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CLEMENT: Big media bosses wrap their plea for another bailout in the Canadian flag, and it’s sad

David Clement writes that Canada’s big mainstream media papers are trying to rig the game to grab a second bailout.

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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

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Steven

    July 11, 2021 at 7:14 pm

    Hurrah David Hurrah!! Yes it is crony capitalism 101 & a betrayal to the public at large. Most of these companies are on stock exchanges, but bagging the Government for a cash bailout, again?

    There is a reason why these companies are failing, but the owners don’t want to deal with that, I suspect they never will.

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Opinion

SELICK: If the gov’t wants to kick the unvaccinated off healthcare, then give us back our taxes & let us pay for our own

If the unvaxxed are to be excluded from government services, refund their taxes.

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The Ontario Vaccine Contact Centre phoned me bright and early Monday morning to ask whether I’d like information on where I could get vaccinated.

I wanted information, all right — but not about where I could get vaccinated. I wanted to know where they had got my phone number, and what made them select me for such a phone call. My family doctor had retired in March and I didn’t think it was anyone else’s business to keep track of what medical procedures I had undergone since then.

The young lady never got her question answered, but she did answer mine. Her phone call resulted from a project of the Ontario government to correlate vaccination records with OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) coverage. As an Ontario resident, I am of course covered by the government-owned health insurance plan.

They got my phone number from my OHIP records. They’ve been combing through those records looking for individuals who aren’t also in the COVID vaccination database, and that’s why they chose to call me. It’s official now: all unvaccinated Ontarians  can expect such a call eventually.

She had a prepared script for dealing with recalcitrant refuseniks like me. The statutory authority for this intrusive data transfer, she read, is paragraph 37(1)(c) of the Personal Health Information Protection Act. That’s a misnamed statute if ever there was one. I’d call it the Personal Health Information Invasion Act. She even volunteered the phone numbers of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in case I wanted to lodge a complaint.

But she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell me whether the intrusions would escalate if I continued to defy the government’s wishes that I be vaccinated.

My suspicion is that my OHIP coverage will eventually be suspended or canceled if I fail to comply. Twitter is already rife with such suggestions, and CTV news seems to be drumming up support for this by commissioning a public opinion poll in which almost two-thirds of Canadians supported the idea of refusing treatment to “threatening or disrespectful patients who are unvaccinated against COVID-19.” CTV apparently believes all unvaccinated patients are by definition threatening and disrespectful, because they didn’t ask how respondents felt about providing treatment to respectful, non-threatening unvaccinated people.

Already, Alberta residents have reported incidents of being denied health care due to their unvaccinated status.

In Colorado, people awaiting kidney transplants were recently notified their applications are being “inactivated” if they’re unvaccinated.

My concern, therefore, is not an idle one. There are many people who’d like to see unvaccinated people denied health care, and they’re pushing governments to implement such policies.

Personally, I’d be willing to forego OHIP coverage under two conditions. First, I shouldn’t have to pay taxes for something I’m not getting. Ontario’s 2020-21 budget shows health care outlays constitute 42% of the province’s base program expenditures. Therefore, if they’d refund 42% of my provincial taxes (income tax, sales tax, gasoline tax, property tax, etc.) plus 42% of the federal transfer payment that came out of my federal taxes, that would provide a tidy sum out of which to pay privately for direct health services and private health insurance.

But condition two would have to be satisfied as well: the government would have to eliminate its monopoly on the provision of health insurance, hospitals, and medical licensure.

Let the unvaccinated have our tax money back to purchase goods and services in a free market, and I’ll gladly let the vaccinated wallow in their decrepit socialist system without troubling them for help. Let dissenting medical doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors and other complementary practitioners practice according to their professional judgment without fear of de-licensing and I’ll take my chances.

In truth, I already do. I hadn’t actually seen my former doctor since June 2019, and I didn’t usually go more than once a year. OHIP was already spending far less on me than on the average person, who makes 2.8 doctor visits per year. As a senior, I’m theoretically entitled to have government-paid prescriptions for any of 4,400 different drugs — but I don’t use a single one of them, unlike the average person in my age who reportedly fills 8.3 drug prescriptions annually.

It’s not mere happenstance that I have fewer ailments than average. I spend my own after-tax dollars on organic food, nutritional supplements, exercise equipment and more exotic health maintenance devices such as infrared light therapy. I also spend many hours keeping informed about the science of wellness and life extension.

I have long resented paying taxes to provide obsolete and often counterproductive “health care” to those less conscientious than I am about their own well-being. My resentment is now reaching new heights, as the ignorant accuse me of causing sickness by not taking an injection which even the CDC now admits doesn’t live up to its promises of near-total prevention of either viral transmission or infection.

Let’s go our own separate ways— vaxxed and unvaxxed. Time will tell who made the smarter decision.

Selick is a Western Standard columnist

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Opinion

NAVARRO-GENIE: Trust is the foundation of authority — and governments are losing both

There is no forgiving how Alberta Health appallingly used a child’s death to promote yet more COVID-19 fear.

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The heartbreaking death of Nathanael Spitzer, the cancer-stricken boy from Ponoka, exposed a most callous streak in Alberta’s medical bureaucracy. There is no forgiving how Alberta Health appallingly used a child’s death to promote yet more COVID-19 fear.

However, one should dismiss Deena Hinshaw’s empty promise to process deaths of minors scrupulously before reporting in future. It’s empty because the percentage of COVID-19 deaths among children is almost zero in Alberta, and all other reporting remains the same.

Hinshaw’s apology raises the question of trust in public authority: Do Albertans trust health bureaucrats and their elected bosses? The question of trust is important. Trust is a key link between rulers and the ruled. When the population has no trust in public officials, such officials govern without support. Without trust, rulers rule by imposition, merely enforcing and punishing; and when support is lacking, harsher enforcement becomes necessary for compliance.

As governments coerce more, their authority is further undermined. Coercion signals an absence of authority. The harsher use of coercive power is what happens when consent and trust are low.

Trust was an early casualty when governments in Canada reacted to the COVID-19 threat by immediately copying Beijing in imposing draconian lockdowns, but without protecting the most vulnerable. The harsh confinement rules are condescendingly undemocratic. They showed from the start that governments don’t trust their citizens to do what is right without pressing them with fears and power.  

People will respect rulers because they trust the sources of their authority: 1) the constitution and laws, 2) knowledge and competence, and 3) sound decision-making. Since March 2020, these three authority sources have been battered in the handling of the COVID-19 threat. Ottawa and the provinces seem unaware as to how they have consistently undermined their own authority.

First, our constitution and laws have been repeatedly bruised with an unchecked and unwarranted expansion of government powers: with the disregard for due process, with the weakening of Parliament, with persecutions — and at times brutal police arrests — with the choking of free expression and assembly, with the trampling of mobility and workers’ rights, with the violations of medical privacy and the not so veiled defilement of bodily sovereignty, with the dismissal of the emergency management authority, and with the domination of a kind of medical-industrial complex.

Second, one expects government to have knowledge and competency about governing emergencies.  Despite the early panic, Canadians hoped their governments would be competent in rolling out pandemic action plans, clearly executing objectives, and to have exit strategies for the crisis. Instead, the policy became the crisis. Governments quickly dismissed existing emergency plans and hatched new ones in panic and on the fly. They had no (and 19 months later still do not have) reasonable objectives or exit strategies. Reaching herd immunity all hinged on vaccination. Sadly, the vaccines don’t immunize and cannot lead to herd immunity. So, governments choose to force vaccination and to marginalize those who refuse it instead of tackling the growing gap in trust.

The key to good government, when all else is in place, is good judgement. But good judgement has been absent almost uniformly across the country. (For a brief time, it seemed Alberta might be the exception). There has been poor judgement in the choices and adhockery of policy response to the virus. Erratic decisions never signal sound judgement. Let’s grant that things change quickly during crises, but the crass imposition of tenuous things, although presented as absolute science, time and time again, can never inspire confidence. To the contrary, the flip-flopping increases the confusion among most and defiance among many. There has been even poorer judgement in the divisive blaming, the thoughtless name-calling, and the gaslighting lies, primarily against those who dare to question or protest the haphazard decisions.

Always playing to the crowd, Premier Jason Kenney says he cannot understand why some persist about Ivermectin or why they won’t vaccinate. But that crowd is volatile. While the fears in which governments are foraging for support will eventually cease, the divisive abuses heaped on the vaccine recalcitrant will continues to erode public trust — and the trust lost about competence and judgement won’t likely be regained.

In the first week of October alone, the executive, the judicial and the medical bureaucracy failed Albertans again. The torqued blaming and punishing of the unvaxxed, Justice Germain’s offensive decision compelling speech to preacher Pawlowski, and the naked attempt to manipulate the tragic death of young Nathanael Spitzer are all bold demonstrations of power still eroding trust.

Editor’s note: The original post had Alberta Health Services. It was changed to Alberta Health.

Marco Navarro-Génie is president of the Haultain Research Institute and senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. With Barry Cooper, he is co-author of COVID-19: The Politics of a Pandemic Moral Panic (2020).

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: WATCH: Pastor remained jailed while maskless Manitoba ministers escape sanctions

Gordon’s apology for posing in one photo with her cabinet colleagues and three other women — all maskless — seems disingenuous.

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Manitoba Pastor Tobias Tissen, who didn’t abide by public health rules, is sitting in a Winnipeg Remand Centre jail cell.

Three provincial cabinet ministers, including Health Minister Audrey Gordon, who didn’t abide by public health rules, will sit in the legislature and anywhere else they please.

Tobias, whose arrest in front of his family Monday night was captured in a heart-wrenching video, has never tried to downplay what he’s doing.

It appears Gordon did. 

So much about this is offensive to any clear-thinking person’s sense of justice.

Gordon, along with Minister of Families Rochelle Squires and Minister of Sport, Culture, and Heritage Cathy Cox were maskless at a weekend fundraising ball at Winnipeg’s Art Gallery. 

The proof lies in photos Squires posted to her Instagram page. When outed, Gordon and Squires said sorry for violating health orders dictating people in public places must wear a mask which can be removed when seated and eating or drinking. 

Oh well then, move on now. Crickets from interim Premier Kelvin Goertzen’s office and the PC party.

“I got up and joined the group in the photo, neglecting to wear my mask. It’s unfortunate and it was wrong, and it should not have happened and for that, I deeply apologize,” said Gordon. “I do believe as minister of health, I should be held to a higher standard, and I have always upheld that standard.”

Gordon’s apology for posing in one photo with her cabinet colleagues and three other women — all maskless — seems disingenuous. 

Proof lies in another photo posted by Squires showing her seated at a table with former Winnipeg Mayor Susan Thompson. 

In the background, several people stand socializing, including Gordon. All but a couple of them, including Gordon, are maskless.

Obviously, Gordon doesn’t believe wearing a mask in public is necessary to avoid contracting COVID-19. That’s her right — one I’ll fiercely defend. 

The problem is, her government’s mandated masks and double vaccines are denying others their rights, costing them jobs and, like Tissen, freedom.

Gordon said she hasn’t been fined or reprimanded.

Tobias and his Church of God Restoration in Steinbach face $53,000 in fines on 16 tickets for violating health orders during protests and both in-person and drive-in services.

Steinbach, a city of 16,000, has had a high rate of COVID-19 test positivity. There’s never been an outbreak among Church of God members.

Yet they, as Christians, have been relentlessly hounded. 

It’s called persecution from egos in the province who appear to dislike taking a backseat to God. 

Why is it we never hear of non-Christian worship places where crowds freely gather getting fined?

“We have boldly and unashamedly proclaimed Christ as head of the Church, not (former premier) Brian Pallister or Kelvin Goertzen,” Pastor Heinrich Hildebrandt told Western Standard

“The state does not have jurisdiction to order churches to place limits on how the Gospel is preached. We have not been silent on that topic, and they are trying to suppress that.”

“Canada’s on a very dangerous path right now. Our leaders are abandoning the foundation of our nation ‘whereas Canada was founded on principles that recognize the supremacy of God’ that are codified in our Constitution. The Dominion of Canada was founded with the inherent knowledge that’ He shall have dominion from sea to sea’ not petty tyranny, kings or queens.”

“As we drift from that we are seeing the grave effects of that in our society. May we withstand the forces of evil that want to rob us of our God-given freedoms.”

Tobias was robbed of his freedom when picked up on an outstanding warrant when the family arrived at their home. His crying mother and wife Elizabeth, holding their sons aged four and two in her arms, helplessly watched.

The pastor offered no resistance, only repeatedly asked to hug his mother, who is moving to Austria, goodbye. He was denied. They kissed through the glass of the cruiser.

How do you explain to frightened children why dad’s up against a cruiser, being searched, handcuffed, then taken away?

“Tell papa goodbye,” said a sobbing Elizabeth. “It’s OK Silas, it’s OK. The Lord will take care of papa.”

Thank goodness for that. Few have stepped up to support him. 

Other church leaders? Mostly meek mouses, except for a mere seven Manitoba churches that united to fight Manitoba’s health restrictions curtailing the freedom to worship. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms argued in court the restrictions requiring vaccinated attendees and severely reduced capacity are unjustified violations of charter-protected freedoms. 

The Church of God has long warned: Today it’s our pastors, tomorrow it’s you.

Politicians? Some quietly expressed support. Others who staunchly stand behind enforcing health mandates traipse about the ball maskless.

To obtain his release, Tissen must sign conditions that violate all he’s been fighting for.

“We ask that Christians would pray for Tobias’ strength, wisdom, and release, as well as for his wife and sons,” said Hildebrandt.  “May God bless this situation unto His own glory, as the heathen rage.”

Amen to that.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Petition: No Media Bailouts

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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No Media Bailouts

The fourth estate is critical to a functioning democracy in holding the government to account. An objective media can't maintain editorial integrity when it accepts money from a government we expect it to be critical of.

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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