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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable (The Globe and Mail)
Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable (The Globe and Mail)

Morning Buzz

Clement performs, Harper coaches <br/>as Tory lead narrows Add to ...

Hot: Tony Clement. Feeling all alone in his defence of the government's decision to scrap the long-form census, the Industry Minister moved this week to mitigate some of the outrage by including language-related questions in the compulsory short-form census. He also announced the government would drop jail time as a punishment for not complying with the mandatory aspect of the census.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Clement talked about the fall-out from the controversy: "I would have preferred to have spent my summer a bit more quietly. In politics as you know, you take the adversity as well the good stuff. Right?"

Mr. Clement also talked about the media coverage: "I am not responsible for creating headlines. I am not responsible for how things are reported. But I did say and I still say Statscan gave us some options to mitigate the risks and we chose one of those options. That's factually true."

Referring to Munir Sheikh, the head of Statistics Canada who resigned over the census, the Industry Minister added: "I can't speak for Munir, but I have to represent what is a government's position and for very good reasons in my view, very good reasons: that we're balancing the need for data with ending the criminalization as a way to punish Canadians if they refuse to fill out very personal and intrusive 40-page document."

Not: The parliamentary press gallery. It came under attack from hard-right radio show host David Rutherford, who senses anti-Conservative bias in the ranks. He mocked reporters and columnists from "Ottawa and Toronto" who are criticizing the government over its decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census. Mr. Rutherford told his listeners on his Calgary-based broadcast Thursday that he senses pack journalism at work around this: "We've seen the census coverage. We've seen some of the commentators - the columnists in Ottawa, Toronto - just hyperventilating about this ridiculous census story and they're all saying almost exactly the same thing. Very interesting."

Hot: Hockey. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Barrie, Ont., Thursday with Canada's favourite hockey commentator, Don Cherry, for a charity match. Last year at this very same event, former Edmonton Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer was in attendance, and according to sources, he was handing out his now famous business card promoting his green technology business.

It was this business and his promotion of it that eventually landed Mr. Jaffer and his wife, now-independent MP Helena Guergis, in so much hot water. (Ms. Guergis, who is five months pregnant was in a car accident Thursday; she was not seriously hurt and is at home resting.)

In fact, Ms. Guergis lost her cabinet post and the Prime Minister kicked her out of the Conservative caucus. The RCMP was called in but subsequently cleared Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer of any wrongdoing.

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, was greeted by protest at this year's event. According the Barrie Examiner, "few dozen" protesters were out to criticize the Prime Minister over his decision to scrap the compulsory long-form census. "Even a kid knows you have to keep records of your country," one said.

Not: Conservative support. Four new national opinion polls were released over the past few days - three of which showing a tight race now between the governing Tories and opposition Liberals.

The latest came Thursday from Angus Reid Public Opinion. It shows the Tories with 33 per cent voter support compared to 29 per cent for the Liberals, 19 per cent for the NDP, 10 per cent for the Bloc and nine per cent for the Greens.

Angus Reid numbers indicate a dip for the Tories (down three points since last month); last week's EKOS poll showed a 10 per cent slide over the past few weeks for the Conservatives. What this means for election timing is not clear although most pundits are saying there will not be an election this year.

Last week, in his first news conference after his summer holiday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said repeatedly that Canadians do not want an "unnecessary" election.

Hot: Ribbon cutting. From Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to Senator Mike Duffy, the Conservatives are everywhere, feverishly making spending and good-news announcements.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has been touring military bases and doling out cash in Ontario this week. Mr. Flaherty is in his riding Friday, announcing a funding for skills development. Mr. Duffy is in his home province of Prince Edward Island for the grand opening of a new dining hall and convention centre in Dundas. Conservative MP Paul Calandra is in the Markham, Ont., area unveiling an initiative for the livestock industry. Lynne Yelich, minister of state for western cconomic diversification, is speaking at an aerospace event in Abbotsford, B.C.. And International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan is making an infrastructure announcement in his riding.

Does all this mean the Tories are trying to play catch-up to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and his cross-country bus tour?





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