The Conservative patronage trough

So this is great — if it all turns out to be true. Blogger The Sixth Estate has the name, rank and serial number for the 1,135 Conservative donors and sympathizers who have received patronage appointments since 2006. (Versus the 78 Liberals, 4 New Democrats, 1 Bloc Quebecois and 1 Green Party member who have received a federal government appointment since then).

“Stephen Harper once denounced this system as the Prime Minister rewarding his “buddies,” but while in office has been uninterested in changing the system. Instead he has continued to appoint party insiders and supporters at a frenzied pace, even to the Senate, which he once demanded be fully democratized through elected Senators with term limits. Since the May 2011 general election, he has even appointed several losing candidates to the Senate, so that they could have a seat in Parliament anyways after being denied one by the public.” Sixth Estate writes.

Now I would say this is a great example of “citizen journalism” but — and I’m not trying to sound mealy-mouthed here — one of the reasons that traditional journalists have (or ought to have) credibility is:

  • The real name of a journalist is associated with the work.
  • The source of the information is clearly presented to the reader and, where the source cannot be identified, the journalist tells the reader why that is.
  • The source of the data is identified and, again, when the source of that data cannot be publicly identified, the writer explains why it must be hidden.

Sixth Estate has a disclosure statement in which s/he seems to indicate the s/he was a volunteer for the Conservative Party of Canada. That’s a good start but I still think Sixth Estate’s readers are owed a real name or an explanation why Sixth Estate cannot reveal his or her real name. Also: Where does the money come from for the blog or the time to research and write the blog? My example (which I’ve not seen copied nearly enough among bloggers, if you ask me) for “disclosure” is at the bottom right corner of my blog: Disclaimer and fine print.

In any event, for this project, Sixth Estate appears to have combed through Orders-in-Council for appointments (very good idea) and then used data in the Elections Canada database to match OIC appointees with their political affiliation. (Indeed, if you read the comments in the post, Sixth Estate says just that.) But I would suggest that Sixth Estate and other citizen/amateur journalists could make his/her case stronger by explaining who s/he made that leap to the political affiliation of OIC appointments. In other words, just as scientists publish their methodology so that others can reproduce their results, I would encourage Sixth Estate to provide more details about his/her methodology.

28 thoughts on “The Conservative patronage trough”

  1. Funny David, does that apply to all of you journalists using anonymous sources for big scoops – and half the time the anonymous insiders are using you for a vested self interest to get their points out? (see “annonymous Liberal MP’s/insiders on the last 2 Liberal leaders).

  2. The list isn’t entirely perfect. He marks well known Liberals such as former staffer Duncan Dee as Conservatives and somehow misses an NDP appointee with the profile of Gary Doer.

  3. Mr akin seems incapable of distinguishing between patronage and partisan. Partisan appOuntments are where people who support your party’s policy goals are give positions that are important in helping implement those policies. Positions on committees, crown corp boards etc would fall into that category.

    Patronage is when you give a job to a party supporter a job that has no role in policy implementation – janitorial or clerical worker positions for example.

    Mr akin (and his anonymous source – cant see why he needs a source – certainly all of these hirings are on the public record, all mr akin needs to DI is take the time to do the research – you know, BE A Journalist) needs to go back and check his list and see which “patronage” appointments are actually just partisan ones.

  4. Why am I, an amateur/citizen recipient of information, more inclined to believe the blogger than the professional journalist?

  5. Gee whiz Davey, guess your Liberal leanings were to much for your show. It’s probably why Krista has your slot. As for the apointments, every PM has done it and is a long time coming to even the playing field.

  6. It’s been done by all parties. I guess it’s now the Conservatives’ turn. So what. As for the senate appointments, if the opposition had not constantly blocked Senate reforms, maybe Harper would not have had the opportunity to appoint Con senators. At least they have a limited term as opposed to the rest of the Senate. They have to retire after 8 years. How do you think a majority of Liberal senators dominated the Chamber for so long? So be fair in your blogs.

  7. This is just a futile attempt to challenge the blogger instead of being outraged at the appointments. Cue the mock outrage over attribution but not much on the filling and feeding of the trough. So typical of this paper and its bloggers.

  8. I think if you re-read the “disclaimer”, you might see that he/she revealed they were a “Conservative supporter” in order to reveal the CPC election tools that were being offered to supporters. I got the sense that this person signed up as a volunteer simply to get access and report on the talking points being made available.

  9. This isn’t particularly disturbing news,any government will make appointments of it’s friends to patronage and partisan positions,it’s been that way in Canada since 1867.

    Liberals appoint Liberals,NDP’ers appoint NDP’ers,Conservatives appoint Conservatives,so what?

  10. And so the moral decline of Conservatives in Government is complete.

    On patronage, ethics and the Senate they’ve gone full circle from rage, rage against the dying of the light to, as several eloquent Tories put it above: “so what?”


  11. Thanks for the link I never heard of the Sixth Sense before any target of Harper is a friend of mine.

  12. Senator Pamela Wallin has agreed to step down as Senator and submit her name as a candidate when Saskatchewan holds its first legislated Senate election.

    Bert Brown chosen by the Albertans to be our elected senator was completely ignored by Paul Martin. Only years lated did elected Bert Brown was appointed by PM Stephen Harper to the senate.

  13. When a journalist calls for disclosure like this I tend think he knows something we don’t. So who, then, is Sixth Estate? I really didn’t care to know before but now I’m curious….

  14. – this nonsense needs to be exposed. The idea that people commenting on what is happening in our society should be labelled “journalists” and then criticized for not being ‘professional’ is nonsense. Citizens are commenting on what is happening around us, and offering information they find about varoius things, that the mainstream “journalists” are either not finding or are trying to keep quiet. Nobody that I know of is pretending to be any ‘journalist’ (their approval rating in the general public is starting to challenge that of lawyers) – the criticism is as invalid as trying to label Mom Betty a ‘citizen doctor’ because she puts a bandaid on a cut or buys some cough syrup for her kid rather than spending 10 hours in an ER waiting for simple service, and then probing and criticizing her credentials re the medical profession. It’s just another red herring trail, trying to get people thinking about things other than the lousy job our current ‘professional journalists’ are doing here, with their spin and coverups of important things in our country and world (spin? – massive monologs every year or two about evil monsters that need regime change, demonisations that later turn out to be more lies than not (Kuwaiti incubator babies anyone? WMD? mass graves?) – performing their secretariat function for the rulers as they desire to remove uncooperative leaders; coverup? pushing ‘austerity’, when it’s all a great scam (What Happened ) – **real** journalists would be talking about such things, as we see all over the net – corporate pretend-journalists understand keeping their pretty good jobs means not talking about things the rulers *really* don’t want talked about – and betray those they are supposed to be serving.)

  15. News flash Mr. Akin, YOU’RE a journalist, so go and find out if what’s reported is true or not. In other words do your job rather than depend on some unnamed blogger. It’s really not that hard.

  16. David — Thanks for noticing the list.

    I assume if your concern is that bloggers are anonymous, you have a very long list of targets. You’re right. I’m not a professional journalist. I’m also not a political party member or employee. And the money and time for the blog comes from nowhere but me, with the exception of a few bucks in Adsense payouts which are just enough to cover the direct costs of maintaining the site. If the blog was receiving material support from any other person or organization, either through funding or through some other indirect means, it would be on the Disclosure page.

    To that end, I’ve come to the conclusion myself that referring to the list as evidence of a “trough” is probably a little bit rich. All that can be said is that given public sources, like the Elections Canada database, the number of people who appear to be supporters of the Conservative Party and their provincial allies and receive Crown appointments is quite large, at least relative to the number of people who appear to be supporters of other parties and get such appointments. And that was true of the Liberals too, maybe to an even greater extent than the Conservatives.

  17. Thanks, @SixthEstate : Don’t get me wrong on the anonymity issue — there’s all sorts of reasonable reasons why people want to say something without having their name on it. My point is: If you’re going to claim that right, tell us why. More importantly for the list you’ve generated: You and I both know that it takes someone who knows their way around a database to put together this list. If I read you correctly, you assert that an individual’s presence on a donor list to a party is evidence that they support that party. That may be and quite likely is true. My point is: One of the ways we trust information given to us is because we know where it’s coming from. We can assess the quality of information based on its source. If you have a good reason to withhold identifying information about yourself, then a good explanation of your methodology and sources to arrive at this list is the next best thing. And, as I’ve said since I started this blog a decade ago, one of the key points for me for a journalist maintaining a blog is so that you and others will challenge my sources and methodologies. In any event: As I said — good stuff. Just like to know a little more about how you got from A to B.

  18. “So this is great — if it all turns out to be true.”

    Easy to check. Sample a few dozen or so entries and get back to us. Bloggs are accepted as reliable when the information is deemed reliable: It’s a bit like a reporter having credibility because he or she has a track record on being accurate and reliable . Actually I’ve never meet David Akins. Does he really exist any more than Sixth Estate

    I guess you have never noticed that many blogs are anonymous. Some, of course, like Deep Climate, or Tamino are considered very authoriative even if we don’t know their civilian identities.

  19. r u trying to say we should all trust whatever Dean Del Mastro says, because he sits in parliament as an elected MP, and is Stephen Harper’s parliamentary secretary? I question where Dean’s information is coming from.. and for that very reason my hackles (yes, salamanders have little hackles!) now stand on end when he speaks. Perhaps unfair to pick such a large, dull and easy target but salamanders don’t adhere to the Queensbury rules of boxing.. and we note that Dean doesn’t either. You trust everything Peter Mackey says because .. ?? Ok.. not fair either.. but we’ll look forward to your rebuttal

    I think you meant that we measure, or consider (not trust) information based on where its coming from.. as well as assessing the validity of the source. Nothing wrong with that. You’re a journalist so I know you’ll always tell the truth with no bias. (salamanders are from Missouri.. the ‘show me’ state.. hee hee .. trust me..)

    I guess you’re OK with indiscriminate airdropping of strychnine baits for boreal wolves and whatever else is hungry? Peter Kent (THE faultless HARPER GOVERNMENT) says its appropriate though regrettable and shooting the wolves from the air is needed as well. Good science we should assume ? I understand it was the Federal Courts that forced him to protect the dwindling caribou and this is part of his resulting ‘strategy’. I’m sure he and Stephen Harper (both of them having such outstanding wildlife biology credentials) discussed this over dinner or in caucus before Peter told the press. I myself assume some of the press were stunned and left with their mouths hanging open in shock when he announced the strategy.

    Let us all know how much you trust what Tony Clement says.. about anything. We’re all ears .. (yes, we have ears !)
    Oh this is such rich territory ! That Mr Penashue ! His answers are so so consistent …. we must trust him !!

  20. Ha ha ha ha … credibilty criteria from a Canadian journo and a politcal one at that? Ho ho ho ho … puh-lease … naming sources? clearly identifying who they are or if not clearly explainig why? Never happens, otherwise you and the other so-called pundits would have to admit how often your news reports are cribbed directly from the CPC or LPC spin-doctor department …. Ha ha ha … oh I am still laughing … what a joke …

  21. There is, as far as I know, no law that prevents David Akin or any other journalist from compiling and maintaining a lengthy list of hundreds of government appointments and then determining whether these people are CPC supporters.
    Of course, doing this would be a lot of work, much of it without any immediate benefit because it wouldn’t result in any stories.
    Meanwhile, an editor would be breathing down the journalist’s neck wondering why he is sitting there checking google and updating a chart, instead of going to the latest press conference or following up on the latest press release to generate a news story for the late edition.
    So be glad, Mr. Atkin, that Sixth Estate is doing this, so you and other real journalists don’t have to.
    By the way, who told you about Sixth Estate’s list? It doesn’t sound like you have been following his blog the way the rest of Canada’s progressive bloggers do. Why did you focus your article almost exclusively on questions about Sixth Estate’s identity and funding sources, while apparently not asking these questions of Sixth Estate before publishing your article? If you are going to imply that he is just a sleazy political tool of the NDP or Liberals, and that they are secretly supporting his research, wouldn’t it have been more ethical to give him an opportunity to respond to your accusations before publishing?

  22. Thanks David I appreciate your professional input. I would think that in order to back up information one would want to make sources available. Unless it was illegally obtained. Anyone can make up stuff and then hide behind anonymity. That is why there are consequences for professional media outlets when information turns out to be totally bogus.

  23. How very odd. Akin sums up Sixth Estate’s methodology: it’s not rocket science, just patience and a lot of grunt work, correlating official announcements of appointments with names on Elections Canada party donor databases.

    Barring the occasional namesake, or the distant possibility that party donors actually support other parties, this will lead to the results published on Sixth Estate’s blog.

    Then Akin demands to know what the methodology is.

    This is, to put it as politely as I can, disingenuous.

    The snotty comments about anonymity are a red herring. Is the list accurate or not? Judging by the in-plain-sight methodology, it is.

    Akin’s post here is pure professional chauvinism, coupled, I believe, with not a little envy. No wonder many of us tend to read Sixth Estate’s carefully-written blog with much more frequency than that of a Sub Media journo.

  24. “The source of the information is clearly presented to the reader and, where the source cannot be identified, the journalist tells the reader why that is.

    The source of the data is identified and, again, when the source of that data cannot be publicly identified, the writer explains why it must be hidden”.

    Rich. Where to start? Margaret Wente’s fake Occupy protester?

    David Warren’s fake Sharia punishments?

  25. Perhaps the journalists in question, might like their own patronage appointment someday (a la Mike Duffy), and therefore are reluctant to use their own names, for fear of getting blacklisted out of Conservative patronage appointments.

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