Baldreydash: A new post on scribes who speak to special-interest groups

I may have left the impression in recent blog postings that Vancouver Sun provincial-affairs columnist Vaughn Palmer only speaks to business organizations like the Council of Forest Industries, British Columbians for Private Forests, the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the B.C. Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association, the B.C. Human Resources Management Association, the Council of Tourism Associations of B.C., and others.

Palmer  has also spoken to government associations as well as to civic and labour groups. The include the Professional Employees Association, the Bellingham City Club, and the Canadian Association of Members of Public Utility Tribunals.

Next month, Palmer will speak to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association.

And no, Palmer didn’t contact me to ask me to set the record straight. I just started poking around on Google.

I also discovered that he spoke to the B.C. Nurses’ Union in February. He praised the group in his speech, according to the union newsletter.

The following month,  Palmer wrote a column about how the B.C. Liberal government is enlisting the help of the nurses’ union “in a collaborative effort to improve management of the health care system, including patient care, workplace safety, staffing and recruitment”.

This might not seem like a big deal to most people. But I thought it was important to mention that Palmer doesn’t only speak to business organizations because he also makes himself available to other groups, presumably for a fee on at least some of these occasions.

I first became aware of Palmer's public-speaking career when he was listed in the program of a tourism conference I was covering in 2005.

I went to the conference for a feature story on convention-centre cost overruns. At the time, I was surprised to see Palmer's name  on the speakers’ list.

Today, Palmer wrote a column detailing how much costs have increased on the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre expansion, so it's not as if he has ignored this issue.

I’ll leave it up to Palmer and other members of the press gallery if they want to disclose to the public how much they’re paid for their individual speaking engagements. I, for one, am curious to know the answer.

If members of the press gallery are collecting thousands of dollars per speaking engagement to business groups interested in legislative changes—and I have no proof of this other than  Palmer's  agent's claim in the past  that  Palmer charges $3,000 to $5,000 per  speech—then I think they owe it to their readers, viewers, and listeners to come clean on this.




Apr 3, 2009 at 2:50pm

How many business groups would hire Palmer or Smyth as speakers, if they came out against the tens of billions in corporate welfare represented by Pirate Power?

How about if they came out against the Gateway project - would that effect the buckets of money they make from corporate speaking engagements?

Given these two are generally very intelligent individuals and yet their stand on these two issues borders on the absurd - well I'm just sayin.

Charlie Smith

Apr 5, 2009 at 2:42pm

Here's why I want to know how much Baldrey, Palmer, and Macarenko are being paid to speak to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce:
* The B.C. Liberals are going to anchor their campaign on how they're friends of small business.
* The facts don't always match the campaign rhetoric.
* The person fronting for this campaign is none other than John Winter, who heads the B.C. Chamber of Commerce and who is the spokesperson for, which is group shilling for the B.C. Liberals.
* Winter may or may not have approved a sizeable payment to three of B.C.'s best-known journalists in advance of a provincial election campaign in which Winter is playing a prominent role. Winter wouldn't return my call on this issue.
* Will Baldrey and Palmer cover Winter's activities with the Web site during the campaign?

I'm not harping on about payments to members of the press gallery for frivilous reasons. There is an issue of optics here. Couple that with Canwest's lack of coverage of the Opposition party's MLAs for the past four years, and you start wondering how level the playing field is here in B.C. Perhaps Palmer and Baldrey can clear the air by filling in one of these comment forms and telling us if they're getting paid to speak to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce's annual general meeting in May. And if so, how much, including expenses?