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CBC viewer defends 'relevant, timely' poll that riled Tories

The viewer who inspired a CBC poll on women in politics - and outraged Stephen Harper's Conservatives in the process - is speaking out, arguing her question was neither partisan nor was it loaded or leading.

Mary Pynenburg, who is a two-time Liberal candidate in Britsh Columbia, wonders why she should have to "identify my party before I speak?"

"As a past candidate, I am very interested in women in politics," she says.

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But it's that interest that sparked accusations of Liberal bias at the public broadcaster and even more interest among Tory conspirators as to who she really is. Several weeks ago, Ms. Pynenburg responded to the CBC's request for viewer questions that could potentially be used for polls.

She suggested this: "It would be interesting to find out what issues are most important to women. What qualities they look for in a leader and conversely what issues/characteristics negatively affect their vote."

Today, she told The Globe: "There is no conspiracy just a big conservative overreaction and attack on anyone who disagrees."

In fact, she says she submitted her question before the Tories began their attacks on EKOS pollster Frank Graves, who launched a firestorm by suggesting Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals mount a "culture war" to defeat Mr. Harper. He has since been accused of being a Grit partisan.

Last week, the CBC ran with Ms. Pynenburg's poll question. Host Evan Solomon mentioned her name and the Tories researched it, discovering she had run for the Liberals, donated money and sits on the party's women's commission. The Conservatives then attacked her in a series of talking points, noting her connections and also that she is "a proud member of Canadians Rallying to Unseat Stephen Harper (CRUSH), a radical anti-Stephen Harper group."

"We pointed out that CBC and Frank Graves (significant Liberal Party donor as well as someone who has been offering 'Culture War' political advice to the Liberals) commissioned a poll for CBC based on a supposedly neutral 'viewer-inspired' question," the Conservative script says. "It is beyond the pale that CBC consistently engages in political information and analysis from a Liberal-backing pollster in response to a Liberal-inspired question with no disclosure and certainly no apologies afterwards."

The CBC has dismissed the allegations of Liberal bias against their pollster, Mr. Graves. It noted it doesn't "generally do a background check on people who have sent us non-contentious polling question suggestions," but conceded the Pynenburg case "raises a good point about requiring closer attention to the background and affiliation of those who make submissions."

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Ms. Pynenburg remains perplexed. First, she says the supposedly "radical anti-Stephen Harper group" is a Facebook group that is pointing out the Prime Minister's "radical agenda." She adds: "And that does not make them radicals it makes them caring Canadians."

More importantly, she is curious as to how she became a Tory target for simply asking a question. "When did it become a cause célèbre in this country to ask a relevant and timely question affecting half the voting public?"

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