23 Oct 2017

Journalists, MPs are missing
the real Bill Morneau scandal

The so-called “Morneau Scandal” has been a farce in many ways, with mainstream media failing to recognize the real scandal plaguing the government’s financial control system.

First, the tempest in a teapot. While he wasn’t legally required to do so, Finance Minister Bill Morneau made the mistake of not putting his financial holdings, which may run to $40-million, into a blind trust.

The office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner  didn’t object to the fact that Morneau didn’t put his fortune in a blind trust.

Nevertheless, the jackals saw an opportunity to embarrass and possibly bring down the Trudeau government’s Number 2 man. 

“This finance minister used a loophole to keep himself invested in a financial company which he regulates,” Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said in the House of Commons, “all the while going across the country calling honest plumbers and farmers tax cheats.”

Trudeau trying to stop the media wolves from attacking Morneau.
National Post columnist Brian Platt criticized Morneau for not being in Parliament all week, and instead travelling out-of-province to make announcements on the government’s small business tax reforms.

But this was a case of Parliamentary Press Gallery journalists being so hungry for blood that most of them ignored the truth about blind trusts and never looked for the bigger issues behind the story.

BLIND TRUSTS "A SHAM"

27 Sep 2017

Here's why YOU need to give climate groups a 'kick-in-the-butt'

Introduction:
   This article is for the many thousands of individual Canadians who give $-millions each year to environmental and conservation groups. 
   When it comes to fighting climate change*, you’re not getting your money’s worth. I’ve monitored the environmental movement for five years and draw the conclusion that the biggest and wealthiest groups are seriously letting down the Canadian public with weak and disjointed campaigns.
   Unfortunately, groups are never held accountable by institutional donors or media. It’s now up to concerned Canadians to see if you can influence them to do a better job. 
(See the bottom of this article to find out how you can help.)

   Note: * I’ve decided that the term “climate change” no longer describes the devastation the earth is experiencing. From now on I will use the term “ecological collapse.”


When I wasn’t paying attention, another environmental group – Blue Dot  – came into existence, joining the many other large Canadian groups claiming it has the right strategy to help save Canada from environmental devastation.

An initiative of the David Suzuki Foundation, Blue Dot says it “focuses on building a ground-swelling of support to convince Members of Parliament to introduce “a gold-standard federal environmental bill of rights.”

Blue Dot also urges municipalities to adopt a pro-environmental position, and it hopes to pressure Parliament to amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include environmental protection.

Hey, this shouldn’t be hard! Just kidding. A dozen or so other groups have been working on the same goals for at least a dozen years with little success.

With only 115,000 individual members – but still growing – and modest funding, I don’t see how Blue Dot can be more effective than any of the others in fighting ecological collapse.

(NOTE: Please support independent journalism. Subscribe button at the end of this article.)

Canada is seriously failing to meet its carbon emission reduction targetsMoreover, a government that claims to be fighting ecological collapse supports development of the tar sands.

“Canada, which represents one half of one percent of the planet’s population,” writes an angry 350.org head Bill McKibben “is claiming the right to sell the oil that will use up a third of the earth’s remaining carbon budget.”


Scientists say that if the world is to hold global warming to below 2 C this century every bit of fossil fuel should remain in the ground. A two-degree increase could spell catastrophe, scientists warn — through drought, ocean rise, crop failure, wildfire, flooding, and disease.

Faced with this frightening information, you would think that the environmental community would be well organized and have effective strategies in place.

Not so.

5 Sep 2017

Angry CBC listeners demand fewer mindless personal-story programs

Note from Nick: Because I worked with CBC for more than 25 years and have great loyalty to quality public broadcasting, I regret that I need to take CBC Radio One management to task in an aggressive manner. But when considerable damage is being done to the network and managers refuse to answer basic questions, I feel I have no alternative. 

Long-time CBC Radio One listeners upset over summer programming that featured a dozen shows about personal concerns and peoples’ problems will be listening carefully this fall to see how many of those kinds of programs are in the line-up.

Hundreds of traditional Radio One fans strongly agreed with my blog of two weeks ago, in which I blasted CBC management for broadcasting the mindless and banal programs.

Hmmm ... then why are people turning it off ?
More than 75 people took the time to write protest letters to CBC management and more than 400 people registered their concerns on social media. CBC Audience Services has always said that one protest represented the views of perhaps 1,000 people, so it’s likely that many thousands of regular listeners are opposed to the personal-oriented programming.

Hundreds of people said they no longer listen to Radio One, while other said they turn the radio off as soon as they hear one of the selfie-like programs.

22 Aug 2017

CBC Radio badly off track with
too much personal storytelling

During CBC Radio’s 81 years  the public broadcaster has been the country’s most important life-line, unifying the nation and helping us understand each other and the important issues of the day.

I am lucky to have worked at the CBC for more than 25 years. I held several positions, including Canadian Editor of The National, working as an investigative journalist, as a radio documentary producer, and as an editor with National Radio News.

Today CBC Radio is more important than ever. With newspapers failing to do their job, journalism in Canada is in crisis. Media organizations are failing to provide communities with news and analysis that is necessary for democracy to function properly.

(Note: If you too disapprove of what’s happening to CBC Radio, I’ve provided emails at the end of this article where you can send your protests.)


CBC Radio is proud of the success of its podcast, Someone Knows Something which explores cold cases after people have disappeared. 
As always, I’ve been listened to Radio One this summer. My favourite programs, which include The Current, As It Happens, The Sunday Edition and Ideas, are doing a good job.

However, I’m puzzled and dismayed by most of about a dozen new summer programs. A couple of them – the Doc Project and Now or Never  – provide some interesting stories told from a personal point of view.

Too much “personal issues” radio

Otherwise, the remaining 10 new programs are not the kind of shows that should be so prominent on the CBC. Too many dwell on the sad stories of people who have had a difficult life. People ramble on about their feelings. There’s lots of talk about “human connections”, and advice for people with problems.

Here is a sampling:
  • Love Me with with Lu Olkowski. “Deep down we all just want to be loved, so why is it one of the toughest things to get right?” says the program description. “Love Me is a podcast about the messiness of human connection.”
  • Road Trip Radio, both a podcast and on Radio One, is described as “a family friendly podcast celebrating all things Canada!” Produced by the team behind CBC Radio’s This is That, most of the episodes have been humourless and an embarrassment. 
  • Out in the Open with Piya Chattopadhyay. The program claims to tackle one timely subject each week with “energy, wit, and journalistic rigor.” A recent episode: “Hair Care: Shaving, waxing, threading, plucking, sugaring, electrolysis.”
  • Sleepover with Sook-Yin Lee. “In each episode one stranger takes the spotlight and presents a problem from their life. The other two offer advice and bring up related experiences from their own unique perspectives.”
  • Seat at the Table with Isabelle Racicot and Martine St-Victor. “A weekly talk show where the hosts bring you honest conversations with guests shaping pop culture.” One episode featured an interview with Laura Wasser, Hollywood's divorce lawyer.  

8 Aug 2017

Do you know a community that
might like a new newspaper?

(Note: Please forward to any folks that might like to look into setting up a paper.)

News outlets in Canadian communities are falling like bowling pins.

At least 171 media organizations in 138 communities closed between 2008 and this January, says the Local News Research Project, a project led by Ryerson School of Journalism.  By comparison, only 51 new outlets opened.

The loss of media is so severe that a special report submitted to the House of Commons Heritage Committee was entitled: “Local news poverty in Canadian Communities.” 

“Local news poverty, we argue,” project co-ordinator April Lindgren writes, “is greatest in communities where residents have limited or no access to timely, verified news about local politics, education, health, economic and other key topics they need to navigate daily life.”


Small communities such as Markdale, ON and Canmore, AB lost their local papers while cities Guelph, ON and Nanaimo, BC were among the largest centres to be hit.

Newspapers have been crucial for the development of Canada for more than three centuries.  But “free” news from for-profit papers is coming to an end.

19 Jul 2017

Corporations are beating us up;
can we develop a more just system?

Aggressive capitalism is kicking the crap out of us,  so we should see if we can start a public conversation about the need for an alternative political and social system.

It’s shocking that capitalist businesses have become so dominant. They literally rule the world In Canada, the low-profile Canadian Council of Chief Executives is all powerful when it comes to influencing government.

We see corporate greed all around us. Four out of 10 Canadians – many of them earning around $11 an hour – can’t pay their bills but Canadian corporations are sitting on at least $630-billion in cash they’re refusing to invest in the economy.

Unfortunately, even when many people know about the damage caused by capitalism, they feel a totally alternative political system is such a distant possibility, that they don’t bother discussing it.


Of course powerful people fearful of the threat of a social upheaval have demonized the words socialism and communism. This scares the hell out of many people.

Mainstream media are owned by corporations that seldom, if ever, report on alternative political systems. If ideas aren’t laid out before the public, they really don’t exist.

PEOPLE ARE FED UP

Despite the lies and badgering that comes from corporations and the wealthy, people in several countries are fed up with traditional politics. They’re fighting back against corporations and governments that are joined at the hip.

4 Jul 2017

Here's why papers don't deserve support; money should go to committed Internet sites

News Media Canada – formerly the Canadian Association of Newspapers – has submitted a proposal to Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly for a whopping $350-million a year to prop up the journalism of the country’s struggling 105 dailies.

The publishers are asking for:
  • $175-million of our tax dollars per year to subsidize the first 35 per cent of the salaries of hundreds of journalists who are paid $85,000 or less, including luminaries such as the Globe and Mail's  columnist Margaret Wente, who creates her own reality, and the National Post's right-wing reporter Christie Blatchford. 
  • And $90,000 a year to help each of these newspapers improve their presence on the Internet – a request that comes 18 years after Kijiji and others began grabbing their classified ads. This reveals their ineptitude to successfully get on the Internet themselves. 
I’m against this proposal for a number of reasons, including the fact that the self-important papers want to be the only ones getting government support. They apparently never thought of approaching the dozen or so small digital media groups that have worked hard over the past few years to establish themselves.

But I have a more fundamental problem with the newspaper industry.

21 Jun 2017

Liberals take first small step toward rebuilding the CBC, but there are many miles to go

The federal government has taken the first step on a long road toward what hopefully will be the restoration of the CBC as Canada’s most important public interest and cultural institution.

For nearly 10 years the Harper government forced the CBC off track from its original goals of promoting culture and the arts, providing quality news, and facilitating a national discussion.

Harper refused to adequately fund the Mother Corp. In one fell swoop in 2012, the Harper government cut the CBC budget by $115-million over three years.


Harper very likely would have wanted to sell off the CBC but that would have caused a national backlash. Instead, he appointed seven Conservative lackeys and donors to the CBC Board with the idea of keeping the broadcaster in check.

But now, with the world pretty much in a state of chaos and false news coming at us from many directions, a strong CBC has never been more important.

On Tuesday Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly announced the government is ending the long-time practice of appointing friends of the government to the CBC Board of Directors and, instead, introducing a new system.

Joly named nine prominent Canadians with various backgrounds from across the country who will recommend people they feel capable of serving on the Board to the government.

Currently three positions are vacant on the Board, and the second term of CBC President and CEO Hubert Lacroix expires at the end of the year.

18 Feb 2017

Ineffective 350.org divestment campaign should give way to direct corporate actions

Students at Dalhousie University in Halifax are a determined lot. Campaigning against the burning of fossil fuels, they have occupied the office of school president Richard Florizone.

The students also created a six-foot-high dinosaur to signify that investing in pollution-causing industries is a skeleton in the university’s closet.

Divest Dal is one of at least 34 academic-based campaigns across the country pressuring administrations to divest holdings in fossil fuels on ethical grounds.

However, the Dal effort suffered a setback when the Dal administration announced it would not sell off an estimated $20.5-million in fossil fuel holdings.

“We did not accept the Board’s no vote . . . .” says Laura Cutmore, a Divest Dal organizer, in an email. “We will continue to campaign towards divestment for as long as it takes.”

Students at Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS) protesting.

Divest Dal works with the support of 350.org  by far the largest group in the world involved in campaigning, and they have a lot of faith in 350.org’s leadership.

350.org, which operates gofossilfree announced with considerable fanfare that the campaign urging institutions, mostly universities, churches, and pension funds to divest their endowment holdings in fossil fuels is working well.

Canadian 350.org organizer Cam Fenton wrote in an email: “In a matter of years it has grown from a student led campaign on a few campuses to something that is impacting some of the largest political and financial institutions on the planet.”

The 350.org website claims that “our movement is strong and the fossil fuel industry is fighting for its life.”

Whoa! Not so fast.

28 Jan 2017

We shouldn't weep for broke but lying mainstream media

What a difference some 50 years has made in one of Canada’s most important and powerful industries!

Back in 1970, the Senate of Canada called an inquiry to investigate the exorbitant profits made by Canada’s handful of media barons.

Skinflint media mogul Roy Thomson had declared that owning a radio or television station was like having a license to print money. He added that owning a newspaper was even better, because a license was not required.


The Senators hummed and hawed, and made some recommendations that were mostly ignored by the powerful media owners, who continued to make big profits.

How times have changed. 

A report from the Public Policy Forum of Montreal released on January 26 says the Canadian news industry “is reaching a crisis point as the decline of traditional media, fragmentation of audiences and the rise of fake news pose a growing threat to the health of our democracy.”

Whereas the 1970 report was entitled “The Uncertain Mirror”, the new appeal for support is called “The Shattered Mirror.”

Now mainstream media are unable to sell enough advertising to provide the amount and quality of news coverage that once seemed routine. So the giant corporations are humbly appealing to the federal government to provide support for various media and make adjustments to the media landscape.

The report does not provide a specific prescription to bring corporate media back to health. Nothing in the report could even begin to provide the billions of dollars that would be needed to restore newspapers to what they were say 10 years ago. That was before corporations fired more than 10,000 journalists.