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I asked when #MeToo would hit Ottawa, and then it did

A few days ago, I wrote a column – which the Hill Times published, but HuffPo refused to, because they didn’t want to do anything that might identify the sexual harasser – about why #MeToo hadn’t hit Ottawa yet.  Because, God knows, there’s plenty of wrongdoing taking place up there, too.

Well, last night – as Justin Trudeau was about to speak at his annual Christmas party – this hit:

A staff member in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office is on leave from his position as deputy director of operations and a third-party investigation has been launched after allegations of inappropriate behaviour were made against him.

TVA, a French-language television network, first reported that Claude-Éric Gagné, the deputy director of operations in the PMO, is being investigated for inappropriate behaviour and has been on forced leave since early November while the investigation takes place.

The PMO is refusing to identify the staffer involved or provide any details of the allegations being made against them but a source confirmed to CBC News that the allegations are against Gagné and involve inappropriate behaviour.

So, there you go: the highest office in the land has apparently got this problem, too.

If you read on in the story, a PMO spokesperson says an “independent investigator” is looking into this.

Forgive me for being a lawyer and all that, but (a) we don’t know who the investigator is (b) we don’t know his or her mandate (c) we don’t know who is paying him or her and (d) we don’t know what powers the independent investigator actually has.  We need to.

A principle of natural law is that you cannot investigate yourself. For this probe to be meaningful, the independent investigator needs to truly investigate – and truly be independent.  That is particularly the case when the office being investigated has virtually unlimited power.

P.S. There were two men referred to in my column. Many people seemed to figure out who the journalist was. But I only heard from one person who knew who the other guy was.


About those by-elections

The Newfoundland-Labrador one, no big surprise.  (But the NDP result? Ouch.)

The Ontario one, also no surprise. (But congrats to Ms. Yip – Arnold is smiling, today.)

The Saskatchewan one, no surprise.  (The slide in LPC vote, not so great, true.)

But the B.C. by-election? That was big, folks.  That was huge.  The Liberals – for the second time this Fall – have flipped a seat from blue to red.  (Congrats to Mr. Hogg, who I have had the pleasure to meet a few times, back in my B.C. Liberal days.)

It sure would be fun to be a fly on the wall at that federal Conservative caucus meeting, tomorrow morning, wouldn’t it?  Few will say it out loud, but I know they are thinking it:

Andrew Scheer was the wrong pick.  He is more than a dud – he’s a disaster.

And, if anyone is going to guarantee Justin Trudeau a second big majority win, it’s him.  (Oh, and followed closely by Jagmeet Singh, who has entered into a witness protection program.)

A good year, politically, for Liberals.  Not so much for the other guys.


Two effective ways of dealing with prejudice, up above and down here

My friends were busy yesterday.

My friend Bernie Farber, a veritable force of nature who is presently up to something big, scored a victory against hate yesterday: he and others persuaded the Toronto Library Board to reject hate.

From the Star:

The Toronto library board unanimously approved restrictions that will prevent groups from renting library space to promote discrimination or hate.

Library staff can now deny or cancel bookings they believe are “likely to promote, or would have the effect of promoting discrimination, contempt or hatred of any group, hatred for any person” based on race, ethnicity, colour, language, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, among other factors, according to a staff report.

“Be bold, be courageous. Reject hate, embrace diversity,” Bernie Farber, a former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told the board during a meeting at the reference library on Monday night. “Your policy sends a very strong statement that the library will not be a comfortable living room for white supremacists.”

John Tory and many members of council favoured this, too. And it’s the right way to fight prejudice. As I told others yesterday:

1. Public libraries are funded by the public.
2. They are extensions of government.
3. Governments are explicitly prohibited from facilitating discrimination by virtue of their own laws.
4. Libraries can’t EVER offer public space to neo-Nazis.

So, that was a win.  And a victory over prejudice.  Kudos to all concerned.

Here’s another one: my friends Khadija Cajee and Sulemaan Ahmed are also forces of nature.  For quite some time now, they’ve been leading the charge, righteously, for No Fly Kids – the group of Canadians whose names are flagged on Canada’s No-Fly List, known as the Passenger Protect Program.  That No Fly List has even targeted children as young as eight years old.

This week, Sulemaan and Khadija were successful in getting the support of more than 200 Members of Parliament, from all parties.  The names of their Parliamentary supporters is being released today when the No Fly Kids leadership testify in front of Public Safety Committee regarding C-59.

Here just some of the Privy Council folks who have written letters to support No Fly Kids in this important battle against intolerance:  Liberals Jane Philpott, Ahmed Hussen, Kent Hehr, Carla Qualtrough, Hedy Fry, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Harjit Sajjan, Dominic Leblanc, Amarjeet Sohi, Kirsty Duncan, Chrystia Freeland, Catherine McKenna, Maryam Monsef, Lawrence MacAulay, Ginette Petipas-Taylor, Ralph Goodale, Jim Carr, Navdeep Bains, Bill Morneau, Patty Hajdu, Bardish Chagger, Karina Gould, Carolyn Bennett – and Conservatives like Andrew Scheer, Lisa Raitt, Erin O’Toole, Steven Blaney, Kellie Leitch, Michelle Rempel, Tony Clement and many, many more.  From the NDP and the Bloc, too.

Oh, wait.

One Privy Councillor, one cabinet minister, I am told, was contacted multiple times.  She didn’t reply.  Perhaps she was too busy trying to persuade the Speaker of the House of Commons about her latest flight of idiocy – trying to get the Speaker to shut down all of Parliament Hill for up to 8 months, so she could put a 40,000-seat arena around her $6-million no-hockey hockey rink.  Yes, Canada’s worst-ever cabinet minister, Melanie Joly.  She didn’t support No Fly Kids, I am reliably informed.  Figures.

Anyway.  Thought I’d bring some good news to your attention: a victory against bigotry down on the ground at the Toronto Library Board, and one against institutionalized bigotry up in the air, with No Fly Kids.

Not bad.

 

 

 


Toronto Star on Recipe For Hate: it’s “of interest to anyone interested in punk culture!”

Hey! The good folks at the Star wrote about Recipe For Hate – thank you, Sarah Murdoch!  My punk rock credentials are estimable – which, my dictionary tells me, means “worthy of respect!”

Recipe For Hate, Warren Kinsella, Dundurn

Warren Kinsella is known mostly as a political operative and pundit, but he also has estimable punk-rock credentials (as punk historian and as bass player in SFH, which bills itself as Canada’s best-loved geriatric punk band). This YA novel is “loosely” based on real-life events, and concerns the murder of two teenagers in 1979 in Portland, Ore., then the epicentre of the punk scene. It will be of interest to anyone interested in punk culture — not just the music, but the fanzines, art and writing of the period. Bonus: The author has curated a Recipe For Hate online punk playlist for uneasy listening.


Column: why hasn’t #MeToo hit Ottawa?

It’s hit Hollywood.  It’s taken down big names in the media.  All over Capitol Hill in Washington, too.

So why hasn’t the #MeToo movement claimed any of the creeps crawling through Ottawa’s corridor of power?

Because, God knows, there’s plenty of dirty old (and young) men up there.  The stories are legion.  So, where is the #MeToo coming out of political Ottawa?  Where are the men of Parliament Hill, solemnly pledging #HowIWillChange?

We are in the midst (hopefully) of a profound transformation:  Matt Lauer; Harvey Weinstein; Al Franken; Kevin Spacey; Mark Halperin; Charlie Rose; Glenn Thrush; Louis C.K.; Roy Moore; Russell Simmons; Steven Segal; Dustin Hoffman.  And dozens more – accused of, and guilty of, everything from rape to inappropriate sexual remarks.

It is extraordinary, it is positive, and it is overdue.  As jarring and as unpleasant as the details may be, we seem to be on the cusp of an actual change in the culture.

Everywhere but in Ottawa, that is.

Here’s a tale, in which the names have been omitted to protect the victim.  It’s not by any means recent, but it is still relevant.

Way back when, when I was student council president, a friend at Carleton’s journalism school told me that a prominent broadcast journalist was sexually harassing her and threatening her.  He told her she would never work in journalism if she didn’t give him what he wanted. She was very upset; she was crying.  I believed her.

I called his boss to complain – and to say, as student council president, I didn’t want this man on campus.  I told him what my friend had told me.  I told him my friend would not make this up.  The boss told me someone at CBC would get back to me.

No one ever did.  Instead, I later ran into the prominent broadcaster at a political event I’d organized.  He looked at me, almost with delight.  “Ah, the famous Warren Kinsella,” he said.  That night, he and the CBC broadcast a venomous, one-sided hatchet job on my candidate, and me.

The broadcaster?  He stayed employed at CBC, and later got a plum political appointment.  He’s still on the Hill, too.  My friend? She never ended up fulfilling her dream of working as a broadcast journalist.

And me?  I learned a lesson: powerful men in Ottawa have power, and they know how to use it.  They know how to get what they want.

There are other such stories, much more current.  Not long ago, I was told of allegations made by some young people about a very, very powerful man in Ottawa.  I did not see the statements, so I do not know the specific allegations made therein, as the lawyers would say.

But these allegations – which were confirmed to exist, by multiple people who would know – describe a profound imbalance in power.  They describe how this very, very powerful man used his power to get what he wanted sexually.

There are many other such stories, involving elected men and male staffers in all of the political parties.  All of us who work on the Hill, or who have worked there, have come across these stories.  We have seen some of the evidence.  We have heard from the victims.

In my case, I tried.  I did what I could.  It didn’t work out.

But that doesn’t mean we should give up.  That doesn’t mean we should look the other way, either.

Young people occasionally come see me to get advice about how to get involved in campaigns, or how to work for a particular candidate.  I always tell them the same three things: one, work only for those who share your passion for an issue.  Two, work only for those who believe in something other than power.  Three, work only for those who treat their own families – and strangers – with the utmost respect.

Because, I tell them, if they treat their wives like dirt, they will treat you like you are less than dirt.

Personally, I have had the great fortune to work for three men who married their high school/university sweethearts – Jean Chretien, Dalton McGuinty and John Tory.  All three men always treated strangers, and their wives and their families, with respect.  All three have conducted themselves with decency and probity.  Always.

Such men still exist.  Not every man in Canadian political life is a scumbag.

But, in Ottawa nowadays, the silence is deafening.  It is impossible – impossible – that #MeToo stories can’t be found on Parliament Hill.

So why isn’t anyone telling them?

 


Publishers Weekly: Recipe for Hate “riveting…an unflinching page-turner”!

Publisher’s Weekly is the book trade publication in the United States.  As Wikipedia notes, it is the “American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents. Published continuously since 1872, it has carried the tagline, “The International News Magazine of Book Publishing and Bookselling”.

And I have never had one of my books mentioned in it.  Like, ever.

But here’s what they have said about my new one, Recipe for Hate:

“Riveting…Tension starts high and stays there in this unflinching page-turner, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the early punk scene and a moving testament to the power of friendship.”

Link is here.

Quill and Quire, now Publisher’s Weekly.

For those of you who have asked, yes: Daisy and Dundurn are working on a book launch in Toronto, to which all of you will be (somehow) invited.  And we are also putting together book events/media in different places in Canada in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned for details.

In the meantime, feel free to order your copy (or copies!) here and here!


I stand with Trudeau

We used to be friends, we had a falling out.  And: he has a very different style than my guy, the Shawinigan Strangler.  We were the undersell and overperform gang, you know?  We were more fiscally conservative, we didn’t bet the house on rookies, and (I think) we were a bit more adept on the international stage.

But – upon reading this David Akin report – I’ve never been more proud of Justin Trudeau, and never more happy that he is presently Prime Minister.  Why?  Well, as I get older, and as I get closer to the grave – and as I regularly tell friends and family – I find myself becoming far less partisan than I was in my youth.  These days, I tend to think the differences between the Canadian political parties is pretty negligible.  And, these days, I am a great admirer of pretty much everyone who dares enter public life.

As such, as I prepare to shuffle off to something else, my only partisanship is increasingly my first love, journalism.  I evaluate every politician’s worth, these days, through the prism of journalism.  If they promote a free and flourishing media (like the aforementioned Trudeau), I’m a fan.  If they don’t (like Donald Trump and Melanie Joly), I’m not.

In the Trump era, where political/governmental institutions are failing us, and the only people defending democracy seem to work at the New York Times and the Washington Post and CNN, a free press has never been more important.  Democracy is literally at stake.

Ipso facto, here’s David Akin, who clearly was as impressed as I was.  To me, Trudeau’s words, below, should be inscribed on the wall of every journalism school in Canada.

On Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s last day of a week-long visit to China — a week in which he had done his best to be a gracious guest and not say anything remotely controversial about the dictatorship that was hosting him — Trudeau said something rather remarkable.

It may even be historic.

Speaking on Chinese soil, in the presence of several members of China’s obsequious state media, he said that reporters play an essential “challenge function.”

He told his Chinese hosts that “traditional media” — a traditional media which, in his own country, has been, at times, harsh, unfair, and ungenerous to him personally as well as to his own government — he said traditional media play “an essential role … in the success of the society.”

Journalists. Essential.

In the age of Trump and #FakeNews, this is heady stuff.

It is to Trudeau’s great credit that he said these things and said them in China!

He was not delivering prepared remarks on the value of journalism to grad students at a Canadian university.

He was speaking off the top of his head, from his heart, in response to a question put to him in the midst of a 45-minute press conference in a communist country where independent-minded journalists go to jail.

Trudeau was prompted to make these comments about the value of an independent and free press because a reporter had asked him if his Chinese hosts had intimated that criticism of China in the Canadian press was making it difficult for his government to advance talks on a Canada-China free trade deal.

If the Canadian media was a thorn in Trudeau’s side, he refused to say so. Instead, Trudeau clearly indicated that this was not only the price he was willing to pay, if that was, in fact, true, it was a price he was happy to pay.

“Allow me to take a moment to thank members of the media,” Trudeau began. “You play an essential role: a challenge function, an information function. It’s not easy at the best of times. These are not the best of times with the transitions and challenges undergoing traditional media right now and I really appreciate the work that you do.”

But he was not done. He acknowledged that the spin masters in any political operation from any party these days are set up precisely to make the job of an independent and free press harder.

“We make your job difficult,” he said, acknowledging his complicity, as a successful politician, in trying to manipulate journalists for his own political gain.

I want to underline, once again, that this acknowledgment came on Chinese soil, in a country where the government’s spin — the government’s propaganda — is the only thing one can read in a Chinese newspaper or see on a Chinese television broadcast.

“External factors make your job difficult,” Trudeau said. “But it’s an essential role that you play in the success of the society. That is my perspective. That is a perspective shared by many and it’s one that I am very happy to repeat today.”


Who is going to win the Ontario election?

CBC News’  guy, Eric Grenier, has poked through the entrails.  His column is here.  His chart averaging the main provincial pollsters is below.


I like people in politics who say “I don’t know,” so I like Grenier. He’s saying he doesn’t know who is going to win in June.

I don’t know either.

I’ve worked with the guys behind Campaign Research and IRG.  They’re really smart and effective.  But I still can’t tell you who is right.

Here are the variables that I think will affect the outcome.

  • Organization > money. Patrick Brown’s PCs have more money and are (presently) better-organized than Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals and Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats.  Money and organization matter, but the former matters less than the latter.
  • Ideas > campaigns.  The Ontario Liberals won in 2003, 2007 and 2011 because they ran better campaigns, and (in 2007 and 2011) also because the PCs had bad ideas.  The Ontario PCs ran a better campaign in 2014, but they lost again because they had a really bad idea.  Ipso facto: a bad idea can torpedo a good campaign effort.
  • Left > Right. The Ontario Liberals won in 2014 (like Justin Trudeau won in 2015) because they banked left and stole lots of NDP votes.  Wynne’s doing that again.  To win, Brown needs Horwath to get out of the witness protection program and start getting seen and heard again.
  • Leader = brand. The Ontario Liberals have an unpopular leader, but a very strong brand.  The Ontario PCs have an unknown leader, and a brand that is less strong.  The Ontario NDP have an always-popular leader, but a brand that is very weak.
  • Alternation > incumbency. The second that Stephen Harper won, the writing was on the wall for his provincial cousins: Ontarians don’t like one party running both levels of government.  They just don’t.  So, the minute Justin Trudeau won, big, in 2015, the writing was on the wall for his provincial cousins.  For Ontario Grits, The Alternation Theorem is not helpful.

Anyway.  I could go on (and God knows that I often do), but all of this is to say: I think Brown has the pole position, but the polls say the other two are still pretty competitive.

What do you think, O Smart Readers? Prognosticate away!