Canada: Conservative government is getting used to bashing by national media

Canada: Conservative government is getting used to bashing by national media

Toronto : Canada | Aug 16, 2012 at 6:03 AM PDT
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Since the Stephen Harper government assumed power in 2006, it has been used to sharp criticism from the national media. Among the strongest critics have been the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the Toronto Star. The CBC is a public broadcaster, which receives in excess of $1 billion in public funding.

The National Post, for the most part, has a balanced approach, with critics on both sides of the political spectrum. Sun News, often described as FOX North, is an ultra-conservative network, which caters to a conservative audience.

Harper's conservative government has been in power in Canada since 2006, when it formed a minority gouvernment. Harper was sworn in as Canada's 22nd Prime Minister on Feb. 6, 2006. A federal election in 2008 increased the conservative party's seats to 143 from 127 of the 308 seats in parliament. Liberal seats fell from 95 to 77. Wikileaks

The tenure of the government after the 2008 election could best be described as difficult. Harper's legislation was blocked by the opposition parties, who held 165 of the 308 seats. Consequently there was gridlock on most issues.

In 2011 the government was defeated by a non-confidence motion and was found in contempt of parliament, triggering an election. On May 2, Haper emerged with his third election victory, winning a 166 seats and a majority government. The other change was the emergence of the New Democrats as the official opposition party, moving the Liberal Party to third party status. The NDP success came from it's breakthrough in Quebec.

Now that the government had a majority, it started implementing its agenda, which included ridding the country of the controverisal gun registry, abandoning the Kyoto Accord and streamlining the process for enviornmental assessments.

Controversies that have emerged over the past 18 months include the F 35 fighter purchase, election fraud with the use of robocalls and most recently the omnibus budget bill.. Oppponents of the F35 purchase have accused the government of providing misleading figures to the public. The oppositon alleges voter fraud during the 2011 election. They accuse the government of making robo-calls across the country, sending voters who indicated that they would not vote conservative to poll stations that either didn't exist or where outside their electorial riding. Elections Canada is in the process of investigating these complaints.

The role of the Media

While the Harper government has been controversial to say the least, the national media has played a large role in framing the conservative governments reputation and thus public opinion. CBC, in my humble opinion has been at the forefront of this. Using its influential program "Power and Politics," the attacks and allegations against the Harper government have been a daily occurrence. Liberal pundits or members of parliament outnumber those on the conservative side, most of the time, 3-1.

While some of this is countered by Sun News, that network is probably not a credible source in the eyes of the majority of Canadians. The extreme right wing views turn off even moderate conservatives.

The latest allegations against the Harper comes in an article in the Globe and Mail yesterday "Boadroom Confidential: What CEOs are asking of Jim Flaherty."

The article states that the Canadian Finance Minister holds meetings with select groups for two days every summer. While the meetings are private, attendees can talk about what was discussed, but are not permitted to reveal the source.

The Globe and Mail says it has obtained a briefing note under the Freedom of Information Act, which among other points contains:

"A wrap-up briefing note to the minister dated Aug. 16, 2011 – five days after last year’s retreat – provides a point-form summary of the discussions, broken down by topic. The memo does not say who made which comments.

Labour issues surface in several discussion categories, with the general view that Canadian workers are overpriced. “Need to address wage differentials in labor market among countries; we are losing jobs to other countries,” the memo reads. “Right to Work legislation should be pondered as it creates inequities in productivity; U.S. example was provided.”

In the United States, about two dozen state governments have passed right-to-work legislation, which allows workers to opt out of paying union dues. Critics call the measures a form of union busting. Globe and Mail

This article, once again, energizes the base of the opposing NDP in this country. An e-mail, received this morning from an acquaintance, has the following content.

"Harper is doing what Corporations want, Canadian's suffering for it. Therefore, I declare Stephen Harper to be Prime Minister of Corporations. By doing so, he also is declared a Traitor to the People of Canada."

While my friend is entitled to his opinion, it seems to me that this is a little over the top. Inviting business leaders for input on the economy and recommendations is far from implementing them. Naturally, the opposition parties and their supporters will seize on this and criticize every every decision made that smells of coroporate interference. The bottom line is that Canada is still a democracy and if you don't like the government in power you can elect a new one during the next election. The opposition will have plenty of help from Canada's national media. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Harper at the UN (AFP/Emanuel Dunand)
Karl Gotthardt is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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