Liberal Leader Stephane Dion appears over-saturated and out of focus in the tape provided to Canadian networks on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion appears over-saturated and out of focus in the tape provided to Canadian networks on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008.

Liberals apologize for late delivery of Dion video

Updated Wed. Dec. 3 2008 10:48 PM ET

Josh Visser, CTV.ca News

The Liberals have apologized for Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's taped televised address, after it was delivered to Canadian networks almost an hour past deadline and in near-cellphone quality.

"I apologize for what happened tonight. I apologize for the poor quality and the lateness. I am livid and am doing an investigation as to how this happened," Johanne Senecal, Dion's Chief of Staff, said to CTV News tonight.

Dion was supposed to deliver the networks a pre-taped statement to the nation Wednesday between 6:15 p.m. and 6:30 ET. It was to air after Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the country at 7 p.m. ET about the political crisis on Parliament Hill.

CTV, along with other major Canadian networks, pre-empted regularly scheduled programming to deliver the addresses. Harper went to air shortly after 7 p.m. but networks were left scrambling to fill airspace when Dion's tape was nowhere to be found.

Alphée Moreau, a senior Liberal communication staffer, explained how the series of technical mistakes on their part resulted in an embarrassing snafu.

The timeline (all times ET):

  • 6:15-6:30 - The Liberals miss their promised deadline to deliver Dion's statement to the television networks.
  • 6:40 - Liberals arrive with a single tape at the press gallery in Ottawa. They were supposed to deliver two tapes: one in French, one in English. They arrived with a single tape in DVD-minicam format, which is not broadcast quality.
  • Shortly after 6:40 - The Liberals decide to run back to their offices -- a block away -- because the French portion of the tape needs another edit.
  • 7:05 - Liberal staffers are still in their offices as the networks go to air with the Harper address.
  • 7:07 - Harper's statement finishes and network anchors are forced to kill time as they wait for Dion's address.
  • 7:10 to 7:15 - Liberal staffers arrive back at the press gallery on Wellington Street with a DVD-minicam player that they had taken from their own offices, along with the associated cables. There is still only one tape, not two. A press gallery official tells the Liberals that the gallery is not the feed point and an argument ensues. The Liberals ask why they weren't told that earlier. The feed point is next door at the CBC building, which is the long-established feed play point for all network pools. The Liberals are informed that they need to be walked into the building by authorized staff.
  • 7:20 - English network anchors are still live on television, wondering where the tape is. CTV has still had no communications from the Liberals about Dion's address.
  • Approximately 7:15 - CBC receives the tape and begins dubbing into French and English versions. This takes about 10 minutes.
  • 7:28 - CTV decides to go off-air and back to regular scheduled programming at 7:30. CTV has still not seen a feed of the tape.
  • 7:28 - CBC incorrectly punches out the finished feed only to their network.
  • 7:30 - CTV signs off broadcast at scheduled time.

"We missed our deadline," Moreau said. "The shot was not all that professional. It was soft-focused."

CTV received angry emails within minutes of signing off. Some viewers thought CTV was ignoring the Liberal leader, while others thought Dion was purposely snubbing the network.

Dion's coalition partners were both angry and embarrassed by the Liberal address.The NDP said Wednesday's fiasco undermined the credibility of the coalition, CTV's Robert Fife reported.

"I'm told that (Bloc Quebecois Leader) Gilles Duceppe ran into Mr. Dion in the elevator and asked 'What the hell happened?' and Mr. Dion said, 'We're not used to being in opposition," Fife said.

Jean Lapierre, broadcast journalist and former Liberal MP, mocked the party's video address.

"This was the cheapest video. I don't know if the Liberal party has financial problems, but they didn't have to go to a high school kid to get their video made," he said on CTV's Mike Duffy Live. "You ask people to forget about their normal TV show tonight. We did that on TVA."

A million people were waiting for a show called "La Poule aux oeufs d'or," he said, adding "We didn't even get the egg!"

The blogsphere was quick to pounce on Dion's bumbling performance.

"Stephane Dion was late for the show, looked kind of red faced, and seemed to be getting a couple of bucks for the bankrupt Liberal Party for the product placement of a book entitled, and I kid you not, "Hot Air," wrote the Alberta Ardvark blog Wednesday.


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