So, about a week ago, Jerry Dias, who is the President of UNIFOR, which describes itself as “Canada’s largest private sector union, with more than 315,000 members across the country, working in every major sector of the Canadian economy,” which, it appears, includes journalism, posted this on social media:
… now this obviously poses some challenges for some journalists, as David Akin explained …
… both dates are circled in red.
I’m not in any way opposed to journalists having a union to help them bargain for better wages and working conditions. But, while some proprietors of major news outlets likely do see the role of journalists as being little more than being there to fill the white spaces between the ads, many journalists see themselves as being special … we hear about “writing the first draft of history,” “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” “holding the government to account,” and “speaking truth to power.” In fact I recall the 1984 election … we had just come back from a three year posting in the Netherlands and we were still in a hotel because there was a problem with getting our furniture and effects out of storage and into the house we had just bought. Anyway, it was, I think, now Senator Pamela Wallin who, reacting to a) the HUGE majority that Brian Mulroney had achieved and b) the less than stellar performance in the campaign of Liberal leader John Turner, said something like “we, the press gallery, will have to be the real opposition.” She was serious … she saw her, and her fellow journalists’ role as being nothing less that being the ‘voice’ of the almost half of Canadians who did not vote for Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives. (Brian Mulroney was the last Canadian prime minister whose government was elected with 50%+ of the popular vote, none of Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chrétien or Stephen Harper secured more than 46% and Chrétien, Harper and now Justin Trudeau secured majority governments with 40% or less of the popular vote.)
But now Jerrty Dias has tainted that ‘voice,’ he had made all journalists suspect: are they asking tough questions or are they just being part of the “opposition” to Andrew Scheer?
Just a few weeks ago I shook my head when Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives ramped up their criticism of the media, and, in fact, I said, “I believe that Conservatives must be cautious about making the media into the enemy. It is no doubt quite true that many in the media are more interested in challenging Andrew Scheer on his (lack of a) carbon reduction plan than they are one challenging the government’s carbon tax regime; it is also irrelevant because, while it may work for Donald Trump in the USA, it did not work for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in 2015. I believe that the media is biased: some of it, rather a lot of it has a progressive, left of centre, bias; some, not much, but a bit, is centrist, and some ~ both media outlets like the Sun chain and some individual journalists ~ is/are quite markedly conservative. I believe that Conservative Party must accept and even assert that a constructively critical media is an important institution in our liberal democracy and deal with, all of it, fairly and honestly. To do otherwise risks too much and it also makes Conservatives look like they are trying to hide something. One constant theme of both the Liberal and New Democratic Parties and of the progressive media is that Conservatives have a hidden agenda. Attacking the messenger, rather than the message plays into that.” But now, after Mr Diaz’ social media post, who can blame any Conservative who faces a hard question from an unfriendly journalist from going after the media for being paid Liberal hacks …
… because this image, taken in Aug 2016, after Prime Minister Trudeau addressed the UNIFOR convention sure makes it look like Jerry Dias is in bed with Justin Trudeau and it helps make the Trumpian case that the media is aligned with the left of centre Laurentian Consensus in Canada.
I have a lot of sympathy for good, hard working, fair minded journalists ~ and I assert that they are the majority ~ who will now be forced to endure the suspicion that they are part of a “vast left wing conspiracy” to skew the news coverage so that it favours the Trudeau Liberals. Conservatives do not have a good case to claim that the media is, broadly, biased against them but now, thanks to Trudeau’s $595 Million media fund, they will be accused of being biased every time they make even the most reasoned criticism of the Conservative Party’s positions on issues.
I have some sympathy, too, for those journalists who are saying to themselves, “this loony-left wing-nut Dias has just made it harder for me to do my job, but I’ll soldier on anyway, trying to be honest, fair and balanced in my reporting.“
But, I now also have some, very limited, sympathy for those Conservatives who have been saying, all along, that the media is one giant left leaning cabal that is out to get conservatives in Canada because now that the Liberals have promised $595 to traditional media, to be doled out to “trusted” media outlets, one must be forgiven for suspecting that every media outlet is on the Liberal payroll. And who will blame any Conservative for fearing that that every journalist is one of Jerry Dias’ tame Liberal hacks and for deflecting tough but fair questions with scripted attacks on the media.