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GORDON: Is the Trudeau government trying to rig the election?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tyrannical tendencies are ramping up as his incompetent government unravels remarkably fast.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tyrannical tendencies are ramping up as his incompetent government unravels remarkably fast: the Liberals are rashly throwing out dirty tricks from their sleeves in an attempt to try to put their government back together again as the election day of judgement approaches.

Recently, three more bright red flags have been raised on a field littered with them.

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“A Digital Charter”

The first cardinal sign of dangerous state meddling popped up when Trudeau pronounced Canada would be getting a new charter to regulate the internet.

The Trudeau government has been talking for years about possibly regulating the tech giants (Facebook, Twitter and Google) that control what the vast majority of Canadians now see while surfing the web. But up until recently, Trudeau and co. were content hiring former tech giant execs to join them as colleagues and host meetings with Facebook big shots — unregistered lobbyists at the time — as ways to have their interests heard and, presumably, met.  

But with an impending election, it appears the Trudeau government wants to suddenly legislate and bend the interweb closer to their will.

What exactly this government means by “hate” and “disinformation” has not been clearly and unequivocally defined. But this government has repeatedly proven it struggles to distinguish truth from fiction. These same actors — or anyone in power for that matter — being the architects of regulating the internet should give all Canadians a cold tingle in their spines.

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Media Bailout

Yet the Trudeau government isn’t just looking to get the tech giants onside. They’re also offering $595 million to the legacy media over the next few years, of course leaving most of the payout for after the election, essentially bribing the media like they did last time around with the CBC, which was a resounding PR success story for them.

Although this was announced late last year, new information — and the second major red flag — came to light last week that the Trudeau government is going to use friendly proxy organizations to ostensibly decide what media organizations deserve to divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars Trudeau’s now splashing on the table.

This week the Trudeau government brazenly revealed those proxies. In the mix: anti-Conservative union Unifor and four Quebec-based organizations (Fédération nationale des communications, Association de la presse francophone, Quebec Community Newspaper Association, Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec) make up five of the eight groups chosen to decide who is eligible to be a government-approved journalism outfit.

Unifor alone, nevermind the other seven players with major conflicts of interest, proves the entire process is a political sham. Unifor President Jerry Dias has been doing a stupendous job demonstrating why his union representing 12,000 journalists and media workers shouldn’t be anywhere near the media bailout table. On Friday he tweeted twice attacking Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, dropping any pretense of impartiality.

But the selection process is all for stupid show anyway. Trudeau’s government ultimately has the final say on who gets what payout. “The government will decide whether or not to change certain criteria,” Maude Lavoie, Finance Canada director general of business tax programs said in a Senate national finance committee — reported by scrappy startup Blacklock’s Reporter, which is declining any bailout money and has been relentlessly covering the bribery scandal affecting its colleagues.     

One organization still with a shred of credibility is the Canadian Association of Journalists, who is considering dropping out of the media fairy godmothers’ bribery committee because of the secrecy of the process.

Speaking of Blacklock’s Reporter, the news outlet drags out embarrassing secrets and incompetence of the government and its bureaucracy on a regular basis. How do you think the Trudeau government has treated these watchdogs compared to the lap dogs? With contempt of course.

Blacklock’s Reporter has been in years-long process of suing different federal departments and agencies for their sketchy bypassing Blacklock’s Reporter’s paywall to read their copyrighted material instead of buying bulk subscriptions like they do for friendlier publications like iPolitics (now conveniently owned by TorStar).

Partisan hacks have tried to dismiss and discredit the investigative outlet as “copyright trolls” (a charge a federal court judge threw out in their last case) or Conservative cheerleaders. Neither is true. But that a journalism organization that outperforms (for its size) iPolitics et al. in Ottawa for scoops (excluding government-fed ones) is treated so poorly by the government for doing the tedious and thankless job of digging up unflattering stories (via access to information requests, a process the Trudeau government neutered) about said government tells you everything you need to know about why this government should have no place in preferentially giving certain news outlets vast sums of money.

Instead of just settling Blacklock’s Reporter’s cases the Trudeau government has sat back as the Crown (which Trudeau obviously exerts influence over: Google “Mark Norman” and “SNC-Lavalin”) has done everything — including dubious shenanigans I’ll expand on in another piece — to delay the cases from seeing the light of a courtroom.

To further elaborate on how deranged it is for anyone to think this government bailout of the media makes any sense for the health of our democracy, look no further than one Liberal MP who recently said the Toronto Star, CBC and Globe and Mail are the only reliable news outlets in all of Canada that are trustworthy. Or how about the B.C. NDP’s vice president designating moderately right-of-centre digital news outlet The Post Millennial “online hate”. True North founder and Sun columnist Candice Malcolm was charged with writing fake news by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna when Malcolm called the federal carbon tax a tax grab. Citizens cannot trust politicians to decide what is and is not legitimate journalism because their judgment is compromised and biased. The prime minister himself claimed it was fake news that he or his underlings meddled in the SNC-Lavalin and Vice-Admiral Mark Norman scandals. Both examples of gross political interference in the justice system ended up being true.

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Fake News Hall Monitors

Finally — and the third major red flag raised in recent weeks — the Trudeau government’s $7 million set aside for selected organizations to create “digital, news, and civic literacy programming” during the election is smelling increasingly fishy. Who these government-selected fake news hall monitors have not been made public yet however, there are pretty big clues as to who will be on the take from the government to proselytize to Canadians what is and isn’t news.

A spokesperson for Canadian Heritage told True North the $7 million will go to “digital, news and civic literacy education to support work in building citizen resilience against online disinformation.” Although what exactly that entails isn’t clear, but Blacklock’s Reporter revealed last year one party trying to get some of the money was Liberal-tied “non-partisan” think tank Public Policy Forum.

Their application to the government said they wanted to “expose” inaccurate coverage. Now left-wing publications are lining up news hall monitors, including BuzzFeed, the Toronto Star, National Observer and CBC. They have all assigned journalists to monitor the internet this election for disinformation and fake news.

A spokesperson for Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould told True North that CBC and the Toronto Star will not be receiving any of the $7 million (although CBC already receives well over a billion annually from the federal government and TorStar will undoubtedly soon be receiving millions as well). The spokesperson for Canadian Heritage said who the funding recipients are will “be made in the coming weeks to inform Canadians.” Some news outlets will more than likely receive some of the $7 million because organizations already receiving federal funds from the Canadian Periodical Fund are eligible to apply.  

“This initiative supports Citizen-focused activities, including digital, news and civic literacy programming and tools,” said the Canadian Heritage spokesperson. What exactly that means time will tell. But when the National Observer suddenly hires a journalist to monitor disinformation who once professed her love for Justin Trudeau on Twitter it doesn’t look promising. I have my doubts that these journalists will be looking into bureaucrats running anonymous troll twitter accounts attacking Conservatives or the Liberal Twitter shamrock club amplifying government talking points.

Trudeau has paid a lot of lip service to journalists, buttering them up with flattery. But when the majority of the interviews he does are fluff or with friends — meanwhile running away from the real and hard questions in the midst of scandals — no one should be fooled by his phoney pandering. Like despotic world leaders, which Trudeau more and more resembles, he only wants coverage that lionizes him.  

I typically refrain from writing emotional commentary and reporting in covering our country’s politics. But sometimes the only proper response to deceitful dirty dealings is with full-hearted ire.

When Trudeau decided to corrupt and discredit the entire fourth estate responsible for holding him accountable the only appropriate response from self-respecting journalists is a variation of: “F*** you and the high horse you rode in on.”  

Correction: A previous version of this column included BuzzFeed as a publication that just hired journalists to cover disinformation and fake news during the Canadian election cycle. In fact, BuzzFeed partnered with the Toronto Star to look at disinformation campaigns with two BuzzFeed journalists based in Toronto who already focus on fake news and disinformation — but predominantly in an American context — will be shifting their attention to Canada during the election. We regret the error. 

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