Goodbye, hello.

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by: James Di Fiore

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Nostalgia always gets me in the end.

I’ve been spending the last 5 minutes trying to establish how the smell of our cottage floods my consciousness with childhood memories. Moments earlier my son took his first steps. It’s also his first birthday. The nostalgia trip has taken hold.

I shook off the cobwebs and did a quick inventory of all the coincidences, emotional triggers and skipped beats I just experienced. I don’t know what it means, but it means something. It has to mean something.

I often neglected to find these cerebral silver linings along the way from boyhood to manhood, especially as my relationship with my father deteriorated. We saw each other three times in 20 years. I’ll never know if it was his fault or mine. I’m told it’s both of our faults. If that’s the case it’s double the weight.

He died last year. My sister called and cried as she told me. I didn’t cry. I just wanted to get off the phone immediately. After all, I had been mourning him for two decades already.

He was a good dad when I was little. I remember being in my parents’ bedroom, waiting for him to come home from work and staring at the cars from the bedroom window. Every night he’d flick his headlights on and off. It was our signal…our ‘thing’. By the time I hopped off the stool and ran down the stairs he was walking through the door. The first thing he’d feel was a hug from his 6-year-old son as he dropped his car keys on the coffee table.

One night Dad was late. None of the headlights had flickered. 6:00 became 10:30. Then, finally, I heard his keys in the front door. I ran down the stairs, hugged him, cried because I was 6, and never asked why he was late or neglected to flick his lights. Dad permanently stopped flicking his lights when I was about 8 years old I guess. Not really sure why.

Dad was fiercely intelligent and loved baseball. He was my coach for a couple years and shared my tendency to get ejected from games for arguing calls with the umpires. While unspoken, I think we both liked knowing we shared that kind of fire. We turned our backs on each other eventually in real life, but on the field we had each other’s backs.

Those baseball moments were sprinkled with loads of stressful situations as I grew up. The usual family stuff cemented our detachment from one another. Our relationship became a pattern of silence broken only by me asking for money or him asking me why I didn’t have a job. Neither of us ever had good answers. He’d peel off a twenty and I’d just shrug. That was our pattern, our new ‘thing’, and it wasn’t helping me be a competent steward of my own life. We shared the weight though. The reason why the father and son relationship is so important is due to the enormous impact of guilt and anger each one can extract from the other. It can be a bizarre give and take of utter disappointment sometimes. That’s not an overstatement. Not even close.

So I drifted. I drifted from college to couches to shared accommodations to basement apartments to living with a girl to winging it to staying at my mom’s to finding another girlfriend to trying to break lifelong habits of irresponsibility and emotional distress to reconciling my identity to accepting all my flaws as well as my gifts, to where I am now; nestled inside the arms of a good woman and a 1 year old son to anchor me down.

Easy, yes?

Nope.

My father was missing. He was not a demonstrative man, or a communicative man, or a positive man, or an emotional man. He made me feel, as a youngster, that I was taken care of and safe from poverty. But as we aged he became more and more withdrawn. I still loved him for who he was when I was young, but that love waned as I reconciled the idea of not having a real father as I grew older. I felt as if he had abandoned me, or was ashamed of me. Or perhaps he was ashamed of himself? I’ll never know.

My father was born in Montreal, same as me, and I know next to nothing about his childhood. His father was a tailor who used to sell Italian suits to Italian businessmen of various industries. Yep, that industry too. His father was also a severe alcoholic. My grandfather meant the world to me, but my father likely despised him. My father never drank. He used to put Kool Aid in his wine glass instead of sharing a toast. Whatever legacy my grandfather left when he died, it was not hereditary drinking…unless it skips a generation. I’m not really sure if that one is an overstatement, to be honest.

I’m an atheist. I think that’s actually hereditary because I believe my dad was too, but he never said it outright. He did swear a lot, especially while coaching baseball or watching hockey. He was a great cook, a computer programmer, and loved fishing. We took annual fishing trips to the French River and stayed at different lodges when I was small. We’d catch a load of perch, some pike and whitefish, maybe the odd trout. The only other time we took long drives was to our baseball tournaments. Dad would talk strategy in the car, telling me why I should throw an 0-2 slider instead of high heat. He was engaged when we talked about baseball. I miss that, to be honest. If I were given the opportunity to speak with him one last time, I’d choose baseball as our topic. Dad didn’t have to feign emotion when talking about what makes a good pickoff move, or how to tell when a pitcher is telegraphing his pitches. I felt his logic, and since that’s all I remember feeling, his logic is what I would want to feel again.

My son was 3 months old when my father died. They never met each other. I’m not sure how that makes me feel. I won’t pretend I know how to feel anything at all when it comes to dad. But, like my grandfather and the bottle, I will not pass down my father’s legacy of being absent in my son’s life. Call it my own glass of Kool Aid. Today I’m toasting my son’s 1st birthday, the intent of never forgetting to flick my lights, and one final goodbye to my father while in the shadow of my son’s first steps.

Well played, nostalgia. Well played.

Election 2015: Public (relations) Enemy #1

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By: James Di Fiore

It’s not easy for busy Canadians to closely follow the innards of the Mike Duffy Trial. Most of us work full time jobs, have families to consider, need downtime, and, if we aren’t working that second job or running errands, we’d like to have a decent night’s sleep too.

So, the average Canadian has a fairly low interest in politics these days, but when they do tune in something happens. They can’t quite put their finger on it, but it still manages to thrust them away from the issues and back into their lives with rolled eyes and a cemented apathy towards the items they likely should deem as important. Often, the media is blamed. Sometimes the old reliable adage that ‘every politician is corrupt’ is all we need to feel justified in not paying attention. Those two reasons are both legit and plausible, but they are not the root cause of apathy among typical Canadians.

The real culprit dampening our desire to hone in on the failures of elected leadership is an entirely different beast; the despicable monster known simply as Public Relations.

PR is an industry built on the shoulders of deceit. It’s main purpose: to water down bare bones truth and replace it with an easy-to-digest message. It’s a symptom of a protectionist entity, usually corporate or governmental in nature, whose primary function is to swindle the public by orchestrating words into a state of plausibility, rather than a state of unbridled truth.

In Ottawa, especially over the past decade, the public relations industry has dominated government communications. To many, this sounds like an odd statement. After all, PR has always been the mechanism used to relay information to the public. But modern public relations has mutated from effective messaging into a diabolical game of legalese where the public is deliberately made to believe a narrative that eases them into believing something that isn’t true, or designed to create a staleness only apathy can really cure. The PR in government messaging, executed mostly by politicians with legal backgrounds, serves to protect the interests of the governing party as they work to retain power at all costs. The Duffy trial is a quintessential example, and as we watch the curtain rise we should be able to recognize the extensive damage immediately.

Court documents have unearthed the blueprints used to mislead the public in relation to Senate expenses, the subsequent audit, the ‘media lines’ created for Duffy and conservative spokespeople, and the documented strategies for damage control before, during and after the scandal broke. Emails between conservative parliamentarians, staffers and lawyers show a culture of deception, conducted so reflexively that one walks away feeling like they had no moral compass other than loyalty to their party and, perhaps more tellingly, to their leader, Stephen Harper. Nigel Wright, whose personal PR had created an almost mythological figure that seemed to arrive in Ottawa on foot via the Rideau Canal in the summertime, personifies the power of having a stellar personal brand. Media pundits, politicians, and the corporate elite all sang his praises, despite his admission that he supplied the $90, 000 cheque to a senator who, upon accepting the money, was charged with receiving a bribe. Only good PR could take a man in his situation and spin the script until the public believed he was an infallible soul who merely made a mistake out of a sense of altruism. The evidence now shows Wright was conspiring with his party to trick the public into thinking Duffy used his own money to pay back his expenses, a discovery that proves Wright was more concerned with protecting his boss, leaving taxpayers in the dark and irony in the glaring sun. Punctuating this irony, Wright had the gall to quote scripture from the witness stand, portraying himself as the patron saint of plausible deniability for Harper, and by doing so smacked the manufactured halo that good PR had given him clear off his head.

But wait, what about that apathetic Canadian public? Will this scandal open their eyes to the damage public relations has done to governments in power? Honestly, I wouldn’t hold your breath. Our citizens have Public Relations Fatigue, a condition that works to create a white noise whenever the truth does happen to slip through the cracks. After all, whether it was about fighter jets, muzzling scientists, a gazebo, mission creep, a surplus, or any of the other missteps, gaffes or scandals, this government has always remained consistent in one fundamental area: tell them nothing, pretend you are transparent, spin, pivot and repeat.

However, as we go to work, spend time with our kids, catch some downtime, run errands and tuck ourselves in, perhaps we will finally hear a sound bite from our media that holds our leaders accountable.

Not just for breaking the rules and behaving corruptly, but for utilizing shady PR tricks that enable this behavior in the first place.

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The Great Canadian Threeway

Some said it would never be.

After all, these are all very different types of people. They do not have needs that align just right, or any discernable chemistry whatsoever. One is too controlling; one is too rough; and the other is too pretty not to be the constant center of attention. He’s pretty much a tease. When under the same roof they tend to bicker with one another, providing theatrical styles of questions and answers, plus an uncanny ability to appear awkward or overly dramatic.

Incompatible, we said. We’re probably right, but this year’s election may provide just the right setting for this threesome to end up sleeping in the same bed nonetheless.

I predict the three major parties will each win between 90-125 seats and thus comprise the most complicated House of Commons in Canadian history. Canada will be a tripartite state at a time when polarization has never been more popular.

All euphemisms aside, this odd trio of leaders live in a constant state of strategy, mostly due to the government’s neo-PR style of leading. The Harper Government should be a case study for all PR students all across the country, a real life example of how to spin, pivot, flim-flam and deflect until the media is exhausted and citizens are too cloudy to care. Like a good celebrity caught in scandal, the Harper Government ignores its controversies, possibly to their detriment, and now must distract Canadians through national security lingo and fearful rhetoric. Instead of getting in front of a scandal they act like there has never been one.

With the prospect of a spring election nearly dead, Stephen Harper now hopes Canadians – a people not known for their emotional endurance in politics – can remain fearful for another seven months. Lots can happen in seven months, and Canadians are already showing they are not beholden to any given ideology or party, especially after nearly a decade of single party rule, even if half the ride was inside two minority governments.

National security issues have changed the landscape, making Harper and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair the natural spokespeople for the right and left, respectively. Justin Trudeau’s strategy of straddling the ideological fence on issues pertaining to national security is muddying his message. Mulcair has proven that thoughtful debate can co-exist with a staunchly left wing perspective, and, in turn, Harper’s aggressive military tendencies can be propped up by real, defendable arguments. You may not agree with either of them, but both make a decent case for their positions. Just try not to read the polling while parties make their case.

The shifting ground needs to settle, and new realities are shaping the landscape, adjusting the lens we peer through while we mull over whom to support. We tend to take a long time to learn the facts of an issue, or a piece of legislation, if we bother learning it at all, and polling companies do a disservice when they collect their premature and therefore toxic data indicating we support issues we do not yet understand. Those polls are cited for months, even as support for the legislation dwindles, losing undecided voters who feel strongly about whatever issue is being misrepresented. In the case of Bill C-51, Canadians are rapidly sliding towards a lack of support for the bill, making Trudeau’s position the weakest when he voted for legislation he said he did not believe in.

Mulcair stands alone as being secure in his opposition to Bill C-51 from the beginning, and the only leader riding a wave of momentum by an increasingly skeptical public. The NDP have figured out the best way to question a neo-PR government is to apply a neo-prosecutorial style of managing the issues. Mulcair is light on rhetoric, heavy on evidentiary-seeking queries. When Harper answers a Mulcair question in QP, you can almost see his mind analyzing how to dance around Mulcair’s finely placed demands for substantive answers.

Trudeau still has his appeal. His marijuana stance, while caricaturized by the right, does make him attractive to a niche of left-of-center voters who may not normally head to the polls on Election Day. Their “evidence-based policy making” promise allows the Liberals to take advantage of several single-issue voters, a strong positive for a party seeking support from both the left and the right.

As for Harper, he’s all-in. The political chess master has a million pieces on the board but very few pawns left to sacrifice. Nearly a dozen of his handpicked appointees are under criminal investigation, awaiting court appearances, out of public service altogether or languishing inside prison walls. He has all but lost his long awaited surplus and will eventually have to contend with dead Canadian soldiers and dead Iraqi/Syrian civilians from wayward Canadian bombs. After all, this is now the Harper Government’s War, meaning they take full responsibility for its glory and defeats alike.

Later this year, the 20% of us who are flexible with our ballots will sprinkle each party with just enough votes to hand victory to nobody. Perhaps the Conservatives will finish third. Maybe second. Three parties with 100 seats makes the results almost meaningless, and the ferocious partisanship will have to water itself down as two or more parties come together to decide policy. No party wants to draw the ire of frustrated Canadians after a majority of which did not cast a ballot for any one of them. Politicians will pretend to play nice while leaking committee minutes to the media or trading barbs during in-camera sessions.

Now, back to the euphemisms.

All the leaders’ antics on Parliament Hill will be on full display, and it won’t be pretty. It will be nauseating, full stop. They are three entities, bumping and scratching against one another, living in the same House, frothing and spitting, screaming and occasionally using dirty words, bound together on old English wood.

A three-way like no other, destining Parliament to become a very, very seaty place.

Top 5 Reasons Why Kathleen Wynne Won the Election

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Perfect political storm vaults Wynne into a majority government

By: James Di Fiore

If political pundits, strategists and pollsters were smart, they’d wake up this morning and call their bosses, hat in hand, and beg for occupational mercy. This provincial election was a great case study in political folly, and while a majority government sounds great for Liberal supporters, there were various moving parts that made it possible, most of which have little to do with the public’s gushing admiration for the Ontario Liberal Party.

So, here are the top 5 reasons Ontarians woke up this morning to a Liberal majority government.

1. Union Support – Like almost everything else on this list, the support by many Ontario unions has a backstory and a slew of footnotes, most notably being the fear of Tim Hudak by public sector employees and unionized workers alike. Traditionally, unions are mostly associated with the NDP, but Horwath’s decision to force an election angered union bosses who were on record praising the Liberal budget as a victory for working class people. Horwath’s decision to pass on the budget secured union support for Wynne and left the NDP searching for an identity.

2. Tim Hudak’s Ineffective Leadership – Hudak has said several times that people often tell him he looks like actor Michael Keaton. Unfortunately for Hudak, voters saw a man who only slightly resembled the actor…and only if Keaton was hit in the face several times with a hard covered copy of The Fountainhead. The embattled conservative leader is a rare combination of scorched earth policies and utter incompetence in connecting with voters who don’t share a Tea Party outlook on life and politics. His resignation as party leader immediately following the election was a smart move… for 2011. In 2014 he’s a man who ran his party into the ground. With no obvious heir apparent, the PCs will be hard pressed to find a compelling replacement.

3. Strategic Voting – This is another Hudak-related phenomenon that compelled the left-leaning electorate to hold their nose and vote Liberal. Social media, mass emails and word of mouth helped secure votes in ridings where the race was too close to call, a strange component of democracy where voters are convinced their support for a candidate they don’t like is more important than support for the candidate they do like. This, combined with a low voter turnout, seemed to favour the Liberals and conservatives who were separated by only 6% in the popular vote.

4. Andrea Horwath’s Ineffective Leadership – She was the first domino in this election after refusing to get behind the Liberal budget, forcing an election almost nobody wanted. She also attempted to drift towards the centre, also known as the far right to most NDP supporters, and in doing so seemed to alienate the party’s base who felt abandoned during the campaign. Truly, if you are too timid to speak directly towards issues that you’ve been championing for years, you’ve probably already lost the election.

5. The Liberals Ran a Textbook Campaign – While many believed anything short of throwing Daulton McGuinty under the bus would not be a strong enough rebuke of the Liberal government scandals, Wynne managed to balance an almost subliminal dressing down of the former premier with a message that resonated with voters. That message – finishing the job and not being tempted by austerity – succeeded in mobilizing the base, as well as the disgruntled supporters of the NDP. Her ads showed a leader who, while aesthetically stiff on camera, managed to come off as authentic, a stark contrast to Hudak and Horwath who both make the act of watching paint dry seem like Mardi Gras.

So when the aforementioned pundits, strategists and pollsters begin hedging their previous predictions or expressing how surprising the election was, they should be at least cognizant of the lack of confidence the public has in each of them. This is especially true for pollsters, who once again prove there is a vacuum in their industry after butchering yet another election that was supposed to be an easy call.

Teachers Group Mails Bizarre Comic to Durham Voters

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Strange newsletter also depicts Hudak as a supporter of racial segregation

By: James Di Fiore

The Durham Local Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario have taken the gloves off in this election, releasing a satirical newsletter depicting conservative leader Tim Hudak as an evil politician who is trying to usher in, among other things, a way to keep white neighbourhoods white via the “right to work” program proposed by the PC Party of Ontario.

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The comic-like publication is an interesting strategy given the mood of voters and their collective frustration towards provincial politics. It covers the usual issues regarding a possible Hudak-led government – austerity, union busting, etc – but then veers into vitriolic territory through the racial segregation implication and other bizarre drawings meant to illustrate the ideology of the PC Party.

It really just needs to be seen. Click here for the full newsletter. 

The Durham Local office could not be reached, but after contacting the Ontario office Government Relations spokesperson Vivian McCaffrey said the following:

“We cannot comment directly on the newsletter but we strongly suggest you contact their office first thing in the morning.”

McCaffrey added that she understands why voters might have strong feelings about the style of the newsletter.

No doubt.

Catholic Church the Last Institution to Pass Judgment on Justin Trudeau

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Protecting pedophiles disqualifies Catholic Church from publicly lecturing anybody about abortion

 

By: James Di Fiore

Let’s face it; Justin Trudeau should have said nothing at all. But, much to the probable dismay of his chief strategist, he went off script and told a reporter that no future Liberal candidate would ever be permitted to vote against any abortion vote, no matter what their conscience says to them.
Now, I’m not sure anybody was under the impression the Liberal Party of Canada was a haven for pro-lifers. I was even surprised to find out there were a couple of sitting MPs who were anti-abortionists. Who knew?

But Trudeau could have said nothing and still charted a path where the party weeds out any potential anarchists on this issue. Or, he could have said nothing and allowed people who are pro-life to vote with their conscience. The point is, he should have said nothing at all.

So we can chalk this up as another Trudeau gaffe. It isn’t a major catastrophe, but it was a gaffe, especially if we define gaffes as uttering something that allows opponents to define you.

But the latest caveat – the public lecturing from senior members of the Catholic Church – is so blatantly hypocritical that Trudeau may want to just let the rest of the issue play out in silence. After all, is there one institution in this country less credible to the idea of decency than the Catholic Church? How can an organization known for enabling and protecting pedophiles lecture a public servant for wanting to keep his party a pro-choice party? Bishop Christian Riesbeck did just that, describing the idea of Trudeau receiving communion as “unseemly” and “scandalous.”

Really? An organization that spent decades putting child rapists into different communities, thus aiding their sex crimes, is somehow attempting to be seen as a moral authority? I guess self-awareness is not the strong suit of the Catholic Church, and with their history of lecturing Liberal politicians for progressive legislation, this latest foray into the political sphere seems dicey at best. The last time the Catholic Church tried to be seen as some sort of moral barometer was when former Prime Minister Paul Martin ushered in same-sex marriage. Well, that was an affront to God, according to Pope Benedict who publicly lectured Canada for going against God’s will. This was in 2005; the same year Irish authorities released a scathing indictment of the church for endangering children by allowing pedophiles to travel to other Catholic communities so they could continue raping and abusing their victims. Pope Benedict should also be remembered as the guy who literally wrote the church’s position on child raping priests; that they should be dealt with by the church and not by the proper authorities. After all, what’s another 100 raped altar boys when you have public relations to worry about?

 

Trudeau still has to learn the art of saying nothing, but the media, the public or his political rivals – not the most corrupted institution in the modern age – should be the ones to criticize his gaffes. The Catholic Church’s credibility on moralism died long ago, and those Canadians who consider themselves Catholic should think twice before pointing a finger at a politician for wanting abortion rights to remain undisturbed.

Political Ad Watch: Tim Hudak’s Male, Pale and Stale is One Big #adfail

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By: James Di Fiore

Sometimes political ads barely miss their mark. Sometimes, albeit rarely, a political ad will be a brilliant 30 seconds of prowess where a politician looks like an inspiring leader while his/her opponent resembles an evil or incompetent cohort.

But sometimes a political ad is so bad, so ineffective, so horribly awful that it actually does damage to the party responsible for it, instead of just being another ad that gets pulled from the airwaves.

Tim Hudak’s ‘Male, Pale and Stale’ is an ad that should never have been made in the first place, nevermind getting pulled off the airwaves. The very idea that the Ontario Progressive Conservatives approved this ad is a testament to incompetence within party advertising.


Style: Like most ads we’ve seen in 2014 – whether federal, provincial or municipal – this ad looks like high school students produced it. Not-so-scary images of Kathleen Wynne and random, unknown men are sloppily pasted next to a voiceover that inexplicably increases in volume by the time the tag line is said. This is either an intentional punctuation of the ad’s confusing message or a testament to why cutting the cost of post-production is a bad idea.

Message: At first the viewer believes this will just be another ad slamming unions as to appease the supposed base of the Ontario PCs, but then it veers into bizarre territory where being male and white – the precise description of those who make up the PC base in Ontario – is something so negative that you will want to think twice before voting PC. You know, because being a white male is evil, even though the bulk of Tim Hudak’s supporters can be aptly described as male and white. Make sense? No, of course it doesn’t. It would be like the NDP putting out an ad that labeled young environmentalists as a cancer on the province. It appears they are trying to appeal to female progressives by labeling the gatekeepers of Working Families – an organization comprised of labour groups – as a monolithic group of pasty white men. That’s about it. That’s their message. Yay.

Effectiveness: I am surprised the PCs have not removed this ad from the Internet, and I will be shocked if they actually continue to buy airtime for television spots. The base will find the ad confusing as they try to grasp why they are being labeled the enemy, while progressives will correctly assume nobody in the province will have a clue what the ad is trying to say.

Grade: F

Canadian Media Bullies Mentally Ill Woman

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Tabloid-like spectacle of hoarder in Toronto Debases News Coverage

By: James Di Fiore

**I decided not to include links to the broadcasts in this piece as to not further the exploitation of the woman in question.

I was dumbfounded watching the 6pm news yesterday. Every last network, both national and local, were taking their turns bashing a troubled woman in the beaches area of Toronto who let her house fall into disarray. One after another they showed clips of the woman, a hoarder, as she desperately tried to explain why she needed to keep her personal items inside a house filled with cats, animal waste and newspapers.

Contrary to the talking heads on television, this was not a news event. It should have been a story about the mentally ill but succeeded in crystallizing why the negative stigma pertaining to the mentally ill still exists in this country. Each anchor took their turns communicating only the most tabloid elements of the story; that the woman’s house smelled awful, that she is an outcast and that officials needed HAZMAT suits to clear the home of debris.

I repeat: this was not a news event. Not even close.

Imagine a camera crew outside the home of a depressed woman, reporting on the way she cries herself to sleep at night, or giving the audience a few pages from her diary. Hoarders are not new to society. Hell, there’s even a popular television show dissecting the minds and homes of these troubled individuals. You aren’t wrong to believe the television show is somewhat exploitive too, but at least the show tries to examine the important aspect of hoarders; their mental health. Sure, some of the anchors did mention the woman’s mental health issues in passing but those crumbs of humanity were surrounded by universal belittling through judgmental neighbours, furrowed-browed reporters and an overall sense that we should universally condemn a person who is probably already struggling enough in her everyday life.

 

I lived with a hoarder once. She was my landlord in the Annex. By day she was a professor of literature at York University. When she first showed me the place she said she was in the process of moving, but after a couple months the newspapers never went away. I rented a room on the top floor where she hadn’t piled up her items to the ceiling, but the hallways were all newspapers, random pieces of furniture and an infinite supply of knick-knacks and what-nots. In hindsight I am fortunate she did not like animals, but I never forgot this experience and what it taught me: don’t judge people with mental illnesses as if they are not mentally ill.

 

Today, I can now add something else to that list: don’t exploit the mentally ill on television for the morbid curiosity of the audience. It goes beyond the mandate of journalism and seeps into a place where societal rubberneckers simply can’t look away at the spectacle in front of them.

 

Justin Trudeau’s Abortion Comment Reiterates a 2 Year Old Liberal Policy

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By: James Di Fiore

Canadian conservatives are in a tizzy right now. Justin Trudeau told the press that the Liberal Party of Canada is a pro-choice party and that pro-life candidates need not apply to a Trudeau led LPC. 

Reaction was swift and relentless. Trudeau had gone too far! It was as if he had aborted baby Jesus with his bare hands, then ate the placenta on national television.

But is this really much of a newsflash? No, not really. Not at all, actually.

The Liberals had declared themselves to be a pro-choice party in 2012 at their federal convention. All Trudeau was doing was reiterating this factoid to a few reporters on Parliament Hill. What Trudeau did incorrectly was answer a question directly instead of drenching his response in public relations flim-flam. Confused yet?

Justin Trudeau’s error has nothing to do with his party’s position on abortion or the position of only wanting candidates to run if they first pass the litmus test of being pro-choice. All that is fine. His mistake was not to anticipate the operatives on the right who will use the sound bite to fan the flames of rage among the conservative base.

But what damage has Trudeau really done to himself or his party? The vast majority of Canadians are pro-choice. The vast majority of anyone who isn’t a conservative is pro-choice. In relative terms, being pro-choice is like being pro-gay marriage in 2014. And don’t forget, being pro-choice does not mean being pro-abortion. It means a woman’s right to choose life or abortion should not be challenged. Many of these women, obviously, choose life.

So desperate are the Harper conservatives to squish Trudeau into the “in over his head” tag line that they’ve watered down their own message by arbitrarily pasting it on every last thing the Liberal leader utters in public. It’s cringe worthy to watch, truly. They believe if they just show Canadians the clip of Trudeau taking off his shirt at a fundraiser a million more times, accompanied by random quotes about marijuana, terrorism and the economy, that we will all eventually have our Eureka moment and agree with the ad agency who pretended the gimmick was a good idea in the first place.

But the entire campaign is a dismal failure. Canadians never bought into it, and it became political porn for the conservative base, and the subject of relentless ridiculing by everyone else in the country. After all, politics is serious business. People care about taxes and the big issues affecting their lives. If your party’s main advertising dollars go to a singular campaign where an attempt to ridicule your main opponent is the only strategy, you better make sure it resonates with more than just the party loyalists. Trudeau’s comment on abortion will no doubt make the next version of the campaign. Once again we will see the clip of Trudeau taking his shirt off with his quote hastily inserted. The claim of him being way over his head will be declared once again, and the collective yawn of a nation, minus the conservative base, will do nothing to convince the Harper government to change course. They’re all in…it’s Trudeau taking off his shirt from now until the next election.

The most savvy conservatives are probably thinking only one thing these days: Abort….abort.

Enabler Nation: How Blind Loyalty Ruined Rob Ford

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By: James Di Fiore

I was at a bar a couple nights ago when a fellow patron began to list all of the things Rob Ford has done while mayor of Toronto. No, this list did not include drunk driving, crack smoking, anti-gay slurs or oral sex references pertaining to his wife. No sir, this list was the serious list of accomplishments Ford had allegedly been responsible for since he took the helm of our fair city. It included getting rid of the vehicle registration tax, the ‘billion dollars in savings’, and privatizing half of the garbage collection. It was the same list Ford had been shamelessly repeating for months.

Normally I try to avoid members of Ford Nation. In fact, aside from exchanging a few barbs in the virtual world, I tend to shy away from engaging with anyone who supports Rob Ford. I find the process exhausting.

Not anymore.

If Rob Ford is in a rehabilitation program, he will be beginning the process of trying to find his ‘truth’. Actors do this every time they step on stage, and the concept is a fairly common one where you let down your guard and allow the authentic self to shine through. By removing our masks we can get a better handle on why we escape through substance abuse, and the people in our lives that influence us to go back to using substances. These bad influences are generally known as ‘enablers’.

In Rob Ford’s world of infinite second chances and non stop praise from his loyal group of supporters, there’s really only one conclusion a professional can draw; Mayor Ford’s base, otherwise known as Ford Nation, are merely thousands of enablers who keep the embattled politician on the path to destruction.

This guy at the bar was no exception. On and on he went, lifting Ford high onto a pedestal built out of returned phone calls and recycled talking points. I shifted in my seat and tried to remain indifferent as to avoid the typical kind of back and forth between a member of Ford Nation and a sane person. But after a while, I couldn’t help myself.

“Are you aware that your unconditional support for this man is the main reason he gets inebriated?” I asked while pouring my Guinness. Irony not dead!

“Aw come on, don’t pretend he isn’t a good mayor!” he replied, completely ignoring what I said.

“You just did it again, bud. Your refusal to see his demons are the very reason he still has them,” I said.

 

“You’re saying it’s my fault Ford drinks? Well good! He needs to relax once in a while like everybody else!” he replied.
“Do you know any drunks?” I inquired. “Do you know people who shouldn’t drink or who get drunk all the time?”

“Yes,” the man replied, “Me!”

He thought he was the funniest man alive. I thought he was the best case study thus far of why Mayor Ford is a stumbling substance abuser. In short, his supporters are not big believers in the damage alcohol and drugs can cause an individual who has ‘the disease’. In fact, I bet if you told them alcoholism was a disease they’d laugh at you.

There are a few different kinds of members of Enabler Nation. There are the folks who have received a phone call or personal visit from the mayor. These are the victims of relentless retail politics. Next, there are the good folks who see themselves in the mayor. These folks likely share a penchant for illicit substances and are as equally hardheaded when people suggest they try and get some help. Next, there are the conservative ideologues that probably don’t care one iota about the mayor and his problems, but believe he will usher in a conservative manifesto against a council full of ‘libtards’. Ideology trumps good health, don’t you know.

But lastly, there are the foam-finger waving, slogan shouting, self-centered constituents who have chosen as their champion a divisive, bombastic, cartoon-like personality with a substance abuse problem. They are anchored to this man and through blind loyalty keep him at his worst. They are enablers in the worst sense of the word, and as long as they drown Mayor Ford in undue praises and retriever-like loyalty, he will never, ever fully recover.

In doing so, this troubled man from Etobicoke may not survive Ford more years.