In Tuesday’s Sun: enough of the wannabe police, already

Keeping church and state separate is important. Keeping the state and the police separate is equally important.

We all got to see why, last week, when Stephen Harper – and one of his senior ministers – summarily changed their job descriptions. Last Monday, the Prime Minister assigned himself the role of federal Chief of Police. Then, last Wednesday, Employment Minister Jason Kenney did likewise.

On Monday, as every Canadian will recall, Armed Forces warrant officer Patrice Vincent was assassinated in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu by an avowed ISIS sympathizer, a pathetic loser who does not deserve to be named.

Vincent’s murder became political fodder, and within minutes.

The parking lot where Vincent was killed was still a crime scene when the Prime Minister’s Office instructed a Conservative backbench MP to ask a puffball question about a “possible terror attack.” He did so, and used those words.

The Prime Minister of Canada stood up and told the Commons: “We are aware of these reports and they are obviously extremely troubling. First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” He then sat down.

All of this would be fine – it would almost be routine – were it not for one thing: Harper spoke about the killing before many hours before the police would do so.

An RCMP release would only come much, much later. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office deputized itself as the Mounties’ PR department, and issued a release that grandly elaborated on Harper’s statement in the Commons.

Two days later, yet more horror, and yet another Conservative politician elbowing aside the police. On that sad day, as all recall, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot while he stood guard at the National War Memorial by another extremist.

The shooting took place before 10 a.m. Thereafter, an entire nation wondered for more than two agonizing hours about Cirillo’s status. Until just before 1 p.m., that is, when Jason Kenney – not police, not a hospital, not Cirillo’s family – announced that the soldier was dead.

“Condolences to family of the soldier killed, & prayers for the Parliamentary guard wounded,” Kenney’s tweet read. “Canada will not be terrorized or intimidated.”

All of which was true. Every word.

But this is true, too: politicians aren’t the police. They should always leave the investigation of crimes to the police. They should always adhere to their clearly-defined constitutional role, and keep their lips zipped about what the police do (and vice-versa).

Canadians should be profoundly uncomfortable, therefore, that any politician would be speaking about these tragedies – or assigning motive, or telling us a soldier has been murdered – long before the police. That is not the way our system works.

As every school kid knows, our Constitution stipulates that the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches must operate separately. It’s all right there, in black and white, in parts three, four and five.

Messrs. Harper and Kenney’s insistence on breaking the news about the deaths of Vincent and Cirillo was unconstitutional, full stop. It also raises the unattractive possibility that, one, Harper and Kenney were willing to reduce two soldier’s tragic deaths to political talking points. And, two, that the Conservatives are willing to usurp the role of the police, if they see any political advantage in doing so.

If that’s the case, then we are piloting through some very dangerous waters, indeed.

The constitutional obligation of any Minister, any Prime Minister, is to (a) let the police do what they do, without interference (b) ensure that we have peace, order and good government – by ensuring that public opinion isn’t needlessly inflamed (c) resist the temptation to politicize something that should never be political.

By all accounts, Vincent and Cirillo were good men, and good soldiers. They bravely did their jobs.

Harper and Kenney should do theirs, and leave police work to the police.

Communications, job interviews, and Toronto’s mayoralty

If elections are just great big job interviews (and they are) then communications – how you communicate, when you communicate, what you communicate – ultimately determine whether you get the job or not.

There are exceptions to that, of course. (There are always exceptions in politics.)  In Toronto’s municipal campaign, there were three big things that affected the race.

• The New Democrat brand was in decline. In B.C., Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick, in federal by-elections: pretty much everywhere, these days, the NDP are struggling. That hurt Olivia Chow – the doyenne of the NDP – the most.

• Rob Ford (unexpectedly) went into rehab for two months, and then he (unexpectedly) came back. He raised hopes that Ford Nation would disappear, and then he dashed them. At that point, the election – which had always been a referendum on the Fords – became even more so. The anti-Ford coalition started looking for the candidate who could beat Ford(s), and not necessarily the best one.

• The biggest issue in Toronto is how to get around. As everyone who lives here knows too well, the city is a Hellish mess. No one with a brain believed that any one candidate had the solution – but they wanted to hear ideas about how to fix it. John Tory’s transit plan wasn’t a smart track, it was a laugh track: it promised to send heavy-rail trains on right turns through churches and homes. It had no way to pay for itself. It treated some parts of the city as more equal than others – and it reflected Tory’s core belief that white privilege doesn’t exist. But Tory at least talked about transit. The others didn’t, not nearly enough. And when they did get around to it, it was too late.

Those three big things aside, elections are – again – great big job interviews. They are all about communications.

For years, Tory was a serial loser mainly because he couldn’t communicate. Then, he got hired as a radio talk show host, and he spent four years learning how to communicate better.

He was a liar, of course. He donated thousands to the Fords, and defended them on his radio show, and then pretended he didn’t do either. He supported LRT, then reversed himself on it.  He said he had a Number One Priority that wasn’t. But John Tory was after redemption, and he figured he could easily beat the overweight crack addict and the Chinese socialist.

Doug Ford was – for Etobicoke and Scarborough, the boroughs where Ford Nation remains strong – the perfect candidate. He was the tough fiscal conservative, without the crack. He was bigger than life.  He was a maverick, and Toronto likes maverick mayors. But he came into the race too late. He would have won if he’d been Ford Nation’s candidate a lot sooner – because he is a much better communicator than John Tory.

He’s also a better communicator than Olivia Chow. But, really, who isn’t?

Our last memory of her, before she ran, was the stoic, dignified, quiet widow, standing beside Jack Layton’s casket. Then she disappeared into the maw of Ottawa, and nobody really saw her again until she ran for mayor.

She was the frontrunner, at the start, because voters thought she was still the woman they remembered from Jack’s funeral. But she wasn’t.  She’d changed.

She was, instead, an unremarkable person who couldn’t communicate her way out of a wet paper bag. She was hard to understand. She was dominated, easily, but the slick former radio host and the talking points machine.

She didn’t speak English at home, and that is what hurt her the most, in the end: in debates, in scrums, she always sounded like she was translating something from Chinese into English. It was fatal, in fact.

In a real election campaign, advertising can help a candidate overcome their inability to communicate well. But the Toronto mayoralty wasn’t a real campaign: it’s an unmitigated joke, with 60 debates, millions of voters, a province-sized area to cover – and only $1.5 million to do it all.

It can’t be done. You can’t effectively advertise, over that much time, with that many voters, with that ridiculously-small budget. Can’t be done.

So, you need to rely on the news media to cover those interminable debates, and show clips of you looking and sounding like a mayor. Olivia Chow, however, never looked or sounded like a mayor. She looked like what she was: an unremarkable person who struggled to communicate. Who was consistently dominated by her two main opponents. Who didn’t have a big idea to sell, who didn’t have a clear message.

She also, as I experienced personally, wasn’t a particularly nice person. She wasn’t likeable.

When she tossed me under the proverbial bus – for doing what we had all agreed we would do, which was point out the white privilege at the heart of John Tory’s main plank – she lied. She lied about me being one volunteer out of “thousands.” She lied about meeting with me – she had met me many times, and regularly, too (even at her house!). She lied.

Reporters knew it, and some voters sensed it. She looked like a stammering, yammering deer in the headlights. And a person who doesn’t tell the truth.

I’ve written a book about the need for progressives to work together to defeat conservatives. My involvement with Chow grew out of that – coupled with my desire to rid the city of Rob Ford.

I don’t really believe in that unite-the-left stuff, anymore. Olivia Chow beat it out of me. A lot of New Democrats, I’ve come to accept, believe winning the bronze is their lot in life. They’re almost uncomfortable with the idea of winning the gold. That certainly is the case with Chow, who looks more content in third place (as she is now) than being in first place (as she was at the start).

Communications. That’s what these things are all about. Tory and Ford could, Chow couldn’t. Simple.

What will the next four years be like? Gridlock, dithering, indecision, elitism, scandal, lies.

The usual, in other words.



Press release about John Tory’s move to bar woman and control media



And Toronto mayoralty candidate again attempts to bully news media

TORONTO – Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory has decreed that Lisa Kirbie will not be permitted to provide political commentary for CityNews at his Election Night gathering – because of who Kirbie’s partner is.

Kirbie is the Senior Vice President of the Daisy Consulting Group, and a regular political commentator on CTV and Sun News Network. CityNews asked Kirbie to provide commentary during the station’s election night coverage at the Liberty Grand, John Tory headquarters.

Despite the fact that Kirbie’s appearance was confirmed as recently as late Friday afternoon, this morning CityNews was advised that Kirbie would not be allowed on the premises – because her partner is Warren Kinsella, a Toronto lawyer who has been critical of Tory in the past. CityNews was told they would not be granted accreditation for Kirbie.

“I am my own person, with my own views,” Kirbie said. “John Tory knows me, and he knows that. It is frankly pathetic and cowardly that Tory is barring me from being the guest of an established news organization, simply because Warren is my partner.”

She continued: “It’s also worrying that Tory has again been caught bullying a news organization. They should determine who they have on-air – not a thin-skinned mayoralty candidate.”

Tory campaign operative Amanda Galbraith allegedly told CityNews that Kirbie was being barred because she is “a material witness” in a lawsuit between Kinsella and Tory’s most senior campaign advisor.

“That’s not just false, it’s a lie,” Kirbie said. “I am not named in either the Statement of Claim or the Statement of Defence in that case. And my lawyer this afternoon wrote to the defendant’s lawyer, to alert him to the fact that the Tory campaign is lying about a court process.”

Kirbie concluded: “I thought John Tory had learned his lesson when he was slammed for chauvinism when he said that young women should play golf to get ahead. Apparently not. He’s just as sexist, it seems, as the mayor he is seeking to replace.”

– 30 –

For more information, contact:
David Shiller, LLB

I’m number 22! I’m number 22!


Being beaten by 1, 5 and 9 is an honour.

In respect of the rest of the list? Well, I haven’t really tweeted anything to #topoli since mid-August, so I particularly enjoyed beating 40, 42, 44, 46, 47, 51, 54, 57, 65, 77, 82, 83, 95 and 101.

(I’m petty, but you clearly dig that about me.)

Coming later today: my #topoli end-of-campaign take that some people will really, really not like. The Globe and Mail found it interesting, at least.

SFH live at The Only Cafe!

I thought we were terrible, but Big City Lib and the LaRoccas said we rocked. Several F Bombs were dropped. And lotsa dough was raised for Aboriginal Legal Services!


Jihadist or lunatic?

The New York Times has a huge piece this morning, with multiple contributors, about the shooter and Ottawa (whose name I still refuse to use).

Was he an Islamic radical, or just a drug addicted loser? Here are the Times’ first few grafs:

OTTAWA — A loner. A drug addict. A criminal. A drifter. And lately, an Islamic radical.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the bearded, 32-year-old gunman who was shot dead Wednesday after killing a soldier and storming Canada’s Parliament, aptly fit each of those descriptions. In the tumultuous wake of what Canada’s prime minister has called a terrorist act, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s radicalism has become the defining one.

But a closer examination of his past draws a somewhat different portrait: one of an increasingly troubled, mentally unstable man who initially may have embraced religion not as a political cause, but as an attempt to scaffold a disintegrating life.

Whatever he was, I take to view the targeting identified groups – in this case, military people – with extreme violence amounts to a hate crime in Canadian law. In prosecution, and in sentencing, these acts should be treated as such.