Latest info suggests CICR’s broadcast days may be numbered

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It appears that Parrsboro, Nova Scotia’s 50-watt community radio station, operated by the Parrsboro Radio Society (PRS), will need a miracle to survive.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has confirmed that all campus/community radio stations must report their bingo revenues and expenses as part of their annual financial reports.

While making it clear that she was not speaking specifically about CICR, which is scheduled for a licence renewal hearing on September 7, Patricia Valladao, a spokeswoman for the CRTC, said that in general, all community stations must file bingo revenues and expenses each November as part of their annual returns.

A PRS document posted on the CRTC website shows that PRS reported only declining advertising revenue for the last three years and that its financial reports were filed with the CRTC in March, months after the November 30th deadline for the latest report and more than a year late for the two earlier ones.

Robinson responds

When reached by telephone this week, station manager Ross Robinson said there was no need to file bingo revenues and expenses with the CRTC because bingo is licensed under provincial regulations and that, in any case, bingo revenue is considered a donation.

“Why do you want to know this anyway?” he asked.

When I answered that I was writing about the station’s licence renewal application, Robinson said, “Well please don’t. Goodbye.” He then hung up. Our entire conversation lasted less than a minute.

On June 29th, when it posted a notice that CICR’s licence renewal application would be heard on September 7, the CRTC again expressed concern about the station’s failure to file complete financial returns.

It also referred to apparent non-compliance with regulations that require the PRS to provide requested program logs, tapes and other information.

“Should the Commission once again find the licensee in non-compliance, this would be the second consecutive licence term in which CICR-FM has been found in non-compliance with its regulatory requirements,” the CRTC notice reads.

“Given this recurrence of non-compliance and the apparent lack of cooperation by the licensee following repeated correspondence, the Commission has concerns regarding the licensee’s ability and commitment to operate the station in a compliant manner.”

After the station’s first, full-time licence expired on August 31, 2015, the CRTC gave the PRS a couple of years to fix things.

However, a progress report filed with the Commission in March by PRS board member Alain Couture showed that none of the issues raised by the CRTC had been dealt with.

For my earlier report on this, click here.

If the CRTC follows its usual procedures, it will issue a decision on CICR’s licence renewal application within about two months after its September hearing.

And, if the Commission does decide to revoke CICR’s broadcasting licence, it will be only the second time in recent memory that a campus/community station has been ordered to turn off its transmitter.

Final editorial note: Judging by comments on Facebook, some CICR listeners blame me and other former volunteers for the station’s woes, but in fairness, those of us who have criticized PRS in the past have not been anywhere near the station for more than two years during which the PRS has had ample time to meet CRTC requirements. It appears that PRS will now have to face the consequences of its failure to do so.

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CRTC hearing to decide fate of troubled Parrsboro radio station

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PRS photo of cub scouts submitted as part of its licence application

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has scheduled a hearing on September 7th in Gatineau, Quebec to consider a licence renewal application for CICR-FM, the 50-watt community radio station operated by the Parrsboro Radio Society (PRS).

Since the station’s short-term licence is set to expire on August 31st, the CRTC has granted a one-year extension. But it has also warned that the extension will not affect how the Commission deals with the station’s failure to abide by a variety of CRTC regulations.

When the CRTC issued a short-term, 20-month licence renewal in 2016, it warned PRS to start filing complete financial reports as well as requested program logs, tapes and other information. In its latest notice, the Commission complains that PRS does not appear to have complied with its regulations for the second consecutive licence term.

“Given this recurrence of non-compliance and the apparent lack of cooperation by the licensee following repeated correspondence, the Commission has concerns regarding the licensee’s ability and commitment to operate the station in a compliant manner,” the notice says.

At its hearing in September, the CRTC could give the PRS more time to comply with the regulations or it might decide to revoke the licence altogether.

CRTC questions

PRS documents filed on the CRTC website show that board members have had difficulties answering CRTC questions and complying with its requests.

A document filed by board member Alain Couture on March 30th shows, for example, that the PRS had not been able to comply with CRTC logging procedures and had not produced the Volunteer Orientation Booklet it had promised in December 2015.

Couture notes that the PRS treasurer had died and the program director had quit leaving the board of directors unable to comply fully with CRTC requests.

When asked to comment on the possibility that the CRTC may decide not to renew CICR’s broadcasting licence, Couture responds that the station is the only one in the area.

“Loss of our licence would remove not only the music component to the communities but an Emergency Measures information service,” he adds.

“Our communities consist of a more mature audience and as such so do our volunteers,” Couture notes.

“While we continue our efforts to attract the younger generation, our main audience remains in the more mature category. As such our ability to maintain and fulfill all the requirements of the regulations in a timely manner remains our challenge but with the measures our board is/has put in place and the full understanding and cooperation of our volunteers will enable us to meet this requirement very very shortly.”

To read Couture’s full response to the CRTC, click here.

CICR ad revenue slipping

A second photo PRS submitted in its licence renewal application

PRS financial reports that appear on the CRTC website claim that advertising is CICR’s only source of revenue.

In 2013-14, ad revenues were $23,059.33; in 2014-15, ad revenues slipped to $18,847.00 and in 2015-16, they were down again to $16,773.00, a drop over the three year period of $6,286.33 or about 27 per cent.

Thanks to larger ad sales in the first year, revenue exceeded expenses, but only by $35.48. In the second and third years, expenses exceeded revenue by $558.23 and $823.04.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of bingo revenues or expenses and no mention of the thousands PRS owes to a big law firm in Truro.

The rent PRS paid to landlord and station manager Ross Robinson rose over the period from $4,500 ($375 per month) in 2013-14 to $5,400 ($450 per month) in 2014-15 and to $5,850 ($487.50 per month) in 2015-16.

To read the PRS financial reports, click here.

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Invasion of the body snatchers! ‘Strange green crabs’ eating their way north

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Tom Harrington in calmer times

Tom Harrington seemed anxious the other night as he piloted The World at Six, the venerable CBC radio news program sometimes referred to as The World in a Fix.

“Our next story has all the trappings of a sci-fi horror flick such as The Thing or Alien,” Harrington informed listeners as the studio clock marched past the 21-minute, 33-second mark of Friday evening’s program.

“An invader arrives and slowly takes over its new territory, seemingly unstoppable,” he continued. “It begins mating with the local species creating a new, even stronger creature.”

Lest his listeners suspect he had flipped his lid, Harrington hastened to assure them he was reporting fact, not fiction.

“Well, the story is all-too-real in the icy waters of Newfoundland. They’re being overtaken by strange, green crabs that eat everything they come across, even each other.”

Even each other?!

“As the CBC’s Chris O’Neill-Yates tells us, fishermen and scientists are struggling to find a solution,” Tom added, clicking off his mic before stepping out of the spotlight.

Next came the crying of gulls and a mumbled male voice, “numerous, they’re numerous,” and then, after three seconds, Chris O’Neill-Yates walked onstage to tell an old, familiar tale — one about nature on the rampage threatening the human economic and even moral order.

The late scholar Richard V. Ericson identified the main themes in such stories as  “deviance and control,” which he called “the core ingredients of news.”

Not pretty to look at

CBC photo and caption demonizes green crab

In the radio version of her story and the one on the Web, O’Neill-Yates, and the scientist she interviewed, described the green crab as an “invasive species” that is “very aggressive,” “ferocious,” “voracious,” “cannibalistic” and “nasty.”

The CBC Web photo (on the right) depicts what looks like a sea monster while the caption calls the green crab “not pretty to look at” and “downright scary.”

It is an old familiar story, whether it’s about an invasive plague of army worms, nasty fire ants, or even a shrub, such as Japanese knotweed, “the plant that ate Britain.”

Hyperreal news

These stories are not “fake news“; they’re more like a type of hyperreality blending what is real with what is fictional until there’s no clear dividing line between where reality ends and fiction begins.

In these CBC stories on the “strange” green crab, genuine scientific concern is blended with the plots of science fiction movies and colourful, action-packed language that depicts an ugly and violent creature capable of “devastating” a “very profitable” lobster fishery.

This is the “fun house” aspect of journalism that Mitchell Stephens describes in his book A History of News:

“Abnormalities loom large in journalism’s bent mirrors; perspectives are distorted; horrors materialize out of nowhere; everywhere we turn there is blood and danger,” Stephens writes.

“Much of the time journalists, like circus announcers, are reduced to barking and adding admonitions: ‘Marvelous!’ ‘Prodigious!’ ‘Frightful!’ ‘Lamentable!’ ‘Horrible!'”

Journalism and nature

So what’s wrong with a hyperreal, fun-house story about the green crab that blends science with science fiction and facts with entertainment?

Well, for one thing, it reinforces the age-old, human-centred view of nature as an endless resource for economic growth and consumption. And it ignores environmental movements such as deep ecology that argue we need to learn we’re part of the natural world and that its survival depends on our living ethically within it.

As O’Neill-Yates’s report notes in passing, it won’t be possible to eradicate the green crab; they’re here to stay. So, what’s the point in depicting them as sci-fi sea monsters or nasty, ferocious aliens?

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Invasion of the body snatchers! ‘Strange green crabs’ eating their way north

Good riddance Fidel you repressive old fuck, CBC never liked you anyway

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David Common

David Common

Is it only my imagination or is the propaganda element in news becoming ever more pervasive in this “post-truth” era?

Could it be that what passes for reporting, especially in broadcast media, is often little more than cherry-picked “facts” cited to support crudely spun conclusions?

Well, here’s one example that might answer those questions:

“Cubans have been lining up for hours in Havana’s Revolution Square to honour Fidel Castro,” David Common, anchor of CBC Radio’s World Report announced during this morning’s broadcast.

“Streets are closed to handle the massive crowds flooding into the area,” he reported, but in case his listeners might be misled into thinking that masses of people were genuinely moved by the death of the man who led the Cuban revolution, Common added, “And while many are criticizing the legacy of their former president, it’s difficult to find dissenting voices in Havana.”

Wha?

People lining up for hours, streets closed to handle massive crowds, and by the way, it’s hard to find “dissenting voices.” Now why would that be?

Adrienne Arsenault

Adrienne Arsenault

In an apparent attempt to solve this CBC-spun mystery, Common introduced correspondent Adrienne Arsenault in Havana.

“Cuba’s state paper Granma is a must-read at the moment — must-read as in a sense of duty to read,” Arsenault began before describing the newspaper’s front page.

“All in black and white, no colourful banners, and ‘Cuba es Fidel’ scrawled across the bottom. That’s a clever play on words meaning Cuba is Fidel, but also, Cuba is loyal,” she reported. “Cuba’s leaders certainly hope so. Searching for contrarian voices is a ghost-hunt in this sensitive moment.”

Well, if Arsenault couldn’t find any contrarians, reporters for the Wall Street Journal had no trouble.

In line at Revolution Square, Alberto Estrada, 27, said while he wanted to pay his respects, he also wanted to see change come to Cuba, from a more open economy to elections.

“To be able to elect your leaders is a right of everyone, to be able to choose who’s best,” he said.

Some mourners paying respect to the country’s longtime leader expressed hope they could get on with their lives without Mr. Castro’s long shadow.

“The bad side of Fidel was that we all got used to look up to him for everything: jobs, education, food,” said Nora Gómez, a 54-year-old canteen worker, after signing a book of condolences at a local school. “People lost their independence, their capacity to think.”

Not being able to find any naysayers herself, Arsenault resorted to Skype where she located “the often-arrested, outspoken artist, Tania Bruguera” who, Arsenault said, “happens to be out of the country.” (The Cuban authorities arrested Bruguera three times over a period of three days from Dec. 31, 2014 to Jan. 2, 2015.)

“I know for sure that repression is going very strong these days,” Bruguera said. “I heard that some dissidents have police around their houses.”

The artist went on to tell Arsenault that as she watches the crowds in Revolution Square from afar, they seem dispassionate and certainly it doesn’t look like past mourning for singers and other beloved souls.

“Almost like you’re at this school that you have to do what they tell you to do,” Bruguera added.

After that declaration, Arsenault reported on the leaders, such as Vladimir Putin and Justin Trudeau, who would not be attending a mass rally for Castro, only left-wing leaders from Latin America and this semi-fact that gave Arsenault her dramatic ending:

“Zimbabwe’s ancient strongman, 92-year-old Robert Mugabe, says he wants to come too. Holder of one repressive record paying respect to another.”

So why is Castro news?

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro

There was nothing in Arsenault’s report to indicate why Castro’s death was even worth covering. Why take the trouble to fly to Havana just to condemn a repressive old fuck?

Maybe if Arsenault had watched Democracy Now before filing her threadbare report she might have understood Castro’s legacy. Here are three brief excerpts:

(1) Bill Fletcher Jr., longtime labour, racial justice and international activist, editorial board member and columnist for BlackCommentator.com, founder of the Black Radical Congress, his recent piece  is headlined “Black America and the Passing of Fidel Castro.”

He took a country that had been turned into a whorehouse and gambling casino for the United States, and gave that country dignity. He turned a country that was poor—remains poor—into a major location for the production of medical personnel, who have gone around the world and made themselves available to countries that could never afford that kind of assistance. He… combated the apartheid regime in South Africa, but, in addition, provided all sorts of assistance to forces that were fighting Portuguese colonialism and white minority rule. He helped to construct the idea of Latin American independence, working very closely with the late President Chávez of Venezuela. And this is one of the reasons that he has a special place for much of black America, that he stood up to the United States. The United States did everything that they could possibly do to destroy him, to bring him down and to bring down his government, and it did not work.

(2) Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive. He’s the co-author with William LeoGrande of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana.

He will be remembered for his emphasis on healthcare, education and certainly his uncompromising commitment to independence and sovereignty. And the legacy of his discussions with the United States shows this extraordinary commitment. At one point, the Carter administration sent a secret negotiating team down to talk to him, and they basically said, you know, “We’ll lift the embargo, if you get out of Africa.” And he said, in response, “You know, I don’t accept that the United States gets to operate by one set of rules, and Cuba, smaller country, is being told to operate by a second set of rules. The revolution meant independence for our governance and our foreign policy, and that is what we are going to pursue.” And he pursued that until the very end.

(3) Lou Pérez Jr., professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, author of several books, including Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos and Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution.

I think it’s important to contextualize Fidel Castro. What resonates in the world, at least as much as Fidel Castro, is the Cuban revolution. And the Cuban revolution itself is a historical process that comes out of 100 years of struggle. The Cuban revolution represents the culmination of Cuban history. And behind Fidel Castro, or perhaps even ahead of Fidel Castro, are a people, a people who have been struggling for self-determination and national sovereignty for the better part of a century.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Professor Pérez, the dominant discussion in the U.S. corporate media is that he was a dictator, that he was a killer, that he killed many and imprisoned dissidents. Your response to that description?

LOUIS PÉREZ JR.: I don’t know how to respond to that. There is, I think—this is an authoritarian system. This is a system that is not reluctant to use repressive means to maintain power. This is a system that has spawned a fairly extensive intelligence system, surveillance systems. And in many ways, I think Cuba offers us a cautionary tale. For 30, 40, 50 years, Cuba has been under siege from the United States. And once that idea of national security enters into the calculus of governance, you are aware that civil liberties and the freedoms of the press and freedom of political exchange shrink—and we’re experiencing this here since 9/11—so that Cuba becomes a national security state, with justification if one believes that the duty of a government is to protect the integrity of national sovereignty. And so, for 50 years, Cuba, 90 miles away from the world’s most powerful country, struggles to maintain its integrity, its national sovereignty, and in the course of these years increasingly becomes a national security state. Ironically, the United States contributes to the very conditions that it professes to abhor.

CBC World Report, Tuesday November 29, 2016

David Common intro: Cubans have been lining up for hours in Havana’s Revolution Square to honour Fidel Castro. Streets are closed to handle the massive crowds flooding into the area. And while many are criticizing the legacy of their former president, it’s difficult to find dissenting voices in Havana. Adrienne Arsenault is there.

Adrienne Arsenault script: Cuba’s state paper Granma is a must-read at the moment — must-read as in a sense of duty to read. All in black and white, no colourful banners, and “Cuba es Fidel” scrawled across the bottom. That’s a clever play on words meaning Cuba is Fidel, but also, Cuba is loyal. Cuba’s leaders certainly hope so. Searching for contrarian voices is a ghost-hunt in this sensitive moment. The often-arrested, outspoken artist, Tania Bruguera happens to be out of the country. “Good thing, perhaps,” she offered by Skype because she claims her dissident friends here in Cuba are nervous.

Clip (Tania Bruguera): I know for sure that repression is going very strong these days. I heard that some dissidents have police around their houses.

Arsenault script: Being away from home now let’s her see Cuba a bit differently. She’s watching the pilgrimage in Revolution Square and what she sees doesn’t look like Cuban mourning in the past for singers or other beloved souls. Her view is this feels dispassionate.

Clip (Tania Bruguera): Almost like you’re at this school that you have to do what they tell you to do. And I think it’s important that Cubans understand that because of the death of Fidel, we can stop the (?)

Arsenault script: Easy to say from faraway, she’ll have much to look at tonight with the scheduled mass rally. No Vladimir Putin, no Justin Trudeau, no Theresa May, but Latin American left-wing leaders will be there and Zimbabwe’s ancient strongman, 92-year-old Robert Mugabe says he wants to come too. Holder of one repressive record paying respect to another. Adrienne Arsenault, CBC News, Havana.

Meantime, for an overview of the “abysmally one-sided” media coverage of Castro’s death by my friend and former journalism school colleague, Stephen Kimber, click here.

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St. George’s portrait and fables the media tell, Part II

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Martin posing as Brian Mulroney

Paul Martin posing as Brian Mulroney

The story’s always the same these days when Paul Martin slips into the news again. Mr. Dithers (the media moniker for the former PM) is forgotten and St. George, the fearless deficit-slaying finance minister, rides boldly across the stage.

And so it was last week when Martin’s official, Mulroney-like, portrait was unveiled on Parliament Hill.

“He confronted a fiscal crisis in this country, one that was on the verge of crippling our economy,” said Trudeau II echoing the main media fable about Martin.

“His bold choices were right for the time and ended up paying dividends that we still see to this day,” Trudeau continued.

Oh yeah, “dividends” like record student debt, below-poverty-line welfare rates and a critical shortage of affordable, public housing — all legacies of the fearless St. George and the Harper Conservatives who gladly followed his neo-liberal, hell or high water trail.

Or maybe by “dividends” the well-heeled Justin meant Martin’s multi-billion dollar tax giveaways to corporations and the lucky members of Canada’s elite 1% club.

Canada’s greatest finance minister

The silliest media piece on the unveiling was penned by the CBC’s Neil Macdonald. He recalled riding with the finance chief in the cheap seats on a commercial airliner headed westwards while some backbench MPs sipped champagne and yukked it up in business class.

Macdonald asked Martin if it wasn’t a weird scene especially since some of the backbenchers were Reform Party members who had denounced such business class travel.

He just shrugged, and put on that rueful grin of his, and went back to the pile of business on his lap.

Rueful. That was always his look. Almost apologetic, somehow.

Aw!

As usual, Macdonald goes on to observe that St. George’s budget slashing “worked.”

Martin began running surpluses for the first time in a quarter century. Five consecutive surpluses, which shrank the debt and, yes, allowed restoration of program spending.

Well, not exactly. In 2000, Martin delivered the biggest tax cuts in history while maintaining federal spending as a proportion of the economy at the low levels not seen since the late 1940s and early 50s  —  well before the advent of federal-provincial social programs in health, education and welfare.

And as for his flying in the cheap seats, Macdonald appears to have forgotten that in 2003, Robert Fife, then Ottawa Bureau Chief for CanWest News Service reported:

Paul Martin flew on private corporate jets of some of Canada’s wealthiest businessmen for pleasure and business during his years as finance minister.

The trips were not publicly declared as required under federal conflict of interest rules.

According to Fife, the ethics commissioner privately OK’d Martin’s flights on the grounds that his benefactors were personal friends.

Neil Macdonald writes that during the unveiling ceremony, Martin “was referred to as the greatest finance minister in our history.”

Although Macdonald doesn’t say who uttered those words, maybe it was one of those high-flying capitalist benefactors, perhaps Paul Desmarais Jr. of Power Corp, the french-frying McCains or Gerry Schwartz of Onex Corp, grateful that their St. George had kicked the shit out of those disgusting, weak-kneed types who shamelessly fed at the troughs of welfare-state entitlement.

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St. George’s portrait and fables the media tell, Part II

St. George enters federal campaign: how media frame the economy, Part I

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Former PM Paul Martin (Photo: Andrew Rusk)

Former PM Paul Martin (Photo: Andrew Rusk)

As federal politicians continue their trek toward election day on October 19th, it’s worth looking at how mainstream journalists frame economic issues and asking what if they framed them differently? What if, for example, journalists asked who gains and who loses from balanced budgets, tax cuts and spending restraint?

Michal Rozworski’s piece published yesterday in The Tyee is a helpful backgrounder because it views economic policies through the lenses of social class and the capitalist system. It’s especially relevant now that Paul Martin has appeared on the campaign trail.

Rozworski recalls Martin’s record as federal finance minister in the 1990s. He argues that Martin’s austerity policies disciplined workers on behalf of the capitalist class, though of course, Martin himself would never put it that way. Aside from Martin’s cuts to social programs in the 90s, the Liberals also gutted unemployment insurance.

In 1990, 80 per cent of workers could qualify for UI. Thanks to Martin-era reforms, that figure fell to 45 per cent by 2008 meaning that most workers could not collect what had, by then, been renamed Employment Insurance. As Rozworski writes:

When workers know they are less likely to get state support, they are also less willing to go out on a limb to demand wage increases, form a union, or otherwise try to better their working conditions. Changes to unemployment insurance were part of a reorientation towards more flexible labour markets and a lower social wage. Business was helped directly, too: their unemployment insurance contributions fell by over a third.

But mainstream journalists rarely remember the effects of Liberal policies in the 1990s and in any case, would never frame them as anti-worker.

Martin as economic star?

Paul Martin’s appearance at a campaign event yesterday in Toronto prompted the Canadian Press news agency to report that the Liberals “put on a display of economic star power…as voters watched jittery world markets and Justin Trudeau faced unrelenting Conservative attack ads that portray him as weak on the economy.” Martin was one of the economic stars the news agency referred to.

For mainstream media, Martin achieved his star status with his 1994 and 1995 budgets when he became the St. George who, “come hell or high water,” slew the “deficit dragon.”

Canadian Press called Martin’s campaign appearance “a not-so-subtle attempt to remind voters that as finance minister under Jean Chretien he oversaw the elimination of the federal deficit.”

In that way of framing things, Martin’s deficit record is a bankable asset, an achievement Canadians (and Liberals) can be proud of.

Martin as slasher

Left-wing economists, such as Jim Stanford, have long pointed out, however, that Martin’s slash and burn approach to social programs went far beyond what was needed to eliminate budget deficits and bring federal debt under control.

Martin scored part of his success on the backs of the poor when he eliminated the Canada Assistance Plan which shared welfare costs with the provinces. It was replaced by the Canada Health and Social Transfer that reduced overall federal spending on social programs. After the elimination of CAP, welfare rates took a dive sending the message that supporting Canada’s “unproductive” underclass was a luxury the state could no longer afford.

Even so, mainstream media applauded Martin’s cuts in the 1990s and continue to applaud them today, although Sun Media columnist Anthony Furey did wonder why Martin would sully his fine reputation by campaigning with the likes of Justin Trudeau. Furey writes:

It’s obvious why the Liberals wanted Martin at their presser. As finance minister, he balanced the budget during tough times in the 1990s. The surpluses continued during his years as PM.

What’s less obvious though is why Martin would want to damage his legacy by standing beside a novice campaigner whose most memorable lines on economic policy are that “the budget will balance itself” and that he’ll grow the economy “from the heart outwards.”

While it’s true that the Sun Media chain likes to lean to the right, Furey’s positive view of Paul Martin’s legacy as deficit slasher, budget balancer and surplus maker is echoed throughout corporate media including the CBC.  Somehow Martin’s other legacies affecting poor people and workers have been forgotten or erased. For journalists, government economic policy, even Stephen Harper’s, is as free of ideology as it is of class bias.

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St. George enters federal campaign: how media frame the economy, Part I