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Warren’s free tips on scandal stuff

So the Wynne Liberals revealed their big, big Doug Ford scandal: he allegedly paid for a few party memberships before he became leader.

Big deal.

“It’s nothing burger,” one senior Ontario PC operative said to me after the Ontario Liberal press conference ended.  “Steady as she goes.”

Now, scandals (real or imagined) have a way of taking on a life of their own. Even though the voting public aren’t nearly as preoccupied with scandal as the media and politicians are – Exhibit A, the Clinton/Lewinsky “scandal,” Exhibit B, the entirety of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign – selfsame media and politicos are undeterred. They love scandal-mongering more than, you know, talking about boring stuff like “policy.”

Here, then, are a few helpful bullets on scandal-mongering.  The politicos and media won’t pay attention, but I know my smart readers will.

  • Scandal-mongering doesn’t work. 
  • The media/politico chattering class call everything a scandal, and always append “gate” to the end of same, to no discernible effect.
  • The public already think everyone in politics is a crook, so the breathless revelation that someone involved in politics is a crook isn’t ever a revelation to them.
  • Joe and Jane Frontporch, the aforementioned public, have heard the hysteria and histrionics about “scandals” too many times, and don’t believe any of it until the perp is led away in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs.
  • Joe and Jane believe the real scandals are things like the lack of a job, or having to lay in a hospital corridor for two days to get health care, or spending billions on security and deranged, lone-wolf fanatics still figure out a way to kill innocent people – those are the real scandals.  Not someone expensing something by bona fide mistake, or the dissemination of political party membership cards, or consensual adults with zipper problems.

The Martinesque operatives around Kathleen Wynne are running the worst campaign in Ontario political history.  And, the next time they cry “wolf” about some other scandal, nobody is going to believe them.

They’re done.


Can a politician block a citizen on Twitter?

A U.S. court has now said no – in an, ahem, huge judgment, here.

Which moves to reprise my column on Canada’s worst-ever minister, Melanie Jolie. Here it is.

Dear Minister Joly:

May I call you Melanie?

You’ve blocked my access to your ministerial Twitter account, so please forgive the formality of an open letter. I sense that I’ve upset you, which concerns me deeply.

Let’s leave aside, for a moment, the propriety of a public servant (that’s you) blocking the access of one of your employers (that’s me) to one of the official platforms you (a public servant) use to communicate with the likes of me (one of your employers). Let’s leave all that aside for a moment.

Let’s get to the pith and substance of the matter, shall we?

Have I been critical of your performance as a cabinet minister? Well, yes, you could say that. Among other things, I think you are possibly the worst cabinet minister in the history of Confederation. You make Bev Oda look like Margaret Thatcher. You make Stockwell Day seem positively Churchillian. You stink at this politics stuff, you know?

The evidence before the court of public opinion is myriad and multiple.  It is overwhelming.

Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations, for example.  In my experience, countries only get one opportunity to celebrate their 150th birthday.  Governments, meanwhile, get plenty of notice that a 150th birthday celebration is coming.

You rendered our 150th in Ottawa a fiasco, however.  And don’t just take my word for it.  Here’s just a sampling of the bon mots sent to you by other citizens (who, again, are your employers):

• “Shame on you Ottawa. Shame on you Heritage Canada and the organizers. You failed us!”

• “I have never seen such a poor, chaotic display. Shame on you Ottawa.”

• “The organizers of Canada Day 2017 should be ashamed of themselves for the shoddy work that went into this year’s event.”

• “Please, [Minister Joly], I beg you to step out of your protective shell and acknowledge what a mess Canada Day was and take some responsibility for it.”

• “Time for you to resign!”

But you weren’t done.  Nope.  The Netflix announcement – which essentially saw the streaming behemoth being granted tax-free status for a piddling amount of investment in Canada’s cultural sector, and most particularly in the province you profess to represent – was also a debacle.

A sampling of commentary about the Netflix mess:

• Globe: “[Joly’s] fall from grace in her home province has been swift and merciless, sped by her maladroit attempts to sell a deal with Netflix…”

• National Post: “[Joly] she has been savaged in Quebec media, artistic and political circles.”

• Journal de Montreal: “[Joly sounds] like a living answering machine having a nervous breakdown.”

But there’s more!

As you will recall, there was the matter of the plaque affixed to the new Holocaust Monument in Ottawa.  It didn’t mention the six million.  Or the word “Jews.” Or “anti-Semitism.”  You hurriedly ordered the plaque replaced, but not before just about every Jew in Canada noticed.

The resulting headline in the Washington Post, then, actually made me wince: “Canada forgot to mention Jews on new Holocaust monument dedication plaque.”

Ouch.

Anyway.  Let’s forget about the Holocaust Monument, and the Netflix thing, and Canada 150.  Let’s forget about all that.  Let’s turn the page. Let’s focus, instead, on your latest decision, which I will render all-caps, because I think it merits it:

MELANIE JOLY HAS SPENT $5 MILLION TO BUILD A HOCKEY RINK ON PARLIAMENT HILL.

And it’s not just any $5 million hockey rink.  No, not in Joly World.  It is a $5 million hockey rink that:

• Prohibits the playing of hockey.

• Will be in existence for less than a month.

• Is a block from the biggest skating rink in the world, the Rideau Canal.

Oh, and the Toronto Star reported this: “The rink, which will be available for free public skating from Dec. 7 to Jan. 1, is budgeted to cost about $215,385 per day that it’s open.”

One of my readers informed me that works out to about $300 per skater, per leisurely skate.  I’m not sure Wayne Gretzky made that much in his prime with the Oilers, Melanie.

And here’s what you had to say about Skate-gate: “We believe that it is really good news because this will be here for a month, and this will support, of course, important programming.”

“Really good news.”

It isn’t, Melanie.  It isn’t.  It is a disgrace.  It is disgusting.  It is an actual scandal. It is.

Melanie, it is also time for you to go.  You aren’t helping your reputation – and you are regularly hurting the reputation of this government, which is a not-bad government, as governments go.  Resign, for the love God, resign.

Oh, and I’d tell you that on Twitter, too.  If you weren’t, you know, blocking me.

Your friend,

Etc.


Review: Recipe For Hate “a complex, multilayered mystery”!

“The Canadian Review of Materials is published weekly from September through June and is an all-volunteer online publication which features reviews of books and other materials that are authored, illustrated and/or published by Canadians and that are produced for/of interest to children and adolescents. CM’s reviewers are teachers, teacher-librarians, public librarians and university professors…”

And here’s what they say about Recipe For Hate in their review!

“[Recipe For Hate is] a complex, multilayered mystery that highlights the energy and passion of youth while pointing a finger at issues like police misconduct, irresponsible journalism and the rise of the alt Right.”

Not bad! Other reviews, to date, are below:

  • Quill and Quire: “Kinsella skillfully blends convincing depictions of both the punk scene and the racist underground with the hoary trope of a band of kids setting out to solve a mystery. 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.” 

  • Publisher’s Weekly: “Adult author Kinsella (Fight the Right) sets this riveting murder mystery in Portland, Maine, in the late 1970s…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.”

  • Globe and Mail: “Portrayals of rebellious and non-conforming teens can feel reductive or contrived but Kinsella nails it without any stereotyping or embellishment. Though this authenticity will have big teen appeal, the novel is also part police procedural, part detailed history on the emergence of punk and part gritty murder mystery, all elements that skew more adult. Classification aside, it’s absorbing, jarring and raw.”

  • Toronto Star: “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.”

  • Booklist: “Kinsella’s book explodes off the page from the start…a dark and engrossing tale of punk-rock heroes fighting for justice.” 


Column: heartless in Gaza

The email arrived at 6:03 a.m. It was accompanied with a little graphic of a flashing red siren, up near the top, presumably to signal its importance.

“Take action,” the email said.  “Tell the Canadian Government you’re disappointed.”

The email was authored by the “CEO” of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, in Ottawa.   “Yesterday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to acknowledge that it is Hamas – not Israel – that is responsible for the current violence on the Gaza-Israel border.  This is very disappointing – and we must let him know its unacceptable.”

If you clicked on that last part, it mines your data, and then it takes you to a three-paragraph letter to Trudeau.  If you click on some buttons, the paragraphs and the wording get changed around, so that the Prime Minister is under the false impression that the letter-writer authored it him or herself.

In the letter, the lobby group’s “CEO” makes no specific reference to the 104 Palestinians – among them 12 children, one an eight-month-old baby named Leila Anwar Ghandoor – who have been killed during the course of the demonstrations at the Gaza Strip. Nor did his letter mention the number of people who have been injured – more than 12,600.

Oh, and one (1) Israeli soldier has been injured.

(And, before either side bombards my inbox, please be advised that none of the above information comes from Israel or Hamas.  It comes from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who get called in where there’s complex emergencies and natural disasters. Canada helps fund it.)

Also not mentioned in the CIJA letter is the name of one of the wounded: Dr. Tarek Loubani, an emergency-room physician from London, Ont.  A sniper shot Dr. Loubani in the legs with high-velocity tactical rounds.  At the time, he was wearing one of those distinctive green surgeon’s outfits, and he was standing with several orange-vested paramedics.  He wasn’t near any of the protestors when he was hit.

Dr. Loubani, who has worked in several war zones as an emergency doctor, told theGlobe and Mail: “I am very seasoned about not being shot at. I know where to stand. I know where to be. I know how not to get shot. Snipers don’t reach me because of mistakes. I did everything right. We were all huddled. We were high visibility. It was quiet at the exact moment I got shot.”

In other words, this Canadian man was targeted by a sniper in the service of a foreign nation.  The sniper would have known he or she was aiming at a doctor.  Perhaps he or she had orders to do so.

One of the clearly-identified paramedics rushed to assist Dr. Loubani.  Later that same day, a sniper targeted him, too, and killed him.

As noted, the CIJA letter said nothing about the attempted murder of Dr. Loubani. The Israeli Embassy apparently didn’t say much about it, either, simply referring the matter to a “fact-finding team” with the Israeli Defence Forces – that is, the organization that attempted to kill the Canadian.  The IDF would investigate the IDF.

All this proved to be a bit too much for Canada’s Prime Minister, and rightly so.  The use of disproportionate force was “inexcusable,” Justin Trudeau said.

And: “We are appalled that Dr. Tarek Loubani, a Canadian citizen, is among the wounded – along with so many unarmed people, including civilians, members of the media, first responders, and children.”

At this juncture, some disclosure: I have been a member of the board of the former Canada-Israel Committee (CIC).  I have been a legal advisor to the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). I have worked for most of my adult life exposing and opposing anti-Semitism.  I love Israel and Israelis.  I am a Zionist.

I parted ways with Canada’s Jewish leadership about a decade ago, however, after a dispute with the aforementioned “CEO.” Someone in the Jewish leadership had decided to ferry two Muslim-hating white supremacists on a junket to Israel.  One of them, blogger Kathy Shaidle, has said this of Muslims:  “Your religion is fucking retarded…[you are] ungrateful belligerent foreign savages…most of them can’t even read…What we really need to do is stop immigration from Pakistan and other crazy Muslim countries filled with illiterate, violent tribal peasants…”  She has also called Muslim children “parasites.”

Parasites.

When I pointed out Shaidle’s statements to the “CEO,” and objected to her being feted in Israel, I was removed from the CIC and CJC.  I haven’t spoken to the “CEO” since.

In the interim, however, the exceedingly-well-paid “CEO” has overseen the elimination of the CIC and the historic CJC.  CIJA has also lurched to the Right, where it has become little more than a mouthpiece for the Likud Party. To many, in fact, CIJA has become a puny echo chamber for Donald Trump’s Islamophobic Middle Eastern policy.

I again looked at the email from the “CEO,” trying to detect a reference to the baby, Leila Anwar Ghandoor – or even for Dr. Loubani, a Canadian who was in Gaza to save lives.  There was no mention of either.

So I looked for the “unsubscribe” button, down at the bottom of his email, and I clicked it.


#ONPOLI this hand, that hand

Random thoughts on that startling Abacus poll this morning:

  • On the one hand, the Abacus survey doesn’t entirely take into account regional realities, seat distribution, and turnout – so Doug is still way ahead, as in the 2016 Electoral College in the US
  • On the other hand, the PC-407 mess – which, to be fair, predates Doug’s arrival as leader – isn’t really reflected in the period in which Abacus was polling
  • On The One Hand, um, again, regular readers know my long-held view that “scandal” stuff does not excite voters nearly as much as it does the media or politicos – mainly because normal people think those of us in politics/media are all crooks anyway
  • But back, er, to The Other Hand: the media are frustrated that Doug is winning without (in their view) working for it – so it’s in their interest to drive this 407 narrative to make it more of a race


Operation Save the Furniture

My old friend David Akin got in touch with me about a study that Global News has put together. Akin and a team of researchers looked at where the three provincial party leaders have been since the election started – and it tells a very telling story.

What I’m hearing is that, presently, Wynne and her Wizard have one safe seat in Toronto, and a couple leaning their way.  That’s it.  Everything else is blue or orange.  So that suggests to me that Akin’s analysis is right.

Anyway: that debate is going to be pretty important, I’d say.  Comments are open.

A Global News analysis of the campaign itineraries of each leader adds some new data points to support what multiple polls have already shown. The NDP, in second place, have the wind at their backs. The front-running Progressive Conservatives are largely playing it safe. Meanwhile, the Liberal mission from day one appears to have been “Save the Furniture” by placing the leader in a series of ridings considered Liberal strongholds like Ottawa-Vanier, Mississauga-Malton, Guelph and London North Centre.

Struggling to avoid becoming the third party in Queen’s Park, Wynne has been campaigning in several ridings her party won by 20 points or more in 2014.

“The Ontario Liberal Party is calling its campaign ‘Care Over Cuts’ but it should be called ‘Save the Furniture’ [or]’Shore the Core’ because that’s what [Wynne’s] doing,” said Warren Kinsella, a Toronto-based lawyer and political consultant who played a key role in the election war rooms for winning Liberal campaigns for both Jean Chretien and Dalton McGuinty. “You can tell that by the ridings she’s visiting.”

Up to and including Friday’s published itineraries, Wynne has made or will make 28 campaign stops but just six, or 21 per cent, have been in ridings where one of her opponents is the incumbent.In fact, on Thursday night she visited for the first time a riding where the PCs are the incumbent, stopping in at a brewery and pub to meet with a handful of supporters in the GTA riding of Whitby.

“Everything can change, but when you look at where she’s going and what’s doing, it’s not a growth strategy,” said Karl Belanger, a veteran of several federal NDP campaigns, including the “Orange Wave” of 2011 that vaulted Jack Layton into the opposition leader’s office in Ottawa.


Deputy Minister Wynne, we presume

Spoke to CBC’s Mike Crawley yesterday about why Kathleen Wynne is doing so badly.

Told him Wynne made herself the only face of this government – that she didn’t ever use her capable ministers or caucus to spread the Ontario Liberal gospel. She insisted on being the only Ontario Liberal people ever heard from – to the extent, even, of actually going to grocery stores to repeatedly announce beer sales, and treating it like it was the moon landing.

Being the only recognizable face of your party is fine, I told him – if you are certain you are always going to be popular forever.

No one is popular forever.

Link here.

Snippets here:

“We teach our clients that simplicity, repetition and volume work. That’s what [PC leader Doug] Ford and [NDP leader Andrea] Horwath are doing. Sounding like a deputy minister at a policy convention doesn’t work. It’s how you lose.”

And:

“A daily frenzy of seemingly-unrelated announcements doesn’t equal having a narrative. When you don’t have a narrative, you don’t have much of a chance.”


Column: campaigns don’t matter

Now that Ontario’s election is underway – and Quebec’s and New Brunswick’s are in the offing – you’re going to hear this tired old chestnut a lot: “campaigns matter.”

Do they?  Well, sure, sort of.

But certainly not as much as the cliché suggests they do.  Not anymore.

Case Study One: Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.  My wife Lisa and I worked on that one, in Maine, New Hampshire and at her Brooklyn headquarters.

Hillary’s campaign was the best-financed, best-organized, best-prepared campaign I have ever seen.  She had the smartest people, the smartest policies, the most money, and the greatest get-out-the-vote organization in modern political history.

Her loathsome opponent, meanwhile, spent virtually no money on advertising.  His campaign was run by crooks, amateurs and grifters.  He was wildly disorganized and undisciplined.  He, and his team, did everything wrong.  But he still “won” – thanks to (a) less than 70,000 votes (b) and Russia manipulation of state-run voting systems in (c) three places – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Lots of uneducated theories persist about why Hillary “lost,” however.  Like: that she should’ve gone to Wisconsin.  Like: James Comey’s reckless intervention mid-campaign.  Like: nobody really knew who Hillary was – or they did, and they didn’t like her.

Here’s a memo straight from folks who actually worked on Hillary’s campaign folks: that’s all bunk.  Everyone knew who Hillary was, and the ones who didn’t like her?  They werenever going to vote for her.  Comey’s suggestion that we were under criminal investigation hurt, sure – but our opponent had admitted to sexually assaulting women on tape, too.  And Wisconsin?  Please: spare me. In the final days, all of Brooklyn H.Q. was emptying out to head to Pennsylvania, which had twice the electoral college votes that Wisconsin did.

The unvarnished reality is this: Hillary Clinton, and those of us who were (and remain) honoured and privileged to work for her, believed that campaigns matter, too.  Her loss – and Donald Trump’s “win” – showed that campaigns don’t matter nearly as much, anymore.  They just don’t.

Case Study Two: the Doug Ford campaign.

Doug Ford – who I know and like, full disclosure – is not a professional politician.  He may have been a city councillor for a single term, but he is as far from a professional politician as one can get.  He does not have anywhere near the experience that Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath have.  Not even close.

Unlike the other two, he has never led a political party before.  Unlike the other two, he has never ruled a caucus before.  Unlike the other two, he has never participated in a leader’s debate before last Monday.

But he’s still winning, and he may be winning big.  Some media polls suggest he has a twenty-point lead.  Internal party polling, meanwhile, suggests that the Grits are heading towards third party status.  And perhaps no party status at all.

How could such a thing happen to the once-mighty Ontario Liberal machine?  Three reasons.  One, Kathleen Wynne needed to take a walk in the proverbial snow way back in 2017.  Two, the Grits needed to jettison the profligate Martinite crew around Wynne – the ones who destroyed the federal Liberal party a decade ago.  Three, they needed to be infused with new blood and new faces.

They didn’t do any of those things.

Instead, they are muttering “campaigns matter” to each other.  Just wait for the campaign, they say.  We’ve got incriminating tapes and dirt on Doug.  We’ve got big surprises coming.  We’ve got the better candidate.

Newsflash, Wynne Wizards: the Clinton folks believed the same things.  They were running against an opponent who was similarly populist.  He said the wrong things, he was unstrategic, he got in trouble in the media.  So they perfectly executed a traditional campaign – against an imperfect, untraditional candidate.

Traditional political campaigns do not work against populists.

Populists possess an extraordinary magical power: they are able to transform an attack on them into an attack on those who support them.  And that is why virtually everything Kathleen Wynne said to Doug Ford in that first leaders’ debate last week – that he doesn’t understand how government works, that he doesn’t have experience, that he doesn’t get it, that he is out of his depth, blah blah blah – ricocheted off of him and onto the unhappy people who support him.  And thereby wedded them more closely to their man, Doug Ford.

An attack on Doug Ford, you see, is an attack on them.  Hillary Clinton realized that after her “deplorables” remark – but too late.

Kathleen Wynne still doesn’t.  She thinks traditional campaigns still matter, too.

They don’t.