Some explanation is necessary, I feel, for my post of a couple of days ago, noting the media was displaying a striking degree of hypocrisy with respect to the apparently sorry state of the Attawapiskat First Nation’s finances, and using that as a way to discredit Theresa Spence’s hunger strike. People responded in the comments section here, and on Twitter, that while I might have some valid points to make (some didn’t even go that far), two wrongs don’t make a right: just because the Attawapiskat aren’t the only ones with a shady financial record doesn’t somehow make it okay.
No it doesn’t, and Sixth Estate’s position on this matter has always been perfectly clear: leaders who abuse the public trust should be run out of town on a rail. I said as much with respect to the Attawapiskat situation too, for those who actually bothered to read the article. But I also pointed out that unless you’re an Attawapiskat Cree — and I, for one, am not — then it’s kind of a moot point. I didn’t vote for their government. Their government really is not accountable to me.
But that’s beside the point. My actual point was that a considerable number of major newspaper editors appear to have a disturbingly racist double standard on these matters. Yesterday the Globe & Mail complained in an official anonymous editorial that the Attawapiskat government was guilty of a “lack of transparency” which was hurting its cause. This is the same Globe & Mail which, during the 2011 election, argued that “the flow of information” should not be people’s primary consideration in deciding who to vote for. Instead, the same anonymous editorial writers argued on that occasion that only Stephen Harper exhibited “the bullheadedness… this country needs.”
Again, my point isn’t that Spence’s fiscal misdeeds are okay because other people have fiscal misdeeds too. My chief complaint is that the nation’s press has apparently determined that Spence’s fiscal misdeeds aren’t okay, but right-wing governments’ fiscal misdeeds are okay. This is surely why, for instance, Industry Minister Tony Clement was promoted to President of the Treasury Board in 2011 after it was revealed by the Auditor General that his department couldn’t properly account for tens of millions of dollars in “infrastructure” spending drawn from a secret slush fund which he had diverted out of the budget for border security — something which is at least on par with, if not obviously worse than, the fact that the Attawapiskat apparently didn’t save all the receipts for their housing projects.
You see, while Spence’s hunger strike is now being openly mocked in the press as a deceitful attempt to divert attention from her own financial misadventures, white politicians who have clearly never missed three straight meals in their lives, voluntarily or otherwise, are permitted to skate by with similar offences with at most a few finger-wags from a press which is bound and determined to take them at their word, treat them maturely, and endorse them at election time. It is the media’s hypocrisy which I speak of here, and it is both pathetic and disgusting.
Right now, while the Globe laments Spence’s “lack of transparency,” one of Canada’s two independent federal spending investigators, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, has had to go to court to compel the government to turn over the financial records he needs to do his legally mandated job. Kevin Page’s term expires in March, and so far the government has neither reappointed him nor started up any apparent hiring process to find a successor. Given that one of those two things should be happening, one has to wonder whether the Conservatives have decided that Canadians would be better off without a Parliamentary Budget Officer altogether.
And they’re not the only ones thinking such things. In British Columbia, for instance, the pro-Harper but nominally Liberal government of Christy Clark is in the process of pushing out its own Auditor-General, who, coincidentally, is also right now in court attempting to compel his employer to provide him with the documents they are legally required to provide him. Ironically, the government MLA who chairs the committee that decided to reject his reappointment was himself cited by the Auditor-General for “inadequate documentation” regarding his constituency office. Confronted by this apparent conflict of interest, MLA Eric Foster is claiming that he was never informed that he was under investigation and is demanding that whoever leaked the report be punished for publishing “privileged information.”
While we’re on the subject, B.C. brought auditor-general John Doyle in from Australia on the grounds that an outside critic would be good for the system. After he started digging up a little too much dirt, though, he was frostily informed by one of the guilty Cabinet ministers that that sort of fiscal transparency was not “the way we do business in Canada.” Yeah! Silly Australians, and their silly fiscal accountability.Tweet