Political Perspectives is produced by the students and faculty of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, Canada's oldest journalism school.

JUL 2009

Cars without GM, and news without the Times

Posted by padams under All

Paul Adams

Read the always-provocative Michael Kinsley’s take on the crisis in newspapers (from the Washington Post).

Paul Adams teaches journalism at Carleton.

JUL 2009

Plug-in backscratching

Posted by cwaddell under All, Political Strategy

Christopher Waddell

Had there been any debate in Parliament about the wisdom of spending $13 billion to keep General Motors and Chrysler alive surely one of the questions an effective opposition would have raised would be will government discriminate in its policies on the auto sector to favour the companies it owns?

Ontario provided an answer yesterday with a subsidy of up to $10,000 for electric vehicles, announced by Premier Dalton McGuinty at a General Motors dealership in Toronto. The only beneficiary on the immediate horizon will be the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in car supposed to begin production in late 2010.

With a  predicted price tag of about $40,000 US – the Volt will be at least $10,000 more expensive in Canada than popular hybrid competitors such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight – neither of which would be eligible for the subsidy as they aren’t plug-ins. Not surprisingly Honda and Toyota are unimpressed and being uncharacteristically vocal about it, as stories in today’s Globe and Mail and National Post highlight.

Two years ago Honda engaged in a battle with the federal Conservative government when it introduced a subsidy for fuel efficient vehicles with an arbitrary mileage cutoff that just excluded some Honda vehicles. That program was a failure but not before it alienated Honda which builds almost 400,000 vehicles annually in Ontario.

The length of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s meeting with Governor General Michaelle Jean last December to discuss proroguing Parliament meant he missed the official opening of a new Toyota plant in Woodstock, Ont. – the only new auto assembly plant built in the province in the last decade.

The debate might have also asked if governments introduce policies that directly undercut the interests of companies that have invested and expanded in Ontario to favour those that have cut back and closed plants, how tough will it be in future to persuade Honda and Toyota to continue to choose Canada over the United States for future investments?

Christopher Waddell is acting director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University. He is a former reporter, Ottawa bureau chief, national editor and associate editor of the Globe and Mail and a former CBC-TV parliamentary bureau chief and executive producer-news specials for CBC TV News.

JUL 2009

The PM and big, bad taxes

Posted by ealboim under All

Elly Alboim

The Prime Minister’s musings about there being no “good” taxes have led to a flurry of commentary, particularly in the Globe and Mail and its political blog site about whether he meant what he said and whether his words reveal an attitude towards government that is both cavalier and dangerous.

There is mounting evidence of cavalier decisions by this government. Yesterday’s snap decision to impose visas on Mexican and Czech visitors seems to be leading to potential devastating retaliation by the European Community. The snap decision to shut down the MAPLE reactors without a Plan B is taking on new meaning now that the Dutch reactor is about to shut down as well.

But it is the tax issue that may very well lead to the most significant debate .

The Prime Minister has embraced forever deficits, if need be, rather than accepting the “dumb” policy of raising taxes. There is every indication – including the cynical decision to cut the GST and the incessant characterization of the Liberals as “taxers” – that the PM believes Canadians (or at least HIS Canadian voters) are moved to vote by their distaste for current taxation levels. And most of the various commentators also start from a presumption that taxes are highly unpopular and electoral albatrosses.

But there is lots of public opinion research that suggests that most Canadians actually make the link between taxes and government services. In the years of surplus, reducing taxes consistently ran a poor third to paying down debt or spending on key priorities. Most people understand the power of pooling their dollars in order to accomplish important things. Most would forego what always turns out to be modest personal benefit (because significant tax cuts cost so much money when spread over 15 million tax payers) in order to better fund health care or improved educational facilities. Most believe government is the ultimate guarantor of the services they require.

And unless we suddenly and unexpectedly return to significant economic growth, this proposition is going to be tested once more as future government struggle with the vicious circle caused by chronic, structural deficits and mounting debt. We know Mr. Harper’s answer (or at least this week’s version.) The question for others is whether Canadians will accept increasing taxes rather than lose already weakening government services.

Ultimately, this may come down to choosing between alternate and profoundly differing visions of the role of government and the taxes that support it.

Elly Alboim is an Associate Professor of Journalism and provided strategic communications and public opinion advice on eleven federal budgets

JUL 2009

This reporter….

Posted by padams under All, Media Commentary

Paul Adams

In the aftermath the Michael Jackson media orgy, this reporter finds something pleasantly old-fashioned about a wife writing about her husband on the front page of the Globe and Mail, and referring to him as “Mr. MacKinnon”.

Paul Adams teaches journalism at Carleton

JUL 2009

Michael Jackson, the congressman and his Kinsley gaffe

Posted by padams under All, Media Commentary

Paul Adams

The brilliant American journalist and commentator Michael Kinsley once called attention to what later came to be known as a Kinsley gaffe. This is when a politician commits a gaffe by inadvertently telling the truth.

Did Peter King, the conservative Republican congressman commit such a gaffe when he commented on the media’s “orgy” of Michael Jackson coverage? King referred to Jackson as a “pedophile” and a “pervert”, and said more attention should be paid to firefighters, police officers, and soldiers in Afghanistan that to the self-styled King of Pop, whose personal behaviour was infamous and shameful.

I think he came close. There does seem to have been a willful refusal by the media to balance their wall-to-wall coverage of his stardom with an open acknowledgement of his extremely troubling pattern with regard to young boys. In almost every other context, the sexual exploitation of children has been elevated by the media and society more generally to the highest of crimes. Jackson, true, was found not guilty in his one trial for such behaviour, but remember also that a previous criminal case fell apart after Jackson reached a $20 million settlement in a civil case which resulted in the boy himself clamming up to authorities.

Gosh, Jackson’s own sister publicly denounced him for his relationship with boys (not children, as media reports often have it, but almost exclusively boys).

For some reason, the allegations of Jackson’s illicit drug use are fair game — the subject of extended coverage — while the equally well established pattern of improper relations with boys is glossed over euphemistically when it is mentioned at all.

Representative King’s aggressive tackling of the Jackson’s all-but-overt pedophilia triggered a defensive reaction in the entertainment media. Even CNN treated the story as if it was covering another outrageous Fox-News type claim by a right-wing screwball.

As I write, 16 channels on my TV are airing the Jackson memorial live, hour after hour of it, with barely a word of critical commentary — and this includes the BBC. If this isn’t a media orgy, and an uncritical one at that, I don’t know what is.

Jackson may be the most lamented pedophile since Socrates. Judging by today’s coverage his cultural contributions have been much, much larger.

The one way in which Rep. King’s comments may fall short of the classic Kinsley gaffe is the issue of whether they were indeed inadvertent. King, who after the furore caused by his initial remarks said he would not comment further on the day of the Jackson memorial out of respect for the dead, may have intended to create a stir, but maybe just not as big a stir as he eventually did, according to the Washington Post.

Paul Adams teaches journalism at Carleton