Whatever happened to the concept of the fourth estate, the media and mainly the news media, having a central role of holding governments to account—holding the rascals’ feet to the fire, so to speak? There was a time in Canada when most journalists seemed to take this role seriously, almost as a sacred duty.
I sense things have changed, especially with the victory last fall of the Trudeau Liberals over the Harper Conservatives. In the prior decade, many—possibly most—in the media seemed to relish the idea of demonizing the Conservative government, leaping on every hint of excess or wrongdoing on the part of then Prime Minister Harper’s team.
Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office, however, our media seem to have a more understanding nature. But I suppose it is too much to expect them to be speaking truth to power in Ottawa, when there are so many more “clicks” and “eyeballs” to be attracted by publishing bare-chested photos and selfies of the prime minister and his adoring fans.
Yes, to be sure, newspapers like the National Post and the Toronto Sun are diligent when it comes to keeping the Liberals honest and have been fast to point out government failures and missteps. The Sun, and especially their now defunct television news network, however, were as guilty as anyone when it came to cheer-leading the Conservatives when they held power.
For the most part, though, media are far too inclined to understand, rationalize and explain how difficult a job the Grits have and how great it is that they are trying so very hard. And media are far too busy cheering Trudeau from the sidelines as he marches in one parade or another. Photos of the prime minister pop up everywhere as he jogs with some world leader, jokes with U.S. president Barack Obama, appears shirtless in strangers’ wedding pictures, or is featured in a fluff-piece in Vogue magazine.
For years Canada has consistently earned a high ranking in “Best Countries” reports—our number two spot in the World Economic Forum’s report in January and the 2016 Social Progress Index are but two recent examples. Notwithstanding similar achievements during the Conservative era, Trudeau tosses about terms like “sunny ways” as though he were leading the country out of the dark ages. And, of course, the media at large lap it all up and repeat his nonsense as if it were based on anything real or substantial.
A litany of Grit missteps are reported on, but then excused and explained away lest they damage the Prime Minister or his government’s pristine image.
The Liberals promised they would bring 25,000 refugees to Canada by the end of 2015. But when their promise proved impossible to keep, their reduced target of a mere 10,000 was met mainly with sympathy and only mild criticism.
The Liberals promised a deficit of $10-billion for three years, then a balanced budget. Their first budget projects a $30-billion deficit. Some miss, eh?
The Liberals have admitted their “middle class” tax cut will cost far more than promised, and will benefit those whose incomes range from $89,000 and $200,000, with little going to most actual middle-class taxpayers. They’ve also admitted their surtax on high-income taxpayers will raise about $1-billion less than they promised us.
The Liberals promised they would restore lost door-to-door mail delivery services. Now they won’t tell us if or when that will happen.
And what about that high-priority Canada-is-back promise to “immediately [emphasis mine] review Canada’s environmental assessment and introduce new, fair processes…,” etc., etc. So far? No real plan, of course, and almost a year later we pretty much operate under the same rules as we did under the Harper government.
Remember all that stuff about being open and transparent? More smoke and mirrors there, apparently. Earlier this year, the Ottawa Citizen reported that the Parliamentary Budget Officer possesses missing data needed to analyze the Liberal government’s budget, but he says he dare not disclose those numbers because they are confidential. The numbers are from the federal finance department, but cannot be used in his report to Parliament. I kid you not.
Readers may also want to read this Toronto Sun tale about “muzzled scientists” under the present regime, it highlights the duplicity of the Trudeau government. And how about Justin Trudeau’s Health Minister Jane Philpott telling us she’ll stop using a limousine service owned by a Liberal supporter that charged her $1,700 for transportation in the Greater Toronto Area. She admits the price tag was “too high" and “inappropriate." And get this, she said, “I have already taken steps to prevent this from occurring in the future." I guess she’s admonished herself in the mirror and given herself a good ol’ finger wag.
I could go on, but it’s too depressing. A Google search will provide several more examples of broken promises. My point is this: any Conservative government with such a shoddy record of broken promises so early in its mandate would be castigated 24/7 by newspapers and broadcast media alike. Any real attempt at criticism of the Grits, however, is met with rebuttals designed to exculpate Trudeau and his team, followed by Liberal tales of how much worse it would have been under Prime Minister Harper. Remember Harper the bogeyman?
There are many Canadian journalists on all points of the political spectrum who will believe rightly that my criticism is unfair to them individually, and to them I apologize. But taken as an industry, most of the big-business Canadian media is guilty of bias towards the federal Liberal government. And it’s just not healthy for our democracy when we give undeserving governments too much of a free pass.