Thursday, May 28, 2009

The stuff that defines our democracy

Going to blog this one, even though it's been circulating for a day now. It's a topic that deserves all the scrutiny it can get.

In case anyone had any doubts about what was done to Stephane Dion by CTV on October 9th, the eve of the election, it's all on the record now: "CTV broke codes in Dion interview, CBSC finds."
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CTV Newsnet violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics in a broadcast of Mike Duffy Live Prime Time on October 9, 2008. CTV Newsnet broadcast several restarts of an interview with St├ęphane Dion which originally aired on CTV Atlantic. The CBSC has concluded that the rebroadcast of the outtakes when the broadcaster had consented to restart the interview and the consistent misrepresentation by host Mike Duffy of the point of view of one of his invited guests violated Clause 6 of the Code, which requires the fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial.
And what was Mr. Dion's reaction?
A spokesman for Dion said the former leader had read the decision, and said "it speaks for itself.''
It certainly does. Mr. Dion has too much class to say anything else.

As for the PM, his appointment of Duffy to the Senate is of course marred by this decision. This is the kind of thing that should matter very much in our democracy, the integrity of such appointments. We should expect not to have our PM make us look like we're a banana republic. Because the appearance here is terrible, the elephant in the room. This broadcaster's been publicly rebuked by the national broadcasting standards body for conduct during a federal election that was widely viewed as harming Mr. Dion so close to the election date. We all know there were a multitude of factors at play during the election, so of course, I'm not suggesting this putrid little incident was determinative. But it certainly didn't help and it should not have occurred. A few months later, Mr. Duffy is off to the Senate with a plum patronage appointment made by the PM's office directly, who apparently gave no consideration to what it might look like. Or perhaps they did and they plowed on anyway. Out of concern for the integrity of his appointments, such appearances should have been weighed by the PM. And just maybe, out of an ounce of humanity, for the dig it represented at Mr. Dion's expense, it might have been rethought.

Mr. Duffy was one of the 18 Senate appointments made during prorogation, those appointments being in and of themselves a questionable exercise of power by the PM given his tenuous hold on the government during that period. For that reason, you'd think that the persons chosen would have been beyond reproach out of consideration for the limits they were pushing in the first place. But the unwritten rules of adhering to our constitutional conventions, that former PMs have respected, are just not on the radar screen for this one.

Meanwhile, Mr. Duffy is on his merry way, now taking jabs at Conservative political opponents in the Senate. Something else that speaks for itself.

A low point for CTV and one more low point in the tenure of Mr. Harper is confirmed. Canadians, and one in particular, deserved better from both.