A Tale of Two Papers

 

Note: a modification of this article first appeared in

JustSayinCaledon.com

***

Like the classic Dickens’ novel begins:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.…”

Charles Dickens was talking about 1780’s Paris and London, but he could just as easily have included my little home town of Caledon. The best of times are when I meet some of the most intelligent, empathetic, talented people in the country right here in my own community. The worst of times are when I encounter the misogynist, racist, ignorant “good old boys” club ranting in a family restaurant (see my blog stories).

Recently, it was the best of times when the Town’s Integrity Commissioner handed down his ruling on the behaviour and actions of a certain Councillor. It was accepted by Council along with the necessary consequences. That should have been the end of the story. But then we were reminded about the worst of times, when a local newspaper pulled the scab off a wound that was just starting to heal.

We should be looking to an intelligent press to bring us valid community news, educate us ethically on critical issues of importance, and keep us informed of opportunities for public input into community matters that concern us. I would ask our citizens to judge the level of commitment to these goals as seen clearly this past week in the two local newspapers that serve our community.

To be fair, both community newspapers regularly give us advance notice of public meetings, by-law changes, and all notices distributed by the Town. Beyond that, they are as different as night and day. Take the April 20, 2017 issues for example.

One paper’s front page features a group of children taking part in an Easter egg hunt, with the cover story about a school closing; the other paper headlines: “Councillor docked pay in breach of Code complaints”, with that as the front page story. The difference in our two community papers couldn’t be clearer – one is “share and ahhh”; the other is “shock and awe.” As a Star reporter once told me when I challenged why there weren’t more good news stories on the front page, he answered, “It’s not our job to report every safe landing at Pearson.”

Our Easter Egg newspaper, let’s call it Paper One, seems to highlight good news, albeit still publishing a far right wing column by Claire Hoy, once dubbed “Bill O’Reilly north.”  The other paper, we’ll call it Paper Two, seems to have taken a more sensational approach to the news, and a more confrontational stand against the Town and our public servants.

For example, after the last public Town Council meeting, when the Integrity Commissioner handed down his ruling on the misbehaviour of a Town Councillor, prescribing pecuniary costs and a requirement for retraining, Paper Two asked the totally irrelevant and way past its due date for freshness question: “Do you think Coun. Shaughnessy is guilty of violating the Code of Conduct?” and for its readers to respond at editorial@caledonenterprise.com

WTF! Hold the Presses! The Report of the Integrity Commissioner is final. The Council has received the report. This is not up for discussion or a public commentary! Whether the generally uninformed public thinks the good Councillor is guilty or not is irrelevant. She has been judged and found wanting. Period. Move on.

Normally, asking the public to participate in any information gathering of the community pulse is a fine idea. But what happens when the question asked is both irrelevant and past its due date?

For example, “Do you think that the Archangel Lucifer was guilty of rebelling against God?” or “Do you think that Prometheus was guilty of stealing fire from the Olympian Gods?” or “Do you think that Donald Smith got drunk after he hammered the last spike to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway?”

Seriously, none of us were there and it was all a long time ago. Some days we’re in heaven, other days are hell, we have fire, and a railway runs coast to coast. Irrelevant and past due date. Move on.

What possible community good could be served by asking such a question of the Paper Two’s readership?  OK, if you have read the complete Report by the Integrity Commissioner, and if you fully understand the role of the Integrity Commissioner and the Ontario Ombudsman,  and if you have read every public document related to this case, and if you are aware that on April 30, 2015 the same Councillor was disciplined by Peel Region for similar misbehaviour and publically apologized (all on record with the Peel Region clerk), and if you were in attendance on the day the Report was handed down and received by Council, then maybe you can cast a legitimate YES or NO … but still irrelevant.

The Councillor has been found in violation of the Code of Conduct, and has been given the appropriate sanctions; she now has the choice to change behaviour or face more onerous repercussions.

Whether the newspaper survey thinks she is guilty or not doesn’t matter in the slightest. We deserve intelligent questions that are relevant and current. Otherwise we get garbage in, garbage out.

We deserve better!

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Stephen & the Amazing Technicolour Snow Job

Every once in a while, a mainstream media journalist captures the moment perfectly. Enter Thomas Walkom with an op ed piece in the Wednesday, August 21, Star titled: Harper plays it for laughs again with stealthmobile. Rather than become angry over the absolute absurdity of another summer of broken promises in the far North, Walkom pulled a Rick Mercer with true Canadian satire dripping from his keyboard.

StealthIt helped me to laugh at an otherwise infuriating situation with a media entourage capturing photo op images of the PM (like this Chris Wattie Reuter's photo in the Globe) while he spewed more methane than melting permafrost in the tundra. Where are the previously promised icebreakers? Where are the previously promised high tech centres? Where are the previously promised Arctic sovereignty military bases? Lots of resource based economics announcements, but where was any mention of toxic breast milk, suicide, drug abuse and social justice inequities? Walkom diffuses the angry confusion by explaining that it was all a joke, that the Prime Minister's "mischievious sense of humour" fools even his ministers who sometimes think he is serious about these proposals.

It is only later, back in the PMO, where illegal Senate payout cheques are cut, that the truth emerges from the Arctic darkness like a stealth snowmobile.Thank goodness for that fiesty Chinese journalist – no, Li, don't apologize to the Conservative manhandlers – we just wish our media had done the same.

And Stephen, thanks for the laughs. Stealth snowmobiles in a rapidly warming Arctic – really, you are such a joker. Can't wait to see the musical.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Put That in Your Pipeline and Smoke It

CirculationPipelines, dear Canada, are not the problem. And the new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada has a solution. Think of pipelines as the circulatory system of the body. If fresh, energized, oxygenated blood is carried to the cells, and stale greenhouse gas blood is carried to the lungs, all is well. If there's a little infection, the white blood cell paramedics go to work; if there's a small leak, the platelet coagulators plug the flow. If the infection or the leak are really big, you need a bigger emergency response team. Or you die.

The problem, our new leader of the third party has deduced, is not the pipeline, but what it carries. Obviously, the more dangerous the contents the higher the level of due diligence. You never hear anyone complain about water pipelines, but if a sewage pipeline bursts in the basement of your Idomo warehouse, well, issue a Papal bull to stop the desecration!

That is why Our Conservative Prime Sinister has decreed that all pipelines in Canada must be constructed to the highest standards, using the best materials, with top technicians on world class salaries doing the installation. Further, he has ensured that all companies have fully financed emergency response teams in place, and pre-loaded compensation insurance plans to deal with any disasters. He did this because he wants to ship tar, not water, across our nation, leaving a bitumen taste in many Canadian mouths.

Enter Captain Charisma with a plan to legalize marijuana. How to ship all that hemp from coast to coast? Why by converting all of the oil and gas pipelines into the great Canadian Cannabis Conduit. JTcoolHe'll just place a fan on the Pacific Coast and blow dry that BC Gold all the way to Halifax (Newfoundland doesn't need THC, they have icebergs). If there's a leak, no one will care. Communities will gather around the spill site with their guitars, light a bonfire and sing sixties songs. Health care costs for fibromyalgia, glaucoma, and post traumatic stress disorder will plummet. The elderly will forget about the reductions in their OAS, and the mood of the entire nation will be altered to one of peace, love, and groovy.

For now, the veins of our body politic remain filled with fossil fuels. But just wait til the next election, man, and pipelines will be cool.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Only Children Hunt for Sport

HuntingTrophiesAfter a recent post, I was asked if I were anti-hunting, and my answer was a clear, "NO." I will ensure that my soon-to-be teenager is skilled in marksmanship with both gun and bow and arrow, and knows how to fish with rod and net. I will ensure that hunter safety trainlng is part of his curriculum for the twenty-first century. I will teach him that if he ever needs to take the life of an animal for food, that he will do it quickly, skillfully and respectfully. But under no circumstances do I support trophy hunting. Big boys with big guns and bigger egos. 

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Three Cheers for MINORITY GOVERNMENTS

What a difference a parliamentary democracy makes.

Only one week after the debacle that was the federal budget process, the Ontario government tried the same thing, using the same language. "It's all about balancing the budget, growing the economy, and creating jobs." It certainly isn't about environmental security, social justice, or economic equity.

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