Alberta Politics
The former state-of-the-art Deerfoot Trail headquarters of the literally failing Calgary Herald (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Postmedia bid for role in UCP ‘war room’ illustrates the folly of Trudeau’s lifeline for failing newspapers

Posted on May 18, 2019, 3:08 am
6 mins

Connect the dots, Mr. Prime Minister! That newspaper industry bailout package you’re foolishly planning in the name of preserving democracy is principally designed to keep a corporation afloat that will do anything, no matter how unethical, to destroy your government.

If you want proof, look no further than Postmedia’s astonishing admission, revealed on Twitter yesterday by my sharp-eyed colleague Dave Cournoyer, that the corporation has signed up a well-connected Conservative lobbyist to persuade Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government to let it be part of its $30-million “war room” fake news and harassment operation.

Former Kenney campaign manager turned lobbyist Nick Koolsbergen (Photo: CTV).

The one-sentence bombshell spotted by Mr. Cournoyer was in the province’s Lobbyist Registry, which Postmedia apparently assumed no one would bother to check. The Toronto based, largely U.S. owned media corporation founded on the crumbling bones of the once proud Southam newspaper empire has hired former Jason Kenney campaign director Nick Koolsbergen to “discuss ways Postmedia could be involved in the government’s energy war room,” the filing said.

The newspaper corporation’s assumption likely would have been justified had we been forced to rely on professional journalists to stay abreast of things. Mr. Cournoyer, who is an independent blogger, got almost no credit for his efforts when his discovery became a story yesterday.

Toronto Sun editor-in-chief Mark Towhey, once Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s chief of staff (Photo: Twitter).

There is an amusing irony in Postmedia’s bright idea. As humans have understood from the dawn of civilization, no one should expect to get paid for something they’re willing to give away for free.

And whatever Mr. Koolsbergen has been asked to whisper in the ears of his former bosses at the UCP, Postmedia has been enthusiastically acting as an unofficial communications auxiliary for Alberta’s new governing party since the day the Alberta NDP was elected four years ago, if not for nothing, then for scraps.

Now, by the sound of it, Postmedia has concluded its openly partisan efforts in the service of the UCP deserve to be rewarded.

Postmedia, caught in a trap of its own devising, feebly claimed its lobbying only has to do with the efforts of its “commercial content area,” not news. This strains credulity considering both the open biases of its Canadian newsrooms and the past political activities of former board member David Pecker, notorious for his “catch and kill” strategy of using payoffs by his U.S. news corporation to bury scandals that threatened President Donald Trump.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But even in the unlikely event Postmedia speaks the truth, after a fashion, this is no excuse. The intentional blurring of real news and paid “commercial content” – essentially paid advertisements disguised to look and sound like news – is a deplorable trend that is as much a part of the story of legacy media’s steep decline as the ravages of digitization and technological change.

Meanwhile, in its national news coverage, Postmedia is as dedicated to the destruction of Mr. Trudeau’s government just as it was of former Alberta premier Rachel Notley’s.

A day never passes that the same UCP-Postmedia stenographers who openly campaigned against Ms. Notley don’t also attack Mr. Trudeau, often in the same breath, as the frequent references to the imaginary Notley-Trudeau alliance in the recent election campaign illustrated.

Mark Towhey, once unruly Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s chief of staff, a man said to be without journalistic experience, was recently hired by Postmedia to carry on this work at the Toronto Sun. As Postmedia’s Alberta websites and newspapers did with Mr. Kenney, the Toronto Sun also played a key partisan role in the election as Ontario premier of Rob’s brother Doug along with his chapter of Canada’s Conservative Axis of Intolerance.

Now, Postmedia is actively campaigning to make federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer prime minister of Canada. Local Postmedia papers with a streak of independence soon receive their marching orders from corporate headquarters in Toronto, as is well known.

And yet Mr. Trudeau’s Government persists with its plan to put the legacy newspaper industry on publicly funded life support, which has been intentionally designed to exclude new and alternative media and which, by merit of the literally failing newspapers Postmedia owns, will principally benefit that company.

Seriously, how dumb is that?

6 Comments to: Postmedia bid for role in UCP ‘war room’ illustrates the folly of Trudeau’s lifeline for failing newspapers

  1. Geoffrey Pounder

    May 18th, 2019

    You mean, Postmedia isn’t already involved in Alberta’s ‘energy war room’?
    What a joke. Every last one of Postmedia’s pundits is already an oil industry cheerleader. Postmedia doesn’t have one pro-environment, anti-fossil fuel, climate activist writer on staff.

    Day after day, Postmedia’s scribblers regurgitate the same talking points from CAPP, Vivian Krause, and Ethical Oil. Banging the drum for new pipelines. Attacking environmentalists and ENGOs. Trumpeting First Nation support for “development” while sidelining indigenous opposition. Ignoring climate change. Flouting IPCC warnings.
    The onslaught is non-stop.
    What more could Postmedia possibly do?

    Reply
  2. Bob Raynard

    May 18th, 2019

    It appears Mr. Koolsbergen has pulled a sneaky little end around the lobbyist cooling off legislation. The legislation requires premiers’ staff members to sit on the sidelines for six months before taking on lobbying work, but by leaving Kenney’s employ before Mr. Kenney became premier, Koolsbergen is exempt. It satisfies the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

    ‘No Laws Were Broken’ appears to be becoming a mantra.

    Reply
  3. ronmac

    May 18th, 2019

    Yet more evidence the Libs and Cons are one and the same. Two branches of the Natural Governing Party.

    Reply
  4. Kang

    May 18th, 2019

    Perhaps it is time to apologize to George Clark for his misspelled coup d’état. It appears to have been completely successful on both the provincial and federal levels. In both cases the Ab NDP and the Trudeau Liberals have effectively provided public financing for the Con project’s propaganda and activist arms.

    BTW, in your previous post you correctly noted that having an official opposition will do little or nothing to stop the UCP’s “radical agenda.” So why did the Ab NDP fail to bring the change they promised when they had the power to do so? Adjectives like feckless, innocent, trendoids, all come to mind. So Alberta is back to being an authoritarian single-party petro-state. Less of a coup and more a reversion to the mean.

    Reply
  5. Dave

    May 19th, 2019

    I agree Mr. Trudeau’s plan seems dumb from a political point of view. It sure hasn’t earned him any better coverage in the press in the last six months, if anything it is much worse. However, I suppose therefore it is 100% defensible by Trudeau – he can plausibly say “see my plan has had no influence on their coverage”. I think the National Pest is like many other large failing or struggling businesses in past history, there is a lot of political pressure on governments to somehow prop them up. This is entirely consistent with what the Liberals have done in other cases (ex. Bombardier) and also with what the Conservatives have also done (ex. GM), although thy are more hypocritical about it, as are the Post newspapers who often complain about support for other struggling businesses or groups. It is tempting to say in this case the smart political strategy would be to just let nature take its course, but the Trudeau Liberals have certainly proved themselves not to be very smart political strategists over the last few years, which is a big reason they are in the pickle they are in now. They have had many fine sounding ideas, but implementation of anything has not been their strong point.

    Now, welcome to Alberta where Premier Kenney is a much better political strategist. He brings up this war room idea in the campaign, with no mention of support to the National Pest leading most voters and others to assume this would be some sort of internally run government communications thing, not a P3. Now his former chief of staff magically recently pops up at the National Pest and the war room idea is fleshed out by them to involve money to them safely after the election. How clever and convenient. Even more clever, if too much outrage arises, Kenney can still treat this as a trial balloon and credibly disavow it because this came from them not him. Now do you think the Journal, Herald and Sun will be running many columns to protest this, or even many stories to cover it? They best way to prevent any possible uprising of public outrage is to just ignore the story as much as possible.

    I must give Kenney credit here, he seems to have come up with a much more blatant and politically clever scheme to provide some support to the media that mostly blatantly supported him in the last election and yet who gets criticized for this idea? Trudeau, of course!

    Reply
  6. Sam Gunsch

    May 19th, 2019

    https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/05/17/news/postmedia-lobbies-get-involved-jason-kenneys-oilpatch-war-room?fbclid=IwAR0Vz_i5eqmDUFsHMRWXi_WRMp_ElMTuznaT4wZPwxg03VmH-VIF2iOEMDY

    EXCERPT: Koolsbergen’s lobbyist registration also indicates that Postmedia received more than $1.5 million under the Canadian Periodical Fund, a federal program designed to help Canadian publishers “overcome market disadvantages.”

    Last year, Ottawa announced $595 million over five years to support struggling media providers in Canada. This means Postmedia’s Content Works division could run advertorials on behalf of Kenney’s war room against environmentalists, while its news division is supported by funding distributed by the Trudeau government.

    https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/05/17/news/postmedia-lobbies-get-involved-jason-kenneys-oilpatch-war-room?fbclid=IwAR0Vz_i5eqmDUFsHMRWXi_WRMp_ElMTuznaT4wZPwxg03VmH-VIF2iOEMDY

    Reply

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