Tag Archives: Media

An oil tanker carries Tar Sands bitumen past Stanley Park (Paul Manly, David Maidman)

Kinder Morgan’s Massive Pipeline, Tanker Expansion Plans (Finally) Making Headlines


How wonderful it is to have such breaking news fanatics as the Vancouver Sun and the Vancouver Province. The Sun on Friday the 13th carried a headline story of how Kinder Morgan is planning to increase its pipeline capacity to 850,000 barrels per day at a cost of $5 Billion. The Province with a breathlessness usually reserved for the discovery of a three headed toad in Tasmania, told us this:

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners gave the green light Thursday to its pipeline expansion, which will more than double the current amount of crude oil flowing from Alberta to Burnaby to 850,000 barrels per day, up from the current 300,000 bpd.

The quantity is about 40 per cent more than what the Houston-based company had originally proposed. And it will see annual tanker traffic jump from about 70 tankers per year to 360 to 365 tankers per year, based on one tanker visiting port per day, said Kinder Morgan.

This story is nearly two years old. When a downtown accountant noticed, out his office window, a huge increase in tanker traffic – following Kinder Morgan’s quiet increase of Tar Sands bitumen through its Trans Mountain Pipeline to Burnaby from 200,000 bpd to 300,000 – the matter was the subject of a full Vancouver City Council meeting and investigation in July 2010 (scroll down to story, “Misinformation Given to Vancouver City Council).

Of course, back then the Vancouver media hadn’t noticed fish farms, private river destruction, assaults on agricultural land, schemes ruining the environment and bankrupting BC Hydro or the Enbridge Pipeline and the proposed tanker traffic either. That may, the saints be praised, be changing.

For the past decade, the Postmedia papers in Vancouver have liked to ponder environmental matters for a year or two before dealing with them. Can’t be in a rush, you know – that tends to be irresponsible; far better to offer op-ed  space to fish farmers, private rivers despoilers and the corporate interests that promote the world’s biggest single-source polluter, the Tar Sands, and their proposed disasters in BC on land and sea. That the editor of the Sun op-ed page is a former Fellow of the Fraser Institute has nothing to do with this policy, of course.

One hates to make too general a statement on such matters but perhaps the Newspapers would tell how much any of these subjects have been covered by, let’s say, Vaughn Palmer or Mike Smyth.

There was a time, well within the memory of many readers, when the media in Vancouver truly held the establishment’s feet to the fire. No statements were taken as unchallengeable when delivered by big business or government. The Vancouver Sun and Province were known for their tough journalists as was BCTV. This certainly was the case when I was in government – a long time ago – but as recently as the last NDP government it prevailed. One remembers with admiration the work Mr. Palmer did on the “fast ferries issue”. Since the arrival of the Campbell/Clark government, the plain fact is that government and big business have had even better than a free ride – the editorial policy has supported business and government with nary a tough question.

My old station, CKNW, which was once on the cutting edge of skepticism of the establishment’s statements, now has Vanilla Bill in charge of the morning spot and now has a 10 share of the market when his predecessor had double that audience. Even the CBC, which is scarcely known for hard hitting radio, beats the CKNW morning show.
If I had performed that way I would have been cashiered along with the Program Manager and senior management.

Yes, times have changed and how ironic it is that this happens at a time the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Simpson v. CKNW, Mair et al made it much more difficult for politicians and other prominent people to maintain a successful defamation action. In addition to showing the statement was untrue they must now demonstrate malice.

You, the public of BC, have been swindled every bit as much as if you’d played 3 Card Monte at the fair. You pay, through subscriptions and advertising revenues, for a gigantic crock of crap being delivered to your doorstep and living room.

What especially outrages me is that once a year the media fills itself with praise, basking in the reflected glory of the late Jack Webster at the annual dinner held in his name. I knew Jack Webster as one who barely survived his interviews, as a competitor then a colleague and I can tell you if he heard and read one day’s coverage of current events he would be thoroughly ashamed of those who carry on what were once honourable outlets of hard hitting journalism.

BUT…are times changing? There is evidence that the mainstream media is covering the environmental corporate/political atrocities being inflicted on British Columbia. Meetings of First Nations are being covered and Damien Gillis’ videos and footage are being shown (watch these recent Enbridge stories on CBC’s the National and Global TV). Especially encouraging is coverage by local papers including those controlled by the mainstream media companies. The Victoria Times-Colonist has been under the parent company’s radar and has, for some months now, challenged those in corporations and governments which would continue and expand their takeover and destruction of our province.

Given my history with the media I don’t think one can say “let bygones be bygones”, but all of us can join in the real battle.

The media have more obligations than just fairly and thoroughly presenting the news – they have a traditional duty to speak for the audience they seek. Until the beginning of the Gordon Campbell/Christy government they did just that. Critics of the “establishment” abounded. For example, it was Vaughn Palmer that almost single-handed exposed the “fast ferries” issue that played a major role in the 2001 election.

What the media faces is a simple question: do you accept as a duty the obligation to defend our wonderful province against the corporate/political assault on our environment?

While those who fight fish farms, agricultural land degradation, private power schemes, pipelines and exposing our shores to sure destruction can’t be expected to suddenly embrace those who have been enablers of the corporate assault on our province; we can and will get behind and speak kindly of a media which has columnists and broadcasters who will speak for British Columbia!

I sense a willingness to do just this and it is welcome indeed. 


Free Speech, Censorship, and Why Ryerson’s Journalism Program Can Go F#@k Itself


On November 24th a “roast” was held for me and it was a fantastic night.

During my speech I raised the “Ryerson” incident that was recently revived.
About 10 years ago I received a call from a young woman from the Ryerson School of Journalism who asked if I would write the main article for their “Annual”. I accepted and asked no money in return.
I asked her if she knew who I was and what I did. She assured me that she did.
Addressing myself to the graduates, I did an essay on free speech and concluded with the statement that they had all better be “ready to self censor or that they would be censored”.
Some weeks later the same young woman called me again and was obviously in some distress as she told me that my article was “unsuitable”.
“Was it badly written?” I asked.
“Not at all – it was very well written…it’s just…unsuitable.”
“To whom?” I asked.
“It was just unsuitable.”
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s just unsuitable – but we have a couple of options here. We can pay you $100.”
“I don’t want your money,” I said.
“The second option is you can do another article.”
“There is a third option,” I replied. “You can all go fuck yourselves!”
My God! One of the top schools of journalism rejects an article on free speech! If ever I needed verification of my statement, here it was!
A few weeks later I happened to be interviewing the deputy dean of Ryerson and I told him this story, off air. He protested vehemently, assuring me he would look into the matter and would get back to me in a few days.
I never heard from the man again.
Fast forward to about three weeks ago when I got an email from a young woman from Ryerson asking me if I would give her an interview for the Annual. I agreed and made a time and date in Lions Bay for the chat. She was delighted and couldn’t wait – so she said.
A few days later I received an email from her saying that the subject, being put to a lot of journalists across the country, was “your biggest disappointment in your career,” and asking me what my answer would be. I immediately replied “the censorship of my article for Ryerson School of Journalism.” That happened to be true.
She wrote back saying that this wasn’t really what she was looking for.
Perhaps a day later she sent another email.
“While I would love to conduct the interview, the issue is not that you are criticizing Ryerson or the Review (which we have no problem with), but rather that what you wish to talk about doesn’t exactly fit in with our theme. I really want to stress the fact that this is not a cancellation due to the fact that you are angry with our publication; it is because this series is specific to “most” tales. Examples from previous videos show journalists talking about their dumbest moment on a deadline, their most awkward meal, etc. And while your story is interesting to be sure, it is not a “most” something from your journalistic career. I hope you understand.”
Somehow Ryerson doesn’t quite understand that a journalist who has fought for years for free speech in this country would think that being denied it was a big disappointment.
Let me now go to 1990 when another “roast” in my honour was held. I asked that all proceeds go to the UBC School of Journalism and with some help from Jimmy Pattison, a scholarship in my name was set up and when it was handed out I was asked to make the presentation.
Of course I agreed and was asked to say a few words, which I did, warning the graduates that when they got into the Canadian media they would either self-censor or be censored.
I have never been asked back! A scholarship in my bloody name and I don’t get to make the presentation.
The upshot of this is that the Canadian media is censored in the absence of appropriate self-control by the journalist, as demonstrated twice by the #1 or #2 journalism school in the nation and repeatedly for a decade by my old alma mater, the University of British Columbia.
How does this censorship happen?
For the most part, it’s simply an understanding that some questions and some subjects for columns and articles are just “not on”.
Let’s go back to 1991-2001 when the NDP governed BC. They were, even by the standards set by the Vander Zalm government before them, pretty awful. Every political pundit in the province, including me, held their tootsies firmly to the flame for that decade. Especially expert in their shots were columnists, one of whom brought them down almost single-handedly over the “Fastcat” ferries and Mr. Clark’s naivete over a gambling licence.
Now it’s 2001 and Gordon Campbell is in power and almost in the drive home from government gives a huge tax rebate to better off folks. The bumbling and fumbling, the loss of BC Ferries, BC Rail and the virtual bankruptcy of BC Hydro made Glen Clark’s misdeeds look liked childish pranks. It’s been a decade of paying off political pals, resulting in the government that was supposed to be fiscally superior more than tripling the real provincial debt.
The zealous media that thrashed the NDP has become a snoozing, slothful syndicate of political poodles reporting only that which simply couldn’t be ignored as news; the ignoring being done on a daily basis by the same columnists who did their duty and then some during the NDP years.
I hasten to observe that I don’t blame the journalists themselves – they have families, mortgages and kids’ education to pay for and I don’t think I would have been any better if I didn’t have a legal profession to fall back on.
Probably the worst example of media favouritism is the Vancouver Sun, whose editor in charge of the editorial pages was a fellow of the Fraser Institute, a right wing (to say the least) “think tank” that churns out big business babble to a fare-the-well. If you wish an example you only need look at the number of times Mary-Ellen Walling, the fish farmers’ flack, and environmental whores like Patrick Moore, get op-ed columns with no similar access to the other side of these environmental debates.
This is not mere mental meandering but very practical – when you see what’s happening with wild salmon because of farmed fish cages, what’s happened to BC Hydro and our rivers because of sweetheart deals it’s been forced to make, what’s happened and is happening to lakes to be mined, to say nothing of the pipelines from the Tar Sands, then tankers down the coast, you must ask yourself where has the mainstream media been? The answer is short and clear: Up Big Business’ ass.
You simply cannot have a functioning democracy without a media that keeps pressure on the government as they go. That doesn’t mean that the government isn’t entitled to praise when they do good things but that their every action is assessed with a jaundiced eye as in days gone by.
It must always be remembered that the government has unlimited use of public funds with which to bombard the public with their spin.

I close with a bit of doggerel slightly altered to fit:

You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
(thank God!) the BC journalist
But, seeing what the man will do
Unbribed, there’s no occasion to

As A.J,Leibling put it “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”



First Nations Leaders Respond to Barabara Yaffe’s Provocative Column on BC Resource Projects


Read this scathing response to a recent column by the Vancouver Sun’s Barbara Yaffe, titled “First Nations Need to Embrace Resource Projects” – from the Vice Tribal Chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and the Tribal Chief of the Tsilhqot’in National Government. (Aug 2, 2011)


DFO's Dr. Kristi Miller - recently muzzled from discussing her bombshell salmon disease findings, published in the prestigious journal Science earlier this year

Latest DFO Scientist Muzzling Part of Bigger Pattern Ignored by Media


The revelation by the Sun and the Province that a scientist in DFO, Dr. Kristi Miller, has been muzzled by the DFO and the Privy Council (which supports the Prime Minister’s Office) simply underscores how badly they have covered environmental matters in general and salmon concerns specifically.
For example, back in the mid-nineties there was a hell of a row over the Kemano Completion Project which involved taking some 90% of the Nechako River (near Prince George) which would have seriously impeded the large Sockeye runs into the Stuart River system. The permission for Alcan to do this was given, over the objections of fish scientists who had done a large study on the project and pointed out the folly it was. These scientists were hushed up by DFO and Tom Siddon, Fisheries Minister, who called it an “acceptable risk”. Several of these scientists were given early retirement or had their lives made so miserable that they got out. During this war, for war is what it was, these former DFO scientists were branded the “dissident scientists” by Alcan, a sobriquet they bore with great pride. They had been true to the public of Canada and to themselves.
The report to which I referred was buried by DFO and it came to me, 7 years later, in the height of the fray, in the traditional brown envelope.
None of this was explored by the media except Ben Meisner of CJPG in Prince George and me on CKNW – “explored” is hardly the term for we fought like cornered Tigers.
This leaked report had considerable influence on the BC Utilities Commission whose findings prompted then Premier Harcourt to tube KCP.
One of my treasured possessions is a poster showing a salmon jumping up a waterfall which all the “dissident” scientists signed in my honour. They were wonderful men. One of them, Gordon Hartman, was my constant adviser during the fight.
Please forgive me if I sound egocentric but what I’m telling you is the truth. Amongst the media I was first and perhaps only member supporting Alexandra Morton from the beginning. I reported DFO threats to arrest Ms Morton for “illegal testing” Pink Salmon smolts and their own fake testing in the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong tools. I helped expose the ridiculous DFO denial of escaping farmed fish and its idiotic advice to the Provincial government.
Editorial after editorial I pointed out that the same government department mandated to protect our salmon (DFO) were official shills for the fish farm industry.
The story is a long one but I simply emphasize that the media, especially the then Canwest (now in drag as Postmedia) and the Black Press were silent throughout.
I despair for the pressure Alexandra Morton has gone through and continues to suffer, more now, perhaps, than at any time. As she bears this terrific load on her back the media either doesn’t report what she and her allies are doing or misreport and belittle them.
A case in point – a couple of weeks ago a memo from a well respected DFO scientist, Dr. Brent Hargreaves, emerged from the documents revealed through the Cohen Commission into collapsing Fraser sockeye stocks. This from The Common Sense Canadian:
The 2003 memo recently made public via the Cohen Commission on collapsing Fraser sockeye stocks contains some truly shocking passages for their candour and for how clearly they vindicate those who have been critical of DFO’s salmon farm science. (emphasis mine) Written by a respected DFO scientist, Dr. Brent Hargreaves, the memo severely attacks the credibility of a colleague, key salmon farm apologist Dr. Dick Beamish, whose science Hargreaves labels as “shoddy” and “unethical”, among other pejoratives. Here are a couple of choice passages:
“The research on sea lice that has been conducted by Beamish has been strongly and widely criticized in both the scientific community and the public media…I think to a large degree it was the inadequacies of Beamish’s research and conclusions that led to the lack of public confidence in DFO science…

…I also do not want to be directly associated, either professionally or personally, with either Beamish or his research…He always does exactly as he pleases, regardless of the (often negative) impacts on DFO staff and research programs.
And what did the media do with this? Zilch!
Here we have the scientist responsible for the Campbell/Clark government’s policy on fish farms exposed as “shoddy science” and Beamish as a shill for the Fish Farmers, and the print media does not consider this of any interest to the great unwashed! Imagine the millions of fish that died because the provincial government followed Beamish not Hargreaves!
The Vancouver Sun is “Seriously Westcoast”???
Better late than never, I suppose, but the media owes the public big time and that debt must be paid by full coverage of environmental issues even when to do so upsets advertisers.
Postmedia using Freedom of Information, did, to their credit, expose the egregious silencing of Kristi Miller. Are they, then, making amends?
Let’s hope so, although I’m bound to say that the environmentalist community has found ways around the “see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil” monkey business of the mainstream media.
But it could do with all the help it can get, including a media that may finally have found its tongue.


Mainstream Media Blind to Real Environmental Issues


Why is it that the mainstream media ignore the down and dirty part of the environment?
Yes, they do stuff on global warming and it’s good that they do but when it comes to local issues, apart from where Vancouver sends its garbage, they’re nowhere to be found.
Consider the fish farm issue. This from an earlier blog on this site:

The 2003 memo – recently made public via the Cohen Commission on collapsing Fraser sockeye stocks – contains some truly shocking passages for their candour and for how clearly they vindicate those who have been critical of DFO’s salmon farm science. Written by a respected DFO scientist, Dr. Brent Hargreaves, the memo severely attacks the credibility of a colleague, key salmon farm apologist Dr. Dick Beamish, whose science Hargreaves labels as “shoddy” and “unethical”, among other pejoratives. Here are a couple of choice passages:

“The research on sea lice that has been conducted by Beamish has been strongly and widely criticized in both the scientific community and the public media…I think to a large degree it was the inadequacies of Beamish’s research and conclusions that led to the lack of public confidence in DFO science…

…I also do not want to be directly associated, either professionally or personally, with either Beamish or his research…He always does exactly as he pleases, regardless of the (often negative) impacts on DFO staff and research programs.”

My question – why did Postmedia (Canwest in drag) have no space for this story? After all, the Campbell government based its entire disastrous policy on fish farms on Beamish’s rubbish!
The facts on the Campbell/Clark energy policy are no longer in dispute. These environmental catastrophes, built and operated by big private sector companies, produce power that BC Hydro is forced to take but for the most part can’t use and must either sell at a huge loss or use it instead of the must cheaper power they can produce themselves. BC Hydro would be, if in the private sector, in bankruptcy protection or even bankruptcy itself. Anyone who tries to balance the household budget understands this; so does the Clark government as did Campbell before but they’re too scared to admit it. Premier Clark hopes that it will go away but I can assure her that it won’t!
This is not a story requiring Postmedia coverage?
The Rupert Murdoch/News of the World scandal should make us all question our newspapers, especially Postmedia and the David Black papers. I don’t for a moment believe that either of these groups is hacking into private computers. I assure you that this is not my issue here. What the scandal does is alert us to the probably deliberate lack of coverage of environmental catastrophes, thus raising the clear question, WHY?
As the story goes, when a man gives his wife flowers for no reason, there’s a reason. And there’s a reason here.
I freely admit my bias – I don’t like the Postmedia papers and didn’t like them when they were Canwest or Pacific Press and before. But I tell you that there’s no malice here – just decades of demanding that they report what’s happening in our province fairly as news and critically as editors. I’m a lifetime British Columbian – damned near an octogenarian – so this goes back a long, long time.
There have been good years such as when the late Marjorie Nichols, the late Jack Wasserman, Allan Fotheringham, Jim Hume held the government’s feet to the fire – especially the government that I was in. In doing that, they were true journalists and we all, government and the public, were better informed, thus better for it. 
Today’s columnists know that if they get down and dirty on some subjects they don’t get printed. This isn’t some idle comment – I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t have grounds to. And I understand that these folks have families to raise, mortgages to pay and kids to educate. I learned about this myself as I saw what happened to broadcasters if the clientele that feed their station doesn’t like what’s being said about them. In my opinion, that’s why columnists were fearless and stubborn about attacking the NDP (which they were right to do) – there were no major advertisers angry at a pillorying of the hated “socialists”.
Today, if one wants to see the present government held to account one reads the Globe and Mail (I never thought I’d live long enough to have that coming from my pen!)
The Globe and Mail is still pretty tepid in its role as critic but I see their BC section with Mark Hume, Gary Mason, Justine Hunter and others delving into subjects – not with the thoroughness that, say, Vaughn Palmer with the NDP fast Ferry program – but they at least open the subject to daylight where Postmedia fears to tread.
I don’t flatter myself by thinking that Postmedia and Black won’t cover anything I’m on – that may be coincidence even though the coincidences are many. However I am reminded of the story of the courtroom in the Southern US where smoking was permitted. The lawyer for the plaintiff continually puffed on a cigar even though the judge asked him several times, politely, to desist.
At the end of the case the judge found for the defendant whereupon the lawyer for the plaintiff complained that the judge shouldn’t have decided for the other side just because he, the plaintiff’s lawyer smoked a cigar.
The judged replied, “counsellor, that’s not why I decided against you”.
“Well, Your Honour,” said the losing lawyer, “that’s a better reason than any you gave in your reasons for judgement!” 
The Vancouver Sun bleats that it is “Seriously Westcoast”, which is classic George Orwell’s “Newspeak” and has all the credibility of an ad singing the praises of cigarette smoking.
The public has two options as I see it  – read the Sun because of Rex Morgan MD and the Province for Luann and get critical examination of issues from blogs they trust. There’s a danger, of course, that this leads to only getting information that supports your views but in working through the papers searching for the comics and sports pages one can’t help reading the government line if only by osmosis.
As we say with the Common Sense Canadian (TheCanadian.org), we must fill the content gap of the mainstream press by being our own media.


Al Gore in Rolling Stone: Climate of Denial


Op-ed by Al Gore in Rolling Stone. Excerpt: “The answer to the question ‘Is [professional wrestling] real?’ seemed connected to the
question of whether the referee was somehow confused about his role: Was
he too an entertainer?

“That is pretty much the role now being played by most of the news
media in refereeing the current wrestling match over whether global
warming is ‘real,’ and whether it has any connection to the constant
dumping of 90 million tons of heat-trapping emissions into the Earth’s
thin shell of atmosphere every 24 hours.

“Admittedly, the contest over global warming is a challenge for the
referee because it’s a tag-team match, a real free-for-all. In one
corner of the ring are Science and Reason. In the other corner:
Poisonous Polluters and Right-wing Ideologues.”

Read full article


Dick Cheney, Burning Korans, and The Media…


We’ve all heard about the Florida pastor and the Korans.. it was just about the Number One Story in the world. WHY? Because the Corporate owned media WANTED to make it news – because they want us to focus on stories involving hate and division and the ‘war of civilisations’ they are trying to start … that is what they want us focused on, so that is what they tell us about. Otherwise, the guy could have done this stupid thing and it would have been a ‘nothing event’ that nobody ever knew about… zero!
Continue reading Dick Cheney, Burning Korans, and The Media…


Canwest’s avoidance of sea lice and river privatization


Perhaps I’m a bit optimistic but I see the Canwest writers coming out, just a teeny bit.

If you had just arrived from Mars and looked at old issues of the Vancouver Province and the Vancouver Sun going back a decade you would never, for a moment, know that there have been any environmental issues in BC let alone the disastrous Rivers and Fish Farms catastrophe. In fact you would assume that Premier Gordon (Pinocchio) Campbell is a very popular politician. No doubt you would shake your head when you read the results of published polls and see the depths to which Mr. Campbell’s popularity has fallen.

You would see the odd article in the Sun by Scott Simpson on these two issues but they’re like letters servicemen send from war zones – enough to show concern but nothing specific about what’s really going on.

Mike Smyth in the July 25th edition of The Province goes much further in criticism of the Campbell government than at any time over the past decade. He talks of the cover-up of the BC Lotteries scandal, the screw-up of the HST, the muzzling of the Child Advocate, the privacy scandal, the Freedom of Information mess and the MLA expenses debacle.

Nothing about the government cover-up of sea lice stats, which should, but won’t, bring down the government!

Here we have an ongoing plan to desecrate our rivers so that BC Hydro can pay double what it’s worth to give BC Energy that it can’t use. From Palmer and Smyth, nothing. Zilch.

Here is an issue that presently has run to $40 BILLION! BC Hydro must pay for energy it doesn’t need, something that dwarfs the Glen Clark fast ferries fiasco without a comment from the intrepid Canwest political writers.

Here we have the fish farm issue, international in scope, with Alexandra Morton probably BC’s most tenacious fighter, on an issue she has taken up with the likes of the King of Norway, and it’s as if she weren’t there!

I sense this may have something to do with the fact that I’ve been on these issues – Smyth is mad at me big time. He has reason to be but that doesn’t excuse him avoiding issues because I’m on them.

Mike might answer that that’s not the reason, which puts me in mind of the lawyer in a southern courtroom (where things are a bit laid back) who, to the obvious displeasure of the judge, smoked a big cigar throughout the trial.

After the case was lost, the lawyer said to the judge “I think it’s terrible that you should decide against my client just because I smoked a cigar during the hearing”.

“That wasn’t the reason I found against you”, replied the judge.

“Well”, said the lawyer, “it’s a better reason than any you gave in your judgment”.

C’mon Mike, grow up!