Canada’s National Post, Journalism, Quebec And Division

Another day another misleading headline at Canada’s National Post newspaper.

The headline “Pauline Marois’ assaults on democratic values” should have read “Why is nobody picking on Quebec like they did Alberta?”

Or perhaps more aptly, “Jonathan Kay’s assaults on impartial journalism”

Where to begin…

In the actual article, Kay rightly highlights many of the absurd comments, xenophobic policy ideas and religious bigotry making its way out of PQ headquarters during this election cycle.  Canadians have every right to be outraged by such extremist views, just as they were by the Todd Akin’s of Tea Party North – Alberta’s Wildrose Party.

But, what is the actual source of Mr. Kay’s outrage?

“Given the close scrutiny that surrounded the recent Alberta election, it is somewhat surprising that more attention is not being paid to the genuinely alarming things coming out of the mouth of Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois.

During the Alberta campaign, every gaffe committed by a member of the right-wing Wildrose Party became a national news item. The Toronto media, in particular, lapped it up — because it played to our outdated stereotype of Alberta as a land of rural hicks.

So why has there been comparatively little uproar over Ms. Marois?”

Yes, you read that correctly.

A high profile columnist at one of Canada’s two national newspapers, this one being the flagship outlet for an entire news organization, has just complained that not enough Canadians are up in arms, and those media elites in Toronto aren’t piling on. He is saying that Quebec is being treated differently than Alberta somehow. (In a schoolyard this would be expressed as “Canada likes Quebec more than Alberta! Na Na Na Na Na Na…”)

Sadly, this is what has become of the National Post.

I am trying to refrain from piling on Mr. Kay and his employers after my own series of rather scathing articles about this organization. (Read them here and here)

So, let me start by pointing out the obvious.

The Alberta provincial election in question was held in April. In case Mr. Kay has not noticed, it is a beautiful summer in North America.  Perhaps those Toronto media elites he opines about are up in Muskoka, marveling at Tony Clement’s wonderful new sidewalks and gazebos.

But that’s assuming he is correct about the lack of coverage.  And he most definitely is not correct.

A very quick look at the other national newspaper, The Globe And Mail, shows no fewer than 28 articles covering the Quebec election in the past week.

The Toronto Star (used here because he mentions Toronto) shows no fewer than 20 similar stories in the past week.

That’s a total of 48 stories, minimum, in just TWO newspapers, in ONE WEEK!  

Forty-eight stories in two newspapers about a provincial election in the middle of the summer.  The majority of those stories highly critical of the exact same issues Mr. Kay mentions.

So why is Jonathan Kay misleading his readers?  Why would Kay and the National Post be stirring this pot right now, when clearly the facts do not support their claim?

Could it be careful pandering to their base of conservatives? That base being centered squarely in Alberta?  Yes.

Could it be Mr. Kay trying to regain his conservative “credibility” after some of his more recent posts as I noted above?  Perhaps.

Coud it be a petty shot by Mr. Kay at his fellow media elite in Toronto? Of course.

Is there an editorial agenda at work? Absolutely.

Anything else?  I sure hope not… But there may be one more thing at play.

If you read my article “Quebec, Stephen Harper And The Decentralization Of Canada” then you already know that the current Prime Minster, Stephen Harper is a well known proponent of a weaker federal government. As I outlined, a PQ win and inevitable future sovereignty debate would help him realize these goals, likely with the full support of the rest of the provinces.

We also know that the National Post is pro-Conservative Party, pro-Harper, as Kay himself has admitted. They have consistently helped stoke the fire of national division with stories just like this that pit region against region and often, Canadian against Canadian. And that is exactly what Kay is doing now. All to bolster the right wing agenda.

And there’s the connection.

By goading the rest of Canada’s news organizations to pile on in their criticism of the PQ, you may just help the PQ within Quebec. Why?

Because by giving the impression that the rest of Canada is critical of Quebec, by suggesting that the rest of Canada is telling Quebecers for whom they should not vote, it has been the traditional response of Quebec’s voters to flock to a nationalist party.

And if the PQ wins, so does Mr. Harper, his dreams of decentralization and in turn, currently wealthy provinces like Alberta.

There are, unfortunately, many Canadians who read the National Post and take what is written there as news and as fact.  Canadians who look to this organization for insight, assessment and yes, honest opinion.

And because that is sorely lacking within that organization now, let’s hope very few of them live in Quebec.