[R-G] Stephen Harper risks his career if he gives away the farm to Canwest
fentona at shaw.ca
Fri Mar 20 10:18:26 MDT 2009
March 19, 2009
Stephen Harper risks his career if he gives away the farm to Canwest
By Charlie Smith
Last month, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore dodged questions
from the Georgia Straight regarding how he might help the troubled
media giant Canwest Global Communications Corp.
Moore dismissed any suggestion that the government might make
regulatory changes to allow a foreign takeover as a “good Georgia
Straight conspiracy theory”.
However, Moore was quoted yesterday (March 18) in a Canadian Press
story saying that the government is looking at how to assist Canwest.
Canadian Press also reported that Canwest has contracted former
Conservative campaign strategist Ken Boessenkool to “help plead its
Canwest CEO Leonard Asper is the only person listed in the lobbyists
registry doing any lobbying on behalf of Canwest.
Boessenkool is a registered lobbyist for Taser International,
Enbridge, and the Vancouver Foundation, among other clients, but he is
not listed on the electronic registry as an advocate for Canwest.
It's a bit of a mystery to me how Boessenkool could be lobbying for
Canwest as a consultant without being listed in the registry, unless
there is some time layover between when he begins working and when the
registry posts this information on-line.
Nobody should be surprised that the Harper government will pull
whatever levers it can to ensure the Asper family retains control over
It's an important ally of Prime Minister Stephen Harper because it
owns Global TV, the Vancouver Sun, the Province, the National Post,
the Vancouver Courier, the North Shore News, the Delta Optimist, the
Now papers, the Richmond News, and the Royal City Record as well as
daily papers in several other Canadian markets.
The Aspers and Harper have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. Harper
ensured that the family patriarch Izzy Asper’s dream of a human-rights
museum would come to fruition in Winnipeg, courtesy of massive sums of
And the Aspers helped ensure that Harper would remain prime minister
when Canwest newspapers provided supportive editorials before the 2008
election and then hammered the idea of a Liberal-NDP coalition
government supported by the Bloc Quebecois.
Don’t be surprised if Harper returns the favour by providing generous
tax breaks to the private broadcasters, including Canwest.
It might not be enough to ensure the Aspers remain in control. After
all, the corporation is struggling with a $3.7-billion debt.
But not to worry. If things are on the verge of falling apart, Harper
can make regulatory changes to allow a foreign media giant to come to
the rescue by purchasing a big share of Canwest.
Here’s my conspiracy theory for James Moore to chew on: the prime
minister is trying to figure out how to save the Aspers’ asses without
angering the boys in charge of CTVglobemedia, Quebecor, and Rogers
The only way to do that is to open the floodgates to all the
broadcasters with massive tax breaks and regulatory changes, while at
the same time refusing to offer one iota of help to the Canadian
It might buy Canwest some time. But it’s not going to guarantee the
Conservatives will get reelected.
In the Internet age, people are no longer so reliant on broadcasters.
Word will filter out that Harper has put the media giants at the front
of the soup line.
As the bailouts and sweetheart deals in the United States have
revealed, this sharply elevates the risk that average citizens will
exact their revenge at the ballot box.
I'm guessing that by this time next year, our prime minister's surname
is probably going to be Ignatieff and not Harper--in part because
Harper will have misread how the public would react to a bunch of
legislative changes designed to benefit private broadcasters.
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