Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stephen Harper and the Act of Accountability

Two weeks into a federal election, and the Prime Minister is micro-managing the press corps. The group of reporters following him around the country, at great expense are granted a total of five questions per day. The question that comes to mind immediately: "How can a national leader be held to account when the freedom of the press is suspended." It's the kind of political manipulation we usually find in fanciful dictatorships like Lybia. Case in point: Gadhafi held a press conference recently where he kept the press waiting for hours, and did not give them any access with questions. An overt manipulation of the press - which is what is happening on the Prime Minister's tour.

Take for a moment the Prime Minister's comments regarding accountability in government:

“Restoring accountability will be one of the major priorities of our new government. Accountability is what ordinary Canadians, working Canadians, those people who pay their bills, pay their taxes, expect from their political leaders.”

Restoring accountability -  the battle cry of his Reform days. On it's face a laudable goal. However, the most basic requirement of any democratic system in the world is a free and open press. It is their fundamental responsibility to report the news in an educated and unbiased fashion. By their very existence they act as the eyes and ears of the people, and carry a heavy responsibility to safeguard that system that allows their very existence - democracy.

The Prime Minister's control of the national media in this election does, therefore, subvert the freedom of the press. It degrades the freedoms our forefathers, and some current members, fought and sacrificed for on foreign lands. We believe in human rights to the point that we have a museum actually dedicated to it. We conduct ourselves in the United Nations as if we were the in the vanguard of this movement internationally. We enshrined these rights in our own Constitution. Yet for the sake of political expediency the Prime Minister shamefully and blatantly dismisses the national press to a dictated five questions per day.

The big question is whether or not the press has the right or even the obligation to demand an end to this practise? Can the media fulfill it's role to the Canadian people under these circumstances? My answer is absolutely not. The Prime Minister's press corps should boycott Mr. Harper until he changes this policy and allows free and unfettered questioning. Mr. Harper would certainly reverse his policy in quick order. We, the people, are owed this simple act of defiance. It is not as if the press would be choosing sides in a partisan context. Any and all federal politicians should be prepared to face the press, and explain themselves and their policies. It is obvious that Mr. Harper has abandoned his original principle of accountability, but that doesn't excuse our national press corps from defending their right and responsibility to properly inform the Canadian people.

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