Alberta Politics
The Alberta Legislature Press Gallery at work — an exclusive club with exclusive access (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

With a questionable claim to the moral high ground, Postmedia rolls over for the Rebel

Posted on August 14, 2020, 3:21 am
9 mins

Canada’s largest newspaper chain has just rolled over for the Rebel.

Last night the National Post published an editorial demanding that the Alberta Legislature Press Gallery admit employees of Rebel News Network Ltd. to its ranks.

Retired journalist Heather Boyd, author of a report that could have saved the Press Gallery’s bacon (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The Post’s editors gave the appearance of being so incensed about the Press Gallery’s refusal to allow the right-wing video blog site’s staffers to become members that they declared, “until it does, Postmedia will withdraw its reporters from the gallery, effective immediately.”

The Post did its best to make it appear the position was one of high principle.

The Rebel may be “obnoxious,” the editorial piously said, and it may have “been home to a succession of cranks and bigots since its inception,” but that’s no reason to not let it join the Press Gallery.

“This difficult process of reinventing our industry to meet the challenges and needs of 21st century readers cannot be threatened by established legacy players strangling ambitious new outlets,” the editorial huffed self-righteously. “Let The Rebel report.”

Legislative reporters for Postmedia’s Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal are said to be none too pleased by this. It’s more than likely some of them joined the Gallery’s vote to declare the Rebel’s right-wing activists persona non grata.

But instructions have come down from on high in Toronto, so they must do as they are told. It will make their jobs more difficult.

Nor can the recently elected president of the Alberta Legislature Press Gallery Association be all that happy. Tyler Dawson is a Postmedia reporter. Postmedia’s editorial certainly sounds to an outsider like a public rebuke of its own employees. Under the circumstances, it’s unclear how Mr. Dawson can continue as Gallery president.

Rebel News Network Ltd. proprietor Ezra Levant (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The Press Gallery itself, which rushed to the defence of the Rebel in 2016 when a couple of its operatives were turned out of a stakeholders’ briefing on the NDP government’s oil royalty review, is hoist with its own petard.

When mainstream media inaccurately accused the NDP of “seeking to muzzle” the Rebel at the time, the Notley Government vowed never to be caught in this embarrassing bind again, hired a respected retired journalist to write a report, and washed its hands of all responsibility for determining who is a Legislature journalist and who isn’t — a duty, it is has long been argued here, that properly belongs with the Office of the Speaker.

When Heather Boyd recommended the Gallery be given responsibility for handing out credentials, with administrative support from the Speaker as in Parliament in Ottawa, its members wanted no part of it. Too much work. Too much potential for being on the receiving end of a controversy.

Had they done their bit and found a way to provide credentials for journalists and commentators on the right and left who need occasional access to the Legislature Building, they might have nipped this crisis in the bud.

Alberta Legislature Press Gallery President Tyler Dawson, a Postmedia employee (Photo: Linked In).

Instead, journalistic interlopers — sometimes including the author of this blog — were left to the always time consuming and often inconsistent mercies of Legislature’s security department, for which every day is a new day, to gain access to the building.

At the time, Rebel Media proprietor Ezra Levant had no interest in his organization joining the Press Gallery. He told me so himself. Now the United Conservative Party is the government and he has changed his mind. When the Gallery told him no, he promptly proceeded to threaten its members with legal action.

Among the letters sent by Rebel News Network’s lawyers was one stating that the Press Gallery “is a Postmedia dominated trade association” that “benefits from a dominant position in Alberta’s media landscape.” Accordingly, it continued, if the Press Gallery does not reverse its decision, “we have instructions to commence formal proceedings against Postmedia pursuant to the Competition Act … which regulates anti-competitive business practices in Canada.”

So despite the high-minded tone of last night’s editorial, it is also quite reasonable to suspect Postmedia hopes its quick withdrawal from the Gallery will let it escape the legal snare set for it by the Rebel’s lawyers.

Duncan Kinney of Progress Alberta (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

There is also the reasonable question of whether many of the notoriously right-wing Post’s senior editors not so secretly sympathize with the Rebel’s point of view and would not be unhappy to see its staffers prowling the corridors of the Legislature.

Left unsaid in the editorial is whether Postmedia’s employees will be turning in the credentials issued by the Press Gallery that give them easy access to the Legislature without having to explain their business to an uninterested security guard who would prefer they just went away.

If not, it is likely the Speaker’s Office will soon hear from others in a similar position with complaints about unequal treatment for Postmedia reporters who, like them, are not Gallery members.

Then there is the matter of the office space in the Legislature provided for a nominal annual fee to Press Gallery members. Does Postmedia expect to somehow keep the keys, despite its absence from the Gallery?

Postmedia’s reporters will now have to suffer the inconvenience and indignity of working from the Edmonton Journal’s offices, several long blocks away from the Legislature.

One wonders if Postmedia thinks this can all be settled by the time the COVID-19 emergency is over and the Legislature Building is open again to normal business, its reporters welcome back to their congenial home in the basement.

As Duncan Kinney, the reporter for Progress Alberta quoted in the Post’s editorial, said last night, “I think the Press Gallery needs to get over itself!”

It’s an anachronism, essentially meaningless except as a gatekeeper for a couple of perks: a security pass to the building and publicly subsidized office space at the best address in Edmonton.

Otherwise, it’s completely irrelevant, as Postmedia just proved.

Sooner or later, like it or not, some responsible grownup in the Speaker’s Office is going to have to deal with this.

26 Comments to: With a questionable claim to the moral high ground, Postmedia rolls over for the Rebel

  1. Lea Langelier

    August 14th, 2020

    Have you forgotten that both The Rebel and Postmedia have openly supported the UCP, and how Kenney’s old Chief of Staff now works for Postmedia? Or how the Rebel has been frequently seen at UCP Conferences despite the claim that no one in the UCP supports its far-right agenda? The biggest blowout is obviously between truth and the interpretation of it. I don’t see them fighting to allow you in there, for example. Oh, in case we forget … even StarMetro, does not attend the Legislature (if we’re going mainstream)

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      August 16th, 2020

      LEA LANGELIER: I do know about this. Also, via Twitter, Jason Kenney said that Faith Goldy was welcome to come to Alberta at anytime.

      Reply
  2. Bret Larason

    August 14th, 2020

    When they vote you in, do you get free ear plugs or do you have to buy your own?

    Seems to me press galleries, as an institution are an anachronism from a time when the press feigned independence. People with good intentions voting to only allow other people of good intentions in seems like a good idea. That of course is down the river. Every media has a bias. Understanding that helps you understand the content they provide, there are convenient websites that can help you find out their bias. And of course, other sites to allow you to understand the bias of the bias websites.

    Heres an interesting piece about the New York Times: https://www.cjr.org/special_report/why-the-left-cant-stand-the-new-york-times.php

    Should probably be a hit around here. And also shows some of the underpinnings for cancel culture and a hollowing out of any middle ground by kommisars of the various factions.

    And intrinsically, if this post gets posted, it shows that listening to dissenting views can help you have better views.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      August 14th, 2020

      Bret: Trying to butter me up will get you nowhere. At AlbertaPolitics.ca we are committed to freedom of expression and tolerant of bad ideas when expressed by dissenters. Repetitive, abusive and irrelevant silly comments go into the trash can. Thank you, caller (Click! Bzzzz…) DJC

      Reply
    • Murphy

      August 14th, 2020

      Very amusing to see a Kon whine about “cancel culture”. While the current wave of inconoclastic mayhem is very definitely quite silly and counter-productive, unlike Kon sentiments, it at least has a basis in historical analysis. The people held up as the cultural pillars of our society were, in general, scumbags, which goes with the territory in a growing imperialist, militarist socio-economic system in a colonial settler state. But no matter how kooky the “progressives” get, they’re a distraction and pose no threat to the establishment. When push comes to shove the apparatus of the state is brought to bear against any real threat to the economic system, in an instant. Just as they did in the Quebec Crisis, itself very likely a Canadian theatre of the NATO Strategy of Tension campaign, the state went after the left as part of their explosion of repression before the Vancouver Olympics, and again at the time of the Toronto G20 summit. Funny thing about you Kons. Your limibic system central control allows you to dispense with any and all information that produces an emotional state contrary to your desired ratio of submission/dominance.

      Reply
      • Bret Larson

        August 15th, 2020

        Sounds like you know a lot about Kons. Maybe a little bit of Kon envy? I wouldn’t describe myself as a kon, but if the choice is con or anti, I’ll take con. As to “whining about cancel culture” you assertion couldn’t be further from the actuality, I am quite enjoying the brouhaha. The combatants are deserving, and the blood is real.

        Reply
    • Kang

      August 14th, 2020

      Bret: if you are going to adopt a pen name, you should really spell it consistently, lest some come to suspect you are a “wolf” in Nordic clothing.

      Reply
      • Bob Raynard

        August 15th, 2020

        Kang, you have alluded to something which I have meant to post about for awhile. Jason Kenney is dumping huge amounts of money in his war room, and has structured it so the general public can’t really see what it is doing. The tidbits we see on the Canadian Energy Centre website can hardly use up all of the funds it has available, so what else is it doing?

        Given that we know our premier has no moral compass, it is entirely possible that the staff are posting pro-UCP comments on the internet wherever they can. ( It certainly is not nearly as far-fetched as the idea that someone would run a rival leadership campaign with the express purpose of undermining a rival.) If this is indeed the case, it has the unintended consequence of undermining the credibility of every legitimate UCP supporter’s comments, since people reading them they have to wonder if what they are reading is truly someone’s opinion, or if it is just something their tax dollars are paying for.

        Reply
        • Bret Larson

          August 16th, 2020

          Pay me enough to psychoanalyse cancel culture? 30 million isn’t enough. Maybe 900 million? Just joking, my allegiance comes free of charge. I am victim to desiring good governance. Working on the hearts and minds of my fellow citizens to empower them to not abrogate their democratic vote to actors which want to sell that vote is why I am posting.

          Reply
      • Bret larson

        August 15th, 2020

        You can call me Ragnar if you like.

        Reply
    • Bret Larson

      August 14th, 2020

      I agree, the bigger story is, if we learn from the past, like going from $12 Lemonades to the liberals trifecta of ethics scandals. ABC is looking a disaster.

      Reply
      • Athabascan

        August 15th, 2020

        Hey Bret,

        Remind me again how much a glass of orange juice was charged by Bev Oda. Wasn’t she a Conservative? Oh, and how much did it cost Conservative supporters to send Andrew Sheer’s kids to private school? Has that money ever been paid back, I wonder? Oh, and let’s not forget Sheer’s promise to renounce his American citizenship. Has that been done yet?

        Trifecta of ethics scandals indeed!

        Reply
        • Bret Larson

          August 16th, 2020

          Thanks for making my point.

          Reply
      • Abs

        August 15th, 2020

        Jack Webster might tell you to stick to the point, “A”.

        Reply
  3. Murphy

    August 14th, 2020

    I see scarce difference between Rebel and the properties owned by Post, Bell, Shaw, etc. When the Globe and Mail was running editorials calling for the defeat of Notley’s Neoliberal Diluted Perfidity, it was obvious that we had reached the end of corporate media’s specious attempt at impartiality. Russell and Rusnell at CBC are literally the only “journalists” operating in this province.

    Reply
  4. Just Me

    August 14th, 2020

    When he was a young student-at-law and the Reform Party’s official youth organizer, Ezra Levant admitted to being a huge admirer of Geraldo Rivera. Sensationalism before substance, circuses before facts, fun and profit before truth, Geraldo is the living personification of Foxnews.

    Ezra Levant has had a working relationship and friendship with Jason Kenney for well over twenty-five years. Going back to the days of the Reform Party’s infamous ‘Snack Pack’ (a phrase coined by Levant) Kenney and Levant were the les infants terribles of the Reform crowd. The end result was instigating chaos and mayhem that was closely resembled that committed by the ‘Contract with America’ Republicans. Like their inspiration, Newt Gingrich, Kenney and Levant were determined to ‘burn, baby, baby’ all Canadian institutions to the ground. Levant became something of a legend in political and media circles. With the frequent intervention of ally Stockwell Day to manage extreme damage control notwithstanding, Levant became a folk hero for the budding Alt-right.

    Fast forwarding to today, Levant, wanting to pull an Andrew Breitbart/Alex Jones, he created the Rebelmedia conspiracy mill out of the wreckage of SunNewsTV. Thanks to his cadre of trouble-makers and professional loud-mouths, Levant, thanks to questionable support from the US-based News Max, is continuing his bizarro campaign to ruin everything. Does now-premier Kenney want to be even near Levant these days?

    The UCP has a bizarre relationship with the Rebel. Considering Levant’s bitter and venomous attacks on Andrew Scheer, and his more recent vitriol against Premier Doug Ford, striking at the Rebel is like trying to grab a rattlesnake by its tail. Does Kenney really want the crazier elements in his voter base to turn on him because they hang on Levant’s every word? Levant has already made it clear he’s on the side of dumping Peter MacKay’s CPC leadership big in favour of … whoever Levant can stand.

    Kenney desperately wants Erin O’Toole to be CPC leader, because his hatred of Peter MacKay is at the level of a psychosis. Keeping Levant and the Rebel in his corner can only help.

    Reply
    • Bret larson

      August 15th, 2020

      Ezra and Kenney, a working relationship over decades. There is something to be said about people who can sustain a relationship. Very admirable!

      Reply
      • Athabascan

        August 16th, 2020

        Yeah, a marriage made in heaven no doubt. Others include Bonny and Clyde, Hitler and Mussolini. Very admirable in a dark kind of way.

        Reply
      • Just Me

        August 16th, 2020

        No doubt they share a brain…Jeffrey Dahmer’s brain.

        Reply
  5. Firth

    August 15th, 2020

    While I have many issues with the “journalistic integrity” of Postmedia in general, to suggest Rebel is journalistic in any sense is laughable at best and horrifying at worst. It’s simply a blog masquerading as a news source and unfortunately their crimson-necked faithful can not tell the difference. It’s a sad commentary on both the current reality in Alberta and the Albertan people in general.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    August 16th, 2020

    The Rebel isn’t a credible news outlet. Calling them a news outlet is a stretch to begin with. They are an offshoot of Sun News Network, which was on TV, but never got any support to keep afloat. Brian Liley was the co-founder of Rebel News. He left, because he was not impressed with what it turned into. The Rebel has had “reporters” who have a history that isn’t good. Among them are Faith Goldy, Katie Hopkins, and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson. There was another one, whose name eludes me at this time, but they were making degrading comments against Catherine McKenna. What is seen in the Rebel is very slanted, yet so many fall for it. The Rebel had a proven anti Liberal and an anti NDP agenda from the start. Another thing is that there were “reporters” from Rebel News, who had their social media accounts revoked, because they violated the terms of service. I remember the Toronto van attacker incident. The first thing that one of the “reporters” who was employed at Rebel News, was blame Justin Trudeau for letting the person into Canada, and that the blood was on his hands. Before an actual investigation took place, the “reporter” knew who did it. Unbelievable! The “reporters” at Rebel News are well known for being instigators, love provoking people, racists, and are up to no good. The contradiction here is that Postmedia executives don’t defend how the Rebel News conducts themselves, yet they want them to be allowed at the Alberta Legislature Press Gallery.

    Reply
  7. Dave

    August 16th, 2020

    I suppose this is all a bit of inside baseball, interesting and understandable only to a limited number of people, but I can see it may have far reaching ramifications.

    To start with there is a cozy relationship between the mainstream media and the UCP, the former long past its high water mark in terms of social impact or influence and I suspect the UCP is past its high water mark now to. Opening up this exclusive press gallery club probably does not help their cozy mutual beneficial relationship, but the world moves in directions that can’t always be controlled by those with power.

    I am quite cynical, particularly about the motives and plans of the remnants of the post mortal media empire. I sense a perhaps byzantine scheme here, but then we know how the Byzantine empire went – fading away gradually over a long period of time and eventually ending. I suppose, it is perhaps better for them to claim the moral high ground of principles here, rather than have this be just another cost cutting measure. It could be they just can’t be bothered to support the press gallery any more and think it just might save them a few bucks by pulling out.

    In any event nature abhors a vacuum, so this seems particularly like a situation where someone might come in to fill the breach. If this does result in more diversity of opinion than the timid group speak that seems to have taken over much of Alberta’s mainstream media, this could be a good thing.

    Reply
  8. jerrymacgp

    August 16th, 2020

    Interesting you mentioned Mr Duncan Kinney & Progress Alberta — unfortunate coincidence his surname is but one vowel different from that of our not-so-illustrious Premier — but didn’t clarify whether his organization is a Press Gallery member. Lost in editing, perhaps? I think that might have been a relevant point, given the litigation that occurred not too long ago about whether Progress AB would be allowed into government press conferences. If Ezra LeRant et al. gets into the Gallery, Mr Kinney & his organization should be in it.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      August 17th, 2020

      Progress Alberta is not a member of the Press Gallery. I don’t know if they have applied. I know that when I wrote a letter of inquiry, not an application, several years ago I was rudely dismissed by the then president of the Gallery. The complaint that this is a legacy media to prevent competition seems to me to be justified. That said, I don’t need or particularly want to join their private club. I need and want access to the building where laws are made in Alberta. DJC

      Reply
  9. Evolution is a Hoax

    August 16th, 2020

    Well, If you saw the News story that Rebel uncovered catching Patrick brown in the act of having his buddies over to a City Skate rink when everything was off limits to the public you would see how the Rebel and its cheekiness is needed.
    It was amazing. Apparently Brampton shut down all its civic centres and took out the Ice in the hockey rinks. It was covid time and no one could use these things. But not for Patrick. He had the city put the Ice back in. Then for one hour a week he and his buddies would play hockey No masks, and against the rules for everyone else but them apparently. People on the street were getting $800 fines for not wearing a mask or going to a park where they shouldn’t. But there is patrick spending tax payer money for his own personal gain against rules, and Rebel caught Rob, Red handed, Smoking Gun Style, Bag in hand, and sure enough Patrick Ran. They sped off in a car. And he lied saying he was just there to inspect. If there was a piece that should get a Pulitzer prize that footage and David Menzies cheeky caught you moment and quick thinking to look at the bag Patrick left behind in his panic (the smoking gun) was worthy of a Pulitzer. Short of catching Clinton with his pants down, this story in a way came close to that. And the best was Patrick was trying to tell David HE shouldn’t be there.
    So just for that story, Rebel deserves to be given a nation wide, I say a world wide press pass. They, David in particular earned his stripes.

    Reply

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