We’ve pretty much accepted the fact that, with things like the imaginatively named Fair Elections Act and the early election call, the PM is out to undermine democracy in Canada. We’re to the point that, if Harper announced he was calling off the election and had the Governor-General bound and gagged in a back room so he couldn’t do anything about it, all in the name of “security,” we’d be like: “Oh, that’s just Steve being Steve.”
It’s disturbing, though, when one of the country’s major media conglomerates enables him.
Tonight’s federal leaders debate is sponsored by Maclean’s magazine and its corporate parent, Rogers Media. This is friendly territory for the PM; Rogers’ Tory roots go back to the days when its founder, Ted Rogers, was active in the Progressive Conservative Party in the 1950s. It’s so Tory, in fact, that John Tory, now the mayor of Toronto — the one who thought Kanye’s Canadian — was for four years its chairman. (Mr. Tory is a Tory in much more than name only.) Ted Rogers also once appointed Ken Whyte as the publisher and editor-in-chief of Maclean’s, who saw to the magazine’s shift to the right, before proceeding up, and then down, the Rogers food chain. His hire, Mark Stevenson, long-ago an editor at the right-wing Alberta Report, is Maclean’s current editor-in-chief.
I could go on.
This, then, is who is conducting tonight’s debate. It may well be that Maclean’s only wanted, as its political editor Paul Wells told CBC’s “At Issue” panel, to “find a way to horn in on the consortium action.” Harper’s reason for accepting their invitation, while at the same time rejecting that of the compact of TV networks who have traditionally hosted the major debates, is transparent: In addition to rewarding an ally, he fragments the debate audience, and almost certainly diminishes it. And for a deeply unpopular PM trailing scandals and economic bad news behind him like toilet paper from his shoe, the less exposure in an uncontrolled circumstance, the better. That he can further erode the CBC, one of the consortium partners, is just a nice added fillip.
We’ll find out after tonight how many people watched. Maybe. It’s hard to know, given the gerrymandered assortment of platforms on which Rogers is offering the debate — social media, CPAC, City TV (with its six local stations plus a cable service in Saskatchewan), Omni TV, and six local radio stations — how they’ll even measure the numbers. But they won’t amount to those that four debates on Canada’s three major networks, two in English and two in French, power-promoted by those networks beforehand, would have. And here’s where it’ll be taking place:
Apparently in an abandoned Subway franchise somewhere in Toronto. Hey, where will the audience go? Oh wait — you mean there won’t be one there, either?
There are a few more debates to come, though just who will attend which ones remains unclear. Meantime, Maclean’s/Rogers has succeeded in horning in on the action, and we’re all the poorer for it. Except for Stephen Harper, of course, who has very little to worry about tonight. He’s already won.