In Friday’s Sun: on Trudeau, Levant and a reporter

[Posted here early, frankly, because the band is getting together.]

Forget about Justin Trudeau and Ezra Levant. Difficult, we know, but try.

Reflect, instead, on David Akin.

David Akin is a journalist, a real one. Unlike Ezra (or Yours Truly), David is not a purveyor of infotainment. He is a real reporter, one who chases facts, and I would not be surprised if he has actual ink running through his veins.

David has worked as a journalist at the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Globe and Mail, Canwest and CTV News. At CTV, he won a Gemini Award for his work. At the Globe, he was a National Newspaper Award finalist.

David presently works at the Sun News Network, where he covers elections on his Battleground show. I can tell you, without qualification, that he is one of the most respected journalists on Parliament Hill.

And Justin Trudeau won’t talk to him.

Not because Ezra Levant called Trudeau’s parents names on his TV show last week. After Ezra did that, Trudeau announced that he would not be talking to anyone associated with the Sun News Network.

No, Justin Trudeau hadn’t been talking to David Akin for long, long before that. Simply because he was associated with Sun.

I know this because, last Christmas, Sun execs asked me to interview Trudeau on-air. I’d been a Special Assistant to Jean Chretien, I’d run as a Liberal, and I wasn’t Ezra Levant. So I called up Trudeau’s most senior advisor, who I’ve known for years.

The senior advisor laughed. Not a chance, he said. Why, I asked. “Because,” he said, “Ezra Levant put my name on a list of the most dangerous people in Canada.”

I tried to point out that being called “dangerous” by Ezra Levant is the highest compliment a Liberal could receive. I argued that I’d run all the questions by them in advance. To no avail.

No interview, I was told. No access to a (possible) future Prime Minister by the (actual) largest newspaper chain in Canada.

I told David Akin about all this. He shrugged. “Don’t feel bad,” he said. “Trudeau won’t ever talk to me, either.”

Real journalists are never afraid to correct the record. So, let’s do so: Justin Trudeau refusing to talk to anyone associated with Sun News – a diktat that will soon be embraced by every Liberal seeking to curry favour with him, just watch – isn’t news. He’s been refusing to do so for a long time.

Which brings us to this week, when Justin Trudeau formalized his Sun ban.

“We have raised this issue with the appropriate people at Quebecor Inc., the owners and operators of Sun News Network, and have asked that they consider an appropriate response. Until the company resolves the matter, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, will continue to not engage with Sun Media,’’ said a Liberal Party spokesperson.

Lots of journalists thereafter jumped into the fray. Their commentary can be summarized thusly: one, Ezra Levant is a “clown” (as one Globe writer put it). Two, even if Ezra is a clown, Justin Trudeau is wrong to stop talking to real journalists like David Akin.

Me? Well, I do infotainment, like Ezra does. But I think that Trudeau had no reason, none, to ignore Sun folks before now. It made him look petulant and thin-skinned.

Now, however, he has all the excuse he needs to ignore us. (Oh, and if someone called my Mom that name? I’d beat them until they had to eat dinner through a straw.)

This one looks bad on everyone: Trudeau, for never speaking to a great reporter like David Akin; and Levant, for making it harder for a guy like David Akin to do his job.

Because – and this isn’t infotainment, folks, it’s fact – if reporters like David Akin can’t do their job, democracy itself suffers.

For Throwback Thursday: TTC

Cathy Allman is going laugh at this one.

Circa 1983 or so: The Trial Continues at Carleton University’s Roosters. Chris Benner on skins, Mel Kennedy on keys, and some pale and skinny goof on strings.

That’s Harold Hoefle up front, believe it or not. And yes, you could smoke pretty much everywhere in those days.



#topoli question

When you have:

• an experienced, respected campaign manager
• an amazing, professional campaign staff
• terrific fundraising success
• great online presence
• a huge army of enthusiastic volunteers
• popular and tested key messages
• costed, do-able policies
• and the best war room around (excluding its volunteer manager, that is)

…and you’re losing.

Whose fault is that?

In Tuesday’s Sun: warm, with a chance of scattered extinction

Media expert on climate change, I am not.

You want columnist climate connoisseur? Go read Lorrie Goldstein or Ezra Levant.

“Humanity’s burning of fossil fuels is having a warming effect on the climate,” Goldstein has written. “But that it’s not as dramatic as we were initially led to believe.”

Levant is slightly less nuanced. Climate change is a “hoax,” he says, and global warming “isn’t happening.”

There are others like Lorrie and Ezra, mostly on the conservative side of the ideological spectrum. There are columnists, think tanks and academics. To them, too, climate change isn’t happening.

On the other side are progressive columnists, think tanks and academics. They do battle with the conservative side on newspaper op-ed pages and on talk radio and at conferences.

As with the abortion debate, or the Middle East, or gun control, or any number of other subjects, these implacable climate change foes debate incessantly. They agree on little, if anything. It goes on and on.

The public, for their part, tend to tune out the quarrelling. To them, it is noise. It is what American thinker David Shenk called (ironically, in this case) “data smog.”

In the modern era, Shenk posits, Joe and Jane Frontporch receive too much conflicting information, too often. They lack the time or the expertise to sift through all of the competing theories and factoids about, say, climate change. So they just give up.

For someone wishing to preserve the status quo, “data smog” is their friend. It is a tried and true method to win. In a political context, it is like vote suppression: if you conclude you can’t change Joe and Jane’s mind about something, persuade them to give up.

That strategy has certainly worked on lots of people: there is so much flatly contradictory information out there about climate change, that many folks just don’t bother to talk about it.

Now, I grew up in Calgary, and I worked in the oil patch. I don’t regard the energy industry as Satanic. I thought the NEP was an unmitigated disaster, and I think Keystone XL is a lot better than shipping oil by rail cars (because they go through places like Lac Megantic) or by boats (because boats sink).

But, that said, I wonder. I look at the pages of the New York Times, as I did yesterday, and I wonder if we might be making a big mistake.

“The nations of the world have agreed to try to limit the warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which would require that emissions slow down and then largely stop in the next 30 years or so,” wrote the Times writer Justin Gillis, who has won a fistful of awards for his work, and who has gone to MIT and Harvard.

“If they continue on their present course through the century, scientists say, the Earth could warm by as much as ten degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial level, which would likely be incompatible with human civilization in its current form.”

Now, I’m guessing the next step will be for the conservative columnists, think tanks and academics to do their utmost to discredit Justin Gillis. Overwhelmed by the resulting data smog, Joe and Jane Frontporch will then shrug, and give up.

But that last bit – “incompatible with human civilization in its current form” – kind of makes you sit up and think, doesn’t it? It did me.

I’m no expert. And I’m no anti-Keystone extremist. But, some days, I still have that line from the Clash’s ‘London Calling’ running through my head:

“You know what they said? Well, some of it was true.”

Race and transit

Interesting. Hopefully nobody says any of this, you know, out loud anywhere in Toronto.

“In short, the community got the burdens, but not the benefits, of all that investment. This was true not only of the freeways, but also of BART. In 1977, the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the regional transportation agency which oversees BART, conducted a study to determine if people of color were benefiting from the region’s new rail service. That report found that low income minorities used the system little, even though BART traversed many minority communities, because of the very way it was designed: to carry long distance suburban commuters (who are predominantly white) to jobs in downtown San Francisco and Oakland, not to meet the local travel needs of the residents of those minority communities.

The BART experience exemplifies a common legacy of the urban renewal era, and one that is still operating in many cities today: costly rail systems designed primarily for service from the outlying areas of a metropolitan area are promoted and expanded, despite the fact that they are likely to provide few travel advantages for low-income communities of color, and often come at the expense of the local bus service on which they rely.”

Last sentence in this essay, too.