The Agenda, TVO's current affairs show, is leading the pack early on in this election period - for covering news and creating it.
Within the space of three days, the show can list two feats of political relevance:
First, when mild-mannered host Steve Paikin got Elizabeth May and the Green war room to tap-dance around a strange clip of May seeming to say that Canadians are "stupid" (with CTV and the other networks playing catch up).
And second, a few days later, when the same show forced the Conservatives to dismantle part of the party's website.
May, in an October 2007 appearance on the Agenda, May was asked why there is so little political will for a carbon tax. She responded: "All the other politicians are scared to death to mention the word tax and they think Canadians are stupid and cannot - I fundamentally agree with that assessment. But most politicians..." (Watch it here).
After a Blogging Tory unearthed the footage, May was forced to address what was said. Here's that exchange with Paikin:
May: "What happened is, I do have a tendency to talk fairly quickly, and I can remember we taped the segment on the Monk Center and I..."
Paikin: "It was live, actually..."
May: "Yeah...oh, but I watched on TV later..."
Paikin: "Right. We did it live at eight o'clock, and then you watched it later at eleven."
May: "O.K., so I watched it later at eleven to see how it was and I watched and I thought 'Oh, what happened there?' And I remember the beginning of when I'm talking the mic wasn't on and then it came to me and it ended up raising the volume on one part of my sentence and somebody else said something so I was fundamentally disagreeing with that assessment but turning away so the way it all worked out -- and I could swear on a stack of Bibles and if anyone watches it they can see, plus the audience at the time understood what I was saying -- I was sitting next to John Duffy, and Andrew Coyne was down the other end, and you were there -- and if I had ever said in front of a room full of anybody that I thought Canadians were stupid I don't think that would have passed without comment, so people at the time and in the moment understood what I had just said, but with the lifting the quote out of context, the putting it on a blog site and alleging that I'd said that, it's created a bit of a firestorm, but anyone who watched my speech at the launch of the campaign on Sunday morning knows that my firm and passionate commitment is to be of service to people in this country and convince them that democracy works..."
Whatever it all amounts to - May has covered her tracks here in several different manners, which are confusing and sometimes contradictory - the whole flap played well for TVO. It was a self-sustained controversy, starting and (perhaps?) ending with The Agenda.
Then, on Friday, the same show forced the fingertips of the notaleader.ca web developer to rearrange the Conservative attack site: No longer can it feature Stephane Dion's TVO-taped Agenda sound bites or television appearances, which were once used without permission.
This Agenda post sums it all up, with a nod to Bill C-61, the Conservative copyright bill that notaleader.ca so ironically violated. Good show. (If only the BBC would take the same action for the head-scratching Michael Ignatieff clip at the bottom-right of that egregious site.)
And of course Paikin, who, it should be reminded, only airs in Ontario, will host the national leaders debate on October 2.