much media play anymore.

    LaForet is definitely a one-man shop. Worth noting that he was active in the Ont. Libs four or five years ago, and apparently was prone to diva-like behavior, arguing with everyone around him.

  3. James Gordon says:

    Personally, I found an excellent case study on why our politics is B.S. when a prominent liberal strategist to the second most powerful man in the country cheered on the death of another man making expressing his freedom of speech a few comment threads below.

    • Philip says:

      For such a champion of free speech Basseley (or Sam Bacile, if you prefer) had no compulsion about duping the actors and crew about the true nature of the film’s content. After dropping those people squarely in the shit he couldn’t run away fast enough. Not that has help however but it does speak to character.
      It would also be worthwhile to find out where the $5 million in production costs came from. Guys like Basseley don’t front their own money for this sort of shenanigan. No doubt he knew he would need some running money.

  4. Matt says:

    Just to note, like Wind Concerns, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is also a non-profit organization that is not a charity. And with former CTF CEOs like Jason Kenney now in the Conservative government, the links are obvious. Great way to push a political agenda.

  5. Matt says:

    Laforet is a bit of a sad guy. A party jumper and a failed city of Toronto council candidate. Whatever he says or whatever bizarre organization he aligns himself with (or makes up on his own) comes as no surprise. Forum research is a gong show as we all know and with them and Laforet National Newswatch should have done better.

  6. Art Farris says:

    Didn’t you say the same thing about Forum when they predicted an NDP win in Kitchener-Waterloo?


  7. Dan says:

    It probably is BS. But not 100% BS.

    Even though the polls were wrong about a Bloc Majority, and wrong about a Wildrose majority… they at least got the baseline voter movement right.


    I know Liberals are thrilled that Hudak is as unpopular as McGuinty. But all that means is you guys are in deep shit when people realize there are more than two choices on the ballot.

    And I know that you do a great job in the Liberal warroom. But you need to tell the rest of the Liberal party leadership to work hard building bridges to voters, as hard as you do destroying those bridges to other parties.

    Teachers are widely respected in the province, and have a ton of influence. A lot of people have a family member who is a teacher. Virtually everyone can think of a great teacher who made a big difference in their lives. You can smash Hudak, you can even hit the panic button and start smashing the third party. But if McGuinty isn’t so much as willing to meet with schoolteachers, those teachers will have an easy time figuring out who is on their side.

    The private school crowd isn’t large enough to sustain a political party. (Maybe big enough to fund some attack ads though.)

    • Michael says:

      Though everyone can think of a great teacher that made a difference in their lives, and most people like their kid’s teacher, you would be hard pressed to find people who think teachers are overworked and under paid. You would be hard pressed to find anyone in the private sector who thinks teachers should not take a pay freeze and share in the “economic pain” that a majority have had to endure. Many private sector employer sector employers are trying to extract wage rollbacks, and concessions from their employees.

      • Dan says:

        Teachers have already accepted the wage freeze. Everyone has already agreed to share in the economic pain.

        The problem is the McGuinty government has decided to make yet another decision without engaging the people it effects.

        Process does matter. How much? I guess we’ll see. KW is definitely an exceptional case, but there’s plenty of reasons why it could become the rule.

  8. Michael says:

    FYI to everyone reading this thread (fairly certain W.K. knows this already) – John Laforet used to be President of the Scarborough-Guildwood Liberal riding association. Everyone (except me, really) in Guildwood -hated- the windmills, and they tried to make it an election issue in the 2010 municipal race. In that, they failed – but they achieved their principal objective, so I guess he can call that one a win.

    So I think it’s a bit much to call John an ‘arm of the Ontario PCs’. More like a hired gun lobbyist (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Polls like these are always meant to be marketing for lobbying or research firms.

  9. william smith says:

    Don’t like the results or the smell go for the author. How many times do we see this sleazy trick?

  10. Mulletaur says:

    Christina Blizzard giving echo to Ontario PC propaganda ? How shocking and unprecedented.

  11. Philip says:

    I would guess Forum Research could conjure up a poll saying that 99% didn’t want a Liberal leadership review and that the Ontario NDP was in 17th place, right behind the amalgamated Rainbows and Unicorn Party, if the money was right. Polling firms are in the customer service industry, their main focus has always been making the customer happy. Nothing wrong with it but it does mean that their poll results are a reflection of that. Lazy journalists who rely on them as crystal balls do so at their peril.

  12. Stu B says:

    Bang on Warren. Dig deeper… don’t let this one end up forgotten.

  13. Joe Harrington says:

    I just did a scientific poll in my house. I asked my cat, two dogs and my daughter’s pet bunny. It was convincing, the Green Party is way in front.

  14. ralphie says:

    I think it’s time for Liberals, (perhaps the newly retired Greg Sorbara) to start their own polling firm and get that information out there.
    The problem of course is the media in this country is now so right wing they wouldn’t be interested.

    The US has MSNBC and Huffington to put out Democratic news but in Canada we don’t have any middle/left media around any more.
    John Cruickshank and his Toronto Star use Forum results.
    Hey Warren how about a story telling people how John Cruickshank went from funning the the most hard right, big city newspaper in the US, the Chicago Sun Times to taking over the former Liberal Toronto Star. Lots of material there, especially about how Cruickshank was orginally brought to Canada to run CBC News and that didn’t work out.

    Maybe Sorbara should get together with Belinda Stronach and look at buying some Canadian media.
    Otherwise all we have is hard right news in this country.

  15. james curran says:

    There’s no whore like an old whore. Rocco Rossi school of political morality.


  16. lukeven says:

    Regardless of how much you like McGuinty, his premiership is getting long in the tooth. Nobody can keep this job forever, and it’s only a matter of time until he finds himself in the same position of Jean Charest.

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