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JONESIE: Why you should listen to journalists' complaints about Harper

September 20, 2015 - 9:25 AM


I’ve developed a new hobby of trolling partisan voters — voters who have already drank the Kool-Aid and support one party over another or others. It’s easy prey because declared partisans have committed themselves to a path of poor logic.

Take the economy in general. Ask Conservatives if Prime Minister Stephen Harper could have done more to stave off this current recession, they’ll say of course not, it’s market forces. Liberals would say of course he’s at fault. But when the Liberals were in power, they’d say a Prime Minister can’t control market forces and Conservatives would say the Liberal Prime Minister is at fault.

Fun, huh?

So that’s likely how you are going to view the rest of this column, through the filter of your party of choice. And if you happen to support the Conservatives, I’ll simply ask that you follow me here and not write me off as another “lying piece of shit” from the Media Party. Because we’ve got something to talk about.

We know all about how the Cons perceive the media, how Prime Minister Stephen Harper carefully chooses what questions he will answer from reporters and refuses to answer the rest and locks down his campaign rallies to vetted Conservative supporters and shields those supporters from reporters as well. And it's all secured and enforced by the RCMP. 

What the press often misses in its hand-wringing complaints about access to the leader of a governing party is why you should give a damn and listen to them.

Yes, even you, Conservative voter.

Despite how you view the ‘mainstream’ media or how you consume it, they are the only ones in politics trying to sort through the endless spin and deliver good information.

I know you don’t like what journalists produce sometimes, especially if it’s about your candidate and especially if your candidate is in power and has an actual record of governing mistakes. But given the choice between the complaints or promises of a politician seeking power and a journalist without allegiance, I’ll take the journalist and so should you.

Governing leaders never like the media, but Harper’s response is just bad for everyone.

His goal is to win another election campaign allowing no information but the slick sophisticated marketing and advertising by his party. The same strategy that sells Doritos or Mountain Dew, only those products at least come with nutrition labels. Hey! You’ll LOVE it! Trust us! It’s Good for you. Repeat, repeat, repeat as often as your massive budget will allow. And like Doritos and Dew, we don't know what we really got until the morning after.

I had 26 guests this summer and every time we talked politics, it was clear how much chips and pop they’d consumed. Who are you voting for? Oh, Tom Mulcair is a career politician who will destroy the economy. Oh, I would vote for Justin but he’s Just Not Ready.

Nobody particularly likes Harper, but that’s not his goal either. He just needs to be perceived better than the image he presents of the other guys.

At the same time, Harper goes to extraordinary lengths to lock down information about his government. He has sent a chill through even some of the most innocuous scientists doing research and bureaucrats that should be sharing knowledge no longer do so freely. Journalists looking for information simply get none. The office is closed. No nutritional label for you but you can see the commercial again….

It leaves voters with nothing but the image the Conservatives want them to believe. It's like buying a house without a home inspection.

It’s smart and it’s effective for the seller. It’s also cynical and may just get Harper elected again which is presumably all a Conservative Party of Canada supporter wants. And I understand that too, because the nature of party politics is you come for the ideology and leave with the Mystery Bag of power, policy, practice and reaction whether you want it or not.

But are you comfortable with the precedent being set? With a government of Canada that is branded, boxed, wrapped, shipped and sold? Because no matter who gets into power on October 19, that Prime Minister will be emboldened to carry on as Harper has. Just as Harper took lessons on control from the Chretien-Martin Liberals before him and so on and so on.

And if it’s not Stephen Harper in the big chair, perhaps Conservative supporters will then understand why journalists complain. Once again, you will demand accountability from a government that will offer little. You will change your tune.

And all you Anybody But Harper people better figure that out too because this danger isn’t specific to any party. But I bet you, too, will change your view on how your guy does it in the big chair.

Even as party supporters — none of us should accept this.

— Marshall Jones is the editor of

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