I'm Mad as Hell

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and I can't do a thing about it

Where’s the Scandal?

Woe Canada. Here we are in the midst of what should be the biggest political scandal since Jean Chretien and some of his buddies tried to woo the Quebec populace over to the federalist side with prime ministerial golf balls, oh yes, and tens of millions of the taxpayers’ hard earned dollars spent on untendered and questionable advertising contracts going to friends of the Quebec branch of the federal Liberal Party; yet there is an amazing lack of journalism going on.

Of course I’m talking about the billions of taxpayers’ hard earned dollars spent on pork disguised as the G-8 and G-20 summits.

To be fair the Leader of the Opposition has completely disappeared after a few poorly chosen questions in Parliament. Jack “I never met a camera I didn’t like” Layton has been un-Jack like on the massive government waste, saying very little and being heard even less. So why should I expect Canada’s media to take up the cause?

How about, because it’s their job?

CTV, CBC and Global have shown an amazing disinterest in the obvious pork barreling and huge waste of money. They have mostly limited their coverage to Question Period in the House and a few scrums. The Globe and Mail thinks coverage ought to consist of the odd story about security. The Toronto Star has been the best media outlet so far. They headlined stories about the road to nowhere in cottage country and the major airport fix-up to an air strip that will not be used by the summiteers but even they seem to be looking away from the waste as the summits approach and focusing on profiles of the leaders of our summit partners.

Everybody’s main focus of the coverage of the summits has been the security details, the fences that surround a large portion of downtown Toronto and Huntsville, the street closings and the charges and counter-charges from the protesters and the police about what each of the groups is preparing in order to greet our foreign visitors. There have been the inevitable think pieces and op-ed deconstruction of summits past and what they accomplished. University profs are cashing in pondering the usefulness and possible success or failure of this summit. Heck, Global TV is even doing a story on the legacy of the summit on the Muskoka region, who knew the G-8 was about helping out Ontario’s lagging tourist industry? This may be good public service information but it misses the point for all but a few Canadians who live and work in the fenced off parts of Toronto and Muskoka or are macro-economists and historians.

Canadians want to know about the fake lake, but as a symbol of the money being thrown away. Yes, the fake lake is a national, no international, joke and it truly is a waste of 56,000 dollars but it is such a small part of that waste. I still do not know how the government of Canada is going to spend over a billion dollars to do what the United States did in Pittsburgh last year for $30 million and what the British did two years ago in London, a much more difficult city to secure than Toronto, for a mere $50 million.

It would seem to me that these questions should be the fodder and the lifeblood of everyone who calls him or herself a journalist in Canada. So far we have not seen or heard of any of the investigation and the resulting reportage that I for one, expected from our fourth estate. Until now we’ve got the obvious. Tony Clement’s riding being the recipient of millions of dollars of summit cash for fake summit projects to beautify towns that are nowhere near where the world leaders will be. Mr. Clement won his riding by a mere 38 votes in the last election so Prime Minister Harper is buying him enough votes to get re-elected in the next election. But even that is a drop in the bucket of the over a billion dollars. Do the fences cost that much? Is police overtime the issue? Are the transportation and hotel costs of police from across Canada driving up the cost? Why isn’t the army being used more? I don’t think we have to pay them overtime. Why are the costs more than twenty times more than in London? Where is the money going? Are there partisan political connections to where the dollars are being spent?

These are the kinds of questions Canadians are asking and not getting the answers to. From coast to coast citizens are asking how a government that preaches belt tightening can throw away billions on a five day palaver about the world economy. Yes it is Stephen Harper’s job to explain, but when he doesn’t it is a journalist’s job to poke and pry and get to the bottom of what is all too clearly a boondoggle.

For those people in the PMO and the folks behind Canada’s new right wing news and talk channel who claim a left wing media bias I say look at the coverage of the summits: the Tory Prime Minister and Tony Clement are getting away with a big one and the mainstream media have been giving them a pass.

Is it because of summer holidays? Is CBC’s investigative unit tanning at the lake? Are the CTV reporters still tired from Olympic torch relay? Is Global so caught up in their sale they have no time to actually cover major events? Where’s “Canada’s national newspaper”?

I am embarrassed by the lack of strong, relevant coverage. How about you?

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Filed under: Media Commentary, Political Commentary, , , , , , , , ,

8 Responses

  1. bryan says:

    I agree.. it seems that hosting the summit is more or less being used as a platform to pad vote totals in ridings where they’re needed. Dan Gardner wrote a good article on Clement’s riding recently in the Ottawa Citizen (http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/gazebo+Tony/3100159/story.html), but that’s all I’ve really seen in that paper (aside from the typical security articles you’ve mentioned). Clement responded with a letter to the editor (summed up: “Mr. Gardner, how dare you!”) and that seemed to be the end of it all.

    It looks like they’re going to get away with this, which is tough to imagine considering, as you said, the furor over Chretien’s golf balls and the amounts other cities paid to host the summits (which I didn’t know about until reading this).

    What can be done about this?

    • hlbtoo says:

      Here what The Economist had to say about Harper’s Folly:

      FOR all his gifts as a political tactician, Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, may have miscalculated how much Canadians want to pay to host the G8 and G20 summits from June 25th to 27th. As the government struggles to close a large budget deficit, it is spending C$1.2 billion ($1.2 billion) to host the world’s leaders—60% more than Japan, the previous record holder, coughed up for the G8 gathering in Okinawa in 2000.

      Mr Harper points out that Canada is holding back-to-back summits—doubling the cost, he says. The government also notes that it can hardly be blamed for providing airtight security. It has built a steel fence around the woodland cottage resort at Muskoka that will receive the G8, and deployed special forces on overtime to lurk in the water and surrounding forest.

      But critics counter that Mr Harper could have saved money by inviting the G20 to Muskoka as well, rather than receiving them separately in Toronto, 200 km (125 miles) to the south. Moreover, they note that much of the budget has gone on items of dubious utility and taste. The prime minister has become the butt of jokes for commissioning an artificial lake, complete with mock canoes and recordings of the call of the loon, for the G20 summit’s media centre—which sits just yards from the real Lake Ontario. In Muskoka taxpayers are on the hook for a refurbished steamboat that won’t even float until the summit is over, and new outdoor toilets 20km from the meeting site. So much for small government.

  2. Peter McCluskey says:

    What can be done about this? Well, we can vote out all the Conservatives in Toronto in the next election! That outa teach Peter Kent a lesson.

  3. Paul says:

    Clement won by 38 votes the first time but sadly managed to increase his margin handily in the 2008 election. He’s a weasel and I hope voters are sufficiently disgusted by his pork-barreling to get rid of him… but I’m not holding my breath.

    • hlbtoo says:

      Thanks Paul…it’s tough working without a crack research team. You are right. Tony Clement won his last election by about 11,000 votes and the previous election by 28 votes.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Paris and Maliha Aqeel, Canadian . Canadian said: RT @JasonParis: The G20 our biggest political scandal since the sponsorship? Why are the media on vacation about it then? http://tinyurl.com/2a9nvjm […]

  5. Bill says:

    How much do you want to bet that some protestor will rile some security types up and that’s what the world will see of Canada…

    What a huge waste of money in a country where one in five children go to bed hungry every night..

    Bill

  6. JohnR says:

    There have been some stories written to provide more details on the actual costs.

    The Pittsburgh costs (30 million?) was wrongly reported initially and continues to be repeated by most media. $30 Mil was “only” for overtime and international travel assistance of some type. The USA like most nations, refuses to disclose total costs. UK had similar restrictions on what could be reported per costs.

    Despite the crazy billion dollar numbers for Canada hosting the events, it appears to be a first, that any country has attempted to “report all expected costs”. After the furor it may be the last time.

    Don Martin in the Natl Post did a self correction on the Pittsburgh costs a few days ago, pointing this out.

    What is also missing in the stories is the rapidly increasing number of international agencies who are invited to these events in the last 3-4 years. This also greatly increases costs for host nations.

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