There’s a debate over at BC Blue regarding the disclosure by CBC’s Peter Mansbridge that a panellist on his At Issue show, Bruce Anderson, has a daughter who works for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. The debate is whether Anderson is in a conflict of interest by being a panellist on the show.
Reading the comments, I sense tribalism at play—not always a bad thing, by the way. Much is made of the fact that Anderson has worked for the Liberals in a number of capacities. But what of his brother, Rick Anderson, who has been a Liberal early on and then a Reform Party supporter and a current member of the board of directors of the conservative Manning Centre? Shouldn’t he, at least, be a balance for the Bruce’s daughter?
Tribalism, advocating for your political party or movement, is a good/healthy thing, in my opinion. But, even so, I don’t believe in the principle that my-side-is-right-your-side-is-wrong regardless of the facts or situation. Coherent thought, I believe, requires some degree of balance.
Now, I don’t want readers to think I’m picking on BC Blue as being unnecessarily biased. It’s clearly a conservative blog and makes no claims to be otherwise. I am a fan and regular reader.
But, on this point, I disagree with BC Blue. Anderson, in my view, is not in a conflict of interest—no more than is Warren Kinsella writing for Sun Media, or was Tom Flanagan when he was a regular on CBC and Tim Powers who appears frequently on CBC’s Power and Politics.
Once one starts down the conflict of interest road, there is the danger—not in this case I’m sure—of a public witch hunt. And one can get caught up in all sorts murky contradictions.
A commenter on BC Blue’s Anderson disclosure post writes, in part, “We’ve had some polling flops of late, they’ve been far off the mark which leads us to wonder what exactly is going on.” Taken in the context of Anderson’s Liberal roots, this comment seems to be a jab at Anderson’s connection with Abacus Data, a well known public opinion and marketing research firm. Could the suggestion here be that this firm fudges polls?
Let’s hope not! I often rely on the polls published by Abacus to get a sense of the prevailing winds on the political front in Canada, and it’s preposterous to believe they would fudge their data for some sort of political advantage.
Abacus polls are frequently used by Sun News Network and its CEO Dr. David Coletto appears often on that network. And, as it happens, Bruce Anderson is the chairman of Abacus Data. What then of conflict of interest for Dr. Colette? As I said, preposterous. By the way, the aforementioned Tim Powers is also on the board of Abacus Data. What should we make of that? Powers is a well known conservative; how disloyal is he for consorting with the “enemy?”
Most, if not all, people who are asked to be pundits on television have a political slant. Many live politics and that is one of the main reasons they are selected for these shows. In this case, Peter Mansbridge disclosed on air that Anderson’s daughter worked for the Liberals. (Perhaps Mansbridge was amiss for not also mentioning brother Rick Anderson’s conservative connections.) That’s good enough for me. There may very well be bias in Anderson’s commentary, but no conflict of interest here, at least, that is how I see it.