10 Hitches With CBC’s 10 Canadians ‘Face-to-Face’ With PM

Before unmasking last week’s riddled-with-loopholes CBC special, “Face to Face with the Prime Minister”, I’d like to commend the 10 participants of the show for having the courage to go on national television to share their hardships with millions of Canadians, and for also earnestly trying their best to hold our new PM to account–despite the cards being stacked against them and there being little of a track record to review. The participants are all far more lionhearted than myself and many of our compatriots. Bravo to these 10 Canadians for seizing the opportunity to stand up for what is dear to their hearts. So please do not misconstrue the below in any way as an attack on these wonderful Canadian citizens.

That being said, the way the CBC and Justin Trudeau and co. set up this supposedly avant-garde interviewing process–according to Peter Mansbridge, “like nothing you’ve ever seen”–they should be ashamed of themselves. This piss-poor yellow journalism reeks on so many levels. So without further ado, allow me to turn this gimmicky production inside out with a gimmicky top ten listicle of its abominations.

1) Peter Mansbridge And CBC Are In Bed With The Liberals:

The CBC coverage of last election cycle should leave no doubt in Canadians’ minds that the CBC is the cheer-leading captain of our new government (The CBC’s Insolent Election Bias is a post of mine on this subject that garnered ten-thousand hits).

Leading up to the election, the Conservative Party of Canada ran an attack ad using a snippet from a Mansbridge interview with Justin Trudeau. Now, being in the news business and a supposed consummate professional, Mansbridge should have known about copyright law and fair dealings (a law that allows one to use parts of others’ works). CBC and The National do this all the time when borrowing footage from other news organizations in their coverage. That’s why it was so shocking when internal emails (obtained by Ezra Levant and Brian Lilley) revealed Mansbridge complained to management about the CPC’s ad and worked actively with the rest of the media consortium in having them removed from all the major Canadian networks.

Mother Corp. wasn’t done there in protecting Trudeau from unflattering attacks though, it then had its legal counsel ask YouTube and Facebook to remove the ad as well. (Yet, ironically, CBC was A-Okay with producing its own two-minute attack ad, containing many clips of Harper repeating “friends” to audiences, and then posting it on its own Facebook page). Facebook and YouTube politely declined the CBC’s ludicrous complaint, while probably wondering to themselves how a public broadcaster could be so thick as to not understand how fair dealings works.

But the above is only a glimpse into how much our public broadcaster and Mansbridge are intertwined with the Liberal Party of Canada. Canadaland, a new digital Canadian media website, reported that Mansbridge officiated the wedding of Justin Trudeau’s Director of Communications, Kate Purchase (though years before she was employed with Trudeau). Her father, Bruce Anderson, is a close friend of Mansbridge and had a cozy gig on Mansbridge’s The National for years as a political analyst (aka Liberal spin doctor), but he suddenly departed from the show–at the same time as the scoop was released, coincidence?–citing conflicts of interest. These close familial family connections put into question Mansbridge’s claim that he “played the ‘you talk of transparency and openness, so prove it’ card” in gaining exclusive access to Justin Trudeau on the day of his swearing in as PM. It’s a bit rich that this challenge to the PMO is what “curr[ied] favour” instead of Mansbridge’s family friend connection to Purchase.

The resulting coverage of that day, where a highly unprofessional Mansbridge gushed and fawned over the new PM, only confirmed the falseness of Mansbridge’s article, which bragged about how he scored his exclusive through his journalistic expertise and mettle. But Mansbridge wasn’t done with his vainglorious tales, in a recent article hyping up the “Face to Face” program, Mansbridge claimed CBC was “doubl[ing] down” on its challenging of the LPC’s transparency. In reality, the CBC and Mansbridge only “doubled down” on their own dishonesty.

Underneath the facade of Mansbridge’s baritone-silky-smooth-voice-of-truth and mock-earnestness, there is an underlying deceitfulness. Mansbridge has never publicly disclosed his personal connection to Trudeau’s Director of Communications (just like he’s never publicly disclosed how he’s received hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in speaking fees from the corporate world of Canada). It’s not really surprising that Mansbridge–The National’s anchor for eternity, starting since 1988!–has gotten away scot-free with ethical breaches for so long, it goes along with the pattern of CBC cult of personality that led to the disgraceful behaviour of the likes of Gian Ghomeshi, Evan Solomon, Rex Murphy, and Amanda Lang. It’s about time Canadians realized Mansbridge isn’t Canada’s trustworthy Walter Cronkite, but instead our own phony Brian Williams.

Here are some final notes on CBC’s incestuous ties to the LPC: A couple of CBC executives took leave-of-absences so they could campaign with the LPC; The union representing many CBC journalists registered to campaign against the Conservatives last election; A former CBC journalist who covered federal politics recently wrote about how the new defence minister is “bad ass” is now working and writing press releases for that very same “bad ass”; And the LPC has promised to give the CBC an additional 150 million dollars to its one billion dollar annual subsidy (essentially bribing the network for immensely favourable coverage of Trudeau).

2) The Participants Were Embedded In A News Junket:

I did some digging into what was included in the ten Canadians’ trip to Ottawa. From what I found, the trip appears to have been an all-expenses-paid junket, which by all fair guesstimates cost taxpayers tens-of-thousands-of-dollars (I’m awaiting a response from CBC regarding costs, etc, but I’m not holding my breath).

What I do know is the participants were flown from all over the country and were put up in the Ottawa Sheraton for several days. Many of the contestants posted star-struck selfies they’d taken with our selfie-indulgent PM and the so-called venerable Mansbridge. In this setting of idolatry it would be nearly impossible to pierce through the impenetrable atmosphere-of-adoration with barbed questions.

It also appears that the contestants’ (let’s be honest, the special broadcast was reality TV) questions were groomed by CBC producers and Mansbridge whom appeared to go over the contestants’ questions in a boardroom before shooting the interviews. It’s surprising how little specific examples and follow-up questions the ten Canadians asked considering they most likely had professional journalists assist them in the preparation of their interviews (CBC claims Trudeau’s people had no input or knowledge of the interviewers’ questions, but knowing Mansbridge’s connection should you believe the network?) It’s almost as if the producers were content with the ten Canadians asking personal questions (without rebuttals to talking points) that Trudeau could easily spin and skirt around.

Finally, after conducting the interviews, the interviewers were wined and dined at a ritzy restaurant near parliament for a champagne toast (the evidence is available on social media sites, but I opted not to publish it out of respect for the ten Canadians’ privacy). It’s not too far-fetched to imagine CBC literally dressed up the ten Canadians in new threads for their TV appearances. Now, under the pampering and careful eye of the Mother Corp., do you think average Joe Canadians are going to be in the mood for an antagonistic rumble with its darling, smiley Trudeau? It also doesn’t help the cause of accountability when the vast majority of the hand-picked contestants showed an affinity towards Trudeau on social media in the past few months.

CBC’s preening of these ten Canadians severely undermines its claim that Trudeau’s government is taking a “gamble” and huge “risk” for the sake of “transparency and accountability” by participating in the TV special. The “Face to Face” program was really nothing more than a carefully curated and constructed propaganda piece for Trudeau.

3) Why The Reality TV Feel?:

Further incriminating evidence supporting the propaganda charge against CBC’s special, “Face to Face”, is the reality-TV-like-quality of the production. It was odd that Peter Mansbridge and producers thought it appropriate to start each interview with the repetitive camera shot of the PM’s-glossy-wooden-door-with-gilded-lettering being opened by each contestant and then Trudeau purring each time, “Welcome to the Prime Minister’s office.” The accompanying music gave it the feel of some tacky reality TV show, instead of what it should’ve been, serious interviews about serious issues affecting millions of everyday Canadians.

Let’s contrast the CBC’s TV special’s gimmicky production values with some of Mansbridge’s tough words in his most recent promotional article:

There’s one other interview format that most PMs do like, though. It comes at Christmas when the prime minister’s staff wants the interview sitting next to a roaring fire and a decorated tree.
Somehow those sessions rarely lend themselves to any productive accountability.
In 2014, after arguing with the prime minister’s office about the background, we managed to shoot the interview in such a way you didn’t see the fire or the tree, and we managed some good exchanges with Stephen Harper, some of which resulted in comments that still haunt him today.

So Mansbridge was opposed to warming up a frigid Harper by a fire, but with Trudeau it’s suddenly okay to create an hour-long reality TV show? This is first-rate hypocrisy.

To make matters worse, another CBC promotional article hyped the TV special by claiming they scoured the nation coast to coast to coast to find the top ten best Canadians to represent us all, and then they would all get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the PM–how glamorous. It was reminiscent of the five golden tickets from the children‘s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

4) Green Interviewers Cannot Possibly Hold A Slippery Thespian Politician To Account:

Some contestants left their interviews still in a Willy-Wonka-like wonder for our PM, while others left their interviews dismayed and disillusioned by an exposed Wizard of OZ; however, they were all left feeling many of their questions remained unanswered.

They shouldn’t feel discouraged though, many politicians and journalists can’t get a straight answer from the cliche-happy Trudeau either. The former part-time drama teacher seems thus far to be proving the trite adage wrong: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. (As a teacher myself I’m allowed to use this glib expression.)

Trudeau’s acting chops were enough to convince enough of the public into voting him into the PM’s office, but we’ll see how long the man can keep up the performance. To many of us, Trudeau’s perspicacious capacity for platitudes has already become a worn out routine.

One of the victim’s spouses of the Berkino Faso massacre hung up on Trudeau because the PM’s condolences came off as phony pretentiousness. It probably didn’t help that when Trudeau first addressed the nation about the tragedy, in a mosque, the PM thought it was appropriate to go around taking selfies with the crowd.

Perhaps its this type of discordance between the PM’s cheap talk and his un-statesman-like, contradictory behaviour that is most jarring about the CBC’s TV special. Trudeau dodged and blatantly lied to many of the guests in his office, and below I’d like to point out his most glaring offenses.

5) Virtue Signalling Over Actually Helping The Average Indigenous Person:

Trudeau’s interview with Nikki Faser was a heart-wrenching scene. The young indigenous mother, who lost an aunt and cousin too soon to the streets, came to ask Trudeau how he is going to ensure that indigenous women in the future–like Fraser’s daughter–won’t become an all too common and tragic statistic.

Trudeau, corny and glib as always, told her “indigenous lives matter”.  He then championed his government’s future public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, saying “everyone” will be involved in the process. Knowing how public inquiries go, this process will undoubtedly last years if he proposes to include everyone involved. And as nice as this virtue signalling by Trudeau appears, inquiries don’t solve immediate problems.

Trudeau’s answers pleased Fraser, and I’m sure many other indigenous people. For people surrounded by tragedy, recognition of your communities’ plight is a welcome change.

But excuse me for not being sold. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission didn’t solve the problems facing indigenous people today, and none of these endless apologies, inquiries and reparations ever will.

What is needed is a federal government with the stomach to abolish the racist and archaic Indian Act. A federal government willing to challenge the nepotism and corruption of many of the bands. European settlers of the past, our ancestors, as well as living Canadians and the federal government throughout history all deserve the lion-share of the blame for the current state of affairs of indigenous people today–but all perpetrators, whether white or indigenous, should be held to account.

That’s why it was so puzzling that Trudeau’s government decided that First Nations’ bands shouldn’t have to comply with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which forced indigenous governments to make financial disclosures. Apparently Trudeau only meant most Canadians would get a more “transparent and accountable” government under his watch.

Another contradictory move by Trudeau, as pointed out by Jesse Brown on his Canadaland podcast, is his Liberal government’s friendliness to John Furlong, the head organizer of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and a man accused by many indigenous people of committing physical, sexual and emotional abuse against them while he worked at a residential school.

It’s actions like the above that should make one skeptical of Trudeau’s warm and fuzzy rhetoric on indigenous people. Indigenous people are likely being set up for a huge letdown in the coming years when their great expectations give way to disheartened disappointment.

6) A Prime Example Of A Low-Skilled Canadian Victimized By Liberal Policy:

Neil Piercey, 58, had some bleak and blunt questions for PM Trudeau. Piercey, from London, Ontario, is barely scraping by after using up his pension to help pay for his mortgage. He has nothing saved and is approaching retirement age. Working in manufacturing most of his life, Piercey has been a victim of a drying up manufacturing sector within the city. One of the explanations for why manufacturing hasn’t bounced back in Ontario, despite the incentive of a weak dollar, is the off-the-dial electricity costs in one of the most indebted sub-nations in the developed world.

Gerald Butts is Trudeau’s best friend and top adviser (some say de facto PM because it appears he calls the shots on many things–like feeding Trudeau the asinine “because it’s 2015” line), and was the former adviser to Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario Liberals and an architect behind their failed green energy policy that has contributed in putting the province in dire straits today. Under this context, it is even more cringe-worthy when Piercey, voicing his fears of losing his home and ending up homeless, asks Trudeau what help he can expect from his government and Trudeau answers by saying there is no “quick fix” and that the government was looking into it and needs to work on “investing in skills” that young people will need for the job market. Apparently people like Piercey, victims of Trudeau’s best friend Butts, shouldn’t expect “sunny ways” any time in the near future.

7) Trudeau’s Surprisingly Uninformed Response To Secondary Education Questions:

Charlotte Kiddell is a 24-year-old undergraduate student who interviewed Trudeau on student debt and affordable post-secondary education. A CBC followup article revealed Kiddell left her interview unsatisfied with many of Trudeau’s canned responses (such as “It’s 2016”). I was actually slightly surprised how unspecific Trudeau was on this file because he was the education critic for years while an opposition MP during the Conservative government. I thought he would be better briefed on the subject. Though one shouldn’t be too shocked because Trudeau did happen to have one of the worst attendance records of all of the MPs of the House of Commons at the time. I guess he was busy racking up six-figure speaking fees from school boards and charities, amounting in hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in extra income from his side gig.

Probably the most revealing part of this interview was the giggly exchange at the beginning of the interview, when Kiddell said she saw him earlier in the day “photo-bomb[ing]” a tourist. Trudeau’s response was priceless:

“I came in, and the woman, who was…who I took the picture with recognized me, but the one taking it didn’t. So I sort of smiled, she took the picture right away and I kept walking, and I kept walking and counting down in my head, ‘three, two, one,’ and I heard–‘Oh my god’–and that’s the explanation anyway.”

“That’s so cute,” gushed Kiddell.

“You’ve got to enjoy this job and stay connected to people, and that’s why I’m so glad you decided to participate in this.”

(Barf.) A little less “cool” and flirty selfie-PM and a little more diligence and respect for the highest job in the land, please.

8) Affordable Child Day Care For All And Trudeau’s Two Nannies:

Jenna Fray, a 31-year-old with a young family, interviewed the PM about how he is going to help middle-class families. He explained the new tax cut for people in the second income bracket and the new Child Care Benefit (CCB) “for families not making over two-hundred-thousand dollars a year.”

The irony in his caveat of ineligibility for CCB is that it doesn’t apply to Justin Trudeau. A perfect rejoinder from Fray would’ve been: “Why do you think it’s acceptable for you to have taxpayers cover the cost of your two nannies, especially since you made a show of donating your childcare benefit and claimed people like you didn’t need help paying for childcare?”

Fray responded much more politely by saying her calculated savings under the new plan would only be enough to afford one month of childcare costs and wondered why affordable childcare wasn’t available to everyone.

Somehow Trudeau believes the third thing to help middle-class families like Fray’s is through massive “investment” (read cost sink) in infrastructure projects, like public transportation, as if this will make up for Fray’s eleven more months of childcare costs she’s struggling to afford.

Fray, still clearly perturbed in how she can afford childcare, asked Trudeau for compassion and to remember families like hers.

“Jenna, quite frankly, the day I forget about you and your family, and all the people like you, is the day I’m no longer worthy of sitting in that chair.”

Trudeau’s saccharine response was just too rich.

Trudeau’s actions do not show him prioritizing people like Fray and her family. Here’s a PM who made sure his childcare costs were retroactively covered back to the day he took office, had his mother announce he wasn’t moving into 24 Sussex until it’s renovated, scheduled a photo-shoot with Vogue shortly after winning the election, spends countless time taking selfies with adoring fans, gave back excessive sick days (costing taxpayers’ hundreds-of-millions of dollars) to civil servants, gave away billions of dollars to foreign developing countries’ infrastructure projects, is spending billions of dollars on a rushed refugee program, and took an over 300 person delegation (more than several other countries combined, excessively wasting taxpayers’ money) to the Paris climate talks–yet Jenna’s family is supposed to get by paying for childcare with a measly extra eight-hundred dollar or so tax break.

The scene with Fray and Trudeau was like the extravagant Marie Antoinette and her immortal words: “Let them eat cake.” Let’s hope Trudeau gets the proverbial guillotine in four years’ time.

9 & 10) Wishy Washy on Alberta’s Woes And Combat Against ISIS

End note: Several of the participants of CBC’s “Face to Face” were contacted for this article. Two responded and seemed open to an interview, but neither have responded after I followed up. I will update if CBC or any of the participants respond to my questions.

Way overdue followup: After writing over three-thousand words on this article I ran into my own hitch with finishing up my last few months teaching in South Korea and never got around to finishing 9 & 10 on the listicle. I guess I also fatigued from already belabouring the absurdity of the TV special in this lengthy article.

Below is a response from Jihane Elatifi, a participant in the “Face-to-Face” TV special:

1) What did you think of PM Trudeau’s answers to your questions and what is your overall opinion of our new PM since meeting him?

I thought he didn’t answer them frankly. I wanted his own opinion and feelings on certain matters. I did not want him to deliver the usual speech – which is why I interrupted him several times. Unlike a few other participants, I’ve always had a positive opinion of PM Trudeau and always voted Liberal. Also, I had seen him working in the Papineau riding in Montreal, had friends who volunteered for him and he was always open to dialogue. I think we also just passed the 100 days mark of his government being in power, I expect less talk and more action now.

2) How were you chosen as one of the participants to interview Trudeau?

Luck and word of mouth 😉

3) How long was the preparation for the interview, and did Mansbridge or other CBC employees coach you on how to conduct an interview? What kind of preparation was involved?

Peter Mansbridge just came in and say hi, we asked him questions about his job, etc. We didn’t really get to speak to him a lot. As for the CBC staff, they briefed us, but did not impose any questions or forbid us to ask any questions. Of course, they had to avoid overlaps in terms to the subjects addressed by each of the Canadians. The fact that they didn’t try to impose anything on us and let us express ourselves the way we wanted was also one of the reasons why I chose to participate. This was not a staged, rehearsed or directed conversation…We all came with our own agendas.
 
4) Were you happy with what made the cut for the show? How did the other participants feel about the process?
Absolutely, it was a great experience. The best experience was meeting all the other participants. I sincerely miss them and we keep in touch via a giant email thread 🙂 – I do not want to put words in their mouths, but I feel like generally everyone was happy with the selection process. The one thing that may have been a frustration was the lack of time (we all had 10 minutes).
5) How long was your trip to Ottawa? Did CBC cover all expenses? What was included in your trip for taking part in the show?
I live in Montreal so I did not spend the entire 4 days in Ottawa, some people came from places that were far from the capital, other participants had to leave and couldn’t be there on Sunday either. Expenses covered were basic for me: food, train and room. I spent two nights in Ottawa, came in early and left early in the morning because i had work.

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5 thoughts on “10 Hitches With CBC’s 10 Canadians ‘Face-to-Face’ With PM

  1. Good column with one caveat. You used the term ‘investing in infrastructure’.
    I equate investing as spending with the intention of getting your initial dollars plus at a later date.
    Spending on roads, bridges, etc..much of it to unionized, connected companies…is a cost sink.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least with things like roads and bridges and buildings, you get something substantive and useful, which puts it miles ahead of most other public spending for producing economic benefit.

      Whether any particular project is a long-term net positive is a fiddly and subjective question, but if you can get a solid ‘maybe’ for an answer, you’re doing pretty good for government work.

      Like

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