It’s the Ontario election, but why should that matter to the average voter in the Atlantic provinces?
There are a few possible answers to that question. Perhaps the largest one is that Ontario’s sheer size in relation to the Atlantic region means what happens there tends to ripple outwards and affect other provincial economies.
There are other answers, too. Sometimes things that are launched in Ontario find their way east as precursors to legislative direction here.
And that’s why we should think about Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford, and something that we should be aware could take root here as well.
Ford, complaining about the media, has done an internet end-run around the system. Not satisfied with the news coverage he’s receiving, he’s simple created his own, with scripted video reports on his Facebook site. It’s all Ford, all the time, and it’s relentlessly supportive. (That’s not unexpected; it’s not news, really, just political advertising disguised to look like news.)
But what does it matter if a candidate is willing to pay for and script his own questions-and-answer coverage?
For years, politicians have complained they’re not getting a fair shake from the media. What they actually mean is that they’re not getting the kind of coverage they want, coverage that only promotes their positive actions and never reveals anything that doesn’t bolster the candidate.
The real media actually views coverage and analysis in a different light. Rather than classing news as “positive” and “negative,” the media is generally more concerned about what’s true and what’s just blowing smoke.
People aren’t stupid; hopefully, if they take the time to watch closely, they’ll realize that Ford-branded “newcast” — complete with Ford-branded microphones and campaign staff as “reporters” — does not represent an objective analysis of a political campaign.
Still, we should be looking ahead at where campaign-produced internet “coverage” should fit in provincial and federal campaigns; in particular, how completely and clearly it would have to be identified as campaign advertising, especially if the candidate involved makes a point of avoiding media scrutiny and questions.
After all, we don’t knowingly let large corporations script and enforce their own environmental regulations or consumer protection standards. The internal conflict of interest between profits and safety regulations would soon water down the protections we have.
We don’t allow teachers to pick their own individual curricula, nor do we allow drivers to decide what the safe top speed is that they can drive at — or the amount of alcohol they can handle and stay behind the wheel.
Having Doug Ford’s staff explain why Doug Ford is the best choice on the Doug Ford news channel is more than a little conflicted. And having his own staff tell you that’s why someone should vote for him? Well, it’s self-serving indeed.
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