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Patrick Brown, P.I. (updated)

Welcome to today’s class in how not to do P.R., folks.  Today’s case study is Patrick Brown, former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Three weeks ago, CTV  broadcast a report that Brown had engaged in graphic sexual misconduct with two very young women.  He denied the allegations of the two young women, but he stepped down a few hours after the CTV report.

His party started a leadership race to replace him.  All of the candidates seem to be a lot more popular than he was.

Three weeks after he resigned, Brown hired a PR firm and started a media tour.  He attacked the young women who made the allegations against him.  The two young women doubled down on their stories, refusing to back off.

I have been told by CTV folks that Brown has not taken steps to sue them or his accusers.  And he’s rapidly running out of time to do so.  In my view, until he serves a Libel Notice, I don’t give a rat’s ass about whatever he has to say.  It’s all spin or bullshit, at this point.

Oh, and this: Patrick Brown has hired private investigators. (UPDATE: These guys, I’m told.)

I found that out on-air, on CFRA on Monday afternoon.  I was on Evan Solomon’s show with Karl Belanger and Alise Mills when Alise said she was working with Brown, and that he had hired private investigators.  Here’s what she said: “Patrick has hired someone to do the forensics, a P.I., he’s got a very strong legal team.”

That was news.

Evan and I started questioning Alise, who I know to be an honest person.  She didn’t walk back her statement.  She stood by it.

To repeat: Patrick Brown has hired private investigators to do “forensics.”  Forensics are defined  as “scientific tests or techniques used in connection with the detection of crime.”

So, whose crime?  And who are they investigating?  There are only three possibilities, because there are only three groups of participants in this sordid tale.

  1. One possibility is Patrick Brown has hired private investigators to do “forensics” on him.  Given that he’s the client, this isn’t highly likely.
  2. Another possibility is that Patrick Brown has hired private investigators to discredit the CTV team who worked on this story.  I’ve been told by two sources at CTV that they think P.I. types are indeed following them around.
  3. The only other possibility is that Patrick Brown has hired private investigators to discredit and attack the two young women who made the allegations in the first place.

Those are the only possibilities.  If it’s either 2 or 3, it is big, big news: a sitting member of the provincial legislature has hired private investigators to go after the media and two young women who claim to have been sexually assaulted. (Another possibility: he’s investigating other MPPs: but that would be a clear violation of their Parliamentary privilege.)

Anyway. If the above is true – if what Alise Mills revealed on Monday is indeed the case – I do not see how Patrick Brown can be permitted to retain his seat.

Digging up dirt on reporters, doing their jobs?  Digging up dirt on alleged victims of sexual assault? Digging up dirt on fellow MPPs?

That’s not the kind of person we need in our provincial parliament.

Sub judice and a dead boy

On Friday night, in Calgary, I spotted tweets by the Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Justice about the verdict in the trial of the “man” who shot Colten Boushie in the back of the head with a semi-automatic handgun at point-blank range. It was, for the record, an appalling, disgusting, truly unjust verdict.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, however, decided to offer comments on the verdict and the victim. They did this before the Crown had made a decision on an appeal.

On Saturday morning, I raised the matter with my class at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law. To a one, my students expressed tremendous sympathy for the young victim and his family. To a one, they also expressed concern – as I did – that the Prime Minister of Canada (generally) and the Minister of Justice (specifically) would comment while there was still the possibility of an appeal.

“Have Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould harmed the Crown’s position?” I asked.

To answer that, you need to know what the sub judice rule is.

The sub judice rule is a rule of court, a statutory rule, a parliamentary convention, and a practice that has developed in the interaction between media and public officials…

The term subjudice literally means “under judicial consideration” or “before the court or judge for determination.” At its most basic, the sub judice rule prohibits the publication of statements which may prejudice court proceedings.

That is from a lengthy Dalhousie Law Journal legal analysis of the rule. On the face of it, the comments by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice were, indeed, statements on a court proceeding.  But was the court proceeding still underway? And, if so, were they statements that could prejudice a court proceeding?

Our highest court has mainly left it to provincial appeal courts to figure out what the sub judice rule means.  Our provincial courts, meanwhile, have said there must be a clear intent to interfere with a trial.  And/or, there must be a real and substantial risk of prejudice – beyond a reasonable doubt – to the administration of justice.  And/or, if the comments were made in good faith to inform the public about a matter of pressing importance, no contempt finding follows.

Looking at those appeal court rulings, you’d be moved to say that Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould could safely say what they did.  But I’m not sure you’d be right.

That’s because they’re not just individuals – they are the two most senior and powerful lawmakers in Canada.

Here in Ontario, to cite just one recent and local example, cabinet ministers have resigned because they named young offenders.  Those were cases of statutory contempt, however, where there was a clear and written prohibition about naming a young offender.  But what about a situation like the Colten Boushie case?  What do the courts say?

Here’s one case that is right on point:

Comments made by higher level members of government, such as Ministers, may be seen to have more impact. This was illustrated in the case of Director of Public Prosecutions v Wran, in which the Premier of New South Wales stood in front of a court house and publicly stated that an accused was innocent. The Court of Appeal found him guilty of contempt, giving weight to his position as Premier, which would increase the newsworthiness of his prejudicial comments.

My view is that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice should not have commented – not because of the sub judice rule, per se, but because of paradox.

This is the paradox: because of their positions – because of the powers with which they’ve been entrusted – Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould may have hurt the very thing they (and most of us) desire:

Justice for the dead boy named Colten Boushie.

Column: should government name things for a neo-Nazi?

Should the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia name something after a neo-Nazi?

It’s not a hypothetical question.

Fall River, Nova Scotia (pop. 11,526) is a little community in Halifax’s regional municipality.  By all accounts, it’s a lovely spot, and the locals are nice.  If you go hiking on a trail in the area, you may spot a bear or a bobcat or the occasional coyote.

Tillmann Brook runs alongside such a trail.  According to Natural Resources Canada, who oversee such things, Tillmann Brook’s name is designated as “official.” The decision apparently goes back to 1999, and would have been made by something called the Geographical Names Board of Canada, with some participation by Nova Scotia’s government, too.

Tillmann Brook is a river, basically, that flows from Soldier Lake into Miller Kale.  There’s a little waterfall on it, and people are known to regularly hike there to take a look.  What’s less known, however, is whether any of the visitors – or even locals – are aware of the origins of Tillmann Brook’s name.

Because there’s a problem with its name – and John Mark Tillmann is the problem.  He’s proud of Tillmann Brook’s name change, and he has even been known to pose beside a Tillmann Brook sign for a photograph.

Making a Nazi salute.

He’s a notorious sort of fellow, John Mark Tillmann is.  You may have even him on TV.  He’s perhaps better known for being a very successful art thief: in January 2013, police arrested him for just that.  Interpol, Homeland Security, the FBI and the RCMP and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary were involved in the case – and found more than 10,000 artifacts at his home, including a letter written by George Washington, valued at more than a million dollars.

He thereafter pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, theft, possession of property obtained by crime, possession of a forged document, obstruction of justice and providing a false statement.  And he was granted full parole just three years later.

Born in Halifax in the Sixties, Tillmann was a handsome, charming fellow.  He grew up in a relatively affluent family.  He obtained a degree in marketing, and travelled to Russia, where he learned to speak the language.  While there, he married a beautiful Russian university student, and the two of them were a veritable Bonnie and Clyde, travelling all over Europe and the Americas, swiping art and artifacts.

Tillmann mainly stole valuable things, the police say, for kicks.  CBC’s Fifth Estate and American media have paid a lot of attention to his art heists.  Less attention, however, has been given to his political views.

That’s unfortunate – because John Mark Tillmann is a self-admitted Nazi fan.

When the cops finally showed up, they found Nazi paraphernalia all over his impressive waterfront home in Fall River.  There was a framed photo of Adolf Hitler in a window, which Tillmann called “a special spot in my home.” Tillmann says Hitler is “a great man – one of the greatest men in history.  A decent man.”

There were Nazi armbands and insignia and whatnot, too, all carefully maintained.

Asked about his Nazi leanings by the Fifth Estate in 2016, after he got out prison, Tillmann said: “I stand by that. I stand by that today.”

Oh, and there’s a Nazi flag that he’s position over a railing, too, where neighbours could see it.  Maybe he wanted them to see it.  In Fall River, in fact, there is a widely-held view that Tillmann – aided and abetted by his mother – successfully lobbied to get the brook’s name changed to Tillmann, to emphasize his German antecedents.  To make Jews feel uncomfortable.

“There’s a Jew who lives near there,” says Tillmann in a self-made 2011 home video.  “It’s an appropriate name to put near him.”  He then gives dark laugh.

So, how did all that happen?  How did a proud Nazi supporter get a name change – to, as he admits, make Jews feel uncomfortable?

The folks at the Geographic Names Board of Canada know all about the Tillmann Brook problem, but they say they can’t talk about it.  They refer a writer to Nova Scotia, who they say initiated the name change.

Nova Scotia’s Geographic Information Services, meanwhile, said a “support Specialist” would respond.  Days later, they still haven’t.

So: how was a known and notorious Nazi enthusiast allowed to pull a fast one on two levels of government – so he could upset Jewish Nova Scotians?  And, now that they know, will they clean up their mess?

Many questions.  In the John Mark Tillmann case, answers remain elusive.


Kathleen Wynne is the luckiest politician alive

Here’s why:

• Andrew Horwath’s New Democrats have been in a witness protection program for months – and, when they finally start to show signs of life, they lose their Chief of Staff to allegations he was indifferent to complaints about sexual harassment

• Caroline Mulroney is revealing herself to be completely unprepared for the top job – she looks and sounds uncertain, she’s nervous and she’s clearly out of her depth – and increasing numbers of worried PCs are saying Wynne would eat her alive in a leader’s debate

• Christine Elliott is doing again what she did in 2009 and 2015 – she’s phoning it in, and giving an entirely new dimension to the Trumpian epithet, “low energy”

• Doug Ford is amazing and charming PCs everywhere – he’s being disciplined, strategic and working his tail off – but he’d still be easy for the Libs to demonize in a province-wide vote

• Oh, and for good measure, the last thing the PCs needed – for Patrick Brown to start doing the rounds in the media, and demonizing those young women who came forward – is, incredibly, actually happening

At this point, I am hearing from many, many senior and experienced Progressive Conservatives that Doug Ford may well win this thing. Incredible, I know, but he is doing what he should be doing: working. Elliot simply isn’t – and Mulroney is decidedly not up to the job.

Like I say: Kathleen Wynne is the luckiest politician alive.

Adler-Kinsella Show: in which I defend Trudeau on personkind, and on all kinds of pipelines

Every Thursday, I have a radio-via-phone encounter with my great friend Charles Adler.  This week, the encounter took place by luggage rack two at Calgary’s Airport (said airport having received more snow than the North Pole before we started wrecking the planet).

I valiantly defended the Prime Minister on personkind-gatewhich shows no signs of abating, and may be getting worse – because I actually believe him when he said he was trying to make a dumb joke that fell flat.  But you only get so many of those “it’s just a joke” mulligans in this business.

I defended him on the growing Alberta-B.C. spat, too.  I said to him what I have heard from so many partisan Conservatives and Liberals here in Alberta: they admire Rachley Notley’s intelligence and guts.  She may still lose to Jason Kenney, but there’s a lot of admiration for her here – particularly for how she’s taking on the nation-wrecker Horgan.

Anyway, here it is.  Me, I’m now off to many hours of lectures at the Faculty of Law!

#MeToo: Kristin’s story

[Ed. note:  just over two weeks ago, a brave young woman named Kristin told her #MeToo story.  It was national news, and culminated in the resignation of a federal cabinet minister.  But Kristin’s story doesn’t end there.  Today, we are offering her this space for to tell her story, in her words.  Please read it. WK]

Two weeks ago I waded into the national #metoo debate.

Before I talk about my experience, I want to highlight the inherent privileges that accompanied me and allowed me a platform to be heard in the first place.

I grew up in a middle class family. My grandfather worked in politics, my mom worked in politics, my brother worked in politics and I worked in politics.

I have friendships and connections across the political spectrum and with that comes media connections.

My initial tweet went viral mainly due to the support of Warren Kinsella. A high profile journalist and former Liberal party strategist, and a very vocal supporter of #metoo.

Those are not privileges afforded to the majority of Canadians fighting to have their voices heard and fighting to shed light on their experiences with sexual harassment and assault.

The #metoo movement needs to continue to be inclusive of the LGBTQ2S and Indigenous communities, inclusive of people of colour, inclusive of those struggling with poverty, addictions or mental health struggles. This movement needs to reflect all of our lived experiences, not just those with the privilege I took for granted when I spoke out.

When I sent out my tweets I did so with the hope that it would contribute to a much-needed debate on sexual harassment and assault in Canadian politics. Instead of contributing to a story, I became the story and it was not a position I was at all prepared for, or comfortable with.

Often when people come forward, the first critique lobbed at them is that we are coming forward for attention. This was a constant theme of the abuse I endured online. What I can only assume is that people making these comments have no idea what that “attention” actually looks or feels like.

I walked into work the day after posting my Tweet having no idea what was about to happen.

My work phone and email blew up with messages from reporters. My Twitter messages were either media requests or people telling me I was an awful human being. Within an hour of getting to work I had to leave because I couldn’t take it. It felt as if all my safe spaces were gone. I walked to a friend’s office and burst into tears.

On my way home, my dad called me to tell me reporters were calling his house asking for my contact information. Initially having no idea what was going on, he gave it to them. Thankfully, he is also 75 and depends on a never-updated list of important numbers so he gave them the wrong one.

The impact of my twitter disclosure on my family goes well beyond calls to family members. What I didn’t realize is that in the absence of any other picture, that media would use my Twitter profile picture and screen cap my tweets. My picture featured my four-year-old niece. Not one media outlet even attempted to blur or cut out her image. I made a choice to speak out, but my niece didn’t ask to have her picture plastered everywhere.

The vitriol on Twitter is something I only ever witnessed in passing before. The day the story broke, a woman I consider a mentor and certainly a seasoned vet of Twitter awfulness told me to stay off for a few days. I didn’t listen. I still checked. In the days that followed I received messages that were beyond awful and hateful on Twitter and on Facebook. The argument can be, and has been made, that I should have expected it. But I don’t think anyone is ever prepared for a random stranger telling you that they hope you get killed.

One of the biggest weights I feel as a result of all of the media attention around the threats I received is a great sense of responsibility not just to this issue, but most importantly to the survivors. I’ve advocated for survivors of sexual violence for a long time, and I would never want to be the catalyst that pushes more survivors into silence. That’s why I’m writing this post. Because as scared as I feel to put myself back out there, I know there are many people who need to believe that speaking up is worth it.

I’ve wavered back and forth about this core belief. I sat in my best friend’s parents basement, hysterical, just repeating again and again that I just wanted the abuse to stop. I also finally gained the strength to check my messages and to find my inbox overflowing with messages from others who felt empowered to speak out because I did.

To paraphrase Bruce Cockburn, “sometimes you have to kick at the darkness to begin to bled daylight.” A light needed and still needs to be be shed on the pervasive abuse of power that exists in the politics of our country – politics at every level and in each party.

Every voice that feels empowered to contribute to this movement makes a difference. This movement stands on the shoulders of decades of people who were disbelieved, silenced, and had their careers sidelined. People who could only have dreamed of a time where instead of diminishing our voices, we see those voices finally being championed and believed.

Remember – as you decide for yourself, when and if you want to share your experiences – that together we are paving the way for the future generation, and demanding that things be different for them.

You matter. Your experience matters and I can promise you one thing: it might not feel worth it today, tomorrow, next week or next year, but in every way we choose to use our voices it is worth it.

To paraphrase an Alberta political commentator: let’s burn it to the ground and work together to rebuild a system worthy of all of us.


Ten language commandments or compersonments: take your pick

So, about the little exchange captured below. Was it a dumb thing to say?  Yes.  Will conservatives treat it like a war crime for months to come, which is also dumb?  Yes.  Naturally.

So, ten things.

  1. Language changes all the time. 
  2. Language changes because society changes.
  3. Language evolves as people evolve.
  4. Language changes because no two people experience stuff the same way.
  5. We changed the anthem last week to make it gender-neutral.  No one died.
  6. But: society shouldn’t have changes in the lingo dictated to them by the powerful. Ask indigenous people about that.
  7. And: changes to the language shouldn’t be passed along in a patronizing, condescending way. And: MEN, STOP INTERRUPTING WOMEN!
  8. Also: don’t let language do your thinking for you.  Ever, ever.
  9. N.B.: imposing arbitrary language changes tends to divide people, not unite them.
  10. His noster maximus anxietas, et bene facis. Which (I think) is Latin for: “If this is all we have to worry about, we’re doing okay.”



Ten reasons why everyone should take Doug Ford seriously

When I quit the Olivia Chow mayoral campaign – because she’d not told the truth to the media, among other things – guess who was the first person to call me down in the States?

Doug Ford.

“Warren, old buddy,” he said.  “We’ve had our differences, but I want you to chin up.  Rob and I like you and respect you.  Let’s get together when you get home.”

When you’re a political chew toy, you tend to remember calls like that one: you remember who called, and who didn’t.  So, we stayed in touch after that.  We did TV political panels together, and we talked pretty regularly. I told him he shouldn’t run for mayor again, because John Tory was doing a great job, and John would cream him.  He should run instead to be Premier, I told  him.

There’s clearly a market these days for populist conservatives who defy the conventional wisdom, and say what they think, I told him.  And there were lots of reasons why he’d be a formidable PC leadership candidate.

Here’s ten.

  1. Doug’s working hard:  Every plugged-in PC is telling me the same thing: “Doug’s working the phones.  Doug’s reaching out.  Doug’s doing all the right things.”  He’s doing what a candidate has to do, in a race as short as this one: he’s working his tail off.
  2. Doug’s disciplined: I think his musings about scrapping a carbon tax are a mistake  – we need it (as a province) and his party needs it (because it finances their entire platform).  But apart from that, he hasn’t blown any feet off, and he’s saying the kind of stuff card-carrying Conservatives love.
  3. Doug has early support: Planning a rally this early in a campaign is a big risk: it takes a lot of time and hard work to get hundreds of people to come out to one of your events.  Well, Doug got out thousands out for a Toronto rally last week, and in a very short time frame, too.  It gave him momentum, and the visuals were pretty stunning – not everyone there was an old white guy.  At all.
  4. Doug’s evolved:  A few weeks ago, I watched TVO’s fun Political Blind Date show, because Doug and Jagmeet Singh were on, and because I like both of them.  Jagmeet was engaging, warm and likeable, as you’d expect.  But so was Doug – big time.  I was shocked at how he had evolved as a politician.  Gone is the shouty city councillor, always being forced to defend his brother’s bad behaviour.  In its place was a HOAG – a Hell Of A Guy.
  5. Doug’s better at retail:  The TVO show also revealed something else.  You could tell that the participants in the broadcast – the Dippers who agreed to the match-up, and perhaps the TVO producers who came up with the idea – expected Doug to be what he had always been: a bit of circus act, a trained bear riding a tiny bike in the centre ring.  Someone to be laughed at.  Well, guess what?  He was way better in the mano-a-mano segments than Jagmeet was. Way.
  6. Doug has a USP: A Unique Selling Proposition, that is.  It’s easy to see how to some disengaged voters – that is, 99 per cent of voters – would see Kathleen Wynne, Andrea Horwath, Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliott as all kind of the same thing.  You know: female, centrist, careful, establishment.  Doug is none of those.  He offers the only clear alternative, for the voters who are after one.  (Voters are always after one.)
  7. Doug gives quote: The guy is a quote machine.  The microphone loves him.  He never uses a 20-dollar word when a two-dollar word would suffice.  He never uses jargon and acronyms and Newspeak.  He talks about values.  He knows facts tell – but stories sell.  Doug Ford is a one-man media machine.
  8. Doug dominates vote-rich GTA:  An important Mainstream poll – little-noticed in last week’s madness – apparently showed that only one PC leadership candidate was very strong in the part of the province that decides who gets to be government: Toronto.  In 416/905, he dominates.  That matters.  Remember: his brother crushed George Smitherman, and Doug came within 60,000 votes in his mayoral run.  Ford Nation knows how to win in GTA.
  9. Doug ain’t dumb:  I worked for a populist-type politician who everyone – from the Martinites to the media – always dismissed.  They always put him down.  They always said he was dumb, when he was way (way) smarter than all of them.  Doug Ford, so far, is running a very smart campaign.  If he can keep his mouth under control, he’s got a real shot at winning.
  10. Doug is reaching out:  He did with me.  And I know he’s reaching out to many others who have criticized him in the past: “The door is open,” he’s telling them.  “Just walk through it.” In a leadership race – and in an election – it’s all about connection.  Doug is connecting.  He’s reaching out.

Can Doug Ford win?  Damn right he can.  Underestimate him at your peril.

“I find you so pretty” – senior PMO director to young woman looking for a job

This is wild.  Wild.

Look at the message Myriam Denis, an experienced and bilingual communicator with a Liberal pedigree, got from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Deputy Director of Operations:

“I find you very pretty,” he says.  One of the most senior unelected officials in the federal government, sending messages like that, not even bothering to hide his identity.

That’s not all: Ms. Denis – who I have never met – was being hit on by a guy who worked for Bardash Chagger, presently the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.  That guy, an advisor to Chagger, allegedly put his hand on Ms. Denis’ thigh when they met to discuss a job opening.  She says he told her she had “a nice bikini body.”

After all this outrageous behaviour by two senior men in the Trudeau government – two men who, coincidentally, had both worked for Melanie Joly – Myriam Denis did not get the job.  She did, however, complain to Chagger’s Chief of Staff, a woman (thankfully).  The chief of Staff took her complaint seriously, it seems.

But get this: right after Ms. Denis wrote briefly on Facebook briefly about getting hit on by a senior Trudeau operative, she heard from another Trudeau guy.  He told her that he “handles [human relations] in the Prime Minister’s office.”  That’s a quote.

Except he didn’t.  The Claude-Eric Gagné investigation was being handled by an outside, arms-length law firm.  Not someone who worked within PMO.  (Oh, and the guy’s title was “Director of Administration and Special Projects.”  Not HR.)  So: one of Gagné’s fellow directors at PMO seemed to be falsely claiming to be “handling” sexual harassment cases like Ms. Denis’.

Was he truly contacting her to help? Or was it just to cover it all up?

She is the victim, here, and should have the final word, and you should read every word:

This is wrong on so many levels. Even if he was truly the HR person in the PMO, it would be extremely inappropriate for him to be contacting potential victims when there was an ongoing examination by a third-party investigator.

Until the moment I received the Facebook message from Brett Thalmann, I was willing to believe that Vidah and Gagné were just two cases of “bad apples” within a big organization. I am not so sure anymore. This third strange experience makes me think that it might be more than a few isolated incidents of reprehensible behaviours.

I feel a lot of sadness and empathy for the women who are currently working [in Justin Trudeau’s PMO].

Recipe for Hate in Quill and Quire: “suspenseful page-turner”!

Quill and Quire has published, online and elsewhere, their review of Recipe For Hate.  Here’s what they have to say:

  • “Kinsella skilfully blends convincing depictions of both the punk scene and the racist underground…”
  • “The novel is a suspenseful page-turner that also gives considerable food for thought, anchored in realistically drawn characters and an eye for significant detail.”
  • “…its significance to contemporary life and social schisms is powerful and impossible to ignore.”
  • “…Kinsella captures the political underpinnings of the [punk] movement – a surprising reminder of hope in these dark days.”

You can get your copy of Recipe For Hate  here and here. Meanwhile, the book tour hits Montréal next month!