One last desperate swipe

Al’s We Say in the T&T:

We Say:
On Monday, New Brunswick voters will choose what approach to government they want
A clear choice for N.B. voters

On Monday, New Brunswick voters will choose a government for the next four years by either re-electing incumbent Premier Bernard Lord and the Progressive Conservatives or electing Opposition Leader Shawn Graham and the Liberals. Both Mr. Lord and Mr. Graham are capable, intelligent, earnest, hard-working, and sincere men who can be depended upon to work for the best interests of the province. Their intentions are beyond reproach and both wish to move New Brunswick forward, socially and economically.

As to the platforms, many have commented upon how remarkably similar they are on key issues. However, as voters go to the polls, there is a significant difference between the two platforms that will determine what kind of government New Brunswickers elect – an important difference of philosophy and approach for achieving the goals rather than a difference in the goals themselves.

It is clear that Premier Lord and the PC’s have a plan that will move the province ahead while still reducing the tax load on citizens and the amount people must pay to government, whereas the proposals put forth by Mr. Graham and the Liberals offer the same intent and direction but no savings to citizens. Liberal proposals will mean more expenditure and bigger government.

Both parties want to increase the number of doctors and nurses, for example (and the Lord government has already had success in this area) as well as take other measures to reform and improve the health care system. The premier has already shown he can take the tough decisions needed and has taken considerable heat in some areas. That may hurt him in some ridings, yet we note that Mr. Graham has been careful not to promise that he will reverse those changes. He too knows the tough decisions are unavoidable.

As well, the province’s relations with the federal government are better today than they have been in many years, a positive situation that will surely pay off for New Brunswick which still very much needs goodwill in Ottawa to help it move forward.

Our economy is significantly better than it was 10 years ago and voters should look at the Nova Scotia example. A decade ago Nova Scotia was the gem of the Maritimes, the place with good roads, the best economy, and better indicators on most fronts. Not today. New Brunswick has become the province to envy. And it has done so via the Conservative philosophy of spurring investment and growth via leaner government and reducing the tax burden on citizens. Nova Scotia meanwhile has chosen to try spending its way to prosperity and has fallen behind. The Liberal approach in this election reflects a similar spend-to-recovery philosophy.

For those reasons, we believe that Premier Bernard Lord is the better choice for voters in this election; that he is the one who will move New Brunswick forward in the most cost-effective fashion while giving citizens needed tax relief. The approach has worked to date and will continue to do so, whereas the spend to prosperity with increased government has clearly not done nearly as well in our neighbouring province.

The question for voters Monday is about the approach government will use to move us ahead. It is about what kind of government voters want. It is Premier Lord’s approach that we believe will serve the province and public best.

In think it’s important in New Brunswick and particularly in Moncton to debate the role of the media. If you look at the CBC, there’s a balanced approach. The Telegraph-Journal has a highly balanced review this morning. The Times & Transcript – Al Hogan – has cranked up the rhetoric to the point of absolute lies to get his man elected.

In 2003, the We Say also endorsed Lord but because Al assumed that Lord would win big, he was much more gracious. Now, he’s just gone plain silly and I really believe that Monctonians are worse off for it.

This is not about an election or a political party. It’s about a newspaper that systematically distorts the economic issues in New Brunswick to feed a political or ideological agenda. It’s about a newspaper that will actually ignore vital economic stories – stories that will get full page coverage in other media outlets in the province.

It’s about a newspaper that will slash and bitterly hammer trivial local matters and either ignore or actually endorse bad policies at a provincial level.

I have always maintained that a newspaper can have some bias. It’s normal. But when that bias becomes obsession or when that bias means that Monctonians are being denied legitimate news, that’s a problem.

Someone told me that Al Hogan has dumbed down the T&T. He as transformed it into a profitable tabloid-style newspaper.

Moncton is not a place to be dumbed down. I resent that and I resent Al Hogan for trying to dumb us down. He should be dumbed down and sent packing to some other place where he can sow his crap without effect.

The next few years will be critical for Moncton – regardless of who wins this election. The call centre industry boom is coming to an end and the province has no plan to grow any new economic sectors. This should be the overriding issue of the Monday election in Moncton. AOL has announced it will cut 5,000 jobs globally. Will that affect Moncton? Who knows. Air Canada’s call centre in Saint John has dropped from close to 700 employees to 200 or so.

What’s next should be the matra of the Times & Transcript but instead we get partisan and ideologically motivated drivel.

Now, to comment on a few of Al’s half-truths and outright lies:

Our economy is significantly better than it was 10 years ago and voters should look at the Nova Scotia example. A decade ago Nova Scotia was the gem of the Maritimes, the place with good roads, the best economy, and better indicators on most fronts. Not today. New Brunswick has become the province to envy. And it has done so via the Conservative philosophy of spurring investment and growth via leaner government and reducing the tax burden on citizens. Nova Scotia meanwhile has chosen to try spending its way to prosperity and has fallen behind.

On any measure, this is an outright lie. Nova Scotia has seen considerably better job growth. Nove Scotia has four-lane highway from tip to tip (Amherst to Halifax) – New Brunswick doesn’t. Nova Scotia’s need for Equalization has risen slightly – New Brunswick’s significantly. Nova Scotia is on the road to self-sufficiency. New Brunswick is increasingly dependent. Nova Scotia’s population declined 0.1% from 1996 to 2001 and NB’s declined 1.2%. Further, based on what I have seen, NS is set for a small population turnaround from 2001 to 2006 while New Brunswick’s population will fall (these numbers will be out next year).

Nova Scotia’s GDP growth has been higher than New Brunswick’s from 1999 to 2006.

Nova Scotia is in the top three or four provinces in Canada for R&D spending – New Brunswick is dead last.

Nova Scotia scores higher than New Brunswick on health outcomes and educational performance since 1999.

And, near to my heart, Nova Scotia has been kicking New Brunswick’s butt in job creation – the 1,200 Research in Motion jobs are the clearest example.

….leaner government

Holy cow. What province does Al Hogan live in? La la land? Government spending, inflation adjusted, is up in an unprecedented fashion since 1999. Government funded jobs are up by something like 8,000 positions. I absolutely couldn’t believe this one.

…reducing the tax burden on citizens.
Even this, I think is debatable. Gas taxes are way up. Property taxes for many have doubled in seven years. Licenses and fees are way up. But even if that is true, he has done it by increasing our dependence on the Federal government.

Who envies New Brunswick? This is ludicrous. The Economic Development Minister in Quebec recently said he wanted to be like Frank McKenna but that’s not today’s New Brunswick.

Once again, the We Say looks like it was penned in the Premier’s Office.

If given a choice between booting the Tories out of office and dumping Al Hogan, I would choose dumping Al Hogan.

If the Tories get re-elected, it will be a legitimate act of the voters. Where does Al Hogan get his legitimacy? From Jamie Irving?

Jamie Irving gets to decide what kind of mind numbing garbage gets hoisted on the citizens of Moncton?

If Jamie Irving had any sense, he would dump Al Hogan and put an editor in there that would serve up Monctonians smart news. Well thought out stories. Investigative reporting. Challenging our government. Raising the key issues of the day.

Many of you tell me to move on. To get over it. That Al Hogan’s influence is minimal at best.

I disagree. That rag was the very impetus to start this blog. I found in the local paper – again politics aside – nothing of value about local and provincial economic issues.

And I will continue to use this platform to criticize Al Hogan. The blog’s title is “It’s the Economy, Stupid” but if Al Hogan is allowed to continue I may have to change it to “It’s the Stupid Economy”.

And I am not going to do that without a fight.

Nova Scotia? I have never heard anyone – not even Lord – pretend that New Brunswick has faired better than Nova Scotia -with its mostly Tory leaders – in the past seven years.

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0 Responses to One last desperate swipe

  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree. Local media plays a very significant role. Not everyone listens to the CBC or television. The lies also make people think that, as is a common retort among some bloggers, that CBC has a ‘left wing bias’ because they get their news from places like the T&T. That there is no competetition is the main reason he can get away with this, and once again, people are somewhat to blame.

    Politicians respond to interest groups with loud voices. Yet nobody has taken up the political mantra to bring it to government-namely, the Senate hearings on media monopoly. They came out with a severely watered down report, you can see how much power the Irvings have from this federal senate’s report.

    They were very cautious and far from recommending changes, were satisfied with saying that New Brunswick was perhaps not the best example to follow, but were very careful to make it plain that ‘we are not saying that Irving does anything wrong’.

    Politics is about noise. Al could get as shrill as he wants because now that the senate report is out he knows the feds aren’t going to do anything (though there was little real fear of that-this is the senate after all).

    Government’s failures, as always, fall onto citizens to set right. It isn’t easy but there are public pressures that can be made as well. And unfortunately, as I’ve said before, it falls on those who ‘do a little’, to do a lot more.

    For instance, a blog with several hundred people isn’t going to cut it.

    Here’s a thought, set up an organization. I would gladly join. The point? Gather together all the ‘we says’ and the blatant propaganda and hit the homes where the T&T is delivered.

    Start advertising a boycott. Tell people that they deserve honest, objective news. Make it non-partisan, because as you’ve stated, “its about the economy” (though you could leave out the ‘stupid’ in brochures:)

    The Irvings just had a major subscription offer, I know because to my horror my parents took it. However, people do need a news outlet, so thats a factor.

    So here’s my proposal:

    The AIM:

    To get people to not renew their three month subscription offer until Al is fired or until ‘our’ organization is satisfied they can report honestly.

    The MEANS:

    1. A website. Everything needs a website. I’ll design it and I’ll host it. But we need content to continuously update it. This blog is a good start. We know Al skewers economic data, what about poverty and social data? That’s something to find out.

    2. Brochures. People don’t just go looking for websites. I’m not in Moncton so I can’t do this. For those who think its too much…hold on, I’ll get to that.

    3. Posters. This is a good way to get publicity. People notice things, and many of the older generation are the problem, and they DEFINITELY notice things around town.

    4. Media. The CBC as well as the River Valley News are two options. Somebody needs to be the public voice if it goes to media and that may be a problem. However, if that young university student loses to Lord he may do it. Of course Mr. Campbell is a great choice, but after all, these are Irvings. As Al still has a job, you can be rest assured the Irvings are quite well aware of whats being printed.

    5. Provide a place for people to get involved. Namely, handing out brochures, posters, discussing it in their groups, their churches. I think its smart to ‘pin’ it on Al just to avoid the Irving name. Forum boards are a neat idea but people are quite passive and have other concerns. Perhaps a mailing list would be better. Actually, neither of those is desirable from an activist point of view, because in today’s climate the best thing to do is hide your numbers. If people fear the irvings they may not be openly proactive-but may at least cancel their subscription (make up a list of phoney excuses for them to choose from)

    6. Contest. Make it fun. Get kids involved. I don’t know what kind of game, but something like “Can you spot the mistakes in this mornings ‘ we say’ column?” Something like that. How about a single story, if its true, about Al’s hummer. Every time a story is about gas, people can email and win a chance to win a picture of Al’s hummer (its the association you see-of course that’s just an idea)

    7. Available alternatives. I’m working on this at the website level, but there should be a way to make it practical. My parents problem: they are older and my dad just can’t get the hang of the computer (Rogers complexities don’t make it any easier). Get a group of kids who will donate time to help any older folks who have access, but can’t get the hang of it. Tell old folks that its “more fun to get news together”, namely at the library or any place that offers communal access. There are also usually programs available, and computer deals that can be advertised to them to get them online. Many older folks just dont think the net has anything to offer them (tell them with forum groups, oral history groups, they have something they can offer the net). Another good idea is an alternative. Do highschools have a journalism course? Offer sports, etc., to any students to cover, and a link featuring the CBC. Copy the format and create a newsletter. Tell people who cancel their subscription and don’t have net access that you will have newsletters available in their area. Door to door is probably impossible. That last one may be just too difficult, but you never know how many people would get involved. Oo, not only that, but you could tell them you get the news they ‘need’ from the T&T (not verbatim of course) so they ‘lose’ nothing. Make sure they understand that its temporary.

    That may sound like a lot of work, but not really, an hour a day. It’s the handing out of brochures thats the big point, and perhaps following around carriers to find out who gets the paper and I do know some people in Moncton and am getting less and less inclined to not be a bother.

    Like I said, I’ll pitch in but I’ve got a lot of fronts going on and I”m not in Moncton. The point is, companies and people do these things because they CAN. If we had a functional democracy no company would be able to get away with this, it is simply ludicrous. But like every injustice in the world, it falls on regular folks to stand up and say (one of my favourite quotes) “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”. The option, well, you know the option-and its outcome.

  2. The Virginian says:

    Hogan has always been clear about who his heroes are. Just like your buddy Bill Belliveau whom it appears is always there to provide the other side of the equation, there is no doubt about his political beliefs.
    So there we have it balance. The problem is we are in trouble regardless of the results. Both major parties (NDP not worthy of comment) have spent so little time talking about our #1 problem, a lack of transportation infrastructure (yes roads). It’s just not sexy like education, health and seniors, but it creates immediate short term jobs during construction and provides a vision for the future.
    Whatever happen to the idea of creating an economic triangle of our 3 major urban areas, providing a critical mass for economic development, that would then sprout externally from the triangle to create further opportunities (One of your former bosses ideas or maybe yours). Or any other big idea, like for
    tourism linking the Fundy Coast to the Acadian Coast with a real 3rd crossing in Metro. Doesn’t anybody Libs or Cons see the big picture. IT’S a SPIRAL and not pretty.
    Let’s be positive, it is out there but no one wants to talk about how we are going to reverse the trends, because it doesn’t sell right now. HEADS OR TAIL.

  3. David Campbell says:

    To anonymous, that’s a well laid out plan but what’s in it for the average citizen to expend effort to bring down the T&T? I have been approached to do some pieces in BOOM and I think I will. Maybe that will help. It’s too bad you are residing in Moncton, maybe I would help you tack up the posters. Essentially, most people – 99% – most likely think I am over the top with my criticisms of Al. But I can tell you that I have to read literally dozens of newspapers per week from the NY Times to the Halifax Chronicle Herald and although they each have a bias, I don’t think I can find another newspaper that is actually trying to fictionalize the world around us just to make it line up with some partisan or ideological viewpoint. I think Al Hogan has some sort of complex that makes him think he is orchestrating the world around himself. He decides who wins and loses. He decides what the people need to know and what not. I have talked now to three ex-TTers and they all echo in some fashion my sentiments.

    To The Virginian, a well-thought out comment as well. But you are wrong about Bill Belliveau. Bill is an unabashed Liberal – I would guess from reading his column. But Bill doesn’t decide to ignore a story about the labour market shortage. Bill doesn’t attempt to portray a world that doesn’t exist. Bill doesn’t make ludicrous claims that NB has vastly outperformed Nova Scotia. As for your claim about transportation infrastructure, you have a point but I hearken back to a Toronto Star column of a guy who drove on the Fredericton-Moncton highway and then told 500,000 Torontoians that their money was being used to build four lane highways that nobody uses. As long as we are beholden to other people for a large chunk of our income, it will be hard to show them up in any area.

  4. Anonymous says:

    First, transportation infrastructure is a joke as economic development. Toronto has horrible traffic infrastructure, there is gridlock on every highway, the private highway is now gridlock as well and is only partly finished. The roads within Toronto’s GTA are far worse than anything in New Brunswick. New Brunswicks highways are a dream to ride on in comparison with almost any province-the trans canada when you cross into Quebec is a perfect example.

    However, “bringing down” the T&T is not the point, and its not even feasible. A boycott accomplishes many things.

    First, it shows the communities that they can’t be trusted. People ‘may’ give them the benefit of the doubt, but if an organized boycott comes out saying “here’s whats wrong”, then that will stick in people’s heads.

    Second, it attracts attention to a website that could set itself up as a viable alternative. Irvings aren’t stupid, they are updating their websites because they know thats how the next generation will get their news. However, increasing, it WONT be news stories, it will be audio and video documentaries (which are already bypassing traditional media).

    Third, it has an effect on the Irvings. Companies listen to the bottom line and that’s it. The effect would be clear, suddenly another voice is on the horizon which means when the editing is getting done, the editor, and owner, are fully aware that the people reading are reading with an eye to what the boycott is claiming. In other words, that balance re enters the picture.

    I don’t agree that people would think you are over the top. All you have to do is read the statistics at your blog and then this editorial to know just how graphically they are stepping over the line. If, as the other poster maintains, people thought there was balance, obviously I wouldn’t be talking about a boycott. I debate your figures on a daily basis, and over opposing viewpoints, but even I will accede your main point-that Al Hogan is simply a mouthpiece for the government. If it were a case where one or two reporters were stating a bias, but we’re talking about the editor. Personally, I don’t think they should have a “we say” editorial AT ALL. It’s ludicrous.

    The intent, I’m assuming is to get them to do real journalism. That’s what a boycott would do, at least bring attention to the problem. Writing articles in some other paper nobody has heard of won’t do much, although at least its something a little more. But if people don’t challenge the authorities over them, they will always be there.