Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Architect of Common Sense Revolution to pick new CBC news heads

You would think this would be headlines across the nation. But this is the first I have seen anything about it. Except for some excellent documentaries (and some bad ones too) the CBC is hardly exceptional. It wastes endless TV time on Black or the Pickton trial, or human interest stories and not having much time for anything more. Maybe Harper is aiming for a public FOX news north.

Long, Tom - Architect of "Common Sense Revolution" to pick CBC News heads

Rhetoric and framing expert a natural ally for Stephen Harper.

TORONTO, August 13, 2007: One of Canada's top right-wing strategists to recruit two top managers for CBC News. Engaging former (Ontario Premier) Mike Harris' advisor, Tom Long, could signal the Harper government's desire to politicize the public broadcaster.

Long is remembered as the architect of one of Canada's most successful rhetorical campaigns, the so-called "Common Sense Revolution" (CSR) that elected Harris in 1995 and 1999. He was also one of four well-connected advisors who won untendered contracts worth $5.6 million from the Conservatives in 1999. Others were his close colleagues in the party and Premier's office, Leslie Noble, Paul Rhodes, and Michael Gourley.

Long attracted negative attention over doing for Mike Harris what he has now been hired to do for Stephen Harper. In 1999, he worked, as he does now, for corporate "headhunting" firm Egon Zehnder International. It received $83,000 for Long's services in recruiting top Harris advisor and longtime colleague Debbie Hutton as the vice-president of corporate relations for Hydro One, the province's electrical supplier. "That must have been a long hunt," commented columnist Andrew Coyne, with irony, when the news broke.

"Tom Long has been a true believer in his right-wing politics for a long time," says Graham Murray, a consultant and editor of the insider newsletter Inside Queen's Park.

"He has been active in the PC party at the provincial and federal level for a long time," said Murray, in a telephone interview with "I think he is fairly credited with having played a crucial role in the development of the CSR." Long was "the front man in the CSR effort to, among other things, recruit Mike Harris as a suitable standard bearer in efforts to turn the party sharply to the right."

According to Murray, Long had been critical of the party's moderate tendencies under Premier Bill Davis, such as its support for the purchase of energy company Suncor, and an emphasis on human rights. "He was very much part of a youth underground opposed to the centrist thrust of the 'Big Blue Machine'."

The "crowning touch" for Long and right-wing ideologues like Alister Campbell and Noble "was being able to recruit Harris, who did not begin in politics as a hard right-winger, so it made him an acceptable figurehead for the CSR."

There are ironies in hiring a master of political rhetoric, such as Long, to choose the head of what Canadians have always felt to be a trusted news service. "Persuasion, rhetoric and framing were very much the work he was doing with the party, and he did a superlative job," said Murray.

Although a highly effective organizer, Long "self-destructed" when he tried his hand as a politician, seeking the Canadian Alliance leadership in a race against Stockwell Day in 2000. "That race collapsed in an embarrassing pileup with large-scale digging up of dead bodies in Gaspé," recalls Murray. Long's leadership campaign organizers signed up thousands of bogus new party members in that region of Quebec, reminiscent of "old-style" politics.

Murray observes that, "Not infrequently, very effective backroom functionaries prove not very effective in the frontroom. He went from being a very effective organizer to stumbling in a very humiliating failure."

A news report today says Long's firm has been instructed to recruit two top managers to implement a corporate "transformation" that will result in "decentralizing decision rights across the new system and a reallocation of resources to support these changes." The plan is to "identify opportunities for cost savings and operational efficiencies, ensure that new technology is acquired and implemented to support the efficiency drive." These directives appear to indicate cuts to management and staff at the broadcaster, long a target of Conservative criticism.

Harper Conservative vs. Public Values Frame
Stephen Harper / Mike Harris
New government / Old-style politics
Transform CBC / Government spin

Links and sources
Minister 'sickened' rich contracts went to Tories, Canadian Press, February 24, 2004
New twist in the search to fill CBC's top jobs, Globe and Mail, August 11, 2007
Grit or Tory, same old story,, February 24, 2004
G.P. Murray Research Limited
Letter from NDP Culture critic Charlie Angus to CBC Chair Timothy Casgrain
Tom Long: Dead wrong for PCs, Canada, Scott Piatkowski, Straight Goods

Posted: August 13, 2007

Harper Index (HarperIndex

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