There was a time when major British Columbia newspapers were credible. We knew the owners and the managers; we trusted their place in our communities. Financial health of papers depended on economic health of subscribers and advertisers. Editorialists and journalists had points of view that tended to reflect widely held positions but heterodox opinions were not routinely blocked.
Today, we can’t even name the real owners. Nominally the proprietor is Postmedia, a company saved from bankruptcy by secret investors fronted by hedge funds, nominees and agents.
Postmedia cannot survive on advertising and subscription revenue, so it sold its corporate soul to special interests who profit by influencing public opinion. It is a possibility that Canada’s largest newspaper chain is controlled by the oil and gas industry. We do know that Postmedia is in partnership with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
By slanting news or withholding information, media affect what a large segment of the public knows or does not know about public affairs. If groups profit improperly through actions of government, rewards can be immense but, if the looters control media, they can act in the shadows. The checks and balances within a democracy are distorted if media becomes a subsidiary of vested interests. Accurate public discourse is discouraged or impossible.
I’ve demonstrated on this site that after Christy Clark became Premier, the subsidized natural gas industry stopped contributing rights and royalties revenue to government and that independent private producers reap billions supplying growing amounts of power at an average of three times market price. BC Hydro is also embarked on a construction program worth tens of billions of dollars despite delivering less power to BC consumers than it did a dozen years ago. These subjects are not mentioned in Postmedia newspapers and BC Hydro is not held to account for years of lying about demand growth.
It should be a scandal this once proud enterprise is spending massive amounts without public purpose, particularly while disabled people live in abject poverty and elementary schools rely on donated paper. Clearly though, large businesses and investors gain from BC Hydro’s spending and they want it to continue, even if provincial debt and obligations already burden every household in BC with almost $90,000.
Newspapers beholden to special interests are unwilling to report how sponsoring elites profit by abusing the wallets of taxpaying citizens. What debased media will report is anything that advances the positions of their masters.
After sitting only 48 days in the last year, the Legislature is about to close. Even with very few hours of business happening in the chamber, Premier Clark was frequently absent. She’s more comfortable at fundraisers and in the office feeding talking points to loyal reporters who know their job is to keep Liberals in power.
Think I go too far? Then look at the Vancouver Sun’s hit piece on John Horgan. The by-line says Rob Shaw, but it could have been written by any of the Premier’s many taxpayer-paid spin doctors.
Not only does the Sun’s headline and lede emphasize Premier Clark’s unfounded claims about the Opposition Leader, Shaw later accuses Horgan of “a breach of parliamentary protocol” and claims the NDP leader had accosted the Speaker. Shaw quotes Clark at length but gave her target no chance to respond. Shaw only includes a brief but unrelated quote from Horgan’s press conference, an event the reporter did not bother to attend.
OED defines that verb as “approach and address (someone) boldly or aggressively.” Horgan was miffed and rightly so because his attempts to speak were frustrated by disturbances on the Liberal side. In this situation, the man’s contained response to the Speaker’s failure to maintain order was admirable.
Liberal Linda Reid is a careless partisan who billed taxpayers for a trip to Africa by her husband. She is also an ineffective Speaker who ignores the Parliamentary tradition of impartiality in her role. Had she a better record, we might have wondered if her vacuous performance was explained by worries about pending unemployment.
Reporter Shaw’s article was aimed at amplifying the Premier’s political dissing, which claimed incompetence and disunity on the opposition bench. After Clark’s diatribe, fairness required that Horgan be allowed to refute the charges. At least, Shaw could have noted the Liberal leader’s history of distorting truth, as she did when she accused the NDP of criminal hacking or when she campaigned on a debt-free BC while boosting the province’s liabilities at unprecedented rates.
Undoubtedly, Shaw and the Vancouver Sun hope to further the meme that Clark’s pay-to-play Liberals are the only real alternative for voters. Soon they’ll be repeating lies about the “desperate nineties” and complaining about ferries built almost two decades ago in BC instead of Germany and Poland.
I previously accused Rob Shaw and his workmate Vaughn Palmer of slanted commentary and it should be clear to readers this newspaper has little interest in accurate reporting on major provincial issues. You’ve not seen them talk about billions of dollars in natural gas subsidies or admit that a new government faces a $2 billion unrecorded IOU for drilling and other credits owed producers. Nor has the Sun disputed BC Hydro’s manipulations of electricity consumption.
Additionally, who has done the heavy lifting on the political contributions scandals that are emerging? I credit Dermod Travis of Integrity BC who has been ahead of all journalists. Stirred by a New York Times report, just recently the Globe and Mail began to write about an issue that troubled independent observers for some years.
Legislative Press Gallery minions seemed to be unaware there was any political finance problem, probably because most of them are used to rewriting press releases pushed on them by government and corporate lobbyists. Political columnist Palmer, who has been reporting for decades said he only knew what he read in the newspapers about the “Wild West of Canadian Political Cash.”
Let’s be honest. If Palmer meant what he said, he is wilfully blind. If he was being disingenuous, we cannot believe other things he writes or says.
I am not surprised Rob Shaw and the Vancouver Sun – placing the headline above the fold – allowed Christy Clark’s defamation of John Horgan to go unexamined and unchallenged. However, I’m not willing to leave the subject untouched.
The newspaper headline states that Horgan has no backbone. That’s ironic because the previous Liberal talking points supposed that Horgan was too tough, prone to be very demanding of people around him. In fact, a party leader’s job is akin to herding cats but Horgan has gained the respect and support of his colleagues. I know that because I’ve talked to many of them.
I also know that retention and recruitment of skilled candidates is an important duty of the leader and the NDP is entering this election with outstanding individuals who have been influenced to enter politics by their desire for change and by their respect for Horgan. People like Bryce Casavant, Bowinn Ma, Chak Au, Morgane Oger, Lisa Beare, Bob D’Eith, Barb Nederpel, Mehdi Russel and others.
Another sign that the party is not suffering disunity as Clark alleged is the presence of two former leaders in senior roles. I’ve interviewed Adrian Dix who handles two massive files: BC Hydro and ICBC. Unlike the Liberal cabinet ministers responsible, Dix is fully informed and not the least at odds with the leader. Up and comer David Eby has obviously performed an important role with enthusiasm and skill.
If elected Premier, Horgan will have many qualified people to call to the cabinet table and his own background has provided him with the training and experience to be an effective leader. I believe a change in government will change BC politics completely.
Instead of Premier Photo Op dancing to the direction of people in the shadows, we will have a Premier who cares about policy, the effectiveness of government and about all people having opportunities to succeed in a vibrant British Columbia.
Audio clip from George Orr’s documentary TALK!