There’s an argument to be made that the CBC provides a valuable service to Canadians that justifies its billion-dollar annual cost. Canada is a geographically vast country with many isolated communities, and for many the CBC is the only easily-accessible source of news or entertainment. But surely the value of the content provided by the CBC should be factored into this argument. A strict adherence to journalistic integrity and ethics, and a commitment to always serve the public interest is what distinguishes Canada’s state broadcaster from the fatuous, idol-worshipping propaganda we see in foreign dictatorships, right?
Justin Trudeau recently visited Saskatchewan to promote his carbon tax, and stopped in at a Regina firehall for speeches and a staged photo-op. The local CBC branch was immediately smitten by photos of Justin half-heartedly donning a fireman’s jacket. Fair enough, for the heart wants what it wants. Not content to doodle in their trapper-keepers though (JT + CBC = <3), or maybe limit their Tiger-Beat fawning to an opinion piece, CBC Saskatchewan published a full news story to keep Canadians informed that “things got … steamy — at least on Twitter.”
What’s slightly more embarrassing than the idea that this ‘news’ article was even considered in the first place is how far the author had to search to find corroborating opinions on Twitter to validate their premise. Without someone, somewhere, making a comment about Trudeau’s looks, the author wouldn’t be able to call this mash note ‘journalism’, and so they scoured Twitter’s feed just long enough to find sufficient evidence to adhere to CBC’s double sourcing guidelines. 3 accounts with about 1200 followers apiece, (only one of which it would appear actually belongs to a Canadian) represent ‘Social Media’ in the author’s opinion.
Thank you CBC. It’s good to know that you have Canadian’s backs when it comes to reporting on events that shape our lives in turbulent times.
In 2015 Justin Trudeau’s Liberals ran on a platform promising to change Canada’s electoral system from a plurality or ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system to … something else. They weren’t terribly specific with what the alternative would be, but they were darned sure it wouldn’t be plurality. Elected with 39.5% of the popular vote, they’re now obligated to provide Canadians with specific details of their plan, and are scrambling to frame their pitch.
To this end, the Government of Canada has begun the charade of staging ‘Electoral Reform Consultations’ in towns and cities across the country. Citizens who attend are, under supervision, divided into small groups, and prompted to discuss amongst themselves topics such as mandatory voting, online voting, lowering the voting age, and finally why first past the post is terrible and all other systems of voting are virtuous and noble and just plain better. Questions are framed to guide discussion to the desired response, time is limited to ensure that no substantive debate actually occurs, and the (Liberal) coordinator presents a small sermon after each discussion to highlight the approved conclusions, and ensure the crowd that ‘consensus’ has been reached. A show is made of collecting notes from each group, and assurances are given that these will be delivered to a committee who will heed their words and present their findings in December. Attendees leave believing a) the government’s preferred choice is the best, b) they came to the same conclusion on their own, and c) they played an integral role in Canadian democracy. It is Orwellian peer-pressure fuelled propaganda at its finest.
One wonders why the Liberals would go to the effort of public consultations in this format when there already exists a precise and well-understood mechanism for polling the will of the population, which has worked for humans for millennia and Canadians specifically since 1867: a vote. A referendum on the issue would obtain the opinion of a far greater number of Canadians than their series of small consultations, and voters would be free to express their opinion from within the sanctity of a polling booth, not surrounded by a group of their peers. The Liberal Party is dead set against the idea though, one suspects because this may not produce the answer they want. Referendums are loud, visible and most of all binding. By hosting ‘Consultations’ they are free to entirely ignore any feedback they don’t like, while maintaining the appearance of listening to their constituents.
As Liberals are so fond of inverting election results, let’s consider the result from 2015: 60.5% of Canadians didn’t vote for the party with electoral reform as their platform, and of those who did, it’s entirely unclear what percentage consider electoral reform necessary, and what their preferred alternative would be in such a case. For the Liberals to claim that they have a clear mandate from Canadians is preposterous and entirely self-serving. There are benefits and detriments to any electoral system, and every eligible Canadian deserves a say in the matter, in a manner which respects the importance of the issue. That is a referendum, not orchestrated and choreographed round tables.
Or, if the Liberal party (or even the NDP) is truly so upset at the notion that plurality voting can lead to parties winning without 50% of the vote plus one, perhaps they could make the noble sacrifice of disbanding entirely. Presented with a choice between the two remaining major national parties, Canadians would surely elect one with the majority of votes that they insist is so vital to representative democracy. Although they will make impassioned speeches in town halls about the need for a fair voting system that solves the problem of minority governments and represents the diverse opinions of its people, I doubt they would be happy if their consultations produced this bit of feedback.
During the 9 years in which Stephen Harper server as Prime Minister of Canada, the official opposition loudly opposed his every act, as is their wont and their duty. Elected in 2015 in his stead though, they found themselves with a long history of loud complaints, and a dim recollection of why they had complained in the first place.
Wasting no time, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began implementing his principled plan of do-the-opposite-of-whatever-Harper-did-regardless-of-logic-or-reason. Tax free-savings plans were an early target of attack, because despite people’s fondness for keeping their own money, this was a policy that Harper had championed, and any record of his deeds must be stricken from the history books. Where Stephen Harper had a plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, the new Liberal government would bring in 25,000, because despite obviouslogistical problems, 25 was a bigger number than 10.
Their next target became Stephen Harper’s bold, authoritarian decision that his government wouldn’t send people to jail for not filling out paperwork. In Trudeau’s Canada, this maniacal stance of not incarcerating people could not continue. In December, Trudeau’s Liberals proudly proclaimed the return of jail time and fines for anyone who dared to not fill out a census. They used the phrase ‘robust communication plan’ instead of ‘propaganda’ though, so some weirdos got excited by the promise.
To add a level of Orwellian creep to the matter, the publicly-funded CBC corporation published news stories claiming that everyone was super excited to be filling out their mandated paperwork. Census employees phoned and visited citizens to hound the delinquent. School teachers were provided lesson plans to lecture their students about how exciting the census is, and the importance of prompt acquiescence to authority.
It would be easy to argue that the government gets all the accurate head count data it needs annually via Revenue Canada, and that any information regarding language, ethnicity or education could be easily extrapolated from voluntarily collected data using the ancient and arcane practice of statistics. It would also be easy to make the argument that the government has no practical way of enforcing an obviously empty threat, and that one could easily lie, dodge, or bluff their way out of answering the census questions.
The purest argument against this silly charade though is that in Canada the government should not be jailing people for the crime of not answering a questionnaire. Incarceration is a serious and severe form of punishment. Accurate census data is undoubtedly valuable, but surely not worth a person’s freedom to secure. Even if this is merely an empty threat designed to improve turnout, the Canadian government should not be in the business of threatening its citizens.
Most of all, Canadians should be wary of a government that dispatches its own media and education system to push a message, and should question the reasoning behind any such campaign. Sometimes it’s just a petty feud to support the ego of a party more defined by their opposition than any sensible policy of their own.