Journalism associations across the country, including the heads of the parliamentary press galleries in Ottawa and several provinces, have sent a letter decrying Harper’s media control tactics, his use of distributed photos and videos from events closed to other reporters and photojournalists, and his making ministers and senior public servants unavailable to journalists everywhere. They also want journalists to explain what this means to their readers.
I’d like to think that over the past nearly two years, I’ve been pretty good about explaining to my readers the ways in which this government’s message control – not to mention their other parliamentary shenanigans – have been eroding parliamentary democracy. Not that it can be said enough, mind you. But when free media isn’t able to hold governments to account because those governments restrict the information available to the media and the public, distortion happens. Doublespeak becomes the order of the day (worse than it already is), and people have no basis to judge what goes on in the business of the nation. And that’s a problem – especially when they’re expected to hold that government to account.
People are already tuned out when it comes to Parliament and basic governance – and that’s exactly what Harper is counting on by trying to control the information that you, the public, receive. The more tuned out you are, the more you don’t question when his words don’t match reality, the more complacent you become. If you don’t vote to hold him to account, you may not vote at all. And that suits him just fine, as he continues to remake Canada in his image in tiny increments so that you won’t notice. So let’s not let him get away with it.
Bill C-11, the refugee reform bill, has passed committee – but with a number of amendments that made it palatable for the opposition. More details coming later today on xtra.ca.
During Question Period, Michael Ignatieff began by asking why, despite the pleas by various and sundry leaders and important voices, the environment was not on the G20 agenda. Harper said that the focus was on the economy, but they might discuss other things. Ignatieff also dubbed the fake lake Lake Wastemataxes, which was probably the second-best name I’ve heard for it yet. (The best? The Muskfauxka Experience.) Harper, to be fair, got an apropos dig about Ignatieff’s home in Provence in there too. Mark Holland followed up on the absurdity of banning all sightseeing within 15 kilometres of each summit site, yet trying to use the summits to promote tourism. He also attacked the fact that it cost $1.1 million for backdrops for these summits, which Lawrence Cannon defended by saying they would be used for seven summit events. Did you hear that? Seven!
Gilles Duceppe also asked after the lack of environmental agenda items at the summits, and Johanne Deschamps brought up the abortion issue. Jack Layton mentioned that the money being spent on the summit could be better spent on women and children, but Harper assured him that these summit costs were natural and defensible.
Questions on the cost of the summits continued, with the added contexts of infrastructure money for New Brunswick, and the closure and de-staffing of lighthouses. From there, topics moved to (once again) the plans for a national securities regulator, the commercial interests of copyright legislation, and absolute versus unlimited civil liability for offshore oil spills.
Rob Oliphant asked after the lack of new spending for veterans by the government, especially in light of a report by the Veterans’ Ombudsman. There were questions on the procurement of replacement fighter jets, and why they couldn’t procure them from a Canadian company and be the saviour of the domestic aerospace industry. The final few touched on the gun registry, government interference with Access to Information, the embattled Rights and Democracy agency, First Nations University funding, and the very big problem of the lack of French being available for an agency that groups needed to belong to in order to gain access to the Canada Media Fund (which James Moore said he was working on).
Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Judy Foote for her tailored grey dress with the smart, matching modern-cut jacket, and the apropos accessories of the wide black belt and heels. I was also a little unsure of Lisa Raitt’s short red dress with the horizontal ruffled pleats, but after some careful consideration, decided that she in fact owned the look, and was cooler than the red dress. On the citation side was France Bonsant’s orange-hued sofalike jacket, and Mike Wallace’s sickly yellow shirt with his grey suit and yellow-and-navy tie.
Elections Canada says that the Conservatives are subverting Parliament on campaign financing, using court judgments to try to increase spending limits, rather than doing it through, you know, legislation. What were we saying about the erosion of democracy in this country?
Further to the story posted yesterday, it seems the government ignored red flags over security hiring in the Dahla Dam project in Afghanistan. Because they’re taking these signature projects seriously.
And finally, under the column of most disappointing press conference ever, the NDP held one yesterday touting that William Shatner was helping them fight for salmon issues in BC. Except that Shatner was appearing at said press conference by phone only. Way to kill the Press Gallery’s little ray of joy, NDP!