Black Press political reporter Tom Fletcher, whose wife is a Public Affairs Officer for the BC Liberal Government, occasionally recalls the nineties. He wrote:
The dark decade, the dismal decade, the decade of destruction …when investment, jobs and people packed up and headed for the B.C. border in response to the NDP governments of Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark…
That is Fletcher’s memory and he reminds community newspaper readers throughout British Columbia whenever convenient. Many of us remember differently. BC Stats, a division of the provincial government, provides information to test Fletcher’s accuracy. First, we can determine if people were departing in unusual numbers. Here are the population numbers:
- 1991: 3,404,049
- 2001: 4,049,297
- 2014: 4,657,947
The average annual population growth during the NDP era was twice what it’s been under the Liberals:
All-industries job counts provided by BC Stats show:
- 1991: 1,577,500
- 2001: 1,920,900 – Average annual job growth: 34,340. Jobs per 1,000 population: 10.4
- 2014: 2,278,400 – Average annual job growth: 27,500. Jobs per 1,000 population: 5.8
Unfortunately, the situation is worse than it seems since many of the jobs created in recent years are McJobs: low-paying, low-prestige positions that require minimal skills. In the last generation, new service jobs are more than double the number of new goods-producing jobs. The following graphs show the number of positions in wealth creating industries at two particular points in time.
Obviously this information is contrary to the bill of goods being sold by Tom Fletcher. He’s not alone though. Gary Mason has referred to the BCNDP era as the “dismal decade” and various media members echo the concept. The late Ian Reid wrote that the Vancouver Sun had joined the BC Liberal militia and become “kind of their advance shock troops.” They do this mostly by controlling the opinions expressed in editorials and news pages.
BC Liberals have courted the media assiduously and they use financial and other rewards to ensure loyalties. In addition, they employ paid staff and volunteers to troll social media to advance Liberal talking points and denigrate opponents.
Liberal allies fund astroturfing initiatives. An example was Concerned Citizens for B.C., a creation of government supporters led by Jim Shepard for a year before the 2013 election. Here is an example of messaging from CCBC:
They [NDP] took us from having one of the richest provinces in the country, where we were one of the strongest economies, to the absolutely worst economy in the province… to the point where we were on welfare…
Of course, in politics today, negative advertising and controversial claims are standard procedure. It is unsettling though when journalists become partisans, shaping reports to favour one segment of the political spectrum. It is common for reporters to repeat statements made by politicians without concern for accuracy or balance. Lies go unchallenged as if they are truth. A particularly odious example was published in Kelowna’s Daily Courier, a publication owned by an ex-convict who was jailed for fraud in the USA.
One must not underestimate the destructive potential of publications serving cities and towns outside the lower mainland. Properties owned by Black Press, Glacier Media and Continental Newspapers are seen by more citizens than the big city dailies and generally, their pages reflect the interests of three very wealthy men: David Black, Sam Grippo and David Radler. Because there are few alternatives available and populations are spread widely, stories that are biased or inaccurate are more likely to go unchallenged.
Columnist/reporters like Tom Fletcher find a happy home in their workplaces. They are willing to pervert lofty ideals of journalism to serve the owners’ ideological purposes and to preserve their own places in the effort. Too often though, truth is the victim.
Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith noted this article in Tom Fletcher, Norm Farrell, tax cuts for the rich, and Harperism