Unraveling today’s news

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 4.32.40 PMRecently Gary Mason retweeted an interesting Scott McCrae tweet – Shakespeare is spinning like a top in his grave – about the latest Pew “State of the Media” study.

News consumers, Pew observes, are deserting media outlets as quality reporting diminishes in the face of cuts and editorial decisions.

I tweeted back, “That’s me” but heard no more from Mr. Mason.

Today in provincial politics is a perfect illustration of how and why this is taking place.

It all started with a government leak that landed in the pocket of CP reporter Dirk Meissner.

Meissner’s lead conveyed the raison d’etre for the leak: “A set of leaked letters is undermining the credibility of a report to be released today by British Columbia’s auditor general over the provincial government’s carbon neutral experiment.”

Exactly.  As has been happening more and more recently, someone in or close to the government used Meissner to undermine the credibility of a supposedly damning audit of Gordon Campbell’s pet project, the Pacific Carbon Trust.

Campbell set up the Trust to be the agent of carbon neutrality for the provincial government.  Government institutions with carbon emissions absolve their sins by buying carbon credits from private sector companies that reduce emissions.  The Pacific Carbon Trust is the arbiter of and dealer in supposedly legitimate credits.

Here’s how it works: a company or non-profit figures out a way to capture the value of a real reduction in carbon emissions (a reduction that is sustainable and new).  The Trust evaluates and purchases those options for resale to public bodies like school boards, hospitals and universities.

Put another way school boards, hospitals and universities are mandated to use scarce public dollars to pay for the private sector’s emission reduction programs.

Hadi Dowlatabadi, of UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, put it another way when he told Business in BC “Why not just regulate this stuff? I don’t see why you have to use public money or market forces to address emissions at all.”

Regardless, the Campbell government decided the carrot was a better instrument than the stick and set up the Pacific Carbon Trust to figure out which were the legitimate projects, then purchase credits and resell them to public institutions.

Questions soon arose about price inflation and bang for the public buck.  Earlier this year in response to information released by the Trust through FOI the BC Liberals launched an internal inquiry to determine whether the Trust was paying too much for credits as well as inflating prices in its own interest, both shortchanging schools, hospitals etc…

The Auditor also launched his own independent study that looked not only at the operation of the Trust but at the legitimacy of the credits themselves.  Were companies like Encana and TimberWest – all contributors to the Liberals – inflating prices to cash strapped public institutions, all in the interest of fattening their bottom line?

Now the Auditor’s report is complete, the government has read it and according to the Auditor’s press release had it ready for release today.

Word was the report was more bad news

Cue the selective leaks that cast doubt on the report.  Dirk Meissner was the willing instrument of the government’s damage control effort.  Let’s not kid ourselves, that is what is happening here.

The BC Liberal Speaker Bill Barisoff has spiced up the proceedings with his own bit of improvisation.  He’s now delayed the release of the report because the unseemly leak may be a breach of parliamentary privilege.

Barisoff forgets, disregards, laughs off, whatever, Bill Bennett’s leak, just a couple of weeks ago, of a draft page of an Auditor’s report that was subsequently withdrawn because of inaccuracy. Bennett’s actions flaunting this new found privilege weren’t worthy of a peep from the Speaker.

But back to the whole point of this tangled retelling.  Why the heck is Meissner doing the government’s dirty work?

Rather than taking dictation to come up with the lead why is he not wondering why he’s been chosen to discredit the Auditor General and his report?

Besides Meissner’s dictation today, we’ve got the Tyee outing maybe, possibly a leaker who exposed ethnogate and a couple of other “let’s corral the public service into our party work,” scandals that keep dropping out of the sky.

Except the Tyee offered no definitive proof when it IDed the Liberal staffer.  All they could say was it’s kind of, most likely this guy.

Weak. Very, very weak.

And to what end?  To stop the flow of information about how the Liberal government is using taxpayers’ money to do Liberal party work?  Thank you for that, Tyee.

Tyee editor David Beers, in damage control mode himself, claimed on-line that the reporter had “deepened” the story.

“Deepened the story”?  The only thing deep about this was the gratitude flowing from the Premier’s office.

As someone who wants my newspaper/radio/TV news to tell me the real story, I’m tired of this crap.  I’m tired of reading people who don’t represent me and tell me stories that serve their interests, and their friend’s interests but not mine.

It used to be that I had few options, but no longer, as Pew reminds us.  I can piece the whole Pacific Carbon Trust story together from other sources on the internet.

True, they aren’t all reliable.  But neither is the MSM. And this way I have just a bit more power, as if I’m my own editor of my assembled newspaper/newshour.

***

Day one of the campaign is still more than two weeks away and the Twittisphere is crazy. Besides the tangled web of the PCT there is Kash Heed‘s call for a police investigation of Pat Bell and… the Justice Minister Shirley Bond.

Now do you think this should be a big story?  The former West Van Chief of Police, Solicitor General and recipient of his own Special Prosecutor, twice! thinks the current Sol Gen/AG and Caucus colleague should be the subject of an RCMP investigation.

Heed may hate his colleagues but he does have the chops to know who should be investigated and who shouldn’t.

Forget elections, how is it helpful to the administration of justice to have the Justice Minister under attack from her own colleague and predecessor in the job.  This is like Canada’s version of Italian politics under Berlusconi.  But who’s Silvio?

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7 Responses to Unraveling today’s news

  1. Hugh says:

    I’m curious whether Encana sent a thank-you note to my local school board.

  2. Norm Farrell says:

    Google “Kash Heed” and “Vancouver Sun” and the first three results date from 2012. A search at The Province reveals no mention of Kash Heed calling out Bond and Bell. There was though a story on the website’s front page about a heroic chihuahua. The heavy hitters at G&M left this story to Andrea Woo but at least the issue was covered.

    Ian, you provide excellent advice for all of us when you state, “I’m my own editor of my assembled newspaper/newshour.”

    The only way to be accurately informed is to sort through self-serving crap that is presented daily at MSM and admittedly, at the occasional alternative site. The Tyee does plenty of good work but they pull their punches on certain subjects. Generally, I respect the content but some is far less than worthwhile. But, knowing that I have to be my own editor, reminds me to sort the good from the bad.

  3. Rod Smelser says:

    No doubt many see The Tyee as an alternative media outlet no supported by major commercial interests. Can someone tell me how they DO pay their bills? Just a question.

    If I recall correctly, reporter Andrew MacLeod was among those who more or less insisted that Carole James was obligated to resign her seat and leave politics once she was no longer the party leader. He claimed, quite absurdly, that this was a Canadian tradition. When I pointed out examples like TC Douglas and John Diefenbaker, he just sniffed that those were too far back.

    How that might relate to his need to identify Jeff Melland I don’t know, but my guess is carbon politics and green energy interests might go a ways in terms of connecting these dots.

  4. marie says:

    Am I understanding this right? The province is trying to cover up the fact that their Liberal friends are cheating our school boards, hospitals and universities? And forcing them to buy carbon offsets at inflated prices?

    And the Sun is not only not pursuing that story, they are actively avoiding it?

    It’s appalling but can’t say I’m surprised.

  5. Scotty on Denman says:

    Bismarck’s political process in reverse, sausage disassembling, is bound to turn up distasteful ingredients, especially so when we’ve already consumed a certain amount of it. The BC Liberal political recipe contains ingredients we wish had been edited out before cooking; but it’s natural for people to avoid the humiliation of vomiting in public so MSM gets away with not reporting even the most gag-reflexing, ab-tearing, throat-burning elements of BC Liberal sausage making.

  6. Rod Smelser says:

    Ian, I have some follow up information for you regarding the Jeff Melland story. Please email or phone me, see your Twitter DM for the phone number.

  7. off-the-radar says:

    Hi Ian
    great column, so good that I had to post for the first time, after years of reading your blog. Thank you for being one of the good guys and writing so well and thoughtfully on key political issues in our province.

    I too am very tired of lame MSM “coverage” and thank my lucky stars for the much more astute and insightful coverage from key bloggers.

    Just listened to the CBC radio’s weekly political commentary. Three nice people commenting on the Pacific Carbon Trust. Also three very conventional people, who have all been part of big box government, who are so used to deferring to “experts” and “reputations” that they can’t even see that the emperor has no clothes. The Pacific Carbon Trust is a scam. Carbon-trading is a scam. Ordinary people can see that in about two-seconds.

    And CBC thinks this is a credible panel offering diverse viewpoints with keen insight? So not.

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