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General

Racism taints Kwikwetlem reporting

Posted August 10, 2014 by Norm Farrell
My initial reaction to reports of compensation paid Kwikwetlem First Nations Chief Ron Giesbrecht was wrong. Until details were gained, I assumed he had abused public funds. That reaction was encouraged by cursory media reports that were shaped by common prejudices, reinforced by what lawyer Joseph Fearon calls an “example of the ‘corrupt chief’ narrative.”

In Fearon’s excellent article, he explains the reality of income tax exemptions, which are tied to other issues and restrictions,

“For the most part, the tax exemptions in the Indian Act are also not a result of (fair or otherwise) bargaining between Canada and First Nations. In fact, the Indian Act is a piece of legislation that was imposed on First Nations people by the Canadian government.”

In late July, federal Conservatives began posting audited financial statements of Canada’s First Nations. Within hours, news organizations were churning out revelations that were short on detail but loaded with indignation. National Post immediately had writers Paula Simons, Sammy Hude and John Ivison on the subject. Every Canadian media organization was involved; a Google search [Kwikwetlem "Ron Giesbrecht" pay] showed 34,000 results.

The Kwikwetlem pay story was especially important news at Postmedia, with additional reports and commentaries by Peter O’Neil, Rob Shaw, Jennifer Hough, Jeremy Deutsch, Tamsyn Burgmann, Mark Milke, Kelly Sinoski, Chad Skelton, Chris Selley, Tristin Hopper, Jordan Bateman, Derek Fildebrand and others. Thousands of reader comments gave emphasis to the outrage, including many rants coloured by racism and ignorance.

I found that strange because while preparing a recent article about Postmedia, I discovered the failing company’s CEO, Paul Godfrey, scored a 50% raise in 2013, bringing his compensation to $1.7 million. He got rewarded lavishly – a term Postmedia used in stories described above – even though his company has suffered losses in every year of its existence, has failed regularly to meet financial objectives promised investors and is sustained only by selling its assets, the supply of which will soon be exhausted. It is the corporate equivalent of an arthritis sufferer amputating limbs to lessen pain.

So, did Paul Godfrey’s $600,000 raise draw attention from a platoon of Postmedia writers? Well, not quite. The only report about the boss’s compensation was an inaccurate one that disclosed nothing of a massive raise and just part of his pay package. The equivalent would have been to report that Ron Giesbrecht earned $84,800 as Chief and Development Officer. In the Financial Post, Christine Dobby wrote,

“Postmedia said Friday it extended Mr. Godfrey’s contract, which includes a base salary of $950,000, until the end of 2016.”

Ron Giesbrecht was rewarded by a percentage of gross profits on development projects that allowed the band to increase its revenues by $10 million or 455% in a single year. The money gained is controlled by the Kwikwetlem Council and is available for whatever purposes the band members decide.

Despite what has been reported by media, the Chief did not, by himself, make a deal for himself. The vast majority of his compensation was not from funds provided by governments for capital projects, education, social or other programs. It came from commercial arrangements, negotiated with outside parties who found the agreements satisfactory for their purposes. Were it not for bigotry, the business press (and the CTF) would be applauding Kwikwetlem FN profitability and movement toward self-sufficiency.

Undoubtedly, many organizations make arrangements to share profits earned by their enterprises. As noted above, some provide rewards even in the absence of profits. Arrangements may be lavish; they may be austere, but in nearly every case not involving indigenous people, those are the affairs of organization managers and stakeholders. If the deal between the Kwikwetlem band members and their Chief was properly authorized and documented, there should be little more to say. According to the audit report prepared by independent professional accountants, there were no problems:

“The Kwikwetlem First Nation maintains systems of internal accounting and administrative controls of high quality, consistent with reasonable cost. Such systems are designed to provide reasonable assurance that the financial information is relevant, reliable and accurate and the Kwikwetlem First Nation’s assets are appropriately accounted for and adequately safeguarded.

“The Kwikwetlem First Nation Council is responsible for ensuring that management fulfills its responsibilities for financial reporting and is ultimately responsible for reviewing and approving the financial statements.

“The Council meets periodically with management, as well as the external auditors, to discuss internal controls over the financial reporting process, auditing matters and financial reporting issues, to satisfy themselves that each party is properly discharging their responsibilities, and to review the financial statements and the external auditors report.”

Plutocrats and their media supplicants may be uncomfortable with shifting away from paternalistic treatment of First Nations and making fair resolutions for the harms caused. However, those are realities of 2014. The constitution and the Supreme Court of Canada dictate changed attitudes and a new style of cooperation.

Guess which person drew media outrage?

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Allan's Perspective

The science publication “Daily Galaxy” is the height of hypocrisy!

Posted May 19, 2014 by Allan W Janssen

Folks, for a web site that publishes the latest scientific news and commentary, THE DAILY GALAXY (http://www.dailygalaxy.com/) is truly hypocritical in the treatment of dissenting opinions and alternative points of view! I think I have been banned from commenting on any articles they publish in their site! AND! It’s not only me kids, I get […]

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Allan's Perspective

We got trouble in River City Folks!

Posted June 12, 2014 by Allan W Janssen

Folks, this is wrong on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin! Why this wasn’t one of the main election issues is totally beyond me, but then again, people just seem naturally reticent about asking for my opinion about stuff………, and that’s why I started this “Blog!” SO! How do I begin? […]

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Allan's Perspective

I’m not at all confused about Saturday morning!

Posted June 14, 2014 by Allan W Janssen

Nope, everything is as “right as rain” if you will pardon the expression. Yesterday was the famous “Friday the 13th” motorcycle rally in Port Dover, Ontario, and as usual, tens of thousand of bikers gathered for the event. Even the rain didn’t seem to deter the hard-core bikers, as the streets of Port Dover filled […]

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Agriculture

Just How Many BC Government Comms Staff Are There?

Posted July 16, 2014 by Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Below are all the job titles of all the comms staff in the BC Government Communications and Public Engagement bodies as of last week. Count with me! :) There are 278 people! 278. That’s more than a few. The records include folks in these two areas: Government Communications: which tends to the day-to-day communications functions, including […]

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General

Hudson Mews v. Portland Hotel Society

Posted July 13, 2014 by Norm Farrell

The Code of Ethics published by the Society for Professional Journalists includes, among others: Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressur…

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Energy

Hey Tom Fletcher, whose energy policy is nonsense?

Posted July 9, 2014 by Norm Farrell
In the article “Unparalleled, indeed,” I quoted from an item written in 2011 by Black Press proselytizer Tom Fletcher. In it, he
“lauded Gordon Campbell’s “long-term strategy to export hydroelectric power” and he called John Horgan the champion of doomsayers. Fletcher wrote of “evidence that current NDP energy policy is nonsense.”

Reader Merv Adey drew Fletcher’s attention to this quote with:

Demonstrating, at the very least, poor arithmetic skills, Fletcher responded:

However, his was not a convincing answer since the International Energy Agency and the financial media had been reporting on a natural gas glut since 2008, three years before Fletcher tapped out his words. Besides, oversupply of electricity in the Pacific Northwest is not explained so simply. Respected energy expert Robert McCullough produced a report last winter that paints a more complete picture. It is a picture that suggests the policy that led to $55 billion worth of BC Hydro commitments for high cost private power was true nonsense in a world where electricity has been available from our neighbours for a fraction of what BC pays independent producers.

“He found there is regularly so much electricity available in the Bonneville Power Administration network that it can’t sell it all.

“In fact, McCullough found, in the past two years, the market has been so oversupplied that Bonneville regularly paid customers to take electricity off its hands.

“There are a few reasons why energy prices have fallen so low. Two consecutive rainy years have put plenty of water behind the dams. Energy companies continue rapid development of wind farms, which have become more competitive in the cost of power…”

I reminded Fletcher of another of his inaccuracies, one from 2012 that demonstrated his lack of competence to report on provincial energy policy. He wrote,

“Natural gas replaced forest products some years ago as B.C.’s top commodity revenue stream, helping to keep the lights on in B.C. schools and hospitals.”

Again demonstrating discomfort with calendars, the response of David Black’s favourite pundit was a non sequitur:

Actually, Tom, it was two years ago you composed that misinformation and you’ve not corrected it since. And, aren’t you one of those writers who likes to claim that BC was in the political and economic dark ages before May 2001? Heck, that was more than ten years ago. By the way, natural gas is not BC’s top commodity revenue stream and here are the gas royalty numbers, drawn from Ministry of Finance documents,

Remember too that oil and gas rights sales had gone softer than a leaking balloon before Fletcher made the claim that gas was keeping the lights on in schools and hospitals. Of course, if Fletcher had his preference, lights would not be needed in public schools, but that’s another story.

I don’t often read Fletcher’s work but I have seen enough to know he is a right-wing ideologue. Apparently, he’s one who doesn’t let fact get in the way of strongly held opinions that he wants to share with readers. I closed the Twitter conversation with this:

Addendum:
In preparing this, I looked at a number of items written by Tom Fletcher. I had forgotten his role in newspaper publisher David Black’s campaign against the Nisga’a Final Agreement, a treaty initialed in 1998 and given legal effect by Parliament in 2000. Black was opposed, strongly opposed, to recognizing aboriginal rights and he ordered his entire newspaper group to give that message to readers. Many people thought that put editors in a position of conflict, perhaps forgetting that Black suggested any editors who were opposed could submit a letter to the editor for consideration.

Fletcher did not have difficulties with an instruction from the boss. In a letter to the Vancouver Sun, he said,

“What other editors and I were forbidden to do was to spend the owner’s money and space to counteract his initiative on the treaty by commissioning contrary viewpoints. I have no trouble accepting that.”

Of course, this presents a karmic situation. Some years ago, Black and his minions hated the very idea of negotiating treaties with First Nations. Today, they are big supporters of building Northern Gateway and other pipelines to transport fossil fuels across the BC wilderness.

What stands in the way? The consent of First Nations who, in the absence of treaties, have Supreme Court affirmed rights to control development in unceded territories.

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General

R.I.P. Paul St. Pierre, 1923-2014

Posted August 3, 2014 by Norm Farrell

In the summer of 1968, I was a naive minion of the Liberal Party, helping manage the coastal part of Paul St. Pierre’s campaign to become MP for Coast Chilcotin.It was a strange riding. Almost 700 words were needed for the official description of its b…

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General

Redefinition of news – Updated

Posted August 7, 2014 by Norm Farrell
It is no secret that Postmedia, owner of daily newspapers from Montreal to Vancouver, accumulates losses at rates it cannot sustain. Raising prices and reducing expenses is not a solution. Despite higher fees, circulation revenues declined 11% in the past three years. More seriously, print advertising dropped 30% in that time frame.

The deadly spiral troubles old media. Lower cost inputs result in lower quality outputs. Content degradation means fewer readers, which means less advertising revenue, which demands further cost cutting. For large media empires, the future is not bright.

In its 2011 Annual Report, Postmedia stated,

“We continued to experience growth in digital revenue, primarily in online advertising, and expect to see continued growth in fiscal 2012. We believe digital revenue represents a future growth opportunity for the Company and we continue to focus on many new initiatives in this area.”

Trouble is, those “forward-looking statements” were wrong. Measured in constant dollars, 2014′s monthly digital revenues are lower than in 2011. The company is not giving up the search for Internet dollars; it is accelerated. However, risks abound for a company that already suffers in credibility ratings.

According to Forbes Magazine, Sponsored content is the holy grail of digital publishing. However, it has consequences:

“People feel deceived when they realize an article or video is sponsored by a brand, and believe it hurts the digital publisher’s credibility, according to a study.

“In recent years, a debate has raged on among publishing and advertising industry insiders over ‘sponsored content’ — more recently called ‘native advertising’ and once known as ‘advertorial’ — the sort of advertising that looks very much like editorial content but is, in fact, directly paid for by an advertiser…”

How should readers react when business pages are presented by an industry lobby like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers? I don’t care to pay a newspaper that presents promotional pieces of advertisers as news nor do I wish to pay a newspaper that hesitates to publish stories that affect reputations of its sponsors.

If the Vancouver Sun’s business pages are presented by the fossil fuel industry, readers are not likely to read that shale gas is “The dotcom bubble of our times.” Nor are they likely to read that British Columbia has earned almost nothing from natural gas royalties in recent years.

I’ve complained about media reporters and commentators pocketing cash from organizations affected by their coverage of issues. If that is now a prime corporate strategy of their employers, we must conclude that rules have changed. News should now be defined as:

“Information about events and situations that advertisers and editors believe to be noteworthy and helpful, not harmful, to their private economic interests.”

UPDATE (The above was first published May 5, 2014)

Long time journalist Paul Willcocks writes about these issues. He knows whereof he speaks, having benefit of experience as reporter, opinion columnist and editor. If you don’t regularly read Paul’s blog or his Tweets, you should be doing so.

The Center for Journalism Ethics, University of Wisconsin, is another voice for integrity. Breaking Down the Wall discusses the lines separating news and commerce in the pro-media. It makes clear that the good old days are not necessarily good old days. Ethical journalism has been dragged along a parabolic curve and today’s downward slope returns us to what existed in major news sources during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The evidence of difficulty is clear, even if pompous practitioners of the art think they can pretend that green is red and up is down. It is the greedy hypocrisy that I find most disturbing.

ADDENDUM

In comments on this article, there is a discussion about the partisan status of Canadian Taxpayers Federation BC Director Jordan Bateman. After a reader stated that Bateman was president of the Langley BC Liberal riding association, I searched online for confirmation or contradiction and was surprised to find at http://www.jordanbateman.com/about-jordan.php

Bateman said in a Twitter message that the page on his personal website was outdated, adding, “I haven’t been a Liberal for 3 yrs, or prez for 4.”

Apparently, the subject webpage is now removed. I understand Jordan’s wish to not be identified as a Liberal. I was one too, a few decades ago, and I wouldn’t want anyone associating my name with them either.

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