Monday, 17 September 2012

A whiff of BS - an Ontario case study

September 17, 2012
Warren Kilsella

To read the original blog, click here.

This morning, on the much-read National Newswatch, there was this headline:
When you click on the link, you are not taken to the web site of a news organization or a polling from.  You are taken to something called the “Broadview Strategy Group,” trumpeting a “poll” by Forum Research.
We are not told who ultimately paid for the “poll,” but the Broadview web site modestly indicates that the report on the poll was written by one John Laforet.
When not working at his lobby firm – which, if you eyeball their web site, very much seems to be one guy, plus a receptionist – Laforet describes himself as a “volunteer” for something called Wind Concerns Ontario.  As I’ve written for the Sun, Wind Concerns is effectively an extension of the Conservative Party in Ontario.  As Metroland reported last September 8:  Laforet and Wind Concern’s main objective is “defeating the McGuinty government and getting Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak elected Premier.”  And, as Laforet said to the Tillsonburg News on August 24 of last year: ”The idea is to mobilize [supporters] to go door-to-door, supporting the Progressive Conservative candidate to defeat the Liberals.”
Fine.  Laforet and his Wind Concerns aren’t shy: they’re an arm of the Ontario PCs.  Good for them.  But are they allowed to do that? How do they do that? Who pays the shots? Well, they’re set up as a non-profit, but not a charity – they don’t issue tax receipts, and the reason is that they don’t want to accept the limitations on political advocacy that being a charity entails. They’re open about this if you ask them.
They say they’re funded entirely by donors, but there’s no disclosure of any sources of donations that anyone has been able to find. Unlike charities, there’s no public disclosure of their finances by Revenue Canada.
Did Wind Concerns pay for the poll?  Who knows.  At a speech he delivered at the Empire Club in June of last year, Laforet was asked who funds Wind Concerns.  Here’s what he said:  ”Nobody funds Wind Concerns Ontario, which is why I’m a volunteer. Wind Concerns Ontario’s budget for 2010 was about $8,900.”
If all this seems rather suspicious to you, you’re not alone.  To me, this morning’s innocuous headline has a bad, bad odour. Who paid Forum Research?  Was it Broadview, which is led by a Liberal-hating Ontario PC fan?  Or was it Wind Concerns, who supposedly have a budget of only a few thousand bucks?
And how did all of this end up on National Newswatch, which is – as noted – much-read and much-respected?
Good questions, all.  But if you want to know why so many people increasingly consider our politics to be B.S., and why they are voting less and less – well, this is a good case study to ponder.
UPDATE:  Note here. Christina Blizzard has written a column about the issue, not (she emphasizes to me) a news story.  I accept what she says, of course, but believe that Laforet’s background needs to be part of any straight-up news story or opinion column.  But that’s just me.  My apologies if I offended Chris!