Shill, sham and flimflam

Perhaps Vaughn Palmer has a Red Telephone, a hotline for when BC Liberals want news initiated, altered or decried. The record is public and to evaluate, readers need simply ask, “Who and what is served by Palmer’s work?”

The pundit often has no intention of giving a whole story, with background, options and various points of view. The LNG story is only one example but it is likely to cost taxpayers billions in subsidies and foregone revenues. Look through the Vancouver Sun for comprehensive and critical assessments of government actions on natural gas and you will come up empty. It is not an accident or a surprise that Fazil Mihlar could slide from being the Sun’s Editorial Editor to become Assistant Deputy Minister for Natural Gas Development and advocate for the public to be hands-off when it comes to natural resources.

I criticized Palmer’s service on the gas file but I fault his larger body of work too. Usually, Palmer’s commentary makes narrow points that assist Liberals, discredit opponents or explain why the government can do or cannot do particular acts. By example, when social media was reporting that, without immunity, BC Liberal Executive Director Laura Miller refused to speak with police about an economic and political scandal in Ontario, Palmer was quick to echo a defence,

This effort did not last because it was overwhelmed by evidence. For example, the search warrant material sworn February 19 by a detective of the OPP’s anti-rackets squad, included this,


In the late 1990’s, my mother-in-law reserved the Vancouver Sun front section – I dared not touch it first – until she finished with Vaughn Palmer’s revelations of NDP government misdoings. An inquisitor capable of applying flames to feet, Palmer covered fertile ground and did it with relish.

Serving the public, not governments, is what pundits should do. While Palmer no longer does it, Bob Mackin does and Christy Clark’s Never Ending Campaign is an example you should not miss.

The Vancouver Sun added an experienced political reporter when it hired Rob Shaw from the Times Colonist. Now it is time for the Sun to assign Bob Mackin to the pundit’s role, enabling Vaughn Palmer to work for PR firm Hill+Knowlton, where he need make no pretense of objectivity.


24 replies »

  1. Norm, don't focus on Palmer so much because he's just throwing softballs as the newspaper demands. I googled 'Vancouver Sun natural gas royalties.'

    The first search result “BC provides $120 million to oil and gas companies for roads …”

    Second result (from 3 years ago) said “High royalties won't net the province more money for its natural gas..”

    The third was “Energy companies balking at level of LNG taxation in B.C.”


  2. As the Vancouver sun is nothing more than the BC Liberal Party organ, no one should be surprised that the paper and Palmer pitch softballs at the government.

    But it is not just the Vancouver Sun, it is the mainstream media who prostrate themselves in front of Premier Photo-op and the BC Lieberals. Watch for the three amigo's 10 minutes of hate focused on the blogging community, this Friday. Lord Ha, ha, and Tokyo rose must be spinning in their graves as was once thought of treason, shilling for the government has become a respected art. This is not just shades of 1984, it is Canadian democracy slowly ebbing away. The fifth estate are just a memory and kissing the government collective ass seems to be the first lesson one learns in journalism 101.


  3. I truly believe more & more individuals are reading blogs or actually search online for information such as “LNG Economist” etc. The people I know could care less about Mr. Palmer. They learned a long time ago that his days as a journalist were over. Years have gone by and the new generation is highly educated and Vaughn Palmer is not a source of information.
    I don't really care if the VSun keeps him on the payroll until he gets his full pension, that's there problem. But for the people I know, Palmer & the Sun were retired long ago.

    Guy in Victoria


  4. The term ” MSM” is tired: Robert Scheer has coined a better one and so apropos in this province: the”housebroken” media. Thanks for all your work, Norm. Izzy stone would be proud.


  5. Housebroken media, a good term, has been around for a while, used first, I think, by right wing commentators who claim to believe that media is managed by a liberal conspiracy. They still talk like that in the Canadian fringe where the CBC is seen as a mouthpiece for leftists, even if their panels are well populated by paid representatives of the plutocracy or turbulent characters like Alise Mills or Kevin O'Leary. (I recently saw a panel of The National made up of two people from the National Post and a third from the Calgary based Canadian Constitution Foundation, which advocates far right and libertarian views.)

    Thanks for the compliment but there are rather few anywhere who will measure up to I.F. Stone. He ranked 16th on the list “American Journalism's Top 100” published by the New York Times in 1999 and I suspect he motivated many of today's fine writers. For example, two months ago, two very important newspeople, Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, were named to the I.F. Stone Hall of Fame. Both of those people risk their lives to report the material they do. Those are real journalists, most of the rest are pretenders.


  6. And who at Global will furnish the reference for Jas Johal, who has lately been exhibiting signs of giving up journalism for greener pastures?


  7. “The fifth estate are just a memory and kissing the government collective ass seems to be the first lesson one learns in journalism 101.”

    They also FRENCH KISS corporate ass, though then again in the traditional fascist style as defined by Benny the Moose, it is difficult to separate corporate and governmental when the government is bought and paid for to be spokesman and facilitators for bizness.

    That right wing fantasy that the media has a liberal bias and attacks Republicans and Reformatories is belied by the fact that every major daily in Canada, except for Rob Ford's favorite – the Toronto Star, endorsed Stephen Harper and his band of fundie wingnuts in the last election – the one won by robo-calling.

    Meanwhile Stephen Harper continues to suppress the vote as much as possible by calling FOUR (4) by-elections for June 30, a Monday before Canada Day on Tuesday. How many people are going to forego a four day summer holiday and stay home to vote? I think it was the first election the minority Harper was able to call (violating his own fixed date mere months after legislating it) he chose the day after Thanksgiving so many voters would still be at grandmother's house.

    It's good to have you back Norm!


  8. Preferring the fluff-heavy CTV group, I seldom watch Global anymore. However, I've always had Johal on the list of good and gutsy reporters, although underused. Must be frustrating for him at Global where there is no separation between the ad sales department and the news room.


  9. Why is BC Hydro not supposed to use its natural-gas-powered Burrard Thermal plant, if it's ok to export LNG to Asia where it may be used to generate electricity?

    see sec. 13

    The idea is supposedly that B.T. emits CO2, yet producing and shipping LNG would emit more CO2 than operating B.T..

    Banning use of B.T. means more power from IPPs, so IPP industry probably came up with the idea to limit use of B.T.


  10. CBC today, Russia has just this morning signed a 10yr. contract with china worth 400 billion to supply it,s natural gas needs. The pipeline infrastructure to be in place by 2018.
    The pipe dream just went up in smoke!


  11. Not this deal by itself but China has its own shale gas fields and has planned massive increases in domestic supply. Russia too is capable of delivering far more gas to Asia. Because of price uncertainty in Asia over time, the LNG proponents will not pay premium prices that BC Liberals hoped for. Everyone knows the 2013 election promises were out and out lies and that's why a strategy was developed to “lower the expectations” as one Vancouver columnist put it when writing about LNG. The Vancouver Sun is firmly on board with the effort and it is not just Vaughn Palmer involved.


  12. There will still be LNG exports but the BC economy won't be seeing trillions and the BC Gov't won't be receiving hundreds or even tens of billions.

    We'll pay higher prices for the gas we use and we'll pay higher electricity prices because the gas industry wants huge power supplies at rock bottom prices and that will be subsidized by residential consumers.

    Don't worry about BC Liberals though. Their friends will do well.



  13. Damn right about that.

    The last time a Vancouver Sun type phoned asking me for a subscription I blasted him, calling the newspaper “fish-wrap” and that I refuse to pay for a purely propaganda newspaper that deliberately distorts the truth.


  14. I heard Christy Clark on the news last night talking about the LNG deal between Russia and China. I think she was at some LNG luncheon meeting thingy in Vancouver. In any case, she said as a way of placating people that it's a long way from Siberia to China. Uh, she should check her geography. In fact, Siberia and China share a common border in places and in other places it is only Mongolia that stands between Siberia and China. She also failed to note that China is a lot further away from (and a lot harder to get to) BC.

    Sheesh, and she's our Premier.


  15. This week at the “LNG in BC” “conference” put on by the government, Johal did a turn “interviewing” Premier Clark on stage. Global was also a sponsor of the event. Whether he was paid directly, or working as an employee of Global during his “interview”, I do not know.


  16. What an odd choice for a “news reporter to make. Maybe this ensures Johal will never again ask tough questions of Christy and friends. Hope it was worth it Jas; like it has been for certain of your colleagues.

    In his day, Rafe Mair might have enjoyed a fishing trip but he would never have rented himself to government to promote a highly controversial program. Nor would Jack Webster have done so.

    If Global News participates this way, you know the rest of their poltical and economic coverage is entirely suspect. But then, we already knew that.


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