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Analysis & Commentary

The Blog Report (What's this?)

John Bowman graduated from Queen's University with a degree in biology in 1997 and from the University of King's College with a degree in journalism in 2000. After riding the last wave of the dot-com boom at an ill-fated Toronto start-up company, he came to CBC News Online in January 2001. He's been online since he convinced his parents a Commodore 64 wouldn't cut it in university and has kept a blog since before he'd heard of the word.

CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external sites. Links will open in new window.
John Bowman
John Bowman, on Newsworld:
Jan. 9, 2006
Dec. 17, 2005

Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006

The day after

Life is getting back to normal for Canadian political bloggers, now that the big show is over. "Well, that was certainly a fun ride," writes CalgaryGrit. Like many bloggers, he played "Tuesday morning quarterback."

Many were surprised the Tories didn't do better, considering how poor the Liberal campaign was. (By the way, the final tally on the Gaffe-o-meter was Liberals 33, Conservatives 11, Bloc 3, NDP 1.)

Some blogs – like this one, I guess – have a limited lifespan and will be shutting down soon. The Decision Canada blog was created just for the campaign. Scott Feschuk's blog will likely vanish into the ether soon. (Rob Cottingham, for one, will miss it.)

Overall, conservatives gloated, liberals were introspective and some non-partisans wrote and wrote and wrote.

Credit where it isn't due

As if to bookend the entire campaign for bloggers in the U.S., Babbling Brooks once again points out that, no, conservative American bloggers did not bring down the Martin government.

On The Wild Duck, the Captain's Quarters gets credit for exposing Canadian blogs to a larger audience, but that's about it.

Meanwhile, Boingboing and the Accordion Guy prominently featured the defeat of Sam Bulte, a Liberal candidate in a Toronto riding (previously discussed here and here.) Joey writes, "It would probably be wrong to declare that 'The Internet' or 'The Blogosphere' was the sole factor in Ms. Bulte's ouster, but it probably helped get the word out."

Michael Geist also covered Bulte's defeat: "While some will focus on the role of bloggers, the real story here (in addition to a strong NDP candidate and the national decline in Liberal support) is that Canadians, represented in this instance by the voters of Parkdale-High Park, sent a clear message that they are not comfortable with politicians who unapologetically trumpet their links to lobbyists, who promote one-sided copyright policies, and who denigrate those opposed to such views as zealots."

Still, the Canadian Press headline today read, "Bloggers take some credit for ousting former MP."

Monday, Jan. 23, 2006

Results leak out on foreign blogs

As expected, Captain's Quarters posted early election results. Ed was watching C-SPAN 2's coverage and trying to make sense of what he was seeing.

"[The Liberals are] leading in 15 ridings and four of those look solid enough to call, while the Conservatives lead in 5 and 3 can be called. I'm missing the geography involved at the moment, but it looks like the Tories should get a move on ...," Capt. Ed wrote. Later on, Ed got some help from some Canadian bloggers in interpreting the results: Newsbeat1, Small Dead Animals, and Steve Janke.

Metafilter, a popular group blog, suggested Captain's Quarters and ProAlberta, a discussion board based in the U.S., as places Canadian could go for illicit election results. CQ was loading slowly all day and ProAlberta was intermittant, occasionnally giving the error message: "This Account Has Exceeded Its CPU Quota."

A Canadian in Oxford, who calls his blog "a sibilant intake of breath," is discussing the results, mostly taken from the two sources above. The Surly Beaver, another Canadian in the U.K., is also posting and discussing results.

In Canada, Let It Bleed was among the few bloggers writing throughout the night, but was giving no results. He linked to Colby Cash's blog, on Macleans.ca: "Does it seem quiet to anyone else? Like, weird creepy gunfight-prelude quiet? Am I the stranger in town who doesn't know that some greenhorn is about to get a bullet through his tiepin for starting a ruckus at the faro table?"

A few early results from Canadian blogs. Let it Bleed reported that Global TV called the election for the Conservatives at 9:33, then he inadvertently deleted the post and reposted at 9:43. On Decision 2006, commenters reposted numbers from CQ.

All quiet on election day, so far

On election day, many Canadian political bloggers are complying with the blackout on election results, and some are even disabling commenting on their blogs to avoid any inadvertent violations of the Canada Elections Act.

There have been some rumblings about some American blogs posting results, but under the same law, I won't be mentioning which blogs those might be.

Friday, Jan. 20, 2006

Prohibited blogging

Blogging on election day is going to be a tricky thing. In this election, unlike the last one, Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act will be in effect, meaning it will be effectively against the law to blog about election results until 10:00 ET, since blogging is considered transmitting "to the public."

Writing e-mail or instant messaging or for that matter talking on the phone about election results is fine, since those aren't public transmissions.

But what if you're blogging election results on your LiveJournal and protecting the posts so that only your LJ friends can read it? How big does your friends list have to be before it's considered transmitting to the public?

Antonia Zerbisias discusses the implications of S. 329 on bloggers: "So let's say that, on Monday night, the Conservatives start sweeping through the Maritime provinces or Newfoundland. Will the Blogging Tories be able to contain their glee and stick to the law before the polls close in B.C.?"

"You have to wonder how Elections Canada is going to be able to monitor this," she writes.

On Small Dead Animals, Kate invites bloggers who plan to write about results to contact her, and various bloggers are discussing the law in the comments for that post.

Some commenters predict that a certain American blog that has taken interest in Canadian issues before may be willing to post election results. The Act doesn't apply to websites, or broadcasters, outside of Canada.

Election Results Canada, the website that contravened the Act in 2000, has a timeline of Paul Bryan's fight against the law, all the way to the Supreme Court.

[UPDATE: I've removed a reference and link to a certain American blog that might post election results.]

Predictive blogging

Political bloggers love tracking poll numbers and trying to predict seats, but it can be tough to do. Take 1993. Getting 15-20 per cent of the vote could mean 52 seats, could mean two seats. Crazy first-past-the-post parliamentary system.

But bloggers might not be the best predictors. Damian Penny listed 11 predictions on his blog in June 2004. Only four of them predicted a Liberal victory.

Here are some of the sites making seat predictions:
Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006

Don't cross bloggers. They hate that

It's rare to see Canadian political bloggers unified, from left to right, on an issue. But this story from CanWest about a possible investigation into Blogging Tories has brought them together.

Eugene Parks and former Progressive Conservative Carole Jamieson allege that the Conservative party set up the site to sway opinion on the internet. The Liberal party picked up the story on its website.

But original members of Blogging Tories scoffed at the allegation. "Where's My Money?" Dissonance and Disrespect jokingly demanded. "I'm not even asking for much … A six-pack of Lakeport? A double-double from Tim Hortons?"

The Politic wonders if there's any difference between Blogging Tories, Blogging Dippers and Liblogs. (There isn't. They're all blog aggregators.)

Blogging Tories even found support on the opposite end of the political spectrum, from self-proclaimed "libertarian communist" blogger Eugene Plawiuk.

The closest this allegation came to being taken seriously was (gosh!) on the blog of Liblogs founder Jason Cherniak: "If the Blogging Tories are spending money, then they have spending limits under the Canada Elections Act. If they broke such limits, then they will have to bear the consequences."

But then Blogging Tories founder Stephen Taylor weighed in with not only a spirited defence of his site but of blogging in general. After that, Cherniak considered the issue dead.

Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2006

It's time for a little stragedy

With less than a week left until the vote (Well, until the last chance to vote, strictly speaking. I've already voted. Good thing, too. That Conservative "moustache" ad attacking the NDP might have swung my vote around. Funny stuff. It would have been better if they'd had an actor with a white mustache saying the lines and superimposed his mouth on the voters, like that Conan O'Brien gag.)

Where was I?

With less than a week left until the vote, some people are still trying to decide where to put their votes. And this always brings up the question of strategic voting.

Greg Morrow of democraticSPACE.com has a strategic voting guide for the election. He identifies the ridings where he says the races are close enough that strategic voting may be an option, and there aren't that many. Morrow says he does not endorse strategic voting, but he recognizes that it happens. Like many bloggers against strategic voting, Morrow endorses "adding an element of proportionality into our electoral system to ensure fair and accurate representation in parliament."

Idealistic Pragmatist, a Blogging Dipper, endorses strategic voting in the 35 ridings Morrow identifies as close Liberal-Conservative races.

On the other hand, Socialist Swine, of Capitalist Pig vs. Socialist Swine, is quite blunt about strategic voting: "Bullshit."

"If you want Canada to be a progressive country and beat the Conservatives don't vote Liberal. It's the Liberals who have lost this country to the Conservatives," the porcine blogger writes.

Oh, and by the way, if you're thinking of being clever and doing something silly like tearing up or eating your ballot, or making a little crane out of it, don't. It's a violation of the Elections Act.

Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2006

Liberal bloggers weigh in

With a week left in the campaign, and poll numbers pointing to a Conservative win, what are Liberal bloggers talking about lately?

"Why I didn't vote Liberal," Ian Beacock of Canadian Polemic titles a recent blog entry. "I hope that none of those who know me disown me because of this, but I cast my ballot last week, and I voted for Stephen Harper's Conservatives."

The reasons he gives are similar to the ones spelled out in the Globe and Mail's editorial on Saturday. "The Liberals have been in power since 1993, and they've done a decent job … But 13 years is a long time in office," writes Beacock.

The Sir Robert Bond Papers, on the other hand, finds it "Odd that the Globe editors today opt for change in the coming election despite acknowledging the country is better off today." He also has a look at the Conservatives' "agenda of hope." "Hope that the Connie finance minister is better at math than the guys who worked on the Connie campaign? … Hope that $2.30 cents a day actually adds up to choice in child care? … Hope that the CBC isn't sold to Fox?"

Jason Morris of Gaunlet.ca divides Liberal bloggers into two groups: "The first is the partisans … The other group is the embarrassed Liberals."

Jason Cherniak (sorry for mispronouncing your name on air) definitely falls into the former category and remains resolute. He's written three lengthy entries about the Conservative platform.

And CalgaryGrit criticizes the Liberals for manoeuvring behind the scenes for the leadership should the Liberals lose and Martin step aside. "So much for waiting until the body is cold," he says.

Friday, Jan. 13, 2006

There's just no pleasing…

The Conservatives released their platform today and Conservative bloggers complained that it wasn't conservative enough.

Aggregating the candidates

Rob Cottingham, mentioned previously way back on Dec. 5, didn't stop at compiling all the NDP candidate blogs he could find. He created a whole site gathering up all the blogs from every blogging candidate who ever blogged a blog. And he called his site Confeederation. And it was good.

More me on TV

About a month ago, I did a pre-taped interview about blogging for Newsworld. And here it is.

Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006

EFF keeps Bulte in its sights

Boing Boing is keeping up its campaign against Toronto-area Liberal candidate Sam Bulte, mentioned previously on Jan. 4.

Cory Doctorow, a fellow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, recently featured a video clip from an all-candidates meeting for Parkdale-High Park, shot by Toronto blogger extraordinaire Joey "Accordion Guy" deVilla. (Full disclosure: I've been to parties at Joey's place. There's a video of me singing karaoke on his blog somewhere. Go find it. I dares ya.)

In the clip, a member of the public asks Bulte to take Michael Giest's Copyright Pledge.

Bulte responds by saying that she has support of artists, and "will not allow Michael Geist and his pro-user zealots and Electronic Frontier Foundation members to intimidate me into silencing my voice."

Geist has his own reaction to Bulte's answer, and wonders who she meant by "zealots."

Yeah, that was me

If any of you have wondered what your humble blog reporter looks like or sounds like, here's the interview I did on Newsworld on Tuesday.

As you can see, I look like Harry Potter on his 30th birthday (with, apparently, communist glasses) and I sound like a very nervous man on live TV for the first time.

Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2006

Spoofing the Liberal ads

It seems that everything that makes the Liberal attack ads effective – the dramatic music, the stark typewriter text, the unflattering photo of Harper slowly coming into focus – also make them fertile ground for spoofs. Babbling Brooks is attempting to compile all the parodies bloggers have come up with.

While most of the satire involved rewriting the ads' text, a video spoof appeared on PomoChristian, which led to a parody contest. Brent Colbert of the Colbert Report (no, not that Colbert Report) offers a Flash spoof with an Imperial flare. On I AM (also) Canadian, the ads' choppy sentences inspired a Liberal attack haiku contest.

All this joking around is really, really bad news for the Liberals, says Dissonance and Disrespect. "Get people mad or scared and they might listen. Get people laughing at you and you've lost them."

Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006

Ads overshadow le débat

While the English debate dominated the discussion on blogs last night, today's French debate is being overshadowed by the newest Liberal ads. The party released about a dozen today.

"Apparently Stephen Harper causes cancer, dropsy, and shingles, and makes George Bush look like Jack Layton. Who knew?" writes Kevin Brennan at Tilting at Windmills. After the Liberals pulled one of the ads, "Military," Brennan declared, "The Liberals are going to be hammered over that one … Stephen Harper is going to be the next Prime Minister of Canada."

To some bloggers, the ads were evidence of desperation. Damian Penny finds the "Contributions" ad most outrageous. "[It] alleges that Stephen Harper's leadership campaign was funded by "right-wingers in the U.S. No, they don't have any of this stuff the law-talking guys call 'evidence,' but under our system you're guilty until proven innocent, right?"

He compares the TV spots to the ones the Progressive Conservatives ran in 1993, attacking Jean Chrétien.

Free Advice has a series of commentaries on the ads, including "Hotel":

"The first rule of secret ultra right-wing American think tanks is – you do not talk about secret, ultra right-wing American think tanks."

CalgaryGrit points out that the Conservatives also have two new attack ads out.

Monday, Jan. 9, 2006

The big debate

There has been more reaction on the blogs to this English debate than the last one on Dec. 16. A lot more.

Not surprisingly, Jason Cherniak praises Martin for his performance: "Martin is emotional, strong and clear. He has hit a stride and I think that he is truly giving the fight of his life." However, he disagrees with him on use of the notwithstanding clause. "We need it for extreme possibilities," he says.

Martin's announcement got a bigger reaction on Calgary Grit: "Holy bombshell batman! I guess this is the hail mary attempt of the campaign."

Kate on small dead animals picked Martin's pledge as a key moment, too: "Martin is going to be facing a firestorm tomorrow, after his announcement that his government would reopen the constitution to remove the 'notwithstanding clause'," she wrote.

A few bloggers noted that Jack Layton seemed to repeat the same message over and over again. "I thought this was called a DEBATE not an infomercial," writes Andrew on Decision 2006.

Bloggers had some kind words for the debate's moderator, TVO's Steve Paikin. "Paikin is one of the best moderators of a debate ever on Canadian TV. Clear and punchy," Gen X at 40 "I've got to say, I'm loving Paikin in this one, even if he looks like Screech from Saved by the Bell," says Calgary Grit.

Overall, at least one blogger wasn't impressed. "I don't know who is winning, but I know who is losing. All of us. We don't have leaders; we have managers. And pretty lousy ones. These people depress me," says waydownhere.

And while the NDP suggested playing debate bingo, Antonia Zerbisias was playing a different game: "I am getting drunk doing a tequila shot every time Paul Martin says 'The fact is.'"

Friday, Jan. 6, 2006

Conservatives praise Jack's plan

The NDP crime-fighting platform is getting ample praise today … from right-wing bloggers. "This is a completely different Jack than the one I knew," writes Dust My Broom. "Holy shmoly, I think I'm gonna be seeing flying pigs sometime soon," says Candace on Waking up on Planet X.

But bloggers on the left, such as The Jurist on Accidental Deliberations and right were skeptical about the "reverse onus" proposal for bail on gun-related crimes. "The state must prove that someone is too dangerous to release, not the other way around," writes Andrew of Bound by Gravity.

Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006

Liberal tuition plan barely registers on blogs

Considering that bloggers tend to be tech-savvy 20-year-olds(!), I thought there would be a big reaction to the Liberals' education platform, but a lot of bloggers are writing about other things. Seems there's some stuff going on in the Middle East and a hockey game or something?

Anyway, Dissonance and Disrespect accuses the Liberals of siding with the "woolly-headed campus Marxists" with their pledge for financial help for students. He wants more details, though:

"Will this $3,000 a year go directly to the students to blow on beer and popcorn, to the university student financial aid offices directly, or to the provincial governments to dole out as they see fit?"

Arnab, on A wave of alternative mandate, favours the Liberals' approach. "The Liberals have promised to give 50% of the tuition fee to a maximum of $3000 for all the students for the first and last year of their education. This is a very promising approach in my opinion. This would take away the strong pressure on a student and save a good amount of money," he writes.

Rhetoric, now in table form

Stageleft offers this handy Us-vs.-Them conversion table. For example, if "we" do it, it's "jointly pursuing shared policy goals of real value to Canadians with strategic allies," but if "they" do it, it's "selfishly shacking up with political foes in a hypocritical attempt to play power broker."

If "we" do it, it's "recognizing and adapting to the evolving needs of our complex society," but if "they" do it, it's "flip-flopping."

Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2006

Major blog takes aim at Liberal candidate

One of the most popular blogs on the net, Boing Boing, has taken an interest in the Canadian election, and one candidate in particular: Liberal Sarmite Bulte.

Cory Doctorow, a Canadian science fiction writer and co-editor of the blog, has written a series of scathing posts about Bulte, whose election campaign, Doctorow claims, is being "bankrolled by the Canadian entertainment cartel."

Bulte, in her role as chair of the standing committee on Canadian heritage, wrote a report on copyright reform in May 2004 that favoured the interests of the publishing, music and movie industries. She also supported Bill C-60, a bill that would have toughened Canada's copyright law to crack down on music downloading. The bill died when the Liberal government fell.

Canadian law professor and blogger Michael Geist writes that Bulte is planning a $250-a-person fundraiser a few days before election day sponsored by executives in the music, movie, publishing and video game industries. As well, Geist went through the Elections Canada contributions database and found that the contributors to Bulte's campaign in 2004 included many groups with an interest in tighter copyright restrictions. What's more, Bulte's campaign was the only one to receive contributions from these groups, Geist says.

Both Geist and Doctorow are quick to point out that everything that Bulte is doing is legal, but they consider it suspect, given that, if the Liberals win the election, Bulte is a leading candidate to become Heritage Minister.

Tues., Jan. 3, 2006

Attack of the double negative

Bloggers are having a field day over the Conservatives' newest TV ads. First came "They'll Go Neg," a negative ad that attacks the Liberals for going negative before the Liberals have gone negative. "I didn't think that was possible, at least in this space-time continuum," writes columnist and blogger Andrew Coyne.

Then came "Entitlements." Mark Watton on Nottawa was among the first to write about it and post the video. Many conservative bloggers, including Coyne, claimed the ad was fake and accused Watton of creating it himself using footage from previous Conservative ads.

Jason Cherniak accused the Conservatives of "hiding" the ad because it was broadcast nationally on television before it was posted on the Conservative website. Let it Bleed seems to delight in the ad's use of the Liberals' own words against them and hails it as the first post-modern Canadian political ad.

And to round it all up, supporters of the Conservatives used Liberal attack ads from the 2004 campaign, remixed them and added a new voice-over, creating their own "fake" attack ad.

Is your head spinning?

Loose fingertips claim another pol

Another Canadian political type has resigned after posting something silly on the internet.

Rob Cottingham says politicians in Canada still haven't learned their lesson: "Unless your blog's behind a password… and only you and your cat have the password… and you really trust the cat… don't put anything on your blog that you don't want to see on the front page of the New York Times. Or the Canadian equivalent, the Tweed Daily News."

Fri., Dec. 30, 2005

Bloggers return early from holiday

Ah, it was foolish of me to think I could take the week off and bloggers would do the same. First, a Liberal executive quits over remarks he made in his blog. Then, the NDP says another Liberal's blog entry attacking leader Jack Layton that was written on Dec. 5 is culturally insensitive. And, of course, the RCMP announced Wednesday it was launching an investigation of the Finance Department and allegations of a leak about the department's decision not to tax income trusts.

CalgaryGrit calls the string of announcements this week "Jack Layton's best Christmas ever." On the income trust issue, he predicts that Finance Minister Ralph Goodale will announce his decision to step down on New Year's Eve. Other Liberal bloggers are sticking by Goodale, though. On his blog, The Sir Robert Bond Papers, Ed Hollett says nothing has yet been proven and reports that the RCMP investigation could include the Prime Minister's Office are, in his words, "crap reporting." "Truth is that the RCMP probe could go anywhere it needs to go," he writes.

Jason Cherniak says he's looking forward to the RCMP report, which he predicts will exonerate Goodale. "Harper, Duceppe and Layton are actually taking a big risk here," he says about the Conservative, Bloc and NDP leaders, respectively. "If they attack Goodale only to find out that he did nothing wrong, then Canadians will remember."

On the Conservative side, A North American Patriot wonders if the RCMP will have to set up a new department just to investigate Liberal scandals. Angry in the Great White North pledges that although the announcement of the investigation occurred during the "dead zone" between Christmas and New Year's, bloggers will remember the story in the new year. "I'll tie a string around my finger to remind me about the scandal. Hopefully next week I won't have been distracted by bright shiny Liberal promises to spend my money wisely on my behalf."

Fri., Dec. 23, 2005

The candidates, as well as most bloggers, are taking a break until the new year, and so will I. The Blog Report will return Jan. 3, 2006. Happy holidays.

Wed., Dec. 21, 2005

Liberal ads under the blogger microscope

Ever since conservative bloggers in the States got hold of some documents purported to be U.S. President George W. Bush's military records and talked us through the intricacies of proportional type in the 1970s, other bloggers have been trying the repeat the feat: showing the mainstream media a thing or two about investigation.

Stephen Taylor and Kate McMillan (a member of CBC.ca's Election Roundtable) think they're on to something. The bloggers suggest the Liberals staged Paul Martin's row with American officials last week.

Their argument focuses on two Liberal television ads released about two weeks apart, one on Dec. 2 (the bloggers say it was Dec. 5) and one on Dec. 16. The first ad portrayed "ordinary Canadians" (later revealed to be party insiders) praising the Liberals for their financial record.

Between the release of the two ads, on Dec. 7, Martin took the U.S. to task for not participating in the Montreal climate conference. On Dec. 13, U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins warned Canadian campaigners not "to thump your chest and criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner." Martin replied, on Dec. 14: "I am not going to be dictated to as to the subjects I should raise."

The ad that ran Dec. 16 praised Paul Martin for standing up to Bush on issues such as softwood lumber.

The problem, Taylor and McMillan say, is that the two ads were filmed at the same time. They compare shots from the two ads and show that they were shot at the same street corners, in some cases within minutes of each other, as evidenced by a clock in the background.

So, the ads praising Martin for his tough stand against the Americans, which were released shortly after Martin took a tough stand against the Americans, were filmed more than two weeks earlier. "The ads are a little too prescient," McMillan writes.

It could be nothing. The ads aren't so "prescient" that they mention Martin standing up to Bush on Kyoto, for example. The timing of the release of the ads could be coincidental. It's no smoking gun.

But it does show how carefully bloggers are watching all aspects of this campaign.

On the other hand�

Even during a hard-fought election, there is one thing Canadian bloggers on the left and those on the right can agree on.

Tucker Carlson was right.

Mon, Dec. 19, 2005

More blogging Grits

Bill Cunningham is another Liberal candidate, this time in Burnaby-Douglas, B.C., who is blogging his campaign experience. The incumbent in the riding is from the NDP, so Cunningham never misses an opportunity to bash the Dippers for something or other, usually "forcing" an election campaign over Christmas. His current record is three times in a single post.

Orange and blue make … kind of a greyish-brown.

Even during a hard-fought election, there is one thing Canadian bloggers on the left and those on the right can agree on.

Tucker Carlson is kind of a jerk.

Fri., Dec. 16, 2005

Missing the boat on blogs

Today, I spoke with the producer of Newsworld's Behind the Ballot about the candidates' blogs, particularly Liberal candidates. I've written here about the blogs of NDP candidates and Conservative candidates, but no Liberals. Where are they?

Toronto-area candidate Carolyn Bennett has a blog and she posts frequently about her time on the campaign trail. She has an unusual fondness for the ellipsis, though. I think she's risking wearing out the period key on her BlackBerry.

Calgary West Liberal candidate Jennifer Pollock has updated her blog daily since her campaign office opened, and her latest entry has the most comprehensive holiday greeting I've ever seen. Besides Christmas, Pollock is wishing readers a happy "St. Nikolaus Eve, La Purisima, Santa Lucia, Bodhi day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Shabe-Yalda, Solstice, Ta Chiu and New Year."

In Edmonton East, Nicole Martel blogs and invites comments on her writing. Most recently, she sends out "a very sarcastic thank you to Scott Reid for showing us how to put the whole foot and half-a-leg in your mouth."

The medium, the message

But why should candidates blog anyway? They're going door-to-door, the parties are running ads and the leaders appear on televised debates. How many people, compared to all that, would the blogs reach anyway?

Mark Federman of the University of Toronto's McLuhan Centre says the parties ignore bloggers at their peril. He says the parties are "ignoring … a large, nominally disaffected constituency who are relatively removed from the broadcast media … in which the current election campaign is primarily being run."

Federman says the Liberals are using blogs merely as "comic relief" and the Conservatives are using them as just "another broadcast medium." He praises the Bloc, though, for having a blog that allows comments, "including those that express dissenting views."

He says the strengths of blogs – "connections, relationships, conversations and engagement" – are what the political parties are lacking in this election.

A tip of the hat to Fine Young Journalist.

Le débat, part deux

A bit more reaction to the French debates last night, as the English debates are going on right now:

Jason Morris, Gauntlet.ca: "I literally fell asleep … I'm not going to watch the English-language debates. I've had enough of it, already."

CalgaryGrit: "The new format made for a more orderly debate but a far, far more boring one … I'll give the moderator some credit for actually asking tough followup questions, after the very off-beat questions from average Canadians."

The one issue that sparked the most debate after the French debate was same-sex marriage. Some bloggers said Harper was dishonest when he said he would revisit the issue without using the notwithstanding clause. Others said Martin was dishonest when he said the only way the law can be reversed is through the use of the notwithstanding clause.

Thurs., Dec. 15, 2005

Le débat

During the French language debates tonight, the CBC.ca Reality Check team had a live blog going, fact-checking the leaders' claims in real time. Watch for it again Friday night for the English debates.

It's a bit early to write a report on bloggers' reaction to tonight's French debates. But here's one from Rite Turn Only:

"I don't know about anyone else but I really dislike the new debate format … I will miss the interaction and the spontaneity … I want to see them perform under fire, under pressure. I want to hear unexpected questions and remarks and observe the quick replies or lack of."

Some bloggers have published previews of this debate and Friday's, and quite a few have linked to the NDP's debate bingo cards.

The cards include many of Paul Martin's catch phrases, so voters can watch the debates and play along at home. Although, really, "Make no mistake" should be a free square.

Wed., Dec. 14, 2005

I'd like to welcome all the bloggers contributing to the Election Roundtable here on CBC.ca. I've read your blogs and I look forward to seeing what you'll write for us and how bloggers will react.

Cyber-squatting tango

CBC.ca wrote a couple of stories recently about NDP supporter David Bedford registering domain names similar to those of various police departments across the country and redirecting visitors, first to the NDP website and then to a web page warning against voting for Stephen Harper's Conservatives. (CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external sites. This message is already on this page twice, but it bears repeating.)

Well, now Bedford is getting a taste of his own medicine. Some Conservative supporters have registered DavidBedford.ca and are redirecting visitors to Blogging Tories.

Beer is now

After Scott Reid's "beer and popcorn" gaffe, Stephen Janke, an engineer and blogger, wrote an online petition and linked to it from KidsNotBeer.com.

"As parents, we resent being insulted so your party can score some cheap political points," reads the petition.

Rick Mercer, it appears, was also angered by Reid's comments, but for his "anti-beer agenda."

"Children may be our greatest resource but beer is our greatest beverage," writes Mercer on his blog.

He registered BeerNotKids.com and linked to a petition of his own.

"Beer is more than a beverage. It is part of the National Fabric," reads his petition.

It's not easy…

Speaking of petitions, the Green party has been circulating one online since the beginning of the campaign. It says, simply:

"I support the inclusion of the Green Party of Canada in the nationally televised leaders' debates."

Nearly 27,000 people have signed it so far.

For more information about Thursday night's debate, read CBC.ca's Leaders' Debates 101 and the history of debates.

Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2005

The Popcorn Report

Rumours of this report's death have been greatly exaggerated.

Let's get to it.

Predictably, the conservative blogs were all over Scott Reid's now-infamous "beer and popcorn" remark on CBC News: Sunday. I could list a bunch of links to blogs mentioning it, but that's what Google and Technorati are for.

Reid's gaffe scored an unprecedented six points on Revmod's Gaffe-o-Meter. That's almost as many points as the entire Conservative Party thus far.

Jason Cherniak, a Liberal blogger, was on the defensive, saying that while Reid's comments were "not helpful," Stephen Harper took things too far when he suggested Liberals don't value parents. He demanded an apology from the Conservative leader. Fourteen pages of incredulous comments followed.

Calgary Grit outlines his 10 reasons why "beer and popcorn" could have a major impact on the election:

"7. These comments will be easy to spoof and have fun with. Already, the Tories have had beer and popcorn at their events today."

Of course, the political cartoonists couldn't resist images of popcorn and beer, either.

More orange and blue togetherness?

An NDP exposé of the Liberal campaign ads is getting about as many links from conservative bloggers as it is from progressive ones.

Thursday, Dec. 8, 2005

"I'm cool. I'm with it."

There's something that doesn't quite ring true about the Conservative youth blog on CPCEnergy.ca. Ostensibly, it's written by an anonymous 21-year-old student at Carleton University.

Sometimes, his writing (yes, I'm assuming he's a he) sounds like a Conservative Party press release:

"[Liberals] are running a campaign of fear to hide their record of entitlement and corruption."

"This is the same party that has just spent billions of tax dollars attempting to bribe voters with their own money in the lead up to the election."

I've read blogs that echo the Conservative Party line, and they don't sound like that.

Sometimes, though, he sounds like someone trying very hard to be hip:

"Our economy needs these businesses 'like butter needs toast'. (Yes, that's right � a Notorious reference � gasp!)"

(Actually, the lyric is "Now honies play me close like butter played toast," but I digress.)

But genuine or not, the blog has made a fascinating observation: the uncanny resemblance between NDP Leader Jack Layton and John W. Scherer, the Video Professor.

"I think CTV's Newsnet should be limited as to the number of times they air ads for the Video Professor," writes our unnamed blogger.

(Hat-tip to J. Kelly Nestruck.)

UPDATE CPCEnergy blogger unmasked? The Phantom Observer believes he has discovered the identity of the author of the Conservative youth blog. Oh, Google. What would we do without you?

Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2005

The first of the ads

The NDP released its "TV" ads today, but not on TV. They're on its website. A pair of Quicktime videos (both unusually dark) featuring Jack Layton talking about the sponsorship scandal and the environment. Very simple. Just Jack, his name and the party slogan.

Both the Liberals and the Conservatives launched their ads, on television and radio, this week. The reaction among bloggers was mixed.

In the Conservative ads, Stephen Harper appears with an actress, apparently being interviewed. Some didn't like the "infomercial" feel of the ads.

"They're so cheap looking and have a staged feel to them. Note to Harper: next time, ditch the sidekick," writes Raven.

"Stephen Harper looks awkward enough to begin with, why do you have to try to make him act?" writes Gregory Paciga on the Nebula. "It gives me the willies."

Tory supporter Anonalogue calls the ads "solid." "The ads seem down-to-earth and low-key to me. Sober. And they feel Canadian."

Other conservatives were less generous.

"Fire the agency, your media advisor, whoever's responsible. Fire them all," writes Bill Kinnon on his blog, Achievable Ends.

The Liberal ads show "ordinary Canadians" touting the accomplishments of the Liberal government and reading financial statistics from a Teleprompter.

Most bloggers said the Liberal ads were better: better music, more professional looking. Although, Nick Ragaz on Live Free or Die says the ads seem to portray an "eerie and pervasive hegemony over life in Canada."

J. Kelly Nestruck writes about the French-language Conservative ads on his blog, On the Fence.

A translation from one of the radio ads:

"The Bloc is like a brother-in-law. When things are good, he's there for you. But when you need help to solve a problem or build something, it's funny, he can't do anything for you."

"Here's the kicker," writes Nestruck. "Both the radio ads and the TV ads all end by noting that that these ads were paid for with l'argent propre – clean money."

Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005

Deciphering Jack Layton

Jack Layton's statements on private health care yesterday elicited a variety of responses on the blogs. Some called him a flip-flopper while others praised him for telling it like it is. And that was just among the conservative blogs.

Some bloggers were confused while over on Rabble Babble, a left-wing online forum, Layton's "off-message" remarks sparked one of the more protracted discussions of the campaign.

The Amazing Wonderdog attempts to clarify Layton's position, but at the same time condescends to his readers, angers a blogger who doesn't share his views, and insults Globe and Mail reporters and print journalists in general.

The NDP's Rapid Response (the closest thing the party has to a blog on its site) responded rapidly to all the confusion: "Let's be clear: Jack Layton and the New Democratic Party of Canada do not support further privatization of the health system."

"Let's be clear"? Isn't that Martin's line?

Monday, Dec. 5, 2005

NDP blogs rolling

While the NDP hasn't put a blog on its party site, individual candidates are blogging, and even podcasting, on their own. Rob Cottingham is compiling a list of the candidate blogs on his site and offering an RSS blogroll so supporters can keep track of all the blogs at once.

Tory trash talk

Meanwhile, under the Conservative banner, Monte Solberg continues his long running and popular blog. He even blogged from the floor of the House hours before the confidence vote. Over the weekend, he welcomed his colleague and Ottawa roommate Chuck Strahl to the world of blogging.

It didn't take long for the bickering to start:

"My hope is that in return for mentioning his site, he'll take out the garbage from our apartment at least once during the next Parliament," wrote Strahl.

"I did his dishes the other day, but does he mention that? No. I also pay the utilities and he owes me money, but do I mention that on my blog? No. I would never do that," replied Solberg.

You can almost hear the Odd Couple theme playing in the background.

Friday, Dec. 2, 2005

Blogs, blogues and flogs

Scott Feschuk's blog on the Liberal site, mentioned down here, indirectly led to the first high-profile gaffe of the campaign.

On the first day of the campaign, he wrote:

"[Former Liberal MP and Canadian Action party founder] Paul Hellyer has grabbed hold of the campaign agenda, blowing the lid off the whole UFO invasion thing, the No. 1 priority of Canadians who are socially awkward Omni subscribers."

Conservative MP Jason Kenney took exception to the joke:

"What's he saying? That people from ethnic minorities who are the television viewers of Omni are paranoid, are abnormal, are ungrounded in reality?"

Of course, Feschuk and Kenney were talking about different Omnis. One is a defunct science and science fiction magazine. The other is a set of multicultural (and free-to-air) television stations in Toronto and Vancouver.

After the first week of the campaign, Feschuk's stands out as the most interesting of the parties' blogs. The Conservatives have a blog, but its author is anonymous and its tone is too overtly promotional, leading one blogger, the Phantom Observer, to dub it a "flog."

The Bloc's "blogue," written by party Leader Gilles Duceppe, has a single 500-word entry. In it, Duceppe says the blog will be his link to party supporters so that he can share his reflections throughout the campaign and so they can share their vision for Quebec with him. (Interesting that the Bloc chose the word "blogue" for the medium rather than the continental French "bloc." I guess that would be confusing.)

(The NDP's site doesn't have a blog, but I included a link to their press releases in the list to the left for the sake of completeness and balance. [UPDATE Make that the Rapid Response page.] The Green Party's blog hasn't been updated since the beginning of the campaign. [UPDATE It has now. Added to the left, along with Green Bloggers.])

Re: the security of the Conservative party website

The security error on the Tory website no longer appears. The donation page mentioned on Michael Watkins' blog now redirects you to a secured version. Sensitive information should be safe on conservative.ca.

Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005

Conservative website ranks last

For blog readers who do fit into the "tech savvy" stereotype, Michael Watkins offers technical critiques of the parties' official websites. Himself a Conservative, he blasts the party's website for its dependence on Flash, its lack of accessibility for blind users and lack of security.

In fact, as Michael points out, if you attempt to donate money to the CPC, the site will tell you the site is secure when it's not. Your credit card information will go over an insecure web connection.

"There are no excuses for this lack of care," writes Michael.

UPDATE As mentioned above, the security error on the Tory website no longer appears. Sensitive information should be safe on conservative.ca.

Debating the GST

Blogs were abuzz about Stephen Harper's pledge to cut the GST from seven per cent to five per cent. Some Tory bloggers were enthusiastic about the plan, while others went into fiscal conservative mode and began the debate over cuts to consumption taxes versus cuts to income taxes.

Some bloggers supporting the Liberals pointed out that the cut in the tax rate reduced the tax income while the administration costs remained the same, making the tax less efficient. But many commended Harper on an excellent political move.

"Given that people are Christmas shopping, rather than doing their taxes, I suspect this will work in Harper's favour," wrote CalgaryGrit.

Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005

Did bloggers bring down the government?

South of the border, it appears some bloggers (and bigger media outlets, too) think the sponsorship scandal, and not last week's no-confidence vote, led directly to the fall of the Liberal government.

Not only that, but some conservative blogs are taking credit for the Liberals' downfall.

"Conservative bloggers have now taken down Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, and the fricken Canadian Government," writes a reader of Instapundit.

When the Gomery report was still ongoing, and a publication ban in effect on testimony there, a conservative blog called Captain's Quarters published details despite the ban.

Although the ban was only temporary, and was lifted days later, Captain's Quarters' coverage was the first many American bloggers read of the sponsorship scandal.

Canadian blogger Damian Brooks seeks to set the record straight in his post For my American friends.

"This was about parliamentary politics in a minority government, not about scandal. It was most certainly not about blogging," he writes.

Blogs and the "mainstream media"

On small dead animals, Kate McMillan takes the Canadian Press to task for an article (available on Canoe) she says paints an inaccurate picture of bloggers.

The article says it's hard to say what impact blogs have on politics because voter "turnout among younger Canadians is low and dropping."

"Why does mainstream media continue to stereotype political bloggers and our readers as 'tech savvy' 20-year-olds?" asks SDA.

"Blogging is a niche media … Bloggers aren't isolated entities competing with one another, but participants in an ever-evolving … staff of opinion writers and information providers connected electronically," she says.

Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2005

Can left and right find middle ground?

A couple of blogs, Let It Bleed and The Tiger in Exile seem to have come up with the same idea independently: co-operation between the Conservatives and the NDP to bring down the Liberals.

LIB proposes it as a way to consolidate opposition to the Liberals.

"Identify the items on which the parties can agree… Then pitch it to the electorate: if you vote to get rid of the Liberals, here is what we're going to do."

The Tiger sees the Tory and NDP numbers meshing after playing around with the Election Predictor, a tool dreamed up by consultants Hill & Knowlton.

"Harper and Layton could cobble together a governing majority without relying on the separatists.

"Lesson for Stephen Harper: let up on Jack Layton.

"Lesson for Paul Martin: Jack Layton is the threat."

The Liberals' "neato" blog

Blogs supporting the Conservatives, such as Daimnation! and Small Dead Animals, kicked off their coverage of the election campaign with a thorough mocking of the Liberals' official blog, written by Paul Martin's speechwriter Scott Feschuk. Both bloggers predict its impending demise.

Some highlights from Feschuk's first post:

"Wow, look at me! I'm in 'cyberspace,' where no one can hear you scream…

"I for one am betting this so-called 'Internet' is really going to catch on. It's neato…

"Remember: views expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent the policies or beliefs of Paul Martin. Except when I write about the hypnotic musical stylings of Nana Mouskouri. We're totally in sync on that."

Angry in the Great White North writes: "This is what happens when you decriminalize marijuana."

Feschuk, after having read these and other comments, concludes: "The reviews are in! And I suck!"


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