The Tyranny of the Talking Point

Dear government spin doctor,

I am working on a story about how the job you’re doing is helping to kill Canada’s democracy.

I know that your role, as a so-called communications professional, is to put the best spin on what the government is or isn’t doing.

That means you often don’t respond the questions I ask, you help elected officials do the same thing and you won’t let me talk to those who actually have the answers.

While this may work out very well for you, it doesn’t work out so well for my audience who, by the way, are taxpayers, voters and citizens.

So your refusal to provide me with information is actually a refusal to provide the public with information.

And if the public doesn’t know what their government is actually doing, it can continue doing things the public wouldn’t want it to do.

That just doesn’t seem very democratic to me. Does it seem democratic to you?

Smaller Media Treated Like Second-Class Reporters?

Draft media guide for citizenship and immigration

All media requests are not equal.”

Journalists from small, alternative and independent media outlets have long believed that’s why they get no response or a delayed response when they contact the government for information. That can make it more difficult for them to break stories, frustrating the public’s right to know.

But it’s also an adage you’d never, ever expect to see the government write down — until spin doctors at the federal department of citizenship and immigration did exactly that in a document I obtained via a recent access to information request.

Was it a pique of honesty that led them to put those words in black and white, an error or just plain indiscretion?

Introducing DeSmog Canada’s New Executive Director

Emma Gilchrist, Executive Director DeSmog Canada

A year ago, DeSmog Canada excitedly welcomed Emma Gilchrist to the role of Deputy Editor. As amazing as it has been to have Emma working tirelessly to bring the best out of our writers, digging into editing like it’s fun (really) and breaking news stories of national importance, we just can’t seem to contain all of her incredible talents in her part-time deputy position.

That’s why today we are beyond delighted to announce Emma’s new role as DeSmog Canada’s Executive Director.

Most of you will know Emma has incredible talent as a writer and, as we here at DeSmog know, she pretty much performs magic as an editor, but she also has a bold vision for independent media in Canada.

Postmedia Could Soon Own Almost Every English Newspaper in Canada: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Newspaper boxes in Calgary

Postmedia has struck a $316 million deal to buy 175 of Quebecor’s English-language newspapers, specialty publications and digital properties, including the Sun chain of papers, according to a report in the Globe and Mail this morning.

If it passes regulatory hurdles, the deal will mark a step further down the path of media concentration in Canada.

What does this mean for Canadians in practical terms?

In Calgary, for instance, the Calgary Sun would be owned by the same company as the Calgary Herald. In Toronto, the Toronto Sun and 24 Hours would be owned by the same company as the National Post. In Ottawa, the Ottawa Sun would be owned by the same company as the Ottawa Citizen. And in Edmonton, the Edmonton Sun would be owned by the same company as the Edmonton Journal.

It’s Vancouver that takes the cake for media concentration though — Postmedia already owned the Vancouver Sun and The Province, but if the deal goes through it will take over the free daily 24 Hours as well.

Mike De Souza's 20 Most Important Articles for Postmedia

mike de souza

Last week, journalist Mike De Souza published his final article for Postmedia News. The outlet closed its Parliamentary Bureau dismissing De Souza and four other employees amid a scandalous revelation that senior staff are colluding with Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), to shift the national conversation to more positively reflect on the energy industry, particularly Alberta's oilsands.

De Souza’s final piece fittingly covered an internal memo that showed the Harper government was warned back in 2011 that a massive increase in oil-by-rail transport was impending, given the rate of oil production in the oilsands outstripped Canada’s pipeline capacity. The Harper government, despite such cautions, failed to address the safety concerns associated with such sharp growth in oil tanker train traffic. Two years later, the tragedy of Lac-Mégantic killed 47 people.

There’s no question that Mike De Souza has been crucial to the survival of investigative journalism on energy and environment in Canada over the last several years. His work has exposed government and industry collusion, shining a light behind closed doors and serving the public interest. He has detailed high-level climate change denial, suppression of scientists and environmental regulations and the high level of orchestration between the Harper government and the oil, gas and pipeline industries in the creation of the infamous Omnibus Budget Bill C-38.

Ultimately, De Souza’s reporting has provided Canadians with a critical counter-narrative to Harper government spin when it comes to climate, energy and the environment.

Here’s a list of just 20 stories worth highlighting and remembering from De Souza’s career with Postmedia News:

Canadian Scientists Must Speak Out Despite Consequence, Says Andrew Weaver

If people don’t speak out there will never be any change,” says the University of Victoria’s award-winning climate scientist Andrew Weaver. 

And the need for change in Canada, says Weaver, has never been more pressing.

“We have a crisis in Canada. That crisis is in terms of the development of information and the need for science to inform decision-making. We have replaced that with an ideological approach to decision-making, the selective use of whatever can be found to justify [policy decisions], and the suppression of scientific voices and science itself in terms of informing the development of that policy.”
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