26 Feb 2012

Multi-talented Nova Scotia
writer wins 'neo-liberal' contest!

And the winner of my media challenge contest is… Joan Baxter, a journalist, an award-winning author and anthropologist who lived and worked in Africa for 21 years.

I had felt for some time that journalists in the mainstream corporate media were being intimidated by corporate owners and the Harper government from writing about the government’s destructive ideology – neo-liberalism.

In my January 11, 2012 blog, I offered a dinner for two valued at $150 to any journalist who would write in a mainstream Canadian newspaper about Harper’s neo-liberalism policies.

“Canada under Conservatives not what it used to be,” was the title of Baxter’s February 22 2012 article in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, a paper not normally know for aggressive or in-depth journalism.   Marke Slipp of Wolfville, N.S. won $50 for spotting the Baxter article.

Neo-liberalism enriches the already-rich

Joan Baxter
Baxter wrote about the Harper Conservatives in her Op-ed feature: “And we certainly have never had a neo-conservative majority that espouses neo-liberal unfettered capitalism that enriches only, well, the already rich. We do now."

“Mr. Harper once said we wouldn’t recognize the country when he was through with it,” Baxter wrote in straight-forward prose seldom seen in the mainstream media. “This is only the first year of his majority, and already many of us cannot recognize this mean-spirited, jingoistic and belligerent face of Canada. As for me, I can’t look at the neo-Canada that this Conservative majority is creating without grieving for my country.”

Take that Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Sun, and Ottawa Citizen, etc.!

None of you, and many other newspapers, have the courage – or respect for Canadians – to come forward and write about Harper neo-liberalism.

Interestingly, while there is no term other than “neo-liberal” to describe the policies followed by Harper, right-wing academics and journalists will not even admit that the term has validity in the world of their design.

A few weeks ago I exchanged emails with right-wing political activist Tom Flanagan, Harper’s advisor until 2004. Flanagan is the guy who was accused of offering terminally-ill Liberal Chuck Cadman a $1-million life insurance policy if he would vote against the Liberal’s budget in 2005. In 2010, Flannagan laid out quite specific terms calling for the assassination of Wikileaks director Julian Assange -- later claiming it was a joke.

Surely I could get reliable information from Flanagan, a key Harper mentor.

I asked Flanagan if he knew why the mainstream media never used the term neo-liberal and why journalists never put a name to the ideology practiced by Harper while the New Democrats, for instance, are democratic socialists.

“Neo-liberalism is an academic term used mainly by leftist intellectuals,” wrote Flanagan. “Conservative is the right terms for public discourse in Canada.”

Flanagan tried to cover up the real Harper

This of course is hogwash and Flanagan knows it!

Conservative Prime Ministers John Diefenbaker and Joe Clark implemented conservative policies, but cared about the needs of ordinary Canadians, and never thought of turning the fate of the country over to a bunch of self-serving suits at greedy corporations
Stephen Harper is not a conservative. He is a neo-liberal, and mainstream journalists are dishonest to not describe, in full, the Harper agenda.

Every journalist in the National Press Gallery in Ottawa knows all about the anti-democratic, trickle-down, pro-corporate policies of the Harper government, and yet none of them has the balls – yes, the balls – to step up and write about it.

The corporate mainstream media pokes away a little at Harper but, to a large extent, most daily newspapers, CTV, Global and others, usually lets them off the hook. The Globe and Mail is the most pro-Harper of the daily papers. Globe reporters and columnists – with the exception of  Lawrence Martin – constantly promote and protect the Harper Conservatives.

Last week, news broke that phone calls made during last year’s election campaign to both Liberal and NDP voters, falsely telling them that their voting location had been changed. The calls were made by an Edmonton company, Rack Nine, which has frequently worked on Tory campaigns.

While some media carried the story on the front page and went after further details, The Globe’s main story, written by Daniel Leblanc, appeared on the bottom of page 4. Headlined  Harper denies knowledge of ‘black ops’ phone calls, the story played down the importance of the illegal calls.

Ibbitson the king of neo-liberal dogma

In a column, John Ibbitson, who brings neo-liberal values to all his writing, further undermined the seriousness of the effort by the Tory agency to stop people from voting.

Compared to the predictable pieces that appear in mainstream papers every day, Joan Baxter’s opinion article about Harper was crisp and refreshing. In December, she wrote on hydraulic fracturing for The Chronicle Herald.
Baxter, who lives in Tatamagouche, N.S., has written four non-fiction books about Africa. In 2001, she won the Evelyn Richardson Prize for her book, A Serious Pair of Shoes – An African Journal.” (Pottersfield Press)

She is scheduled to travel to Sierra Leone this week. “It’s interesting that in Africa, there is constant discussion about neo-liberalism,” Baxter told me. “Not, however, among the cosseted ‘friendly’ leaders who espouse it, of course, or their World Bank Group advisers.”

Interestingly, neo-liberalism – the ideology that has no name in the Canadian mainstream media – is hotly debated in African media!
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JABS AND LEFT HOOKS: In addition to the robocalling scandal, the Conservatives were guilty of other illegal activities and meddling to win votes in last year’s election. Staff right inside Harper’s PMO knowingly went well over the spending limit on advertising in a number of ridings. Meanwhile, Jason Kenny was quietly working with Conservative workers in ethnic ridings, giving the locals permission to “solve” troublesome immigration problems. All three of these shady activities, and who knows what else, could very well have meant the difference for the Harper majority.


  1. Keep writing and uncovering the neo-liberal agenda of Harper..and others..we have Redford and Danielle Smith in Alberta...along with Flanagan and Barry Cooper..and of course the ever present neo-liberal Zionist, Ezra Levant.

  2. Globe and Mail delete any comments with the word fascist or fascism in it.

    I worked for both Elections Canada and Elections Ontario. Many sleezy and questionable activities in their trick bag. My bet is we won't get to the bottom of the robocall tricks either - the deck is stacked.


    J.C. Lucier, Ontario

  3. Great job Nick. Your piece on Joan Baxter helps educate us fighting neo-liberalism/corporate greed in the U.S. and understanding what is going wrong in Canada. One of the world's worst corporations spanning the globe that helps finance the extreme right-wing, neo-liberalism political agenda is The Coca-Cola Company, a company that operates like a criminal syndicate with impunity.

  4. Thanks for your excellent blog. I have a question regarding "robo-calls" I haven't been able to find an answer to and thought you might help. While there is much troubling about this, one thing that troubles me is a Canadian call centre not knowing the content of automated messages it distributes. Is it legal in Canada for a call centre to not know the content of messages? It seems it would leave them open to all sorts of abuse.

    1. I was assisting Catch 22 Harper Conservatives during the election last year and we did a little robo-calling. We prepared the content and the person who read the script, and we had to have the call centre involved, so they knew the content. I think in almost all cases the call centre will know the content.

  5. An excellent choice. I encourage all your readers to pick up Joan's excellent book Dust From My Eyes (Wolsak and Wynn Publishers Ltd., 2008).

  6. Great blog Nick. I whole heartedly support your choice of Joan Baxter, but I'd also give credit to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald for having the "balls" to publish her article. We need more gutsy writers and gutsy newspapers who will do what it takes to show Canadians exactly what is happening to their country under the Harper regime.

    1. Hi Susan -- I don't know if you have read my blogs about the need for progressive groups to get together to take on Harper. I hope you have. A group of us are now formally setting up a campaign along these lines. On Thursday we will launch a Facebook page called Campaign to Build One Big Campaign. Other activities are also planned. I like your enthusiasm - plus I'm from Nova Scotia! - so I wonder if you would like to give us a little help rallying people behind this idea? We could use anything from a couple of hours a week to full-time! Please email me at fillmore0274@rogers.com

  7. Rbo calls 7c., Fascist Harperv is no more interested in a real "majority" than was his idol Adolf Hitler.

    Just one more illustration of the 38% stay-at-homes being an asset to the cons. the need is for progressives to get it accross that the political process as distorted as it may be, is best NOT ignore; that is the way to a Hitler or Harper. Hitler NEVER had a voting majority.

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