U.S. Blogger Rattles Canada’s Liberal Party
The mainstream press is catching on to the story of Ed Morrissey’s impact in breaking open the scandal that may kill Canada’s Liberal Party.
An American blogger has suddenly emerged as a force in Canadian politics. Edward Morrissey, a 42-year-old Minneapolis area call-center manager who runs a Web log, or blog, called Captain’s Quarters as a hobby, last Saturday began posting allegations of corruption that reached the highest levels of the Canadian Liberal Party. The postings violate a publication ban instituted a few days earlier by a federal judge, Justice John Gomery, who is leading an investigation into accusations of money laundering and kickbacks in a government program from the 1990’s that was aimed at undermining Quebec separatists.
The scandal, which involves government payments of up to $85 million to a handful of Montreal advertising firms for little or no work, has dominated national politics for a year and led to the Liberals losing their majority in the House of Commons last June. But Justice Gomery moved to limit dissemination of information from the otherwise public hearing in Montreal so as not to influence potential jurors for coming trials in which a government bureaucrat and two advertising executives face criminal charges.
Journalists and anyone else can attend the so-called Gomery commission hearings, and Mr. Morrissey said one of them, whom he would not identify, had approached him and had been passing him information for his blog. Mr. Morrissey has cautioned that he is basing his reporting on that one source, who he has said he believes to be reliable, and that he has not corroborated the information. Canadian journalists who have attended the hearings, or have spoken to those who have, say Mr. Morrissey’s postings of the allegations, which have been made by a single witness, are generally accurate, though not complete.
Mr. Gomery, meanwhile, is considering lifting the ban, now that so many people know so much about the proceedings.
While the Canadian news media have not reported explicitly what Mr. Morrissey is posting, their newspaper articles and television features about his work have led Canadians to visit Captain’s Quarters (www.captainsquartersblog.com) to read the latest scandalous details. Mr. Morrissey said his blog had been flooded since Canadian CTV television first reported on its existence and contents Sunday night, and that he was now getting 400,000 hits a day. “This is a historic moment for blogs,” Mr. Morrissey said in a telephone interview. “The point of having free speech and a free press is to have people informed. These information bans are self-defeating for free societies. The politicians know, the media knows, but the Canadian voters are left in the dark and that’s a backwards way of doing things.”
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Traffic on the website was so heavy that it crashed and was unavailable for an hour and a half Tuesday, Morrissey said. He attributes the added traffic to Canadian readers. “Within hours of [the blog] being posted people found it and were passing it around,” said Bob Cox, night editor of the Toronto newspaper, The Globe and Mail. “There was a great desire amongst Canadians for the information.” Before the blog was discovered, a number of news media outlets had hired a lawyer in anticipation of challenging the publication ban, Cox said. That effort could be bolstered now that the blog has turned water cooler talk into easily accessible, widespread information, he said.
Morrissey has received news media attention in Canada, where because of the ban the news media cannot explicitly discuss information on his blog. “As a Canadian journalist, I can tell you it’s frustrating,” Cox said. “Every Canadian with a computer can sit down and read it, but we can’t publish it. We’re kind of envious that he [Morrissey] can do this.”
As with any other media outlet, Morrissey’s tipster could turn out to be mistaken or lying. For that matter, a non-blog reporter for the Star-Tribune or any other non-Canadian paper could have published the story on the paper’s website. The story, does, though show the incredible speed at which blogs can disseminate information.