The Media Party's fascinating interest in pursuing active politics

2 responses

  1. Wayne LIlley says:

    Obviously, this comment won’t remain here. It’s your blog and I get it that you don’t have to respond to responders,or even acknowledge them. Nonentheless, your interesting commentary deserves some reaction. Apologies in advance for typos.

    You also might be interested in the Freeland interview here:

    Comments on the “The Media Party’s fascinating interest in pursuing active politics” included throughout in [ ]s.

    This has not been a good summer for former journalists who have gone on to enter the political realm. And yet, despite the beating that Mike Duffy and Pam Wallin have taken at the hands of their former pals and the public at large, a trifecta of media types have [has] announced that they [it — trifecta is singular] want[s] to take over Bob Rae’s seat in downtown Toronto. Who knew that a life in active politics was so alluring?

    The party nominations for Mr. Rae’s $160,200 salary have attracted an unusual amount of media coverage. I assume we can thank the Globe and Mail for that, which kicked things off 10 days ago with a remarkable and unusually large article about their former colleague, Chrystia Freeland, who has decided to seek the Liberal Party’s Toronto Centre nomination. Former Much Music VJ Jennifer Hollett and Toronto Star columnist / author Linda McQuaig are also hoping to represent me in Ottawa.

    [Are you saying you got involved in politics (albeit through a patronage appointment) solely in the interests of public service, and you give your stipend away to the charity of your choice (without claiming a tax deduction), but these journalists are spending money to be elected — mainly to collect $160,200? Seems a touch cynical, no?]

    But since the Globe and Mail launched the reporting, I’ll focus on their initial news story for the moment:
    Chrystia Freeland, a former manager and writer at The Globe and Mail and other internationally renowned publications….

    Is it normal to have a newspaper refer to itself as an “internationally renowned publication”? Is there a list somewhere that lays this stuff out, since the writer didn’t have a source to attribute the accolade to?

    [Isn’t this a bit of a cheap shot? The truth is, it’s hard to name another Canadian paper that is noticed, quoted and/or respected – which is to say, renowned – outside Canada to the extent the Globe is. Cut the Globe a little slack for self-promotion. The TPA, after all, doesn’t feel shy about calling Toronto “one of Canada’s largest major inland ports” without attribution despite the fact that it’s far from the largest port in Ontario in cargo tonnage or shipping revenue.]

    Chrystia Freeland has written extensively about growing income disparities. around the world and would bring expertise on the plight of the modern middle class.
    Ms. Freeland, 44, grew up in Peace River, Alta., and earned degrees in Russian history and literature at Harvard before doing a Masters at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.
    A compelling international pedigree [curriculum vita, actually, or credentials. Pedigree refers breeding]: degrees in Russian and Literature from Harvard and Oxford, 10 years in New York as an author, editor and journo. Coming home with unparalleled [your word, not the Globe’s] international experience to help change the world from a seat in the Canadian Parliament.

    [Where did this come from? You’re adding your own take on what the Globe suggests is a perspective on a problem, not a proposed solution to income disparity]

    Where have we heard that resume and similar pitch before? Former Liberal Leader Michael Grant Ignatieff certainly comes to mind. How quickly the media forgets how much they came to mock that storyline.

    [Wasn’t it the Tories who mocked it and the media who reported the mocking?]

    What came as a bigger surprise is that writing about income disparity appears to be the foundation for figuring out how to solve what is billed as one of the most important social issues of this century.

    [Why is it so surprising that researching and writing about a problem, opening discussion, and examining the subject from a number of perspectives might be the “foundation for figuring out how to solve” something like income disparity? Is, say, trial and error policy better? What option would you prefer?]
    [It’s difficult to find fault with presentation of a well thought-out thesis, having it challenged, corrected, adjusted, stress-tested,as a way to build a foundation for solving a problem.]

    The Globe goes on to say:
    The feeling in party circles is that she could bring fresh thinking to the Liberal Party’s economic team, now made up of veteran MPs Scott Brison, Ralph Goodale and John McCallum.
    “It’s no secret that we want to build out a strong economic team across the country, and the Toronto Centre opening is a good opportunity to start on that,” a senior Liberal official said. “Chrystia is potentially a great piece of that puzzle.”
    So there you have it. Writing about business is sufficient experience to join Justin Trudeau’s most senior “economic team”. Poor John McCallum. To earn his spot on the Liberal Economic Team he had to spend six years getting his Phd in Economics, before eventually becoming the Royal Bank’s chief economist for another six. That’s excellent training for the world of government finance, unemployment, dealing with crowding out (see representative post “‘Bruce’ the mindless eating machine” May 31-08), the impact of interest rates as well as the overall drivers of Canada’s economy.
    Ms. Freeland merely had to cover people like him from the press gallery to pick up enough to be his seatmate.

    [So what exactly are the appropriate dues? Later you claim to be unimpressed with academic standing over experience. How does one get experience if not on the job?]

    Which begs a question. Why don’t more hockey journalists try out for spots on NHL teams? [Same reason more financial executives don’t become orthopaedic surgeons?] Or at least join the coaching staff given the physical requirements of the current game. Surely they are at least as qualified as anyone in the fourth estate to, proverbially, step onto the ice themselves.[Huh?]

    [You’re arguing that an educated, smart observer like Freeland, who thinks and writes about economics, and whose work is vetted by editors, then judged by readers, is as unqualified to join the Liberal economics team, led by an experienced economist, as a hockey writer is to join an NHL team? According to that paradox, no one would be qualified to participate in parliament and introduce new ideas to a political party until he or she had spent considerable time, well, in parliament.]

    [Your acknowledgement of the physical impossibility of hockey writers playing in the NHL indicates that you also recognize the silliness of your suggestion that they might become hockey executives. (Though if it were up to the public at large, it might happen with some frequency.)]

    [In passing, it’s noteworthy that fired coaches and general managers often turn up as broadcast “analysts” and commentators, then return to professional sports. Few, however, become actual journalists, possibly because they aren’t able to do the job, or prefer bigger paydays, or fear that they might rankle the hockey community that holds the key to another hockey job.]

    [Whatever the case, it’s somewhat ironic that you feel Freeland’s lack of working experience as a parliamentarian and economist disqualifies her from running for public office, yet you feel no compunction about writing and commenting on politics or journalism when your profession is a financial executive.]

    Not that I’m against any talented person getting involved in public service. I certainly am [not?], regardless of the political party they [her or she] chooses (see prior representative post “Governor Carney’s future political career looking good” Sept. 10-10). And to say it’s not an easy life is an understatement, whether it be the municipal, provincial or federal realm. In my mind, however, you have to more to offer than a résumé.

    [Doesn’t a résumé present experience? What does one do instead, show calluses, ink stains, tax returns, press clippings, present references?]

    Finance Minister Jim Flaherty started out as a self-proclaimed (?) small town lawyer, and wound up to become an excellent Federal Finance Minister, for example. But his time at Queen’s Park definitely prepared him for the role. There is no textbook outlining what is the “right” career that leads to eventual success in Federal politics. [But Freeland’s approach, in the absence of a textbook, is wrong?] I admit to being more interested in someone’s ideas and relevant life/professional experience than I am in their university degrees.

    [You thought McCallum’s PhD was a big deal earlier. Anyway, don’t you get an idea of a person’s life/professional experience from a résumé, something you dismissed above as not enough?]

    Ms. Freeland does come across in an interview as someone with a certain amount of passion, which is certainly helpful in politics:
    “In my writing, my reporting and my thinking, I have come to feel that there is a really great challenge that the world and Canada faces, which is figuring out how to make the 21st century work for the middle class,” she said in an interview. “I want to try to be a part of a team that does something about that, and that is 100 per cent the core of my motivation.”

    You’d think that all of these years of studying Russian and writing about plutocrats would have generated a few good ideas to help solve “the really great challenge that the world…faces.” And that’s what’s so strange about Ms. Freeland’s candidacy. Apparently, we are asking too much. According to the Globe interview:

    [But earlier, you felt that Ignatieff came across as the guy claiming to have a silver bullet. He never actually claimed he did, and neither is Freeland doing so. In fact, below, and in the interview linked to the URL enclosed, she pointedly denies any such notion]

    She said she does not want to enter politics with a sense that she has answers to all of the questions that she has raised in her writings on the financial squeeze facing Canadians. “It would be incredibly arrogant and presumptuous and hubristic of me to arrive with a fully baked 10-point plan for solving the plight of the middle class,” she said. “The job now for me is to listen to people.”

    I have news for Ms. Freeland. Torontonians are all for listeners, but they also want someone who has a few key ideas of their [his or her?] own to go along with a strong ethical foundation, relevant experience and a certain amount of intellectual depth. [And you know this how?] Or a passion-driven plan for change — we’ll vote for that, too, as the last Mayoral race made clear.

    [Oh yeah, a Rob Ford-style, passion-driven plan for change, accompanied by a snappy slogan featuring maybe something like gravy. What could possibly go wrong?]

    Perhaps not “answers”; a few new ideas will do. What we don’t need in Toronto Centre is a therapist who goes door to door and listens to our concerns about Wall Street greed and the irony that the only person prosecuted in the U.S. financial crisis was someone that Goldman Sachs itself wanted prosecuted; although some of these things upset me,
    [Huh? Where they hell did the Wall Street-Goldman Sachs stuff come from? Is anyone going door to door is going likely to face a lot of Wall Street questions?] (see representative prior post “Canadian bank bailout total touches $186 billion” Dec. 2-10). If you don’t have any ideas about how to solve the problems of the middle class, then perhaps you shouldn’t run for office with that as your “100 per cent the core of [your] motivation”.

    It’s like wanting to be agriculture Minister despite never having visited a farm.

    [What’s wrong with that. Only farmers can be Minister of Agriculture? What esperience did Harper have as a Prime Minister to be Prime Minister? The idea that only those with on-the-job experience and a track record in a related field are qualified to hold office is dumb. Peter McKay was never in the military but was Minister of Defence. Why is Freeland or any other journalist disqualified from public office? There’s a place for those who are smart, astute observers, shrewd analysts, and who are able to condense, crystalize and communicate ideas. Someone like, say, a writer whose work has been tested on readers in a wide range of publications.]

    If we take this at face value, [What are we taking at face value?] Ms. Freeland appears to misunderstand the role of an elected official versus someone seeking a political nomination. The former spends their [his or her] summers listening to Canadians at Bar-B-Qs, and goes back to Ottawa every Fall to fix what’s broken. The latter need to have a few good ideas in hand, or else we don’t know what [they]’ll try to do once [they’re] in office.

    Senator Hugh Segal would tell you that the best way to resolve Canada’s wealth disparity is to do away with certain social programs and replace them with a Guaranteed Annual Income. How does that sound to you? Higher income and capital gains taxes are another tool to redistribute wealth. Are you in favour of that? What about a constant stream of deficit-financed infrastructure spending? Toronto needs a downtown relief subway line, and the GTA is not at full employment; will you support killing those two birds with a single stone?
    And, if you have no ideas of your own about how to resolve the plight of the middle class, despite all of your reported research on the topic, I suspect you are wasting your intellect on this mission to represent me and my neighbours. [Suspect?]

    [Wage disparity is the gap between the rich and poor in a society. The IMF believes the greater the disparity, the shorter and less sustainable the periods of growth in a nation’s economy. That seems a good reason to seek solutions to the widening gap in Canada.]

    Today’s Globe follow-up story had at least one new, interesting tidbit:
    The Conservatives have not yet fielded a candidate for Toronto Centre. But they take issue with the notion that they have neglected the middle class; their majority government rests on suburban middle-class voters.

    The truth is, I suspect [Suspect?] Ms. Freeland knows exactly what she’d like to do if she finds herself in Cabinet someday. I suspect [Suspect?] some political staffer coached her to say she was in “listening mode”, but it lacks credibility when the line is delivered in this instance. Ms. Freeland needs to be herself, and hint at what all of her years of analysis from abroad tells her is wrong with the economic approach of the incumbent government.

    [There’s a lot of suspicion in these grafs. Any basis for it? Also, is there a politician anywhere willing to lay out an entire platform up front so opponents can spend a campaign beating it up?]

    It ended in tears the last time someone tried the “Hi, I’m from Oxford and I’m here to help” strategy.

  2. Mark McQueen says:

    Hello Wayne.

    I see you’ve found this backwater blog via my Twitter comments about the TPA and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. I hope that the fact that you are not a fan of either hasn’t clouded your judgment on the rest of my body of work. (Ha)

    I can’t take the time to tackle each of your points, but I will say that I am not afraid to “approve” your treatise for the rest of our audience to read and reflect upon. If they conclude that I’m a blathering idiot as a result of your rather personal remarks (and obvious animus on Twitter), and that the New York Times is wrong about the content on this site, so be it.

    The TPA wasn’t my “start” in politics, and it certainly isn’t a patronage appointment I can assure you. I started by knocking on doors more than 35 years ago, worked on lots of campaigns, spent half a decade as a political staffer in Ottawa, and so forth.

    I don’t know if these candidates are spending their own money to seek their respective nominations. Quite possibly they are, although many do not. That I donate my TPA board fees to charity doesn’t impress you, nor that I’ve waived the annual Chair retainer. Perhaps you don’t use Toronto-area hospitals or this City’s arts organizations, but I know that the recipient agencies appreciate the donations just the same.

    I don’t think I cast any aspersions at those with academic qualifications. Mark Carney has plenty of them, for example, as does Lisa Raitt and John McCallum. And my sister. I admire what they’ve accomplished on that front.

    It appears that you missed the entire point, when I review your dissection of my blog. As an exercise in a vacuum, I don’t think writing an article or book about a problem necessarily provides for a resolution. I certainly believe that Fed Chair Bernake’s academic insight into the Great Depression was invaluable as he worked on Capital Hill to avoid the start of another depression in 2008-09.

    The modest point of my post was that, in her own words, Ms. Freeland says she doesn’t have the answers to the social problems that draw her to politics. Although others seem to think her editorial research is sufficient training for Candidate Freeland to solve the difficult challenge of income disparity. This isn’t consistent with how the Candidate depicts herself. Don’t you find that curious?

    “Listening to Canadians” at the start of your political career isn’t going to provide any silver bullet to one of the toughest issues of this generation. If it were as easy as that, a raft of political leaders of all stripes would have solved this particular problem long ago.

    I’m glad that she’s running; more people should get involved in political life. And I encourage Ms. Freeland to tell us what she really wants to do when and if she gets into a position of power. I’m dubious that she doesn’t already know…which should have come across in my post.

    Thanks for stopping by. There are a few thousand other posts here for your reading pleasure. Many of which take on “the man”, just as you are trying to do here….


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