3 May 2014

Canadian group not dealing with
major free expression issues

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit organization I worked with for 14 years, is one of dozens of groups from around the world that celebrated the importance of an unencumbered media on World Press Freedom Day May 3.

CJFE has an almost 30 year history of carrying out vital press freedom work throughout the developing world with its own programs and, in particular, through the creation and operation of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), a worldwide network of 88 groups. Working with other groups, lives have been saved and entire nations of people have gained the right to express themselves.

The group has just published its most elaborate ever, 46-page Free Expression in Canada Review. The report addresses a number of important issues, such as access to information, digital surveillance, and the failure to protect the country's whistleblowers. The Review should result in more people becoming involved in CJFE, which is important.

But with this anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, I feel it's important to explain how CJFE comes up short when addressing the free expression problems we face here in Canada.

It's not only in developing countries where journalists lack rights. In fact, Canada is facing its greatest public information crisis in many years.

It is true that mainstream journalism is adversely affected by the economic downturn and the loss of millions of dollars in advertising revenues to Internet-based companies. But this is not what I'm referring to.

15 Apr 2014

Flaherty's Legacy:
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The unexpected, shocking death of Jim Flaherty, the Conservative Party of Canada’s only finance minister until his retirement less than a month ago, has resulted in hundreds of tributes for his commitment to public life and praise from those in business and conservative circles who approved of his financial and economic policies.

Flaherty, who was only 64, was devoted to his family and one of the most popular Members of Parliament. And while his life achievements and humanity should be praised, it also needs to be said that during his time in the federal government his policies severely discriminated against the vast majority of Canadians.

Flaherty had control of Canada’s purse strings during a period that led to a situation where, by 2012, the 86 wealthiest residents held the same amount of wealth as the bottom 11.4 million Canadians combined. Lagging wages have led many Canadians to take on record-high debt as they try to keep up with increasing costs.


In fairness, it’s impossible to assess Flaherty’s legacy as finance minister without factoring in that Prime Minister Stephen Harper kept him on a short leash. Harper, a rabid neoliberal, no doubt put forward a number of the Conservatives’ most anti-social policies. The two argued, but it’s safe to say that Flaherty lost more battles than he won.

With apologies to Clint Eastwood, the Flaherty/Harper contributions to the economic life of the country can be broken into three main areas: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

27 Mar 2014

Guest Blog By Murray Dobbin

From Nick Fillmore: This week I am re-printing a "must read" column by Murray Dobbin, a leading journalist and social activist for the past 40 years. This excellent article gets to the bottom of what the NDP needs to do to be an effective, progressive force in this country.

Here's a Big Idea:
Transform Capitalism

By Murray Dobbin
The notion of 'big ideas' periodically raises its head in Canadian politics and I recently criticized the NDP for
Murray Dobbin
taking a good idea -- a national day of action -- and wasting it on, well, small ideas. Specifically I suggested that the party's focus on excessive interest rates and other charges effectively redefined citizens as consumers, something that Stephen Harper's Conservatives have been doing for eight years.

In response to the criticism, the party's deputy leader Megan Leslie wrote a response, claiming that the NDP had big ideas "in spades" and that she was proud of them. It is unusual for the NDP to engage its critics on the left outside the party and it is a positive sign -- as are days of actions and national town halls. Engaging people outside the four-week period of elections is critical to the NDP's future success.