Archive for September, 2015

CBC News Isn’t Playing Fair – revised

Friday, September 11th, 2015

NOTE SUNDAY EVENING SEPT 13TH: This post was originally put up on Friday night Sept. 11th, soon after Elizabeth May’s interview on The National. This Sunday evening, the 13th, I was made aware of an article posted on on Monday Sept 7th. Please read my original post (following here)  and then an additional note added this evening, Sunday 13th (below.)

ORGINAL posted Sept 11th:       CBC News … Play fair, for crying out loud!

The National just broke its own promise to viewers – and voters – about this week’s series of feature leaders’ interviews .. the one that promised that no party leader would/could see what the others had said before their interview was recorded.

Moments ago, (Friday night, 42:30 minutes into the on-air show (9:42 p.m. EDT on CBC News Network, checked again at 10:42 EDT on CBC main network, ) Peter Mansbridge directly asked Green Party leader Elizabeth May: “You watched the interviews with the other 3 leaders .. is there anything they said that …… etc., etc. …. ” (transcript, roughly 3/4s through)

Are folks in the National’s newsroom deliberately sitting around trying to find ways to undermine public confidence in the CBC’s news tradition of journalistic impartiality? Anytime, let alone in a national election?

Which option as an explanation works for the show?

1. Elizabeth May isn’t a serious player in the election and so wasn’t bound by the promise given to the other “major” party leaders? (Did I miss that exculpatory bit of introductory information? )

2 . Peter mispoke himself?

3. ___________ (fill in the blank)

Bad form ….. and barring an explanation that makes sense … bad journalism.


This evening I was made aware of an article about the “Leaders Interview Series” this past week which was posted on on Monday 7th, the day the series started.  In the article, you will see the following paragraph.

“Logistically it took us across the country, three cities in four days — from a park in Gatineau, Que. across from Parliament Hill, to a quiet ranch house in Delta, B.C., to the Laurentians outside Montreal and the tiny town of Ste.-Anne-Des-Lacs. The Elizabeth May interview, because of Green Party scheduling issues, won’t be done until later this week and will air on Friday night.”

A few comments on this.

1. This is apparently CBC’s explanation as to why Elizabeth May was not held to/offered the same  conditions of exclusion that bound the other leaders. I don’t think it does that at all, starting with the fact that no where does it suggest that Ms. May will not be bound by the same rules as the others.  This web post does state very clearly that “All sessions would be completed before any was aired, ensuring that no leader would have the advantage of knowing the others’ answers.”

2. I rewatched the shows  available online on and, while it is possible that I may have missed where/when this information (exempting Ms/ May’s interview) was noted, the general tone of all the repeated interview promo spots and introductions was that NONE of  the individual 4 political party leaders saw the comments of any of the others before they were interviewed.

Note first, the wording of the web page title I was alerted to this evening, noted above:

“Behind CBC The National’s interview with Canada’s federal leaders: CBC News Chief Correspondent Peter Mansbridge sits down for 1-on-1 interviews with the 4 leaders.”   (emphasis added. i.e.  4, not 3 leaders and then another 1. )

Note as well the wording of the paragraph below the one cited  above: “Starting Monday, CBC’s The National is airing a series of exclusive interviews with the leaders of Canada’s major political parties: Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper on Monday, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, NDP Party Leader Tom Mulcair on Wednesday and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May on Friday. The interviews will air on CBC’s The National at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and at 10 p.m./10:30 NT on CBC-TV.

3. The above paragraph does not specifically say that due to the scheduling issues, Ms. May was NOT being held to the same conditions as the other. Nor does it cite any other reason why.

4. While Ms. May’s interview was on a Friday night – with a one day break after the first three (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) – the overall impression given by the texture and tone of the interview introductions and the promo material during the week on CBC everywhere was that these were a unique group of interviews with Canada’s four political leaders battling for election. There was no sense that Ms. May’s interview was a different animal.

5. Many people commented to me – personally and in email – that their ears perked up when Peter Mansbridge said to Ms. May “You’ve seen the other leaders interviews …”

I will leave it there.







“Well, Look Peter, I’m Actually NOT An Economist” – What Stephen Harper Didn’t Say

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Monday night, the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge  made the mistake of referring to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an economist: “Given your track record on analysis … and you’re not alone as an economist ….

The Prime Minister is many things, but one thing he certainly is not is “an economist.” And it is a serious mistake to grant Harper (or anyone in a position of such power and influence) the authority, gravitas and political advantage that this label can confer.

Credentials and labels are open to interpretation, of course.

But in the world of economics, there are three conditions commonly accepted as entry requirements before someone can wear the label.

These requirements are nowhere formally laid out as individual “absolute minimums.”

And there is, without question, some mutual interplay between them. You don’t need to get 10 out of 10 on all three tests: a high mark on one can cover for a low mark on another. (In economist-talk, this is called “complementarity.”)

But anyone who calls himself an economist needs to score high somewhere on this list of qualifications.

Harper fails completely.

Let’s have a closer look.

1. By far the most common litmus test is a PhD in economics. The P.M. does not have one. Harper has a master’s degree from the University of Calgary, a much more basic level of academic training and expertise.

2. The second is having, over a career, written and published economic work that has been accepted in peer-reviewed publications and conferences in the professional world of economics.

While it is true that economics has changed tremendously in recent years and now embraces a much broader understanding of how economies actually work – – consider, for example, the rise of behavioural economics which embraces fascinating research in human psychology – you need to have made an appearance somewhere in the big leagues of this profession, PhD or not.  Harper has never set foot in this world.

(Has Harper ever been invited to an academic conference to present a paper?)

3. Finally, you don’t get to call yourself an economist unless sometime during your working life, you have held down a job that by any reasonably accepted standards of that profession, clearly requires training in advanced economics as a precondition for doing the work in question.

This means the work demands the skills of an economist, not necessarily the academic credentials. I have two degrees in engineering, for example, but never having worked as one, I would never call myself an engineer.

Harper has never remotely worked in such a position – either in his brief career in the oil industry (where, as best can be uncovered, he was a mail clerk and some sort of computer technician) or in his subsequent political career, which he began 30 years ago.

While it might be a good thing if Canadian Prime Ministers had to be economists, there has never been such a requirement and over the century and a half of Canada’s life as a functioning democracy, no one has ever suggested this as a necessary qualification for leading the country.

So somewhere on the above litmus tests, an economist needs to have scored a few points.

Harper scores zero.

This is not nit-picking.

Canada’s Prime Minister has the overarching power and leading role to shape the economic health and growth of this country. He or she earns that power by winning a national political contest through selling their expertise to voters.

Journalists – who consistently call Harper an economist, happily abetted by Harper himself and those around him in declining to offer corrections – need to be extraordinarily careful not to cloak him in a role which many voters understandably think gives him a clear advantage in governing the country.

Harper may be fascinated by economics. He may see his track record in guiding the Canadian economy as the defining measure of success of his political career.

But Stephen Harper is not an economist.

And it’s a mistake to grant him the credibility of being called one, especially during an election to determine the future of Canada.