Valerie Payn’s piss pot

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The Chamber's Valerie Payn

Gosh, I sure wish I owned a newspaper. I’d do exactly what the Halifax Chronicle-Herald does. Yes, fire my best columnists and hand the op-ed page over to the likes of Valerie Payn, president of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

“Hey Valerie,” I’d say, “feel free to use my paper as your Chamber’s special vessel.”

You see, the best thing about turning your op-ed page into a propaganda piss pot is that, although it may stink to high heaven, you can fill it for free! And you don’t even have to bother to check to see if what’s in the piss pot is true. Who cares if it’s true as long as the pot overflows.

Today’s Valerie Payn column certainly helps fill the pot as Payn celebrates “nearly five years since Sunday shopping became a reality in Nova Scotia.” Of course, Nova Scotia had Sunday shopping for decades before that. Drug stores, corner stores, gas stations, restaurants, movie theatres, you name it, all were wide open on Sunday. It was the big supermarket chains and the big-box Wal-Marts that had to stay shut.

Majority say “no” to big-box Sunday shopping

In 2004, before Nova Scotians voted on the issue, the Chamber campaigned hard for wide open Sundays, so that people who went to flea markets or hung out with family could drive to the malls just like on any other day. So that the big stores and their rich owners could make out like bandits! So that supermarket and big-box workers could enjoy earning a pittance on Sundays too!

But, you know what?  More than half of Nova Scotians in the October 2004 plebiscite voted “no” to Sunday shopping. Seems that Valerie Payn has forgotten that.

“I would submit,” she writes, “that allowing the opinions of a  small minority to trump the wishes of the majority is the real crisis in our democracy.” Huh?

It gets better.

Downtown development, a new convention centre, and a smaller municipal council are all issues that have been supported by the majority, but that have been held up by the fear-mongering delay tactics of a minority special-interest group whose primary weapon is the politeness of the rest of us.

All supported by the majority? Oh yeah, just like Sunday shopping!

Valerie seems so certain of that majority that she can’t resist harping one more time on her revision of history as she writes that “minority opposition groups, while allowed their say, should not be allowed to use our preference for fairness to get their way over the wishes of the majority.”

Special interests indeed

Payn forgets that in fact, big-store Sunday shopping came to Nova Scotia only because a craven Conservative government caved to business pressure and threw the doors wide open. The Tories’ excuse for overriding that majority vote was that a Nova Scotia judge had ruled the Sunday shopping regulations should have been passed by the legislature, not just by cabinet ministers.

The government could have fixed that if it wanted to, but it was easier to knuckle under to the “minority special-interest group” that Valerie Payn represents. Easier too for the Herald to have the Halifax Chamber fill its op-ed pot.

Oh how I wish I owned a newspaper.

About Bruce Wark

Bruce Wark is a freelance journalist and retired journalism professor who lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. He taught the history and ethics of journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia for 15 years. Before that, he worked for 19 years at CBC Radio news serving as a producer in charge of such network programs as World at Six, World Report and The House. He also produced Media File, a national program that looked critically at the performance of the news media. Along the way, Wark also worked as CBC Radio's legislative reporter in Ontario and as its National Reporter in Canada's Maritime provinces.
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