I find myself now in my old age out of step with the rest of my nation. I should clarify that a bit. I’m not really out of step with the majority of Canadians but with our antiquated electoral system of first past the post I am out of step with enough of them that the conservatives have been able to elect a majority of the members of parliament. I consider the policies proposed and advanced by them to be ruinous for the nation and for forward thinking people everywhere.
Because our system was designed with 2 parties in mind first past the post, which may have worked in the past to reflect fairly well the feelings of the population is swamped now, with elections that often have half a dozen candidates. The Conservatives however whether I like it or not have been elected in the last 3 elections and achieved a majority this last time.
Today I came across what I think is one of the reasons why this happens. I got a copy of the Toronto Sun. This is as much an organ of the right wing as any paper anywhere which even hints at being objective about their news coverage. This is not to smear the Sun in particular because what I found is common in newspapers today. Be they right left or centre biased the fac is that there is precious little news left in our papers
A quick and dirty scan through the Sun showed this, II 1/2 pages of news or opinion, 5 pages of classified ads, and 35 1/2 pages of sports and entertainment. The rest of the paper, some 80 pages total is made up of ads.
This means that if you are relying on the Sun, or most other papers for your understanding of the world you are getting 3 time as much entertainment as you are news. The claim of traditional media is of course that they have the experience and know how to filter the noise and provide rational well researched information. The fact is however that the traditional media are providing not news and reasoned opinion, they are providing clients to advertisers and they do so by giving us the lowest common denominator.
Pages and pages about professional sports with a huge emphasis today on american football and NHL hockey. Pages of info about movies and TV, personalities, projects and foibles. And wedged in some news about the city budget, the navy spy charge, some court proceedings etc.
In fact the first 2 pages are about the size of Tim Hortons coffee cups and whether or not swinger clubs should be controlled the same as strip clubs. Not much of this is going to hep a concerned citizen make up their mind about whether or not they like the Northern Gateway Pipeline project.
Again I want to say this is not a particular slam against the Sun. They may not be the best paper regarding reportage versus entertainment but I doubt that they are the worst. They do reflect however a long standing and growing fact of news gathering today.
A democracy works bet when the population is well informed about the issues faced by the nation and their politicians. When the population loses interest in these matters of public policy the life of the nation is threatened. It was so for all the great empires of the past and it is so today. As we have moved through a half century of affluence and relative peace since the end of WW2 we as a population have allowed ourselves to be seduced by our pleasures rather than our duties. No on e wants to sit through nomination and policy meetings when the latest episode of House or Glee is on TV.
The political pros know this and use it to their advantage. They spend fortunes on crafting 30 second sound bites and photo ops as opposed to real consultation and discussion. They ignore the weaknesses in our electoral process because the party in power, whoever they are would be weakened rather than strengthened by crafting modifications that would better reflect the actual percentage of support they have in the population.
It is we as citizens that need to bite the bullet and do the dirty work of being properly informed and aware and making our views known and taken seriously. I live in the hope that if that started to happen then the parliaments in my country would more closely reflect my own feelings about what it is important for government to pursue.
But maybe I’m wrong and I’m just an old man out of step with the present and future mood of Canada.