The anti-Conservative postcard campaign uses "reverse ten percenters"


You may have seen postcards in your mailbox this summer from various Conservative MPs that criticize Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. These “ten percenters”, as they're known in the trade, are paid for by the Canadian taxpayer. I wrote about one version here earlier this month.

Last week, while travelling with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his 2009 Arctic tour, we saw but a handful of people outside Harper's press events that you would characterize as protesters. In Yellowknife, NWT, last Thursday, there were a half-dozen folks from public sector unions carrying placards protesting Conservative cuts to things like Status of Women Canada. The next day, in Whitehorse, Yukon, there was one lonely pamphleteer outside the hotel where Harper held his final press conference stuffing what I'd call reverse ten percenters into the hands of anyone who would take them. I reproduce them here for you. We have no idea who is behind these as the young pamphleteer preferred to remain anonymous.

Each of the three is set up like the Conservative ten percenters, encouraging you to send the post-card like fliers to an MP in Ottawa which, if you do, won't cost you a penny because postage to MPs is paid for by all taxpayers.

In this first one, (detail left) the pamphleteer appears to object to the Conservative ten percenters and s/he tells Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs as much:

Dear Chuck

We are sick and tired of the excessive amount of fliers and junk mail that you seem to find great pleasure in mailing out. Not only are your efforts a complete waste of paper, we also take offence to the fact that you have adopted the American style of attack ads which have little intellectual substance and which ar offensive. We are certainly more intelligent than attack ads .

Please cease and desist with your non-stop junk mail barrage.

When you are ready to engage in productive political efforts please give us a ring.

A second one, addressed to Stephen Harper, PM, argues that “We believe that the Conservative vision for increasing militarisation is not in tune with Canadian identity.”

A third one, also addressed to “Stephen Harper, PM” features “A Brief Compilation of some of the adverse impacts the Conservatives have had on Canada”.

All of them carry the tag line – The Harper Government: Destroying Canada.

On Harper, polls and majority governments

Here's my colleague Andrew Mayeda today on the latest Ipsos-Reid poll done exclusively for Canwest News Service and Global National:

The Conservatives now command 39 per cent in support among decided voters, compared with 28 per cent for the Liberals, according to the survey, conducted exclusively for Canwest News Service and Global National by Ipsos Reid. Since the last Ipsos poll two months ago, the Tories have climbed five percentage points, while the Grits have slumped seven points.

On Friday in Whitehorse, I asked Harper what he and his party were doing to do what he has not been able to do three times as leader of his party: Win a majority government. He did not answer the question. (I asked what he was doing to boost his party's fortunes; he replied that no Canadian wants an election) Here's an edited version of the exchange:

AKIN: As we wrap up a week here (north of 60), I wonder if we might think a little more broadly about some of the political discussions that will happen this fall … It did have a bit of the flavour of an election-style swing at some of the stops and media opportunities. And I wonder, as some of your caucus members are speaking at barbeques this summer about the need for a majority Conservative government, I wonder if you could talk about what steps you and your party are taking to achieve that. You've had three cracks at the can against relatively weak and under-resourced opponents, two of them, of course, you were successful with a minority (but) how do you get over the top? What are you doing this fall to take your party to the promised land with a majority of MPs?

HARPER: Well, let me be very clear. In fact, I think you know what the answer to that question's going to be, David. I travel constantly. Have always travelled constantly, not just as Prime Minister, but as leader of my party, constantly across the country. I certainly have travelled during the summer and have always come up north during the summer for a week or so. Our focus is on governing this country. Our obvious focus, through this project and many others, is on getting this country successfully through the global recession. We know the global recession is impacting Canada. We're still doing relatively well compared to others. We think we're in a position to come out of this recession well. But I think the emphasis of all parties in the House of Commons should be working to ensure that we're working on the economy in the fall and that that's our focus. And I'll say over and over again, I have not met a single Canadian – a single real person out there — who's telling me that they think we should be fighting an election right now.


I encourage you to listen to it as it happened. This MP3 file is 3:45 and contains PMO Deputy Press Secretary Andrew MacDougall acknowledging me and Radio Canada Ottawa Bureau Chief Emmanuelle Latraverse as we each ask our somewhat related questions. Under the terms of engagement laid down by the PMO, no followup questions were permitted. The 14 or so reporters travelling with the Prime Minister were allotted three questions by the PMO — two in English and one in French. As is customary under such circumstances, the travelling reporters decided by consensus the broad lines of questioning and who the questioners ought to be.

Latraverse asked about the implications of the discord emanating from the Employment Insurance panel. Harper's response is largely conciliatory and diplomatic, noting that, at the end of the day, the government must do what is right for Canadians, but that he is expecting proposals to come from both sides and some sort of useful recommendation to evolve.

Harper to Canada's seals: I will eat you


We all know (don't we?) about Governor General Michaelle Jean's consumption of raw seal heart.

Well, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in the Arctic this week for the first time since the GG's gustatory bravado and while he's not carving up a seal and eating raw meat, he is, by both his words and his actions, demonstrating his support for Canada's sealers.

His actions first:

Harper arrived in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Monday night with a planeload of the cabinet ministers that sit on cabinet's Priorities and Planning Committee. P&P held a meeting in Iqaluit Tuesday. At lunch, at Harper's request, cabinet was served a menu of boiled and raw seal livers and ribs.

On Wednesday, as he bantered with reporters (left) aboard the HMCS Toronto while sailing on Frobisher Bay, Harper noted that even Transport Minister John Baird, a vegetarian, tried some seal meat at lunch.

“I'm tired of John's vegetaranism,” Harper joked.

But lunch on Tuesday did not, apparently, quench Harper's appetite for seal. For dinner Wednesday, Harper requested seal steaks and encouraged his staff to try a bit. We have been told that journalists travelling with the prime minister this week — I'm one of them — will see seal in some form or another on the menu Thursday. (I had a muskox burger on Tuesday … gulp!)

Eating seal is the prime minister's way of showing solidarity with east coast seal hunters who are suffering economically after the European Union banned Canadian seal products because they are apparently upset about the way the annual hunt is conducted.

Here is what the prime minister had to say about that during a press conference in Iqaluit on Tuesday:

The government support for our sealing industry is well known. This industry … has tight standards, the tightest in the world. The standards of this industry, quite frankly, are better than many other industries that deal with animal products. There is no reason the seal industry should be singled out for discriminatory treatment by Europeans or any other nation, and I've been very outspoken on that. I've been outspoken on that in this country. I've been outspoken on that when I've been in Europe and elsewhere. The government of Canada is already taking and will take every measure necessary to assert our rights, because it is important, obviously.

We have to remember, as I said in Europe, this is an industry that is not just vital to Canada, but that is undertaken in communities like this one and communities in Atlantic Canada that are very poor, where it is for the people who do it the only game in town, and it is simply unfair to single it out for treatment. I would in fact recommend – I rarely recommend anything in the media – I would recommend the recent editorial in The Economist, a European publication, on this very issue, which I think laid out the case crystal clear of why the sealing industry should be treated the same as any other industry involved in the husbandry of animals and why measures being taken against it are discriminatory and unacceptable.

Nothing stops Prime Minister Harper!


I'm airborne with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, half the federal cabinet and more than two dozen media types, political staff and bureaucrats en route to Iqaluit, Nunavut where we will begin the prime minister's 2009 northern tour. This is something Harper has done every summer that he has been prime minister — head to Canada's Arctic, in the belief that, if Canada's sovereignty is to be respected in the north, it can't but have the prime minister tramping around the place as much as possible. This year's tour will touch down in Iqualuit and Pangnirtung in Nunavut and then Yellowknife, NWT, Whitehorse, Yukon and a yet-to-be disclosed location in the Yukon.

The trip started, though, with this odd event (left) — one of the police vans that preceded the prime minister's motorcade to the Ottawa International Airport appears to have gone bump in a very big way. This van was carrying officers with somebody's tactical squad, part of the prime minister's security detail. It didn't appear anyone was hurt when they pulled in a few minutes ahead of the PM's motorcade and the airbags in the van had not deployed.

We have questions: For example, if you're driver in the PM's security motorcade, do you have to stop and fill out paperwork when you have an accident? We have asked authorities that and other questions about what happened but have no answer just yet.

Cabinet ministers are airborne with us, by the way, because Harper is convening a meeting of cabinet's priorities and planning committee, the committee, chaired by the PM himself, that is responsible for guiding and managing the government's overall agenda. Some ministers are already up in Nunavut but on board with us — safely ensconced up at the front of the military Airbus we're on so that pesky reporters can bug them — is Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, Senator Marjory LeBreton, Transport Minister John Baird, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, Public Works Minister Christian Paradis, Treasury Board President Vic Toews, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, and Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt. The new Clerk of the Privy Council, Wayne Wouters, is also on board.

Most of those ministers will have to return south after their day-long meeting Tuesday but Harper and the media will be travelling on to Whitehorse and Yukon after a couple of days in Iqaluit.

Nash is new NDP president


Peggy Nash, (left) who was briefly the MP for the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, ousting high-profile Liberal Sam Bulte in the 2006 election before losing in 2008 to Liberal Gerard Kennedy, has been elected as the new president of the federal New Democratic Party. Nash succeeds Alberta Anne McGrath, who is currently serving as NDP Leader Jack Layton's chief of staff. Nash was elected at the NDP's convention this weekend in Halifax.

Here is the press release from the party:

HALIFAX – Peggy Nash was elected President of the New Democratic Party of Canada today, vowing to dedicate herself to helping build a real political alternative for recession-weary Canadians.   

“We couldn’t be happier that Peggy Nash has been elected President,” said New Democrat leader Jack Layton. “I know Peggy well, she was in our caucus and continues to be a valued part of the team. I have absolute confidence that she will bring energy, innovation and leadership to the role.”

Nash has a long history with the New Democrats. She was the Member for Parkdale-High Park (2006-2008) and, as industry critic, pressed the government to reject – for the first time in more than 20 years – the foreign takeover of a major Canadian company “As Canadians long for a vision of a better tomorrow, we need to focus on what unites us,” Nash told the packed hall of delegates. “How do we create a green recovery with new kinds of jobs for young people? How do we build a sustainable economy? What sectors do we want to see developed? These are our challenges. I believe we can meet them.”

“I know that Canada needs the New Democratic Party to be strong, credible and progressive. You have my commitment to organize and build like never before.” Nash is a Canadian Auto Workers negotiator and the first woman union representative in major auto negotiations in North America. She is the recipient of two awards from the Sierra Club of Canada and speaks English, French and Spanish.

Canada's Biggest Twits V 2.1

Still compiling a list of Canadians who have attracted the greatest number of followers on Twitter. I'm going on faith here that someone is telling the truth if they enter a Canadian address in their Twitter profile but I'm not including those who use only a pseudonym. With that, here's the Top 20 at August 13, 2009

  1. Jason Sweeney – 689,940
  2. Matthew Perry – 120,236
  3. Justin Bieber – 107,749
  4. William Shatner – 106,246
  5. Nathan Fillion – 101,913
  6. John Chow – 57,417
  7. Walter Apai – 55,989
  8. Pamela Anderson – 54,459
  9. Sharon Hayes – 39,779
  10. Scott Stratten – 36,596
  11. Marc Mawhinney – 34,632
  12. Amber MacArthur – 33,114
  13. Tara Hunt – 27,988
  14. Cory Doctorow – 26,749
  15. Lucy Izon – 25,574
  16. Anita Fiander – 25,109
  17. Daniel Negreanu – 24,345
  18. George Stroumboulopoulos – 21,768
  19. Alanis Morissette – 20,578
  20. Jessi Cruickshank – 19,744

Please send me info if you've got a Canadian flavoured Twitter account that break into this list.

V 2.1 current at Aug 14, 1400 EDT

Announcing & Explaining My Album Art Emporium

Three Johns Brainbox Kirsty MacColl Kite 19 Hot Country Requests
Discomania Golden Treasures George Jones
Television's Greatest Hits Vol. II James Gang 20 Golden Number Ones
Mamas and the Papas Max Webster Jack Jones Bewitched

I may have mentioned somewhere along the way here that, for Christmas, I received a USB turntable to begin the task of digitizing all the vinyl records I've got kicking around the basement. Turns out you don't need a USB turntable to do that – you're regular turntable will do just fine with the right software and a $10 'Y' adapter (you want two RCA females to 1 'mini' male) from your local electronics retailer.

But as I digitized the music and tossed that into my iTunes library, I realized how attached I'd become to the album art, the gatefold sleeves and the good-old-fashioned 'bigness' of vinyl. Those who grew up buying vinyl records will know the tactile pleasure of spending hours in a record shop flipping through stacks of vinyl.

I'm not going to be able to digitize that tactile sensation but I can digitize the album art. So that's what I'm doing with “David Akin's Album Art Emporium“. I soft-launched this via Twitter in the spring but I figure I've got enough content up there for this (slightly firmer but still soft to the touch) blog-launch.

As I note on the site:

“I began digitizing my vinyl record collection in 2008. For many records, various online services would automatically retrieve album art and other information once I'd dumped the digitized files into iTunes. But in too many cases, the information was either absent, incomplete, or substantially different from the original vinyl. So with the help of a digital camera and some image editing software, I'm digitizing the album art as I digitize the actual music. This site contains the digitized album art. (There is no digitized music or links to digitized music here so you can just move right along if that's what you're looking for.) “

The home page for the site contains thumbnails and links to the 48 most recent additions. There's three indexes – one each for pop, jazz, and classics. And, to top it off, I've got a hand-crafted, home-made RSS feed you can pick it up for whatever's next.

It will remain a work in progress. Here are thumbnails (left) of some recent additions ..

Canada's Biggest Twits

I've been looking high and low for Canadians — individuals or institutions — that are attracting a lot of attention on Twitter or Facebook. Jason Lamarche tipped me to a list compiled at Twitterholic but it's crap because it's missing a whole pile of Canadians (including me who, with 1,200 plus tweeps would make Twitterholic's top 200 list). (That's not Jason's fault, of course, and I appreciated him drawing my attention to it.)

So, it looks like good, old-fashioned gumshoe work will be required here to find the Canuck with the biggest social media draw. Let's limit it, for now, to Twitter and to people who use a first and last name. Here's the Top 20, with tweeps (Twitter followers) current as of Aug 10, 2009:

  1. Jason Sweeney – 675,618
  2. William Shatner – 104,772
  3. Nathan Fillion – 101,272
  4. Justin Bieber – 99,343
  5. John Chow – 57,417
  6. Walter Apai – 55,989
  7. Pamela Anderson – 53,405
  8. Sharon Hayes – 39,779
  9. Scott Stratten – 36,473
  10. Amber MacArthur – 33,027
  11. Tara Hunt – 27,988
  12. Cory Doctorow – 26,749
  13. Lucy Izon – 25,574
  14. Daniel Negreanu – 24,345
  15. George Stroumboulopoulos – 21,452
  16. Jessi Cruickshank – 19,522
  17. CBC News Top Stories – 18,780
  18. Prime Minister Stephen Harper – 17,312
  19. Nia Vardalos – 16,432
  20. Terry Allison – 15,048

Please send me info if you've got a Canadian flavoured Twitter account that break into this list.

Last updated: Aug 11/2009 at 1942 Ottawa time

What Canadian is drawing big social media crowds?

Help me out, if you can with this:

Actor Rainn Wilson, who is wonderful as Dwight on The Office, has more than 1.2 million people following him on Twitter. Oprah has 2 million. Late night talk show host has 2 million tweeps.

That's the U.S.

What about Canada?

How are Canadians or Canadian institutions doing when it comes to drawing big crowds on Twitter, Facebook or other social media platforms? I don't think we've really hit that mass inflection point yet. Comedian Rick Mercer, for example, has only about 7,000 tweeps or followers and a little better than half that when it comes to Facebook friends. David Suzuki has something north of 10,000 tweeps. But do we have anyone in this country cracking 100,000? How about 50,000?

To put things in perspective: The national network newscasts I've worked for, earlier at CTV and now at Global National, can pull in 1 million on a real good day, but are usually hovering between 700,000 and 900,000 viewers per show. A top-rated show television show in Canada — American Idol, let's say — will do better than 2 million viewers. The Toronto Star, the country's biggest daily newspaper, is selling about 350,000 copies a day. That would be your mass media benchmark.