Gerald Caplan is an African scholar, former NDP national director and a regular panelist on CBC's Power and Politics.
On Sept. 3, HuffPost reported that they had gotten hold of a Conservative Party fundraising email that slammed the Liberal Party for hiring as a senior adviser a writer for CTV News. Here's what the leaked email said:
"When we told you the Ottawa media elites were working against us, reporters laughed at us. ... Then the Liberals hired a CTV journalist to work as a high-level spin doctor. This confirms our suspicions – and our need for your support. Can I count on you to chip in $5 today?"
If reporters laughed before, now they broke up. Competitions broke out to see who could name more media elites who were attached to the Harper government, though many stopped after senators Duffy and Wallin and Harper cabinet minister Peter Kent.
You can of course never underestimate the Conservatives' capacity for unparalleled chutzpah. The simple truth, of course, is that with the single exception of the Toronto Star, there's not a daily paper in Canada that supports a progressive agenda. Look at the 2011 election, when the NDP was supported by the Toronto Star and Now (a Toronto weekly), the Liberals by the Toronto Observer (whatever that might be), and the Bloc Quebecois by Le Devoir. 28 newspapers endorsed Stephen Harper.
As for the CBC, which Conservatives vilify as little more than a left-wing cabal, it was for years the happy home of such notorious pinkos as Don Cherry, Kevin O'Leary, Rex Murphy, and any number of Tory MPs and partisans who are always, but always, asked to join any political panel that contains a New Democrat and Liberal. Nor do progressives have anything remotely like the Fox-like Sun media chain of television network and daily papers.
The truth is there is no such thing as an anti-Conservative media elite in Canada – with one remarkable exception. That's the one the Harper government has earned. This phenomenon hasn't adequately been appreciated. Many of the government's toughest, most devastating critics are those one might have least expected.
Take Andrew Coyne of the right-leaning National Post. Mr. Coyne's known as a philosophical conservative yet his disappointment in the Harper government is profound. "Time was," he wrote just before the summer break, "when we had to wait weeks, even months for each new abuse of power by the Harper government. Now they arrive by the day, sometimes two and three at a time." That's some indictment this of a democratic government.
Or look at The Globe and Mail, a moderate conservative, business-oriented newspaper. Yet here's from its Canada Day editorial:
"Canada day is a time when many of us reflect happily on what it means to be Canadian. This year, the federal government has given us little reason to celebrate after passing legislation that dramatically redefines and substantially weakens what that is. … "Bill C-24 gives the government the kind of sweeping power that is common in dictatorships, not in a democracy based on the rule of law where all citizens are equal. The changes to the Citizenship Act erode those basic principles…."
Here again we're warned the government is undermining our very democracy. What can be more serious than that? The Globe's Jeffrey Simpson, dean of Canadian columnists, pursues the same theme:
"When 11 former presidents of the Canadian Bar Association rebuke the government for attacking Canada's top jurist, it is fair to ask: How low can Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government go? The answer is that just when you think new depths of conduct have been plumbed, even lower ones are found.
"We might have thought that the depths were recently reached by Pierre Poilievre, the minister responsible for the so-called Fair Elections Act, when he attacked the Chief Electoral Officer, dismissed comments from former auditor-general Sheila Fraser and a long list of political scientists who opposed the bill, which has since been amended.
"Canadians, however, had not seen the worst. Mr. Harper, in one of his Nixonian moments in which he sees enemies everywhere, impugned the integrity of Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Eleven former presidents of the Canadian Bar Association felt so strongly about the Prime Minister's unjustified and unprovoked assault on the Chief Justice's integrity that they collectively came to her defence."
Globe columnist Lawrence Martin spells out the implication of these quite shocking criticisms:
"In reforming Canada on the basis of his brand of conservatism, the Prime Minister shows no sign of a let up…. We know that tolerance of dissent and civil liberties do not rank high on the Conservatives' priority list.
"How far to the right can he move the country? Just watch him… Despite some recent setbacks, Mr. Harper is succeeding in remaking Canada along his intended lines. The values once deemed to be integral to the character of this country are continually being overturned."
I wonder if the Conservative base has a clue about how our mainstream conservative media regards their government. Maybe party fund-raisers will tell them in their next email. It's got to be worth at least $5.00.