Monthly Archives: October 2015

Ryan Cleary Highlights the Lack of Ideology in NL Politics

This week the news broke that the former NDP Member of Parliament, Ryan Cleary, was considering running in the upcoming provincial election, not for the NDP, but for the Progressive Conservative Party. Aside from the obvious issue of lack of loyalty to the NDP, many found it curious that someone would leave the most left wing national party to join what was supposed to be the most right wing provincial party. Some would think that this shows Mr. Cleary’s lack of political conviction, and that he was simply basing his decision based on what would give him the best chance of re-election, but his decision actually says more about the PC Party and NL politics than it does about Ryan Cleary.

There is no right wing party in this province. There is a left wing party, the NDP, whose elected MHAs have never outnumbered the fingers on my right hand, and the Liberals and PCs, who have both mostly been consistently centrist or center-left for the past 40 years. NL politics largely exists in a vacuum separate from national politics, particularly when it comes to the PCs. Not only is there no allegiance with their federal counterparts, there is outright hostility.

While the Tories were clearly the more right wing party when it became a province of Canada, it has in recent years become steadily more of a left wing party, to the point where it is now more to the left than the Liberals. Just this week the Premier warned that a Liberal government would dramatically cut spending, and the Liberal leader, for his part, criticised the Premier a while back for his plan to raise the HST. The PCs, in addition to keeping the province’s tuition dramatically lower than the rest of Canada, have even come out with a policy whereby students no longer have to pay back the provincial portions of their student loans, something that would be too left wing for most NDP governments.

The role reversal of the two major parties started with Clyde Wells, who was the most conservative Premier the province has ever had. He fought bitter fights with unions (remember the “Clyde Lied” bumper stickers?), cut spending, and even tried unsuccessfully to privatize Newfoundland Hydro. If you are a center right party and the party in power moves to the right of you, you can’t help but move left if you want to get elected.

It’s not clear whether this lack of clear ideology is a bad thing. On one hand, it would make voters’ decisions less complicated if there was a clear left/right ideological divide among the parties, but on the other hand the stark ideological divide that has developed in the United States appears to be making the country almost ungovernable. Like it or not, we don’t have a right wing party in this province, and if a defeated federal NDP candidate wants to run for a provincial party that has a chance of forming a government, it is actually the PC party that is the most logical choice.

Conservatives Make Strategic Error in Targeting Niqab Instead of Hipsters

The Conservative Party has caused considerable controversy and stirred a lot of debate with their recent attempts to prevent new Canadians from taking their citizenship oath while wearing a Niqab. This is a risky move, as even though it may help solidify one block of their voters, and may help lure some undecideds in Quebec, it also risks alienating some of their Muslim supporters. One of the overlooked strengths of the Conservatives is that they have been quite successful at increasing their support among recent immigrants, including Muslims, who tend to be more socially conservative. It was a major strategic error to alienate a group of voters who would at least consider voting for them, particularly when they could just as easily gone after a group of people who would never vote Conservative; hipsters.

Hipsters never vote Conservative. They used to all vote NDP before everyone started doing it and now they vote for parties you’ve never heard of. Rather than banning the Niqab, Stephen Harper should have banned the wearing of wool hats in the summertime. Rather than arguing with Justin Trudeau over the legalization of marijuana, he could have also deflected to banning hemp necklaces.

For most Canadians, it is hard not to feel bad for a recent immigrant being prevented from wearing something that is part of their culture, even if we don’t necessarily agree with it. We generally like to stick up for the defenseless in this country and that makes us feel like we are sticking it to the defenseless. The only think Canadians dislike more than picking on visible minorities is hipsters.

Stephen Harper could literally send Paul Calandra around to coffee shops around the country with his own camera crew to film him actually yanking the hats off hipsters and you wouldn’t be able to find a voter backlash with a microscope. It is amazing to me that the Conservatives and their high priced imported campaign gurus didn’t see this golden opportunity staring them in the face.

Deadspin As Obsessed As Ever with Jason Whitlock

When the news broke that Jason Whitlock’s departure from ESPN was official, I checked out Deadspin to see what snarky comment they would have on it, but there was nothing. A day later, still nothing. I thought this odd, since I had previously written about their apparent obsession with the erstwhile Undefeated editor-in-chief, but the other shoe dropped today when they posted a 3,800 word rant from their resident Whitlockologist, Greg Howard.

I have written before that I find Deadspin’s obsession with Jason Whitlock to be confusing. I mean, he is fairly well known among sports writers but he is far from a household name. Yet they seemed to go to great lengths to critique his management of the Undefeated and leak all sorts of private correspondence and documents. This latest article seems to take that obsession to a whole other level.

Jason Whitlock has claimed that much of the writing about him attributed to Greg Howard has actually been written by some of the more senior writers at Deadspin, but after reading this most recent article I find that hard to believe. From my experience reading Deadspin, the longstanding writers, while blunt, if not at times cruel, often have at least a hint self-deprecation. The writer of this article takes himself extremely seriously.

This article, on the other hand, seems to border on being unhinged. An article that is ostensibly about ESPN’s and Jason Whitlock’s troubles with launching The Undefeated spirals off in all directions, calling George W. Bush a war criminal, Kevin Johnson a corrupt sexual harasser, and taking some shots at Grantland as well as numerous ESPN personalities. In between all these attacks are heaping amounts of fawning praise for the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates, a writer for The Atlantic. I am not necessarily disagreeing with the criticisms or praise of these people, but cramming it all into a single article about ESPN’s difficulty in launching The Undefeated adds a shrill tone to the writing.

I read Jason Whitlock’s articles, but I understand much of the criticism of him, and even agree with some of it. But this article lost all credibility when the author said that “he went on PTI and spoke at length about the importance of isolating women from their friends and families while dating”. First of all, the format of PTI prevents anyone from speaking at length about anything. There is only a minute or so for each topic and there are two hosts, so each host only get about 30-40 seconds to speak on the subject. Second of all, the comment that he is referring to was a failed attempt at humour and Whitlock went on Twitter shortly thereafter to explain himself and apologize. Someone who is not familiar with Jason Whitlock and didn’t see that PTI segment would come away with impression that he really does support isolating women from their friends and family, which the author of this article knows is not true.

There are plenty of legitimate criticisms you make about this guy out there, but to twist a failed joke like this indicates that this article was written with malice. The only real objective criticism of Jason Whitlock in this article was the point about him just being a standalone writer for twenty years and not having management experience. That is valid and instructive. The best writers may not make the best managers or editors. Those kind of criticisms have more value than misrepresenting a bad joke.

I like Deadspin. They are irreverent and from time to time they produce some great examples of investigative sports journalism. But I can’t help but feel like there is some sort of untold story about why they are so focused on Jason Whitlock.

A Ranking of the Top #nlpoli Twitter Accounts

  1. David Cochrane (@CochraneCBCNL)

The highest profile political affairs reporter in the province and one of, if not the most, well connected. An important caveat here is that I like football and have young children, so I don’t mind that 40% of his tweets are about football and kids. If you hate football (the real football, not the kind where all the players kick the ball with their feet) and/or children, then you might want to avoid this feed. For such a high profile personality, Cochrane is quite interactive with his followers, and is also surprisingly, and sometimes comically, eager to gobble up the bait from trolling followers. If you want to interact with a local TV personality, just tweet him something about how his favourite football team is full of domestic abusers or call him a shill for the Liberals or the PCs, or better yet, NL Hydro, and you are sure to get a response. His place at the top of this list was secured when he recently finished off a back and forth with Con O’Brien by telling him that the Rattlin Bog sucked. We need more of that from political analysts.

  1. Mark Critch (@markcritch)

The long-time comedian has recently started doing political commentary for the CBC and has become a fresher, funnier version of Scott Feshuk. Macleans should hire him.  Though I suspect all employees of the CBC despise Stephen Harper his tweets generally don’t display any bias towards any particular party; just against Paul Calandra, who he considers a tool. His CBC columns, though meant to be funny, generally make some intelligent points.

  1. Paddy Daly (@VOCMOpenline)

About half of his tweets are about how much he detests his twitter followers, so try not take it personally. His tweets often have no context whatsoever as he is tweeting as if his followers are standing next to him, which is strange since he doesn’t appear to like his followers, so be prepared for odd “ugh”, or “terrible”, with absolutely no follow-up. You do get some good candid and feisty tweets on this feed, and for those who dislike mindless partisans, he isn’t just non-partisan, but generally sends a half dozen tweets a day reminding everyone how pathetic he considers these people.

  1. James McLeod (@TelegramJames)

Imagine a Globe and Mail columnist from Toronto moving to St. John’s and tweeting fifty times a day about provincial affairs and you have this twitter feed. Of all the local reporters who are not from here, he is the most obviously not from here. Intelligent and sometimes slightly snarky tweets. Produces a respectable amount of exclusive interviews with politicians, news coverage, and columns. If you hate baseball, you might want to wait until November to follow him.

  1. Dan MacEachern (@DanMacEachern)

Full-time municipal affairs reporter for the Telegram and occasional pan-handler. Lively feed with some candid and intelligent opinions but handicapped by having to cover the St. John’s city council, which has become shamefully boring since Andy Wells stepped down as mayor. Who would have thought back when John Murphy, Andy Wells, and Shannie Duff were on council that we’d ever live to see a day when Toronto had more interesting municipal politics. When Dennis O’Keefe’s rein of blandness finally comes to an end and the city gets the lunatic mayor it rightly deserves this will probably become the top political feed out there.

  1. Anthony Germain (@AnthonyGermain)

A healthy dose of political coverage mixed in with the usual morning show general interest stories. Though he’s generally cheerful on the radio or filling in on the evening news, he has a surprisingly sharp edge to him on Twitter, and unlike most of the other prominent TV and Radio personalities is not hesitant to go after politicians directly. He’s gotten a number of sharp elbowed exchanges with local bloggers and politicians.

  1. Peter Cowan (@PeterCBC)

Political reporter who is the primary on the ground CBC rep for most political events. Provides the most up close coverage of political happenings but not a lot of exclusives or anonymously sourced political gossip. He is not from the province and when he first came here he was in Goose Bay, so he has not had a lot of time to build a network of sources around the Confederation building. That will likely change in the coming years. Injects plenty of personality in his tweets but avoids anything controversial. No doubt he is trying to stay out of trouble as he positions himself to take David Cochrane’s job once he gets promoted to the national CBC.

  1. Fred Hutton (@Fred_Hutton)

Has been in the local news for decades and is as well connected as anyone, so he’ll break some news and get the interviews with all the politicians. If you want to focus on politics then disable his retweets as he’ll retweet most everything from the VOCM Twitter feed. A little too professional for my tastes as he never injects any personal opinions in his tweets. It’s great that he’s not biased but a dash of personal opinion would help. Would love to see him pick a fight with a local politician sometime.