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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Are the Sheep Really Eating the Wolves?

Here we go again.

It seems like every time the people, the government or, God forbid, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador does anything that rubs Ottawa or big business the wrong way the mainstream national media swiftly calls a team of verbal mercenaries into action to attack not only the action itself but the motives, agenda and personalities of anyone involved.

It’s the sort of yellow journalism that would have been all too recognizable to the late newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, who built his empire by manipulating public opinion for his personal and political advantage.

Up to this point the attacks have been somewhat immature and asinine in nature, ranging from questioning the intelligence of every day Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to comparing premier Danny Williams to a South American dictator.

The latest assault, by the Globe and Mail, is far more sinister.

Not only does it question the actions of the Newfoundland and Labrador government but uses unsupported comments, supposition and presumptions in an all out character assassination against the Province’s premier.

Clearly as far as the Globe is concerned unbiased journalism is dead.

The editorial board of the Globe has now sunk to substituting unsolicited letters from individuals as hard facts worthy of spreading a conspiracy theory.

It makes me wonder if their lawyers have ever hear of the word “slander” because they may well learn what it means.

The latest attack has to do with the Province’s expropriation of Abitibi’s hydro and timber leases undertaken when the company decided to close its last paper mill in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In a February 19th Globe editorial the paper intentionally left the Canadian public with the impression that the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador had secret plans to drive Abitibi out of the Province, at the cost of nearly a thousand direct and indirect jobs, so he could sieze control of their power supply to feed a planned smelter that would employ 450 people in another part of the Province.

I'm no genious but to me it makes no sense for anyone to sacrifice a large number of jobs to create a small number. This simple reality appears to have escaped the brain trust at the Globe, but then again, when has reality ever been a factor when it comes to propaganda?

The basis of the editorial was a letter from a single individual living near the soon to be closed Abitibi mill. The letter was sent to premier Danny Williams and copied to the media. The letter, written by someone who was clearly upset about the closure, used rhetoric that the Globe and Mail was more than happy to seize upon to serve its purposes. Reality be damned.

According to the Globe article, “Mr. Williams knew (the mill wouldn’t survive)…it now appears, (he) had other plans."

It goes on to “suppose” that the Williams government only made a token gesture to keep the mill open because it wanted the power to supply a new Vale Inco smelter in the town of Long Harbour and says, “This begs a question: Did Mr. Williams sacrifice the 800 Abitibi mill and woodlands workers in Grand Falls to provide 450 permanent jobs in Long Harbour and another 5,700 person-years of employment during the construction of the hydromet facility?”

“Few people in Newfoundland, where Mr. Williams is challenged at one's peril, would dare ask”, says the Globe.
It’s a conspiracy theory worthy of Oliver Stone himself.

The original author of the letter has since stated that the Globe took parts of his letter out of context. He admits not having any connection with the mill, the government or any political party, meaning he would not have been privy to what transpired between the mill operators, government officials or the unions in the months of negotiation leading up to the decision to close the mill.

Is this what passes substance in the Globe these days?

It apparently is, leading to one of two possible explanations. Either everyone at the Globe, from the editors on down, have no journalistic training and experience or they have no problem ignoring the facts in favour of self serving propaganda.

In reality, the contract that requires the building of a smelter in Long Harbour was signed by a previous Liberal administration under then premier Roger Grimes more than seven years ago. It was in place long before the current Williams administration took office.

Does anyone really believe that the mining company involved, Vale Inco, would have agreed to build a smelter, invested more than a billion dollars building a test plant in the Province and went ahead with plans to invest billions more in a seven year old agreement without ever knowing whether or not they would have any power to run the facility?

Surely nobody could have foreseen, when the original contract was signed back in 2002, that Abitibi would conveniently fall into financial difficulties and close its mill at the exact time the new smelter construction was about to go ahead. The speculation is ridiculous.

The Globe also states that, “Few people in Newfoundland, where Mr. Williams is challenged at one's peril, would dare ask”

What peril?

Would the Globe have people believe that Newfoundland and Labrador’s “dictatorial” premier is travelling the width and breadth of the land beheading the serfs or feeding their still wriggling carcasses to his wolf hounds?

Give me a break.

I’ve heard this fairy tale from the national media and partisan political types before but I’ve yet to find anyone who has suffered in any way, let alone lost their head, because they disagreed with the premier?

Sure, some comments may illicit a terse response and some cabinet ministers or caucus members have been disciplined in the past for not toeing the party line, a process I personally find disgusting, but that happens in all politcal parties. Neither response may not be something we all approve of but they're certainly nothing new under the sun.

I've yet to see anyone in the Province quaking in fear.

I’ve publicly questioned Mr. Williams’ tactics and his actions a number of times including his direction on the Lower Churchill hydro project, a project that appears to be something he's hoping will be his legacy.

I still have my head, my job, my home, my family, all of my appendages. I have yet to hear any hounds baying outside my windows and I don’t expect to hear them any time soon.

It seems that after crying foul over the abitibi expropriation, screaming that the little Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is about to single handedly destroy NAFTA and using every means possible to question the legality of the Province’s actions, the Globe has reached a point of desperation that has led them to skirt the edges of libel and slander in an effort to meet their objectives.

As one proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian recently put it, “They’d have you believe the sheep is going to eat the wolf.”


NL-ExPatriate said...

Well done Myles!

Here is an interesting point of view on this latest sell out of Newfoundland and Labrador by confederation.


Here is the legislation passed in the HOA on this.

Here is the link to a scanned version of the original AbitibiCharter.

Anonymous said...

"The sheep eating the wolves". Great analogy. I believe the first one I heard saying that was Dr. Phil Earle. As you said, a very proud NLer and a true patriot to his homeland.

Keep up the great work Miles. This is a great site you have here. We need more people like you who are willing to speak out and get the truth out there.

God knows enough lies and spin sure does.

Anonymous said...

Myles, is it possible that you could get this piece published in some National Magazine?