Front page of the Toronto Sun and Toronto Starr, February 5, 2021 (photo credit: Laura Carney at 680 NEWS)
If you picked up a copy of the Toronto Star – or almost any mainstream paper in Canada today – you would have noticed that their front page was strangely absent of content. This blank space wasn’t a printing error; it was a deliberate act designed to force the federal government to bail them out. Again.
“Imagine if the news wasn’t there” ominously ran under the paper’s empty front page. The Star wasn’t alone in its call for support, the National Post, and hundreds of others also ran their own versions of an empty page.
The problem is, these newspapers aren’t just asking for you to support their businesses as a voluntary customer. They are asking for the government to intervene in a way that can only be classified naked rent-seeking. Specifically, major media companies are asking that the federal government follow Australia’s lead in regulating Facebook and Google.
Regardless of your opinion of these two tech giants, what the newspapers are proposing is dangerous, and unfree.
What has Australia done and should we really follow their lead?
To put it bluntly, Australia has enacted a bizarre and backwards approach for regulating how tech companies deal with news agencies. Australia is attempting to force platforms like Facebook or Google to pay news outlets every time one of their web links is shared. That means that when you or I share an article – let’s say from the Toronto Star – Heritage Minister Guilbeault, and newspaper executives, think that Facebook should be forced to compensate the Star, despite the fact that Facebook is acting as a free lead generator.
For context, 73 per cent of the traffic visiting the Western Standard in January 2021 came through social media platforms. For those not paying attention, the Western Standard uses Facebook and Twitter to get its content in front of eyeballs. It is a symbiotic relationship.
Media outlets make their money in two ways: advertising dollars linked to views, or through dues-paying subscriptions. Being able to freely share a news story on social media drives traffic to these news outlets, which is exactly how they make their advertising money and solicit subscribers.
This genuinely leaves me scratching my head as to why this is a good idea. And if Australia has shown us anything, following through with this type of legislation would be disastrous for consumers, for newspapers, and for society at large. In response to the regulations down under, Facebook threatened to stop allowing users to share news links on their platform. This hurts consumers because it means that the news won’t be available on social media at all, where most of us consume it. This is a net negative for society because poor news availability ultimately means poor media literacy, which certainly isn’t good, especially in the context of a global pandemic where Canadians are reliant on news companies for important updates.
And of course, removing social media as a means to find the news is undoubtedly going to backfire and hurt the newspapers that these regulations are supposed to protect. Social media acts as a lead funnel for newspapers, and removing that funnel will mean fewer views on their articles, less ad revenue, and fewer opportunities to solicit subscriptions.
Media executives also complained that Google pockets most of the revenue from its Adsense platform. Even if this is a legitimate gripe, their solution is not. Just because newspapers don’t like the revenue split doesn’t mean the appropriate solution is more interventionism.
If Google is a bad actor in this relationship, outlets are free to do exactly what the Western Standard does, which is sell their own ads directly. In fact, this is what media companies used to do.
This desire to have the government further protect the media industry becomes even more strange when you consider that the industry is already subsidized by taxpayers at the tune of $600 million dollars, which makes this call for additional regulation a gross and despicable example of rent-seeking.
Rent-seeking is the act of manipulating public policy or economic conditions as a strategy for increasing profits. Rather than focusing on innovating, changing their advertising model, or providing a better product for consumers, these companies have sought to have the government ensure their profitability through bogus regulations.
To their credit, the Financial Post’s Terence Corcoran called this move “Hipster Anti-trustism” while the Globe’s Andrew Coyne called this “self-serving nonsense”. For me, this is crony capitalism 101. Nothing more, nothing less.
David Clement is a columnist for the Western Standard and the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center
SLOBODIAN: Disgraced Catholic priest banned from Northern Manitoba reserves
Father Rheal Forest accused residential school survivors of fabricating abuse claims to cash in on settlement money.
A Catholic priest could land himself in the back of an RCMP cruiser if he steps foot on a Manitoba First Nation he served and lived on for years.
Father Rheal Forest, who accused residential school survivors of fabricating abuse claims to cash in on settlement money, will be considered a trespasser in Bloodvein First Nation, located 210 km north of Winnipeg.
A Band Council Resolution (BCR) barring Forest from the community is being drafted and when signed this week by council will be given to RCMP to enforce, Bloodvein Chief Derek Cook confirmed.
“I know a lot of people are upset. It’s bringing back a lot of the stories they have to deal with and are continuing to deal with from residential schools,” Cook told CBC.
“I hope he abides by the process and respects our decision.”
Despite not having worked in Bloodvein for a few years, Forest continued to visit.
The Archdiocese of St. Boniface also banned Forest from all preaching and teaching for remarks he made about residential school survivors in sermons last month while filling in for a vacationing priest at Winnipeg’s St. Emile Roman Catholic Church.
The sermons that were live-streamed at the time to Facebook have been removed.
“If they wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes, lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” Forest told the congregation.
“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”
Forest also absolved priests and nuns from any abuse and blamed laymen.
Anywhere from $3 billion to $4.7 billion has been paid to thousands of people who claimed they were victims of abuse at residential schools.
Almost 50 churches have been burned and desecrated in Canada since unmarked graves were allegedly discovered on former residential school sites.
Foster also made controversial comments during one mass about the criminals responsible for the destruction.
He admitted to having “thoughts of anger” when he passed by a church that had been vandalized.
“If I had a shotgun at night and I’d see them, I’d go ‘Boom’ just to scare them and if they don’t run away, I’ll shoot them,” he said laughing.
He immediately added: “This would not help. It’s bad to do that. I’d go have a chat with them.”
Forest also made it clear he is not a fan of the “evil” media which he said is controlled by Freemasons.
Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
GIEDE: Happy 150th British Columbia!
“It’s been a tumultuous 150 years, but this province is still the Most Beautiful Place on Earth.”
While everywhere else in Canada it’s simply known as “August long weekend,” technically speaking the statutory holiday is called “British Columbia Day” west of the Rockies. For those of us who enjoy official designations and labels, this will be the sesquicentennial of BC’s entrance into Canadian confederation, a much harassed political project within these pages. Still, a century-and-a-half is worthy of exhortation.
Of course the proper birthday was July 20, corresponding with our joining up in 1871. But no one in BC is interested in a bon fete they cannot properly observe with beverage in hand. Thus, BC Day has been permanently tacked to the first Monday of August to ensure an annual long weekend in perpetuity – which is how all significant non-religious holidays ought to be scheduled from sea to sea to sea.
British Columbia was bribed into confederation by a drunk Scotsman who dreamed of transcontinental railways.
We almost broke out again when the delivery of the Canadian Pacific Railway seemed doomed, and would of likely joined the United States, which had a sizable ex-patriot population here (particularly Civil War veterans from the South.) We stayed on with the reassurance the CPR would be finished, even returning Sir John A. Macdonald to Parliament from Victoria once after he lost his seat in Kingston, Ont.
Of course, our 150 birthday as a province has also been overshadowed by pandemic, then the church fires, and now the wildfires which rage throughout the Southern Interior. British Columbians will still be cracking our famous IPA’s despite the smoke, but perhaps being seen to be celebrating our legacy in such dire times is too much for even our self-aggrandizing political class to bear, let alone the rest of us.
British Columbia is a series of paradoxes. While sovereigntist fervor is most strongly felt east of the Rockies, particularly in Wildrose country, only BC has the surest chance of ever leaving the Dominion with its borders intact: save for minor disputes with America along the coast, our borders are the same as when we took up Sir John A.’s invitation, unlike the rest of the West. Yet this does not motivate us.
If anything, the peculiar history and geography of the Western cordillera makes separation from itself just as likely as a break at the federal level. Outside of the Lower Mainland and South Island, people are far more different than they are similar, despite waving the same flag. Each part of British Columbia is a land entirely unto itself: river valleys, plateaus, and atolls all littered with dozens of siloed cultures.
This is not a new phenomena or collateral damage due to the post rural-urban divide: before contact, a plethora of indigenous languages flourished; after contact, successive waves of development happened at different rates throughout the province – the fur trade, gold rush, railway, forestry, mining, and finally oil and gas, as well as hydro – layering BC with company towns, ghost towns, and peculiar infrastructure.
Our vehicle fleets are by far the oldest of the provinces, just as independent contractors number more greatly amongst our workforce than nearly everywhere else in Canada. Economic cycles strike our province without uniformity, as there’s always some other resource that needs extracting from her natural bounty. Considering the remoteness, BC really could be considered the “fourth Territory.”
Perhaps this latent independence is what makes the manifestation of sovereignty so difficult.
There are more eccentrics per square kilometre here than anywhere else on God’s green earth, and each of them can tell you exactly whats wrong — as well as how to fix the place. Without a central tenet of BC identity, just thousands of caricatures brought to life in every quarter, from marijuana addicts to moral puritans, there is no single point of focus for British Columbians to rally around within the separation agenda.
But perhaps the key to understanding British Columbians lax attitude about sticking it to Ottawa is we’re too busy enjoying where we live, even as costs rise egregiously. While living in a closet west of Hope isn’t my jam, people do it by the thousands just to enjoy the Lower Mainland lifestyle; and in the rest of the province the water and wilderness goes on for eternity, beckoning every kind of adventurer.
Not unlike the wild child we all knew in class, British Columbia cannot be marshalled easily to march in step with her sister provinces, West of Lakehead on the secession question. Until confederation impedes the natural freedoms we enjoy in BC, federalism by convenience will rule the day. No doubt, its been a tumultuous 150 years, but this province is still the Most Beautiful Place on Earth.
Nathan Giede is the BC Affairs Columnist and the host of Mountain Standard Time
WAGNER: The prominent Toronto political scientist who called Communism ‘democratic’
As it turns out, some members of Canada’s Left have a fairly positive view of communism.
Some commentators have noted the silence of Canada’s Left in the face of anti-government protests in Cuba. Why the reluctance to condemn a communist dictatorship?
Well, as it turns out, some members of Canada’s Left have a fairly positive view of communism. One such prominent Canadian leftist was C.B. Macpherson (1911-1987), an internationally-renowned political scientist who taught political theory at the University of Toronto. Among other things, he was especially known for his critiques of capitalism and individualism.
Interestingly, Macpherson also defended Soviet Communism as genuine democracy in action. This can be seen in a series of CBC radio messages he delivered in 1965 that were subsequently published as a book entitled The Real World of Democracy. These lectures argued there were three forms of government that could be legitimately called democracies: the liberal democracies of the West, the Soviet bloc countries, and the one-party states of the Third World.
As Macpherson put it, “democracy is not properly to be equated with our unique Western liberal-democracy.” Instead, “the clearly non-liberal systems which prevail in the Soviet countries, and the somewhat different non-liberal systems of most of the underdeveloped countries of Asia and Africa, have a genuine historical claim to the title democracy.”
Macpherson explained the meaning of democracy has undergone some change over time. It hasn’t always referred to the kind of constitutional system common in the Western countries: “Democracy originally meant rule by the common people, the plebeians. It was very much a class affair: it meant the sway of the lowest and largest class.” Thus, Macpherson argued Soviet Communism and other one-party states can legitimately be called democracies, based on this definition. That is, he used this conception of “democracy” to describe some of the world’s most brutal and repressive regimes.
Karl Marx’s proposed “dictatorship of the proletariat” was an expression of genuine democracy in Macpherson’s view. He noted many people would find it outrageous to consider the dictatorship of the proletariat to be a form of democracy. “But,” he wrote, “to call it democracy was not outrageous at all: it was simply to use the word in its original and then normal sense.”
Macpherson’s analysis gets even worse. Lenin extended Marx’s theory by arguing a revolution would need to be undertaken by a relatively small group of class-conscious people he called the vanguard, which is to say, the Communist Party.
From the Communist perspective, since the vast majority of people in any society are debased by the structures of capitalism, they cannot be trusted to participate in political decision-making. To allow their participation would just perpetuate the problems of the old, capitalist society. Only the vanguard could bring about the necessary reforms. As Macpherson explains: “Lenin, building on Marx, came out for a seizure of power by a vanguard who would forcibly transform the basic relations of society in such a way that the people would become undebased and capable of a fully human existence, at which point compulsive government would no longer be needed.”
In Macpherson’s view, this rule of the vanguard to “forcibly transform” society is democracy in action, despite the fact that it involves politically motivated executions and concentration camps. Democracy, it seems, becomes indistinguishable from dictatorship.
Macpherson evokes what he calls the “broader concept of democracy” to legitimize the Marxist-Leninist state: “Wherever the circumstances are such that no motion towards this kind of society is possible except through the action of a vanguard, then the vanguard state, so long as it remains true to its purpose, may be called democratic.” Thus, in his view, an outright communist state can be legitimately called a democracy. Many of the most brutal, bloodthirsty, and repressive regimes in the 20th Century were democracies in this sense. Who knew?
Using a similar line of argumentation, the one-party dictatorships of the Third World can also be justified as democracies. Invoking Rousseau, Macpherson wrote one-party states can be legitimately called democracies because “there is in these countries a general will, which can express itself through, and probably only through, a single party.” As a result, “opposition to the dominant party appears to be, and sometimes actually is, destructive of the chances of nationhood. In such circumstances opposition appears as treason against the nation.” Thus, a one-party state, where opposition to the ruling party is punished as “treason,” can be a legitimate form of democracy. (Don’t tell Justin Trudeau.)
Macpherson was an internationally known and respected political scientist. The views he expressed were not the rantings of a black-clad activist running wild in the streets. Some elements of the intellectual Left truly believe that a Marxist-Leninist state (or any other Left-wing single-party state) is a genuine democracy. Despite the inescapably violent and murderous nature of communism, some Canadian leftists view it favourably.
The lessons of the 20th Century have not been learned. Ideas that inspired inhuman tyranny – what C.B. Macpherson happily calls the “broader concept of democracy” – seem to be making a comeback.
Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard
SLOBODIAN: Disgraced Catholic priest banned from Northern Manitoba reserves
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GIEDE: Happy 150th British Columbia!
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