Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of bribing the media last fall when the Liberals announced their government was planning to give political journalism $595 million bailout. It was a fair assessment to make, but over the better part of a year, Scheer has not categorically come out against a bailout of the media.
Often what is left unsaid by a politician is far more important than what is said.
After it was revealed last month that anti-Conservative union Unifor — which represents 12,000 journalists — was selected by the Trudeau government to be one of the eight organizations to decide who and who isn’t a journalist eligible to receive government money, Scheer attacked Trudeau for selecting a hyper-partisan organization with a massive conflict of interest as one of the decision-makers choosing who gets a piece of the $595 million pie.
In a recent op-ed in the Toronto Sun, Scheer called for Trudeau to remove Unifor from the selection process. But what was again absent in Scheer’s column was any declaration that the bailout itself is wrong. Actually, Scheer’s op-ed only criticized Unifor for being part of the media bailout process, not the bailout itself. That omission looks like a tacit endorsement of the bailout.
I reached out to Scheer’s office this week to try and get an unequivocal answer on what his position is regarding the bailout, but I only received examples of where Scheer and the Conservatives have accused Trudeau of rigging the election in his favour and criticizing parts of the bailout process.
Perhaps Scheer and the Conservatives think if they don’t go against the bailout they can neutralize the bribe because they’re tacitly offering money as well if they get into power. The foolishness of that position is that giving ambiguous answers that neither endorse nor oppose the bailout means many in the media will assume the Conservatives are against it even if they really aren’t.
Ottawa-based news outlet Blacklock’s Reporter confronted Scheer in a scrum earlier this week — where most journalists were more interested in his thoughts about plastic straws than the fate of their own industry — asking him twice whether he would scrap the $595 million bailout.
His vague response was telling: “I certainly do support the work that an independent media does in this country,” said Scheer. “Our preference would be to ensure there are market-based solutions.”
Scheer needs to be upfront with Canadians. If he were to become prime minister would he give hundreds of millions of dollars to the fourth estate, compromising its independence in holding those in power to account?
No one should trust a Conservative government any more than a Liberal one to divvy out taxpayer money to journalists in a non-political fashion.
What’s all the more strange is that a couple years ago Scheer promised to scrap the CBC news division if he became prime minister. He’s since flip flopped and is now only calling for the public broadcaster to shift its focus towards more Canadian stories. Now the Conservative leader will not even say if he’s against giving government subsidies across the industry.
Studies have shown that journalists are overwhelmingly left-wing, brimming with journalists who support evermore socialist programming while largely turning a blindeye to those programs’ failures, like graft and draining of the public coffers. The internet has made many of these journalists’ jobs superfluous. But the internet has also given talented journalists lots of capabilities to thrive (e.g. crowdfunding, online subscriptions, etc.) if the prove their merit in getting scoops and original reporting.
If Scheer ends up becoming prime minister and keeps the bailout he will be propping up an army of left-wing journalists that will continue to push this country further leftward. As Blacklock’s Reporter revealed, the $595 million is not a fixed amount — the sum will likely only grow with dependence.
An industry heavily subsidized by the government will not have many journalists critical of increasingly bloated bureaucracies and indebted governments in it. One need look no further than publications already subsidized by the government like The Walrus and Maclean’s to see this is true.
Scheer needs to realize that anything short of opposing the media bailout is an utter betrayal of fundamental conservative principles as well as the future of the Conservative movement in Canada.