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Coalition of the shilling: if the Liberal leadership candidates were Conservatives, the mainstream media would savage them.

IT TELLS YOU SOMETHING ABOUT THE anemic state of the Liberal party that their leadership front-runner is a professor who spent the last three decades in the United States, and that the second-place contender is a former socialist premier of Ontario, thrown out by voters in an almost Kim Campbell-like cataclysm.


The A-team of the Liberal party--Allan Rock, Brian Tobin, John Manley, Frank McKenna--all declined to run, assessing Stephen Harper as too strong or the Liberal party--indebted, divided and scandal plagued--as too weak, or both.

Even partisan Liberals shake their heads at the modest attributes of the candidates who did enter the race. But not the media. Let us recap how they have treated these political dwarves, and consider how they might have treated Conservative candidates with the same qualities.

Take bilingualism. For Preston Manning's entire career, the media threw his lack of French fluency at him as proof that he was not a serious "national" candidate, and that the entire Reform party was a regional rump. But to call Gerard Kennedy's French or Stephane Dion's English much better is to pretend. The media saw bilingualism as a weapon with which to beat uppity Western conservatives. To mention today that Dion is unable to communicate clearly any complex thoughts to 25 million anglophones is considered a trifle, if not a bigoted observation.

Another fake standard the media applies only to Conservatives is gender and ethnic balance. The Liberal contenders are all white, and the only woman is in last place. Race and gender are not important criteria--intelligence, leadership and character are--but they have always been bludgeons, like bilingualism, to prove how bigoted Conservatives were. The fact that no Liberal candidate is from west of Ontario is ignored. It is certainly not taken as a moral failure, such as the Conservatives' weakness in Quebec.

Candidate Scott Brison was fingered as the Liberal behind last year's income trust scandal, when some stockbrokers were tipped off a day before a big tax change and made a killing in the market. Brison lied about his actions, then later confessed. Stunningly, he remains part of the Liberal caucus. That's evidence of poor ethical hygiene on their part--but what's the media's excuse? Pundits spin the myth of Conservative favours for rich Bay Street friends, but are silent when a Liberal actually does it.

How about Bob Rae? In a recent appearance on Rick Mercer's TV show, Rae and Mercer end a fishing trip by getting naked and jumping into a lake together. It's great comedy. That's Mercer's job. But is that Rae's job? It could be--call it attention-getting public relations. But compare that to the media's response to Stockwell Day's wetsuit. He was pilloried for a full year over that "stunt." Rae gets stark naked and it's considered unremarkable.

The most enormous double standard in media coverage of the Liberal campaign is Michael Ignatieff's American detour. For the past three decades, Ignatieff has been a foreigner, living and working elsewhere. He paid his taxes and raised his family in a foreign country. By choice, he left Canada.

When Ignatieff wrote about Americans, he used the word "we." He said he'd go back to teach in Massachusetts if he failed to win the Liberal leadership. He was absent from Canada during enormous moments--both Quebec referendums, Meech Lake, the Charlottetown accord, the National Energy Program, the free trade debates--every important moment in our recent history. There is nothing wrong with Americans. They are Canada's best friends and allies. The knock against Ignatieff isn't that he's American. It's that he's not really Canadian, but he seeks to be our prime minister.

If he was a Conservative, we would be ceaselessly reminded of this. There would never be a mention of Ignatieff without noting that he is a carpetbagger. It wouldn't be generic. It would be vicious--he is a Yank, an imperialist, a toadie; he would be called a tool of the U.S. administration, even a spy. That is the depth of the anti-Americanism of the press gallery--when they discuss a Conservative.

It's more embarrassing proof that there are three major parties in Canada: the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Media, and the latter two are allies.
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Author:Levant, Ezra
Publication:Western Standard
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 6, 2006
Previous Article:Small is responsible: life grows from the bottom up. Administration kills from the top down.
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