Posts Tagged NDP
(CUPE Says Money Should Go To Its Members Rather Than Autistic Kids)
CUPE who is the union representing educational assistants (EA) in the province of Ontario released a press release this week in which it has lambasted the provincial government for piloting a project which will allow autistic kids to receive privately purchased therapy to be administered in public schools. CUPE says by doing this would open the door to privately funded education, and that its current members are not qualified to handle special needs students despite millions that have been negotiated in front line workers with the province over recent years.
As part of its revamp of Autism services in Ontario the provincial government is expected in the next few months to allow families a choice to purchase Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for kids with autism privately or go through publicly funded Centre’s. This move by the province to offer a private option paid for by the province is expected to reduce wait times for this needed therapy.
The move by the province to pilot a project to allow privately purchased workers to administer this therapy in school would be a necessity to the success of students receiving that therapy at the choice of the families, and lighten the load on parents who often have had to drive autistic kids to and from these appointments, often in separate cities in which the these children are being educated in and miss days at work. CUPE on the other hand thinks that the province should shell out that money to retrain EA’s across the province, rather than give parents a choice or say in their child’s therapy:
“We represent 13,000 Educational Assistants who work hard, with other Board employees and parents, to develop and deliver individualized educational programs to assist students with multiple challenges, including those with autism,” said Terri Preston, Chair of the CUPE Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee. “They are deeply concerned by any initiative that opens the door to the privatization of those critical services in our schools.”
Parents of children with special needs, including children with autism, have every right to expect they can walk into their local school and receive the services their children need, fully funded and publicly provided,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “They shouldn’t have to worry about securing outside funding, finding a private provider or paying out of their own pockets, to ensure their children succeed at school. That is the responsibility of the government and instead of just abdicating their role to private operators, they should be properly funding and providing all the necessary services students with special needs require.”
The ABA therapy these kids will be receiving will most likely be publicly funded as part of the new Ontario Autism Program. Terri Preston, Chair of the CUPE Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee essentially stated in this bizarre press release from CUPE that the union negotiated $52 million from the province for front line workers recently, who by admission of this press release are not qualified enough to be working with special needs kids in our public schools, and the government must pay for unqualified staff to get degrees in behavior analysis (which is a two year full time university course at Brock University):
“As education workers, we know students with special needs need more front-line staff support,” said Preston. “It’s why, in contract extension talks with the government, we negotiated $52 million over two years to increase front-line staff working with students with special needs. Even with those hard-won investments, more support is needed for students with a variety of complex needs and that’s why the government needs to finally conduct a long-overdue funding formula review.”
The press release gets a hell of a lot weirder as you read on. In its closing remarks after blasting the government for allowing parents a choice and complaining that its membership is under-qualified to support kids with special needs ended the press release with this statement:
“Many of us already have ABA training or incorporate ABA principles into our work with students,” said Laura Walton, an Educational Assistant who is also Vice-Chair of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee. “Educational Assistants are constantly upgrading their skills and knowledge, often at their own expense, so any funded training opportunities are always welcome. We have been asking the government to ensure Educational Assistants, and all board employees who work to address the complex needs of our students, have access to an array of professional development opportunities, including ABA training.”
Wouldn’t working with privately funded ABA therapists which I would think would be the goal of the government here, be more beneficial to both their own members and the students they serve? Wouldn’t that give EA’s workplace experience in ABA working alongside these therapists? Where’s the outrage from CUPE that university or college programs educating future EA’s are not required under law to ensure an extensive ABA training? After a $52 million investment from the province in front line EA workers to support special needs, why is the province agreeing with CUPE to hire unqualified staff in a $52 million negotiation in the first place? In our view it should not be the position of the province or tax payer to front the bill for unqualified staff. Simply hiring qualified staff would be a better more economical option, or better yet CUPE can pick up that tab.
The problem that exists right now in the education system is one where there is money in the system, but it’s not getting to the students that need it. There’s no accountability in the education system right now. From this press release, it sounds that CUPE wants to be showered again with government coffers, while the rights of special needs kids in the system are yet again pitted against the needs of education sector unions. For its part, in its press release CUPE blames successive Liberal and PC governments for the lack of supports in our school system, yet falls short on criticizing the NDP who have yet to come out with a platform recognizing the lack of accountability the public education system is currently facing right now – the lives that have already been lost across the province to due education sector unions ignoring student mental health issues – the full time battles parents of kids of all levels have had to deal with as a result of these unions – yet we continue to shove money down the throats of this unaccountable system in hopes it gets better. $52 million CUPE negotiated went towards unqualified staff. When will the rights of all students in Ontario be put before union demands, and when will we have an accountable public education system?
A new poll conducted by Ipsos found that 76% of Ontarians want a new party in the Ontario Legislature in 2018. The Ontario Liberals have long ignored calls from people across the province and from members of their own party that current leader and premier Kathleen Wynne needs to be ousted and people want change. Are the Liberals now poised to recreate the mistakes of the Democrats south of the border with Hillary Clinton in ignoring calls for a change election?
Last week TVO’s Agenda aired a one on one interview with Wynne. Steve Paikin didn’t mince words, and put Wynne on the hot seat from everything from Hydro, to Green Energy, to her unpopularity across the province, and calls for her to step down. Wynne’s responses seemed rather tone deaf to a lot of the concerns of most people in Ontario, and she didn’t seem rather confident in her prospects post 2018.
Wynne over the past few months has been focusing the party more towards the left. She has been trying to move people over from the NDP over to the Liberals in policies such as free tuition, and a $15/hour minimum wage hike, however that may be of more benefit to the NDP come election time as Wynne’s personal popularity has plumbed and people are looking for change.
Ipsos currently puts the PC’s upfront at 39%, Liberals at 32%, and the NDP at 22%. The PC’s out of all the major parties have risen quite a bit of money for 2018. The big problem is with its leadership. No one truly knows what Patrick Brown stands for on policy other than opposing Wynne on everything she does. He often takes up popular movements, only after the popular movement has died down. He’s not a family man, and no kids. The party has also been plagued with infighting in nomination races, with accusations of corruption and ballot stuffing. We’ve been following Brown on a number of policy fronts over the past year, and we think that the more people get to know him, the more people will discover that Brown’s PCs will be too much of a risk to take since by all accounts the party and the leadership looks unstable under his rein.
The biggest beneficiary to a change election could be the Ontario NDP. The only people that have their arms up over Wynne’s leftist moves in policy are the traditional PC hardcore base. Liberal and NDP voters are likely to vote NDP next election due to this being a change election. It would be a very hard sell to see Liberal voters voting for Brown in next election. The move to the left by Wynne in policy will likely gravitate Liberal voters who are upset with Wynne over to the NDP.
Another big factor is an aging demographic, and health care. Boomers who have been supporters of the PC’s in the past do remember the Harris cuts to health care. With the PC’s vaguely calling for a value for money audit on all government ministries, this screams of cuts to services. Who determines the value for each ministry, and how will that be decided is quite a mystery at present. Millennials are now the main demographic in Ontario and are more than likely to vote on the left. A low voter turn out usually benefits conservatives, which is unlikely in a change election.
Traditionally when Liberals are in power federally, Ontario goes PC. The problem is that tradition in politics globally and also across the country is no longer exists. Free tuition, and drug plans are to be a big hit with the Millennials in which both the NDP and Liberals have adopted in policy. With Ipsos polling NDP Leader Andrea Horwath as the most supported for premier in 2018 at 42%, one can probably expect Ontario will be Orange in June of 2018.
(Businesses Across Ontario Are Being Too Penny Wise With The Proposed Wage Increase)
Scary clowns are a big hit these days at the box office, and while the people of Ontario get acquainted with a clown called Pennywise from the latest version of Stephen Kings IT, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario [FAO] is warning tax payers and job seekers of another scary metamorph; a proposed minimum wage hike of $15/hour. This increase is set to be fully implemented by 2019 and came under fire yesterday in a report from the FAO. The FAO stated that it will cost the Ontario economy 50,000 jobs if it goes ahead with this wage hike.
It’s not a surprise that businesses – whom over the past several years have enjoyed a tremendous amount of federal tax breaks – are lining up to oppose this policy and demonizing it as being economically unsound. Ontario Progressive Conservatives leader Patrick Brown had something to say about it as well, however he brushed off the wage increase a distraction in a bizarre rant on twitter, and Brown isn’t clear on his stance on the policy at all and what he would do differently if he became Premier:
— Patrick Brown (@brownbarrie) September 12, 2017
Brown seems very comfortable in the opposition benches. Offside of the very off tone Ontario PC response, there seems to be a lot of red balloons around the economic storm drains on this policy and it isn’t even Halloween yet.
Since the market crash of 2008, we’ve been shifting from traditional conservative economic ideology (which failed miserably) towards one of managing the economy on several different levels in a bi-partisan way. Corporate tax cuts have not produced substantial jobs in Canada, in fact the opposite has happened. A study by the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives in 2011 found the biggest employers were sitting on the money they saved from these cuts:
“From 2005 to 2010, the number of employed Canadians rose 6% while the number of jobs created by the companies in the study grew by only 5%. In essence, the largest beneficiaries of corporate tax cuts are dragging down Canadian employment growth.”
In 2013, federal conservatives were warned by then Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney that Canadian companies were sitting on vast sums of cash they have saved through tax cuts, and bail outs rather than creating jobs to bolster the economy. As I remember it Carney stated this several times throughout his time at the Bank of Canada. While company CEO bonuses grew, so did the economic divide in Canada and in Ontario as well as a result of businesses not investing what they should in the local, regional, and federal economies. The economy has changed post 2008 not just in Canada but globally, and managing this economy has changed as well.
If the cost of living is high throughout the country and the province, than a minimum wage increase to ensure people have the means to survive should be something we all should be embracing patriotically. Businesses will adjust. Yes there may be some job losses (in my opinion way less the FAO has reported will happen) in the short term by companies who are not willing to spend profit margins on their employees, however just as those jobs are lost, they will be offset by more spending power by the general worker. As the minimum wage increases, so should increases to everyone’s wage as the economy grows as a result of more spending power. At least that would be the working economic theory on this policy. The wage increase is cycled through the economy. Employees who make more, become more productive and contribute more to the economy on whole. With many people in Ontario living paycheque to paycheque, and the fact that over the past several years businesses have sat on cash from tax cuts, they can suck it up and do their part.
The Ontario NDP has been calling for this wage hike for some time. This ideology was also adapted by conservatives who bailed out auto sectors, and bailed out the economy through “stimulus” after the disastrous effects of traditional conservative ideology of deregulation and corporate tax cuts took hold in 2008. Change is difficult, but necessary post 2008 economics. Greed is no longer good economics, nor is it socially acceptable post 2008.
(Arab League Flag)
Like many Canadians I had a very heart felt response to the picture of the three year old who laid face down dead after trying to cross the Mediterranean for the EU escaping the Syrian civil war. What I found more disturbing was Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s cold response to the story on CBC, and subsequent inaction of the Conservative government for days on the issue.
The cold response coming from the Conservatives is something that also is very prevalent in some of the richest Arab nations in the world. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates’, Qatar, and Egypt have all received absolutely zero of the Syrian refugees. The only Arab nation to accept these refugees is Syria’s neighbor Lebanon.
Opposition parties here in Canada have been quick to blame the Conservative government for their cold response (and rightfully so), however no one from the Liberals, NDP or Greens are speaking about the inaction of the Arab nations we call allies on this crisis. There needs to be immense diplomatic pressure on the Arab nations to do their part if Canada gets involved in accepting refugees.
Why are the Arab nations not accepting refugees? Short answer is that they think it’s a problem with Western influence in the region, and we caused it. ISIS was born out of the US lead Iraq war and subsequent election of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who was a Shia Muslim. Shias were oppressed by Saddam Hussein. Once al-Maliki came into power, he started to target Hussein’s supporters. Rather than including them in the democratic process, many were thrown in jail and even executed out of vengeance. Historically what happens when a political group is excluded from the democratic process and oppressed? Often times it’s a revolution and/or civil war.
The Arab spring is a prime example of the 20 somethings in the Arab world rising against oppressive power. The Arab spring started in Yemen, spread to Egypt and then to Syria. ISIS and many terror related groups took the opportunity the Arab spring provided to recruit to their extreme ideologies, and has now become a threat to our Arab allies.
Every time we seem to get involved in Middle-Eastern politics, we seem to make a mess of it in large part because the politics in the Middle-East works much differently than here in Canada or the US. It’s based on different interpretations of religion. We should be playing a more supportive role in the region with our Arab allies in regards to these refugees than accepting large amounts of them here in Canada.
Almost all security experts that have been interviewed by media agree that security concerns regarding these refugee’s is a minimal concern, due to screening processes that are in place. Why can’t we work with other Arab nations on the security screening issues for these refugees so that they can be accepted by Arab nations?
Offloading tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of refugees in Canada may be the desired emotional response to the crisis, however where are all these families going to live? Social housing in Canada is falling apart. Federal funding for social housing has been completely cut off by the Conservatives. It’ll take years to repair, let alone create the amount of spaces needed to house these individuals. Jobs? Many coming over here from Syria I would suspect would be in the youth range and young families. Right now we have a youth unemployment crisis in Canada, which again will take years to solve. Then there’s also the culture shock especially for children who would be attending our public school system. We’re going to need social programs here to integrate these refugee’s into our society.
I’m in no way suggesting that Canada shouldn’t do anything, just that we stop and think past the emotional response we all have. We’re in an election right now, and serious questions need to be posed to our leaders regarding the logistics of all of this, when our Arab allies in the region are refusing to help, and turning their backs on their own people. Western nations shouldn’t be shouldering this responsibility alone. Why are we, and is accepting tens of thousands of refugees helpful to the spread of democracy in the Middle East?
As the debates over the debates has raged on over the past several months, one thing is becoming increasingly clear. Journalists in Canada seem to be throwing out their duty of independence and holding our political parties to account for political favors; thus Canadians can’t rely on the media to do their traditional role of independently reporting on the election and providing the public with proper facts on policy to make an informed choice at the voter booth. Due to this, our democratic system looks more like a 3rd world two bit operation than a thriving democracy which depends on a free independent press as a major pillar to the democratic system of government.
I’ve reported extensively on this blog about how the consortium colluded together against the Conservatives, and how that collusion is highly illegal and has yet to be dealt with in law. On the flip side, last week award winning Toronto Star journalist Paul Watson quit his job in protest after being silenced by the Star while trying to report misinformation on the Franklin expeditions and how the expeditions were being purposely influenced by ties to the Prime Ministers Office. Facts during the expedition according to Watson were left out of this feel good story to purposely mislead the public in favor of the PMO’s preferred version of events. According to Watson he was punished by the Star executives in trying to confront his superiors with misinformation on this story with a 6 week reporting ban.
It’s not just the Toronto Star or the broadcast consortium looking for political favors. This week, the Globe and Mail responded to stark criticism of it’s readers not allowing Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in the Munk Debates. The Globe replied to angry readers with this following statement:
The Globe & Mail is hosting a federal election debate in September in partnership with Google Canada. The debate, to be hosted in Calgary, will be streamed live on The Globe’s website and distributed on YouTube, and will focus on the Canadian economy.
We have invited the major party leaders to this debate – those who have official status in The House of Commons. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have been asked to take part, because we believe a more streamlined, effective conversation about the Canadian economy will take place in that format.
David Walmsley, The Globe’s editor-in-chief says, “We’ve set up the debate this way because we believe that by limiting the format to Canada’s three main party leaders, we will create a truly focused, successful discussion about the state of the Canadian economy.”
There are now at least three independently organized leaders’ debates in the works. Politics reporter Steven Chase writes:
“Mr. Harper’s Conservatives kicked off a spat with major broadcasters including the CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV and Global when they announced they would refuse an invitation to participate in debates organized by the broadcasting consortium, instead opting for a variety of independent debates. Kory Teneycke, a spokesman for the Conservative Party campaign, said in a statement that he hopes major broadcasters will cover the independent debates.”
Industry Minister James Moore yesterday announced the federal government will be forwarding $9 million in tax payers money to support the Munk School of Global Affairs.
The “Munks” are disallowing Green Party Elizabeth May to debate in their debates as well. Most Canadians believed that the last time May got her time in the federal elections debate during the 2008 economic crisis, that she won that debate hands down regarding the economy and other election issues. While I’m not a Green Party supporter, I remember those debates very well, and May brought forth an independent non-partisan view towards the facts, including the fact that we were in a recession in 2008, which all parties at that time were denying we were in. Enter 2015, and all indications are pointing to the fact we are in a recession with the Conservatives dodging the bad economy at every step. Readers can draw their own conclusions.
The story that’s emerging here is one where media executives who are in charge of overseeing our election debates seem to be acting without independence. Watson in a recent interview had this to say regarding political interference over our “independent” media:
This is a symptom of a broader disease that is eating away at the core of our democracy. Experts on climate, on medicine, on things that are central to our society are being silenced by a government that does favours for the politically connected. And that is just very dangerous for our future.
Due to the current partisan nature of the politics in this country facts are being left out. Media independence is not a left vs right or right vs left issue, it’s both. The broadcast consortium back in October threw journalism ethics out the window with solid evidence that the CBC was colluding with the other broadcasters against government regarding political advertising which is a highly illegal offense under the competition act.
At heart was the attack ad scandal, and the broadcasters threatened to not air political advertising using broadcast consortium materials. The broadcasters claimed journalism ethics and independence was being threatened by misleading advertisements. Today the CBC is still threatening to illegally take down any content that anyone uses without their permission. The law allows the use for such material under certain circumstances. This is called the “fair use” copyright exemption. In some of my comments on my recent blog posts, I compared internationally accepted journalism ethics to that of the broadcasters used to justify not airing or interfering with political advertisements:
JUNE 9TH, 2015 UPDATE: SENATE JUST PASSED ANTI-TERROR BILL. MORE HERE
Green party leader Elizabeth May is calling on the Senate to delay the final vote on C51, stating:
“Tomorrow, Canadians will learn the details of the Auditor General’s report on Senate expenses. We will find that 30 Senators have filed inappropriate expense claims and nine have had their files referred to the RCMP. On the very same day, the Senate is also scheduled to vote on C-51 at third reading. The seconder of the bill in the Senate is under investigation by the RCMP and has resigned from the Conservative caucus. The eyes of Canadians will be on the Senate tomorrow. If, on the same day that we learn the details of the Senate’s culture of misusing public funds, the Senate votes for a bill as massive and controversial as C-51, the harm to the Senate’s reputation could be irreparable.”
On political talk shows, both the NDP and Conservatives have been in sync regarding their messaging on the Senate. Those lines consist of the Senate has to be dealt with in large part because it’s “an unelected body that keeps vetoing the will of parliament”. It’s possible that if the Senate votes down C51 tomorrow, that the Conservatives will start making noise about the Senate vetoing a national security bill in favor of the popular approach to scraping the bill, and that parliament (as a result of this important legislation not going through) is not currently operating on full cylinders. Steven Harper therefore could prorogue Parliament within a few days.
It could very well be that the Conservative caucus has given a directive to the Conservative senators to vote down the anti-terror bill. Politically this would try and take the wind out of the sails of the surging NDP. A summer election would be possible if the Conservatives are playing politics, banking low voter turn out to stop an NDP surge. This would go against Harper’s law on early election calls, but with the Conservatives trailing in the polls, anything is possible. This could all explain why the NDP and Conservative messaging has changed over the past weekend on the Senate, and May’s unwillingness to see the Senate vote on the anti-terror bill. The NDP seem ready and willing to bring an election on.
Regardless of all the politics of this, whatever the Senate decides to do at this point, will be extremely self-serving. The Senate has already been irreparably damaged by passing bills with known constitutional flaws, and rather than being the House of Common’s sober second thought, they have continually demonstrated contempt for their jobs by voting along party lines, and abusing the public purse. They should be fixing flaws in these bills, and respecting tax payers money. A delay on the new anti-terror bill, would only delay the election, not the public perception of the chamber. A delay would only serve to solidify the public’s perception of it.
Canadians don’t care about the politics of the new anti-terror bill. They want it stopped! If that means an early election as a result of the senate voting it down, than so be it. I’m ready to vote on the best party that protects my civil rights. Are you?
Don’t be fooled by political discourse. The debates over the media consortium debates should be of utmost concern to Canadians of all political stripes, since the end game (if it plays out as expected) has the potential to shape how broadcast media covers political news, and what we as Canadians can use that content for. All political parties are playing politics (to no one’s surprise) over the consortium debates. So let’s cut through the spin, and get to the meat of what this is really about.
The Conservative’s decision to pull Prime Minister Harper from the consortium debates has created a lot of buzz and talk from us political junkies. The move has been widely criticized as undemocratic by the consortium, Liberals and Greens.
The NDP have been very careful around their messaging towards the debates on the debates opting to use words about debating Harper specifically (which seem to indicate the NDP is passing the ball to the Conservative court regarding the debates) and the more debates the better (making sure they don’t end up looking undemocratic). The NDP seem to be sitting on the fence with the consortium debates (for very good reason) and haven’t 100% committed to them yet. They have only agreed in principle to participate, not that they will show up for these debates. This seems like more of a stalling tactic to me.
Meanwhile the Liberals and Greens have gone full court press on how anti-democratic Harper’s move to pull out of the debates was. The consortium itself seems to be shielding the Liberals intentionally from the backlash Trudeau has received on social media from supporting Bill C51 by refusing outright to report on it even when current polls are strongly suggesting the Conservatives and Liberals have lost seats to an NDP surge as a result of the NDP position on the new anti-terror bill.
In order to really get some context around the politics of the debates around the debates, and how serious this has actually become, we need to re-visit when and how this all started. In October last year Global, CTV, and CBC the members of the media consortium took exception to the Conservatives planned use of news footage in attack ads. The consortium took advantage of political discourse around attack ads, and has since taken advantage of the Conservatives politically crying wolf quite a bit on media bias against the party to try to get away with breaking the law on a number of fronts. I’m not at all defending the use of attack ads. I hate them as well, however we need to shift away from attack ads and look very seriously on how this has played out in respects to the law, to fully understand how serious this situation has become for consortium members.
CBC internal e-mails were obtained through access to information back in October showing all three competitors knew the facts on law regarding the use of news coverage in political ads and went to air on news coverage that was used to intentionally mislead Canadians and drum up more public discourse on attack ads to gain support for the consortium position on copyright law. The three broadcasters were also trying to box all political parties in legally on this issue prior to an election by threatening to not air ads that contained any consortium news coverage (attack ads or not). A court challenge towards the broadcasters position not to air ads with news coverage would have lasted well past the next election. The conservative knew this and moved to try and amend the copyright act and to clarify the law around the use of news material which was a mistake the consortium picked up on. That amendment was later rescinded by the Government as it was later deemed not needed. Current law clearly covers the use of news material for political criticism.
Internal CBC e-mails outlined that the CBC consulted its legal team which referenced to copyright expert Michael Geist in March 2014 and concluded that legally the use of news coverage in political ads was not stealing months prior to CTV, Global, CBC’s leading news coverage that it was stealing (pg. 112 of CBC’s e-mail thread).
To put it bluntly, the consortium members CTV, Global and CBC intentionally mislead Canadians on a point of law, clearly manipulated news casts to that effect all while using discourse on an the unpopular subject of attack ads to make their point to the public.
Geist later strongly criticized the consortium’s policy around not airing political ads with news coverage owned by the consortium:
“Documents obtained by others under the Access to Information Act reveal that the CBC was the instigator behind the April 2014 warning letter to all political parties that the broadcasters wold [sic] not accept political advertisements using their content without express authorization. The email trail reveals that the CBC recognized that it could not reject the advertisements on copyright grounds. Instead, the broadcasters conspired to adopt a policy to reject the ads anyway, an approach that smacks of copyright misuse and a potential Competition Act violation”
Supreme Court Copyright Lawyer Howard Knopf also weighed in on how the consortium was covering the attack ad scandal stating:
“I’ve been involved with copyright law for longer than I care to admit – indeed, more than three decades. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much confusion and just plain WRONG commentary about a copyright issue as I’ve seen in the last week of Coverage of the issue of copyright and negative political ads.”
Knopf also said:
“My friend and colleague Prof. Ariel Katz of the U of T Faculty of Law, with whom I have worked closely on a factum that was quite influential in a landmark Supreme Court of Canada fair dealing case and other issues, is an internationally recognized leading copyright scholar and Canada’s foremost expert in the interplay of IP and competition law. Here’s his blog from October 14, 2014 entitled Attack Ads, Copyright, and Collusion: Have Canada’s Major Broadcasters Violated the Competition Act?
Prof. Katz discusses s. 45 of the Competition Act, which comes under the heading “Conspiracies, agreements or arrangements between competitors” and is perhaps the most feared and potent provision of the legislation. It is used in serious cases. It can put people in jail for up to 14 years and result in a fine of up to $25 million per count, or both, which is a very big time penalty by Canadian standards. Changes made by Parliament to the s. 45 provisions in 2009 that came into effect in 2010 may now make it easier in some circumstances to obtain a conviction. The new section provides for “per se” offences, which do not require proof that competition was lessened “unduly” and there is no need to prove any adverse market effects. There is no need to prove that the conspiracy in question was actually carried out – only that it was entered into. There’s also a less harsh new “civil” enforcement provision to be found in s. 90.1 that involves the Competition Tribunal, which may or may not be of interest in the current situation. To be crystal clear, nothing I am saying or have said accuses anyone of any offence or violation under this or any other provision of the Competition Act. I am merely pointing out that there are provisions in the Competition Act that may be relevant, depending on the facts, and that folks, including the Commissioner of Competition, may be interested in looking at this situation.”
Knopf, Geist and Katz are all leading heavyweight independent legal experts on copyright law. Katz as listed above is also one of Canada’s leading experts on Canadian competition law.
A few days after the attack ad scandal broke; Rick Mercer took to the airwaves repeating the consortium line that using news coverage for political advertising was stealing, in which CBC’s internal e-mails state their own legal team didn’t even support that claim. A day after Mercer’s rant aired, York University saw it fit to provide Mercer with an honorary law degree which could explain why currently the NDP are taking up issues with hosting any debates at universities. From the Huffington Post:
“The NDP had the same concern as the Conservatives, in that the venues being proposed are universities,” one source said, requesting anonymity. “The NDP’s argument was that universities are not really neutral.”
Fast forward to May 2015. The consortium is very publicly and noticeably trying to shield the Liberals from any backlash on bill C51 by not reporting on the social media backlash. The day after the Liberals supported bill C51 and at the height of the Liberal backlash on twitter, the consortium lead with a Liberal platform announcement. Even after almost a full week of social media protest, and Liberal members posting pictures of them burning their membership cards in protest to the parties support of it, the consortium instead attacked Elizabeth May on her failed attempt at comedy.
If you read in between the lines of the consortium moves, it seems as though they are pretty much daring the conservatives to move forth legally on consortium members. The consortium seems to think that it has the political upper hand here considering the conservatives have cried wolf on media bias several times, and that no one will believe the conservative position.
The consortium seems to also think that they have a much wider reach towards Canadians. Consortium journalists have used that line consistently when questioning the Conservatives after Harper pulled out of the debates. If the C-51 backlash and the current polls shows us anything, it’s that traditional media has very little influence on voter intention. You know what they say about playing with fire.
The Liberals, in their demand letter to the consortium on the debates, want “clarification” on how debate footage can be used from the consortium. That issue was settled in October with Geist, Knopf and Katz weighing in on the subject and with the CBC’s legal team back in March, 2014. So why are the Liberals asking for clarification on ownership of debate coverage?
It seems like the Liberals are asking the consortium if they will continue to push the copyright issue to shield Trudeau from attacks (which could be a stark misuse of copyright law as Geist noted, and have a major impact on online commentary and coverage of the consortium lead debates as a result).
We have yet to know publicly what the real agreement was with the consortium between the Liberals, NDP, Greens, and the Bloc. That agreement needs to be made public by all parties now!
What completely surprises me about all of this is the political position the Greens have taken on the consortium debates. The Greens have been stark and solid supporters of allowing anyone to use copyright protected material to criticize politicians in the past, and are trying to frame an eventual pull out of the consortium debates by the NDP after the legal hammer drops on the consortium as a result of all of this, as a coordinated political attack by the Conservatives and NDP against the Liberals and Greens:
“In my view, there is an attempt to get the Liberals off the opposition map… and the NDP doesn’t want the Greens there,” one person involved with the negotiations said. “Two parties who are diametrically opposed are working together.”
There seems to be a lot of framing of the debate around the debates by all parties. What comes next will be probably one of the biggest stories about media and journalism we have seen in a long time, and has the potential to shape how political news is covered in this country. How this will play out is anyone’s guess, but it really doesn’t look good for the consortium. Those listed in the CBC internal e-mails which include lead CBC correspondent and anchor Peter Mansbridge could very well face the possibility of jail time if the competition bureau decides to investigate and warrants the situation serious enough to lay charges with a $25 million dollar fine for each count of infringement under the competition act.
Bill C51 will have an impact on our civil liberties, however media control over criticism of political leaders is a far worse infraction of our civil liberties. How are we supposed to know what government is doing, if media is shielding these political leaders from that criticism and controlling the conversation. How would we know our rights could be violated by future governments of any political stripe, if we have media intentionally misleading Canadians for political gain.
As someone with education broadcast journalism, a free press is a pillar of democracy. We have laws in place to ensure those pillars remain standing. Laws that need now to be enacted on this media consortium to ensure that after October, Canadians can fully trust the information they are getting from major media companies are accurate and without prejudice. Otherwise the next time, we may never know about another type of bill that could be worse off from bill C51. Once that free press pillar falls, we can not accept ourselves as a democracy. This monster that CTV, Global, and CBC needs to be seriously dealt with.
UPDATE: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s political adviser Gerald Butts has responded to this article, claiming it a “conspiracy theory”. If all of this is a conspiracy theory, than why is Trudeau’s chief political adviser responding to it?
— Gerald Butts (@gmbutts) May 25, 2015