By Andrew Coyne - Friday, February 27, 2009 - 85 Comments
By Philippe Gohier - Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 5:28 PM - 37 Comments
If you haven’t read the National Post‘s editorial about the canceled re-enactment of Battle…
If you haven’t read the National Post‘s editorial about the canceled re-enactment of Battle on the Plains, it’s worth checking out, if only because it stands out as a perfect example of the breathtaking lunacy Quebec’s identity debates sometimes generate in the Rest Of Canada. To wit:
Enough of the decades of appeasement; it’s time for Ottawa to adopt a tough-love attitude toward Quebec. And who better to do that then Mr. Harper and his Tories? They’ve got nothing to lose…
They can start by reinstating the Plains of Abraham re-enactment and, if need be, providing federal security for the event. They also can end the unofficial federal policy that as near to half as possible of all federal defence spending must go to manufacturers in Quebec.
While they’re at it, they should tell the truth about equalization… There is no “fiscal imbalance,” at least not between Ottawa and Quebec…
Let’s also take away the Quebec chair at the Francophonie. Defend vigorously in court any challenges filed that seek to uphold the minority-language rights of English-speaking residents in Quebec. Such an approach won’t make any friends in Quebec. But at least everyone in the rest of the country won’t keep feeling like suckers.
By Peter C. Newman - Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 3:00 PM - 1 Comment
Peter C. Newman on how the Aspers came to blows with press baron Conrad Black
On Aug. 11, 2002, two years after his $3.5-billion purchase of 129 newspapers and magazines from Conrad Black made him the paramount media baron in Canada, Israel Harold Asper—known as Izzy to one and all—was piped aboard a ship on the Lake of the Woods. After a string of formalities, Asper became Lord of the Manor of Polington in the parish of Charminster in the County of Dorset. In Asper’s sardonic mind, according to Peter C. Newman’s biography Izzy (HarperCollins), the title—a real one, bought in Britain as a gift by his son Leonard—put him on an equal footing with Black, more formally Baron Black of Crossharbour. The newspaper deal was a high point in the careers of both men: three years later Asper was dead, and by 2007 Black was a convicted felon. Izzy’s initial euphoria over his purchase soon gave way to bitter fighting, with Black—still his equal partner in owning the National Post—and with his new employees. At one point the soon-to-be Lord Polington even challenged Lord Black to a duel. Excerpts from Izzy:
When Israel Harold Asper, armed with an agenda cast in Canadian Shield granite, stormed the smug ramparts of Southam-nurtured editorial departments, he set off a revolution. The journalists thought of themselves as crusading reformers, taunting a Winnipeg Rottweiler who was rehearsing to be Canada’s Rush Limbaugh. None of the comparisons rang true. The newshounds were no Noam Chomsky revolutionaries, threatening the established order. Rush had nothing to do with it, and Asper was no Rottweiler. On the contrary, he was the only Canadian investor willing to risk his fortune in an industry that sought to turn profits from the Dickensian technique of selling impressions made on processed wood pulp.
Izzy’s purchase of Black’s newspapers set off a confrontation of rare intensity, made so hurtful because everyone involved had good reasons to assume they were doing the right thing—that they were merely being true to themselves, and what could be wrong with that? The journalists were defending their mandate as front-line gladiators, guarding the freedom of expression that defines their profession; the Aspers were exercising proprietary rights over papers that had cost them half their company’s market value. The mix was explosive, like a cargo of nitroglycerine under a tropical sun, and left a bitter aftertaste between employers and employees.
It soon became clear that there was no percentage in trying to make Izzy feel guilty about breaking some holy journalistic covenant of which he was blissfully unaware. His position was simple: he owned the printing press and therefore had first call on what it produced. “I’m not sure that you could make Izzy feel guilty about anything,” reasoned Jim Sward, who spent a decade as the head of Global TV and was well aware of his boss’s foibles. “He isn’t plagued with feeling guilty. If he said the most horrible thing to you in a fit of anger or frustration, 10 minutes later he could laugh at it with you. He would never come back and say, ‘Oh gee, what I said about you, that was awful and I’m sorry.’ ”
That didn’t alter the fact that seldom had a Canadian media group so vehemently condemned its proprietor. Conrad Black, who preceded Izzy in the chain’s catbird seat, had championed causes far to the right of Asper’s, making promiscuous use of his papers to promote personal priorities and champion his neo-con convictions. There was muted concern about a publisher’s claiming his sense of entitlement in print, but criticism of Conrad remained an undertow. As soon as Izzy took over, the undertow burst into a riptide.
This was partly due to the difference in personalities between the two men. Black’s passage through life was marked by his need to presume worship as he bestowed his inflated presence on the anointed—even in jail he managed to scrounge a butler of sorts. He was catered to with such deference in the National Post’s opinion pages that they read like extracts from his own self-congratulatory diary. And that was even after his name change—from Conrad Black to 18330–424.
In contrast, Asper was the Wyatt Earp of the Canadian Plains, a sharpshooting loner with no pretensions but with determination and energy that few could match, or would want to. Self-made to the point of caricature, Asper believed that this was the moment for him to exert the national influence that had always eluded him. It was crunch time for the great agent provocateur of the Second Red River Rebellion.
Next to Izzy and the Fourth Estate, the third defining presence in the rapidly escalating confrontation was David Asper. He had taken issue with his newspaper’s investigative coverage of the Shawinigan affair, which involved allegations that Jean Chrétien had improperly helped a business colleague to obtain loans from a federal banking agency. This came at a time when Black was sparring with Canada’s Prime Minister, who had tried to squash his dream of a seat in the British House of Lords. In the end it turned out that Black could acquire his baronetcy only if he surrendered his Canadian citizenship. This he did with aplomb, since he dismissed those who stayed behind as a bunch of subarctic losers, and good riddance. For many Canadians, the feeling was mutual.
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 9:42 AM - 10 Comments
It seems that Canadian Press resident Cadmanologist Tim Naumetz also got hold of the “leaked” report in question – no prize for guessing who seems to have leaked it, by the way.
Not surprisingly, he has a markedly different take than CTV News, the apparent beneficiary of said leak, and the followup story that appeared just hours later in the National Post that accepted, without question, the premise that the report cast doubt on the authenticity of the recording:
By kadyomalley - Friday, August 22, 2008 at 10:12 AM - 0 Comments
Is the Globe and Mail - or, for that matter, CanWest News – under any legal* obligation that would prevent it from posting the full CFIA document online?
Let’s assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that the government considers this particular document – the letter, and the list of proposals for budget cuts at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency – to be a cabinet confidence, despite the fact that there is no way of knowing whether it actually went to cabinet. Even if it did, documents that would otherwise be made public but are attached to a cabinet confidence are still public; the only thing that needs to be kept secret is the fact that it was part of a submission to cabinet.
By selley - Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 2:04 PM - 0 Comments
Must-reads: Don MacPherson on the magic of legislation.
National Post attacked from
Must-reads: Don MacPherson on the magic of legislation.
National Post attacked from the left! CBC attacked from the right! All is well at The Globe and Mail!
If the Post were to fall into liberal (or Liberal) hands, the Globe‘s Lawrence Martin says “it would be like the Liberals losing the Toronto Star.” No more daily bashing of Stéphane Dion; no more giving “the Harper government the benefit of the doubt on every issue imaginable”; no more gross caricaturization of other newspapers’ editorial positions… oh, wait, that’s Lawrence Martin. In any case, we’re not totally clear on why Jerry Grafstein (or anyone else) would necessarily turn the paper hard to the left just on principle, if there was a business case to stay in bluer territory. The current owners aren’t exactly right-wing ghouls, after all—heck, as recently as 2005, David Asper himself gave $5,000 to the Liberals!
The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington isn’t surprised to learn CBC employees are profoundly unhappy with their jobs, because unlike private sector media, there’s no “accountability” to the viewers, listeners and readers, and no chance to really make a splash. “The Mother Corp. knows best,” he sneers. “It forcefeeds listeners and viewers with what it thinks they deserve. If the public doesn’t like it, let them write letters or phone Rex Murphy on CBC Radio Sunday afternoons.”
By Paul Wells - Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 11:56 PM - 0 Comments
This excellent article in the Globe and Mail, bearing the fingerprints of no fewer than five reporters, details CanWest’s difficulties and suggests two possible solutions: the Aspers, and apparently Leonard more than the others, might take the company private; and the company might cut the National Post loose. Senator Jerry Grafstein is listed as a possible buyer.
This news has already inspired the usual snickering from the usual suspects. It’s unfortunate that, along with the rest of their yeoman labour on this CanWest story, the Globe‘s armies weren’t also able to do what Richard Pérez-Peña, a very fine New York Times reporter working these days on the media beat, was able to do singlehandedly: put the troubles of one media corporation into a little perspective. A lot of media companies are in profound trouble — Pérez-Peña cites several cases of market capitalization falling by more than 90% in a year and a half. So several of the English-speaking world’s most venerable news outlets could be bought for a song tomorrow, if only any buyer could believe they won’t simply decline in value still further. Continue…