Sunday, April 3, 2011

DAY NINE: Platforms (part two)

In the previous post about media coverage of the NDP, my desire was to illustrate one of the many ways in which the media can help to marginalize ideas and even an entire political party. It all depends on what aspect of a story they choose to emphasize.

 This can work both ways of course. You can help make a party look good by omitting mention of important parts of their tacit platform. This past week, so far as the Tories are concerned, the platform they wanted to discuss had little to do with the reality of the policy they're supposed to be defending. That, after all, is the essential question here, right? Do we want more of the same Conservative policies that we've been witness to these last five years, or not?

As the media reports on the roll-out of the Harper platform they've mentioned his bizarre, 'money I'll spend if we balance the budget' promises. There's also been his obvious attempts at bribery of Newfoundland and Quebec for votes. All well and good but these are not the tenets of this government that the opposition parties are running against.

They are running against the Conservatives spending $30 billion on sole-sourced jets that poorly suit Canada's needs, spending billions to incarcerate more Canadians at a time when crime rates are on the decline in Canada, imposing American style mandatory minimums for certain non-violent crimes, spending billions in tax breaks for already wealthy corporations, taking away the per-vote subsidy thus making our electoral system yet more advantageous for themselves. They have also tied our environmental policies to those of the Americans at a time when their Congress is in full meltdown over the issues of global climate disruption and the continuing degradation of the environment, as they are clearly more moved by wealthy corporate citizens and their lobbyists than by scientific reason and consensus.

And that's just domestic policies! Canada's foreign policy as it stands now has  lost us standing as a world leader in pressing for human rights, in part by taking a one-sided view on Middle East rights issues, according to  Amnesty International. These are likely reasons that prevented Canada from winning a United Nations Security Council seat. 

Oh yeah, they're also running against contempt because the Harper government refused to disclose the costs for their programs to Parliament. Mr. Ignatieff  declared, “We are the people’s representatives. When the government spends money, the people have a right to know what it is to be spent on. Parliament does not issue blank cheques.” You're excused for not knowing that. After all, if it's just barely news worthy, why mention it at all?

So, near as I can tell, that's their platform, Those are the policies you are voting for when you cast your vote for the Conservatives. That's what needs to be debated in this election. Do these policies reflect Canada, and Canadian sentiment and values on these issues? Whether or not that will happen is largely up to Canadian voters. If there is demand for a substantive discussion which people can express by rejecting the character assassination attacks that have been lifted from the likes of Karl Rove, they may well get it. If they remain complacent then they can continue to read stories about how the Harper campaign has the momentum of a runaway train and how it definitely hasn't fallen flat.

DAY NINE: Platforms (part one)

There's little chance that Jack Layton will get a fair reading of his platform and people's response to it from the mainstream Canadian media. A great example of this is a sleazy little piece written by Gloria Galloway, who's covering the NDP campaign for the right leaning Globe and Mail. She chooses to lead off her article by insinuating that the last time the NDP held a town hall meeting in a northern Ontario locale, it was staged. No proof, just a snide aside and an unsubstantiated rumour.

 Those are some crazy journalistic standards they're held to over at the Globe where even the title of the article is misleading: "Nary a rotten tomato at NDP town hall in Sudbury." By all accounts, even those of Ms. Galloway, if you read between the lines, the people of Sudbury were highly engaged and for the most part in agreement on the issues with Mr. Layton -- they in fact gave him a standing ovation after every question. That's remarkable!

What in H-E-double hockey-sticks this has to do with rotten tomatoes is anyone's guess? If Stephen Harper held an unscripted town hall get-together (with more than five questions!) and all his answers received a standing ovation this would be headline news coast to coast and proof that he was indeed the second coming. When Jack does it, it's apparently just surprising that no one threw any rotten tomatoes.

What's also remarkable in the above two linked articles of what took place at the town hall meet-up that Mr. Layton held at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario is that somehow the Globe reporter failed to mention Jack Layton was using this particular backdrop to unveil his party's platform on health care and the Sudbury Star reporter picked right up on this little tidbit. Jack says his plan will bring 1,200 more doctors and 6,000 more nurses into the country's heath care system in the next 10 years - that's a news worthy announcement that would seem to trump reporting on unseen rotten tomatoes. But it is illustrative. Not only will NDP policy ideas have a hard time getting a fair reading in the media, sometimes they won't even get a mention.

Since the Globe and Mail prides itself on being a national newspaper, the failure to report on the NDP platform announcement about their health care plan is more than puzzling. This would seem to be the singular most important aspect of the story at least so far as Canadians not living in Sudbury are concerned. Yet it fails to garner mention and there were some pretty specific details too: Mr. Layton proposes creating a fund to repatriate 300 Canadian doctors now practising abroad -- investing $80 million a year over four years to upgrade medical schools across Canada to make room for the next generation of family doctors -- and his party would forgive student loans for medical professionals who choose family medicine for at least 10 years, regardless of where they practice. He calls these "...practical first steps to ensure that you and your family have access to the health care you need -- when you need it."

Our health care system is currently a mess where five million Canadians do not have a family doctor to call their own and these are good ideas. Certainly worth consideration, but how can the public evaluate them if they go unreported? Maybe we can all get ourselves subscriptions to the Sudbury Star.

You can go have a listen to brief but incisive interview with Mr. Layton about local issues over at the Sudbury Star as well.