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The end of prohibition

It’s not a sector that’s going to be focused on grinding up raw cannabis flour and rolling it into papers and smoking it. I think those days are gone.’ —Will Stewart

Allie, Colin and David talk about the climate change plan and recommendations from the Marijuana Task Force. Special guest Will Stewart also weighs in on legalization in Canada.

Viral videos and late night success

Recently, YouTube’s most popular content creator — PewDiePie, a Swedish user/channel known initially for live streams of video games —threatened to delete his account in protest of YouTube’s partnership policy. PewDiePie risked losing 50 million subscriptions — and his reported million-dollar paycheque — to get YouTube to address apparent difficulties with its video distribution model. While PewDiePie’s fight with YouTube continues, his battle helps to illuminate a major change in entertainment: the role of online content and its link to real-world success.

This shift is demonstrated even more glaringly by ongoing rumours that the Late Late Show’s James Corden could replace Stephen Colbert as host of the Late Show. Despite his following from his previous characters on The Daily Show and his own Colbert Report, Colbert has been unable to pull CBS’s late night talk show into the first-place ratings position. Practically since he took the reigns of the show, Colbert has dealt with criticisms that his edgy Comedy Network persona had not transferred well to an earlier, less character-driven timeslot.

Enter James Corden, the British expat most known for his Carpool Karaoke videos where he belts out popular classics accompanied by the likes of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Elton John. In a short timespan, Corden has evolved from an entertainment unknown into one of the most-watched late-night hosts — on YouTube, that is.

When looking at traditional television ratings, Corden sits at the bottom of the pack, behind Late Night with Seth Meyers — his only competition during his time slot. Similarly, Colbert lags behind his 11:30pm competitors. While he’s slightly ahead of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, he’s well behind Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. Why then would executives at NBC want to switch Colbert for the, apparently, similarly poorly performing Corden? The answer comes from online media.

On their YouTube Channels, Colbert’s struggle is more pronounced. Of the six names in traditional, mainstream late night (Conan, Colbert, Fallon, Kimmel, Meyers and Corden), Colbert has the second fewest YouTube subscribers. The subscriber breakdown is as follows (at the time of writing):

  • The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC): 12,637,000 subscribers
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC): 8,770,000 subscribers
  • The Late Late Show with James Corden (CBS): 8,478,000 subscribers
  • Conan (TBS): 4,584,851 subscribers
  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: 1,902,000 subscribers
  • Late Night with Seth Meyers: 845,000 subscribers

These numbers only show part of the story, however. Colbert and Corden’s shows have yet to hit their two-year mark. Fallon and Meyers have had more than a year on air than their CBS competitors, while Kimmel has been at the helm of ABC’s foray into late night since 2003. With these brief timetables in mind, Corden’s rise is understandably impressive.

Anyone who is a fan of late night talk shows will notice a similarity among the top-ranked hosts’ channels: viral videos. Jimmy Fallon has worked to pull Jay Leno’s traditional Tonight Show closer towards a variety show format, bringing in numerous star-studded segments that are both entertaining and can exist in isolation from the nightly show itself. Kimmel’s ‘Celebrities reading mean tweets’ and man-on-the-street segments are frequently shared on social media. Corden’s previously mentioned Carpool Karaoke is a major hit online along with his other viral segments. And Conan’s channel is brimming with clips of the host doing everything from touring a Cuban rum distillery to buying medicinal marijuana with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart.

Colbert and Meyers, on the other hand, are not known for pre-taped, celebrity-heavy, or man-on-the-street segments. These bottom-tier shows hew much closer to traditional talk show structures with a lengthy monologue, a brief segment performed from behind a desk leading into celebrity interviews and ending with a musical guest. While the other hosts have not abandoned this structure, they have adapted it to the new reality of online entertainment.

When, increasingly, people are cutting their cable and replacing it with online streaming services like Netflix, Crave, Hulu, and YouTube, television shows are confronted with the reality that hour-long investments at set times are no longer the norm for viewers. Media consumers want short clips that can be viewed on their smartphones at their leisure. Colbert and Meyers, while talented entertainers, are producing content stuck in the traditional mold. Fallon and Corden are pulling ahead as late night’s top talent thanks to their ability to adapt to the times and create content that is not only enjoyable to their fans, but easily accessible, as well.

The way we enjoy television is changing. Even the phrase ‘television’ seems outdated in this context, since so little of the entertainment programming we consume is actually on television. If the major broadcast networks are able to ensure their programming is accessible and engaging across formats, then late night institutions like the Late Show and Tonight Show could survive long into the future. If they are unable to make this change, the face of our entertainment will soon more closely resemble PewDiePie than Stephen Colbert.

Kevin O’Leary – Will he Run?

Kevin O’Leary held meetings in Ottawa, Canada yesterday. Will he vie for Conservative leadership in an already crowded race? How would he campaign? Would his shaky French-language skills play to his detriment? Also, how is the end of 2016 ending off for Prime Minster Trudeau? Colin discusses with the True North Politics’ Panel.

Aired on CTV News on Dec. 12, 2016, 2016

Justin Trudeau risks alienating both right and left

‘Justin Trudeau will find that to win the next election his government will have to pick a lane and stay in it, rather than driving down the middle of the road.’

It’s a sad fact that ‘compromise’ can be a dirty word in politics.

In our party system, there is always some measure of compromise. No one ever gets all they want.

Governments come to understand that with every decision they make, at least one section of Canadians will be unhappy.

The Liberal election manifesto was designed, and stunningly so, to build the widest tent imaginable under the party’s bright red banner. As Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau successfully engaged lawyers on Bay Street and suburban soccer parents. He brought urbane West Coast hipsters together with fishers from St. John’s.

Now, more than a year later, the reality of governing will test the durability of this winning coalition.

To win again in 2019, Trudeau must hold that broad array of voters together, a task that may be easier said than done if the past few weeks are any indication.

Trudeau has been trying to find middle ground, but in politics the reaction to issues tends to be focused on the ends of the opinion spectrum, on the black and white and not the grey. When trying to play the middle, a politician runs the risk of upsetting everyone and pleasing no one.

In 2015, the Liberal coalition was made up of a robust cadre of moderate Conservatives, staunch Liberals and soft New Democrats. In recent weeks, it would appear that the Liberals’ big red tent isn’t as friendly a place as it used to be. With each policy decision, Trudeau runs the risk of driving some who took shelter in that tent back to their former homes.

For example, Trudeau’s approach to marijuana and his recent decision on pipelines have upset people on the left and right of the prototypical Liberal voter.

On marijuana, Trudeau is firmly in the legalization camp and Liberal MP Bill Blair, Toronto’s former police chief, is working on new legislation. However, Trudeau says that, in the meantime, the government is not in the business of pleasing recreational marijuana users and police should ‘enforce the law,’ including using criminal charges and raiding illegal marijuana dispensaries.

On this policy, some people want him to drop the legalization promise. Others just want the government to leave recreational users alone and take quicker steps toward legalization. Trudeau’s pronouncements left both groups unsatisfied.

Last week, the government approved two major pipeline expansions while shelving the Northern Gateway project. In the House of Commons, Trudeau claimed the middle ground.

‘One side of this House wants us to approve everything and ignore indigenous communities and environmental responsibilities,’ he said. ‘The other side ナ doesn’t care about the jobs or the economic growth that comes with getting our resources to market.’

Nevertheless, Trudeau’s pipeline decision jeopardizes his once-rosy relationship with his left-leaning supporters while not buying him any points with those on the right.

Conservative voters see the government scuttling an independently approved pipeline for no good reason, while those focused on the environment are unhappy the government is allowing the other two projects to go ahead.

By trying to find middle ground, Trudeau has ended up frustrating people on both sides.

When it comes to the decisions that lie ahead, Trudeau must decide whether he will appeal to the soft New Democrats or the moderate Conservatives who make up his coalition.

Trudeau will find that to have a chance to win the next election, his government will have to pick a lane and stay in it, rather than driving down the middle of the road.

If the prime minister had approved all three pipelines, would Conservatives have had the grounds to criticize him? Harper was unable to break ground on a single pipeline which brought oil to a new market in his nearly 10-year reign. By approving all three, the Liberal base would have stayed loyal and his political capital with soft conservatives would have increased. Approval of two pipelines was already going to alienate New Democrats who had voted Liberal in the last election. How much more alienated would they have been if all three pipelines had been approved?

Instead, the government’s decision exposed vulnerabilities on both sides. The prime minister has not consolidated his gains from the Tories, nor succeeded in saving his Vancouver-area MPs from anti-pipeline voters.

In politics, it’s just not feasible to make all voters happy all the time. A government simply can’t be all things to all people.

Bismarck’s words, first uttered in 1867, that ‘politics is the art of the possible’ are surely on our prime minister’s mind 150 years later.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist.

Feigned outrage

I will resist the temptation to buy into the opposition narrative that this is somehow buying access.
—Colin MacDonald

Allie, Colin and David talk about Trudeau’s statement on Castro, the Liberal ‘cash-for-access’ scandal, and the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline.