Tag Archives: Canada politics

Canada’s Trudeau Avoids Poking U.S. “Grizzly Bear”

A boy standing on a man's shoulders outside the Trump Tower, Vancouver, Canada, leads a chant at the Vancouver Women's March on January 21, 2017, to protest Donald Trump's inauguration. Photo Deborah Jones © 2017

A boy standing on a man’s shoulders outside the Trump Tower, Vancouver, Canada, leads a chant at the Vancouver Women’s March on January 21, 2017, to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration. Photo Deborah Jones © 2017

By David Ljunggren and Rod Nickel 
February, 2017

OTTAWA/WINNIPEG (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is taking a low key approach to dealing with U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking to avoid clashes while indirectly signalling the two leaders’ differences to a domestic audience.

Insiders acknowledge the cautious strategy could anger progressives whose support helped bring Trudeau to power in 2015 but say for now, he has no choice but to hold fire: Canada sends 75 percent of its exports to the United States and could suffer if it is targeted by Trump.

“Why poke a grizzly bear while it’s having lunch? Trump has just got into office and he is formulating his economic plans,” said one senior political source.

While Trudeau’s close friendship with former President Barack Obama was often referred to as a “bromance” and “dude-plomacy,” Canadian prime ministers have not always had close ties with U.S. presidents.

Still, few in Ottawa have experienced anything like Trump, insiders said.

People hold signs outside the United States consulate during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

People hold signs outside the United States consulate during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order travel ban in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

“He is totally unpredictable,” said another government source.

Although Canada regards the United States as its closest ally, Trudeau has yet to visit Washington to see Trump.

A visit tentatively scheduled this week was cancelled after a shooter killed six Muslims in a Quebec mosque and no new date has been set, said two people familiar with the matter.

Michael Kergin, a former Canadian ambassador to Washington, said Trudeau’s caution was wise.

“He’s been playing it pretty well by restraining the temptation to be publicly critical of the president. At the same time, it’s a delicate balance,” said Kergin, now a senior adviser at law firm Bennett Jones.

Trudeau was also right not to follow British Prime Minister Theresa May in rushing to Washington to “gin up a special relationship,” only to watch Trump make an unpopular move on immigration after she left, Kergin said.

Trump labelled a refugee swap deal with Australia “dumb” on Thursday after a telephone call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that the Washington Post reported was acrimonious. Turnbull kept any sparring behind closed doors.

Trudeau, however, has taken indirect shots. When Trump signed orders banning people from seven Muslim-majority states, Trudeau tweeted that Canada was open to those fleeing war.

His chief spokeswoman blasted U.S. network Fox News on Tuesday for a tweet falsely claiming the Quebec gunman was of Moroccan origin. But she said nothing publicly when Trump’s spokesman said the attack on Muslims showed why it was important to suspend immigration from Muslim nations.

This approach infuriates the opposition New Democrats, who have called on Trudeau to denounce Trump’s “racist” immigration policy.

Trudeau team members acknowledge that over time, Liberals could lose support before a 2019 election if the prime minister is deemed not to be standing up for Canadian values such as inclusiveness.

“That is a risk, but we’ll address it closer to the time,” said the first Ottawa insider.

Surveys show the Liberals have a healthy, but narrowing, advantage over their nearest rivals.

Pollster Nik Nanos of Nanos Research said it was too early for Trudeau to be aggressive.

“He has to avoid making any kind of criticism. Trump has a very thin skin and he’s quick to lash out,” he said.

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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Reporter-turned-politician sues media giant for defamation

By Brian Brennan
December 2015

Former TV journalist Arthur Kent outside court on Nov. 16, 2015. © Jeff McIntosh 2015, used with permission

Former TV journalist Arthur Kent outside court on Nov. 16, 2015. Photo © Jeff McIntosh 2015, used with permission

A long-running defamation lawsuit against Canada’s largest newspaper publisher by an award-winning war correspondent who left journalism to enter provincial politics has concluded in Calgary, Alberta after a five-week trial. Court of Queens Bench justice Jo’Anne Strekaf reserved decision and said she would rule on the case of Arthur Kent versus Postmedia Network “sooner rather than later.”

Kent launched the suit after the National Post, Calgary Herald and other newspapers in a national chain published a February 2008 column by Ottawa columnist Don Martin that Kent characterized in court as “poisonously false.”

Martin used information from unnamed party sources to contend that Kent’s campaign for a Conservative seat in a Calgary provincial riding was failing because the “self-absorbed” star candidate refused to toe the party line and become “a mere infantry private who exists only to follow orders.”

Martin acknowledged in court that he didn’t make direct contact with Kent for comment before the column appeared.

A key paragraph in the Martin column – retracted by him during the trial – asserted that a number of Alberta Conservatives had referred to Kent as “The Dud Scud,” a phrase repeated in court. It was a mocking reference to Kent’s role in the Persian Gulf war of 1991, when his reporting for NBC News of Iraqi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia brought him fan mail and earned the boyish correspondent the nickname “Scud Stud.”

Kent, now 61, told the Calgary court that the nickname, coined by a San Francisco reporter in a spirit of “dark wartime humour,” later became part of his brand, denoting his high standard of performance as a television reporter, which included winning two Emmy awards. “It’s quick shorthand to describe me,” he said.

Before going into politics, Kent did TV reporting for the BBC, CNN, ABC News, and the CBC in Canada, as well as for NBC. He also wrote for such publications as The Observer newspaper in London, the San Francisco Examiner, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and Maclean’s magazine in Canada.

He returned to Calgary in 2006 and used the city as a jumping-off point for trips to Afghanistan that resulted in a series of independently produced documentaries about Canada’s military mission in Kandahar.

Kent entered Alberta politics in 2007 with the endorsement of former Conservative premier Peter Lougheed, who said the party needed new blood. Kent told the Calgary Herald his native Alberta was losing its economic advantage as a province with low unemployment and low taxes, and he wanted to be part of the solution.

The lawsuit against PostMedia, the successor to CanWest, which owned the newspaper chain at the time of publication, is the third high-profile court case in which Kent has been involved. In 1992 he sued NBC for $25 million, after the network fired him claiming he refused an assignment in Croatia and implied he was a coward.

After an 18-month fight, he won an out-of-court settlement and a public retraction from NBC.

In 2008 he sued the makers of the Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts movie, Charlie Wilson’s War, for unauthorized use of footage and narration from a report Kent produced for the BBC about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He also reached an out-of-court settlement in that case.

Kent suffered a narrow defeat in the 2008 Alberta election. He told the court he felt obliged to take legal action against Postmedia after editors at the National Post and Calgary Herald refused to publish a rebuttal to the Martin column that he submitted six days after the election.

The rebuttal was, he noted, exactly the same length – 754 words – as the offending Martin column. “I was looking for equal space.”

In it, Kent named longtime Conservative party supporters whose noses were out of joint when he opted to campaign with a different team from the one they suggested. Kent also took exception to Martin’s allegation that he “put campaign morale into a tailspin and complicated volunteer recruitment.”

Kent told the court the media defendants refused to run an edited version of his rebuttal, print it as a letter to the editor, publish an apology, or issue a retraction. He said Postmedia continued to make the Martin column available on its websites – more than 35 of them – for more than four years after the original publication.

Calgary Herald editor Lorne Motley, testifying as a designated officer of the Postmedia corporation, told the court he felt the Martin column was defensible: “The main facts it was based on were true.”

He added that Kent’s rebuttal was rejected because editors deemed it not suitable for publication. “It was defamatory in nature. That was the primary reason for our decision.”

The case took more than seven years to get to trial as new evidence came to light. At the outset, for example, Kent did not know one of the unnamed sources for the Martin column was his own campaign lawyer, Kristine Robidoux.

That information only emerged during the pre-trial discovery process in 2009 when Martin unexpectedly revealed Robidoux’s identity. Robidoux, who was suspended in 2014 for four months by the Law Society of Alberta for breaching client confidentiality,  subsequently became a witness for Kent after confessing she did wrong and issuing an apology.

While she admitted leaking the contents of private campaign emails to the columnist in response to a request for “dirt” about Kent, she said she never called Kent a “dud scud” and she “didn’t tell Don Martin most of the things he put in the article.”

She said she was shocked, physically sickened and appalled by the column, which she had hoped would be a positive piece showing that problems within the Kent campaign had been resolved. Instead, she said, the column was “extremely negative” and “a little mean.”

Another series of pre-trial delays occurred after Kent and his lawyers discovered a cache of Postmedia emails relating to the case, which Kent accused the media defendants of withholding even after a judge ordered the documents to be produced.

Witnesses for Kent included a journalism ethics expert, Jeffrey Dvorkin, who testified that the offending column “didn’t meet the standards of journalism at any level.”

He said Martin was a “useful idiot” for veteran Conservative party loyalists who opposed Kent’s candidacy and fed the columnist “spurious information” that should never have been published.

One of those opponents was the late Rod Love, former chief of staff to Alberta premier Ralph Klein and another unnamed source for the Martin column. Love had revealed in a guest column for the Calgary Herald in 1999 that he used leaks strategically as a form of political currency to keep journalists distracted while they pursued potentially problematic stories that might “cause heartburn.” During the 2008 election campaign he publicly registered his disenchantment with Kent by telling a radio interviewer he would be voting for another candidate.

Postmedia’s own journalism ethics expert, Dean Jobb, testified he found nothing wrong with the Martin column.

He said he was satisfied the columnist followed accepted journalistic practices: “He’s researching a campaign. He’s talking to two key insiders. He’s able to obtain an internal email that backs up and corroborates what he’s hearing. This is consistent with the ethical conduct of a journalist.”

Two Martin sources who testified for the defence – the man rejected by Kent as his campaign manager and the man who actually became his manager – said they spoke to the columnist with the understanding their remarks would be off the record and not published.

They said they were concerned Kent had damaged the party when he publicly scolded the leader, Ed Stelmach, for cancelling a planned appearance at a fund-raising breakfast for Kent, and they wanted to mitigate the damage.

Martin testified he decided to write about Kent when he heard from campaign lawyer Robidoux that the campaign was in disarray, and when a columnist for Canada’s other national newspaper – The Globe and Mail – wrote that Kent was defying conventional wisdom by running against his own party. “The future versus the past. It worked brilliantly for (Premier) Klein,” wrote Globe columnist Roy MacGregor.

Martin told the court he wanted to write the Kent story for a national readership because he seemed like a rogue candidate with his own agenda. “Instead of circling the wagons around the leader, he was shooting inwards.”

When asked by Postmedia lawyer Scott Watson who gave him the “dud scud” quote, Martin said he couldn’t recall. Later, under cross-examination by Kent’s lawyer, Michael Bates, he admitted that the contentious paragraph was not true.

He said that perhaps one – not several – Conservatives had called Kent a “dud scud” as he asserted in the column, and he could not remember who that source have might been. “I’d write it differently today.”

When asked about this admission, Postmedia ethics expert Jobb acknowledged that the paragraph “certainly shouldn’t read that way.”

Watson argued that the only untrue aspect of the “dud scud” quote was the fact that “rather than being a plural source attribution, there was only one.” He added that in general the column was a “fair and honest comment” on a matter of public interest and that if there were factual inaccuracies in the column, “it doesn’t amount to malice.”

In his closing argument, Kent’s lawyer Kent Jesse characterized the Martin column as a “hit piece” written with “trumped-up, mocking, ridiculing language” in a “reckless disregard for the truth” to turn public opinion against Kent. “They took Arthur Kent’s brand and they trashed it.”

Watson responded that the column was written within the context of previously published articles about a growing rift between Kent and the Conservative party hierarchy in the provincial capital, Edmonton. “We take issue with the allegation that the article was defamatory. The pith and substance of the column was that Kent’s campaign was not functioning well.”

Copyright © Brian Brennan 2015

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Brian BrennanBrian Brennan, an Irish journalist living in Canada, is a founding feature writer with Facts and Opinions and a contributor to Arts dispatches and the Loose Leaf salon. He is the author of the Brief Encounters series. (Payment required). His profile of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the first original feature in the journal’s inaugural issue, won Runner-up, Best Feature Article, in the 2014 Professional Writers Association of Canada Awards. Brennan was educated at University College Dublin, Vancouver’s Langara College, the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the National Critics Institute in Waterford, Connecticut.

Visit him at his website, www.brianbrennan.ca

Brian Brennan also plays jazz piano, for fun and profit.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers.We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from partisan organizations. Thank you for your patronage, and please tell others about us. Most of our pages are outside our paywall. To help us continue, we suggest a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or for use of the entire site at least $1 for a day pass, and $20 for a year. With enough supporters  paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our ability to offer original works.  Visit our Subscribe page for more details. 

 

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Matters of Facts, and Opinions this week

Shepherds direct their herd as they migrate to summer pastures in Serra da Estrela, near Seia, Portugal June 27, 2015. In late June, shepherds young and old in the Seia region of central Portugal start guiding sheep, goats and cattle to the Serra da Estrela, the country’s highest mountains, in search of better pastures. There they stay until the end of September. Modern-day shepherds may have mobile phones to keep in touch with family and friends, but their lifestyle has changed little for centuries. The sound of cowbells and the bark of longhaired mastiffs starts early in the morning as the animals – often decorated with traditional woollen balls on their horns - are herded up steep, narrow paths.  REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Photo-essay:

Old Traditions, New Pastures: Portugal’s last shepherds (unlocked)*

Photographer Rafael Marchante, of Reuters, accompanied a flock of sheep and goats from the Portuguese region of Seia during the first three days of ascent, living alongside some of the last shepherds who preserve this ancient tradition. Modern-day shepherds may have mobile phones to keep in touch with family and friends, but their lifestyle has changed little for centuries.Transhumance, the ascent in search of better pastures, normally takes place from June to late September. In the area around the Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in Portugal, this seasonal ritual has been followed since Roman times.  Click here for more photo-essays.

Dispatches:

No snow, no problem — China wins 2022 Winter Olympics. By Reuters (unlocked)*

The snow will be fake, but the very real financial muscle China boasts proved decisive on Friday when Beijing won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Human rights activists criticized the award, saying the International Olympic Committee had sent the wrong message at a time of growing government pressure on activists and civil society.

Stop killer robots, researchers warn in open letter. By Toby Walsh (unlocked)*

An open letter by major researchers and thinkers calls for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons, known as “killer robots.” The July 27 letter was signed by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Skype co-founder Jaan Talinn linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, plus some 1,000  leading researchers in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

Ebola vaccine holds hope for end of scourge. By Reuters (unlocked)*

The world is on the verge of being able to protect humans against Ebola, the World Health Organization said, as a trial in Guinea found a vaccine to have been 100 percent effective. Initial results from the trial, which tested Merck and NewLink Genetics’ VSV-ZEBOV vaccine on some 4,000 people who had been in close contact with a confirmed Ebola case, showed complete protection after 10 days.

 The search for sustainable plastics. By Phil McKenna (unlocked)*

3314227532_e338e91363_oThe fate of the world’s oceans may rest inside a stainless steel tank not quite the size of a small beer keg. Inside, genetically modified bacteria turn corn syrup into a churning mass of polymers that can be used to produce a wide variety of common plastics. 

Commentary:

Why it’s right not to vote in Canada, by Tom Regan (unlocked)*

There’s a brouhaha as Canada prepares for the upcoming federal election, over whether Canadians like me who live abroad should have the right to vote after being out of the country for a certain period of time. We should not. Even if I had the right to vote in election Canada I wouldn’t use it. It would be like throwing a dart at a board while blindfolded.

Canada’s pipeline project runs through swamp of Malaysian politics, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)*

British Columbians need to know how closely the fate of their $40 billion natural gas pipeline deal is tied to the survival of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. There are two unsavoury reasons. If Najib loses control of his position, his successor may see  projects associated with him as tainted. Should he survive, does Premier Christie Clark relish the prospect of the northern pipeline project, in which she has invested so much political capital and of which she has such grandiose expectations, resting in the hands of a man, Najib, around whom swirls the smell of bribery, corruption and even murder?

Robert Goddard and The Big Blue Marble, by Jim McNiven (unlocked)*

Robert Goddard was the quintessential Yankee inventor. Born in 1882, he was raised and lived much of his life in Worcester, Massachusetts. Goddard was a sickly boy who fell behind in school and did not graduate until he was twenty-two. Spending lots of time home in bed, he became a voracious reader, and was highly taken with H.G.Wells’s War of the Worlds, which was published when he was sixteen. At seventeen he discovered his life’s work while staring at the sky as he pruned trees around his parents’ house. He would devise a way to escape Earth’s gravity and travel through space.

Living With an Ankle Bracelet in America. By M.M., Loose Leaf salon  (unlocked)*

I cannot sleep. There is a device on my leg. It requires that I wake up an hour early so I can plug it into a charger and stand next to the outlet, like a cell phone charging up for the day. Not the day, actually, but 12 hours. After that, the device runs out of juice. Wherever I am, I have to find an outlet to plug myself into. If I don’t, I’m likely to be thrown back onto Rikers Island. At the age of 22, I landed in prison. Though I had grown up around violence, it was my first time in trouble. I’d taken the law into my own hands during an altercation, because where I come from, we don’t dial 911 for help — we see how badly police officers treat people like us. 

Arts:

Anne Murray. Guy McPherson photo courtesy of the Fraser MacPherson estate

Finding Her Roots in Country Music: Anne Murray, by Brian Brennan (paywall)*

At a press conference I once asked Donny Osmond how many times a day he brushed his teeth to keep them so sparkling white. He answered, in all seriousness, that his teeth were capped. Then his publicist kicked me out of the room. Clearly, I was not showing the proper respect. I was also kicked out of the room when I asked the Bay City Rollers if a singer had to be five foot five or less in order to qualify for membership in the band. In Anne Murray’s case, I didn’t ask any silly questions.

The Man Booker is stacked in favour of big publishers. By Stevie Marsden (unlocked)*

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction has announced its longlist for the 2015 award. Now in its 46th year, the award is among the most prestigious in the literary world. It is also incredibly generous to the big publishing houses.

Expert Witness: 

Cecil the lion’s fate a matter of conservation. By Lochran Traill and Norman Owen-Smith (unlocked)*

Much of the attention generated by the demise of Cecil the lion appears related to the fact that he was a member of a charismatic species, that his species is threatened and the nature of his death. But now that Cecil, a resident of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, is gone how do we ensure that such events are not repeated? It is not as simple as banning hunting.

 

Brent Stapelkamp

Cecil and a lioness. Brent Stapelkamp

 

Recommended elsewhere: 

Life with the lions: revisited, Oxford university science blog, by Pete Wilton

The killing of Cecil the lion was one of the lions fitted with a GPS collar as part of Oxford University research led by Andrew Loveridge. Oxford revisits a 2012 interview with Loveridge about his work with lions. … read more on Oxford’s site.

Last but not least, in memory of Cecil and all other creatures killed by “trophy” hunters:

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