Tuesday, January 31, 2012

CBC pained by public reaction

Jennifer McGuire is general manager and editor in chief of CBC News. Today, with no shortage of hubris, she posted a defence that attempts to explain the broadcaster's determination to act against recommendations of CBC Ombudsman Kirk LaPointe by continuing the appointment of Stephen Smart, husband of Premier Clark's Deputy Press Secretary, as CBC's Legislative Bureau Chief.

One minor but interesting thing about McGuire's piece is that it has been tinkered with after they posted it. The CBC timeline for the article when I write this shows: "Posted: Jan 31, 2012 3:13 PM ET | Last Updated: Jan 31, 2012 4:03 PM ET." Most of the comments allowed are time stamped before the item was supposedly posted. Since the last update, about eight hours, only three comments and a few replies to comments have been published. Comments were running about 90% critical of Ms. McGuire's rationalizations so the webmaster pulled references to her article from the CBC News home page. One is left with the impression CBC is playing games with its comment sections to avoid embarrassment. The most recent one may have been too painful for folks at the public broadcaster:
"Sorry Jennifer, your'e wrong. Just because Stephen Smart has not breached journalistic standards in his reports does not mean there is no conflict. A media outlets lack of reporting is just as bad as "soft journalism."

"Here are some examples:
"1) If you Google "Stephen Smart CBC" you find that the CBC failed to report on the Ombudsman findings last week. The Globe and Mail also missed this major story.

"2) Last week the Times Colonist reported the hiring of Christy Clark's friend to a high paid VIHA job was labelled "secret and confidential" rather than "Urgent" as previously reported.

"3) The BC Rail documents are all over the internet and everyone except Bill Tielman and Alex Tsakumis ignore the facts.

"4) The other day my comment was censored by CBC because it referred to Smart's conflict. It was clean and only stated facts with a link to your competition
"Thankfully we now have the internet and are able to dig out the real truth. I refuse to watch the CBC news until my confidence is restored."
There is one additional avenue for CBC consumers who are unsatisfied with the public broadcaster's stone ear in this matter. There is a segment of The National called Go Public that provides this invitation:
"Want to hold the powers that be accountable? Go Public wants to hear from you. You can email us directly at gopublic@cbc.ca, with your name, contact information and details of the story you would like us to look into - or - you can use the story submission form [on the linked page]."
Here is the email I sent to CBC News Go Public:
May I suggest you investigate the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in British Columbia. CBC's Legislative Bureau Chief is the husband of Premier Clark's Deputy Press Secretary, a person appointed by Order in Council, which by-passes rules of engagement faced by typical civil servants.

The Deputy Press Secretary in one of a relatively small group that designs and co-ordinates the Premier's public relations. Of course, the purpose of that office is to gain positive spin on stories involving the leader of the Liberal Party of British Columbia.

The CBC Ombudsman investigated the obvious conflict of interest and determined that the relationship was inappropriate. Oddly, the general manager and editor in chief of CBC News decided the findings of the Ombudsman should be ignored.

This relationship precludes the Victoria Bureau Chief from investigating and reporting on similar or more egregious conflicts of interest that affect fellow members of BC's Legislative press gallery. To do so would simply amplify concerns about his own position.

Since the only option of complaint has not led to a satisfactory resolution, Go Public should examine and report on this unprecedented situation.

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BC's income disparity worst in nation

Look past the political rhetoric, the paid advertisements and the work of reporters shilling for the B.C. Liberals. Look at information generated by the provincial government's own statistical agency. It tells a clear story, devoid of spin:
"Based on data from 2008, the average income of the top 10% of Canadians was ten times higher than the bottom 10%, which is a significant increase from the early 1990s, when the ratio was eight to one. The OECD report attributed the growth in inequality to a combination of factors, including increasing disparity in the wages for high and low-paid workers, an increase in the number of selfemployed (since they tend to earn less than employees), as well as a drop in the redistribution of income through taxes and benefits.

"Among the provinces, only Alberta registered more after-tax income inequality than BC in 2009. The only other province above the Canadian average was Ontario. Prince Edward Island had the smallest income gap among the provinces.

"British Columbia had the largest income gap among the provinces in 2009 when comparing the lowest 20% of earners to the highest 20%.The disparity in incomes is readily apparent when one compares the top 20% of income earners with the bottom 20%. In British Columbia, in 2009, the lowest 20% earned just 7.7% of what the top 20% earned before transfers and taxes. Compared to other provinces, BC ranked dead last in 2009, with the largest gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% of income earners."
The full report.

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Setting economic policy for Canada's west

China Cheats: Push May Come To Shove, Robert Borosage, Campaign for America's Future
"China cheats – it openly flouts trade laws – and routinely denies it. It restricts access to its markets, forces companies that want to sell in China to transfer technology and manufacture there, and then often steals the technology. It purposefully underprices its currency to keep the down the price of its exports. When it targets an industry as strategic, it employs a range of subsidies, directed procurement, and trade maneuvers to capture market share.

"China cheats and everyone knows it
Robert L. Borosage is founder and president of the Institute for America’s Future and co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, organizations launched by 100 prominent Americans for progressive change.

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Time for BC's media to admit its conflicts

CBC finally responds publicly, but not completely. Read for yourselves and add your comments. CBC Editor in Chief responds to Ombudsman decision. Be aware though, they do not approve intemperate comments, even insightful ones. They are wary of reader comments that provide effective criticism.
* * * * *
When the media notes conflicts of interest in the business of politicians and community leaders, the reporting is immediate and relentless. Ask Glen Clark or Bill Vander Zalm. However, when conflicts involve fellow journalists, disinterest and silence is usual. So we have people presenting news that affects industries paying them remuneration and immediate family members of reporters working in partisan positions paid for by the government the journalists cover. Colleagues tell the audience nothing. What might be an example of public conflict elsewhere is private business when media members are involved.

Be assured, Stephen Smart is not alone in being conflicted. In the words of one insider, his is not the most egregious situation. It is time for at least the CBC, Vancouver Sun, Global TV, Corus Radio and Times Colonist to make proactive disclosure of any situation that a reasonable person might recognize as a direct or indirect conflict of interest in current or recent political reporting. Actions should not depend on persuasion or coercion from independent journalists.

That statement would have been unnecessary a few years ago.

Despite a heads-in-the-sand approach to the morass involving its Legislative Bureau Chief, CBC has not always responded meekly when conflict of interest is demonstrated. A number of years ago, the broadcaster fired its Quebec City radio correspondent after accusing him of asking questions of political leaders for the benefit of a third party. The reporter said his work was not affected by the relationship; CBC said the principle of independence could not be compromised. There was at least one difference though; Andre Salwyn was not the son of an influential Supreme Court Judge.

In a more recent case, Maclean's suggested The Globe and Mail had an undisclosed conflict of interest when the newspaper gave top space — front page above the fold — to a global university ranking in which Thomson Reuters had a partnership interest. Macleans noted:
"It does not reveal that Thomson Reuters is the most high-profile asset of the Woodbridge Company Ltd., which had just announced a deal to buy the newspaper.

"...the fact that the Globe didn't declare a potential conflict of interest when mentioning Thomson Reuters in the ranking story struck some as curious."
David Swick, who teaches journalism ethics at the University of King's College in Halifax said it was a perceived conflict of interest. Swick pointed to a 2008 Léger Marketing poll showing that only 41 per cent of Canadians trust journalists. Which makes transparency, he says, all the more important.

In the nineties, Southam National Columnist Catherine Ford, wrote about the conflict of interest dilemmas of couples in the public eye:
"The Kleins, like the Stevens, either forgot or chose to ignore Rule No. 1 of politics and high places: Caesar's wife must be above suspicion.

"[Noreen] Stevens, the wife of disgraced federal cabinet minister Sinclair Stevens, told a judicial inquiry into conflict-of-interest charges against her husband that there was no pillow talk in the Stevens' household.

"...Canadians took her comments to be the sad attempt of a wife to protect her husband, as if wives have a special dispensation to profess they know nothing, see nothing and say nothing.

"...The Kleins are in a similar dilemma. ...The public has to decide whether Colleen Klein is being manipulated by her husband and his cronies, or is ignorant that conflict-of-interest includes her, too. It's a no-win situation, and the premier should have known that..."
Writers like Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey wrote about spouses troubled by conflicts of interest during the time in BC history when Bill and Lillian Vander Zalm tried unsuccessfully to keep personal and government business separate.

In 2004, The San Francisco Chronicle removed its lead City Hall reporter and photographer from covering certain stories after concluding that there was potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest. Executive editor Phil Bronstein wrote in an internal memo:
"Chronicle journalists directly and personally involved in a major news story — one in whose outcome they also have a personal stake — should not also cover that story, The issue is the integrity and credibility of the paper as well as conflict and perception of conflict."
Would we lie to you? by Anthony Wilson-Smith was published by Maclean's in 2000. He wrote that,
"...bias isn't always overt. Any experienced reporter knows how to slip in "weasel" words or phrases that paint a subject in a certain way without saying so directly. If you are profiling a CEO and want to make nice, you might describe him physically as "a bear of a man whose imposing stature reflects the manner in which he dominates a room." Or if you think he is a jerk, you might focus on the manner in which "his stomach protrudes over his belt, and his excess weight causes him to perspire profusely." Either way, same guy.

"...The fact that some reporters and editors twist the news to advance themselves isn't new: there are now just more opportunities than ever. The truth isn't pretty--and it isn't, sad to say, always the way it's presented in the media."
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Monday, January 30, 2012

Gerald Amos on Enbridge's Northern Gateway

by Gerald Amos, January 8, 2012
"Recently there has been a lot of criticism by supporters of the tar sands, and oil industry front groups, of Canadian non-profit organizations who have concerns regarding the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, and the fact that they receive support from U.S. philanthropic foundations.

"Ethical Oil.org, and Our Decsion.ca, oil industry front groups with close ties to the Prime Ministers office, recently launched attack ads in northern communities, where opposition to the Enbridge project is fiercest. This desperate attempt to change the minds and hearts of the hundreds of thousands of people who oppose this project, is driven by more than concern for our home and native land. It is being driven by greed and desperation.

Gerald Amos was Chief Councilor for the Haisla First Nation for 12 years. He has been a leading voice for conservation in Canada for thirty years.

"The foreign interest groups Canadians should really be concerned about are the Chinese oil companies investing billions in the Tar Sands, and the multinational oil companies like Shell and British Petroleum, who are investing 200 million dollars trying to sell Canadians on this astoundingly stupid idea.

"Ezra Levant, Stephen Harper and Minister Oliver should study history a bit. The First Nations of Northern BC including the Haisla have been fighting to protect this coast for decades. This proposed project is just one of many we will have ended up stopping. The insinuation that northern communities, and especially First Nations, can be bought by U.S. interests is paternalistic and insulting; if not some new iteration of hypocrisy that can only be characterized as soft core racism. [emphasis added - N.F.]

"The Haisla have been fighting to protect this region from ill-conceived industrial developments for over thirty years, while at the same time showing leadership in developing projects that are safer and more sustainable, and that benefit all British Columbians. Our history in this regard is well known, be it our efforts to reform logging practices, pollution from industrial plants, or our successful efforts to protect the worlds largest remaining intact coastal temperate rainforest, the Kitlope Valley.

"The fact that our conservation leadership has attracted the support of conservation funders should be a source of pride for British Columbians. We do not follow the lead of anyone, we assume and take responsibility for our lands and lead others in that regard.

"We are not opposed to development. But we are opposed to stupidity and placing our homelands at terrible risk in order to satisfy the insatiable greed of the international oil industry. We do not accept the Prime Ministers claim that this project is in Canada's national interest, and it is certainly not nation building, but rather, planet destroying.

"Haisla were the lead in developing the LNG project in Kitimat, the largest new industrial development in the north in thirty years. Natural gas is the cleanest hydrocarbon available, tar sands oil is the dirtiest. My community’s decision to support natural gas development and oppose a tar sands pipeline is a considered and informed decision consistent with our ancestral responsibilities as First Nations who have never surrendered title to these lands. Yes, we need and want jobs. Long term, permanent, sustainable jobs we can be proud of, not six months of digging ditches for a tar sands pipe, or jobs cleaning up oil spills.

"We will not allow the Ezra Levants of this world, who, by the way, does not reside in this region, to characterize the Haisla, or our neighbors, as the pawns of U.S. Foundations.

"...We are willing to share, but we will no longer be robbed..."
Read the entire article at Terrace Daily Online

* * * * *
The Kitlope Heritage Conservancy is an 800,000 acre unlogged and roadless watershed in the traditional lands of the Haisla Nation and central British Columbia. It was established in 1994 and is co-managed by BC Parks and the Haisla Nation.

Gerald Amos was the elected Chief Councillor at the time.
"We're forgetting the earth really is like a bank and we're withdrawing far too fast..."

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What Enbridge will bring to coastal BC

Oil spill in Dalian, China, Boston Globe
July 2010, in the northeastern port city of Dalian, China, two oil pipelines exploded, sending flames hundreds of feet into the air and burning for over 15 hours, destroying several structures - the cause of the explosion is under investigation. The damaged pipes released thousands of gallons of oil, which flowed into the nearby harbor and the Yellow Sea. The total amount of oil spilled is still not clear, though China Central Television earlier reported an estimate of 1,500 tons (400,000 gallons), as compared to the estimated 94 - 184 million gallons in the BP oil spill off the Louisiana coast. The oil slick has now grown to at least 430 square kilometers (165 sq mi), forcing beaches and port facilities to close while government workers and local fishermen work to contain and clean up the spill.
Traffic generated by Northern Gateway pipelines could include approximately 18 condensate and crude oil tankers per month, including four to five Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) with a capacity of 2 million barrels of oil or more. (Almost 100 million gallons.) These ships are about 1,155 feet long—the length of 3.5 football fields—and 200 feet wide.

So, the spill pictured above, estimated at 400,000 gallons, is about one-half of one-percent of the amount that would be carried through the world's most dangerous coastal waters in a single VLCC supertanker. Over time, even the small possibility of a spill on BC coast or on the lands transited by the two Enbridge pipelines becomes a certainty.

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What happened to Canada?

Corporations Have No Use for Borders, Chris Hedges, Truthdig
"What happened to Canada? It used to be the country we would flee to if life in the United States became unpalatable. No nuclear weapons. No huge military-industrial complex. Universal health care. Funding for the arts. A good record on the environment.

"But that was the old Canada. I was in Montreal on Friday and Saturday and saw the familiar and disturbing tentacles of the security and surveillance state. Canada has withdrawn from the Kyoto Accords so it can dig up the Alberta tar sands in an orgy of environmental degradation. It carried out the largest mass arrests of demonstrators in Canadian history at 2010’s G-8 and G-20 meetings, rounding up more than 1,000 people. It sends undercover police into indigenous communities and activist groups and is handing out stiff prison terms to dissenters. And Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a diminished version of George W. Bush. He champions the rabid right wing in Israel, bows to the whims of global financiers and is a Christian fundamentalist...

"The voices of dissent sound like our own. And the forms of persecution are familiar. This is not an accident. We are fighting the same corporate leviathan.

"The decay of Canada illustrates two things. Corporate power is global, and resistance to it cannot be restricted by national boundaries. Corporations have no regard for nation-states. They assert their power to exploit the land and the people everywhere. They play worker off of worker and nation off of nation. They control the political elites in Ottawa as they do in London, Paris and Washington..."

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Downstream, from Babelgum

The first original production by and for Babelgum, Downstream focuses on the controversy surrounding the development of Alberta's oil sands. This beautifully photographed documentary is an eye-opening investigation into one of the world's most polluting oil operations. It includes interviews with ecologists, Canadian politicians, local residents and a very dedicated doctor, discussing the environmental, economic and health issues surrounding the oil sands development.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

A modern corporation

Apple: made in China, untaxed profits kept offshore, David Gewirtz, ZDNet Government:
"It’s been a banner week for Apple. With Apple’s announcement of Q1 2012 results, the company is now apparently worth more than Greece.

"In the same week, the President of the United States invoked the late Steve Jobs and Apple in his Congressionally-mandated State of the Union address.

"...certainly Apple has created a lot of jobs over the years. But today, most of the jobs created by Apple are not American jobs, they’re sweatshop-style jobs for miserable, overworked workers in China.

"...Apple no longer builds its own devices. There was a time when Apple computers were actually manufactured in the United States. Today, Apple products are built in China. Foxconn City has 230,000 people working to make iPhones and iPads — and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum claims more than 500,000 people build Apple products in China..."
Summary: About two-thirds of Apple’s $97.6 billion cash pile is offshore. That’s a lot of money for an American company to keep outside of America.

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad
Published: January 25, 2012
"...Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

"More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health..."

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Alberta life






Scenic Drives

Big City LIfe

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Fools are my theme, let satire be my song - Byron

CBC Programming To Highlight “New” Standards? Harv Oberfeld, Keeping it Real

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NEB: "ally", First Nations: "adversaries"

Confidential federal tar sands strategy targets Aboriginal and green groups, Greenpeace Canada, January 26, 2012
"As controversy increases over the Harper government’s attacks on environmental groups, Greenpeace Canada today released internal government documents obtained under Access to Information legislation showing that the Harper government has explicitly identified environmental and aboriginal groups as “adversaries” in its strategy to increase tar sands exports.

“This government established a list of enemies nine months ago and has since launched a public attack on environmental and aboriginal groups that are raising concerns about the environmental and social impacts of the tar sands,” said Keith Stewart, coordinator of Greenpeace Canada’s Climate and Energy campaign. “Rather than dealing the devastating impacts of the tar sands, the Harper government is working with the oil industry to silence their critics.”
Canada plays down embarrassing oil sands document, David Ljunggren, Reuters, January 27, 2011
"Canada disassociated itself on Thursday from an embarrassing official policy paper that said the country's independent energy regulator, now studying a controversial oil pipeline, is in fact a government ally.

"Critics have long charged the right-of-center Conservative government is trying to pressure the regulator - the National Energy Board (NEB) - to approve Enbridge Inc's plan to build a pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific Coast...

"Greenpeace on Thursday released a policy paper from April 2011, which listed the NEB as one of the government's allies. The paper was part of a campaign to counter widespread criticism of the oil sands in the European Union.

"The paper - written by bureaucrats at the international trade ministry - also said that among the government's adversaries on the file were aboriginal groups, ..."
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Ignore this if you don't believe in science

From Forbes, by Dr. Peter H. Gleick, co-founder and President of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California. He is an internationally recognized climate and water expert with M.S. and Ph.D. from the Energy and Resources Group of the University of California, Berkeley. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his work, among them the prestigious MacArthur “genius” Fellowship in 2003. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2006.
"The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board has long been understood to be not only antagonistic to the facts of climate science, but hostile. But in a remarkable example of their unabashed bias, on Friday they published an opinion piece that not only repeats many of the flawed and misleading arguments about climate science, but purports to be of special significance because it was signed by 16 “scientists.

"Serious doubt has been cast on the actual expertise on climate science of the signers and on the accuracy of the content, here and elsewhere, and the strawman arguments and technical flaws of their opinion piece are evident to anyone actually versed in the scientific debate. For example, their op-ed has fundamental errors about recent actual temperatures, they use false/strawman arguments that climate scientists are saying climate change “will destroy civilization,” they launch ad hominem attack on particular climate scientists using out-of-context quotes, and so on. Formal responses are in the works, and will be available from a variety of groups in the next day or so. [Just as an example, as pointed out here previously, and at the Union of Concerned Scientists: the authors claim there has been a “lack of warming” for 10 years. The reality? 2011 was the 35th year in a row in which global temperatures were above the historical average and 2010 and 2005 were the warmest years on record.]

"But the most amazing and telling evidence of the bias of the Wall Street Journal in this field is the fact that 255 members of the United States National Academy of Sciences wrote a comparable (but scientifically accurate) essay on the realities of climate change and on the need for improved and serious public debate around the issue, offered it to the Wall Street Journal, and were turned down. The National Academy of Sciences is the nation’s pre-eminent independent scientific organizations. Its members are among the most respected in the world in their fields. Yet the Journal wouldn’t publish this letter, from more than 15 times as many top scientists. Instead they chose to publish an error-filled and misleading piece on climate because some so-called experts aligned with their bias signed it. This may be good politics for them, but it is bad science and it is bad for the nation.

"Science magazine – perhaps the nation’s most important journal on scientific issues – published the letter from the NAS members after the Journal turned it down.

"Do you have an open mind? Read both, side by side. And understand that every national academy of sciences on the planet agrees with the reality and seriousness of human caused climate change.

The letter signed by 255 National Academy of Sciences members, from Science magazine.

The letter signed by 16 “scientists” in the Wall Street Journal.

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The press and the pipeline

Have you noticed a lack of fairness and balance in reporting on Northern Gateway by corporate media? It is not accidental. A similar project in the USA has been examined in detail.

Media Matters' environmental team analyzed news coverage of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline between August 1 and December 31, 2011, and compiled some troubling findings about the media's mishandling of this issue.

For starters, the media disproportionately slanted the debate in favor of those advocating for this pipeline, as this graph illustrates:

Read the full report here.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Eminent journalists on CBC dilemma

With the CBC's stubborn refusal to deal with or disclose the conflict of interest faced by its BC Legislative Bureau Chief, Alex Tsakumis and I took the issue to our readers. We did the task that should have been handled long before by Stephen Smart's press gallery colleagues or, failing that, by the rest of the corporate media.

Our reporting led to formal complaints filed with the CBC Ombudsman. Kirk LaPointe proceeded with Merv Adey's well argued presentation, one that dealt fairly with principles and avoided arguments based on tastes or personalities. This was a smart choice since citizen Adey has no axe to grind, no publication to promote or scores to settle.

The CBC Ombudsman, a man with irrefutable qualifications and long media experience predictably agreed that Stephen Smart's situation was untenable. The public broadcaster's local management refused to admit mistake and, defying the Ombudsman, they stood on crumbling ground. Still do. What followed has been a scandalous display of obtuse reasoning and commentary from Good, Leslie, Palmer, Baldrey, Mickleburgh and other Stephen Smart colleagues. From the rest, media lights like Gary Mason, Justine Hunter, Michael Smyth, Les Leyne and Rob Shaw, there has been only the silence of cowards.

This week, two of British Columbia's most eminent veterans of journalism, Mike Cleaver and Harvey Oberfeld, weighed in on the issue. Read Harvey's The CBC’s Dumb Saga of Mr. Smart. Mike Cleaver provides the first reader comment.

Another illustrious media expert commented on the CBC situation this week. Recipient of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, Jim Harrison speaks with unusual expertise. This is from the Jack Webster Foundation:
"An extraordinary BC broadcaster is the 2007 recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation's Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award.

"Jim Harrison has defined news radio in Kamloops for more than three decades, where he has been CHNL's News Director since 1975. And his reporting has in turn helped to define Kamloops itself to people all across Canada.

"...George Garrett, retired CKNW reporter and himself a Bruce Hutchison recipient, says Harrison's great strength is the "credibility he's earned with every newsmaker he's covered, from politicians to labour leaders and community activists. He earns people's trust, and that's why he's got their home phone numbers."
Keep in mind Jim Harrison's qualifications and listen to this:

You can hear the full editorial and others at Radio NL.

Soon, Stephen Smart will be shifted to other duties because the CBC cannot survive by offending fundamental rules of news presentation. Hundreds of journalists are tainted by this regional anomaly; it cannot continue. However, British Columbians will be left with this sad group of practitioners, especially the Corus/Global/Shaw and Postmedia wretches, who are so focused on serving their pals, they care little about the interests of news consumers.

While searching the web, looking for comments by hallowed members of the Victoria Press Gallery about the CBC conflict, I came across an item from June, 2011: The Media Are The Messengers. I must admit, since I read everything by blogger RossK, he must have planted the seed in my mind those many months ago. I'm not sure exactly when AGT got on the subject but I'm going to cede a greater share of credit to The Gazetteer for exposing the broadcaster's folly. Hats off to Ian Reid as well. He wrote about the subject last summer at The Real Story.

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Economic development whatever the cost!

For me, whatever might be worthwhile in Stephen Harper's speech is degraded by his choice of location for delivering it. The Prime Minister of Canada flew to Switzerland to join the world's rich and powerful to articulate his vision for our country, a vision that, instead of being an end-of-day addendum to a disinterested audience — which it was — should have been boldly stated and debated in the Canadian Parliament.

In Davos, Harper said to a lecture hall emptying for the dinner break,
"Our number-one priority as a government is prosperity."
Mind you, the statement does not surprise. It fits with the Conservative strategy of deeming any who hesitate to support unfettered industrial and commercial expansion to be enemies of Canada. The Harper Government regularly displays contempt for Parliament and contempt for the people of this country.

This week, Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver jetted into town to speak with prosperous plutocrats at Vancouver's Terminal City Club. His message was familiar: Canada's government has a responsibility to make sure that business can take advantage of Alberta's tar sands and any who gets in the way of Enbridge are "radicals" to be ignored.

Despite having loaded the National Energy Board with industry insiders, Oliver worries the results of their regulatory hearings are "unpredictable." Accordingly, he plans to streamline the process so that approvals are granted without delay. The Harper Government wants rubber stamp providers not regulatory agencies.

That's the same philosophy that served Oliver so well when he was CEO of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada.
"Protect small investors from chicanery of fraudulent predators? Hell no, that would slow market activities in unpredictable ways.'
A couple of weeks ago, BC Finance Minister Kevin Falcon gave a speech that reviewed the state of the 2011 provincial economy and the outlook for 2012. Where did he give that speech? Again, to a gathering of plutocrats at the Board of Trade.

I'm reminded of the first major political speech I ever attended. Prime Minister Lester Pearson spoke to thousands of students at U.B.C.'s War Memorial Gym. He took applause along with derisive hoots and hollers and gave lowly frosh like me a sense of respect and attachment to the leader of Canada's government. Quite a change today when government ministers fly on private jets to luxurious enclaves where a chance encounter with a citizen is impossible.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Links regarding oily pipeline politics

One of our readers supplied links to articles published by DesmogBlog and I moved the links into this separate item. These articles complement and expand on the message I intended in Regulators throwing loaded dice.

DeSmogBlog covers the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal and how NEB hearings are designed to block comprehensive examination of this massive project and avoid review of Canadian energy policy in general. Here is an example of what you'll find if you click on through:
"According to Barry Robinson, the EcoJustice lawyer representing the three environmental groups [Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the Living Oceans Society and Forest Ethics], the hearing is strategically biased. "We generally see this as an unbalanced approach," he told DeSmogBlog, "to consider the economic benefits but not the environmental impacts."

"And if you're going to include the one you should, as a matter principle, be open to including the other. "Since Enbridge is relying on the economic benefits of the oil sands and its one of the reasons to approve this then you must equally consider the environmental impacts of the oil sands," he continued."
"If the pipeline giant Enbridge Inc. is content to cower behind a 20-something blog manager rather than acknowledge its role in the recent attack on the patriotism of Canadian environmentalists, what hope have we that the company would ever stand accountable for the accidents that will occur – inevitably – if Northern Gateway ever gets built?"

Carol Linnitt, January 25, 2012:
Built to Fail: National Energy Board Muzzles Environmental Scientists In Enbridge Northern Gateway Hearing
Emma Pullman, January 20, 2012
Friends with Benefits: The Harper Government, EthicalOil.org and Sun Media Connection
Jim Hoggan, January 18, 2012
Unaccountable Oil: Is Enbridge Already Polluting the Canadian (Political) Environment?
Emma Pullman, January 13, 2012
Cozy Ties: Astroturf 'Ethical Oil' and Conservative Alliance to Promote Tar Sands Expansion

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Yosemite Time-Lapse Video, from Earthjustice.org

Yosemite HD from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.

"Everyone knows that Yosemite National Park is one of America’s most beautiful places. Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and a host of other natural wonders make Yosemite an iconic symbol of the American West. And while many of us have hiked in Yosemite or camped in the picturesque valley, a new video reveals a deeper layer of beauty and awe.

"Videographers Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty have collaborated to create a stunning time-lapse, high-definition look at Yosemite. The video, titled Project Yosemite, captures sunrises and sunsets, stars swirling about the night sky, and trees trembling in high mountain winds."

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Reconsidering Harper's vision for Canada

THE CAGING OF AMERICA, Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, January 2012
"...In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. Ours is, bottom to top, a “carceral state,” in the flat verdict of Conrad Black, the former conservative press lord and newly minted reformer, who right now finds himself imprisoned in Florida, thereby adding a new twist to an old joke: A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged; a liberal is a conservative who’s been indicted; and a passionate prison reformer is a conservative who’s in one.

"...accused criminals get laboriously articulated protection against procedural errors and no protection at all against outrageous and obvious violations of simple justice...

"...The obsession with due process and the cult of brutal prisons, the argument goes, share an essential impersonality. The more professionalized and procedural a system is, the more insulated we become from its real effects on real people...

"...And, in a virtuous cycle, the decreased prevalence of crime fuels a decrease in the prevalence of crime... [Franklin E.] Zimring [a criminologist at Berkeley Law] said, in a recent interview, “Remember, nobody ever made a living mugging. There’s no minimum wage in violent crime.” In a sense, he argues, it’s recreational, part of a life style: “Crime is a routine behavior; it’s a thing people do when they get used to doing it.” And therein lies its essential fragility.

"Crime ends as a result of “cyclical forces operating on situational and contingent things rather than from finding deeply motivated essential linkages.” Conservatives don’t like this view because it shows that being tough doesn’t help; liberals don’t like it because apparently being nice doesn’t help, either. Curbing crime does not depend on reversing social pathologies or alleviating social grievances; it depends on erecting small, annoying barriers to entry...

"...One fact stands out. While the rest of the country, over the same twenty-year period, saw the growth in incarceration that led to our current astonishing numbers, New York, despite the Rockefeller drug laws, saw a marked decrease in its number of inmates. “New York City, in the midst of a dramatic reduction in crime, is locking up a much smaller number of people, and particularly of young people, than it was at the height of the crime wave,”

"Zimring observes. Whatever happened to make street crime fall, it had nothing to do with putting more men in prison. The logic is self-evident if we just transfer it to the realm of white-collar crime: we easily accept that there is no net sum of white-collar crime waiting to happen, no inscrutable generation of super-predators produced by Dewar’s-guzzling dads and scaly M.B.A. profs; if you stop an embezzlement scheme here on Third Avenue, another doesn’t naturally start in the next office building. White-collar crime happens through an intersection of pathology and opportunity; getting the S.E.C. busy ending the opportunity is a good way to limit the range of the pathology..."
In reading the New Yorker article, Canadians should substitute "poor black men" with "poor First Nations men."

Tories' crime bill off the mark: Vancouver researchers, Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun, October 24, 2011
"...Back in Canada, studies suggest that prisons are already overcrowded, the number of times guards are using force against prisoners are on the rise and inmates have limited access to correctional programs, the researchers pointed out, adding that an increased prison population will only exacerbate these conditions.

"Particularly vulnerable are first nations and the mentally ill, who are both over-represented in the prison system already. First nations make up four per cent of Canada's population, but 20 per cent of inmates. One study suggested that the proportion of Canadian inmates with mental illness is three times higher than in the general population. Mandatory minimum sentences will therefore disproportionately affect these groups, the researchers said..."

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On CBC from outside the local milieu

National Post, January 25, 2012

"... For everyone’s sake, the CBC should offer Mr. Smart a better assignment."

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Sun buries reader critics

Craig McInnes is a member of the Editorial Board of The Vancouver Sun so I assume his column speaks with authority of the newspaper's editors. Tuesday, he applauded the CBC's refusal to correct the conflict of interest involved in Legislative Bureau Chief Stephen Smart reporting on the Premier while his wife is the Premier's Deputy Press Secretary.

McInnes should be embarrassed by the weakness of his defence but I'll leave detailed criticism to another blogger at Exiled.

I noticed an interesting element of the Sun's online presentation of McInnes' opinions. When the paper first posted the article, comments were allowed and very quickly, two readers effectively refuted the arguments.

The Sun's response? They republished the article without reader comments and de-linked the original page. A reader starting at the Sun homepage and clicking through the OPINION header accesses this:


If one knows where to look, the original page can be found with its two apparently unwelcome comments:


In case the page with comments disappears from the Sun's website entirely, here is the content of the reader comments that the newspaper is hiding:
3:15 PM on 1/24/2012

Mr. McInnes handily omits this important paragraph from Mr. LaPointe's report:

"But just because there is no impropriety does not mean there is no conflict. Whether a
real or perceived conflict of interest, no amount of managing it can do more than
mitigate the impact on an impartial fulfillment of duties."

and a bit further down...

"Smart can report with integrity, and CBC's protocol can combine disclosure and recusal,
but the pervasive appearance of a conflict of interest will continually challenge their 5
reputations. It is hard to see how an arrangement with the potential to diminish the
effectiveness of CBC's journalism and public standing serves an interest worthy of a
policy exception."

Certainly adds context to McInnes' above piece.
12:24 PM on 1/24/2012

MicInnes offers on behalf of Postmedia self-serving twaddle that redefines the accepted definition of "conflict of interest."

This is not the attitude of real newspapers such as the New York Times The Guardian or FAZ, etc.

Then again, if the Vancouver Sun had a strong policy on conflict of interest, its editors would not have a cozy relationship with the Fraser Institute. Nor would its star political pundit charge speaker's fees for appearing before industry groups about whose interests he writes. (eg: BC Chambers of Commerce and HST).

Nor would another columnist have been hired to guide Independent Power Producers Association of BC to gain better media access.

The Sun allows egregious conduct, without disclosure. How many of its journalists or their immediate families rely on business groups for regular earnings. Or is this an old fashioned questioned to pose?


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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Drowsy Canadians take note

Federal government has no business micromanaging RCMP commissioner, Toronto Star, January 22 2012
"Where does Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government get off trying to micromanage the Royal Canadian Mounted Police commissioner’s day-timer?

"Newly-installed Commissioner Bob Paulson has just been told that he can’t meet with Members of Parliament or senators without getting a green light from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ office. In their hubris, the Tories have decided that they alone will book the chief’s get-togethers with parliamentarians.

"This follows hard on Harper’s demand that the Mounties check with Toews’ office before making any public statements that might “garner national media attention,” as the Star reported last year. To some, that looked like a gag option..."
Muzzling of RCMP commissioner shows that control is out of control, Sen. Colin Kenny, Montreal Gazette:
"...All governments, however, are at times tempted to circumvent democratic principles when those principles threaten their own grip on power. The Harper government, as many have noted before me, has succumbed to such temptation with unprecedented passion.

"The result is that control is out of control, as it were. Ministers are scripted; committees are neutered; debate is cut off; public servants are muzzled; laws and court edicts are ignored; official watchdogs are fired; bills are adulterated with agendafilling provisions unconnected to their rationale; opposition amendments are dismissed out of hand; provincial premiers are avoided; and the prime minister's communications-control team grows at a steroidal pace in an era of fiscal restraint.

"...The commissioner of the RCMP has always been a very powerful position, held at arm's length from government. The reasons are obvious. If a member of a government is alleged to have broken the law, the Mounties are the people called in to investigate. Although funded by the government, the RC-MP cannot become the instrument of government..."
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Proud to be "Enemy of the Government of Canada"

"Tides Canada CEO, Ross McMillan,was informed by the Prime Minister’s Office, that ForestEthics is considered an “Enemy of the Government of Canada,” and an “Enemy of the people of Canada.”

"This language was apparently part of a threat by the Prime Minister’s Office to challenge the charitable status of Tides Canada if it did not agree to stop funding ForestEthics,specifically its work opposing oilsands expansion and construction of oilsands tanker/pipeline routes in Canada."

Whistleblower's Open Letter to Canadians
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Still Waiting

Accountable to no one, part 1, from February 20, 2011 

Before today, I sent out a few messages asking questions related to alleged journalists being paid to attend events sponsored by those associated with groups the journalist, or their colleagues, may cover.

For example, on February 17, I sent this to Gillian Shaw, columnist with the Vancouver Sun:
"At the blog Northern Insights, I have written about real and potential conflicts affecting journalists if they contract with industries that might be covered by their publication. I note that you have had appearances scheduled by the Independent Power Producers Association of BC. Certainly you are not alone among your colleagues but does this trouble you at all?

"This is a general allegation I raised here:

" 'Additionally, and perhaps most insidious, the independence of media personalities is compromised by inducements and incentives paid by industries that desire favorable coverage.' "
Gillian Shaw did not bother to reply.

Accountable to no one, part 2, from February, 2011
This is a question I directed in the last week to P. Kariya, Executive Director of the Independent Power Producers Association of BC, AKA Clean Energy BC.
"Does your organization have a policy that allows or prohibits payment of fees, honoraria or expenses to journalists who work for broadcasters or publishers but do consulting or make appearances at events of the IPPBC? If yes, do you see that as a potential conflict of interest?"
Strangely, the group prefers not to answer such questions.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bob Mackin poses a good question

B.C. Place's field of fire, 2010 Gold Rush, NEWS AND VIEWS ON VANCOUVER 2010 (AND BEYOND) FROM BOB MACKIN.
"What is the final cost of the stadium for taxpayers? How much is it over the $563 million figure that PavCo has mysteriously stopped quoting?

Will it require the auditor general to investigate? "
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No foreign interests allowed

Enbridge’s pipeline of distortions, by Harsha Walia, a Vancouver-based activist and writer trained in law, Vancouver Sun, January 2012.
"...Delightful commentaries over the past few days have taken Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver to task for their desperate theories about radical foreign environmentalists and socialist billionaires hijacking the Enbridge Joint Review Panel hearings.

"These attacks are largely laughable because their hypocrisy is so obvious. The oil industry is a multi-billion transnational industry backed by a Tory government that peddles the tarsands to any foreign buyer who will bite – from Canadian diplomats in Washington hustling the Keystone XL pipeline, to another upcoming visit to China by Harper and his corporate entourage. At the Enbridge Joint Review Panel hearings, 10 out of the 16 intervening oil companies have foreign-based headquarters, for example America’s Exxon Mobil, Britain’s BP, France’s Total E&P, and Japan Canada Oil Sands Ltd.

"On the other hand, Environmental Defence reports that all of the intervening environmental organizations are based in Canada, and 79 per cent of those registered to speak are B.C. residents. Given colonial governance over indigenous peoples, Nadleh Whut’en Chief Larry Nooski’s quip is most apt “We’re not foreign – these are our lands...”
Terry Glavin: China has our forests, now we’re sending our oilfields too
"Here’s what you’ve been missing.

"Ostensibly, it’s about the Enbridge project, a plan to pump condensate eastward from the coast to Alberta so that Alberta bitumen can be made fluid enough to be pumped back to the coast at Kitimat, to be put into oil tankers to be sent down Douglas Channel and out into the roaring North Pacific through a tangle of islands you will find on the charts strewn with names like Terror Point and Calamity Bay and Grief Point. A digression: It is not for nothing that such comforting placenames show up along the proposed tanker route, so don’t start with me about how I should now find comfort in knowing that the oil spill cleanup contingency plans consist of rushing out with skimmers and booms that work only in low breezes and a light chop. I’ve fished halibut in those waters, and believe me, there is a reason why heading out there in boats is known as Walking With The King. Nevermind what the “radical environmentalists” say, whoever they are.

"As recently as last fall, John Bruk, the founding president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and as fervent a booster of trade with China as you’ll meet, was cheering Stephen Harper and wishing him all the best with his trade engagements in the Forbidden City. But Bruk’s good wishes came with a caution: “Are we going to sell the ownership of our natural resources to pay for consumer goods we can ill afford and thereby speed up the indebtedness of Canada as export revenue from those resources would be lost?” Turns out that’s exactly what we’re doing."
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Bill Moyers returns

David Stockman, former Reagan Budget Director,
"If they're too big too fail, they're too big to exist."
Stockman, quoted by Tim Dickinson in How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich, Rolling Stone, November 9, 2011:
"The Republican Party has totally abdicated its job in our democracy, which is to act as the guardian of fiscal discipline and responsibility," says David Stockman, who served as budget director under Reagan. "They're on an anti-tax jihad – one that benefits the prosperous classes."

Robert Reich in the New York Times, writing on "Reckless Endangerment" by Gretchen Morgensen:
It’s hardly news that the near meltdown of America’s financial system enriched a few at the expense of the rest of us. Who’s responsible? The recent report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission blamed all the usual suspects — Wall Street banks, financial regulators, the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and subprime lenders — which is tantamount to blaming no one. “Reckless Endangerment” concentrates on particular individuals who played key roles.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Notable case regarding aboriginal rights

From Lexology.com
The Wahgoshig First Nation (“WFN”) in Northern Ontario has obtained an injunction to temporarily stop Solid Gold Resources Corp. (“Solid Gold”), a junior mining company, from drilling on their First Nation Treaty lands. In a decision released last week (2011 ONSC 7708 (CanLII)), Justice Brown of the Ontario Superior Court halted all exploration activities for at least 120 days after finding that Solid Gold had repeatedly failed to respond to consultation requests from both WFN and the Ontario Government.

While this decision should not come as a surprise to knowledgeable observers, it is important for three reasons:
  1. It confirms that as yet there is no Aboriginal veto over mining exploration activities;
  2. It highlights problems with the Crown’s practice of delegating the consultation to proponents and
  3. It reiterates that the “free entry” mining system in Ontario is limited by Aboriginal consultation.
Companies that are not mindful of Aboriginal concerns will see their business plans delayed or cancelled.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Self-interested blather from Edge of the Ledge

Wonderful demonstration today of how BC's tight little circle of political reporters is wilfully blind to the real issue at stake in the CBC conflict of interest matter. Of course, I did not expect anything else from this trio on CKNW. I question their own journalistic ethics because of financial relationships they have had with business groups affected by their reporting. I'm wary of reporters who take payments from groups they might report upon and then claim absolute objectivity.

This is part of a comment I added to Alex Tsakumis' fine blog on the article titled: CBC Ombudsman Levels Conflict Deflection by CBC Vancouver of Their Victoria Bureau Chief: Stephen Smart’s Conflict Finally, Officially Outed!
"While I have not commented on Stephen Smart’s capabilities as a reporter, i do strongly condemn the regional management of CBC who chose to defend the indefensible, in effect choosing the private interest of their colleagues over their professional responsibility as news providers.

"This issue has never been about Stephen Smart the man – I for one have never met him – or about his wife. Alex, you and I did not dream up a new definition of ‘conflict of interest’ nor did we ever attack Stephen Smart’s capabilities or achievements. As we pointed out often, the issue is one that should be dealt with separate from personalities."
No doubt Alex and I are the bloggers that Baldrey and Good claim have "axes to grind." Baldrey tries to smear us as NDP partisans. A fatuous argument but, I guess there are no good ones.

From my piece Help for the CBC on conflicts of interest:
Relationships that cross the media-political divide raise ethical questions for the journalists and their employers. Should the potential conflict of interest merely be disclosed to readers or viewers? Or should the journalists be shifted to new assignments to lessen the appearance their motives might be divided?"

[LA Times James] Rainey offered outcomes of ethical reviews, including these:
  • "Los Angeles Times political reporter Ronald Brownstein recently began a new assignment as a columnist for the newspaper's opinion and editorial pages after his bosses banned him from writing news stories about the presidential race. The Times was seeking to avoid the appearance of a conflict: Brownstein is married to Eileen McMenamin, chief spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain, a candidate for the Republican nomination."
  • "Nina Easton, Fortune magazine Washington bureau chief and Fox News analyst, said she would not write stories centering on McCain's campaign, because her husband, Russ Schriefer, is plotting media strategy for McCain. When appearing on Fox, she said, she plans at least occasional disclaimers to tell TV viewers she is married to a McCain advisor."
Rainey also quotes Tom Rosenstiel, a former Washington correspondent for Newsweek magazine and The Times. He said that in many cases, disclosure was not enough:
"You have the right to marry anyone you want, but you don't have the right to cover any beat you want," said Rosenstiel, now director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
I paraphrase Professor Lee Wilkins, editor of The Journal of Mass Media Ethics:
"Like it or not, the perception is that Stephen Smart is reporting about something in which his wife is a player — and CBC isn't telling the public."
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Now for something completely different

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

CBC conflict of interest complaints upheld

The CBC Ombudsman has agreed with me and others who raised the issue of Stephen Smart's conflict of interest. Now, we await the corporation's resolution of this matter. You can read the entire Ombudsman report here but the important section is this:
"...Whether a real or perceived conflict of interest, no amount of managing it can do more than mitigate the impact on an impartial fulfillment of duties.

"In this instance some of Smart’s central political reporting functions that involve dealings with the premier and her opponents are affected or impeded. He also bears an unavoidable conflict of commitment in which professional responsibilities commingle with moral obligations in other legitimate personal roles in his life.

"CBC journalistic policies are designed to be congruent with corporate policies that call for an avoidance of real or perceived conflict of interest, bearing of the greatest scrutiny, and exceptions only when the corporation’s interests are clearly better served.

"Smart can report with integrity, and CBC’s protocol can combine disclosure and recusal, but the pervasive appearance of a conflict of interest will continually challenge their 5 reputations. It is hard to see how an arrangement with the potential to diminish the effectiveness of CBC’s journalism and public standing serves an interest worthy of a policy exception.

"My role isn’t to sort through the challenge of resolving this matter in accordance with labour law or collective agreements. My role is simply to assess the situation against policy in light of the public complaint. As it stands there is a violation of CBC Journalistic Standards and Practices."

Kirk LaPointe
CBC Ombudsman
This issue was brought to wide public notice by bloggers and concerned citizens and that should not have been necessary since professional, full time reporters knew what was going on. A question we should ask is where was the corporate media on this issue. If they are silent on one offence to journalistic standards, we can be sure they will remain silent on others too.

For example, we need to know about reporters receiving speaker's fees from industry groups affected by their coverage; or, "research" contracts and other hospitality from the Fraser Institute, or fees to advise industry and business groups on gaining better press coverage (pay rewards for it?), etc.

Unfortunately, experience suggests people of BC's mainstream media will remain silent when abuses affect their own affairs or the affairs of colleagues.

Another issue to address is that CBC's news management in the Pacific region has exposed their own poor judgment and their stubborn refusal to be accountable to reasonable citizen complaints. The relationship between news consumers and news presenters requires trust. CBC's Vancouver management has damaged that trust.

* * * * *
The text of my December 18 complaint to the CBC Ombudsman along with his initial response is included in the article CBC reporter's conflict of interest.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

If oil industry so wonderful, why the subsidies?

Pumped Up in Sides 3

Updated Enbridge Profile

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Regulators throwing loaded dice

Propaganda is a tool favoured by leaders who suppose unthinking citizens can't determine the common interest. Noam Chomsky says it is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.

The tar sands extraction industry and parasitical agents like Ethical Oil, along with Stephen Harper's government, are investing heavily in a campaign of duplicity and exaggeration as they use the metaphorical bludgeon on Canadians. Public relations and political arrangements have always been a significant cost of doing business in dirty oil. Even before Syncrude, the first significant Athabasca tar sands operator, began producing bitumen in 1978, they were spending hugely on spin doctoring. My employer in the seventies was one of the beneficiaries.

prop·a·gan·da   [prop-uh-gan-duh] noun
Ideas deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

In early days, as they do today, big city flacks talked much about economic development and harm-free bitumen production but not of carbon loads and mercury, arsenic, lead or other poisons that would destroy lives of permanent residents, mostly First Nations, in rural Alberta. Decades later, the energy subject illustrates what writer Stephen Hume once called a defective political culture through "deception by omission, misleading half-truths, disingenuous dissimulation and sleazy spin-doctoring."

There is no better example than the Harper Government's approach to energy regulation. The Toronto Star's national affairs columnist wrote,
"It appears [Stephen Harper] is undermining the work of an independent panel that is hearing aboriginal and environmental objections to the $5.5 billion project that would run from Edmonton to the Pacific, from where Alberta’s oil could be shipped across to Asian markets.

"...he appears prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure a Keystone repeat will not be played out in Canada’s west.

"...As the regulatory process stands now, a denial of the project does not go to the federal cabinet for a final decision. But as Harper seeks a way to streamline the hearings process, those who know this file were suggesting he could also change the rules to allow cabinet to overturn a negative finding.

"...And he agreed Canada poured a lot of money into Keystone lobbying... He didn’t make it clear how that was different from American money being used to lobby against the Northern Gateway..."
Before federal government regulatory hearings began, allegedly to objectively examine the pipeline project, Harper's federal government had already declared unbounded support for the project, calling it an exercise in "nation building." The Joint Review Panel for Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is part of the National Energy Board and the Minister responsible for it is Joe Oliver.

Oliver demonstrates not even a pretense of even-handedness, saying that his ministry's review process is "broken." His open letter, released the day before hearings began, claims environmentalists have a radical ideological agenda and aim to prevent trade and stop any major economic project in Canada. Of course, the potential for developing truly significant industrial expansion in Canada is lost when industry chooses to export barely processed bitumen. Multinational oil companies care little about refining in Canada to produce intermediate and end products of petroleum: liquid fuels, lubricants and petrochemicals such as fibres, plastics and pharmaceuticals.

In a truly ironical closing, Joe Oliver's letter says "our fair, independent" regulatory system must "review the evidence dispassionately" and then make an objective determination based on science and the facts. Of course, Toronto based Joe Oliver, a Montreal native who spent his career in corporate securities, is already playing with loaded dice. He is responsible for the National Energy Board, which consists of:
  • Chair Gaétan Caron, a Quebec engineer who has been a career bureaucrat with the NEB;
  • Vice Chair Sheila Leggett, a Harper appointee to the NEB, who is a graduate of Montreal's McGill University who previously worked as an Alberta consultant;
  • Roland George, also a McGill graduate, worked throughout most of his career as senior principal of an international energy consulting firm;
  • Kenneth Bateman is a Calgary based lawyer who was Vice President of a large Canadian energy company;
  • Georgette Habib is an economist who came from the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board;
  • Lyne Mercier is a former executive of Gaz Metro, which distributes natural gas in Quebec and owns a number of financial interests in transmission, storage, gas and other underground systems enterprises;
  • David Hamilton, a temporary member of the NEB, is a career government bureaucrat whose appointment expires next year;
  • Bob Vergette, another temporary NEB board member, is a pipeline engineer who has been active on many pipeline industry association initiatives;
  • Hans Mathews a geologist with more than 25 years experience in resource management industries is another temporary board member.
These people are industry insiders with urban backgrounds. They were selected by political masters to further commercial objectives yet Canadians are told the NEB will conduct a "fair and independent" examination of a project that is essential for achievement of the goals that led China to invest billions in Alberta tar sands production. The Harper government gave tacit approval to that Chinese investment a few years ago and the resulting demand for Canadian dollars pushed the currency exchange rate upward to the detriment of Canadian exporters such as those in British Columbia's forest industries.

Here is a further example of how the review process is fundamentally flawed. Sheila Leggett sits on the three person Joint Review Panel for Enbridge Northern Gateway. In 2008, she described the NEB to an international pipeline conference in Calgary:
"We are a Canadian Federal energy regulator. Our responsibilities include regulating:

"- The construction and operation of pipelines

"- Transportation, tolls and tariffs
"- International trade in oil, gas and electricity as well as some frontier Oil & Gas regulation.
The agency sees itself as a facilitator of pipeline construction and promoter of trade in international energy. Indeed those things are its raison d'etre and Ms. Leggett says the NEB's aim is to promote the energy infrastructure.

In December 2011, Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Northern Pipeline Agency, announced,
"...designation of Sheila Leggett as Deputy Administrator of the Northern Pipeline Agency (NPA).

"...The NPA was established in 1978 to facilitate the construction of a pipeline by Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd., now owned by TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. The pipeline would carry natural gas from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and potentially Yukon and northern British Columbia to markets in Canada and the lower 48 states."
Ms. Leggett's assigned role is unambiguous. In this project, her duty is to "facilitate the construction of a pipeline."

Ian Austen writing in the New York Times sees through the current propaganda efforts of one well financed industry shill:
“Foreigners and their foreign hired hands should butt out,” said Kathryn Marshall, a spokeswoman for Ethical Oil.

"While most Canadian environmental groups are charities and must disclose the major sources of their funds, Ethical Oil does not. Ms. Marshall said that the group accepted money from only Canadians and Canadian companies, although she declined to directly say if that included Canadian corporations controlled by foreign entities. Many of the large energy companies active in the oil sands are foreign-owned or -controlled.

“You can look up the definition of a Canadian company,” she said."
In the Enbridge project, the National Energy Board will ultimately offer reassurances about diligent inspections and increased spill response capabilities but environmentalists are mistaken if they see the Joint Review Panel as anything more than window dressing for a project that will proceed. Since it provides certainty of higher oil prices to both domestic and foreign consumers, the multinational energy industry has called the tune. The obedient Harper Government has begun to dance.
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