Mr. Urquhart: Liberals are NOT nice, they are nefarious, btw where are the blogging dippers during this campaign?

When partisan hacks like Cherniak or washed up smear apologists like Kinsella scurrilously demean what it means to think and to write (or even to treat others with dignity), I tend not to worry. I may react, but I don’t necessarily worry because I know that, for now at least, the dissemination of information is still largely in the hands of “professionals”. Now I’m under no delusions that journalists are objective and unbiased reporters of “the truth”, but being professionals, they are at least to some extent accountable.

This is why I am increasingly troubled when a journalist like Ian Urquhart, whom I respect as a journalist, starts to sound partisan and disingenuous. In today’s Star, Ian urges McGuinty to take the gloves off and go negative but laments that McGuinty is too nice a man:

The problem for McGuinty is that he is uncomfortable “going negative” himself.

Sorry, Mr. Urquhart, McGuinty and his henchmen have no problems going negative and you above most people should know that. After all, you covered the Parkdale High Park by-election. When an entire provincial government maliciously gangs up on a United Church minister, whose biggest mistake is that she wants to serve her community under the wrong political banner, that’s not a reluctance to going negative. And need I say, negative in the extreme.

You well know that the Liberal smear campaign against Cheri DiNovo originated in the office of Liberal cabinet minister Gerry Phillips. You also know that it was a concerted effort that involved much of the Liberal brass, including McGuinty who, as you reported, campaigned in the riding four times. It included Gerard Kennedy and Bob Rae who were seen distributing incendiary literature translated into Polish, to incite a reaction from the Roman Catholic vote. Preying on religious fault lines is just sleazy. And Sylvia Watson was all too happy to oblige and play along.
To this day, Liberals are remorseless of those tactics which smeared a good woman’s name and deeply insulted the intelligence of the electorate. Watson stands by her smear. McGuinty endorsed the tactics. You reported it yourself (see below). Only recently has Sorbara, wanting not to sound like a complete hypocrite for denouncing the conservatives’ attack ads, said that the smear campaign was a “mistake”. A mistake, do you hear that? A mistake? A mistake, by the way, is what Kinsella calls his sexist gaffe. In Liberalese, a mistake means something that could cost the party votes at election time. What we can’t fail to see here, is that the regret over the smear campaign is only for NOT having won the by-election and for having made a tactical error in judgement. The regret has nothing to do with the possibility that it might ethically be wrong to attempt to assassinate another’s character.

Liberals have no principles, no ethics, no vision. Only a ruthless insatiable appetite for winning at all costs. So please, Mr. Urquhart, don’t tell the public the Liberals are uncomfortable going negative. They’re quite comfortable going negative, problem is they’re stupid about it.

By-election gets down and dirty
Sep. 13, 2006. 01:00 AM

On the surface, it would appear that the New Democrats are well positioned to win tomorrow’s provincial by-election in the west-end Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, formerly occupied by Gerard Kennedy.

It is, after all, a riding that has gone to the NDP before — in 1990 provincially and as recently as this year federally, with the election of Peggy Nash.

And it is a by-election, which New Democrats are very good at winning. By-elections allow them to concentrate their formidable organizing resources and to invite the electorate to lodge a cost-free protest vote.

NDP canvassers in Parkdale-High Park are coached to remind voters at the doorstep that their ballots “will not defeat the government.”

Nevertheless, the Liberals want desperately to hold onto the riding, apparently at any cost.

Kennedy won Parkdale-High Park in 2003 by a whopping 42 percentage points — the sixth widest margin in the province — before quitting as education minister earlier this year to run for the federal Liberal leadership.

To replace Kennedy, the Liberals are running Sylvia Watson, a humourless one-term city councillor and former city bureaucrat. Suffice it to say that she ain’t no Gerard Kennedy.

So she is getting help, plenty of it. This week, Premier Dalton McGuinty made his fourth campaign appearance in the riding — an unusual number of visits by a premier in a by-election.

As well, 11 cabinet ministers were dragooned into the campaign this week for an event in a Bloor St. W. café and subsequent canvassing.

“I’m very confident we’re going to win this by-election,” said an unconvincing Finance Minister Greg Sorbara.

Yesterday, Kennedy himself and former New Democratic premier Bob Rae (who lives in the riding) took time out from fighting each other in the federal Liberal leadership race to campaign for her.

It is not these high-profile interventions that are raising eyebrows at Queen’s Park, however. Rather, it is the smear campaign being waged against the NDP candidate, Cheri DiNovo, a 56-year-old United Church minister.

At first, the smears — including references to her youthful indiscretions and carefully edited excerpts from her sermons — appeared only in blogs and anonymous flyers. That made it easy for the Watson campaign to deny any connection to them.

But this week the Watson campaign handed out a press release, on Liberal party letterhead, that dredged up a year-old sermon in which DiNovo allegedly said that the media treatment of child-killer Karla Homolka was “comparable to the persecution of Jesus Christ.”

DiNovo said the remark was taken entirely out of context by the Liberals and suggested she might sue them over it.

But the press release almost immediately backfired by putting the Liberals, not the New Democrats, on the defensive.

At an all-candidates’ meeting Monday night, even the Conservative candidate, former city councillor David Hutcheon, castigated the Liberals for trying to “assassinate the character” of their NDP opponent.

“This is not fair,” Hutcheon told the 100-plus in attendance. “It is not the Canadian way … They (the Liberals) have lost their moral compass.”

(An aside: Although the Conservatives ran second in the 2003 provincial election, party insiders admit that they are long shots to win tomorrow. It would be a nice consolation prize for the Conservatives, however, if DiNovo were to knock off the Liberals.)

The negative reaction clearly threw McGuinty for a loop. Pestered by the press on the smearing of DiNovo, the best response he could muster was: “Look, it’s a tough by-election for us.”

As for Watson, the candidate, she tried to distance herself from the smear. “It wasn’t my idea,” she told me, while declining to say whose it was.

The opposition parties are pointing their fingers at Warren Kinsella, the lobbyist who ran the Liberal war room in the last provincial election.

As evidence, they noted that his blog yesterday included an attack on DiNovo (whom he referred to as “DiNutso”) and a link to Waton’s web site.

But Kinsella denied any involvement in the Watson campaign. “I’ve never met or even spoken to her (Watson),” he said in an e-mail response.

Of his shot at DiNovo, Kinsella said: “I’m entitled to an opinion about her candidacy.” As for the link to the Watson web site, he explained it as an automatic function of a Google advertising program to which he subscribes.

I’m predicting that we haven’t heard the last of this.


Posted on September 24, 2007, in media, Ontario Election 2007, Ontario Liberal Party. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Spurs
    You are a great writer. Call him out. Write a letter to the star.

  2. The Ghost of Dave Stupich

    When it comes to sleaze and smears, the NDP wrote the book, as you can see at

    “As the campaign moved into the last few days, there was a sense that the impossible might happen and Hunter would win. Panic infected the NDP and PC campaigns. Then, driven by fear and desperation, the NDP showed its true colors. It abandoned all its pretence of principal and sunk to a level of shame never before seen in Canadian politics. A plain brown envelope containing excerpts from a book written by Bob Hunter in the late 80s was distributed to the press. The book, On the Sky, a fictional work, parodied Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. On the Sky is a story of two 40-something men seeking the meaning to their lives. In the book, a scene with two teen-age Bangkok prostitutes is described. Although she denies distributing the mysterious brown package, the remarkably well-informed NDP MPP Marilyn Churley and supposed friend of Bob Hunter, immediately took up the cause with a frightening vengeance laced with a viciousness and denounced Hunter’s moral character and fitness for office. Based on nothing more than a work of fiction, Churley’s vitriolic remarks left no doubt in the mind of any reasonable person that Hunter was a pedophile, a charge that has sent innocent people to jail.

    Hunter and his family — his wife, his children and grandchildren — were devastated at the NDP and Churley’s malice. Not only had a person who Bob once counted among his friends plunged a knife deep into his back with no compunction or compassion, but also he was being portrayed as — to use Hunter’s words — “a pervert” in the public eye.

    Churley’s actions warrant the strongest possible condemnation. She has shown she lacks the moral character to serve in public office. There is no charge more damning than that which she falsely leveled at her friend, Bob Hunter. What’s worse, she made the charge so willfully and with such casual disregard for the truth that she diminished the enormity of real crimes against children: a fight in which Churley claims to be a champion. What kind of “champion” would undermine her own credibility in such a serious cause in order to serve her party’s base political ambitions?

    Churley has also done an unconscionable disservice to the people of Ontario, and her own constituents. The quality of government in Ontario demands that good people run for office. It’s the kind of personal, false, cruel, malicious tactics exercised by Marilyn Churley, and endorsed by other NDP members including leader Howard Hampton, that keeps good men and women from seeking office and contributing to the public good.

    What shocked Hunter most was that the NDP — the party of the Reverend Tommy Dougles, a party he always believed had a foundation of fundamental decency and integrity — was so comfortable wielding the most vicious of innuendo based on nothing but a literary work of fiction, and with easy malice was prepared to destroy anyone no matter how much good they might have done in order to retain their finger grip on power.

    Not even Michael Prue who takes pride in his integrity was prepared to denounce the tactics. For his part Prue, simply denied any involvement with the affair, but refused to censure the tactic. When his integrity was truly challenged, Prue chose the coward’s way. Reports from the field said that Prue’s canvassers were more than willing to spread the false charges. Moreover, prior to the campaign beginning, the NDP along with the other parties agreed to keep the campaign focussed on the issues and not employ personal attacks. Hunter and all the others were good to their word, but Prue and the NDP broke theirs and betrayed a friend as soon as it served their political interests.

    It’s worth mentioning here that contrary to the popular public impression, politicians tend to be an honorable lot. If a politicians gives his or her word it can generally be trusted. The reason is that making public policy is a matter of deals and compromise and often decisions must be made quickly. So a hand shake becomes a bond. If you can’t trust a person’s word, few deals would be struck and little progress made. Unlike most politicians and parties, we now know that Michael Prue’s word and the NDP’s principals mean nothing.

    Notwithstanding the NDP’s broken trust, the Hunter campaign did not collapse. After the initial shock, they struck back and they struck back hard — a good political decision. A press conference was called. The Liberals announced that an action for defamation had been commenced and that Marilyn Churley and others were being named. Also attending the conference was Barbara Gowdy, the international best selling author of The White Bone. Gowdy severely condemned the NDP for using a work of fiction to demonize an author. Authors, she argued, are not their characters. Gowdy’s The White Bone is about elephants. Do the NDP think she is an elephant, she wondered aloud? One can only speculate if the NDP, Marilyn Churley and Michael Prue believe that Charles Dickens is a child abuser because Fagan appears in Oliver Twist. Or that Michael Ondaatje is a traitor because the title character in The English Patient betrays his country to indulge an adulterous love affair. The question to put to the NDP is if Bob Hunter is unfit in their eyes to serve office because of subjects he explored in a work of fiction to illustrate moral degradation are Barbara Gowdy, Charles Dickens, and Michael Ondaatje also unfit to serve in office?

    For its part, even before the Hunter campaign press conference, Environment Voters issued a press release reiterating its support of Bob Hunter and calling on Howard Hampton, the leader of the NDP, Marilyn Churley and Michael Prue to formally apologize to Bob Hunter.

    The following day calls began to come into the Hunter campaign office condemning the NDP. Some NDP voters said that because of the NDP smear they would never vote NDP again. The Environment Voters telephone canvasser were getting a similar message. Yet some people were deeply troubled by the linking of the words “Bob Hunter” and “pedophile” and would not vote for Hunter. For others the NDP tactic was so offensive and so dangerous for what it could portend for other innocent people that any thought of ever supporting the NDP was quashed.”

  3. Ghost,
    Whoa, never heard this one before, at least not with so much sophistry and sentimentality. You’ve omitted some central facts and those interested can look them up. The two smears were manifestly different. One fact you got right, it was a smear. And another fact, I’ve long been on record as deploring the tactics used against Bob Hunter. On the topic of facts, you’re cut and paste job does nothing to invalidate or undermine my argument.

    My post was taking issue with Urquhart’s suggestion that McGuinty is hesitant to go negative. Truth is, the Ontario Liberals and Warren Kinsella have been running a nasty, negative campaign for well over a year now, starting with the smear campaign in Parkdale High Park, attempting to brand John Tory as a another Mike Harris, sexist comments about Lisa MacLeod, posting unflattering photos of politicians and passing that off as punditry ….

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