, 09.30.2019 10:05 AM

Debates, debate moderators and those who seek to influence them

The picture above was apparently taken last night in Ottawa.  It shows the Huffington Post’s Althia Raj and the Liberal Party’s Gerald Butts.

Raj is one of the moderators in the crucial (and only) English-language leaders’ debate.

She and her employer have been criticized many times in the past for being biased – in favour of the Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau.

In my view, Butts was merely doing his job, and doing it well.  But was it a good idea for Raj to get together with Butts, mere days before the debates kick off?

No.  And some studies actually make that clear, too.

There’s bias, and there’s appearance of bias.  In a tight election race, it is stupid for a reporter to do anything that provides evidence of an appearance of bias.  Particularly when there is a requirement that “high journalistic standards” be maintained in respect of the debates.

It’s always the same: people in Ottawa regularly think that everyone South of the Queensway don’t notice what they do after hours.

But we do.


  1. the real Sean says:

    The source of the photo might be the most interesting part of this. Either its complete stupidity or someone on the campaign:

    a) wants PMJT to lose
    b) hates GB
    c) wants to pin the loss on GB
    d) all of the above…

    • Marc Laplante says:

      Who cares who took the pic? The content of the pic is the story- anything else is typical LPC conspiratorial distraction.

      • Celeste Lang says:

        Exactly. Like the recording between JWR and Michael Wernick. People bashed JWR for simply recording the conversation when the content of the tape was the real issue. Same with this.

      • P. Leifson says:

        Precisely! The justice maxim comes to mind – justice must not only be done, it must be SEEN to be done. In this photo BIAS is seen to be happening.

      • Ron Golden says:

        Spin 101.

        Blame the messenger.

        • the real Sean says:

          I think folks are missing the point… All of the parties have backroom meetings like this with the debate organizers if they can get away with it. The fact that it happened means nothing and is nothing new. As Warren says, this is precisely what staff are paid to do.

          What is far more intriguing is that someone playing at the top levels of Team Corruption wanted the public to know about it, jam it down their throat the next morning and I say good for them.

    • zing says:

      Well, look at the mirror at the top of the pic. You can see the original source. Female…wearing a green blouse and with reddish brown hair, from what I can see….

    • Lenny says:

      Something odd about the photo. The reflection in that back mirror shows a person (like The Joker) sitting in the chair at the same end of the table as Butts and RAJ. But the chair in the fore photo, it’s empty! Aptly, though, the dude beside her is holding his nose.

  2. Bill says:

    Say it ain’t so. This is hardly her first offence. Let’s just say, the jury would certainly find her as a useful idiot to the LPC and Justin Trudeau.

  3. Peter says:

    That is very stupid of her. What many con voters (and I assume some Dippers) will worry about is not just whether she is biased, but whether she thinks she isn’t.

    This problem has become so bad in the States that one doesn’t need to read media articles anymore, one just needs to see what outlet they are in to know what they say. The excellent news aggregate RealClearPolitics has a daily selection of about forty opinion pieces from all around the country–the vast majority (tediously) about Trump. I used to read a lot of them faithfully, but I no longer bother. I just check the publication they’re in and assume I know what they say. Occasionally I check to see whether I’m guilty of my own bias and read some as a self-imposed fairness test. So far, I am being completely fair. The only original and interesting stuff being written down there these days comes from GOP dissidents and the solid left.

    • Ted says:

      My mother, God rest her soul, repeated many times “always consider the source”. She was talking about not letting haters get your goat but I’ve found it applies to all aspects of life.
      It also applies to people on Facebook. Every time I see anything about politics on Facebook I immediately look to see who posted it. Then I don’t waste my time reading it as I already know what it’s going to say by who posted it.
      The notable exception being Mr Kinsella who has done a 180 on the subject of Trudeau recently and it’s been fascinating to watch.

    • Gyor says:

      Actually as a Dipper voter my top worry is not her biases, those are well known for a long time. No, my worry biggest fear is that she leaked the debate question ahead of time to Butts.

      She needa to request herself as a moderator and the debate questions altered or changed entirely where possible.

      • David Burke says:

        Maybe she wasn’t leaking. Maybe she was receiving the questions.

        • Robert White says:

          She looks subordinate & diminutive so you probably have a point there, DB. I don’t think Butts looks subordinate here either. Pretty sure he is giving her the questions & sequence to ask them in.

          I don’t think Butts is happy with the bill the waiter gave him.


  4. Max says:

    Firstly, this should be on the front page of major newspapers across the country tomorrow. Secondly, she should be asked to step down from the panel.

    That being said, this being Gerry Butts and the LPC key strategist, my concern if I were the other parties would be this: How much did Raj share with Butts as to the gist of the questions that Trudeau would be asked to respond to? And how much influence did Buts impart on Raj as to the tone and gist of the debate questions. No question, Justin gets a “heads up” as to the coming debate. This is the very thing Andrew Coyne, as a national political/government affairs commentator expressed concern about. How much does $600,000,000 buy the Trudeau government in bailing out the major newspapers? I guess it gets you to clear your calendar for Gerry BFF Butts. Sweet.

  5. J.H. says:

    Raj is a perfect example of why legacy media is losing the war against Social Media and alternative news sites. They’re compounding their errors with fake and/or non-relevant news & definite hints of biased reporting. Just look at some of the CBC crap we’re seeing from various campaigns – more personal assassinations than any hint of the day’s events.
    Raj meeting with Butts days before she moderates the debate?
    Just plain stupid!

    • Dawn Mills says:

      err um, just wondering when the Huffington Post became part of the legacy media. My knees tell me all the time, but I didn’t realize I was that old.

      • Vancouverois says:

        Whatever you think of HuffPo, the fact that Althia Raj appears regularly on CBC panels and is a moderator for this debate pretty obviously qualifies her as legacy media.

  6. John says:

    Unifor journalists biased in favor of Justin? I’m shocked that anyone would think that. Shocked I tell you. And don’t even think that he might be transferring money to her from that 600 million dollar government bribe fund.

  7. The Doctor says:

    I don’t think Althea is a total hack or anything like that, but . . . I’m a regular watcher of the At Issue panel on The National (where she’s a regular), and it’s been pretty damn clear for some time that she’s pro-Liberal and anti-Tory.

  8. lyn says:

    Raj has been bought and paid for and Butts is making sure she follows through! Any questions asked will be suspect that Trudeau had the questions before the debate.

  9. Debbie says:

    Inquiring minds want to know.
    Was she giving Gerald the questions or was Gerald giving her the questions that he knows Justin can answer?
    Why isn’t this picture on the front page of mainstream media yet?

  10. FFS, this is Ottawa where every stripe of political operative is everywhere with a goddamned camera. These brains aren’t in neutral, they’re in park.


  11. Patrick Robinson says:

    So, does she now keep her regular place on CBC national panels too?
    Why doesn’t CBC just have Butts sit on these panels, why not go to the source, why let the spider sit in his web, shine some light on him?

  12. Marleen says:

    She should be fired…
    And this showes how low and corrupt the liberals are…stoopingto fix the debates….
    The whole debate should be changed..
    The leaders should not know till the debate on what they are debating about…
    Only debate I want to see is on their platform

  13. Harry Belafonte says:

    Good news for Conservative voters, Scheer has been completely investigated by the Libs and the worst thing they could find was he may or may not have been allowed to call himself a broker. He did legally sell insurance though. What an elitist! His parents made over 100k, what a snob!

    As for the pic, I wonder if he is telling her what articles to write, or what questions to ask. Oh wait I forgot, articles are Telford’s specialty so it must be about the debate.

    With the Libs moving hard left, and based on the polls, the majority of Canadians want to move far left from the pragmatic ways we used to praise. I fear for the future if this is a trend and not a blip.

  14. STEVE STAYSKO says:

    How ethical Butts meeting the journalist who just happens to be one of the moderators for an upcoming debate. Butts must be giving her the debate questions and the overall script anything to help Trudeau stay on track during the debate.

  15. Dave says:

    Oh come on now. Where else would a wonk like Butts get a date except with an even bigger wonk.
    Have some pity on them.

  16. Ron Golden says:

    Ethics demands she recuse herself from moderating as this surely creates the appearance of bias.

  17. Harry Belafonte says:

    The funny thing is if Trudeau was meeting her we’d just think he was trying to get in her pants. With Butts we know it’s just about fixing the election debate.

  18. Jim R says:

    During one of the latter times that LavScam came up with CBC’s ‘At Issue’ panel, Raj, who was one of the panel members at that time, came across as a cheerleader for the Liberals. So, I’d say her impartiality has been less than stellar for a while now.

  19. Patrick Robinson says:

    Raj, and “Independent Journalist” Susan Ryley should really just openly admit they work for the LPC, it could not be more obvious

  20. Adam Smith says:

    Althia Raj must resign as debate moderator – this is truly disgusting!

    • RKJ says:

      She looks very comfortable, as in with a kindred spirit. The other parties should not tolerate this. On reflection, any chance this is a Butts plot to get the debates shut down? JT may not do well, being forced out in an unscripted environment.

      Regardless, Ms. Raj should resign as moderator.

  21. Joseph says:

    If you zoom in on the mirror at the back of the room you can see who took the picture.
    If this was done by a professional they obviously want their identity found out now don’t they?

    • Joseph Taylor says:

      I don’t know about you but I see a person there and a greens shirt. Other than that I can’t make out anything. Maybe image enhancement would give it away but does it even matter who took the photo?

    • Chris says:

      Does it matter who took the photo?
      Did you listen to CBC Radio’s “The House” this weekend? They sent a journalist to record a “gotcha” interview with the guy who gave the Blackface photo to Time magazine. Not an actual interview but a sneak attack pounced on him at his house, like they do with suspected scammers on “Marketplace,” or with suspected pedophiles on certain US media programs. CBC were trying to discredit the source of the Blackface photo, not the actual wearer of the Blackface.
      I used to shun all my right-wing aquaintences who harboured what I thought of as media-bias conspiracy theories. But the last few years…

      • The Doctor says:

        Exactly. If someone dig up a photo of Scheer in a Nazi uniform, I don’t think the CBC would be obsessing about the provenance of the photo.

  22. Darren says:

    PM Butts is just doing his part to help his gender confused lactating bobblehead get through the ‘debates’. the corrupt Liberal Party of Quebec will need time to translate the questions into crayon, small words and block letters or captain crayon will just stand at the podium with his usual vacuous look and a slinky of drool on his chin.

  23. Mike says:

    Maybe Butts is checking to see if the debate will be a costume party.

  24. Anon111 says:

    Here are the debate moderators:

    “The English debate will be moderated by Rosemary Barton, Susan Delacourt (Star), Dawna Friesen (Global), Lisa LaFlamme (CTV) and Althia Raj (Huffington Post), each responsible for a portion of the debate.[19] The French moderator is Patrice Roy, who will be assisted by several journalists from prominent Quebec newspapers.[19]” (from Wiki)

    Globe & Mail, Postmedia, and Sun were not part of the broadcast consortium.

    • Pedant says:

      Hmm. Doesn’t seem like a very gender-balanced roster of moderators now does it. I’m surprised they didn’t include Heather Mallick.

      Because it’s 2019.

      • Fred from BC says:

        Have you ever seen that picture showing the ‘diversity’ of the editorial board at the Huffington post? Priceless…

  25. Pepe Le Pew says:

    What a gentleman, took the seat against the wall. Butts, you fail in so many ways it’s not funny

  26. But, but, but, but!!!!

    How come no one stuck Harper with the cheque?????

  27. Gordon says:

    I can’t believe how the Liberals can “teflon off” some major blunders (putting it very mildly)!

    I also can’t believe the Mainstream Media haven’t got this on the front page and on primary live News Feed.

    This Election Campaign is disgusting!!

  28. Gordon says:

    Raj MUST step down as a Moderator!!

  29. James says:

    I find this odd. She must have known someone would take a picture. I guess she s9moly does not care how it looks.

  30. John says:

    Rumour has it that the CBC will come out with the ground breaking story, that when Scheer was a child two of his grade 5 classmates were of German descent. Gerald Butts is demanding an investigation.

  31. Ted says:

    The backroom people like Gerry Butts should stay out of the news. He also made an error.

    It is very important that the candidates are in the news, not the support team members, unless the support team member plans to go on TV with a stuffed dinosaur.

  32. Fred from BC says:

    Is this the same debate that will be ‘moderated’ by five female journalists, all Liberals?

    Yeah…no one expects them to do anything but lob softballs at Junior anyway…

  33. Too funny. He met with Greta — she criticized the shit out of Sweet Catherine’s environmental panoply and then the bottom fell out of his youth support. Another brilliant move!

  34. PK says:

    It’s a communications guy talking to a journalist – a lot of journalists want lunch with senior staff – they’re journalists.

  35. Robert White says:

    This is great, eh. Trump gets impeachment & Butts gets photographed in public pre-debate with the ‘unbiased’ CBC debate moderator.

    Nothing to see here but good PR.


  36. Pedant says:

    In fairness, how do we know that Raj doesn’t also meet with strategists from other parties as well? Isn’t it “normal” in Ottawa for journalists and politicians (and handlers) of all stripes to interact on a social level?

    • Fred from BC says:

      “In fairness, how do we know that Raj doesn’t also meet with strategists from other parties as well? Isn’t it “normal” in Ottawa for journalists and politicians (and handlers) of all stripes to interact on a social level?”

      That’s a fair question in most cases, but Raj’s personal bias has been long established. She’s Liberal, through and through.

    • Vancouverois says:

      It this is true, then where are the pictures of Raj with other party strategists?

  37. John says:

    Groper’s Globe and Mail reports that Canada’s Defence Minister attended a gala in B.C. to honour the anniversary of the commies taking over China. Well, Justin does love their basic dictatorship.

  38. Steve says:

    The body language in the photo shows Butts in control and Althia Raj waiting for her marching orders. Yikes.

    • Fred from BC says:

      Ummm…which ‘Steve’ are you, now?

      (normal Steve, I’m guessing)

      • Steve says:

        Ummm Fred from BC. I am not sure what you are on about but I am the the same Steve I always am. Normal, probably not. I believe there are multiple Steve’s commenting on this issue if that is what is confusing you.

        • Fred from BC says:

          ” I am not sure what you are on about but I am the the same Steve I always am. ”

          You must have missed that particular thread, then.

          “Normal, probably not.”

          My bad. I considered using ‘regular’ or ‘average’ Steve to differentiate you from the other two, but I’ll just go with an unembellished ‘Steve’ if you prefer.

          “I believe there are multiple Steve’s commenting on this issue if that is what is confusing you.”

          No one is confusing me, I just like to know who I’m conversing with. So you’re not Steve T, and you’re not idiot Steve? Good enough. I stand corrected.

  39. Gloriosus et Liber says:

    Since when did HuffPost become a credible news source?

    According to this well known Media Bias chart (which is hardly a right wing source) it is the left wing equivalent to the Washington Times and other non-credible right wing “news” outlets.


    It is described as “Hyper-partisan Left” and “Extreme/unfair representations of the news”

    • Fred from BC says:

      Thanks for the link. CNN and Buzzfeed are being treated too kindly and Fox News too harshly but the chart is useful anyway.

  40. Fred from BC says:

    “This debate will likely degenerate into uselessness in any case: Maxime “the Giant Squid Brain” Bernier is involved.”

    That was already the case with Lizzie May involved.

    (and why oh why is the leader of the Bloc there??)

  41. Max says:

    Bill, to your question “Can somebody tell me why we have journalists asking questions at leaders’ debates anyway?” Where you been? Firstly, Justin donated $600,000,000.00 to their employers (quid pro quo?). And secondly, Justin flexes his muscles when it comes to which debates he participates in and under what circumstances. Apparently you admire Coyne, but you don’t read him as often as you should. (Your comment about reading hos columns and who pays his salary is as cheap a partisan shot as there is.)

  42. PK says:

    What do you think of Andrew Sheer’s Insurance background?

    • Warren says:

      What? Sorry, I nodded off there

    • Vancouverois says:

      Looks to me like the Liberals are trying desperately to make a mountain out of a molehill.

      If the worst scandal they can find about Scheer is that he sometimes conversationally refers to his brief career in the insurance industry by saying he was “an insurance broker”, when he was on the path to being licensed but left to become an MP before actually receiving the license, then they’re only making him look pretty damned squeaky clean.

      They may be trying to create the impression that he went around defrauding little old ladies or something, but that clearly isn’t the case, and the “scandal” (such as it is) isn’t sticking.

      There’s a reason why the CBC isn’t running with this one.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:


        Do you mean the Assignment Editor finally has judgment?

      • Fred from BC says:

        “There’s a reason why the CBC isn’t running with this one.”

        Oh, they covered it, and there were hundreds of JT fanboys shrieking stuff like ” He FAKED his resume!!” “He LIED to Canadians!!!” ” He BROKE the LAW!!!” and similar crap in the comment section, but enough of us posted the facts in response.

        (he never claimed to be a ‘registered’ broker, he *was* working and acting as a broker/ salesman (is there a difference? ) and passed one of the required courses to become registered, he had left the business to run for political office *before* calling himself a broker (so he clearly wasn’t trying to illegally make a living as one), etc, etc…)

        Overall, I couldn’t help but marvel at their dedication and sheer *desperation* to find something (anything!) to hammer Andrew Scheer with. As scandals go, this one is just sad.

        • Vancouverois says:

          The CBC certainly did try to make it into a scandal; but even they had to let it drop after a day or so. It was just so obvious that nobody cared. If they’d continued to push it, they’d only have been revealing their own biases all the more.

          I’m sure they’ll still try to mention it whenever they can, but I don’t think it will help their cause. If anything, it may annoy people and make the CBC and Liberals look petty.

  43. Lynda McIver says:

    Watched Rosemary Barton hammer Andrew Scheer with every answer he gave at last night’s Meet the Candidate on CBC.
    If this is a peek at what will happen at the leaders debate, then the bias from her will surely make Trudeau stand out as the favoured son.

    • Bill says:


      While I agree RB tried her best to rattle Andrew Scheer, he came over looking good IMHO. Unflappable and statesman like. If you watched the entire show (not the abridged on the news) you will see even the 5 questioners seemed to be quite happy with Andrew’s responses. And in fact, a couple of them smacked RB down.

      Overall impression of Andrew Scheer’s performance was, he held is own, gave good answers intelligent answers without doublespeak, did not talk down to anyone, he looked comfortable and above all, he looked like a normal guy. Not pompous and phoney like our current PM.

      Andrew Scheer will make a fine PM, one to make Canada proud again. Canada will indeed be back from the brink!

  44. Look carefully at Althia’s face: now, if that ain’t a look of serene electoral confidence, I don’t know what is!

    • Brad Jackson says:

      Totally, or is that the clam chowder didn’t agree with her? Or was it that pesky journalistic integrity thingy popped into her head?

      Oddly enough, Gerry looks very content.

    • lyn says:

      Ronald O’Dowd: Looks like she swallowed a pickle or was told to do what was asked of her. Or she got some news the LIB’s are losing from Butts!!

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