I Now Pronounce You: Political Allies

Love is in the air, folks! And all over the front page of the Saturday Cape Breton Post.

If you turned off your critical brain and simply let it wash over you, you could respond with a doting smile and best wishes for the bride and…mayor.

Front page Cape Breton Post story about Lisa Raitt's wedding.

Front page of the Cape Breton Post, Saturday 3 September 2016. I added the heart.

Yeah, my critical brain just won’t turn off. It seems to have some kind of emergency backup generator. Instead of seeing Milton MP (and Sydney home girl) Lisa Raitt’s Ben Eoin wedding as a lovely, private affair, I saw it as the presiding justice of the peace did—an event to be milked for political gain.

That’s because the JP in question was incumbent CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke. We know this because he gave an interview to the Post, apparently shortly before the ceremony, explaining that his JP designation, had been bestowed upon him by current Justice Minister Diana Whalen in recognition of his status as “a former provincial justice minister and attorney general.”

(What he—and the Post—failed to mention is that he’s an “administrative” JP, that is, a private citizen, without a law degree, authorized to perform civil ceremonies in the province of Nova Scotia. He can’t be a “presiding” JP because he is not now nor has he ever been a lawyer. He can’t be a “staff” JP because he is not employed by the court services division of the Department of Justice. Ergo, he must be an administrative JP, one of 103 in a province which is actively looking to recruit more. His status as a former attorney general and justice minister has no bearing on the matter.)

Even as a lowly “administrative JP,” though, Clarke managed to shine. In fact, he shone so brightly, he upstaged the groom, featuring in two photos—a headshot on the front page and what looks like a wedding photo of him and Raitt on page A4—to the groom’s zero. The Post doesn’t even get around to mentioning the groom’s name (Bruce Wood) until the third paragraph of the story, referring to him in the sub-headline as simply, “port CEO.”

(Did you catch that, voters? The mayor was rubbing elbows with an actual “port CEO” this past weekend. Two, if you include Raitt herself, who was once CEO of the Toronto Port Authority. Oh my.)



On the bright side, the over-the-top wedding coverage solved two big mysteries for me: 1) why did Cecil Clarke launch his election campaign twice? and 2) Why did the Post not cover the second launch on Thursday?

The answers are:

1) To take advantage of Raitt’s presence. She attended the Thursday campaign launch at Lady of Fatima church in Sydney River.

2) Because even the Post knows you can’t keep launching your mayoral campaign until you get the reaction you want. Besides, it had done its duty by the mayor in the Thursday edition of the paper, publishing a non-story about Albert Barbusci and the port, and would follow up on Saturday with the wedding spread. It could afford to take a break on Friday and focus instead on ailing District 4 Councilor Claire Detheridge who introduced Clarke at his re-launch.

Does any of this matter?

Yes, chiefly because it shows, yet again, how deeply in the mayor’s corner our paper of record is. Media coverage in an election period matters, and the Post has been giving Clarke generous coverage in “news” stories of very questionable value. Why is Lisa Raitt’s wedding front page news? People get married all the time in Cape Breton and have to pay to announce it in the Post. Clarke himself has performed two other ceremonies we know nothing about. Raitt’s wedding, if Google News is to be trusted, generated precisely one story: the Post‘s. (CBC covered it by adding one line to a story headlined: “Time to decide whether to seek Tory leadership, says former MP Peter McKay.”)

But most obviously, it was her wedding. It was a “relatively small, family affair” (I guess James Rajotte, Leona Aglukkaq and Ted Menzies count as “family”).

It only became news because the Post was alerted. Why? To give Raitt’s good friend Cecil Clarke a little boost in his campaign to be re-elected.


Of course, it may well backfire. Raitt is, after all, a representative of a political party that was wiped off the electoral map in Atlantic Canada during the last federal election. But just because it might not work doesn’t mean I’m letting the Post off the hook: this is not providing the public with the information it needs to make informed decisions during an election year. This is providing free publicity to one of the candidates and it really needs to stop.



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