You Don't Get Whole Story Cuz I'm Part Of The Union. Till The Day I Die.
It was a rollicking good time in Edmonton this past weekend as the NDP held its Bash The Corporations piñata party. (Stephen Lewis returned to remind Canadians why they never trusted him with power.) In case you missed the just-concluded convention, I can sum it up for you: Oil Bad. Power To The People. We’ll Find The Money Somewhere. Oh, and the delegates dumped that capitalist roader Thomas Mulcair for getting outflanked by Justin Trudeau in the federal election.
Call it Socialists In Cars Getting Capitalists. Much of this socialist agitprop is as dated as a Henny Youngman routine. You know the lines. The secret is the timing. Take my tar sands. Please. (Applause). It has been an enduring prop in Canadian politics since WW II.
The wonder is how the media treats this “class warfare” as something novel, a new wrinkle in the fabric of the body politic. As if taxing the rich has, will, or would ever raise the incomes of the middle class and poor (it won’t). The optics of the Scrooge McDuck meme are just too tempting for the Toronto Star and CBC to resist.
In part it’s because, when it comes to politics, the media like the horse-race model more than the governance schtick. It gives them contests, close calls and other sporting metaphors (http://goo.gl/GEcgBf). Delving into details is for suckers. Which works well for the NDP and, to a large degree, the Liberals.
They are, after all, the patrons of big-government interests. Those would be the unions, academics and, yes, the media who thrive on the rapidly expanding apparatus of state. It’s an enormous business they’re dressing up in fancy clothes. And while the fans of government talk pretty, don’t dare mess with their handiwork. As Mulcair discovered. “Nice leadership you got here, Tom. Too bad if something happened to it.”
What you also never hear is that six of the top ten American donors are unions sending $ 278 million to the Democrats. What you also almost never hear is that 14 of the top 25 donors in America are unions, with about 90 percent of their donations going to the Democrats. Which is why you almost never hear in the legacy press that the dreaded conservative Koch Brothers are 59th on the list of largest political donors in the U.S.
In Canada, the public service unions keep the Liberal and NDP leaders on speed dial via sizable contributions to the parties. To see the effect of that largesse, just look at Kathleen Wynne’s tango with Ontario’s teachers. Re-opening the province’s deal with teachers kicked back $468 million to their union. When the Liberals were done giving away that farm they also picked up the bill for the union’s pizzas and parties.
You rarely hear anyone in the legacy media make this connection. Reading the printed press and the electronic media in both Canada and the U.S., it’s all about how “big money interests” and “Wall/ Bay Street” are corrupting the electoral system. In Canada that translates as the energy industry based in Calgary undermining the process with its illicit luchre. In the U.S., it’s people like the Koch brothers. Or the “depraved” Citizens United case in America.
It would seem like a good story to report, no? How the cabal of unions and compliant politicians has bloated government to the point where even Alberta, the crazy uncle at Confederations’s table, is now soaking tax payers for 48% at the top end (in Ontario it’s reached 54%) to keep governments chunking. Is there not a story in how unions corrupt?
Except, as anyone who’s worked in media can tell you, there are few industries more heavily unionized than media companies. Reporters, editors, producers, researchers, camera operators, announcers… the whole shebang owes it soul to the union dole. Some may dissent within the Guild, but almost all go along to get along in their career. Right Think gets you promoted.
Having paid union dues and endured strikes/ lockouts at CBC and the Calgary Herald, I can assure you the people bringing you the news are anything but disengaged. They see Bernie Sanders as a sympathetic figure fighting for the rights of civil servants in Starbucks to shout down politicians (http://goo.gl/Y3YrYM). Naomi Klein? Deep thinker. They viewed the late Jack Layton as the Happy Warrior. Stephen Lewis was the Noble Knight. Even Jean Chretien was the p’tit gar de Shawinigan,
By contrast Stephen Harper was the bitter troll on the mountain.
Because they know zero captains of industry and plenty of noisy academics and feminists, the media people’s sympathies morph over time toward the progressive brave new world of thought speech, LGBT rights and income re-distribution. Look at the number of prominent journalists who now work for the Ontario Liberals. The press is Patty Hearst and the progressives are the Symbionese Liberation Army.
My colleagues will no doubt resent the accusation that they go soft on the proressive model of eco purity and mind bending. If they can’t take the heat there will be plenty of PR jobs in the Liberals and NDP to tide them over. Just as there have always been.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).