Friday, December 9, 2011

Dec. 9: A "good news" headline presented as "bad news"; and other such..

Ottawa is not going to contribute to the cost of a Moncton downtown hockey rink and convention centre. (The cost would be anywhere from 100 million to twice that and more, depending on who you ask.)

That's good news for Canadian taxpayers, better news for New Brunswick taxpayers who would have been even more on the hook to contribute, and superb news for Moncton rate-payers who would have been on the hook for city taxes as well as federal and provincial ones for generations to come. And all this at a time when the whole world's economic future is very much in doubt. (The city claims to have a 30 year city economic plan. That sounds impressive -    but is surely uncertain because the rest of the world doesn't have a plan for even the coming week.)

We have seen no evidence of any great demand from the citizens of Moncton for such a centre though, no doubt, Corporate Research Associates could provide us with a poll showing that 57% of Monctonians support it.  Nor have we ever seen evidence of exactly how much of the money produced by such a venture would stay in Moncton - or exactly who would get it.

This is a  important story. But the tone of it suggests that it's bad news with the only good news part being that the valiant Moncton City  Council will fight on.

P.A3 has what will seems to be a scandalous story to many readers - the salaries of top civil servants (and severance pay) in New Brunswick. True enough, for those earning minimum wage or even a comfortabe bit more, civil service pay150,000 to 200,000 plus severage deals of a hundred thousand or so will look pretty high.

In fact, they are far below the salaries for jobs at similar levels in private business. A dozen years ago, a board of private businessmen offered me a job. The assigned a lawyer to me to explain all the goodies I could ask for and expect to get.  The salary could be 280,000 - maybe more. Severance pay would be half a million. Expensive club memberships would be part of the deal. I would have an interest-free loan to pay my mortgage. A car would be provided, with maintenance and gas part of the package.

That was a dozen years ago. And the offer, though from businessmen, was not in the business sector. In that sector, salaries and benefits run much higher.

One often hears that those who fail to do the job in private business get fired. Nah. That part is just for the peasantry in private business. When you do a bad job - and are at the senior levels - you get a severance package that can - and frequently does - run into the millions.

The fact is that when it comes to pay levels, the public sector is far more efficient than the public one.

A good news story would have made comparisons with the private sector to put the public sector into perspective. This one didn't.  The public reaction to this story will likely be indignation, and muttering about how you don't get away with that sort of thing in private business.

The story, by failing to provide comparative figures, gives a false impression. And 'false impression' is a nice way of saying 'lying'.

(To which some people will answer, "At least the private sector spending doesn't come out of our pockets."  Oh? Where do you think it comes from?)

The story that  "Canada wants a new climate deal by 2015" gives the impression that Canada is taking the lead in preparing for action to cut carbon emissions. In fact, the reverse is true. Canada, at the Durban conference, took the lead in killing any hope for action.

It did so because corporations in Canada and the US are afraid that any serious action on climate change would hurt their short term profits - thus their campaign of denial that climate change is  happening at all. Canada's stand has made us contemptible to most of the world. But it is very pleasing to Harper's dearest friends, the corporate bosses of Canada and the US.

Similarly, the story on Harper's border deal with the US dwells largely on Harper's enthusiasm. It says little about the concerns over it (and doesn't explain even the few it mentions. This agreement marks a fundamental change in the nature of Canadian life. We have heard very little about it. And it has happened without  any agreement from or discussion in the House of Commons. (Tell me more about how our soldiers fought for democracy and freedom.)

The second editorial "A call to action" is just dumb. Just about every expert in the world agrees that Harper's "getting tough on crime" omnibus bill is both expensive and ineffective. The editor picks one case, a very emotional one, in which the assigned penalty would have been longer with tougher legislation. Then he uses that one, very isolated case, to suggest that the experts on crime all over the world are wrong.

There is not a word about Pakistan, Iran, or Syria - though we could soon be at war with all of them, and though such a war could also draw in China and Russia. Way to keep your eye on the ball, Mr. News Editor.

The only fresh air in the whole paper is in two columns, by Alec Bruce and David Suzuki,  on climate change,

There's an excellent letter to the editor by Jean-Claude Basque of the NB Common Front for Social Justice.

There's a pretty silly one from a reader who didn't like a student columnist's recent views on religion. Apparently, the letter-writer is under the impression we live in a Christian society. Yeah. That's why we made the baby Jesus into Santa Claus, and shifted the theme of Christmas from giving to shopping. That profound faith of Moncton is why the city is peppered with churches that have "For Sale" signs on them.

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