Martyn Brown: Making your mark for a better B.C.

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      Surprise, surprise, British Columbia. Toronto’s media moguls are once again urging us to vote for the party that they feel is best for their newspapers’ bottom line, namely, corporate profit.

      “In B.C., hold your nose and vote Liberal,” the Globe and Mail advised. How inspiring. Not.

      “Good manager of economy, Liberals deserve to be re-elected,” Postmedia’s designates at the Vancouver Sun chimed in.

      “Liberals still best choice in B.C. vote,” the Province echoed. As if there was ever any doubt about that chain’s partisan fealty.

      With friends like them and their ideological allies at Global TV and CTV, the Clark government’s enemies of conscience are of little consequence.

      Our words and appeals are no match for the power and reach of the media mindbenders who own the instruments that most shape our opinions: Bell Media, Shaw Communications, Woodbridge, Thomson Reuters, and the Manhattan-based hedge fund, GoldenTree Asset Management.

      How sad it is that the very entities whose diligent professional reporters work so hard to inform our world about the failings of government are so predictably prepared to subordinate those performance concerns to their overarching focus on economic and fiscal management.

      I can’t imagine being one of those reporters, already under the gun, as it were, by the challenges that are rapidly depleting the most senior ranks of Canada’s august print media dailies.

      I can only imagine how I would feel if I were one of those journalists.

      Election after election they must dread that day when they open their own paper and read that predictable endorsement for the “free enterprise” governing party, whose transgressions and failings filled so many daily column inches.

      What must they think, those stalwarts of investigative journalism?

      That their corporate bosses don’t really care about the problems that are the daily subjects of their stories and intensive research?

      That it’s all the economy, all the time, when push comes to shove in deciding who is most fit to govern?

      That it’s mostly big money that matters and the pursuit of profit, including from the major industries that formally partner with those media entities, to help keep them in business?

      Or that they haven’t even really read the other parties’ platforms that are, if anything, more detailed than the Liberals’ platform on their priorities for government?

      Predictably, the Province basically dismissed the Clark government’s “errors”, saying that “All governments make mistakes and the NDP made many when in power in the 1990s.”

      As if the Liberals’ ethical failings, abuses of power, misuses of taxpayers’ money, and callous disregard for so many of those who can’t afford to shell out $20,000 a plate for private soirees with the premier were minor lapses of judgement instead of defining hallmarks of the Clark administration.

      That paper justified its ongoing cheerleading for that government by lamely saying that “Horgan has been repeatedly vague on so many questions concerning his promises to improve government services how B.C. taxpayers will pay for them that it is frankly hard to know what an NDP government would do if elected.” Such tripe.

      The NDP platform is indeed rife with ideas on how to improve government services that have for too long suffered from lack of Liberal attention and funding.

      It is also packed with firm commitments on spending priorities, all fully costed according the only financial information at its disposal: namely, the Liberals’ own budget revenue projections.

      It is very clear on its specific taxation commitments, including raising the carbon tax to the same federally designated level as the Liberals have committed to, albeit by starting to phase in that increase a year earlier, and restoring the corporation income tax and high-income surtax to the levels the Liberals had imposed before the last election, before they reversed those miniscule hikes.

      The Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers are both owned by Postmedia, which clearly likes the B.C. Liberals.
      Charlie Smith

      Readers receive a depressing message

      What are average citizens to conclude in reading those newspapers’ ultimate votes of confidence in a B.C. Liberal government that has so often betrayed the public trust?

      I, for one, can only conclude that those editorial boards and their corporate paymasters don’t really care much at all about the issues that should appeal to our moral sensibilities.

      They sure don’t seem to endorse the NDP’s core commitments to increased investments on health care, education, public transit, child protection, social services, and measures to make life more affordable for average citizens.

      None of those newspapers apparently support John Horgan’s bold and laudable commitments to help average working families make ends meet.

      They are not persuaded by his party’s pledges to eliminate MSP premiums, to phase in a $10 a day childcare program, to eliminate tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, to reduce certain B.C. Liberal ferry fares, and to freeze B.C. Hydro rates, and roll back planned double-digit ICBC rate hikes pending a review on how to mitigate those costs. But I am.

      Unlike those well-paid folks on the editorial boards at the Globe and Postmedia, who are once again parroting what their even higher-paid bosses and corporate owners expect them to support, I like the NDP’s proposals to help B.C.’s poorest citizens.

      I welcome its plan to combat homelessness, which is fast becoming a provincial scandal in its own right, hurting people and our communities alike—largely due to the Clark government’s negilgence.

      I welcome the NDP’s promises to increase income assistance and disability rates by $100 a month and to raise the related earnings exemption to $200 a month. Both have been basically frozen for at least a decade, while the cost of living has skyrocketed.

      The media moguls might not care much about ending the grizzly trophy hunt that is such a blight on “Super, Natural British Columbia.” But I do.

      They might not be too troubled by the Liberals’ government-fostered crisis in affordable housing and they sure don’t seem to be too keen on the NDP’s firm plan to address that problem. But I am.

      I like Horgan’s plan to impose a new tax on speculators, which the Liberals have steadfastly rejected. I like his plan to build 114,000 rental, social and co-op homes over 10 years. I like his plan to extend a $400 grant to renters, just as homeowners receive their grant from those same taxpayers.

      Those are just some of the NDP’s crystal-clear platform, which on balance, works for me.

      I am not surprised that it doesn’t work for two of Canada’s largest daily newspaper companies with circulation in B.C.

      Their determination as to which party is most deserving of holding power is morally myopic.

      For B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark, all has been forgiven by the Globe and Mail and the two metropolitan dailies' editorial boards.

      Clark gets a free ride

      What else are voters to conclude? Those newspapers’ endorsements are not reflective of the concerns that should lead us to conclude that the Clark government is unfit for office.

      They pay lip service, at best, to higher expectations of those we elect to office and they are virtually mute on the many vitally important determinants that should motivate our voting choices. They say nothing material about anything that should matter most.

      Not the scandalous “pay to play” campaign finance system that those publications condemn in their day-to-day coverage of the Liberal government their editorial boards now urge us to reelect.

      Not the countless “boondoggles and scandals” that the Tyee has so helpfully documented for anyone who does. All of which, those publications have rightly reported upon, with righteous indignation and outrage, day after day, year after year.

      Not the human travesties of government negligence, injustice, and brazen indifference to the plight of those most vulnerable in our society.

      Not the unconscionable increase in hospital waiting lists, the unacceptable deterioration of seniors’ services, the abominable failures in child protection, or the inexcusable loss of life from the fentanyl crisis that the Clark government has blithely disregarded.

      Not the government-imposed hits to public education, health care, public safety, public transit, or social services.

      Not the rental housing problems, nor the housing affordability crisis that the Clark government has so wantonly aggravated.

      Not the scandalous misuses of taxpayers’ money for partisan advertising, nor the myriad examples of fiscal mismanagement in failed information technology investments and corporate tax giveaways, which have wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars that could have and should have been invested in helping people.

      All of it takes a backseat to the Globe and Mail’s and Postmedia’s opinions of what should matter most, which in the Liberals’ plan for “jobs and prosperity”, essentially comes down to this. More resource development that is beholden to Big Oil. More unabated extraction of fossil fuels. More unsustainable growth fueled by ultra-low corporate taxes and upper income taxes. And more tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of higher costs of living for everyone else.

      Students, patients, children, seniors, aboriginal citizens, persons with disabilities, people living on income assistance, minimum wage workers, and so many others—none of them really seem to matter to those major media outlets, when push comes to shove.

      If they did, I don’t think they would ever condone the re-election of a government that has made an art form of subordinating the health and welfare of those citizens to budgets balanced on their backs.

      Climate action? Forget about it. The government’s editorial board apologists at the Globe and Mail and Postmedia don’t seem to give a flying fig about it.

      Not if it means electing an NDP government that would do something to really advance that priority. Not if it means standing up to Big Oil, starting with Kinder Morgan, or doing anything that might compromise the profits of the fossil fuel dinosaurs that contribute so much to those mainstream media bottom lines.

      Replacing a premier who falsely accuses her political opponents—and average “#IamLinda’s” alike—of actions and motives that she knows are untrue? Who sees nothing wrong with having her campaign run by a woman now charged with criminal breach of trust? Who flat out lied to British Columbia about the LNG pipe dream in 2013 and all it would supposedly provide?

      Not a deal breaker, apparently, for the Clark government’s fans at the Globe and Mail and Postmedia.

      Punishing a premier who makes up stories about people and parties and who refuses to apologize for her repeated abuses of power? Who thumbs her nose at campaign finance reform, as she gratefully puts her hands out to foreign donors and to financial contributors, including those whose actions are now the subject of an RCMP investigation?

      Not a problem for those newspapers, who feel nothing should trump their support for another Clark government. None of these failings are, for those media managers or for their corporate paymasters, sufficient grounds for the government’s dismissal.

      What are we to conclude?

      That those publications just don’t care enough about those failings, in contrast to their starry-eyed view of the Clark government’s economic management? Which they have all documented has not been too successful at all in most of rural B.C., where unemployment has run rampant.

      In the larger scheme of things, aside from the economy, fiscal restraint, and maintaining low corporate taxes, nothing at all seems to really much matter for the Globe and Mail, Postmedia, and their ilk.

      It is all secondary to the moguls who run those media enterprises, who prefer the ideologically allied government they know to the NDP government-in-waiting that actually wants to tackle the human and social challenges that should matter most to all of us.

      In the final analysis, ethical conduct is not material to their endorsements. Not really.

      Those same editorial boards rightly huff and puff about ethical failings. They preside over countless stories: the ethnic outreach scandal and its related breach of trust and Election Act charges, the “triple-delete” fiasco, the health firings scandals, the premier’s former $50,000 “top-up” salary, pay-to-play fundraisers, and RCMP investigations into party fundraising activities.

      Those are just a small handful of examples of a government that has clearly lost its moral compass.

      But when it’s time to make their editorial choices, those media enterprises see nothing wrong with overlooking those wrong actions to recommend the one choice they feel is right: re-electing that same government and premier, whose sins on such scandals are to be forgiven, as if they never mattered. Just minor “mistakes,” don’t you know, like every other government makes.

      What an appalling view of government that is, that we should expect so little of those we elect to uphold the public trust.

      What a message that sends to young voters, who read such endorsements and likely conclude that, what the hell, all politicians are probably crooked and as long as they are frugal fiscal managers and “true” free enterprisers, it shouldn’t determine how we vote.

      How is it that those media outlets so easily subordinate issues like the fairness or health of our electoral system to their preoccupation with the economy? Why is it that they don’t think that Horgan’s plan to give voters a say on how our votes should count, by embracing a form of proportional representation, should matter much in casting our ballots?

      John Horgan is hoping people power will carry more influence at the ballot box than Canada's most powerful media moguls.

      Horgan offers a genuine alternative

      How is it that these editorial boards seem to place such comparatively little importance on the state of our environment, the fate of our families, or the deplorable defining traits of a B.C. Liberal government?

      Something to think about as you enter the voting booth.

      Others may not care much about those considerations as key voting determinants.

      But I sure do. And you should too. You really should.

      Because those things matter too.

      They should matter more, in fact, than any supposed “expertise” the Liberals profess to possess in economic management, most of which is a disingenuous shop-worn narrative, as I of all people know so well.

      Indeed, I did so much to amplify and perpetuate that perceived competitive advantage for the Liberals in my time in politics.

      Fact is, the Liberals mostly got lucky. With the exception of the 2008 economic crash, the global economy has been on one of the longest-ever runs in human history.

      Most of B.C.’s economic growth and its related revenue windfalls to government have been due to the runaway housing market. The Clark government has squeezed that housing gold rush like a cash cow, along with the money it has quietly confiscated from Crown corporations, to balance its budgets.

      All of that has hurt working families’ costs of living and their ability to own or even rent a home, or make ends meet. 

      If you care about change and you care about the problems and opportunities that are at the root of that need, you can make that change a reality with one mark of a pencil at the ballot box.

      If you care about taking control of your own destiny and perhaps fixing the legions of problems created by the current government, you can vote for John Horgan and the NDP.

      You alone get to decide whether to elect a new government that will write B.C.’s next hopeful chapter—not the folks at the Sun, the Province, or the Globe—or the likes of me, for that matter, who all hope to influence how you vote.

      You alone can decide to bring about that change that only an NDP can deliver, which as things now stand, a vote for the Greens can only frustrate and prevent.

      At this point, more votes for the Green party are not the route to change; they are the path to four more years of the status quo. They will only stand in the way of that change we so badly need, which the mainstream media is so resolutely bound to resist.

      My final message to all voters this election is this appeal: get out and vote. Make your mark for a better B.C. Put your faith in a brighter future.

      Screw the Toronto media barons and those who would have you believe that all that matters is the economy, and which party is more “free enterprise” than the other.

      Hold the Clark government accountable for its failures.

      Choose to reject the status quo and to turn the page on 16 years of B.C. Liberal government. Choose change.

      Show up at the ballot box to effectively say, “NDP: works for me.”

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic advisor to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, and he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact Brown at