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Saskatoon, December 9, 2008

Dear Friends,

I'm sending along a piece that I hope would illuminate the fate of Stéphane Dion who has now been unceremoniously shafted by the Liberal party of Canada (of which I am a member). Never the party establishment's choice in the first place, he has now been made to "walk the plank," as this morning's (December 9)  front page headlines across the country declare. The courageous and essentially necessary accomplishment of forming a Coalition with the NDP and receiving a guarantee from the Bloc that it would NOT vote against the Coalition government in a confidence vote (money bill) if and when it would assume the reins of government, has been foolishly, in my opinion,  put aside by the Liberal party establishment (parliamentary caucus and executive),  in the vain hope that the party can by itself prevent Stephen Harper's determined push for a majority. Talk about rose-coloured glasses and wishful thinking!  (The Coalition, by the way, accomplished major things in its first few days,  forcing the Harper government to completely back down on the threats it had issued in it's Economic Update, which included bankrupting all  opposition parties!)

As far as I'm concerned, THE COALITION IDEA ROCKS!  It does represent the wishes of the 62% of Canadian voters who voted AGAINST the Harper party. Interestingly — and perhaps symbolically —  enough, 62% was the exact amount that Stéphane Dion received in his own riding of Saint-Laurent-Carterville!  There is a message here somewhere... (More on an electoral coalition, see David Orchard's widely circulating piece, "Harper checkmated?" on, and Professor John Ryan's well-argued position paper, "Canada needs Liberal-NDP-Green Coalition" at

We now have to understand how Stéphane Dion, party members' but not the party establishment's choice in 2006, was taken down. A major role was played by the media, and here is a piece focusing on that role.  (Please also read my Open Letter to the Liberal party leadership, November 30, titled "The Liberal Party HAS a leader and his name is Stéphane Dion," which you can find on my page at

Marjaleena Repo

Stéphane Dion and The Tale of Two Tapes

Few would have  missed the Liberal leader Stephane Dion's taped speech on the national networks on December 3rd, the day before Stephen Harper, still prime minister of Canada,  drove to meet with the Governor General, asking her to let him avoid a defeat in the House. (Madame Jean obliged and allowed him to prorogue, that is, to send the Parliament home, unable to give him the vote of non- confidence it had intended to deliver.)

Mr. Dion's speech was late to arrive at the networks, and when it was broadcast, it turned out to be of visually substandard quality, out of focus and with a a disorganized background that distracted from the speech. (Those who heard it on the radio, were lucky because they had no distractions and could pay attention to the words.)  Mr. Dion's speech itself was clear and personable, not in the slightest difficult to understand, in my opinion — but then, having an accent myself, I am accent-friendly! (It can be heard and read at ) Nevertheless, the production of the tape, rather than the content, has become THE political event in the Canadian media.

As many people have written and called asking "what went wrong?," below are a couple of short pieces about what happened with the tape, with names of the responsible ones, at least a few of them.  You be the judge of whether Mr. Dion is to blame!

No matter who was responsible, abuse and contempt has been (again) heaped on Stephane Dion. Even after the Black Day of Members of Parliament being locked out of the House of Commons, the media keeps talking about nothing but the tape! Whether CBC's The National, The House, Politics, and other public affairs programmes, CTVs Mike Duffy and its national news, or various newspapers, all are full of commentators, invited guests, pollsters by the dozen, political and journalistic hacks, disloyalists from the Liberal party, and so on, all cackling endlessly about how this episode proved how dreadfully incompetent Mr. Dion is. Little is talked about how the very competent and oh-so-prime ministerial Mr. Harper has put a boot to Canada's representative democratic institution, the parliament, and how he intends to force another election on us, after putting us through a fundamentally illegal election a month or so ago, when he broke his own fixed election law,  again with a little assist from the Governor General.  (See Democracy Watch's court case on the illegal election,

Because of the tape incident, the media called for, no, demanded, Stephane Dion's head. Some party members also lined up in front of the microphones to make their career move at the leader's and party's expense (something I deeply resent as a Liberal party member), the most notable among them being MP Jim Karygiannis ( Scarborough--Agincourt, Ontario),  whose disloyalty and crudeness knew no bounds.

There was another tape....

A short while ago, conveniently just before election day of October 14th, another tape surfaced, which was widely and loudly broadcast, particularly by CTV whose affiliate's interview it was. It was a recording of a pre-interview session where  Stephane Dion struggled to understand the confusing questions put to him by the interviewer and it was not meant for broadcasting. Nevertheless, it became "the item" of the election campaign. I recall Mike Duffy looking absolutely overjoyed, when he announced: "Look at what we have here!" — and then playing the tape over and over again, with glee, and having various "guests" join him to share the joy and repeat the mantra, "Stephane Dion is a loser. If he can't give an interview, he can't run the country." Stephen Harper couldn't believe his luck and made vigorous use of the leaked tape. According to all accounts,  this tape critically wounded Stephane Dion and damaged the Liberal party's chances electorally.   It's important that today we examine that incident closely, too, as a critical analysis of it has not been widely available, and it continues till today to be the building block in the media to demonstrate  how "Stephane Dion is not a leader!," a message it has accepted, holus bolus, from the Conservative party's PR department.

In conclusion, there is more to Mr. Dion's "failures" than meets the eye — and more to the media's malevolence and incompetence, and its habit to act as a pack, all charging after whoever is the current "it" to be tagged, labelled, insulted, degraded etc. Remember the treatment of Joe Clark, whose "lost luggage" on one of his foreign tours was blamed on HIM — and he and we never heard the end of it, even twenty years later — and yet in the case of other people, we usually blame the airline, don't we? (Please see my article in Ottawa Citizen, August 26, 2000, "Bashing Clark is the new national sport for Canada's media," at, where I have a page of occasional commentary).

Many have raised questions about the most recent tape incident, and I hope that this piece has been helpful, and has given  a window into the world of the media elites who have unlimited power to define, label and crush. If we resist this power by our own instinctive questioning, it would be able to crush fewer individuals who dare to assume leadership roles in our society, without being anointed,  appointed and approved by by our political and media elites, which Stephane Dion never was.

Marjaleena Repo
Saskatoon, SK

P.S. Note contact information after the documents, please scroll down.

Dion’s tape fuzzy because the camera was broken


OTTAWA — Stephane Dion’s grainy, amateur video address to the nation this week was the result of a series of miscues, from a broken camera to rushed, last-minute editing, insiders say.

The session was taped by one of Dion’s closest aides, Mick Gzowski, son of late CBC icon Peter Gzowski. His mother is the Liberal leader’s English-language trainer.

Gzowski is in charge of broadcast communications for the Liberal research bureau and recorded the address with a digital camera.

Insiders say an auto-focus button on the camera was broken, stuck in the locked position. As a result, the focus was on a bookcase behind Dion rather than on the Liberal leader himself, leaving his face slightly fuzzy.

The last sentence of the printed version of his address was omitted from the final recorded version, possibly for its ambiguity.

"I will serve my country until my time to serve is at an end," says the last line in the printed version of the statement, released by the party an hour before the television broadcast.

There was also confusion about just where to deliver the digital disc of the address.

Liberals apologize for late delivery of Dion video

Updated Wed. Dec. 3 2008 10:48 PM ET

Josh Visser, News

The Liberals have apologized for Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's taped televised address, after it was delivered to Canadian networks almost an hour past deadline and in near-cellphone quality.

"I apologize for what happened tonight. I apologize for the poor quality and the lateness. I am livid and am doing an investigation as to how this happened," Johanne Senecal, Dion's Chief of Staff, said to CTV News tonight.

Dion was supposed to deliver the networks a pre-taped statement to the nation Wednesday between 6:15 p.m. and 6:30 ET. It was to air after Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the country at 7 p.m. ET about the political crisis on Parliament Hill.

CTV, along with other major Canadian networks, pre-empted regularly scheduled programming to deliver the addresses. Harper went to air shortly after 7 p.m. but networks were left scrambling to fill airspace when Dion's tape was nowhere to be found.

Alphée Moreau, a senior Liberal communication staffer, explained how the series of technical mistakes on their part resulted in an embarrassing snafu.

The timeline (all times ET):

  • 6:15-6:30 - The Liberals miss their promised deadline to deliver Dion's statement to the television networks.
  • 6:40 - Liberals arrive with a single tape at the press gallery in Ottawa. They were supposed to deliver two tapes: one in French, one in English. They arrived with a single tape in DVD-minicam format, which is not broadcast quality.
  • Shortly after 6:40 - The Liberals decide to run back to their offices -- a block away -- because the French portion of the tape needs another edit.
  • 7:05 - Liberal staffers are still in their offices as the networks go to air with the Harper address.
  • 7:07 - Harper's statement finishes and network anchors are forced to kill time as they wait for Dion's address.
  • 7:10 to 7:15 - Liberal staffers arrive back at the press gallery on Wellington Street with a DVD-minicam player that they had taken from their own offices, along with the associated cables. There is still only one tape, not two. A press gallery official tells the Liberals that the gallery is not the feed point and an argument ensues. The Liberals ask why they weren't told that earlier. The feed point is next door at the CBC building, which is the long-established feed play point for all network pools. The Liberals are informed that they need to be walked into the building by authorized staff.
  • 7:20 - English network anchors are still live on television, wondering where the tape is. CTV has still had no communications from the Liberals about Dion's address.
  • Approximately 7:15 - CBC receives the tape and begins dubbing into French and English versions. This takes about 10 minutes.
  • 7:28 - CTV decides to go off-air and back to regular scheduled programming at 7:30. CTV has still not seen a feed of the tape.
  • 7:28 - CBC incorrectly punches out the finished feed only to their network.
  • 7:30 - CTV signs off broadcast at scheduled time.

"We missed our deadline," Moreau said. "The shot was not all that professional. It was soft-focused."

CTV received angry emails within minutes of signing off. Some viewers thought CTV was ignoring the Liberal leader, while others thought Dion was purposely snubbing the network....


Here is the story of the first tape, which Toronto Star editor-in-chief so ably dissects  (The analysis is followed by the full transcript.)

Dion interview shows need to extend clarity to journalism
October 11, 2008


In journalism, the story you get is often only as good as the questions you ask.

On Thursday [October 9] , Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion was interviewed on CTV. His performance, seen by some as showing him in a muddle, was denounced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as proof that Dion cannot lead on the economy.

I've reviewed the video and, in my opinion, it was not Dion who was confused, it was the CTV interviewer.

Anyone can verify this by watching the interview on YouTube.

The first time, the interviewer asked Dion what "would you have done" on the economy, if he were prime minister, "now." Look at that carefully. The verb tense "would have" suggests Dion was asked to say what he would have done in the past; but the word "now" could suggest he was asked what he would do today.

These are two different questions. The first asks: Could government have averted this economic trouble? The second asks: can the current mess be fixed?

Dion rightly asked for clarification: Was he being asked what he would have done if he had been prime minister since the previous election?

The interviewer said no, he was not asking what Dion might have done for the past two-and-a-half years, but rather, if he were to act "right now."

Just to be sure, Dion asked whether the interviewer meant if Dion was elected on Tuesday.

The interviewer explained that he meant "hypothetically" right now, at this very moment. Dion said that he would take the question to mean "today," not after the election and not since 2006.

But just as Dion was about to answer, the interviewer, apparently backpedalling, interjected that he wanted to know what Dion "would have" done.

Moving along, Dion began to answer that he would launch his 80-day plan to boost the economy. But he stopped mid-sentence, displeased with the erratic opening to a pre-taped broadcast. He asked whether they could start over.

The interviewer agreed to a fresh start, a commitment that CTV may have dishonoured by airing the aborted segment.

On second try, the interviewer launched a new wave of confusion, making the question more about the past. He asked Dion, if he were prime minister "now" (present tense), "what would you have already done" (in the past) that Harper "hasn't done."

This was baffling. Had the interviewer regretted saying just moments prior that he meant "today" and, on reflection, preferred to reframe the question as a hypothesis about the past?

Dion paused, then asked just what time frame the interviewer was trying to place him in, this go-round. Now? A week ago? Three weeks ago?

The interviewer, getting fuzzier, said, "No. No. If you were prime minister during this time already." But what did he mean by "this time already"?

Turning away from the interviewer, Dion asked an aide off-screen for clarity. However, she was just as unclear, answering that the time frame was "when Stephen Harper was prime minister." As we know, Harper has been prime minister since 2006.

Dion asked whether she meant since "two-and-a-half years ago."

She replied: "At any given time." In my view, that's a shrug. It could mean two years ago, it could mean today. Dion was no farther ahead.

It was as if the whole studio had gone down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Several people, including Dion, began laughing.

They began a third time.

One could argue Dion should have sidestepped the fog, saying anything he liked about the economy. He might have taken a cue from vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who proved adept in the U.S. debate at ignoring a question.

But Dion, remember, was champion of the Clarity Act, a law requiring any Quebec referendum on separation to pose an unambiguous question. This Liberal leader may be willing to answer questions, but he does demand questions be clear.

It's a fair requirement of any on-air interviewer, or newspaper reporter, for that matter.

J. Fred Kuntz is editor-in-chief of the Toronto Star.

The Dion interview on YouTube

Text of the Dion interview: You be the judge
October 11, 2008
NOTE: Below are contact information for people you might want to communicate with:

A transcript of the tape aired by CTV Thursday evening of the beginning of an interview with Stéphane Dion:

CTV: Mr. Dion, the economy is now the issue on the campaign, and on that issue you've said that today that Harper has done nothing to put Canadians' mind at ease and offers no vision for the country. You have to act now, you say; doing nothing is not an option. If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done.

SD: If I had been prime minister two-and-a-half years ago?

CTV: If you were the prime minister right now and not for the past two-and-a-half years.

SD: If I am elected next Tuesday, this Tuesday, it's what you are suggesting?

CTV: No, I am saying if you were hypothetically prime minister today ...

SD: Today.

CTV: ... What would you have done that Mr. Harper has not done?

SD: I would start the 30-50 plan that we want to start the moment we have a Liberal government. And the 30-50 plan, in fact the plan for the first 80 days, I should say, the plan for the first 80 days once you have a Liberal government. Can we start again?

CTV: Do you want to?

SD: Sure.

CTV: Yeah. I'm okay to start again.

SD: Because I think I misunderstood your question.

CTV: Mr. Dion, good of you to come again.

SD: Thank you.

CTV: Mr. Dion, you've said today that Mr. Harper has offered nothing to put Canadians' mind at ease during this financial crisis, and you go on to say that he has no vision for the country. You say we have to act now; doing nothing is not an option. So, I'd like to begin by asking you, if you were prime minister now, what would you have already done in this crisis that Mr. Harper hasn't done?

SD: (Pauses) Again, I don't understand your question. Because are you asking me to be prime minister at which moment – today? Or since a week, or since three weeks?

CTV: No. No. If you were the prime minister during this time already ...

SD: (Laughing) We need to start again. I'm sorry. If I were the prime minister starting when? Today? "If you were the prime minister today?" (Looks at aide.)

AIDE: If you (were) the prime minister when Stephen Harper was prime minister?

SD: Back two-years-and-a-half ago?

AIDE: At any given time.

SD: Two-years-and-a-half ago.

AIDE: What would you have done differently from Mr. Harper to change the –

SD: Yeah, but if I had been prime minister two-and-a-half years ago, we would have had an agenda on – let's start again.

CTV: (Starting over) Okay. (Pause) Mr. Dion, thank you for coming.

SD: Thank you, Steve. (Dion and others in studio begin laughing). Let's start again.

CTV: It's a good job that tape is cheap.

SD: But give me a first day when I am prime minister, that I can figure out what your question is about.


Hon. Stephan Dion "'Hon. Stephane Dion'" <>  mail to: House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6; Constituency office: 750 Marcel-Laurin Blvd, Suite 440, Saint-Laurent, Quebec, H4M 2M4.

Liberal party president Doug Ferguson Ferguson Doug <>

Don Newman, CBC, "Politcs" <>

Mike Duffy, CTV "Mike Duffy Alive" <>

Liberal leadership candidates:
Michael Ignatieff <>
Bob Rae <>
Dominic LeBlanc <>

Donations for the Coalition can be sent to the Liberal Party and/or the New Democratic Party, thrugh their  web sites: and

Donatons toward Mr. Dion's campaign debts (from the leadership race) can be sent to: (scroll to the bottom left and choose Mr. Dion from among the 2006 leadership candidates)

NDP leader Jack Layton <>

Green Party leader Elizabeth May <>

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