Tagged: CBC

Blaming unions

Saint Mary’s professor Larry Haiven thinks blaming unions for unnecessary snow days is silly:

This is part of a syndrome of “if in doubt, blame the unions.”  So convenient.  So wrong.

A few years ago I was taking a tour of the new Toronto opera house.  We were allowed to go everywhere except on stage, even though the stage was bare, with no current production going on.

larry_july_06-2-150One of the tour members asked the docent why we couldn’t go on stage.  The tour member said he had been on tours of all the great opera houses of Europe and had never been barred from the stage.  The docent looked serious and said “union rules.”  All of the tour members (except me) nodded their heads sagely in rueful agreement.

It just so happened that I had an interview with the head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (the stagehands’ union) on another matter later that day.  So I asked him if this were true.  He got very angry and told me that there was no union rule, no union prohibition and, in fact, the union was very much in favour of tours visiting the stage when there was no production going on.  He said that “union rules” have become a pernicious legend in his field.  I later phoned the management of the opera house to complain about the docent’s mistake.

What I found most interesting was not the docent’s duplicity but the tour group’s acceptance of it.  As a former union staffer and a person who researches and teaches about unions, I’m amazed at the difference between the real power that they actually lack and the perceived power people think they have.

As I said before, I regret making the union issue part of this discussion, because it permits people like Larry to wrap themselves in solidarity’s flag and ignore the core issues:

  1. In the management of risk, our society increasingly allows knee-jerk caution to trump common sense, and important social values like child-rearing suffer as a consequence.
  2. After their sub-par performance during Hurricane Juan was criticized, Environment Canada and the CBC began to over-hype forecasts of routine weather. Ironically, this monomaniacal focus on safety has created a very unsafe situation.
  3. Senior managers in our school system either belong, or kinda-sorta belong, to the teachers’ union. The apparent willingness of class-struggle buffs like Larry to countenance this absurdity is astounding.
  4. We have far too many snow days, and the ones we have apply to far too wide an area.

I honestly don’t know whether point three plays any major role in point four, but it ought to be changed anyway. No one above the level of small-school teaching principals ought to belong to the Teacher’s Union, and the law should be changed to reflect this.

As for the accelerating trend toward a New Jerusalem of ‘fraidy cats, Contrarian will continue to rail.

A nation of ‘fraidy cats

snowfallBy 7:30 a.m., today, it had stopped snowing at Kempt Head.

Total accumulation: 2-5/8ths inches.

Cancellations: Cape Breton Victoria School Board; Strait Richmond School Board; NSCC Marconi Campus; NSCC Strait Campus; Mayflower Mall (until noon, except for anchor stores); and pretty much every other event you could think of.

Imagine! Two and five-eighth inches of snow! In February, in Nova Scotia! Gadzooks! Why hasn’t the army been called?

What on earth has happened to us? What has turned us into a nation of cowering, cringing, ‘fraidy cats who darsn’t get out of bed in the morning, lest something bad happen.

Something bad might happen. Get over it. Haul on your galoshes. Brush off the car. Get to work.

[Yes, dear readers, I understand there was significant snow in parts of the province, including Halifax. But not where I live. Our province is dominated by Halifax-rooted reportage, so we were bombarded all morning with the shrill weather warnings that have become the norm for Environment Canada and the CBC. Our province also has huge school boards, whose administrators seem to feel that if it’s snowing in Bay St. Lawrence, they must cancel classes in Louisbourg, where is may be five degrees and drizzling.]

As a people, we have lost the ability to assess risk. An unachievable, zero-risk approach has infected every aspect of our lives. How this happened, the huge price we are paying for it as individuals and as a society, and what can be done to rein it in, will be continuing topics on Contrarian.

Confined to ship


CBC newsmen Rob Gordon and Craig Paisley left Halifax for Haiti aboard HMCS Athabaskan January 14, but returned home Friday without setting foot on the island.

It seems the journalists were confined to the warship because their required training for operating in dangerous environments was not up to date. Both men had received the five-day course, provided by U.K.-based AKE Integrated Risk Solutions, before traveling to Afghanistan several years ago, but their accreditation has expired.

As a result, CBC brass ordered the men not to leave the ship.

“It’s analogous to a driver’s licence,” said CBC’s Atlantic Regional Director Andrew Cochran. “If you go in without it, it’s like driving without a licence: (a) it’s an offence, and (b) your insurance won’t cover you.

A source told Contrarian that the problem was only discovered once the reporters were en route, and frantic efforts to get them the required refresher course by phone were unavailing.

Not so, says Cochran.

“We were completely aware of the situation before they left,” he said in a telephone interview. “We knew there would be CBC reporters covering events on the ground, The decision was that it was still worth sending them to cover the story of the navy sailors going in to help.”

Gordon is Canada’s most experienced reporter of naval issues.

Cochran acknowledged that there had been discussions of getting the refresher course en route, but this proved impossible.

Since arriving off the Haitian coast January 18, the two men have blogged about their experience and filed occasional dispatches from aboard ship. Paisley filed his final blog post Wednesday.

Meek slags Ormiston’s grief porn – feedback

Cliff White defends Ormiston:

I happened to catch both the clip of Ormiston holding the hand of, and then carrying, the little boy, and the one of  Cooper tousling the head of another. I didn’t think there was any comparison. I was moved by the first and disgusted by the second.

Watching Ormiston’s reports over the last week or so, it’s obvious she has been deeply affected by what she’s seeing and reporting on. Her actions conveyed a real human warmth. It’s not such a bad thing for viewers to occasionally see that reporters are not just automatons, but  are real people with real  emotions.  On the other hand Cooper’s actions seemed a classic illustration of the opposite, a reporter cynically faking concern hoping to heighten the impact of his story.

As I said in the original post (about a Herald column by Jim Meek), I did not see the Ormiston piece. I did see, and didn’t like, Cooper’s display of affection, but I would not presume to say he was faking. My objection is to making the reporter’s display of compassion, real or contrived, the focus of a story, when the focus ought to be on the people who have been harmed by the catastrophe, and those who are trying to help.

It’s obviously a difficult line to walk, but surely this is a situation that calls for the most rigorous possible factual reporting, rather than titillation.

They’re not “Tories,” dammit – updated x 2

Tories knock off Bloc in eastern Quebec – Gazette

Tories, NDP make gains in by-elections – Star

Tories retake former Nova Scotia stronghold – Globe and Mail

Byelection win will boost Tories in Quebec: MP – CBC

This is likely a losing battle, but could the national press corp please stop calling the Harper Conservatives “Tories?” The Conservative Party of Canada is not simply a renamed Progressive Conservative Party. It was borne of a hostile takeover by the Reform Party, thinly disguised as a merry merger.

Headline writers need short substitutes for party names — Grits, NDP, Bloc, etc. — but that’s no excuse for enshrining Reform spin into every story about national politics.

The Harper Conservatives are trying mightily to convince Canadians that they’ve moved to the center. They’ve done a pretty good job of this, except when the curtain slips (as it did in the Fall 2008 Economic Update) and exposes their plans for the country, should we ever give them a majority.

Aiding and abetting a national party’s branding strategy is not in the press gallery’s job description.

I’m curious to know how Tories — real ones, adherents of the Progressive Conservative Party that still exists provincially though not federally — feel about this.

Suggestions for a proper Conservative Party nickname welcome.

[UPDATE] Real Tory, loyal foot soldier,  and premier-to-be-maybe Rob Batherson is ready with a smackdown:

Parker, Parker, Parker…

Throughout Canada’s history, Canada’s Conservative Party has taken on many different labels – Liberal Conservative, Conservative, Unionist, National Government, Progressive Conservative and Conservative.  Part of that Conservative tradition has also manifested itself in parties such as Social Credit, Reform and Canadian Alliance (particularly in Western Canada).  I recommend Bob Plamondon’s book Blue Thunder for anyone interested in a more detailed history of Canada’s Conservatives.

In 2003, both the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties voluntarily and democratically voted in favour of merging the two parties into the Conservative Party of Canada.  The leadership selection process for the Conservative Party of Canada was inherited from the Progressive Conservative Party, as were the vast majority of the party’s aims and principles as contained in the Constitution. [*cough* *cough* – Ed.]

As a Progressive Conservative, I feel it is perfectly reasonably and legitimate for the media to describe the federal Conservatives as Tories.

You’re a Tory, Rob, no question. Those guys up there? Not so much.

[UPDATE 2]  A Contrarian reader with the nom de post Educhatter disagrees with Rob:

Your post on Party names is contrarianism at its best.  Yes, George Grant is rolling in his grave, not to mention old Dief. Might I suggest a 21st century variation for headline writers?

  • Cons
  • Libs
  • ADP (Aging Democratic Party)
  • Bloc(heads)

Rhymes with ‘understand,’ Chuckie – feedback

Contrarian reader PC responds to our annoyance at our future king’s mispronunciation of the name of Canada’s 10th province:

CarolOff2-csI am more troubled by the many Canadians west of the Atlantic Provinces who use the same mispronunciation, including Carol Off on As It Happens just a few nights ago.  How can someone who works for the CBC, where every national program announcement finishes with “half an hour later in …,” not say the name correctly without hesitation?  For that matter, what excuse does anyone have for this mistake 60 years after Newfoundland joined Confederation?

(And, of course, the correct way to say a place name is the way the locals say it:  “The Commons” in Halifax,  “L’Ardoise” and “Port Mouton” elsewhere in NS, and “Etobicoke” in Ontario.)

Not sure which recent AIH episiode contains Off’s purported unpardonable, but in fairness, she pronounces our easternmost province more or less correctly in the closing credits of this recent show.

Contrarian’s personal favorite placename pronunciation remains, “Harve Boucher,” rhymes with tushy.

[UPDATE] Jeff from Halifax demurs:

I am with you on pronuncing local place names (e.g.: Trafalgar)  the way those who live there pronounce them — EXCEPT when the pronounciation is just a misreading of the correct name. It is the Halifax Common. Period. No “s” at the end. Different word. If we keep going with the chopping up of the Common, then maybe we will have a plural version, but right now, I believe the lands are still contiguous, albeit smaller than the original version.

That’s a pretty big “if,” Jeff. The prescriptivists would say local usage rules, no exceptions.

CBC weather panic — feedback

After hectoring us for five days about Bill, a hurricane that was actually a tropical storm, the media took an only slightly more restrained approach to Danny, a weak tropical storm that actually appears to be a half-day rain shower. CBC still wrung its hands for much of the week, but didn’t cancel regular programs. Many contrarian readers responded to the hype, starting after the jump with CW.

Read more »

Wafergate redux: the questions pile up – with updates

[UPDATES appended at end]

Contrarian reader SL shares our ink-stained correspondent‘s distaste for the Saint John Telegraph-Journal’s malodorous apology to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She wonders why departing Harper Communications Director Kory Teneycke included the precise timing of his decision to resign so prominently in his resignation talking points. The second paragraph of the CBC story reads:

Teneycke said he told Harper just after Canada Day and before the G8 meeting in Italy earlier this month that he was going to step down.

CANADA/That would be, uh, just before the Prime Minister did or did not consume the sacramental Host at Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral. (The timing of Teneckye’s decision appeared in the sixth paragraph of the Toronto Star story.)

If the Irving-owned Telegraph-Journal’s groveling apology was brokered as part of a deal that included Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard’s efforts to woo federal shipbuilding contracts, maybe Teneycke, Harper’s third director of communications in 3-1/2 years, decided the backroom machinations could do permanent damage to his career. Or maybe not.

Another piece of speculation, promoted by CTV and the always impartial National Post, holds that the whole wafergate scandal was a Liberal set-up. As CTV’s Bob Fife put it (at 10:30 into the aforementioned video):

I’m told the Liberals passed the story on to young Jamie Irving, who is the publisher of the paper. He passed it on to the editor who put it into the paper without checking it out, and today the editor has been fired and Jamie’s father has suspended his son for 30 days, and I’m told the Prime Minister is pretty thrilled with that decision.

So T-J editor Shawna Richer is indeed out of a job, but somehow publisher Jamie Irving (that last name has a nice ring) escaped with a 30-day suspension—facts the paper neglected to include when making a clean breast of the matter. (An Irving spokesperson now acknowledges that the pair have been relieved of their duties, but still will not reveal their employment status.)

National Post columnist Seve Janke points the finger at former NB Liberal MP and current Ignatieff staffer Paul Zed based on, well, zero evidence (“I’m not saying Paul Zed had anything to do with this”), except that Zed “is related by marriage to the Irving family, having been married to Judith Irving, the granddaughter of K.C. Irving.”

The operative words there are “having been.” The couple is divorced, so perhaps Paul is no longer whispering sweet nothings into Judy’s ear, or Cousin Jamie’s for that matter. Nevertheless, Janke wants Ignatieff “to direct Paul Zed to uncover the identities of those did the deed and who had knowledge of it.”

Oh my, my, my. Does the Post actually pay for this crap?

For what it’s worth, Maclean’s Magazine’s Kady O’Malley reports that Doug Finlay, the Conservative Party’s National Director of Political Operations, is flogging the same line:

Can Michael Ignatieff assure Canadians that no Liberal staffer, executive or advisor contacted Jamie Irving or Shawna Richer regarding the Prime Minister’s acceptance of communion at Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral?

So O’Malley put the question to Ignatieff’s office. Response:

This is nonsense. We didn’t record the videotape–CPAC did. And as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Canadians need only look at the video on You Tube to see what happened.

Meanwhile, LifeSiteNews.com, a Toronto-based Campaign Life website, suspects Liberal blogger-strategist (and Chretien acolyte) Warren Kinsella‘s hand at work, noting that Kinsella has apparently changed the time-stamp on his blog to make it appear that he posted a refernce to the original T-J story somewhat later in the morning (9:53 am) of July 8 than was actually the case (6:53 am), the implication being that Kinsella is trying to obscure the fact he had advance knowledge of the story. (Pretty bad when you have to turn away from our august papers of record to an anti-abortion website for actual reporting.)

No question, Kinsella has aggressively promoted the alleged scandal, drawing “the faint outlines of a link between the shipbuilding announcement and, hours later, mincing, shit-eating apology,” which he describes as “fundamentally false.”

Meanwhile, what the hell is this?

Radio Canada takedown

A copyright claim by Radio-Canada? CBC spokesperson Angus MacKinnon confims to Maclean’s:

Radio-Canada requested that the footage be removed from YouTube due to copyright infringement (something it does on a regular basis). It was deemed that no ‘fair dealing’ exception was applicable in this case… [O]ur policy on fair dealing with regard to YouTube-d material [is] judged on a case-by-case basis.

Excuse me? Since when is it part of a news-gathering organization’s role to block public access to primary research sources, especially when those sources were created with taxpayers’ money? Since Harper became PM, perhaps? How much faith can we now place in Radio-Canada’s coverage of the current copyright debate, where Crown copyright is a key issue? Suckholing to the government of the day has long been endemic within the CBC, but rarely has a Mother Corp flack acknowledged it so brazenly.

Happily, Canadians can still see video evidence of Harper’s nontransubstantiation here, here, and here. The videos show pretty conclusively that, whatever Harper may have done with the Saviour’s virtual Body, he didn’t consume It promptly.

Here’s a novel idea: Could someone in our nation’s Parliamentary Press Gallery separate their puckered lips from Harper’s posterior long enough to do some actual reporting? Or does endlessly opining on the terminal  inadequacy of any possible pretender to Harper’s throne keep you too busy for honest work?


Scarborough blogger Jeff Jedras parses the T-J apology in meticulous detail, pointing out additional oddities and inconsistencies.

The apology exonerates the reporters whose bylines appeared on the story on grounds that the inaccurate material was added in the editing process without their knowledge.  But the story, which appeared five days after the funeral, was all about the wafer issue.

This is a daily newspaper, so they’d covered the funeral story already. So clearly the original, untainted story the two reporters wrote was more than just “there was a state funeral a week ago.” That’s not a story. The story they wrote had to centre around Harper accepting communion, was that right or not, and when did he consume it? Then some things were inserted to beef that up that were apparently troublesome.

So which part of the story is true, and which fabricated? That’s the central problem with the Irvings’ highly selective account of the events: we can’t tell. As Jedras puts it:

[T]he Telegraph Journal’s apology doesn’t really change the original story, whether you think it’s a dumb or newsworthy story or not: Harper accepted communion when he shouldn’t have, and took his sweet time consuming it, when he should have consumed it right away. All they’re retracting is “senior priest wants answers” and “he pocketed it.”

There’s more. It’s worth reading.


Blogger Stephen Taylor, who bills himself as a scientist and political analyst, and who organized rallies to protest last December’s aborted coalition government, also weighs in. Taylor notes the massive character of the edits that would have been required to sustain the apology’s odd claim that, although the central facts of the story were wrong, the  reporters who wrote it bore no responsibility for the erroneous material. Then he adds an intriguing twist:

I’ve learned from a source close to one of the journalists that at least one of them may have gone so far as to seek advice and consider a lawsuit against the newspaper if the paper did not retract the story and absolve (no pun intended) the journalists of fabricating a significant portion the article.

That would be consistent with the highly unusual lengths the apology went to in exonerating the reporters.

Curiouser and curiouser. Too bad that journalism is the only public institution journals and journalists deem off limits.


Contrarian reader Justin Ling wonders:

One wonders why ‘investigating’ this non-issue (a) counts as journalism or (b) matters to anyone but the media. If he pocketed it, he did so because he did not want to offend Catholics by refusing the wafer. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the other host of issues out there surrounding Mr. Harper?

Well, of course the original story wasn’t important. It was amusing and ironic, and treated as such by the media. But then the Prime Minister blew a gasket, and the CBC invoked copyright to bar public access to the video evidence, and the Telegraph-Journal issued this astonishing and hard-to-credit apology (just as its owners queued up for lucrative shipbuilding contracts), and the PM’s director of communications resigned a year into the job. And finally, there’s the Ottawa press corps’s disinclination to look into the inconsistencies.


Contrarian reader WT observes:

Whatever else there is to be said about the TJ wafergate apology, it must rank as one of the great pooh-eaters of all time.


Mervin Hollingsworth of Saskatoon thinks we’re off our trolley:

Do you know how silly your report reads? Who cares what Harper did with the Host. It is between him and his God. Try to move on to something that all Canadians care about. This is pure speculation and garbage and a waste of everybody’s time. It truly must be a slow summer.

To be clear, which I thought I had been, I don’t give a flying fig what SH did with the Host. I care about the fallout, which reeks of dishonesty.

Right and righter


Most economists have at least grudgingly accepted the need for deficit spending to replace economic activity lost to the worldwide economic meltdown.

But when CBC Radio’s The Current sought to analyze Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s miscalculation of the federal deficit, the national broadcaster’s idea of balance was to match Harper booster Janet Ecker with anti-tax zealot Kevin Gaudet.

Ecker is a former Ontario Tory finance minister who now toils for the Toronto Financial Services Alliance. Halifax native Gaudet is national director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.

With balance like that, who needs a center?

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