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Federal election: Highlights of Tyee coverage

As elections do, this one offered an opportunity to consider the major issues facing Canadians – while savouring the inevitable exploding cigars stuck in the craws of campaigners. The Tyee covered it all, breaking more than a few stories.

The biggest issues this election? Economist Marc Lee traced why the U.S. meltdown puts the heat on Canada, and Mel Hurtig argued that safeguarding Canada’s sovereignty against U.S. ambitions was priority number one.

Other contributors suggested the critical sleeper issues were tightening corporate control of our media, reversing the softwood deal, or even the very way we measure our wealth and happiness.

John Ryan made a plea for a Liberal, NDP, Green coalition government.

Murray Dobbin was early to explore the pros and cons of voting strategically to stop a Tory majority.

The Tyee also ran stories on how the web has evolved strategic voting 2.0, and we cautiously offered our own guide to strategic voting in B.C.

The prospect of a Harper majority appeared to fade as Quebec lashed back against his perceived insensitivity to the value of government support for culture. If so, he may have misread his own base. As The Tyee reported, many B.C. rural towns are banking on cultural industries to reinvent themselves.

Meanwhile, we compared the various parties’ platforms on a range of issues, from eco-friendly energy subsidies to home owners to the needs of the aging and women voters.

Harper’s media friends

In the end The Globe and Mail and The Vancouver Sun endorsed voting for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. The Tyee doesn’t make endorsements. Our own contributors are diverse in their political perspectives and we believe it wouldn’t be democratic to seem to speak for all of them.

But while Big Media pretty much took at face value Harper’s claim to be a moderate, largely non-ideological politician who’d shrewdly managed the Canadian economy, The Tyee offered different analyses. Examples:

Conservative communications pro David Sachs argued that Harper gummed up Parliament’s committee process for a reason -- he wanted us to believe minority governments don’t work.

Murray Dobbin deconstructed Harper’s “family values” pitch and listed six ways the PM’s policies were hurting Canada’s economic future.

Ellen Gould’s well-documented article revealed how Harper and his finance minister Jim Flaherty had not only welcomed dodgy U.S. mortgage financiers into our market, but backed them with increased insurance from Canadian taxpayers, all the while pushing a hard line of deregulation at governments of developing countries seeking our aid.

We also noticed that a couple of past Tyee stories drew a lot of renewed traffic this election season. They were:

Harper, Bush Share Roots in Controversial Philosophy,” Donald Gutstein’s tracing of neo-conservative “Straussians” in key positions in both leaders’ camps.

And Tom Barrett’s “What DID Harper Say? The Conservative Leader's sound bite file on everything from taxes to Iraq, health care, gay marriage, nature, left-wingers and keeping flexible.”

Feeding your cravings

For the political junkie wanting face time with controversial candidates, Tyee reporters delivered interviews with Elizabeth May, Tory campaign manager David Emerson and NDP Vancouver-Centre candidate Michael Byers (who explained why he turned down running with Stephane Dion’s Liberals).

Tyee Victoria bureau chief Andrew MacLeod broke the story of a local revolt against Tory Resource Minister Gary Lunn’s million dollar “green” grant to rich homeowners in his Saanich-Gulf Islands riding.

We analyzed hot races including Lunn’s and the razor thin grudge match in North Island.

Veteran analyst Will McMartin connected dots elsewhere in B.C. in his ten-part series Charting the Votes.

And if that didn’t satisfy your political cravings, we kept you up to date on which candidate was thriving on Facebook, pausing along the way to poke fun at the whole enterprise via Mark Leiren-Young’s “Campaign Silliness So Far.”

Candidates on The Hook

The Tyee launched its news blog The Hook just in time for the election, and many of our most read news breakers appeared there first.

Hook editor Monte Paulsen was first to report the involvement of Tory MPs with the RCMP funded research to slam the Insite clinic.

When a recording of Green Leader Elizabeth May seeming to say Canadians are “stupid” popped up on the web, The Hook broke the story that the Greens were calling the tape a fake and threatening to sue a blogger and others over it.

We also reported the Greens admitting the tape was real, but that May didn’t mean to say what it seemed she was saying.

When it came to light that parts of Harper’s speech in favour of invading Iraq were lifted from Australian PM John Howard’s words, The Hook discovered that Harper’s plagiarizing speechwriter was still selling books through the Fraser Institute.

The Hook was early to report the naked facts that caused NDP candidate Julian West to drop out of the Saanich-Gulf Islands race.

And remember the fervent New Democrat seniors who were amazed to find themselves smooching on a Liberal party TV ad? The Hook broke that one, too.

The Hook’s fast flow of short, well categorized political news items has proven a success, drawing 116,000 page views in the first five weeks of its existence. It’s here to stay.

Indeed, when the election is over, please continue to check The Hook and The Tyee for more political coverage. Just ahead, after all, are a couple of provincial by-elections at the end of this month, municipal elections in November along with a fairly important contest just south of the Canadian border, and then the B.C. provincial election in May. We will do our best to keep you informed and well clear of exploding cigars.

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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