Exclusive: CBC’s Bruce Anderson responds to my criticism of daughter working for Trudeau

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This is the correspondence between myself and Bruce Anderson after it was disclosed on CBC’s The National that his daughter works for Trudeau (see earlier post here).

Anderson:

Further to your comments, I thought it would be useful to share a bit of detail about my background and perspective.  I respect that you are entitled to your opinion about my commentary, and that this information may not affect your view in any way.

I started working in the polling business with Decima Research in 1983, when the company was the pollster for the federal PC Party.  In the years that followed, I did polling for and provided advice to several Conservative leaders (Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark, Jean Charest) and senior Ministers such as Mike Wilson, Lowell Murray, and Harvie Andre.  I provided counsel on many issues, from Canada US Free Trade, to Meech Lake, Deficit Reduction, the GST, and The Charlottetown Accord.  I played a senior role in the 1997 campaign at the request of Jean Charest.  Subsequently, I also provided some polling and advice for Paul Martin when he was Finance Minister and Liberal Leader.

Since I began providing political and election polling to The Canadian Press and other media organizations almost 10 years ago I’ve not worked for or with any political party.

On the question of family relationships, our family doesn’t really work the way you suspect.  My wife was Legislative Advisor to Joe Clark when he was PM and then worked for Premier Bill Davis.  My brother, who is also my business partner, Rick Anderson, is a prominent conservative commentator on CTV, and ran two national Reform Party campaigns.

I believe that it is wrong to assume that any one of these relationships imply an automatic bias, as everyone is entitled to a unique point of view, and to have their views judged on the merit of the thought, not familial relationships. In my case, the influences are quite diverse, in any event. In our family, we have a strong belief that a contribution in politics or public policy is a good thing to do, regardless of partisan orientation.

I do my best to disclose relevant relationships (and had disclosed my daughter’s work before), so that people are free to form their own opinions about my commentary.  Over the years I have developed communications campaigns for a wide range of organizations, including, of late, oil and gas producers and pipeline companies, which I’ve also disclosed on air.  I feel that’s an honourable approach, you may feel otherwise.

Recently, I agreed to serve as Chairman of Abacus Data at the request of a couple of prominent Conservatives in that firm.  I am not an owner or shareholder of Abacus.  Abacus is the polling provider for Sun Media, and the President of the company appears regularly on Sun TV programs.  The findings you linked to, come from a longer poll, some of the data of which was conducted for and reported by Sun.

You also mentioned my investment in National Newswatch.  As it is an aggregator, I wasn’t sure in what way you felt it could constitute a conflict, it picks up stories from a wide array of news organizations and makes space available for commentary from different perspectives, this is central to the success of the business.

Naturally, I can’t control what people surmise about my views, so I concentrate on making sure my own ethical dial is set where I think it should be.   I relish the fact that people in my life have different, often conflicting, views about good public policy and politics, rather than wish it weren’t so.  The ability to disagree without being disagreeable is part of what makes Canada such a great country, in my opinion.

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Me:

Thank you for replying but my initial questions would be:

1) In what capacity is your daughter working for Trudeau?

2) Knowing your daughter’s employment depends on Trudeau’s success how can you possibly avoid being in a conflict of interest as a CBC commentator?

3) Your investment in National Newswatch is in a business that picks and chooses which news stories to feature thus swaying the political discourse via viewership and coverage. How do you respond to the criticism that as a pollster, this is a direct contradiction to being impartial?

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Anderson:

I respect that you have a point of view, and that it will be different from mine.  However,  there seems little point in trying to have a dialog about this.  It feels as though you just want to believe I’m unethical, and will ignore any and all facts that are inconvenient to that thesis.  It’s a free country

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Me:

Pretty straight-forward, obvious and legitimate questions – not sure why you are refusing to respond?

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Anderson:

My daughter is an adult in her own right.  I’m not going to discuss her with you.  If you feel that is wrong, so be it.

I’ve described my different business activities for you, but you default to an assumption that my daughter’s work creates a surpassing financial conflict.  It’s ludicrous.

I’ve explained that Newswatch strives to reach a very large audience, by featuring stories that attract a broad and large audience.  You  ignore the basic point of the business.  And I simply have no idea why it would have anything to do with my work in polling.

I made a sincere effort to engage you in a reasonable discussion, but I sense you just want to continue to hurl accusations.  It’s your right.  But we are done here.

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8 Responses to “Exclusive: CBC’s Bruce Anderson responds to my criticism of daughter working for Trudeau”

  1. Guffman Says:

    Seems like a decent guy in his reply, and may well be, but he’s just not ‘getting’ the bad optics of political polling, picking political news stories to highlight, and engaging in political commentary on national television, while his daughter works for the man trying to become our next Prime Minister (and funny he won’t mention in what capacity). Even if Anderson *thought* Trudeau was doing a terrible job as a leader, it’s most unlikely or believable he’s going to smack down JT on national TV, when his daughter’s employment could be at stake.
    I realize he’s going to continue doing the work he always has regardless of where his daughter finds employment, but at the very least I don’t think he should continue as a national CBC political expert or commentator. If he has to give the disclosure he did, he shouldn’t be there anymore than if his daughter worked for Stephen Harper.

  2. Liz J Says:

    Guess you’ve been fobbed off Dean. Waffling is the usual tack taken when cornered and the truth might be damaging to his credibility as a neutral pollster or posing as a neutral commentator.

  3. From Where I. Sit Says:

    From where I sit, leaders (Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark, Jean Charest) were, none of them, conservative. They were predominantly Progressives.

  4. Brenton Siddons Says:

    It is still a conflict of interest ..and he knows it.

    • ohboy Says:

      Yes it is Brenton but it is a conflict of interest that he is comfortable with and therefore feels everyone else should be too.
      After all is said and done his public image is pretty well manicured.

  5. Maryls Says:

    It is nice to know that Anderson thinks he is not biased. Ultimately, the problem is not his to solve. The problem is with the CBC. Why have they made no effort to include Conservative-leaning people on their panel, or at least not include someone who would be perceived as having a conflict of interest. Anderson is not the problem. The CBC is.


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