Month: May 2014

Catholic Church the Last Institution to Pass Judgment on Justin Trudeau



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

Tyler the Creator shadow wide


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



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


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


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.

Political Ad Watch: Justin Trudeau Plays it Safe, and Tells Us Nothing

Screenshot 2014-05-07 11.46.28

By: James Di Fiore
There is a common theme among political parties and their go-to communications strategies these days; they seem to believe that barn burner speeches and stock music will entice voters to throw their support behind them.

Justin Trudeau has had a pretty good ride since he was crowned Liberal Party Leader last year. The Harper Government has been dealing with several scandals and missteps, and for a while Trudeau was simply playing it safe through vague policy mentions and a public ‘aw shucks’ image. His initial ads were strong in the sense that they correctly predicted the strategy of the CPC when he was elected as leader; that Trudeau was an intellectual lightweight who was ‘in over his head’. By anticipating this strategy, the LPC took the wind out of the sails of the conservatives who were left looking like a party without any serious ideas of their own, especially when trying to brand a leader who clearly had them spooked.

Below is the latest ad from the Liberal Party of Canada.

Style: I am not privy to who is producing political ads these days for the major parties, but whoever they are they need help, stat. This ad feels like an internal corporate video, from the lackluster voiceover to the Casio soundtrack playing in the background. The stock photos of Trudeau do not match the contents of the script, as if the editing did not take any time at all to match the words with the context conveyed in the images and video. Plus, the back and forth between Trudeau delivering a speech to the voiceover is hard to pull off. This ad is a cut and paste job masquerading as an inspirational 30 second spot.

Message: Trudeau’s strong suit is that he is not a staunch, old, stereotypical politician and he attracts young voters. This ad touches almost none of those key selling points. It appears to be directed towards the flexibly-defined ‘middle class Canadians’; the ones with kids, jobs, retirement savings….you know, almost everybody. But the ad begins by telling us there are new, positive ideas in the works, and it ends without reconciling what those new ideas are or how they differentiate from the other parties’ positions.

Effectiveness:  Similar to the ad Tim Hudak used to launch his campaign, Trudeau tries to firebomb every voter in one 30 second spot, but may have missed his target entirely. This is a feel good ad, but it’s the same-old strategy that plays it safe by being deliberately ambiguous while attempting to inspire votes. Ambiguity is not inspiring, and this is the first time we’ve seen Trudeau slide into the branding his opponents have already assigned to him. Namely, that the young leader is vague about policies and specifics.

Grade: C+

Political Ad Watch: Tim Hudak’s Initial Campaign Ad Crashes


Sometimes political ads are overthought. Often, these 30 seconds are evidence of genuine nerds making decisions based on micro data instead of the nuances of the voters themselves. There is a vast difference between those two motivations.

Tim Hudak has had years to formulate the right message. In fact, he has been fairly consistent over the last half-decade or so, keeping the issue of job creation front and center as the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Hudak’s main problem all these years is the following; he is one of the most ineffective, uninspiring politicians in Canadian history. His leadership has been so unsuccessful that he did not have the chops to challenge a Liberal government who has done everything imaginable to lose the last two elections. If you can’t beat a bad government, chances are you have a bad leader. Just ask the federal Liberal Party.

Below is the first Progressive Conservative ad released since an election was triggered in the province of Ontario.

Style: Here’s the thing about trying to showcase your party as an aspirational choice in this election; if your leader is completely uninspiring, don’t pretend he is really, really compelling. Dramatic, cinematic music accompanying a stump speech only works if someone other than a bad Michael Keaton stand-in gives the stump speech. Plus, there’s an ‘Aw shucks’, double arm thrust at the end that’s just awkward enough to cement your view that the ad tries to reinvent Hudak instead of giving the audience the real deal.

Message: It’s the oldest key message in the conservative arsenal; jobs. After all, who can argue with job creation? It’s not a bad message, really. The biggest problem is the disjointed delivery of the ‘1 Million Jobs’ platform. Hudak seems to imply he will be getting back a few hundred thousand manufacturing jobs. But, how? Who knows, as long as that cinematic music is playing it doesn’t matter.

Effectiveness: The Hudak campaign team probably thinks this is a homerun spot, but they are also listening to the movie music too intently. This is an ad created by professionals who were asked to do the impossible – make Tim Hudak seem like something he’s not…an aspirational politician.

Grade: C-