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

Talking points

Undaunted Conservatives vent more spleen at CBC Add to ...

1. Preaching to the choir. Stephen Harper's Conservatives are escalating their attacks against the CBC, warning of consequences if the public broadcaster doesn't reconsider its position to use a pollster Tories believe is a Liberal partisan.

"Make no mistake, we will continue to challenge Frank Graves's credibility as a neutral pollster on party politics," the Conservative Party says in a memo circulated to MPs and supporters.

"The public broadcaster is spending the public's money, not Liberal Party money," the memo says. "If the CBC is serious about reversing its declining status and influence within the Canadian population we recommend that they re-consider their position.

"At the very least Mr. Graves's partisanship should be disclosed to viewers each and every time he appears on-air."

The push-back from the Conservatives is in response to the CBC's dismissal of Conservative Party president John Walsh's charges that the network has a Liberal bias and its pollster has a Liberal Party membership tucked into his wallet.

The Tories were set off by comments from the pollster, Frank Graves of EKOS Research, who in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail suggested Michael Ignatieff's Liberals launch a "culture war" against the Conservatives. The column said Mr. Graves had given this advice to the Grits.

Mr. Graves says he has never been a member of the Liberal Party nor has he been paid to act as an advisor. A CBC review found, too, that Mr. Graves is not affiliated with any political party.

This has not satisfied the Conservatives, who have long been suspicious of the CBC, believing it is a haven for Liberals who distort the way in which they gather and report the news. Tories say that every time Mr. Graves appears on the CBC, "the network's credibility will be further diminished."

"It is simply baffling that the Corporation cannot understand - or chooses not to understand - that their 'neutral' pollsters on party politics cannot also be a partisan Liberal," the memo says. "The real losers in this situation are Canadian taxpayers."

(They forget, for example, that the CBC has hired Kory Teneycke, the former director of communications to the Prime Minister, who is now being paid with taxpayer dollars to tout the Tory line and do Mr. Harper's bidding.)

2. Blaming the usual suspects. The Conservatives are reviving the spectre of another dreaded opposition coalition to explain their unsuccessful attempts to have the CBC investigated for Liberal bias at the Commons heritage committee. The Tory motion for a probe into the relationship between pollster Frank Graves and the public broadcaster failed yesterday with the three opposition parties voting it down.

Dean Del Mastro, the Peterborough Conservative MP and parliamentary secretary to the Heritage Minister, had been pushing for the probe. He was outraged over Mr. Graves's "culture war" comments, believing the pollster was driving a wedge between east and west after Conservatives have worked so hard to unify the country.

He and his fellow Tories, meanwhile, were livid at their defeat yesterday, accusing the opposition of reforming its "undemocratic coalition" to dismiss the probe. In fact, the Conservatives issued talking points to they MPs, providing them with lines in which to explain the anti-CBC campaign.

"They [the opposition MPs on the committee]voted AGAINST a Conservative motion to require CBC executives to explain themselves for using Frank Graves, a Liberal-supporting and self-described 'progressive' as the network's 'neutral' pollster on party politics," the talking points say.

"By voting against this motion, they are endorsing Graves's call for a 'Culture War'." At the next election, the Tories say the choice is clear between a Conservative government or a "reckless coalition" that will wage a war to divide the country.

For more on the Tories, the CBC and Canada's culture war, join us here at 11 a.m. ET for a live chat with Globe TV critic John Doyle.

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