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Talking Points

'Viewer-inspired' CBC poll works Tories into a lather Add to ...

There are more accusations of Grit bias at the CBC by the Conservatives today after the network presented a poll the Tories allege was inspired by a Liberal Party candidate.

Adding to the Tory outrage is that the survey was conducted by their least favourite pollster, Frank Graves. The EKOS president stands accused of being a big-time Liberal, partly because he has donated money to the party in the past and as a result his comments advising Michael Ignatieff's team to mount a culture war against Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

Mr. Graves has denied ever working for the Liberals and a complaint launched by the Conservatives against his part-time employment with the public broadcaster was dismissed. Anti-CBC campaigns, however, play well with the Tory base; the party can raise lots of money by attacking the network.

The poll in question was presented last night on CBC's Power & Politics show by Mr. Graves and dealt with women in politics, what issues they prefer and what Canadians think of women leaders. It prompted a set of talking points sent to Tory supporters and MPs earlier today under the headline: "Neutrality - CBC/Frank Graves Style."

"Pollster Frank Graves made his first appearance on CBC News Network since it was revealed he is a long-time donor to the Liberal Party, as well as someone who has given the Liberal Party positioning advice," the memo says.

The Tories go on to state that Mr. Graves presented the results of a "viewer-inspired" poll based on a question submitted to the network. "As host Evan Solomon said, 'Frank, this is a fascinating poll because it came based on a view question, a woman named Mary Pynenburg, fascinating question and very timely'."

The Tories then researched the woman's name and discovered that a woman by the same name was a two-time federal Liberal candidate from British Columbia. They even published her website on the memo.

"Is this what the CBC and Frank Graves consider to be 'neutral'?"

For his part, Mr. Graves says he had no idea who asked the question until Mr. Solomon mentioned her name last night.

"I had no idea whatsoever who submitted the viewer-inspired question," the pollster told The Globe. "And I didn't select it. I have never heard of Mary Pynenburg before last night. … The question that we asked was framed according to the best methodological standards and neither the question nor the analysis or reporting revealed any bias."

CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said today the broadcaster believes "the question sent to us was reasonable, timely and relevant."

Mr. Keay sent the exact wording that the network received from the woman the Tories say is the Liberal candidate: "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."

And he added that the CBC doesn't "generally do a background check on people who have sent us non-contentious polling question suggestions, other than verifying the person much as newspapers do with letters to the editors.

"Having said that, we think this example raises a good point about requiring closer attention to the background and affiliation of those who make submissions to Power & Politics."

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