Politics by spin in Canada


in Canada, Politics, Rants

Olivier De Schutter, the right to food envoy of the United Nations, recently released a report highlighting how many Canadians suffer from food insecurity. In response, Canada’s health minister Leona Aglukkaq described him as “ill-informed” and “patronizing”.

To me, this response seems like part of a worrisome trend in Canada. Instead of thinking about real problems, our government obsesses over negative media coverage related to those problems. It’s not malnutrition or worsening climate change or tortured detainees that are the problem, but rather critical media coverage on these sorts of issues. Rather than trying to fix problems, effort seems to be disproportionately dedicated to silencing critics and producing counter-spin.

It doesn’t help that opposition parties generally use every bit of negative media coverage as a means of hammering ineffectually at the government. What they need to realize is that our current government is largely an accident arising from the nature of our electoral system. With one party on the right and four on the left (counting the solitary Green), elections tend to favour the more unified ideology.

Just as the government should re-dedicate itself to governing for the benefit of Canadians, the opposition should dedicate itself forming an electable party through one or more mergers.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

. May 17, 2012 at 9:47 am

OTTAWA – The Harper government called in the RCMP to investigate a politically embarrassing story involving the decision to sole-source the purchase of the F-35 stealth fighter, claiming it was a breach of national security, The Canadian Press has learned.


. May 17, 2012 at 11:27 am

OTTAWA — The Harper government struck back at a United Nations envoy Wednesday, saying he was “ill-informed” and “patronizing” and had no business “lecturing” Canada about hunger and poverty.

The terse comments, delivered by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, came after Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, told Postmedia News that people shouldn’t be so “self-righteous” about how great Canada is, given how many families are unable meet their daily food needs.

“It’s not because the country is a wealthy country that there are no problems. In fact, the problems are very significant and, frankly, this sort of self-righteousness about the situation being good in Canada is not corresponding to what I saw on the ground, not at all,” said De Schutter, pointing to up to 900,000 households and 2.5 million people in Canada who, he claims, are too poor to afford adequate diets.

Kenney shot back, saying De Schutter should butt out.

The UN “should focus its efforts on those countries where there is widespread hunger, widespread material poverty and not get into political exercises in developed democracies like Canada. We don’t think that’s a very intelligent use of their resources,” Kenney told reporters on Parliament Hill.


. May 17, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Food for thought: Why David Olive is ashamed to be a Canadian today

I feel ashamed to be a Canadian today.

One of our best friends, the U.N., exhorted us Wednesday to make our “land of plenty” a prosperous place for the unacceptably large number of us who are poor.

“Canada has long been seen as a land of plenty,” Olivier De Schutter, the U.N.’s right-to-food envoy, told an Ottawa press conference.

“Yet today one in 10 [Canadian] families with a child under 6 is unable to meet their daily food needs. These rates of food insecurity are unacceptable, and it is time for Canada to adopt a national right-to-food strategy.”

None of that shames me. I know my fellow citizens want to do better. They want, for instance, Ottawa to stop reneging on Parliament’s unanimous commitment, back in 1990, to eradicate child poverty by 2000.

. May 17, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Conservatives, Liberals join hands to slap down Mulcair over oilsands attacks

OTTAWA — A senior cabinet minister in the Harper government demanded Thursday that New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair apologize to all Western Canadians for his attacks on the oilsands industry.

And acting Liberal leader Bob Rae accused the rookie NDP leader of engaging in a double-standard, saying the Montreal MP never would be as dismissive of Premier Jean Charest as he was this week of B.C. Premier Christy Clark, Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

But Mulcair refused again Thursday to back down from his argument that booming oilsands exports are artificially inflating the Canadian dollar and killing hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, especially in Ontario and Quebec.

“They’ve picked the wrong guy if they think they’re going to be bullying me,” Mulcair told reporters after a raucous question period.

Anon May 17, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Of course, the parties can continue to squabble amongst themselves as usual.

With the Liberals naturally indecisive about whether to be on the side of public or corporate welfare.

. May 17, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Fifty-five per cent of households in which the main source of income was social assistance are food insecure, the result of a huge discrepancy between social assistances levels and the rising costs of living. The failures of social assistance levels to meet the basic needs of households, have resulted in the proliferation of private and charity-based food supplements. In 2011, Food Banks Canada calculated that close to 900,000 Canadians were accessing food banks for assistance each month, slightly over half of whom were receiving social assistance.

The Special Rapporteur was disconcerted by the deep and severe food insecurity faced by aboriginal peoples across Canada living both on- and off-reserve in remote and urban areas. Statistics on First Nations specific food insecurity are few, however the First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS 2008/10) indicates that 17.8 per cent of First Nations adults (age 25–39) and 16.1 per cent of First Nations adults (age 40–54) reported being hungry but did not eat due to lack of money for food in 2007/2008.

. May 18, 2012 at 8:00 am

Ministers must resist the siren call of spin to prevent climate failure

Trying to tackle the huge challenge with policies that contradict each other and silly spin makes a tough job unnecessarily harder

No one thinks it will be easy to slash the carbon emissions driving climate change while keeping the lights on and at an affordable price. But trying to tackle the challenge with policies that contradict each other and silly spin makes a tough job unnecessarily harder.

Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, launched a good report on Friday, suggesting the damage wrought on the UK’s economy by spikes in global oil, gas and coal prices could be reduced by over half in 2050 as a result of climate change policies.

“Only last year, the impact of the Arab spring on wholesale gas prices, pushed up UK household bills by 20%,” he said. “Every step the UK takes towards building a low-carbon economy reduces our dependency on fossil fuels, and on volatile global energy prices.”

“The more we can shift to alternative fuels, and use energy efficiently, the more we can ensure that our economy does not become hostage to far-flung events and to the volatility of market forces,” he added. So far, so sensible.

But what about the impact of far-flung events on the UK’s faltering ambition to build new nuclear power stations? Well, that’s a completely different story, apparently. Energy minister Charles Hendry was asked exactly that on Tuesday by MPs.

oleh May 18, 2012 at 8:57 am

I believe that themjor problem with our political party system is the basic breakdown on faocussing on improvements rather than politics. In our system, the opposition seems to see as it”s basic purpose to put down the ideas of the party in power; and the party in power is not inclined to accept the good ideas of the opposition. A better approach would be to consider the ideas on their merits, as opposed to which party introduces it.

oleh May 18, 2012 at 9:30 am

I have now read the report of the UN right to food envoy. It does not appear particularly surprising, or patronizing. He identifies that the amjor food insecurity is reported among First Nations and those on social assistance. It also commends Canada in many areas. I would think it would be part of his job to bring out areas of concerns as well as identifies areas of strenths. he has done both.

One problem I find with media coverage is its general focus on the negative. This may be an example.

Milan May 18, 2012 at 9:47 am

I do think Canada has lost focus on caring for the most vulnerable members of society.

The idea that people get what they deserve through markets alone seems very faulty – especially when it comes to people who have to deal with things like abuse and serious mental illness.

During uncertain economic times it is especially important to keep social services available for those in need.

. May 18, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Everyone agrees with me
Jonathan McLeod

September 9, 2011 | 2 Comments

Well, maybe not everyone, but a few people.

The Tories and the NDP are tripping over themselves trying to make energy cheaper, thus hurting us economically and environmentally. I’ve already touched on this a couple of times, but it’s worth getting some other voices in on the fun.

. May 29, 2012 at 9:29 am
. June 2, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Gov’t response to rapporteur disappointing

It was a typical response from the Conservative government whose favourite tactic is to attack and refuse to retreat – cogent discussion be damned.

This week Oliver De Schutter, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, completed an 11 day mission to Canada. His report was not favourable to Canada.

He found a country where an estimated 900,000 households – or 2.5 million people – are “food insecure.” In 1996 the World Food Summit defined food security as “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”

Naturally, De Schutter visited poor inner-city neighbourhoods and remote aboriginal communities in Manitoba and Alberta. He reported “very desperate conditions and people who are in extremely dire straits.”

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq could have accepted his report, reviewed his findings, and made recommendations. After all this is a very serious issue and it shouldn’t be seen in partisan terms. Food insecurity is a fact in Canada and it has been the case regardless of the government in power.

But Aglukkaq chose to attack and ignore the valuable findings. She accused De Schutter of being an “ill informed and patronizing academic.” This kind of rhetoric may play to the Tory base but it does little to address the very real problems our people face as an impoverished population that relies on food banks and welfare.

Aglukkaq went on to state that indigenous people don’t face food insecurity because “they hunt every day.” This is an out-of-date view.

Today people have to have boats and snow machines if they want to hunt. The traditional food supply is under pressure and becoming increasingly scarce. Food prices in the north are expected to rise in October when the Kafkaesquenamed Nutrition North program for remote northern communities comes into force. This program will end subsidies for many food products.

Urban aboriginals simply can’t hunt for food unless they stalk pigeons and Canada geese. In fact there are charged urban myths out there of aboriginals dinning on geese in Wascana Park in Regina. But if we’re expected to live off the land we have to buy it from First Nations hunters and risk breaking the law.

In order to deflect the issue Aglukkaq turned on the Third World, stating that 65 per cent of the world’s hungry live in seven countries, India, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan.”

This is true and obviously the Tories prepped her with distracting facts that skirt the issue.

. June 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Along with terrorism and organized crime, “embarrassment to the Canadian government” was considered one of the threats facing security forces at the G8 and G20 summit meetings in Ontario 2010, according to newly released military records.

It’s no surprise to learn that officials were worried about potential threats from terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida, “lone wolves” not affiliated with any established terrorist group, foreign spies as well as protest groups and criminals.

But, say Canadian Forces planning documents, grouped in with such threats was “Embarrassment to the Gov’t.”


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