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FORBES: WEXIT is dead, and ‘Top Gun’ fans killed it

“To make such a major irreversible change like this, seemingly without a good reason, is not only a failure in marketing, but a failure in judgement. “

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This week we learned why it’s important to get a second opinion before you make major branding changes.

On Thursday, the Wexit Party of Canada officially changed their name with Elections Canada. They are now the Maverick Party. And yes, the reference to Tom Cruise’s character in the 1986 film Top Gun has not gone unnoticed. Party leader Jay Hill reportedly mentioned the upcoming 2021 sequel to that movie, also going by the name Maverick, when discussing the name change.

The name change was decided by a board of seven people who met once back in July, with very little consultation from party members. The decision also came without much warning and without any clear reasons behind it. It seems unkind to suggest they made this decision on a whim after seeing a flashy new movie trailer which stirred up their nostalgia for the 1980s. I am sure that’s not quite how it went, but that is certainly how it looks from the outside. 

The new moniker has received a mixed response online. And by mixed response, I don’t mean a mix of positive and negative. Rather, I mean a mix between outright negative and “this is a joke, right?” 

Many people believed that a new name was necessary to transform Wexit from a rowdy movement to a credible political party. Maybe so, but the new name should have conveyed its overall mission. Something like ‘Western Independence Party’, ‘Buffalo Party’, or Western Alliance. 

The party’s brass says that that members told them that they wanted a new name, and I don’t doubt that. But I’m skeptical that there was a clamoring for the ‘Maverick Party’.

Of course, the Mavericks may go on to prove us all wrong. If so, I will watch their contribution to Canadian politics with great interest. But I’ll be frank: in my opinion, this decision is a major marketing catastrophe for several reasons.

First, the meaning of Maverick is vague. The purpose of Wexit was built into the name: the exit of the Western provinces from confederation. But with the name change, the poor Maverick Party members will no doubt spend most of their time explaining who they are and what they stand for. They may draw upon Hill’s explanation: “A Maverick is a leader… not afraid of change and has the ability to seize opportunities.” But that only begs more and more questions. What change? What opportunities? Even when the Mavericks continue to support Western autonomy or full independence, they will now have to explain that to every single person they meet. And they will no doubt get the response, “Oh, so kind of like Wexit?”

Second, name recognition is a rare treasure in politics, and they just threw that away entirely. The Wexit message may have attracted only a small percentage of the voting population since its inception in 2019, but everyone who follows Canadian politics knew the name and knew what it meant. Sure, there was still a long way to go toward developing this brand into a viable political alternative, but it was a good place to start. Most upstart political parties would give the world for the level of brand exposure that Wexit had. Now the Mavericks have to start all over again to achieve the same level of name recognition, and that could take years… if it happens at all.

Third, Maverick will now blend in with the crowd of non-establishment rightwing parties. There are already a series of options available for conservative and libertarian-leaning voters who want an alternative to the establishment Tories: from the People’s Party of Canada, to the Libertarian Party, to the Christian Heritage Party. Wexit stood out because it was the only party explicitly advocating for Western Canada and focusing all its efforts in Western ridings, and thus it had the potential to become a Western version of the Bloc Quebecois. 

The new branding throws away Wexit’s obvious regional focus in favour of a vague “rebel-without-a-cause” sentiment. It would be like if the Green Party abandoned its explicit environmental branding to market itself more broadly as a generic social justice party. It would gradually relinquish its unique corner of the market and fade into obscurity with the other left and left-leaning parties. Sadly, that may be the future of the Maverick Party.

Fourth, the decision calls into question the judgement of the party’s leadership. After the veteran Conservative MP Jay Hill joined the team back in June, political commentators rightly believed that he lent a certain legitimacy to the cause. The Western Standard hailed the move as “a game changer.” But if such an odd branding departure can suddenly emerge from a room of seven people, after very little member consultation or second thought, that calls into question the entire leadership of this organization. 

To make such a major irreversible change like this, seemingly without a good reason, is not only a failure in marketing, but a failure in judgement. Leaders of the Maverick Party will now have to work a little harder to convince their members that there are responsible adults in the room, and that they will not change their stripes again in a few years to match the latest Hollywood blockbuster. 

Thankfully, the most important front for sovereigntists is on the provincial level, where Alberta’s Wildrose Independence Party and Saskatchewan’s Buffalo Party have shown markedly greater judgement thus far. The movement would be wise to focus here.

In any case, it’s too late to fix this mistake. The damage is done. Before anyone could tell them they were making a mistake, the Mavericks finalized the change with Elections Canada. Thus they have sealed the death of Wexit before the party even turned one year old. Perhaps the group of Top Gun fans who are apparently running the show will surprise us all and take the movement farther than was possible under the Wexit name. But seeing the negative public reaction and the obvious marketing challenges, I can’t help but wonder if this plane is headed for a nosedive.

James Forbes is the Western Heritage Columnist for the Western Standard

Opinion

GEROW: Libertarians are the principled option in BC Election

Polls show the Liberals losing badly to the NDP. Principled small-government voters should stop holding their noses and do the principled thing. Vote Libertarian.

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After British Columbia’s NDP received a significant bump in their polling support, rumors began to spread that John Horgan wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and call a snap election. The Libertarian Party of BC was quick to warn the sitting Premier that this action was not only unwanted, but might also be illegal. However, the Covid-19 pandemic had created the perfect conditions for political opportunism and John Horgan was not going to let it go to waste.

The BC Liberals are the acknowledged biggest threat to John Horgan’s NDP, but they are not the Chretien consensus Liberals of 2001 and it’s doubtful that past reputation will carry the day. Their brand as a coalition of red Tories and center-left liberals does little to attract the small government, fiscally responsible voter. The first thing you’ll notice on the BC Liberal website is that there is no quick and easy way to understand their election platform. With Covid-19 as the number one issue, Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has skillfully skirted the hard questions.

Don Wilson – Leader of the BC Libertarian Party – hasn’t shied away from criticizing the NDP or the Liberals complicity in what he calls “authoritarian policies.” The first link on the BC Libertarian party website is COVID-19: A Return to Normal: “The current crisis management is disproportionate to the harms of the virus and causes more damage than it helps cure”.

Although they’re the only political party in BC advocating for a return to normal – a move guaranteed to generate support – that is hardly their most successful platform item. Since 1986 the BC Libertarians have advocated an end ICBC’s monopoly on auto insurance. You won’t put on too many kilometers anywhere from Fernie to Fort St. John without seeing their iconic bumper sticker.        

That type of success comes at a price. “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery” said Don Wilson on Tuesday, October 8,2020 after Andrew Wilkinson announced that if elected they were following the Libertarians lead and would end ICBC’s monopoly on auto insurance. Just like legalized cannabis and same-sex marriage, the Libertarians have once again been vindicated, and once against without much in the way of credit. It’s a shame that it only took 34 years. Now it looks like they will be proven right again by denouncing this election as illegal.

Libertarian omniscience has an ear to the ground for future policy in British Columbia. They are the only party authentically advocating for reducing the cost of living by repealing regressive tax laws which hurt low income working families the most and raising the base exemption rate. They say they’ll eliminate the carbon tax and other sin taxes like the ones on tobacco and liquor.

There is no good argument to make for the BC Liberals being conservative in any sense of the word, other than they are the party backed by the federal Tories. Their platitudes and obscure non-commitment to any real tax reform is a disappointment to their voter base. Yet, Andrew Wilkinson decided to run attack ads against an 8-candidate roster called the Conservative Party of BC on the accusation that by vote-splitting, they spoiled wins for the Liberals in two ridings in 2017. Rather than putting forward any original ideas or standing on the remnants of fiscally responsible liberalism, Andrew Wilkinson steals platform items from the Libertarians and attacks actual conservatives. In doing so, he has made it clear that this race will be the last one where his party enjoys a chance at success. 

This is a race between two far-left parties and a weak centre-left party. The need for responsible governance in British Columbia has become unavoidable and the political climate is forcing the traditional parties to adjust course, but voters in BC should simply be voting for the real thing. The 25 Libertarians are the party of ideas and two Conservatives hold the balance of votes in key swing ridings. This enough to form actual opposition to big government and irresponsible policy.

Polls show the Liberals losing badly to the NDP. Principled small-government voters should stop holding their noses and do the principled thing. Vote Libertarian.

Darcy Gerow is a columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

WAGNER: This isn’t the first time the CBC has tried to silence its critics

Michael Wagner writes that in 1986, the CBC tried to silence a study about its ideological bias.

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In June 1986, the University of Manitoba hosted a conference of academic societies where scholars presented papers. One of these societies was the Canadian Communications Association (CCA), headed at the time by a Carleton journalism professor named Peter A. Bruck. A presentation was made to the CCA by University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper. He shared the results of an unpublished report entitled Bias on the CBC? A study of network AM radio. The CBC was extremely unhappy about Cooper’s report and tried to get it suppressed.

The controversy over Cooper’s study and the CBC’s reaction was newsworthy, and it was featured as the cover story of the July 21, 1986 issue of Alberta Report magazine. 

Anecdotal evidence had led Prof. Cooper to become concerned about the apparent left-wing bias of the CBC, and he decided to determine if such bias actually existed by having five students monitor four of its most well-known current affairs programs on AM radio, namely, As It HappensSunday MorningMorningside, and The House. Generally speaking, stories that were pro-defence, pro-business, and anti-union were categorized as right-wing, whereas those that took an opposite stance were categorized as left-wing. The results demonstrated a distinct leftist and Eastern bias in the CBC’s coverage.

Among the more specific findings detailed by Alberta Report were that “72 per cent of the stories evaluating government policy did so negatively; 62 per cent criticized from a left-wing perspective; 27 per cent from the centre, and 12 per cent from the right.” Furthermore, “Of the stories for which an ideological focus could be ascertained, 50 per cent were oriented to the left, 34 per cent to the centre, 15 per cent to the right.”

Coverage of Cooper’s study had also appeared in the Globe and Mail, prompting the CBC’s Toronto-based vice-president of English radio, Margaret Lyons, to write a letter to the editor where she dismissed it as “virtually ridiculous.” Susan Freedman, CBC’s Edmonton director of radio said, “I think it’s junk.” 

However, Colin MacLean, CBC Edmonton’s arts, culture and entertainment reporter told an interesting story. He had covered a meeting of the Western Canada Concept at the Jubilee Auditorium for the CBC. There were about 300 people at the meeting, which was quiet and orderly. MacLean told Alberta Report, though, that “When I filed the story, Toronto said ‘We don’t want this. We want rednecks running rampant in the streets.’”

The CBC did not take Cooper’s study sitting down. As an article in the July 28, 1986 issue of Alberta Report explained, the CBC threatened legal action. Barry Kiefl, the director of research for the CBC, wrote a letter to Prof. Bruck of the CCA stating: “I am writing to inform the CCA that the CBC wishes your association to renounce this research and retract the paper from the record of the conference and inform all who heard or received the results of this action. The study in question had several methodological flaws making the findings invalid and the conclusions not proven.” 

Kiefl went on to state, “The CBC feels that its renowned reputation as Canada’s most pre-eminent journalistic organization has been damaged by the release of the paper and we sincerely hope that the CCA will formally withdraw it from the conference record, preventing the need for any further discussion or litigation.”

Ted Byfield’s column in the same issue of the magazine noted that Kiefl’s letter was six pages long. As Byfield explained, “Such a letter could only be written by a public body that has lost all touch with practical reality, and has long ago abandoned any remote notion that it is responsible to the people who pay for it.”

Nothing of significance appears to have resulted from this episode, except embarrassment for the CBC – embarrassment for its childish reaction to Prof. Cooper’s report, and embarrassment for threats to get the report retracted and denounced. 

In 2020, it’s the Western Standard’s turn to receive threats of legal action, albeit on different legal grounds.

The case for privatizing the CBC was strong even before its latest antics. Canada does not need a state broadcaster that unfairly competes with the private sector. It’s coverage of news has been unbalanced for decades, as Cooper’s work has demonstrated. The consistent bias is irritating and unfair for the conservative and libertarian-minded taxpayers who are forced to pay for it. There is a solution: privatize the CBC.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’

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Opinion

How the CBC presented a rosey view of the Soviet Union during the Cold War

“The CBC created a smokescreen for Marxists before the fall of the Soviet Union, the ultimate “progressive” state. But it’s important to realize that during the Cold War, Canada’s taxpayer-funded state broadcaster ran interference for the most powerful Marxist dictatorship in history.”

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Some conservatives and libertarians like to joke that the acronym of Canada’s national broadcaster – the CBC – stands for “Communist Broadcasting Corporation.” But a post-Cold War study by University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper presents information and analysis that may leave people wondering how much of a joke it really is.

Cooper studied the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for several years, and the most significant result of his efforts was the book, Sins of Omission: Shaping the News at CBC TV which was published by the prestigious University of Toronto Press in 1994. From the evidence presented in this book, it is clear that CBC TV had an affinity for the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

To conduct this study, Cooper poured over a large number of transcripts from TV broadcasts and compared what was said with the political reality of the situation being portrayed. When he began this work in the 1980s, he decided to focus on coverage of foreign affairs, and in particular, issues related to the Cold War and the Soviet Union. 

One part of the study looks at how the internal affairs of the USSR were portrayed, including the Soviet occupation and withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was a major issue at the time. The general tendency in the coverage was to make it appear that the Soviet Union was much like Canada. As Cooper puts it, “Obvious external or elemental differences, such as the absence of genuine elections, the existence of a secret police, the concentration camps, and restrictive emigration policy, were ignored, played down, or euphemized into innocuous variations of normalcy. In short, the substantive political and, indeed, cultural differences between the political regimes established by communism in the USSR and those set up by liberal democracy in the West were minimized.”

In reality, the political life of the Soviet Union was very different from Canada’s due to the brutal nature of the Marxist ideology that guided its regime. To some degree, the CBC turned a blind eye to the suffering of the people in that country, giving Canadians a misleading, sugar-coated view of the communist regime 

A major feature of the Cold War, of course, was the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. During the period studied by Cooper, there were a couple of summit meetings between the leaders of these two countries – Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan – that received considerable media coverage. Officials from both countries presented the views of their respective governments, but the CBC did not treat these statements in the same way. As Cooper puts it, “the surface meaning of Soviet accounts was overwhelmingly accepted at face value. Accounts by U.S. officials, in contrast, were severely scrutinized, and alternative visualizations were presented.” The CBC was skeptical of American claims, but rarely of Soviet claims.

There is considerably more detail in Cooper’s study carefully documenting his conclusions, but the long and the short of it is this: “The visualization of the summit meetings was remarkably consistent: the USSR was seen as a progressive and dynamic actor, the United States as a source of resistance to peace initiatives.” The CBC, Cooper writes, “advanced the vision of a progressive USSR and a dangerous United States.” 

In short, government-paid journalists in a free country – Canada – sided with one of the most oppressive regimes in history. As Cooper puts it, “CBC visualizations were ‘objectively’ in the service of Soviet propaganda.”

Cooper goes on to note that the philosophy guiding CBC coverage of US-Soviet relations was “moral equivalence.” Basically, this view assumes that the USA and Soviet Union – liberal democracy and Marxist totalitarianism – have similar virtues and vices, so one side should not be seen as morally superior to the other. 

But the “moral equivalence” position was garbage, as Cooper explains.

“The doctrine of moral equivalence, which is the articulate conceptual statement that the CBC operationalized in its coverage of the Soviet Union, ignored the most fundamental distinction in political life, the distinction between tyrannical and non-tyrannical forms of government. This omission led to such otherwise inexplicable curiosities as equating or balancing U.S. support for the Afghan mujahedeen with the Soviet invasion of that country. Moreover, some stories did more than bend over backwards or forwards to excuse the actions of a tyranny.”

So there you have it. The CBC created a smokescreen for Marxists before the fall of the Soviet Union, the ultimate “progressive” state. But it’s important to realize that during the Cold War, Canada’s taxpayer-funded state broadcaster ran interference for the most powerful Marxist dictatorship in history. 

30 years after the end of the Cold War we are left to consider: what is the CBC’s agenda for us now?

Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’

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