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Blaming someone for your troubles is often easier than facing the truth about yourself, and the federal Conservatives are apparently no exception.
The Citizen reported this week that the Conservative party sent fundraising solicitations to supporters saying the media have somehow teamed up with the opposition to undermine the Conservative agenda — and the Tories need to fight back.
“Here’s the bad news — the Liberal fundraising machine is in overdrive, and we need to keep up,” party president John Walsh said in an email to the faithful.
“We can’t let the Liberal attacks and the media stop us from reaching our goal.”
Using the media as the bogeyman to raise money apparently works, and Walsh’s email echoes one sent in November by Justice Minister Peter MacKay to rouse the party’s base against Justin Trudeau’s stand on legalizing marijuana.
“We need your financial support so we can fight back against Trudeau and his allies in the media — who are still making excuses for his mistakes,” MacKay pleaded.
These follow several attacks on the media by assorted Conservatives, including former Conservative Senate leader Marjory LeBreton, who noted that Ottawa is “populated by Liberal elites and their media lickspittles tut-tutting about our government …”
The notion that the media are in cahoots with the Liberals to somehow thwart Conservatives may work as a fundraiser, but it is not borne out by the facts, considering that this same media overwhelmingly backed Stephen Harper and the Conservative party in every election since 2006. In the three successive elections that the Conservative party won — 2006, 2008 and 2011 — the major Canadian newspapers, with only one exception, endorsed the Conservative party.
The Calgary Herald, Harper’s hometown newspaper, no surprise, endorsed the Conservative party in all three elections, asking Canadians in 2011 to “return the Conservatives with a majority, because their record and their platform make them the best choice for the country by far.” The Vancouver Sun was similarly inclined, picking Harper in 2006 to “clean up Ottawa,” and tipping him in 2008 as the “choice for the rough road,” and giving him the thumbs up again in 2011. Other papers such as the Vancouver Province, Winnipeg Free Press and the Edmonton Journal also wrote editorials backing Harper. But these are western newspapers, and one would expect them to back the hometown boy. What about the central Canada newspapers?
Let’s start with the Citizen. In a 2006 editorial endorsing Harper, the paper noted that “the Conservative moment has arrived.” Two years later, the paper again endorsed Harper, saying that he offered “the steadiest hand and the clearest judgment.” In 2011, when many in the country were worried about giving Harper a majority, the Citizen had no qualms, arguing that Harper deserved that majority. In the three elections, the National Post, a stable mate of the Citizen, also endorsed Harper and the Conservatives, stating in a 2008 editorial that Harper was “the best choice for the country,” and declaring two years ago that he was “the clear choice in uncertain times.”
And the Globe and Mail? The paper endorsed Harper in 2006, and in the next election backed him again, saying he was “growing into the job,” and was the “best man for the job.” In 2011, the paper picked Harper once more, saying the Liberals had failed to show how the Conservative government had failed, and why they should be the alternative. It was the same with the Montreal Gazette, which called the Conservatives “our best bet,” in backing them in 2008, and then asked Canadians to give the party a “stable majority government” in the election that followed.
Of the major newspapers in the country, the only one to buck the trend and not back the Conservative party is the Toronto Star, which endorsed the Liberals in 2006, saying their program was “best for Canada,” and stayed the course in 2008. But in 2011, the paper shifted allegiance to the New Democrats, saying the Liberals had not made a “persuasive case” to be considered the alternative to the Conservative party.
The record shows that, far from ganging up against the Conservative government, it can be said that Canadian media are actually supportive of the party and its leader. How else would one explain their overwhelming endorsement of Harper and his party in three successive elections? Which brings us to the next question: If the Conservatives have enjoyed this kind of backing from the media, why have they turned on them?
One answer is that beating up on the media raises money. Another is that the party resents criticism, and the fact that journalists were instrumental in exposing much wrongdoing this year, makes them enemies. But here’s the thing: There is division of labour in a democracy. The government governs. Parliament makes laws. The courts ensure the laws and policies are fair and just. And the media stand on guard, keeping a watchful eye on the other branches so the people’s work is done, and hold politicians accountable as they should. That’s how a democracy works, and we all better get used to it.
Mohammed Adam is a member of the Citizen’s editorial board.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay announces the government’s new cyberbullying act on Parliament Hill on Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press)
When Justice Minister Peter MacKay unveiled the federal government’s proposed cyberbullying law on Wednesday, he touted it as a necessary tool to combat the often hurtful spread of intimate images. To emphasize the underlying point, he made the announcement during national Bullying Awareness Week.
But legal experts were left wondering why a piece of legislation that is meant to rein in online tormentors is also taking on terror suspects and people who steal cable TV signals.
“There is a much larger agenda at play here,” says Rob Currie, director of the Law and Technology Institute at Dalhousie University.
Under the banner of anti-cyberbullying measures, the government is “trying to push through a number of things that have to do with law enforcement but nothing to do with cyberbullying.”
Among other things, these new measures include giving police easier access to the metadata that internet service providers and phone companies keep on every call and email.
MacKay has acknowledged that law enforcement did not have the tools to prevent the deaths of Canadian teens such as Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, who endured years of torment online. C-13 would give police a greater ability to investigate incidents of cyberbullying by giving courts the right to seize computers, phones and other devices used in an alleged offence.
5 years in prison
Under the proposed legislation, anyone who posts or transmits an “intimate image” of another individual without that person’s consent could face up to five years in prison.
MacKay said C-13, also known as the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, reflected the government’s commitment “to ensuring that our children are safe from online predators and from online exploitation.”
Since introducing the bill, MacKay has said that C-13 is also meant to update the Criminal Code to reflect modern communications such as email and social media.
Toronto internet lawyer Gil Zvulony says that it is a necessary step, given that some aspects of the Criminal Code pertaining to communications still refer to outmoded technologies such as telegrams.
“I don’t know what the [government’s] motivation is, but there is a logical theme to all of this, in the sense that it’s trying to modernize [the code] for the digital age,” he says.
Currie, however, raises concerns about the breadth of C-13, which not only addresses cyberbullying, but also gives police heightened powers of surveillance to track terror suspects as well as individuals who use computer programs to gain unpaid access to WiFi or cable TV service.
Currie likens the omnibus nature of C-13 to Bill C-30, also known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, which was introduced in February 2012 by then-public safety minister Vic Toews.
“It was supposed to be all about [fighting] child porn, but it had all kinds of other stuff in it,” Currie says.
The ‘other stuff’
That other “stuff” included lawful access provisions, which would force internet service providers to hand over customer information to police without a warrant. This led to a public outcry and the government’s abandonment of the bill.
Although C-30 was ostensibly killed in 2012, Michael Geist, a cyber-law expert at the University of Ottawa, says that the government has been inconsistent about its position on some of the key issues surrounding lawful access to private communications.
Earlier this year, then justice minister Rob Nicholson pledged that the government “will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 and any attempts that we will continue to have to modernize the Criminal Code will not contain the measures contained in C-30.”
Still, Andrea Slane, a law professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, says C-13 is in many ways “identical” to its failed predecessor — though one of the key differences is that C-13 emphasizes judicial oversight.
For the most part, the new bill still observes “the checks and balances around what judges are meant to do to make sure warrants are issued” where they are supposed to be.
That said, one thing the new bill does is allow ISPs to voluntarily give customer information to police without civil or criminal liability, Slane points out.
“That’s the one that’s most sticky for me,” she says, because it was this kind of legislation that led to widespread surveillance in the U.S.
Geist says C-13 gives police greater access to metadata, which is the information that ISPs and phone companies keep on every call and email, and he adds that in some ways metadata can be more revealing than the substance of a phone call or email.
Metadata will enable police to pinpoint a suspect’s “geographic location. It will tell who they were talking to, it will tell what device they were using,” Geist told CBC.
Currie says that, within C-13, there are proposed amendments to other acts, including the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, which allows Canadian police to gather evidence on individuals in Canada because a foreign state has requested it.
Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s privacy commissioner, has not had a chance to examine the bill. But her office released a statement to CBC saying C-13 “appears to be a complex bill, and we will be examining all of its privacy implications and preparing to provide our full analysis and recommendations before the parliamentary committee that will be studying the legislation.”
Currie acknowledges that the bill strengthens many of the law enforcement tools needed to stem cyberbullying. But he takes issue with the sheer size of the legislation.
“This government has a history of introducing large omnibus bills that have all kinds of stuff in them – unrelated things all under the banner of one legislation,” he says.
“The problem with that is it inhibits democratic debate. There are lots of evidence-gathering tools here that we need to have a debate about.”
With files from Alison Crawford
- Canada’s eavesdropping agency helped spy on G20: docs (globalnews.ca)
- Canada’s eavesdropping agency helped spy on G20, documents suggest (calgaryherald.com)
- MacKay issued seven secret directives to eavesdropping agency: documents (globalnews.ca)
- Nerd farm no more: Speech offers rare glimpse into eavesdropping agency (globalnews.ca)
- Privacy czar to probe Canadian impact of U.S. data program (cbc.ca)
- Canada’s eavesdropping agency helped spy on London G20 summit (ctvnews.ca)
- U.S. PRISM surveillance program puts Canada’s privacy czar on alert (globalnews.ca)
- Revenue Canada rejected secret tax haven files (cbc.ca)
- PRISM and Canada: what are the north-of-the-border implications of American spooks gone wild? (boingboing.net)
- What does Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner think of U.S. web surveillance? ‘Inescapable, how inappropriate this is’ (globalnews.ca)
- Report Confirms Canada Has Its Own Phone Meta-Data and Internet Surveillance Program (michaelgeist.ca)
- Canadians react to U.S. surveillance program leak (cbc.ca)
- NSA Spying On Canadians, CSEC Capable Of Similar Surveillance: Experts (huffingtonpost.ca)
- USA National Security Agency Spies on You (netnewsledger.com)
- Canada paying far more than going rate for shipbuilding design (cbc.ca)
- Irving Shipbuilding and Canadian Government Start Design Phase for AOPS (worldmaritimenews.com)