Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Globe’s Lawrence Martin acknowledges what I have been saying for 2 years



I guess it’s only when the Main Stream Media is threatened with their own sorry existence, do they take measure of their own failings and inherent biases. It guess it also took Jon Stewart to awaken the MSM to their own profound professional failures and corporate bias. At least Lawrence Martin has the conviction to state the obvious in his article today (below). The income trust policy was advanced on a premise that was demonstrably false. Few in the media, with the exception of Diane Francis, called this fraud what is was in real time. That is for the very reasons contained in today’s article by Lawrence Martin, namely:

-"journalism got corporate and soft"
-"journalism has now been abetting easy routes to war and market chaos"
-"as media ownership became concentrated in the hands of a few corporate giants. Journalism came to reflect the ethos of those corporate giants"
-"More courage and daring and Jon Stewart-type outrage is in order" (what do you think I have been doing for two years exposing the lies propagated by Canadian media on their corporate owners behalf?)
-"From these corporate owners who sought to impose their bias the media need regain its independence"

If that’s the case, then I can think of no better topic on which Lawrence Martin can impose his new journalistic call to arms, than the $35 billion income trust fraud that was perpetrated on the complete policy lie that income trusts cause tax leakage. These are senior Canadians whose life savings were destroyed at the behest of the large LifeCos and whose standard of living during their golden years was devastated, while a rash of foreign takeovers (that caused real tax leakage) ensued. Are you up to the challenge Lawrence Martin?


To save journalism, bring on that Jon Stewart outrage

LAWRENCE MARTIN
Globe and Mail

March 19, 2009

Has Big Media ever had it so bad? CanWest Global begs for survival. The CBC begs for survival. CTV is losing a bundle. Newspapers are bleeding and cutting to the bone; the online invasion threatens their survival.

Along with the new technologies, journalism is being pummelled by the great global economic nosedive. The crisis was brought on by excesses of the corporate class. Journalism, chiefly south of the border, didn't put up much of a challenge to the moneyed men before they climbed aboard their golden runaway trains - just like it didn't put up much of a challenge to the pap trotted out to justify the Iraq war.

So, while the fourth estate is in dire straits, sympathy isn't exactly washing over the walls. Nor should it be. Journalism got corporate and soft. If, in the post-Watergate era, it leaned too much to the anti-establishment side, abetting welfare-state excesses, it has now been much the opposite, abetting easy routes to war and market chaos.

As media ownership became concentrated in the hands of a few corporate giants, journalists too often came to reflect the ethos of those corporate giants. Counterculture voices of the left, traditional sources of opposition to corporate rule and war, were marginalized. In the Watergate era, they held prime place. But the boomers got old and tired and, in the past decade or so, the neo-cons blew them off the map.

Canadian journalism moved to the right of the population. In the United States, Fox News and the like-minded encouraged a climate in which Wall Street and the Pentagon ran rampant. And now, after the Bush nightmare and Iraq, there's the market convulsions and AIG that should have the Fox breed running away from every mirror in sight. We could be at the tipping point wherein a counterculture wave rolls in. More courage and daring and Jon Stewart-type outrage is in order - new rogues of journalism to set us straight. From those corporate owners who sought to impose their bias, the media need regain its independence.

Canadian journalism hasn't been caught off guard to the American degree. But through much of the Republican wreckage of the past eight years, we were well short of impressive. As George W. Bush brought down his country and, by extension, damaged this country's interests, our journalistic voices were tame in charting his folly. Those who tried to hit hard had to listen to sophomoric garbage about being "anti-American." Of course, telling the truth about the Bush administration was about the most pro-American thing anyone could do.

No better moment summed up our wimpishness than when a cabinet minister had the courage to suggest that Mr. Bush was a failed statesman. Our media practically had a colonial conniption. The minister was pilloried. How dare he say that about George?

In many cases, our media are more comprehensive, more balanced, more professional than in the past. But the resolve to stand up to vested interests isn't what it should be. There needs to be more independence and a hardening of the challenge function. We buckle too easily. When the Governor-General made her decision to sustain the Conservative government in office, she gave no explanation. Instead of demanding one, our media folded like deck chairs.

There's a dismaying conformity to our journalism, and little thinking outside the box. Notice the front pages of newspapers: They're almost all the same. In today's world, you'd think there'd be 10 news stories on the front page. Our papers have about three, and sometimes only one of them is a news story. The online invasion means there are a thousand more opinions out there. It means there is more need for solid news coverage, not less. But the tabloidization of the business runs amuck. In the Internet world, where every picture imaginable is available, newspapers still blow valuable space running 400 hockey photos when a fraction of that amount would do.

As for television's conformity, we all know about that - those news delivery panels of chuckleheads who kibitz with one another instead of just telling the story.

Times are hard for the media. The shakedown is coming. Let it bring a new spirit - a journalism that's tougher, less knee-jerk, less beholden to elites, more beholden to the truth.

lmartin@globeandmail.com

8 comments:

Dr Mike said...

All I can say is wow as Mr Martin has hit the nail on the head.

As well as journalists , this group needs to include our lame brained politicians who would follow the party line off a cliff because some numb nuts at the helm told them to do it.

The Income Trust /Tax Fairness Plan was perhaps the most prime of examples as the media sucked wind while the politicians just sucked.

Following corporate masters or a few people in the PM`s office leaves no room for independent thought.

It becomes a majority of one in either case which is sad & if not infuriating , & will lead to nothing but mediocrity.

When did people stop being independent & ready to ask the question "why" , instead of just doing what they are told.

We are all being cheated & the sooner we get off our collectives duffs & demand better , the sooner things will improve.

Dr Mike Popovich.

Anonymous said...

Interesting the Globe and other media are now finally starting to admit their short comings with regards to letting advertisers dictate content. Probably because it is profitable right now to bash corporate swine and media are desperate for consumer dollars. Money talks ... no better way for Canadians to send a message loud and clear than by withholding money. Glad to hear Canadians are starting to smarten up on that front and not act so complacent.

However on the Income Trust issue media is not the only problem. Looks like the OSC is equally to blame or they are doing their part in promulgating the Flaherty lie ..

Found this:

Important news: On October 31, 2006, the Department of Finance announced changes to the tax rules for income trusts that are now law. Income trusts are now taxed the same as Canadian corporations. The changes will apply to new income trusts that start up after October 31, 2006. The changes will also apply in the 2011 tax year to many income trusts formed before that date. The goal: to remove the tax advantages that trusts had over corporations in the past

Here is where it came from:
http://www.investored.ca/en/investoranswers/B/30_incometrust/Pages/1_incometrust.aspx

I think the above quote, taken from an OSC investor education site, is more problematic than some jackass journalist commenting on financial matters. The OSC should know better when it comes to this issue. This is old, but it looks like this site is trying to remove all info about Income Trusts as an investment product. Either way I am interested in finding out more about the OSC as the national board is being modeled on this organization. Very scary after finding this gross error on their education website.
They are also missing the info about Real Estate Trusts.

Bruce Benson said...

Thats funny, I wonder why words Income Trust did not find their way into his little artical of redemption?

Dr Mike said...

Hey Bruce

These guys will admit wrong when it comes to generalities but something specific like the trust issue , they snap shut like an outhouse door in a prairie windstorm.

These guys are of little hope unless the decision affected them personally more than the benefits of laying down with the boss & doing his or her bidding.

The trust issue if dug into properly would make them look like the incompetents that we already know they are.

Right now they are still righteous in their own minds.

Mike.

WesternGrit said...

And we need to let CanWest (and others) fail, so the "left-over" papers can be re-built at a smaller scale - NOT owned by their previous corporate overlords. I too have been screaming about this for years...

There will be buyers for CanWest's carcasses: local entrepreneurs looking to start a local-focused media company. Either that, or the local papers will swallow what's left of the carcass...

Kephalos said...

Brent,
Martin takes his column to the right conclusion “Times are hard for the media. The shakedown is coming. Let it bring a new spirit - a journalism that's tougher, less knee-jerk, less beholden to elites, more beholden to the truth.”

The Income Trust Debacle has been the Forrest Gump of the media shakedown. On the Debacle file, Canadian financial reporting was weak, knee-jerk, beholden to elites, and took no responsibility for the truth. Never forget Reguly’s “Couch potato investor” condemnation that served to empower the elite in the insurance and oil industries.

The Harper government has taken a number of steps to weaken Canadian sovereignty and empower foreign investors. In fact his taxation policy is the reverse image of the NEP. The NEP imposed disadvantages on foreign investors, and granted Canadian oil investors various incentives and advantages.

Under Harper, foreign investors can arrange their affairs to remove Canadian taxable income from Canada tax-free. So Harper has given advantages to the foreign investor. On the other hand, it is now more difficult for individual Canadian investors to invest in Canada. No need to do a lot of technical analysis. All we need to do is look at the old Canadian businesses that have fallen off the TSX and the failure of new businesses to be financed by TSX IPOs. So Harper has imposed disadvantages on Canadians investing Canada.

What about Canadians invested outside of Canada? This is the area of Harper’s one-upmanship. He has forced Canadian corporations investing abroad to carry an extra tax weight.

Sinclair Stevens has noticed some of this.

============================

Toronto Star

Tory budget tears down nation's economic defences

Little-noticed clause emasculates ability of Ottawa to review foreign takeovers

March 16, 2009
Sinclair Stevens
CABINET MINISTER IN THE CLARK AND MULRONEY GOVERNMENTS

A little-noticed battle has ended in Ottawa over how we conduct the nation's business, and the consequences for Canadian business and the nation in general could be far-reaching.

This year's federal budget is one of the most wide-ranging in years, imposing sweeping changes to some of our key laws on foreign investment, pay equity and competition. Yet the Conservative government insisted there could be no substantive changes, on the grounds that a budget bill is a confidence motion whose defeat would trigger an election.

That was why the Liberal opposition in the House of Commons, having made its own political and electoral calculation, went along with the budget. But it was a different story in the upper chamber, where Liberal and PC senators told the government that the budget's proposed changes needed sober second thought: split up the budget bill, they asked, so the key financial measures can be passed (as a matter of confidence); the less urgent and more complex changes to other laws could be studied and determined on their merits, the senators argued.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stuck to his hard line, insisting "there's no possible way to split out measures" that are not directly budgetary in nature. Under pressure, the senators acquiesced last week.

But stampeding the Senate in such a way was counterproductive. Indeed, making haste will hurt our economy over the long term, without helping it in the short term.

This approach by the Harper government is one more step in downgrading Parliament's role in our democracy. With only 35 per cent of the popular vote, the Conservatives are ruling as if we had a presidential system with a disenfranchised representative Parliament.

Proposed changes to the Investment Canada Act are a clear example of why discussion is necessary. When I was minister of regional industrial expansion in the Mulroney government, I introduced the first Investment Canada Act in December 1984. At that time, I pointed out that the Foreign Investment Review Agency created by the former Liberal government in 1974 had become an obstacle to legitimate investment by non-Canadians in Canada. That act required every foreign investment to be reviewed by cabinet. We changed that by saying if acquisitions involved $5 million or more, there would be a review. That would catch 90 per cent of them in dollar terms while filtering out 80 per cent of what the previous government was reviewing in volume. The previous Liberal government had used up more than 20 per cent of its cabinet agenda reviewing cases that included takeovers valued at less than $5 million.

Under our Progressive Conservative government, purchases worth more than $5 million were reviewed and we were able to hammer out conditions that a foreign buyer had to meet before the deal could close.

Our government continued to monitor the operation after closing and could bring the new buyer into line if any conditions were broken. I understand this approach continued under succeeding governments.
The current closure by U.S. Steel of the former Stelco plant in Hamilton is an example of where Canada likely has prohibitions against a foreign company unilaterally taking such actions without approval from Ottawa.
We know there is an agreement involving Investment Canada. Yet U.S. Steel did not consult Canadian government officials before its move. Industry Minister Tony Clement has said, "They signed what we perceive to be a ... contractual agreement with the government of Canada, with the people of Canada, and we expect every company to live up to those undertakings."

Clement – taken off-guard by the scope of the U.S. Steel announcement – said he will "quickly and diligently review whether the company is honouring its commitments." Industry Canada officials said the act's privacy rules prohibit disclosure or comment on any deal. Time will tell if Ottawa will act.
The provisions in Flaherty's budget legislation will raise the review levels in the Investment Canada Act so that only acquisitions of more than $1 billion, to be defined in regulations, will be reviewed. That means practically any foreign purchase of a business in Canada is now virtually non-reviewable.
It is unbelievable that the government would smuggle such a change into its budget bill to avoid meaningful debate. It is even more unbelievable that the Liberal opposition would acquiesce to such a move when 30 years ago they reviewed virtually every foreign purchase of a Canadian business, including, for example, hair stylist shops, hamburger stands and popcorn vendors.

Do our elected representatives not have enough national pride, now that the world is in a financial crisis, to ensure our businesses will not be allowed to be picked up for cents on the dollar and then closed down by non-Canadian concerns?

Even now, Statistics Canada states in a recent communiqué that foreign acquisitions of Canadian-controlled firms, "particularly in mining, manufacturing, retail and accommodation and food services industries, drove the 13.7 per cent increase in assets under foreign control in 2006, the fastest rate of growth since 1999."


Investment Canada is certainly not overworked. Under the Harper government, in 2008 it reviewed only 28 applications out of 526 foreign acquisitions referred to it. That is 5.32 per cent. The cumulative total since June 1985 that have been reviewed is 1,605 out of 13,178. That is 12.18 per cent.

As a result of the latest political manoeuvres, Ottawa has essentially lost control of Canadian businesses being acquired by foreigners. And the public was not given the opportunity to offer its views on the many non-budgetary items tacked onto the stimulus measures.

"I do not want the bill divided," Flaherty responded to questions from senators. "You're making an assumption that the stimulus package is severable. It is not."
His opinion, however, was neither constitutional nor parliamentary reality.

Canada's sovereignty has been lessened by a bullheaded government and our future prosperity will suffer.

Anonymous said...

Brent

This is an obvious case of a long-time journalistic whore trying to have it both ways. After years of profiting professionally from being an obeisant stenographer to those in power, he now attempts to cleanse away a lifetime of sins by this mea culpa. A mea culpa which is way too little, way too limited ( and, of course, way too late ) and is purely the latest attempt to position himself expediently in the prevailing political climate of outrage against corporate greed and corruption and government lies and malfeasance.

Best,
Bob

P.S. And, by all means, contact/confront Martin and ask him to start making good on his so-called epiphany by, finally, exposing the Conservatives' lies regarding Income Trusts.

Anonymous said...

Sadly Mr. Fullard, perhaps too little, too late as I do find the contrition a little hard to take! The confessional doesn’t cleanse all sins. And nor should it.

CC