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The Globe and Mail

Tories demand 'neutrality and truth' from CBC

1. How Tory operatives spend their Friday nights. Stephen Harper's Conservatives just don't give up when it comes to bashing the CBC. It's getting silly, with the Tories again questioning the broadcaster's impartiality as a result of comments about a recent poll on women in politics.

"Canadians deserve better from the taxpayer-owned broadcaster. Starting with neutrality and truth," talking points sent to Conservative supporters and MPs late last week say.

Some background: On Friday, the Tories accused the CBC of Liberal bias - yet, again - after the broadcast of a viewer-inspired poll. Conservative researchers believe the viewer who asked the question about women in politics is a two-time Liberal candidate from British Columbia, Mary Pynenburg.

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Adding fuel to the fire was that the man who conducted the survey was EKOS pollster Frank Graves, a favourite target of the Harperites after he was quoted in a Globe and Mail column suggesting the Liberals mount a culture war against the Tories. That outraged many Conservatives and as a result they are going after Mr. Graves, arguing that he should declare his Grit bias when he appears on CBC presenting public-opinion data.

Mr. Graves and his polling firm have actually done quite a bit of work for the Harper government. Anti-CBC statements and campaigns, however, help to fill Tory coffers - so that may explain the party's obsession with Mr. Graves and the Mother Corp.

Both the pollster and the CBC have dismissed these accusations as ridiculous. The broadcaster also responded to the Tory allegations of a Liberal plant posing poll questions, saying the question was reasonable, timely and relevant.

As well, spokesman Jeff Keay said the CBC doesn't "generally do a background check on people who have sent us non-contentious polling questions suggestions, other than verifying the person much as newspapers do with letters to the editors."

But this wasn't good enough for the Tories. Late Friday, they took on the CBC again, saying they had caught the broadcaster "Bald-Faced."

In a series of talking points, Conservative strategists argued the "background check" argument was scurrilous. In their memo they published a CBC link from the 2006 election that showed a Mary Pynenburg as a Liberal candidate. They also published two other links to CBC results from federal elections.

"So save us the excuse about background checks," says the talking points. "The CBC already KNEW the partisan affiliation. The proof is splashed across the CBC website.

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"Background check? How about using knowledge the corporation ALREADY has?"

2. What Canadians think about Afghan torture. Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk must resign if they knew that Afghan detainees were being tortured but did nothing to stop it, according to a new poll.

The Ipsos Reid survey, conducted for Canwest/Global, found that a majority of Canadians - 61 per cent - believe prisoners handed over by the Canadians to Afghan authorities were tortured; 23 per cent believe they were not tortured. And more than that - 75 per cent - believe senior Canadian military officials would have known that torture was taking place; 65 per cent believe the Defence Minister would have known and 52 per cent of Canadians believe the Prime Minister knew, too.

And if Canadian leaders knew about this as far back as 2007, 57 per cent of the respondents say that Mr. MacKay should resign; 56 per cent say the Chief of Defence Staff should also resign.

The poll is not helpful to the Harper government, which is in the midst of tricky negotiations with the opposition parties over the release of secret documents. House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken gave the government and the opposition a two-week deadline to resolve the issue.

If there is no solution the government could be held in contempt of Parliament, which could trigger an election. That deadline is Tuesday but it is expected the parties will ask for an extension as the negotiations are going well and progressing positively.

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The poll of 1000 Canadians was conducted between May 4 and May 6. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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