By Mike Archer. In a column published Tuesday entitled ‘The media join Harper’s hit list,’Lawrence Martin of the Globe and Mail wrote, “When it comes to coverage, Mr. Harper has, in fact, been getting a rough media going over in recent months. He might wish to consider that perhaps the Senate scandal, the elections bill blundering and the Supreme Court debacle have something to with it.”
He was referring to the tendency of politicians to blame the sometimes bad press they receive on a nefarious conspiracy by the media to make them look bad.
As Martin points out in his column, the Canadian media is now virtually all owned by right-of-centre interests and 95 percent of newspapers in Canada supported Harper’s Conservatives in the last election. Even the Supreme Court justices against whom he has been railing were mostly appointed by him.
Could it be Harper and his government deserve the scorn with which they are being treated? Could it be they should try colouring within the lines, obeying the law and governing according to the Canadian Constitution?
Maybe if Harper stopped appointing unqualified Conservative media and party hacks to the Senate he wouldn’t be criticized for doing just that.
Someone’s Gotta Do It
Much like our puerile, petulant, and petty Prime Minister, some of our local politicians like to blame Abbotsford Today for the anger with which they are greeted by citizens over their ineptitude, their incompetence or their horrible track records and decisions.
Sorry for pointing these things out but, as we’ve said before … somebody’s got to do it.
As the jockeying for position begins leading up to next November’s municipal election, Abbotsford politicians and hopeful contenders for a place at the public trough are facing a much different media landscape than the one to which they had grown accustomed.
Abbotsford Today has a reputation with its readers of having the courage and the conviction to tell people what is really going on in their community and for asking some tough questions of those who would claim the right to lead us.
The old media may think that, at such a crucial moment in the history of this city, it is important to retreat like a frightened turtle and wait for it all to go away. We think it’s time to stand up and be counted.
In political circles Abbotsford Today has variously been accused of everything from ‘not being a real news organization,’ to caring more about advocacy for the poor than the press releases of the rich (imagine that), to just making shit up as we go along.
There is, however, a growing realization in some quarters of the political class that, whether or not you like the way we say things; whether or not your like the things we say; whether or not you like the questions we ask; whether or not you like the way we relentlessly insist of having the architects of Abbotsford’s financial, economic and social mess take public and political responsibility for their actions and decisions; or whether you like having to admit that what we have been telling people for six years has almost all turned out to be true, is of absolutely no concern to us or the people of Abbotsford.
They are simply questions, challenges and opportunities to show that you deserve to claim a place in the power structure of this city. Forget what you think of the messenger or the questioner. Focus on the questions and your answers. That’s all our readers are focusing on. Because yes, as it turns out, you do have to answer for your decisions and your actions. Not to those of us who currently work at Abbotsford Today, but to the people of Abbotsford.
They’re the ones who will hear your silence.
Some are beginning to realize that the questions we ask and the scrutiny we insist on are just considered normal in most cities and political circles. Politicians all over the Western world have to put up with the kinds of pesky little questions we ask of those who claim a right to feed at the public trough for generations. In Abbotsford, some of them seem to think we don’t have the right to ask.
As those who get to know us are finding out, we aren’t simply in the name-calling business. Our criticism may cut a little too close to the bone for some people’s genteel tastes, but some of the shit that has happened in this city over the last decade is pretty despicable, shameful and grossly incompetent. Those who want to do something concrete and positive about solving the mess have nothing to fear by standing up and telling us all what they intend to do.
More of the same is simply not an option.
A Few Of The Things We’ve Pointed OutJohn Smith’s seeming inability to comprehend compound interest or how business grows (remember – he’s a banker) has put us in deep financial trouble. His insistence on taking a ‘Build It And They Will Come’ approach to economic development has cost us dearly and left us with a huge empty arena and a pile of debt we will be paying off for years. Bob Rich’s policy of dispersing and displacing Abbotsford’s mentally ill, alcohol dependent and drug addicted homeless citizens has forced our police department to apologize and pay restitution, given his city a worldwide reputation for using archaeic and outdated methods of dealing with homelessness and caused a BC Supreme Court Justice call his department ‘The Place Time Forgot’ for its abusive treatment of citizens. The decision by Councillors Bill MacGregor, Les Barkman, and Mayor Bruce Banman, under the direction and with the supporting vote of John Smith, to favour the business interests of Bob Bos and the downtown merchants over the civil rights, health, and safety of some of the City’s most vulnerable citizens by turning down $15.3 million in funding for a low-barrier shelter on the outskirts of downtown will go down as one of the most shameful expressions of political cronyism and bad judgment in the City’s history. Last but certainly not least, Simon Gibson’s unwavering defense of one of the ugliest, most offensive and illegal pieces of legislation attempted by a municipal government has been an embarrassment to the community. Its aim was to deny life-saving health care to the poor, the destitute and the addicted, and ended up creating a legal nightmare for the City of Abbotsford as the result of a series of law suits brought by Pivot Legal Society on behalf of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS). It also put a legal spotlight on the City of Abbotsford’s abysmal record of abiding by, obeying or even demonstrating a passing acquaintance with the law. Those battles and costs will continue as long as Mayor Banman insists on fighting poverty, mental illness and addiction with cops and lawyers.
Those who have actively decided to deal with social issues using the police and the courts, and those who turned down the provincial government’s offer to shoulder the entire cost of building and maintaining the smallest low-barrier shelter in the history of the province leaving hundreds of people to live in fear along the railway tracks will have to explain themselves.
Bruce Banman will have to tell us who gave the order, on his watch, to move the homeless people across from the Sally Ann with chicken manure. Having said he was taking full responsibility for the incident, he can’t honestly think he’s going to run for re-election without having to answer that question.
Take full responsibility Bruce. Tell us who gave the order.
Ignoring These Questions Will Not Make Things Better
The people who, whether through incompetence, lack of understanding, an inability to take advice, willful blindness or any of a thousand excuses, have brought their community to its knees, must, at some point, stand up and be counted, and campaign honestly on their actual record if they want to be taken seriously in their third or fourth trip to the trough.
When compared to Abbotsford’s soft news tradition Abbotsford Today may certainly seem like a dangerous beast to the members of the power structure, but that is the cost of democracy in the modern world.
Those who want to live off of the public trough have a responsibility to justify their existence. Just like heads of companies and senior managers need to show results to shareholders in order to earn their salaries, public officials need to earn the trust of those who pay theirs and the citizens they hope to serve.
The media landscape has changed significantly over the last six years and hopefully, the higher standards being demanded of those in public life will have an impact on the results of Novembers’ municipal election.
A growing number of well-connected and influential people have had enough with what those in the power structure have been doing with their money and in their name.
It promises to be an interesting election.
We’ve begun to ask some pointed questions of our community leaders and we will print their responses – no matter what they say. As always, anyone with something to contribute to the discussion is welcome to do so … even if all you want to do is take a run at us.
The one thing citizens should not forgive in their public servants is an unwillingness or refusal to answer questions which are asked on behalf of the people who pay their salaries.
Writing this column I was reminded of a discussion I overheard as a child between my uncle and my aunt. My grandfather was nearby and, with his hat over his face laying back in his chair, I assumed he was asleep.
My uncle was going on and on about his complaints about their new neighbour.
He complained about the noise emanating from the neighbour’s house late at night.
My aunt pointed out that there are usually two sides to every story.
‘Some people are early risers,’ my aunt said.
My uncle was growing more and more frustrated as my aunt, ever the peace maker, tried to smooth things over and seemed prepared to deflect every one of his complaints as simply explainable idiosyncrasies of a man who saw the world differently. It was very important for my aunt that everybody just get along.
‘He cheers for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ my uncle exclaimed in exasperation.
My aunt, visibly frustrated said, “Well maybe you just have to agree to disagree.”
From under his hat Grandpa said, “Maybe he’s just an asshole.”
Sometimes the truth is more important than getting along. The expenditure of public money, the passing of bylaws and the legal actions taken on behalf of one’s fellow citizens are a few such areas. The sooner we all stop trying so hard to be polite and just openly discuss the mess we’re in, the sooner we’ll get out of it.
Welcome to the new media landscape 😉