Political journalism

A week ago, Black Press opinionator Tom Fletcher wanted us to believe the NDP Government is putting jobs in northwest BC at risk by expanding log exports. A heading on Fletcher’s online piece:

Skeena Sawmills comeback threatened by B.C. government

He explained:

They’ve endured shutdowns due to log shortages, high costs and union demands. And now they face a new threat – drastically increased log exports…

Log shortages? Indeed, numerous mills have been complaining they lack access to sufficient fibre after government allowed log exports to more than double during BC Liberal administrations.

Fletcher apparently forgot his previous reporting about Forests Minister Doug Donaldson announcing a new fee structure for logs aimed at reducing exports and delivering more raw material to BC sawmills.

Fletcher mentions high costs as an obstacle to the mill located west of Terrace but in 2017, Skeena Sawmills announced a $10 million upgrade, the first part of a modernization they budget at $100 million. Cost factors have not changed unpredictably since Skeena Sawmills’ Chinese owners began this ambitious expansion.

Fletcher is always hostile to labour organizations so the dig at unions is not surprising. In fact, owner ROC Holding Ltd. acquired the mill four years after the industry was last affected by a regional strike of forest workers in 2007.

A central purpose of the Black Press article is to trash the reputation of Forests Minister Donaldson. Fletcher writes:

Horgan has repeatedly stepped in to assist Donaldson with the difficulties of the forests ministry. The much-criticized forest fire recovery programs have been transferred to the public safety ministry. Former B.C. Liberal MLA Blair Lekstrom was hired to extract the province from a secret deal to set aside vast new areas for caribou protection. Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon was appointed as parliamentary secretary for forests.

The Public Safety and Emergency Services ministry has responsibility for wildfire responses for logical reasons. Fires may involve forests but, as we’ve seen recently near Oliver, grasslands and areas without merchantable timber are frequently involved. Responses to citizens’ needs, whether through crime, wildfire, earthquake, or other disaster is best coordinated through a single agency. Fletcher knows that.

John Horgan’s press release about Lekstrom’s appointment included this sensible news:

The Province has appointed Blair Lekstrom as community liaison tasked with engaging residents of the Peace region on draft partnership agreements on caribou recovery.

“People want to see the continued strength of our resource communities. As we meet a federal obligation to recover caribou, our government has been working to support workers and industry. Today’s announcements are part of that work,” said Premier Horgan.

“Blair Lekstrom has earned the trust and respect of residents in the Northeast. I can think of no one better to consult directly with, and fairly represent, the interests of people here.”

Ravi Kahlon, a bright light on NDP benches, is well equipped to assist in a ministry budgeted to return $1.4 billion to treasury this year. Forest industries employ 18,000 in BC, about half the number of jobs before provincial Liberals held power. Returning BC’s forest industry to a position of economic prominence is a worthwhile objective.

Fletcher’s unwillingness to credit the present government for worthwhile actions or programs is revealed in this mention that Skeena Sawmills is:

working with the industry-federal agency FPInnovations to use log scanning technology that helps mills detect flaws inside logs to get a viable lumber product out of otherwise uneconomic timber.

The pundit suggests credit for assisting Skeena Sawmills goes to the federal government and industry partners while he ignores provincial inputs. BC Government funds totalling $22 million funds have gone directly to FPInnovations in the last five years. Additionally, Skeena’s log defect detection system improvements are assisted by funding through the BC Rural Dividend Program and the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

When the headline on Fletcher’s article surprised me, I knew it was time to update previous work on log exports. The latest report from BC Stats shows the Horgan Government is making progress on correcting a miserable trend.

This compares Christy Clark’s last two year with the first two years of John Horgan.

The quantity of logs exported declined by 15% but the unit value realized increased 14%.

That’s a good start, but don’t expect Tom Fletcher to report this information.

Fletcher aims to mislead or persuade, usually for his own political purposes. But, Liberals see him as an important ally who contributes to their hold on voters outside southwest BC.

This is yet more evidence that important parts of corporate media do not practice good journalism. They practice politics.

I planned to post the above Monday morning but came across Tom Fletcher’s mea culpa dated today, August 18. I am left wondering what prompted: Log exports and my other errors so far in 2019

Fletcher admits that log exports are down and says he should have given Forests Minister Doug Donaldson the benefit of the doubt.

I suspect someone apprised Fletcher of the facts and his retraction aims at removing egg from his bearded face.

Categories: Journalism, Log Exports

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6 replies »

  1. “We can’t have the facts get in the way of a good story” seems to be the norm nawadays with our mass-media. It has been noted in the past that our mass-media is just a propaganda machine for the establishment. Want proof? Fletcher, Smyth, Palmer, Leyne, Baldry are prime examples. I could go on, but it’s been all said in the past about out media and their bunch of professional liars.


  2. Never let it be said Fletcher let facts get in the way of his opinions. He is usually so far out in right field, who pays attention to him?

    The media in Canada is owned by corporations who prefer to have corporate politicians in office, so they, the corporations can benefit. Never expect any of those opinionaters to let the facts stand in the way of their views. They are simply, in my opinion, not aware the world has passed them by

    If some of the MSM WONDER why their readership is down, they just have to look at what is in their papers. These “opinionators” are behind the times. Readers are interested in what the government is doing to provide them health care, education, and transportation. Horgan and the NDP are also working hard to deal with homelessness and drug addiction, which wasn’t a high priority for the B.C. Lieberals. Deaths are down from fent. Had the B.C. Lieberals done their job, it would never have gotten as bad as it did, but they were paying much to much attention to their corporate friends.

    ah, the terrible unions, the terrible unions, Fletcher needs to get over his anti union bias. if corporations can not make a go of it and run a business which at least breaks even, because they have to pay decent wages, then they have the wrong business plan and need to get out of the business. You can not run a successful corporation by lowering people’s wages. Don’t expect workers/unions to subsidize corporations with their wages.

    Wonder if Fletcher would take a salary cut to subsidize his employer

    Following the Kelowna forest fires, el gordo, hired a former premier from either Sask. or Man. to write a report. The report was excellent and laid a path forward for protecting the forests, etc. what did the B.C. Lieberals do? NOTHING. they didn’t want to spend the money required and they didn’t want to provide jobs. they wanted tax cuts for their corporate friends and subsidies for mining and oil and gas companies.

    The next time those old out of date opinionaters, want to write something, they might want to remember the B.C. Lieberals were in office for 16 yrs and didn’t deal with the problems.


    • Not to worry e.a.f.
      For the antidote for Right Wing Press bias…..
      The CBC to the rescue!
      If ever there was a bloated, self serving, anti everything beurocracy ….
      Merely watch the CBC tv for ten minutes.
      Breathlessly reporting “from the scene” of Oppenheimer Park at 6:01pm on “eviction day….. No police, no riots, no story…
      Oh well, lets jump to the next breaking story.
      Aboriginals want to start a seal hunt to save the salmon.
      Not much to see there so we’ll jump to Late breaking news out of Richmond where we have viewer video of a foul mouthed lady spewing racism in a parking lot…..
      Unfortunately there were’nt any Pride Parades, LGBTQQx2 protests, or Gun Control demos to fill 15 minutes of interview airtime….. maybe tomorrow night at 6.
      This is the best CBC has to offer at 6pm ….for a billion tax dollars a year….
      Never mind Brexit, Amazon fires, Stock market plunges…..
      Earth shaking news doesnt count.
      Its all about the lint in our collective navels…..

      Ignore the CBC.
      Ignore Glow-Ball.
      Watch Al-Jezeera


  3. Mr. Fletcher writes:

    “As I often find in tracking the complex operation of the provincial government, and the heated political rhetoric around it, it’s not that simple. It turns out B.C.’s total Crown land log exports are down so far in 2019, compared to 2018. And they were down 30 per cent in 2018 compared to the previous year.”

    If the “complex operation” of the provincial government is too much for him, maybe he should leave it to others with a better grasp. The “heated political rhetoric” doesn’t alter readily available statistics, but it is exacerbated and spread by the regurgitation of unverified rumours from partisans as illustrated in another paragraph from Fletcher’s article:

    “The latest export exemptions for the Northwest region do appear to increase the limits, but the formula has changed and it’s likely too soon to see the true effects. B.C. Liberal forests critic John Rustad says he’s heard from Skeena Sawmills that exporting premium logs is a threat to their fragile business, but he’s also heard from log exporters that the new rules are killing them.”

    What specifics does the authorized representative of Skeena Sawmills provide? Which exporters, what rules, and how do they specifically and demonstrably affect each exporter?

    A responsible journalist working in the public interest would determine those facts at a minimum before publishing based on “Rustad says he heard.”

    Liked by 1 person

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