2 Nov 2011

Occupy Canada movement remains unscathed
following phoney attack by MACLEAN’S

The right-wing Canadian media establishment unleashed one of its loudest barking dogs this week as MACLEAN’S Andrew Coyne tried to tear a strip off the Occupy Wall Street movement in Canada.

Coyne’s cover story acknowledged that anyone living in the United States would have “good reason to be ticked” because of the wide range of serious problems in that country, but then, talking about Canada, he cited dozens of often odd statistics to attempt to show that, except for the poorest-of-the poor, things are hunky-dory here.

Coyne sets up a straw man, falsely saying that the justification for the Occupy movement is based largely on the claim that the top 1 per cent is exploiting the other 99 percent. Using more stats, he claimed that, while the top 1 per cent in the U.S. in 2007 (not counting capital gains) included anyone making about $400,000, the equivalent income figure for Canadians was about $170,000.

So the headline of the article contends that the Occupy movement in Canada is “A phoney class war” because we don’t have a huge number of people who earn millions of dollars every year.

He is right on this point, but it hardly makes the Occupy movement “A phoney class war” – as claimed in the title.

The real point of the Occupy movement and missed by Coyne is that the powerful and wealthy ruling class in Canada – perhaps 10 or 15 per cent, not 1 per cent, of the population – have been appropriating the resources belonging to the rest of us for more than 30 years.

Nowhere in the article does Coyne address many of the key issues Canadian Occupy supporters are angry about, such as the cost of student education, a lack of employment for young people, a real unemployment rate of some 13 per cent, high household debt, a lack of savings, and the undermining of our pension system.  

Moreover, both Canadians and Americans are protesting the handling of the world economy by the neo-liberal elites that Coyne admires and  cosies up to. The powerful, the banks, and subordinate governments across the west continue to lurch from crisis to crisis. They are obviously incapable of stabilizing the economy let alone satisfying the needs of everyday citizens.

Coyne suggests that Canadians should be content because we have more consumer goods than ever before. “Since 1980, the percentage of Canadian homes with a dishwasher, for example, has more than doubled, from less than 30 per cent to 60 per cent. Fewer than one in 10 homes had a microwave oven in 1980; today it is upwards of 90 per cent.”

While the article is pretty much a sham, it deserves our attention because it is featured on the cover of once-trustworthy MACLEAN’S, which is read most weeks by more than 300,000 Canadians – many of whom, unfortunately, are overly trusting.

The article reveals more about Coyne and MACLEAN’S then about the Occupy movement.

Coyne was born into an elite Canadian family. He is the son of former Bank of Canada Governor James Coyne, most likely a member of our country’s top 1 percent. He is a charter member of a group of Canadian journalists who support the neo-liberal ideology of big business and the Harper Conservatives.

National Editor of MACLEAN’S, he has been with the magazine for four years. His highest profile gig is appearing on CBC-TV’s The National weekly segment At Issue.

A profile in the Ryerson Review of Journalism a few years ago labelled him Mighty Mouth for his outspoken, often critical behaviour.  A man who espouses a strange mix of liberal and neo-liberal views, Coyne has liked to make a strong impact with his journalism over the years.

He does believe that it’s okay that a very small percentage of Canadians are stinking wealthy. “What exactly is the harm to others if a few people get obscenely rich?”, he writes in the article.

Coyne is not in favour of hiking taxes on the super rich – (here comes a right-wing myth) – because higher taxes would have a negative effect on a multi-millionaire’s desire to make more money. He adds higher taxes would also mean wealthy people would not declare all of their income - i.e. break the law.

Another problem with Coyne’s article is that, even when he tries to show a little compassion for the multitude by expressing concern for the poor, he shows no real empathy. His writing is cold and calculating.

Coyne’s poorly conceived attack on the only fresh progressive movement western countries have seen in many years does not reflect well on MACLEAN’S, but the magazine has published more than its share of shoddy articles in recent years.

Under the direction of Publisher Kenneth Whyte, MACLEAN’S has faced a number of charges of bad journalism and sensationalism. Three examples:
  • In December 2007, the Canadian Islamic Congress filed complaints with three Canadian human rights bodies that MACLEAN’S published 18 Islamophobic articles between 2005 and 2007.
  • In March 2010, the magazine was reprimanded by the Quebec Press Council for a controversial cover in 2009 that called Quebec the most corrupt province in Canada. Besides the headline, the publication triggered widespread outrage in the province by running a front-page photo of the beloved Bonhomme Carnaval snowman clutching a briefcase stuffed with cash.
  • In November, 2010, a feature story about worries that too many Asians were attending Canadian universities brought charges of racism, as well as nearly close to 1,900 mostly angry on-line comments. The article was entitled: “Too Asian?”

I understand that many people boycott MACLEAN’S because of its misadventures in journalism. Coyne’s article is another reason to stay away from this Rogers’ product. Personally, I haven’t read the magazine for years.

JABS AND LEFT HOOKS: Who ever thought that the people of Greece would get to vote in a referendum on whether they will accept the crippling “bail out” package? No doubt every financial wheeler dealer in the west is shocked by this unusual bit of democracy . . . . In Canada, where we have minority rule because of an antiquated electoral system, I wonder what would happen if we held referendums on issues such as the crime bill, the secret trade pact with Europe, and spending billions and billions on warships and military aircraft . . . . The Globe and Mail is dutifully covering and praising Harper’s redesigning of our charitable donation system. You don’t have to read between the lines very much to see the thrust of the changes is to put much more of the control of fundraising into the hands of wealthy donors and business.


  1. http://sistersagesmusings.ca/2011/10/30/quebecor-and-rlqs-chou-chou-eric-duhaime-has-hit-a-new-low-enough-with-the-canadian-arrogant-complacency/

    Read my scathing review of Quebecor Darling, Eric Duhaime's review of the occupy movement, specifically, Occupy Montreal. Believe me, as offensive as Andrew Coyne may have been, he comes off as a kindly old grandfather compared to Duhaime's latest screed. Duhaime basically called the occupiers "bums" and said that they, as well as (implied, anyway) anyone who is left of center, is not "ideologically suitable" for political discourse of any kind.

  2. Good article except for:"Personally, I haven’t read the magazine for years."

    That is a grave error! Personally, I read a whole lot of stuff I don't like such as 'Mein Kampf'and a whole slew of capitalist investor "double your money" pamphlets. Because I learned early in life from my parents to think for myself these are all to me 'educational'; Ie. I do not have to agreed in whole or even in part to what is contained therein to learn from it, even if just to catagorise the source. Often facts come shining through such as in right wing "True Finns" on "bailouts" which they as well as I oppose; if the banks have a right to succeed they have also a right to fail. We do however part company when proposing courses of action to follow up the failings. By reading their articles I can recognise as well as catagorise their rational preliminaries as a real threat to progressive thinking in Europe and elsewhere I suggest to all"progressives", read and think for yourselves anything and everything you might access!!

  3. Canada needs to be concerned with more than the Canadian "1%". With our wonderful government (both Lib & Con) signing all these wonderful free trade and similar international agreements, foreign powers are able to move in and buy up the country out from under Canadians who grew up here. How much of the past two decades of foreign investment was real investment, and not just corporate takeovers? How many foreign takeovers have Canadian governments blocked?

    The recent US Steel lockout was something they were contractually forbidden to do as part of taking over Stelco, but they did it anyway, and all levels of government ignored it. Softwood lumber and elevated Cdn retail prices (on Cdn goods!) show that NAFTA's been a raw deal for Canada all around.

    More recent agreements like ACTA and CETA, negotiated in secret, will be even worse for the country.

  4. Studied with this ideologue in grad school and found him exactly as you suggest; born into privilege and unable to think critically or empathetically about how to extend greater opportunity to all. To suggest, in a country where the absurdly low figure of $21,000 is used for the poverty line and in which almost all families are heavily indebted to obtain "luxuries" like dishwashers, that there is no need for action like Occupy merely confirms how shallow this meadia star is as he has always been - a dog in the manger child of privilege.

  5. last week i emailed Occupy vancouver pleading, somewhat, not to get stubborn about the tents staying
    as a long time activist on the lawns and logging blockades, my experience has been that keeping the tents soon dissipates the energy
    i suggested they invite some First Nations persons and construct a symbolic shelter, keep the food tent and hold the General assemblies at one noon hour a week and on weekends
    since i live on one of the Gulf Islands, it is not easy for me to get over and press for this
    altho i made it to Victoria for the magnanimous Rally on the 15th

  6. Your perspective on Coyne is quite revealing (of him), Nick. Watching him on AT ISSUE has always made me wonder just where he's coming from, as he seems to be a moving target, politically. I must admit though, I wonder who really has the title of "most corrupt province" if it doesn't belong to Quebec. It would make for an interesting article; perhaps you could do one and have readers vote on their take as to which province is the most corrupted.

    Meanwhile, it seems whatever objectives the Occupiers put out is attacked and demeaned by the mainstreamers. What doesn't get talked about much is the basic complaint, that being the request that corporations take their mitts off the politicians. How hard is this to understand? The banks in Canada, the US or Europe may have different procedures, but tell me what country isn't controlled by corporate concerns & agendas? Fix that and all other concerns will be able to be dealt with.

    Meanwhile, there's the 99% (most of us), the 1% ("them") and in that 1% are the .001%:

    from the Probe & Wail's Facts & Arguments (Nov 1, 2011) http://tinyurl.com/Prince-s-shoelaces

    The Prince’s shoelaces

    From a Daily Beast review of Brian Hoey’s Not in Front of the Corgis, an inside view of British palace life: “Prince Charles employs 133 staff to look after him and Camilla, more than 60 of them domestics: chefs, cooks, footmen, housemaids, gardeners, chauffeurs, cleaners and his three personal valets – gentlemen’s gentlemen – whose sole responsibility is the care of their master’s extensive wardrobe and choosing what he is to wear on any particular day. A serving soldier polishes the Prince’s boots and shoes every day. … Charles’s valets also iron the laces of his shoes whenever they are taken off.”

    [p.s. It's a shame there's so many comments from 'anonymous' here. Are they afraid of the consequences of stating their name? Pity.]

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