Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dec. 14: Two misses and two hits on the TandT editorial page.

There were two, excellent columns on the editorial page of The Moncton Times and Transcript today. Unfortunately, neither of them was the editorial.

A good one was by Alec Bruce on education. It calls for a little bit of close reading and a little bit of thought. But the effort pays off in a big way. The other was by Catherine Ford of Troymedia. It was about how petty and provincial Canada has become, and how, for national survival, we need more power for the federal gtovernment in dealing with business. It's a very sensible article, and an important one for our economic future. I guess that's why it wasn't run as an editorial.

The editorial was a defence of the Moncton Council's decision to go ahead on a proposal to bankroll another CFL game in the coming year. (You remember council. They're the ones who thought it was a great idea to run up  federal, provincial and municipal debts of eighty-four million to build a hockey rink as Moncton's top priority.) The editor defends the council's position regarding the CFL on the gounds that it broke even on this year's game.
1. We have never seen a full accounting of what the benefits were. Nor can we trust the figures that will be given on the real costs and real gains. All we have seen are vague statements, including some for which there cannot possibly be any data. Who could possibly have accurate data on exactly what hamburger purchases can be directrly attributed to the game. In any case, risking taxpayers' money to barely beak even (probably on cooked figures) is  scarcely be a sound reason for doing it again. No business would ever operate on that principle.
Oh, thinking of whatever figures they come  up with - how do we measure the cost of the time council put into making a couple of big days for business? How does one measure the cost of time lost when it should have been devoted to looking at real priorities for Monton?
2. With world economies so fragile, no economist would dare to predict what conditions will be by next fall. It is quite possible that organizers will not find 20,000 bottoms wearing pockets deep enough to pay for tickets, hotel rooms, meals, etc. American visitors, for example, may be sharply down because of a falling dollar. Then there's the inevitable effect of a failing American economy on ours. This time, there is a strong chance  the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.
3. A council, like any government should certainly do what it can to create a healthy climate for business. But it should not be bankrolling a business of any sort. And it should not be underwriting a purely business risk with taxpayers' money. (I know it often happens that governments do exactly that. But it's a prime cause of corruption, an offence to taxpayers and, for that matter, an offence the very principles of capitalism, itself. What it comes to is a kind of socialism to benefit business rather than us.) I'm sure the TandT would share my views on this subject. Maybe not. I sometimes  get the impression they want us to believe in capitalism while their friends make money out of business socialism.)
4. The shot at the CBC was deserved - because the CBC was telling the truth -and you're not allowed to tell the truth in the New Brunswick news media. Most of the news media available to Moncton in print, on radio, and TV are beneath any journalistic standards (except those to be found on the other private media outlets across North America.) The CBC stands out above them - and light years beyond The Moncton TandT. And if the editor really thinks that Moncton has an audience only suited to garbage media, that might be a hint to Moncton council and the New Brunswick government to rethink their priorities.
5. A city council's business is to serve ALL the people of the community, not just to boost local business or the city's image. Nobody beyond the New Brunswick border gets all excited about a CFL game in some place called Moncton -just as few in the whole world care about the Moncton Wildcats, even if they do get enthroned in an eighty four million dollar stadium. As things stand, the City Council and the provincial government seem to think of citizens' needs in the same way emperors did in the last years of Rome. (No bread, though. Just circuses.) When the city bankrolls a business venture, it does so at great risk (see point 2 above); and it endangers priorities that the council should set but, apparently, never has.

It's not just an offensive article in its malice to CBC and its ignorance of news media standards. After all, we're used to that from its editorials on education.  But this one seems to stand apart even from the petty and malicious ones by its sheer dumbness.
The other stinker was the editorial cartoon. It's too bad. The cartoonist has considerable graphic skill. He could be one of the good ones. The problem is that every cartoon is a predictable sloshy kissup for the owners and editorial staff. What could be a career leading to work for a real newspaper is not likely to happen. A real editorial cartoonist, and I have known several top ones, has a hate for everybody and will take on anybody. Bootlickers stay in the bush leagues.

P.S.  Harper's intention is not to cut the CBC budget. It's to close it down, perhaps to sell it to private owners so we can get more infomercials and half-wit phone-ins.

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