“I’m a ‘progressive’” – Frank Graves

April 26th, 2010
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Frank Graves is a liberal. Many readers will have seen the debate over Mr. Graves’ advice to Michael Ignatieff – “Go left old man” – as first raised in this Lawrence Martin column.  Besides raising the issue of the incendiary nature of the advice, and what it reveals about the small-L liberal mindset, it showcases a few more interesting things.

For one, it answers questions about Frank Graves, whose polls are often quoted by the CBC, Canadian Press and the Toronto Star. It further confirms many of the ideological leanings of a large part of the Canadian political class and, quite directly, what they think about conservatives.  It was refreshing to, for once, see issues of polling bias actually discussed openly. Evan Solomon went so far as to describe and justify CBC’s polling policy. Wow! But you can take that for what it’s worth.

Most importantly, and this was cleverly brought out by Kory Teneycke on the video segment, it finally explodes the myth of neutrality cloaking the majority of lefty commentators. This is a reflection the same myth the Globe and Mailers perpetuate by calling their paper “centrist”. Well, that depends on how you define “centre” doesn’t it? Lawrence Martin for one laments the fact that the Canadian media has become “dominated by the right”. When pressed, he retreats to the position of “well, it’s more conservative than it was …” Yeah, it would have been hard pressed to go any further left, wouldn’t it?

So, when backed into a corner, Frank Graves says “I guess I’m probably a centre, a small-L liberal, maybe progressive would be more accurate”. What a revelation. Up to now, based on the impression given in the media, there were two categories of commentators – all those neutral, dispassionate, objective ones, and some conservatives. That’s a true reflection of the ideological distribution amongst the Canadian punditocracy, based on what many of the commentators themselves will admit to.  But wait. Now Frank Graves is saying he’s a small-L Liberal, a “centre-moderate”. Of course, wouldn’t everyone want to be a moderate? Problem is, when you really push the matter, issue by issue, “moderate” ends up being left, left, left. So thanks you Frank Graves, for what you admit and everything else you won’t.

Later in the discussion Graves says he thinks there should be an open discussion about Canadian values (because he questions that Canadians are in fact “blue-ing” the way the Manning Institute suggests). Okay, then how about a discussion about, as Kory Teneycke put it, full disclosure regarding a pundit’s ideological, partisan perspective? Maybe that would be a useful thing?

Mr. Graves repeated contention that he’s never been on the Liberal payroll, that he’s not on the org chart, and therefore somehow less partisan, is disingenuous at best. Indications are that he has done a lot of work for them, as well as the CBC, and about $11,000 of that was returned to the party in donations after 2001 (according to Mr. Teneycke, and not denied by Graves). That’s about 20 times what he gave to Conservatives. But all of that, according to him, doesn’t mean he’s partisan. He hasn’t been “tainted” by being a professional activist. He’s just like Joe Public, except that he runs a very successful polling firm, that by all reports, does a lot of business with the Liberal party.

As to the advice Mr. Graves has apparently provided to the Libs, readers may be surprised to hear that I’m in whole-hearted agreement. Let the Libs be what they are, what they have been for 40 years – a left party. In fact, as I’ve written here many times, any pretence the federal Liberals have made at being anything but a leftist party is precisely that, a pretense. Their support of big government and sentimental attachment to every left-wing cause simply makes it undeniable.

But, for their own benefit, they do try to deny it. They are a “centre party”. Yeah. That’s a “centre” extending from Marlene Jennings to Michael Ignatieff. Quite a spread.

Finally, the tone of the advice should surprise no one. Its just the latest version of the “soldiers, with guns, in our cities” school of Liberal campaigning. Not so long ago M. Chretien was spinning regional divisions in his political favour, and Paul Martin was shouting that Canada would be destroyed if Conservatives ever took power – all while railing against the “divisive politics” of their opponents. In the end, the only thing that was in jeopardy was the Liberal Party itself. And long may that continue.

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By John Weissenberger