MP blogosphere growing – welcome Andrew Scheer

Andrew ScheerAndrew Scheer, (left) a Conservative MP from Saskatchewan, launched his blog at the end of last month.

“My intent for this space is to have an area where I can post topics of interest, and you can respond,” Scheer writes in his blog’s inaugural post. “The topics will largely be centered on federal politics, however other issues may be covered as well.”

He is using the Blogger platform — it’s dead smple folks if you want to try this blogging thing — and his blog, like is caucus colleague Steven Fletcher, lets readers comment on his posts.


AmNet execs think anchors ought to blog

Reuters is reporting that top executives at the American networks — the AmNets, in our shorthand — ought be blogging.

NBC could create Internet blogs for its top news anchors and celebrity interviewers as it seeks to maintain the appeal of U.S. network news, its top executive said on Tuesday.
NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker said entering the generally opinionated world of blogs might be one way television networks could keep their grip on viewers who increasingly use the Internet for news.
“Over the next two years, network news is going to go through a lot more changes,” Zucker said at a Yahoo (Nasdaq:YHOO – news) conference on high-speed Internet use. “This is one of the biggest issues facing traditional network news divisions.”
“I don't know why Brian Williams isn't blogging right now,” Zucker said of the anchor of NBC's top-rated evening news program who took the helm after veteran journalist Tom Brokaw stepped down in December. “We should be looking for a more interactive component … and be experimenting more … [Read the full story]

What Kinsella said

Warren Kinsella, Chretien loyalist and Martin foe, testified under oath at the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee today.

There is some debate about the meaning of some of his remarks. He said he received a phone call minutes before testifying in which the caller said that the Prime Minister’s Office would seek to discredit some aspects of his testimony. But who made the call? Kinsella wouldn’t say but divulged the name in private to John Williams, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee. Williams will tell other committee members on Tuesday in a closed-door committee. Then, the committee will decide if it will make that name public.

Was the caller someone who works in the PMO? Or was it someone outside the PMO but who has enough influence within Martin’s inner circle to make such a threat?

The issue is important because Kinsella is essentially suggesting that there was some witness-tampering, a serious offence.

Kinsella had a brief post at his blog  (look for the April 18 entry) before testifying in which he alludes to this pressure.

The proceedings this afternoon were televised on the House of Commons closed-circuit channels. From that videotape, here’s my transcription of the relevant comments. My comments are within [] square brackets:

[at 16:14:53]

KINSELLA: I received a phone call from an individual a few minutes before I came here indicating that Mr. Dingwall would disavow everything I had to say here today … I would consider that to be an inappropriate statement.

WILLIAMS: If that’s what you were going to say, how can they disavow it before you said it?

KINSELLA: Perhaps people are nervous, sir.

[You can watch this exchange at CTV site and see Mike Duffy’s interview with Kinsella.]

[Later … at 16:23:35 .. Kinsella is asked by a clerk of the committee for some clarification on this phone call. The clerk asks if the Kinsella’s caller was talking about disavowing all of Kinsella’s testimony.]

KINSELLA: One thing in particular, yes. The document you have before you, Mr. Chairman, the advice-to-minister document dated October, 1995 and that the Prime Minister’s Office would exercise [or] apply some pressure to [former public works David] Dingwall to issue a statement or make some statement to contradict what I say or contradict that document.

My colleauge Bob Fife has the report on this on tonight’s newscast.


Kinsella says PMO threatened him

Speaking under oath to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Chretien loyalist Warren Kinsella said this afternoon that minutes before he was to begin testifying in front of the committee, he received a phone call from someone in Prime Minister Paul Martin’s office which he said was designed to intimidate him. He subsequently suggested that, while he was finance minister in the mid-1990s, Martin and/or his staff improperly directed government contracts to firms that supported Martin politically.

If Kinsella’s suggestion holds merit, Kinsella is essentially saying that Martin misled  the House of Commons last week.

This is nasty Liberals-vs.-Liberal stuff that could be a bigger headache for the current Liberal government than the Gomery Commission. We’re working on putting this all in context for tonight’s newscast.


CIBC privacy failure "a wake-up call to businesses", says privacy commissioner

Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s privacy commissioner, has published her report on the CIBC faxing confidential customer data to strangers in Canada and the U.S.

“I was disappointed that an apparently well-organized institution such as CIBC failed to recognize that the misdirected faxes were a privacy issue. That the bank's privacy practices were not functioning on a practical level should serve as a wake-up call to all organizations in Canada,” Stoddart says in the release.


Which Liberals are in peril? Which Conservatives are coasting?

Conservative supporter Stephen Taylor ran the numbers to come up with a couple of interesting posts at his blog. His first post details Liberal MPs who won by the slimmest of margins. Cabinet ministers Pierre Pettigrew, Liza Frulla, and Anne McLellan show up on this list. He also posts a list of the Conservative candidates who won by the greatest margin of victory. Cabinet minister material like Bob Mills, Monte Solberg and Jason Kenney are on that list.

The next list that would be neat to see — and perhaps I’ll crunch these numbers myself tomorrow — would be Conservative MPs who won the 2004 election by the slimmest of margins and NDP candidates who finished second by the slimmest of margins. That second one would be interesting in that, in most of the post-Brault polls so far, the NDP has been the biggest beneficiary of disaffection with the Liberals. Mind you, smarter political minds than mine keep saying that that kind of NDP support is ‘soft’ and that it could drift back to the Liberals in an election campaign.

The list of Conservatives who won by slim margins would be an interesting list if only because they might be the ones telling their leader that there is no hurry to go to the polls. Many of those who are on Taylor’s list of Conservative big winners have told me that their biggest problem is convincing their riding associations and constituents to cool their jets. In many Western ridings, getting a chance to beat up on the Liberals in an election is something they’d like to get a chance to do every week rather than once every few years or so.

And that is Harper’s challenge. Those in ridings like Solberg’s or Thompson’s are screaming for Liberal blood right now. But Harper doesn’t need those ridings in order to form a government. He needs to win ridings in Ontario, B.C. and Atlantic Canada,  ridings where Conservative support is a little more tenuous. Many MPs and many EDA presidents I’ve spoken to in those parts of Canada are counselling caution, that Harper should wait just a little longer before pulling the election trigger.

Privacy Commission on CIBC missing faxes

Canada’s privacy commissioner has finished her investigation into the case of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce faxing confidential customer data out of the country. Officials with the commissioner’s office say she’ll release her report tomorrow (Monday).

Jennifer Stoddart began her investigation after we first reported on both CTV and in the Globe and Mail that customer data for perhaps thousands of CIBC customers was faxed over a period of three years to a junkyard operator in West Virginia and to a businessman in Montreal.

In the wake of our reports, the bank took the remarkable step of banning the use of fax machines for such data.


Tooting-My-Own-Horn Dept.: CAJ Awards

The annual awards from the Canadian Association of Journalists will be handed out in Winnipeg next month. The awards recognize some of the best work that’s happened in TV, print, radio and online journalism in Canada over the last year. I’m honoured to be among the the nominees for an award in the “Open Television Under 5 minutes” category for some of the TV reports I did on the CIBC faxing customer data out of the country.

My colleague Avis Favaro is also up for an award in the same category for work she did reporting Internet pharmacy scams.

My Globe and Mail colleagues Karen Howlett, Rob Carrick, and Janet McFarland are nominated in the computer-assisted reporting category for work they did exposing some shady practices in the mutual fund industry. Globe photographer Louie Palu is nominated for a portfolio of his outstanding work.


O'Brien stays — to defend traditional definition of marriage

I must say: Many in the Parliamentary Press Gallery thought Pat O’Brien was about to quit. But, in fact, he announced this morning that, after struggling with the idea of quitting the Liberal caucus to sit as an independent, he decided to stay in the caucus. He says he agreed to stay after Prime Minister Paul Martin agreed to allow public hearings on the government’s same-sex marriage legislation.

O’Brien is an opponent of that legislation.


Pat O'Brien to quit Liberals?

Pat O'BrienPat O’Brien (left), the Liberal Member of Parliament for  the southern Ontario riding of London-Fanshawe, has called a press conference for 11 am this morning to discuss his future. O’Brien, earlier this week, called a Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte a “blonde bimbo” after she referred to him as a rat for considering leaving the Liberal caucus over the sponsorship scandal.

O’Brien conceded that he was thinking about it and that senior Conservative officials were talking to him. He did say though that he wanted to wait until a major report from a Commons committee he chairs was out next week. Apparently, he doesn’t want to wait anymore.

O’Brien is among the most vocal  opponents within his caucus of the Liberal plans for legalize same-sex marriage.

He was first elected — as a Liberal — in 1993 and has won four elections as a Liberal.