Alberta Politics
Calgary physician Joe Vipond at a recent rally in Edmonton pushing the Kenney Government not to abandon COVID-19 testing, tracing and isolation (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Where did CTV’s story attacking physician Joe Vipond, advocate for stricter COVID-19 testing and tracing, come from?

Posted on August 10, 2021, 1:36 am
11 mins

Between 2005 and 2011, CTV Television Inc. donated nearly $10,000 to the Alberta Conservatives.

This interesting information can be found on Elections Alberta’s website using the provincial election agency’s contributor-search tool.

Dr. Vipond in a typical pose (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It was entirely legal. It took place back in the days when the Progressive Conservatives were in power and political donations in Alberta operated under Wild West rules – which is to say, essentially no rules at all.

Just the same, it matters. We’ll get back to why in a moment. 

But first, dear readers, you need to know that someone somehow associated with Alberta’s current United Conservative Party Government used the same tool last week to see if Dr. Joe Vipond, a prominent critic of the government’s COVID-19 policies, had made any donations to the Opposition New Democrats.

They discovered that, over the previous seven years, the Calgary Emergency Room physician had donated $19,387.50 to the Alberta NDP. 

This is not really surprising. In addition to his medical practice, Dr. Vipond is a passionate long-time advocate for the elimination on health and environmental grounds of coal-powered electricity generation.

Lately, he has been a thorn in the Kenney Government’s side with his critical social media commentary about the UCP’s response to COVID-19, which has been detailed, science-based and has a history of making worrisome predictions that turn out to be accurate. 

In the past few weeks, he’s organized a series of well-attended rallies calling on the province to abandon its plan to eliminate most testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, and the requirement for infected persons to isolate. This has obviously gotten under Premier Jason Kenney’s skin. 

Premier Jason Kenney’s “Director of Issues Management,” Matt Wolf (Photo: Facebook).

Armed with that information, Mr. Kenney’s personal Internet troll, so-called “director of issues management” Matt Wolf, published an attack tweet on July 30 that asked, “Would the media make someone who has donated in excess of $20,000 to the Alberta NDP their go-to commentator without even *mentioning* apparent partisan affiliation?”

Maybe the UCP was sore because so many more Albertans are donating money to the NDP nowadays than to the UCP, which as the government in power should have had a fund-raising advantage. Many of those people are not necessarily NDP partisans. They’re just Albertans who are frightened by and frustrated with the UCP’s mismanagement and risky policies.

Be that as it may, on Aug. 4, a story appeared in an online publication called True North, which one suspects doth protest too much when it claims to provide “fair, accurate, truthful and fact-based news reports.” 

Under the headline, “Calgary doc who claims ‘no ties’ to Alberta NDP has donated nearly $20,000 to party,” the story appears to this reader to portray Dr. Vipond in a negative light, implying he is not being honest when he “claims” he has no affiliation with the NDP. 

It quotes Brock Harrison, Premier Kenney’s director of communications, saying, “Nearly $20,000 in partisan political donations to the Alberta NDP speaks for itself.”

Jason Kenney’s communications director, Brock Harrison (Photo: Linkedin).

On Aug. 8 – last Sunday – Mr. Wolf’s little scoop started appearing all over the place. 

A commentary by True North editor by Candice Malcolm showed up in that publication and, on the same day, in the pages of Postmedia’s Toronto Sun.

“Joe Vipond of Calgary has donated nearly $20,000 to the NDP between 2014 and 2019,” Ms. Malcolm wrote. She continued, “but surely it couldn’t be the same Joe Vipond. Surely he would have disclosed that before going on television, and he wouldn’t have been so adamant on social media that he has ‘no ties to the NDP.’”

Why would he? He’s a civilian, for crying out loud. I doubt it ever occurred to him.

Surely the Sun, though, run by professional journalists, would have disclosed that its column was pulled from a far-right website. Apparently it didn’t occur to Postmedia’s editors that the Sun should provide its readers with any information about who else the author of its column works for. 

The same day, the Sun ran a column by Brian Lilley, another regular on the far-right media circuit, stating that “a review of donations by the True North Centre shows the good doctor dropping just shy of $20,000 to the NDP over the past few years.”

Jason Kenney himself, the premier of Alberta (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

This raises an interesting question. Mr. Wolf publicized the facts, albeit in a misleading and inaccurate way, on July 30. Did he or someone at the UCP do the research, or did the True North Centre? Or did they both stumble upon it at the same time? 

Whatever happened, the same day, someone at CTV News Calgary published an online story under the headline “Critics accuse vocal Calgary doctor of close ties to NDP opposition.” 

The original story contained no mention of who these critics might be, or indeed what their criticisms were other than that Dr. Vipond had unspecified “ties to the NDP.” 

Unlike Mr. Wolf’s effort and the stories by writers generally associated with right-wing activism, when CTV’s story was noticed it prompted harsh criticism on social media. 

Subsequent to its original publication on Sunday, it has gone through several rewrites.

The story has received a couple of new headlines, for example, the first being “Calgary ER physician fighting for stricter COVID-19 policies comes under fire.” 

More recently, that was changed to “Member of Alberta premier’s staff questions Calgary doctor’s political motives as others rally to his defence.” 

This is better, or at least more fair, but if that’s all there is to the story, one wonders why CTV would bother publishing it in the first place. Talk about a source with zero credibility! 

Election Alberta’s search results for CTV Television’s past political conations (Image: Elections Alberta).

CTV also embedded links to Mr. Wolf’s tweets after the original attribution-free story was published, and later added mention of the tweets to the text of the story as well. 

While it didn’t appear in the story, a CTV newscast in Calgary also suggested Dr. Vipond intends to run for the NDP in the next provincial election, an assertion the physician denies. 

It is nonsense, Dr. Vipond told me yesterday. “The only thing I said about elections is that I was asked by three different parties to run in the 2015 election,” he said. “Speaks to my non-partisan nature.”

“I would suck as an MLA,” he added. “I can’t follow orders.” 

Yesterday morning, I asked CTV News Managing Editor Dawn Walton, an experienced former Globe and Mail reporter, if the original story met CTV’s standards for reporting.

If it doesn’t, I wondered, does CTV plan any additional remedial action beyond the addition of Mr. Wolf’s embedded tweets, the only change that had occurred at that hour. 

I have not yet received a response to my message, sent via Twitter DM. The subsequent changes to the story, however, suggest it did not come up to CTV’s standards, which is mildly reassuring. 

Still, it would be helpful to know how this story came to CTV News, and who persuaded CTV it was worth covering, and why it was published as it initially was. 

In the meantime, we now know from Elections Alberta that CTV Network donated generously to the Progressive Conservative Party, one of the two parties from which the UCP was formed.

Coincidence? One would hope so. 

Still, under the circumstances and the logic of its own journalism, it would be reasonable to wonder that the network is too connected to the Alberta Conservatives to be a reliable source of news on this topic.

31 Comments to: Where did CTV’s story attacking physician Joe Vipond, advocate for stricter COVID-19 testing and tracing, come from?

  1. Dave

    August 10th, 2021

    I suppose the beleagered UCP communications staff decided this week to have a discredit a critic day. Perhaps that is what one does when they can’t seem to win a war of public opinion or successfully challenge a critics message. It is a bit of dirty politics and desperation, both which well describe the UCP’s approach and current position. It is of course a sign a critic is quite succesfully getting to them.

    If the UCP communications staff were to attack everyone who gave sizable donations to other parties, it would become a full time job to increasingly occupy all their time. Doctors can and often do make significant political contributions, but of course writing a cheque does not mean they are closely involved with whatever party they financially support. Most people who write such cheques do not serve as party or constituency officials, or as candidates.

    Increasingly, doctors who often used to financially support more conservative parties in Alberta are not supporting parties such as the UCP lately. Gee, I wonder why. Yes, I suppose this must be quite frustrating for the UCP, but to some degree this lashing out is just another attack on doctors by them.

    This also does help illustrate the sometimes cozy relationship between major local media and Alberta’s Conservative parties. It is interesting to note where these attacks start and spread to.

    Also interesting that the CTV story did not include any disclosure of its own political contributions during the period in question. If the media really want to start looking contributions of others, they should be prepared to disclose their own, both of the organization and the individuals covering the story. Perhaps at the same time they can also explain how closely involved their contributions made them with a party.

  2. Anonymous

    August 10th, 2021

    There are interesting points that come up here. The first is, why are the UCP gambling with people’s lives, in such a complacent fashion? If people perish from the UCP’s outright neglect, the UCP will most certainly be sued. This has happened when Ralph Klein was premier of Alberta. Ralph Klein never cared about who was adversely affected by his senseless policies, and the UCP certainly do not, as they look up to Ralph Klein.
    Ralph Klein was mangling and cutting healthcare in Alberta, just so he could privatize it. The UCP are intent to finish the job. It’s no coincidence that the UCP put Janice MacKinnon on their Blue Ribbon Panel. Janice MacKinnon, an ex NDP MLA from Saskatchewan, who was more like a Ralph Klein, or Reform clone, closed down the rural hospitals in that province. The UCP wants someone to help them reach their goal of having private for profit healthcare in Alberta.
    Moreso, the Sun newspaper chain, and Postmedia, whom they are part of, clearly have an agenda. It is to support these pretend conservatives, such as the UCP, and blame the NDP and the Liberals for what is going on. Are Postmedia still contributing to the UCP, even though Rachel Notley and the NDP have prohibited donations to political parties in Alberta from corporations and unions? I do believe that the UCP has made it legal once again for corporations to make donations to political parties in Alberta. The hypocrisy of the UCP goes further, each and every time. How come no one has seen the list of the donors for the leader of the UCP? Why on earth are the UCP then gawking about a doctor donating to the NDP?
    Almost anything the Sun newspapers publish about the conservatives and UCP’s misdeeds, never makes the front page, no matter how bad it is, or no matter how many billions of dollars is wasted on it. Almost any letters they print from people put the UCP in a good light, and blame the NDP and Liberals for everything. They also forget how Ralph Klein turned the beneficial things Peter Lougheed did for Alberta into a horrendous mess.
    Dr. Joe Vipond is a medical professional. He has every right to criticize the UCP’s foolish policies, with their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It isn’t going to improve.
    CTV Calgary made some tabloid type allegations, that are akin to what that far right “media” outlet in Canada has been doing. They have to cover up their tracks, lest legal action is taken against them.
    Albertans need to smarten up and stop enabling these pretend conservatives and Reformers, before they do any more damage than they already have.

    • A from AB

      August 11th, 2021

      Interesting information as I always found CTV news unwatchable. Even non political news stories were usually poorly researched and had many errors in it. Why is everything in this province that has “right leaning” tendencies so poorly done? No wonder the rest of the world has such a low opinion of us.

  3. Dave in Sask

    August 10th, 2021

    CTV being owned by Bell Canada EnterprizesCcan hardly be considered non partisan. Nor can they be trusted as a news source. So when you watch CTV news you are not getting impartial news, but big business’ slant on it or right wing propaganda.

  4. Political Ranger

    August 10th, 2021

    – There Is No Alternative

    This is what the slobbering idiot who poses as Premier has to say in response to the damning and frightening IPCC report!

    Why is this clown still here?
    Of what possible use can he be; what value does his presence bring?

    Get rid of this POS!

  5. Nicholas Stuckey

    August 10th, 2021

    When I checked the link you included above, I found CTV but also notice the site does not disclose the name of the party receiving the contribution. You have other information?

    • David Climenhaga

      August 10th, 2021

      Nicholas: Search the name in the list. If anything comes up, click on the highlighted name and all will be revealed. The Elections Alberta tool is unwieldy and rather difficult to use. DJC

  6. Just Me

    August 10th, 2021

    It appears that the entire UCP troll farm and their fellow travellers have been marshalled to wrong one concerned citizen.

    Issues managers leaking disinformation to various media outlets and partisan bloggers just proves what Kenney is willing to do to smash any narrative that challenges his own. Even Brett Wilson got into this, declaring Dr. Joe Vipond to be some kind of Notley agent and an incompetent doctor. Yes, this is the level crass subterfuge that Kenney and Matt Wolf are willing to go to defend their alternate reality.

    Now, imagine if Kenney had a provincial police force to do his bidding? It would be like reign of terror of Premier Maurice Duplessis all over again. It wouldn’t just be defamation on social media — it could also include kidnapping.

  7. A little bird

    August 10th, 2021

    Four years ago is about when Kenney rolled into town in his stupid blue truck. I would wager a number of albertans bean donating to the NDP at that time. 4K a year? Peanuts. Who cares. Nothingburger

    Let’s talk about the “albertas future” pac many luminaries such as Stanley Milner gave generously to.

  8. Abd

    August 10th, 2021

    Why does this kind of skulduggery surprise us? CTV Calgary, or CFCN-TV, as it was known back in the day, has had ties to conservatives for decades. Its founder was Gordon Love, also a board member of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede for many years. His son Rod Love ran as a conservative, then became chief of staff to Alberta conservative premier Ralph Klein. The station was sold, but now we see that some things never change.

    As for the constantly evolving story and headlines of recent days, I suspect CTV has gotten an earful from their their online and television audiences, many of whom remember the days when media tried to be impartial or at least fair. Not everyone has taken leave of their critical thought processes.

    There is no excuse for scrutinizing private citizens in this way. So why do certain newspaper columnists fail to disclose that they are members of political parties? Why doesn’t this information appear with every byline? This is far more relevant than headlines screaming, “Private citizen was not a member of political party, but donated legally to one.”

    Since we’re going down this dark path, what comes next? Will the issues managers start tracing the identity of every person who shows up at a rally, and try to find “dirt” on them? If so, I suggest they look into one of the counter-protestors who identifies as an anarchist for hire. If I can find that information in less than two minutes, I’m sure they can, too.

    We need to remember that CTV has compromised its credibility when the 2023 provincial election rolls around. We need to use critical thinking with all media coverage in the post-Trump world. We need to call them out on this toxic behavior each and every time we see it.

    • Just Me

      August 10th, 2021

      CTV was compromised a long time ago, when Brian Mulhroney was seeking the PC leadership. CTV’s fawning and unquestioning devotion to the “Chin That Walks Like a Man” was unnerving even when they ramped down their adoration. But with the rise, comes the fall and even Mulhroney wound up on the bad side of CTV near the end.

      The rise of Stephen Harpo was also another CTV nonsense balloon that ignored that Harper was a GOP-hack. But considering that the Liberals were running Michael Ignatieff (AKA Bela Lugosi. ‘Canada…rise. Rise!’) walking over the Liberals was small sport.

      Of course, CTV wouldn’t go so far as to turn one of their news programs into a Jason Kenney/UCP infomercial. Postmedia did turn an entire two frontpage editions of the Edmonton Journal into UCP campaign flyers. And Calgary Herald columist Licia Corbella wrote over twenty columns declaring Kenney was the second-coming while she was a member of the UCP. Like an idiot, she tweeted a pic of herself proudly cast her ballot for Premier Midget, and once caught swore up and down that her membership had lapsed the day of the vote, so Postmedia had to scrub her twenty or so columns of flagelation for the Dear Leader from the Internets.

      Certain elements of the media maybe partisan, but they are also unbelievably stupid.

  9. Just Me

    August 10th, 2021

    Since I brought up the “Le Grand Chef”, I’ll keep going.

    I have made comparisons between Kenney and Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis) but it appears that Maurice Duplessis could be a doppleganger to Kenney.

    For one thing, it was not beneath Duplessis to use whatever resources of Quebec’s provincial government to trouble and destroy his opponents. Using the QPF as his storm troopers and muscle, Duplessis caused an overwhelming amount of mayhem against anyone who opposed his vision of Quebec. He was a religious zealot, openly engaged in religious persecution, a well-known antisemite, and a keen racist.

    Duplessis was a devout Catholic, had very close ties to the Catholic Church and permitted their influence in the government. And he was also a life-long bachelor. Sound familiar?

    • Abs

      August 10th, 2021

      After the Great Darkness came the Quiet Revolution. Perhaps present time in Alberta should be referred to as the Great Darkness, too, starting right now. There is hope. The Quiet Revolution has begun, before the ugly clouds of the storm have passed. Recognizing the problem is the beginning of fixing it.

      • Just Me

        August 11th, 2021

        The difference with the Quiet Revolution in Quebec was that it was urban-based and `not that quiet.

        Duplessis did all he could to suppress the urban revolutionaries, who he branded as communists, even to the point of ousting members of his own government and party. But like all tyrants, Duplessis met a shortened life and his allies were sent packing. After all the years of darkness and state-sponsored oppression, what else did rural social-conservatives expect? At least none of them were shown a guillotine or wholesale massacres at the hands of roving armies of angry urban dwellings. Say what one will about the French Revolution, they knew how to finish self-satisfied nobility.

  10. Stir the Pot

    August 10th, 2021

    So it was not the $m war room that started this? That would have been money well spent!

    CTV is wannabe Fox News. I don’t bother with it. I also don’t bother with National Post … and the tool called Rex Murphy. Some folks have just lost the ability to think straight without party filters.

  11. Athabascan

    August 10th, 2021

    Is it time for Albertans to ask their doctors which political party they donated to?

    I don’t want to be treated by a doctor who donates to the UCP. I also wouldn’t let “Dr” Hinshaw anywhere near my kids.

  12. Abs

    August 10th, 2021

    I remember when Jack Webster used to say, “Get to the point, caller.” Here’s the point.

    The UCP expect us to stand by while they do nothing to protect children in schools from the Covid Delta variant. Nothing. No masks, no temperature checks, no ventilation system upgrades, no air filtration, no sanitation. No testing, tracing or isolation. No reporting of outbreaks because of no testing and no tracing.

    Already we’ve seen an outbreak of the Delta variant and one death from Covid Delta in a care home in Edmonton.

    Unlike the elderly, children under 12 are not eligible for vaccination. Already we’ve seen children in other jurisdictions around the world falling ill from the Delta variant. Why would we want to subject our children to preventable illness, disability and death?

    We’ve also seen how our Alberta UCP government diverts public money to the unaccountable “war room”. The trust is gone. They are doing nothing for our children and nothing for the rest of us in Covid’s fourth wave. They are riding the fourth wave until 2023. This will not end well.

    Time for them to take out those earplugs that they’ve worn in the legislature, and face the music. They’ve got a whole heap of consequences waiting for them soon, all their own doing.

    • Abs

      August 10th, 2021

      660,000+ consequences at last count…

  13. brett

    August 10th, 2021

    Huge political mistake by the Kenney Government.

    The CTV piece does not matter.

    Parents care more about their children’s on going safety and well being than they do about any Premier, political party, of media piece.

    This concern will not be a 30 second blurb. It will be days and days of concern and anxiety about sending their children to school mask less or otherwise. Or the angst of signing up for on line at home schooling. Or their children’s angst.

    No amount bafflegab by the Premier or the Health Minister will overcome this. And I suspect that parents of school age children will not forget this when the next election comes around.

    I simply do not understand the reasoning other than placating some UCP members and supporters in rural areas.

    This is not about what right or the best course for Albertans. IMHO it is all about Kenney staving of a revolt inside of his UCP Party. Moreover, this is how I believe most voters in urban areas perceive it.

  14. Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

    August 10th, 2021

    Can I suggest one more headline change for CTV? How about,

    “Activist Put His Money Where His Mouth is.”

    I think that pretty much covers this so-called news item.

  15. pogo

    August 10th, 2021

    Listen up sensei! You need to piss in some cornflakes! Get some profile! Set fire to these poltroons! You have sources to protect sure but pull your pistol! You got a good eye still, to aim! Go get em!

  16. Bret larson

    August 10th, 2021

    Ndp = party of the rich. Not surprising. If you check out central Edmonton you can see all their propaganda signs on a lot of the rich abodes. Selling your vote appears to have been very profitable.

    • Anonymous

      August 11th, 2021

      BRET LARSON: You are mixing up the NDP, with the UCP. The UCP loves throwing away our money at wealthy corporations, while Albertans suffer.

    • Athabascan

      August 11th, 2021

      Oh, Bret

      You’ve provided the readers a perfect example of the term “gaslighting.”

      Everyone knows the conservative party is the party of the rich. It’s always been that way and will continue to be so.

      The NDP is the party of the people. You can’t be a socialist democrat and pander to the rich. Rich people don’t like paying taxes to support public anything, be it transportation, health care, education, and welfare that help poor people.


  17. Larry Hunka

    August 10th, 2021

    A doctors contribution to NDP that is totally legal is questioned. Let me see. A UCP health minister that gets a 97% negative rating from Alberta nurses and wants to roll back their salaries in the midst of a pandemic. Don’t see a lot of positive response there, UCP tears up a contract with doctors and gets rejection for a new contract proposal. Perhaps not the best response to get support. A government that wants to halt mitigation measures for Covid that have the possibility of serious negative implications for our younger population. A move that is opposed by the Alberta Medical Association, Pediatric Associations in Canada and multiple infectious disease specialists. Moves made in the face of an impending fourth wave. Go Joe. Help protect us from a malevolent administration who cares little for us and especially our children. Keep supporting NDP (and I say that as a totally apolitical citizen) as perhaps they support the health of their constituents over the color of your pickup

    • Bret Larson

      August 12th, 2021

      Its not the nurses that are the problem. Its the pay scale.

      And of course, its not only the nurses. The doctors will eb seeing their also.

      I guess the UCP are the only party brave enough to try to align that pay scale with reality.

      • Anonymous

        August 13th, 2021

        BRET LARSON: Reality has shown you cannot trust pretend Conservatives and Reformers. The UCP is intent on laying off a very large number of nurses. They have said they will do this. Meanwhile, MLAs in Alberta are still the highest paid in Canada, despite the UCP’s meaningless pay cuts to MLAs. It’s trite, because MLAs in Alberta get increases that are tied to the cost of living going up (inflation). Reality paints a different picture. The UCP are very good at doing the most pricey shenanigans.

  18. Jim

    August 13th, 2021

    It’s really too bad Dr. Vipond didn’t fully disclose his financial contributions before jumping into the political ring. He should have realized that everything is political and polarized in Alberta these days. Sort of played right into the UCP anger machine trap on this one.

    Full disclosure I have donated to the provincial NDP in the past, not in the same ballpark as Dr. Vipond however.

    • David Climenhaga

      August 14th, 2021

      I don’t think it’s fair to describe Dr. Vipond as jumping into the political ring. He advocated loudly and effectively for an environmental cause he supports passionately, and he took issue with a risky COVID-19 policy in an area where he has personal expertise. I think he was a good citizen, and the UCP response to his political donations was pure thuggery. Well, they have opened the door to the same thing now. All major UCP donors are fair game for the same kind of searches and the same kind of commentary. DJC

  19. Me

    September 8th, 2021

    I dont understand why your blaming policy for the increase in covid case
    You state that if people lived in Halifax they would of lived why is that to do with policy they way u state that I inferred that are doctors and nurses in Alberta are incompetent and that hospital staff in Halifax are superior
    You obviously are NDP as you talk like notley
    Start blaming people for not vaccinating and looking after themselves and staying away from crowds
    If people dont look after themselves then it doesn’t matter what policies are put in place


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