A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Politics Is US!

While I know a number of you have probably totally tuned out politics, and with the nasty blood sport it seems to have become, its difficult to blame you.
However, there is a worldwide crisis with democratic process brewing, and the longer we ignore it, the worse its going to become.
Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, politics plays an integral part in every waking hour of our lives. It determines where we live, how much we pay to live, what we eat and how much we pay for it. Politics determines where our kids go to school, what they learn there, what it costs to send them there, and how they develop while they are there. It determines the quality of the world we live in, where we can go, what we can do, and whether our world survives. Our incomes, what we do to get by, how we think, who we know, and how our lives unfold, are all contingent, at least in part, on the political structure around us.
We can no more ignore politics than we can afford to forget to breathe, eat and sleep!
In Canada, we have become complacent about the elephant in our room. Half of us have tuned it right out, or so we think! But we can no more tune it out, than we can forget to clean up after ourselves, before we are overrun with problems.
Last year at this time, five days after promising he would do no such thing, our Prime Minister suspended our parliament! Those who recognized the threat in that move, immediately hit the streets, using modern technology to organize. Despite how it was portrayed in the press, this was Canadian people reacting to a very serious assault on our democratic process. We had a Prime Minister suspending democratic process without the support of the people! He claimed he had the “confidence of the house” but this PM has never had any such thing!
Later in the year, we watched as both the UK and Australia faced similar circumstances to ours, where no one party achieved enough seats to govern. But what happened in both the UK and Aus, was totally different than what happened here. In the UK and Aus, the parties were forced to sit down together and work our a deal. If they hadn’t, there would have been rioting in the streets. In Canada however, we just sat by while one politician and his party decided to try to govern without enough seats to pass legislation, and we let him! In the UK and Aus, where people take such matters seriously, the people forced their leaders to find compromise, cooperation and consensus. The end result, in our sister countries, the governments have been forced into a position where they have to enact legislation according to the will of the majority. On the other hand, here in Canada, by our own inaction, we are left with a government that has been given permission to force the will of a minority onto the majority!
As a result, we have a government decreeing people can’t be helped, and international aid agencies can’t get help from Canada, if the aid agencies have in anyway encouraged, participated in, or even appeared to condone abortion. Since when do Canadians refuse to help people in need based on the agency providing that help having contributed to a medical procedure that is perfectly legal in Canada?
We also had our government, in the middle of a recession and perhaps the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, shut down all business of the House for an Olympic games! That’s only happened once before in modern history. In Germany in the mid 1930s! And the person who did it went on the become one of the greatest mass murderers and tyrants in history! His name was Hitler!
Then we had our government, again in the middle of an economic crisis, guarantee over a billion dollars in our money to security for those Olympic games. Security, at least in part, that was used to hassle peaceful demonstrators while a gang of thugs in hoodies and face masks were allowed to vandalize a good portion of downtown Vancouver with impunity!
Six months later, the same thing happened again, only this time with a far more dire outcome. Over a billion dollars was spent, and secret laws enacted, to prevent the people of Toronto, and Canada, from demonstrating, or even watching others demonstrate! We had policemen threatening young people for blowing bubbles. We had police, with badges and other identification removed, violently attacking people who were merely watching what was going on! There were police cars inexplicably left unattended, with all their weaponry mysteriously removed beforehand, in the middle of demonstrations! People were detained, threatened, abused, and otherwise mistreated for simply being on the streets of the city where they live! And sadly, in the months after, we were lied to by both police and the government about what went on! Actions were covered up, charges dropped, and a cloak of secrecy lowered! And still, the vast majority of Canadian people said nothing!
All the while this was going on, we had a government in Ottawa totally breaking almost every promise it made to the Canadian people in order to get elected. Thousands of seniors were duped of their life savings when the Harper government changed its tune on Income Trusts. Then, as major corporations faltered, or claimed to falter, under the weight of economic hardship, the government rushed to help those companies protect their assets, while allowing the pension plans of those companies’ workers’ to be foreclosed upon, or otherwise extinguished!
What’s more, in the midst of all this, after being told we’d be out of Afghanistan by 2012, the government, with the help of the other major party, backtracked on that promise! In the middle of the worst economic crisis in our history, when people are losing their jobs and homes, and there is apparently no money available to help them, we are told we can continue to pour billions of dollars into the armed occupation of a country where most independent observers, and history itself, say we don’t have a chance of succeeding!
And while all this was going on, our government was busy committing $18 billion to new fighter jets, under the auspices of homeland protection. Jets, which by the way, are being built for assault purposes, not defense!
Perhaps even worse, and more threatening, while all this was going on, our PM, who does not have the support of the Majority of Canadians or Parliament, was busy using technicalities to stack our Senate with like minded appointees, for no other purpose than insuring his partisan agenda will meet little opposition when it comes to passing bills through that chamber! And he’s doing it after assuring the Canadian people that he would not appoint senators, or engage in the very patronage practices, he railed against the former government for years about!
This is “more threatening” because it undermines the balance of power in Ottawa. Our Senate, which is supposed to be a chamber of “sober second thought” is being turned into a rubber stamp factory, where anything the current government wants will be passed without any sort of second thought, sober or otherwise!
All this, and I’ve not even begun to touch on changes being made to our national healthcare system, which has begun to allow for-profit clinics, creating a secondary health care system that caters to rich, while receiving funding from those of us who cannot afford such convenience!
What’s more, this same government, which does not have the support of the majority of Canadians, has embarked on a behind the scenes attempt to raise taxes on goods and services! An act that has resulted in rising prices for goods and services, while the average Canadian is having trouble meeting their bills! Yet, this same government, in cooperation with the Provincial governments, continues to extend tax breaks to the richest top ten percent of people and corporations, claiming those breaks will result in breaks for the working people, but belied by the fact those same companies and people are raising their prices to the consumer, not lowering them!
In the end, we are being transformed from a democracy, where the people have the power, to an oligarchy, where the few dictate to the many!
And yet, Canadians are busy, working, paying bills, trying to enjoy their limited leisure time, and doing their best to ignore the elephant in the room, which is stripping them of that leisure time, making them work harder, fret more, and stress more over the difficulties they are experiencing.
Moreover, the same government and people who are behind the mess, are being given free run because the people who are too stressed, are buying into the plan. While government and politicians turn our national debate into a schoolyard brawl, complete with personal attacks, character assassinations, name calling, smear campaigns, the people are looking at it and saying to themselves: “What nonsense, I don’t want anything to do with this crap!” And so they are disengaging, the end result of which, is to remove any opposition, feeding right into the government plan. A plan that, at its core, is to keep the people so preoccupied and tuned out, they offer no resistance as their rights and benefits are stripped away!
We come to perhaps the greatest threat of all. The threat to our planet, to the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat! Everyday we see how our environment is changing: more pollution, weird weather, less green space, less clean water, erratic seasonal changes and the like. Yet we have a national government that basically denies there is a problem, and when they do recognize it, feebly tell us we must follow the “American lead” on these matters. We’re basically being told we have to follow the lead of a country that has one of the worst environmental records in the world, and is contributing far more to its destruction than most! It’s a stark contrast to the Canada of a generation ago that was out to be world leaders in such things a global science, environmental protection, and preservation!
Then again, this whole situation a far cry from the Canada of a generation ago who were out to be world leaders in word peace, science, healthcare, education, quality of life, leisure, diplomacy and democratic process!
I’m not telling anyone anything new here. We all know what’s going on. One thing I can say about Canadians is, we’re not stupid. We know! But we’ve become apathetic! We’ve become soft! We’ve become pushovers! We’re letting the bullies, the small but very vocal and vicious Minority, have their way simply because we don’t want to become embroiled in the battl!. Instead of challenging the abuser, we’re letting the abuser take us hostage! We’ve, collectively, become the residents of small town Europe who, in the days of Fascism, said nothing when the brown shirts came for their neighbours, for their crops, for their homes, and who, in end, had no one to turn to when the brown shirts came knocking at their door! We’ve taken on the mantra of “its none of my business and does not affect me personally”, or “I’m only doing my job and taking care of my own business”. And that my friends, was the same mantra US soldiers heard when they interviewed the residents of towns like Auswitch after World War II, and asked those residents why they’d allowed the tragedy to unfold on their doorsteps!
We as Canadians are losing our democracy, and it ain’t because of our politicians and our weak leaders! Its because we ourselves are allowing it to happen! Its because we ourselves can’t be bothered to wade into the fray and say, “enough is enough, I want this to stop now!” Its because we’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted by all the name calling, personal attacks, character assassination, and the twisting of our national debate into some sort of personality conflict we don’t want to get involved in! And its in no small part because, instead of taking the time to really look at the situation, break it down, and see what is at its core, we choose instead to disengage! Its because at least half of us aren’t even bothering to show up at the polls and exercise our democratic responsibility! Its because we’ve allowed ourselves to become so preoccupied with our own little corners of the world and we can’t be bothered to step outside and look at the bigger picture!
I’m not trying to tell you how to vote, how to live, or what to do. But I will say these few things.
Generations of our families either fought and died fighting against, or fled, tyranny to come to Canada. They did this so you and I could lead free, happy, abundant and fruitful lives. They did not hide in their homes as the world around them fell to pieces! They did not capitulate! They reached out, took a stand, and made a difference! We are beholden to them, and to our children’s, children’s children to follow their example! Our forefathers and mothers gave us Canada, and it up to us to give Canada to our kids!
If an election is held and no one votes, we end up with tyranny. And if we end up with tyranny, there will be no Canada for our children and their children!
Inform yourself, educate yourself, participate! Step beyond the name calling, the smears, the lies, the deceit! Look at the issues! Learn about the parties and what they represent! Meet the people who are running for office! Engage your community and your democracy! Let your conscience by your guide! But most of all: Lead by example and make a difference!
Either that, or turtle, put your head between your legs and kiss you ass goodbye, because life without the freedom to live it is no life at all!!!

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Harper Prorogue Absolutely Undemocratic

There is absolutely no way parliament should be recessed, prorogued or otherwise dismissed without a majority vote, in the house, in favour!
Nor should any request have been made of the Governor General without the approval of the majority of the house. Nor should the Governor General have entertained any request from the Prime Minister unless the PM had the approval of the majority of the house.
In a democracy, majority rules, period. If there is a law that allows the Minority to overrule the Majority, then that law should be changed. The reason there are provisions, in parliamentary democracy, for minority governments and coalitions is, in part, to prevent a Minority from overruling the majority. We did not elect Mr. Harper to be Governor, or President, or King. We elected a Minority government. His party got more seats than any other single party, not more seats than all the other parties combined. If he had a Majority of the seats in the house, then fine, but he does not. Mr. Harper is the first PM in history to successfully be granted a prorogue without Majority consent.
The Opposition, if they are against this prorogue, should make it known to the GG and demand that parliament be recalled according to the parliamentary schedule that was in place when the house recessed. They should also, in my opinion, approach the Supreme Court, for a ruling on whether this prorogue is constitutional or not. They should also demand immediate recall of the house to vote on whether or not parliament should be prorogued. It should not be left to the GG or the PM to decide whether or not the house should sit without majority consent!
If the Opposition does nothing to have the prorogue reversed, then they are giving the PM pre-emptory right to govern without Majority consent, which in other words would constitute a Dictatorship!
Aside from the obvious issues, like parliamentarians getting paid not to work, and the scrapping of all current legislation, there are other concerns here. One, the people have not been told what the GG's reasons were for granting the prorogue! As citizens, we have a right to that information. Secondly, the Olympics have been mentioned. What on earth does a sporting event have to do with the function of parliament? Third, Canada is likely to be under heightened security alert during the Olympics, yet the PM is leaving Canada without watchdogs over the RCMP and Military Police during this period! That seems a mite irresponsible! If there is a security issue at the Olympics, what happens? Does Stephen Harper have the right to declare Martial Law without the consent of the house? There are just too many "what ifs" that could happen while parliament is not in session!

I think Canadians need to take the bull by the horns and do the job our parliamentarians are either refusing to do or being denied the ability to do. We need to phone and write our MPs, the GG, the Queen, and even the courts to demand the fundamental democratic principle of Majority Rule be adhered to by our PM and the house. If we do not, then we too are giving the PM permission to govern without Majority consent, and are in fact, signing away our democracy.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pot Decrim in Canada

What was the cost of last summer’s pot busts in Kaslo?.
How much did it cost the police to conduct these investigations and raids versus how much the defendants paid once they were convicted, if they were convicted?
When was the last time police went out to bust up a liquor still?
Point being, if pot were decriminalized and sold in a similar manner to alcohol, would we need to waste police resources, time and money, on busting pot growers?
If pot were decriminalized, would these growers even be interested, or willing, to continue operating illegally?
In Holland, pot is decriminalized and sold in licensed “coffee shops”, growers are licensed, and taxes are paid on the businesses and income from the activity. ” Possession of small quantities is permitted.
The result, according to the Dutch government, is many millions added to the tax base, a freeing up of police resources to deal with harder drugs, less court resources taken up prosecuting minor pot charges, and very few illegal grow ops (its easier to buy a license and do it legally).
Socially, there is less pot in the streets (its more comfy to go sit in a coffee shop) and a major reduction in the number of young people taking up the habit (the same thing happened when alcohol prohibition ended).
At a time when government revenues are tumbling, it seems odd a government claiming “fiscal responsibility” would continue to prosecute an activity that costs more than it yields. It also seems odd, while most reports indicate decriminalization, licensing and regulation of pot would create a major windfall for government coffers, the feds stringently hold onto their ideologically driven opposition. Franky, its fiscally irresponsible not to reconsider.
Another factor is the ongoing negative perception of the RCMP. They give lip service to the concept of “community policing” but seem more interested in getting neighbours to tattle-tale on each other. Community policing should be more about serving and reacting to the concerns of the community where the police are situated. Were the busts in Kaslo this summer conducted as a result of local pressure, or were the police operating under ideologically-based directions from Ottawa?
Most studies and reports indicate the “war on pot” is not working. Prohibition is resulting in gang violence (just as it did with alcohol), making criminals rich, and costing taxpayers untold millions.
Obviously, it is time we tried a new tact, especially when we need means of boosting the tax base! Most reports indicate decriminalization would do just that!
It is also time to face the fact that pot is not going away, just as we once acknowledged about booze.
How long will it be before common sense supplants unsuccessful ideological positions?
When will we finally learn from the mistakes of the past? When will our governments actually begin to demonstrate the fiscal responsibility they give so much credence to?
Finally, we can always give it a try and see if it works. The nice thing about laws is, we can always change them if they don’t work out!

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Canada 09 vs Germany 39

I grew up listening to stories about the "Great Wars." In school we learned about the politics behind those wars.
We were told Hitler was trying to conquer the world, end democracy, and institute an international dictatorship. Repeatedly it was explained how he went from being a fringe player, seldom taken seriously, to having a minority, to overruling the majority in his own parliament, to unleashing a period of unprecedented terror on the world.
Step by step his actions were explained, with the intent of making sure, we would never forget, and would not allow such a tragedy to occur again.
Hitler began with a small group of radicals. They complained German society was too "liberal", crime was out of control, outsiders were destroying society and hording resources, that Germany needed to build a strong army to reclaim its greatness.
Unfortunately, the German people did not take Hitler seriously. He seemed an odd man, surrounded by fringe characters. His politics were not widely shared. Few believed he would ever get elected, let alone become Chancellor. His party seemed to be little more than a group of disaffected losers who liked to complain about everything, and wanted to take the country backward, not forward.
His party's tactics of name calling, of accusing the opposition of being in league in with Germany's enemies, of claiming other parties were suffering from moral decay, only seemed to reaffirm he was a marginal character of no real consequence.
Even after being elected Chancellor, with a slim minority, few took him seriously. His claim that crime was out of control seemed ridiculous because most Germans lived relatively peaceful lives. Yes, there were serious economic problems, but no one really believed it was caused by immigrants. People were confident, his party was in the minority and there were plenty of checks and balances in the German political system.
When he began to chip away at the judiciary, appointing like minded people to the German courts, few challenged him. When he allowed the police to do their business without oversight, few complained. When he mocked his opposition, calling them names, accusing them of being traitors, few challenged his assertions. Most people found the politics of the time so negative, they simply ignored it. Even when Hitler began to outrightly overrule the elected majority, people continued to call him “inconsequential”.
The German people, by and large, viewed the ultra-nationalist, law and order, militaristic Nazi platform as a minority view, that would go away if ignored. Hitler represented the few and in time would be voted out.
We all know what happened next!
I’m grateful to be Canadian. The accident of my birth saved me from war, starvation, most disease, and dictatorship. I’ve been free to speak my mind, move about unfettered, and had a say in how I’m governed.
However, I do remember the lessons I was taught by those who experienced fascim, oppression and deprivation! Because of those lessons, I remain keenly aware of the warning signs.
When a people become complacent, ignoring the signs, more concerned about their individual wealth than the well being of the many, when they allow their democratic institutions to be chipped away, when they ignore the rantings, name calling and unfounded accusations being tossed around, they are ripe for dictatorship!
There is an old adage: “All it takes for evil to thrive in the world is for one good man to do nothing.” It seems to me, in Canada today, there are a lot of good people choosing to do just that!
That said, there is only one thing I want for Christmas. I want my fellow Canadians, all of them, to stand up for the most precious gift we have in our possession, our democracy!

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

BC Liberals, a tired, old, outdated platform

US Senator John McCain, when he was running for President last year repeatedly stated: "The fundamentals of the US economy are strong."
Canadian Prime Minister, before the Opposition forced him to come clean last winter, repeatedly stated the financial crisis in the US would not have a significant impact on the Canadian economy.
BC Premier Gordon Campbell, in his most recent campaign ads, repeatedly states our province will not be severely impacted by the global financial crisis, and that "BC is the envy of other provinces."
The common link between these three individuals is they all adhere to the policies of deregulation (making things easier for business), privatization of healthcare and social programs, and tax cuts.
Curiously, John McCain would eventually flip flop on deregulation, and towards the end of the campaign, start advocating for more oversight. Prime Minister Harper would take a similar tact, praising Canada's regulatory systems for preventing a total meltdown of the country's banking system. Only BC Premier Gordon Campbell has stuck to the deregulate, privatize and tax cut mantra.
US President Barack Obama, who soundly defeated John McCain for the office, refers to the policies of deregulation, privatization and tax cuts, as "rehashed, stale, tired, old ideas." And most of the worlds most respected economists agree. In fact, they have pinned the worlds current financial crisis on "deregulation, privatization and tax cuts."
All I'm saying is: British Columbians should be thinking about these things when we go to the polls on May 12.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You, Demand It!

It was the American president, John F. Kennedy, who said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Those words have echoed for a generation. They are clever, and sound right, but are they?
Way back at the time of the Magna Carta in England, a group of noblemen rose up against their government, demanding it pay attention to the needs and rights of the citizenry. At the time, the King was the government. He made all the rules and the people had no alternative but to obey, lest they be imprisoned or worse. In fact, all the people were expected to do for their country, and the government was beholden to none. The King could do whatever he wanted.
Similar events occured in other countries, such as France. Many centuries later, in the American colonies, it was the same story all over again. When the colonists complained their government, led by King George, was ignoring them, not allowing fair representation, and ruling without regard for their rights, they too rose up. They were in fact demanding the government “do for them” and were quite sick of “doing for their country” while their country did nothing for them. In the end they formed their own country, a country that was “for the people, by the people.”
This latest slogan, in the years since, has become the founding phrase for democracies all around the world. It seems to fly in the face of what JFK said. In fact, democracy, at its core, is founded on the notion that a country, and its government, must do for its people, not the other way around!
Yesterday I was in a cafe where I overheard the young server complaining about people who are forever expecting their government to do for them. Its a common complaint. Anyone who is expecting their government to help them out is somehow a welfare bum, a miscreant, a ne’er do well. At least that’s what many of us have come to believe, but is it reality?
Seems to me the whole point of democracy is governence for the people, representing the people, by the people, not the other way around. Government, in the democratic system, is meant to represent the people against the power.
Today the corporations and the wealthy have replaced the king. And in democratic systems, the task of government is to balance the people’s interests against that power. Its the whole purpose of elections, to give the people a say in how they are treated by the power, and to keep the power in check. At least, that’s what is supposed to be going on!
Unfortunately, somehow, it is not what is going on. We have supposed democratic governments that spend the lion’s share of their time representing the interests of the power, corporations and industry, against the people. The current economic mess, and bailout plans, are a prime example. Banks, the auto industry, big corporations, the rich, are all being handed huge sums of the people’s money. Yet, if its even suggested that money should be going directly to the people, all of a sudden we hear cries of “socialism” as if it would be anti-democratic to help the people. Yet it is somehow okay to help the powerful!
Why is socialism okay for big corporations, but not for the people? Its a question no one can answer. We’re told its because the big corporatons create jobs, but all the evidence says otherwise. Every study ever done illustrates it is not the big powerful coroporations that create jobs, but small business! Small businesses run by the people are the primary sources of new jobs in every economy in the world. Big business is better known for cutting jobs, for moving jobs offshore, for polluting, for using tax lawyers to get around paying taxes, for reaping huge profits while cutting manpower. Yet our governments continue to bend over backwards to keep big business in business, while everyday people, and the businesses they operate, go under!
For all intent and purpose we’re back where we were when the noblemen launched their protest and created the Magna Carta. We’re in the same place France was, when the people stormed the bastille and overthrew their king. We’re in exactly the same place we were in the when the colonists climbed aboard the ships in Boston harbour and had themselves a tea party! Our government has become the servant of the rich and powerful and the mantra is: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” We’re being called upon to go along with the premise that we should ask nothing of our governors, and gracefully accept whatever they decree for us.
We’ve been here before and it is not too difficult to imagine what will happen next. The king must capitulate or lose his head!
As much as I’ve been taught to honour the memory of John F. Kennedy, and I have, his creed reads more like golden rule of Fascism than Democracy! And it shouldn’t be a matter of asking what our government can do for us! The point is, the government, in a democracy, should be doing for us without us having to ask!
Perhaps we all need to ask what our country has done for us of late, before we go blindly asking what we can do for it. Our governments have stood by idly while we lose our jobs, while our health and educations systems deteriorate, while our houses are forclosed on, while our young men and women are sent off to fight unwinnable wars, while our environment is driven to the brink of disaster, while we pay more and more and more, for less and less and less!
No, JFK had it backwards. We should be demanding our country do for us what it is supposed to be doing for us. And if it doesn’t, then we owe it to both ourselves and our country to do the one thing we can do for our country! That is the thing the nobles did in England, the peasants did in the Bastille, and the colonists did in Boston. If our country won’t do for us, then we should change it!
Ask not what your country can do for you, demand it!

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

BC Liberals Gang Response Equals Social Bankruptcy

If all we need do, to effectively deal with gang violence, is hire new police and prosecutors, and build a few more jail cells, then why didn't our provincial government go ahead and do just that when economic times were good.
Could it be because our Attorney General and Premier have seen the results of similar practices in the USA, and know more police, prosecutors and jails will do no good?
Why waste money on efforts that do no good? Unless, it is politically expedient to do so.
The announcement today, by the BC Liberals, is designed only to appease a frustrated public, who desperately need to see something being done. Sadly, it also speaks to the ever more apparent bankruptcy of ideas and strategies in the Campbell government.
Ending gang violence will require a multi-pronged solution, involving not only law enforcement and justice, but social and economic measures. Before it will end, we will have to remove the impetus that drives our young people into gangs in the first place. The effort will not only need to be long term, but perpetual.
We cannot continue to pour all our political and economic capital into mega projects, tax cuts, bailouts and deficits, while ignoring the very real life tragedies of poverty and wholly inadequate social services.
What we need more than anything is fresh ideas and strategies that work. Unfortunately, we won't see either of those things until we start electing people who are actually in possession of such qualities.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Saving Canada Newspaper Industy

When was the last time you picked up a newspaper and read anything new, controversial, or different?
These days, it doesn’t matter if you’re getting your news from TV, radio, or the papers. Its all the same stuff. You can pick up a Toronto Star or a Vancouver Sun and read all the same stuff, from the same perspective, with all the same subjects.
Is it any wonder people have abandoned the newspapers for sources like the internet, where one can at least get another side of the story?
Most papers in this country now go at the news from one particular angle, business! Reporters no longer ask how events affect people in their home communities. They ask how it affects business! It may come as a surprise to many of our modern day editors and publishers, but not everyone is interested in the business perspective.
The other major issue is what I call “mob mentality.” Take politics for example. All the reporters are gathered in one place interviewing the same people. Heck, some of them don’t even bother to ask their own questions. They just stick out their recorders and later transcribe all the same questions and answers.
When I was a kid I recall how folks would wait outside the St. Catharines Standard offices waiting for the paper to be printed. Sometimes they’d be pushing each other aside just to get copies when the paper was finally delivered to the box. Once people had their copies, they’d step aside and start reading, then the debates would begin.
It would be the same scene ten miles down the road in Niagara Falls, where a whole different set of stories and perspectives would be covered. Most folks would in fact buy The Standard, The Niagara Falls Review, and the Welland Tribune, just so they would be up to date on all the different news, from all the different little towns in the region. When they wanted a wider perspective, they’d go buy a Globe and Mail, a Hamilton Spectator, a Toronto Star, or even a New York Times.
Nowadays it doesn’t matter which of those papers you buy, one is as good, or bad, as the other. And the same picture on the cover of the Globe is more than likely going to show up in the Standard. Why buy more than one, when all the news and perspective you’re going to get is in one?
In my opinion, you can blame it all on the Blacks, both Conrad and David! Conrad began the process, buying up over half of the papers in the country and homogenizing them to the point where they all looked, smelled and tasted the same. David has taken it one step further, nearly eliminating any sort of news at all (especially local), and focussing the giant share of the papers’ content on advertising. These days you can get as much local information from a “Buy and Sell” as you can from most traditional newspapers.
Now, the industry seems intent on carrying through on their slow suicide by laying off their reporters and photographers, relying even more on the news wires and centralized information sources. With less reporters and photographers, local papers can no longer cover their own courts, police beats, neighbourhoods. Sadly, this results in less and less people turning to the local papers for information, mostly because there’s no new information in them.
This has a domino affect on advertising too. People stop reading the paper, and advertisers realize no one is reading the paper, so they stop advertising in it.
Sadly,this whole scenario is also starting affecting radio and TV. It no longer matters which radio or TV station you tune in. The news is all the same, and so is the opinion. Pretty soon, all we’re going to need is one national paper, one TV station, and one radio station.
But its not all doom and gloom and there is a solution. One example is right here in the West Kootenay. Out of New Denver BC there is a fledgling little paper called “The Valley Voice.” Its not well written, the photos are often grainy and out of focus, and it doesn’t have a lot of flashy ads. However, when that paper hits the street, everyone in the region makes sure to pick it up!
Why? Because there’s news in that little paper that can’t be found anywhere else! The opinion pages, at least two or more full pages every issue, are full of local voices, and the editorials are entirely from a local perspective. What’s more, the publisher of the paper is not entirely focussed on the bottom line. He’s not trying to make a million. His bottom line is producing a rag that people will read, while earning him a modest living. And the biggest threat to his business comes not from a lack of readership, but from big conglomerate, widely circulated, papers that suck up the lion’s share of advertising dollars from large corporations and government sources, and control the source of paper and ink. To him, the failure of these big sheets is good news, because when they finally go under, he will be left standing.
All this considered, if we really want to salvage the newspaper industry in this country, it is imperative the newspaper industry go back to its roots, and begin delivering news people want to read, the news going on down the street, up the block, and around the corner.
The solution is not in laying off reporters and photographers, but in hiring more of them to cover the stories in our home communities. Moreso, the resolution to the current problems in the newspaper industry is not to be found in more coroporate control.
Newspapers were invented for no other purpose than to give a voice to the people. For as long as they were the voice of the people, they thrived. In modern times newspapers have become parrots for big business and government. Therein is the real issue. To survive, they must once again become the place the people turn to hear what their neighbours have to say.

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