Friday, June 22, 2007

Vroom Vroom

Seems that my and other bloggers comments on the Conservatives 'C' Car in the Canadian NASCAR races has raised hackles on the right; here and here.

They of course both fit the NASCAR profile of 'voters' the Conservatives claim to 'want' to represent.

63% of fans at the track and viewers at home are between the ages of 30-49.
69% of motorsports fans make between $30,000 - $75,000 a year.
74% are homeowners.
75% are males.

Running a car in NASCAR Canada is what we call advertising to the converted.

The 12-race series will likely attract about 70,000 people across Canada -- the only B.C. stop is Vernon -- with some additional viewers on TV.

"This is a unique opportunity for the Conservative party to reach out to Canadians," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in a release.

NASCAR has a big middle-class fan base that the Tories want to get their message out to.

Immigration Minister Diane Finley says sponsoring a car is a way for the Conservatives to tap into that following.

A Conservative source said the goal is to reach middle-class voters who don't like current Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion and have bad memories of Brian Mulroney's leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party from 1984 to 1993.

"We're targeting what we have termed the Canadian Tire voter. It's basically a middle-income house owner in suburban areas, regional centres and rural communities with a do-it-yourself mentality. These people in the past have often seen the Conservative Party as out-of-touch and elitist," the source said.

Despite its popularity in America, in Canada motor sports are still elitist, as are Harpers Conservatives.

This spring's budget served up a sprinkling of tax and spending initiatives for everyone from seniors to farmers, and Conservative strategists have identified a number of segments to target, such as the "Tim Hortons" crowd and the "Canadian Tire" crowd.

Greg Weston of the Sun makes a good point about why we should be concerned about this and other Conservative party political advertising. We pay for it as taxpayers, but the party is not accountable to the public for its spending, which even the boys on the right should be outraged about.

But so far, they have all missed the real question that should be of interest to the vast majority of Canadian taxpayers: Whose money is it, anyway?

If the NASCAR deal were being paid entirely by donors to the Conservative party, it would not be an issue to anyone but those who have coughed up the contributions.

But it's not a private party issue.

Thanks to the genius of Jean Chretien's banning of corporate and union donations, Canadian taxpayers now fund the federal parties to the tune of roughly $28 million this year.

More than $10 million of that will go directly into the coffers of the Conservative party to spend on pretty much anything it wants.

Add to that the tax deductions for individual contributions to the Conservative party, and probably close to two-thirds of the money in the Tories' overflowing till is coming from taxpayers' pockets.

And while NASCAR fans express their outrage over comments made about the Conservatives opportunism lets not forget that other little fact, this is a kick back to their pal Pierre Bourque who writes his headlines for them.

It turns out the party logo - a big blue "C" - appears on the hood of the car driven by Pierre Bourque, whose popular Internet news aggregator sells torqued headlines to political operatives.

Bourque's website confirmed the connection Monday, linking to a story by Inside Track Motorsport News that noted his Dodge Charger is the sponsored Tory vehicle.

Research on the business model for Bourque Newswatch suggests the federal Conservative party has just guaranteed itself favourable coverage for the foreseeable future by sponsoring Bourque's hobby.

Past and current Bourque clients have confirmed to The Canadian Press that advertisers on the site can expect flattering headlines or links, or headlines and links denigrating their opponents.

The Conservative party refuses to confirm or deny that it employs Bourque's headline service directly. But months of negative headlines and links to scathing blogs about Liberal Leader Stephane Dion on Bourque Newswatch indicate someone with an axe to grind is paying the news aggregator, which openly advertises its headline service for sale.

When the Conservatives announced the NASCAR sponsorship Sunday, they also neglected to mention the sponsored vehicle is driven by Bourque.

Instead, the party's news release referred to Whitlock Motor Sports.

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