In B.C. Expect Trouble
Date: Friday, November 04 2005
In B.C. Expect Trouble
In B.C. the reactionary CanWest Global private corporate media organization owns the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Province, the Victoria Times Colonist, the Vancouver Courier, major TV, the National Post, and more. The owners – the Asper family – give evidence of approving of the following: U.S. ownership and control, reactionary governments like Alberta’s and B.C.’s, U.S. ownership of Canadian press and media, and privatization and globalization as a basis upon which to build corporate power into the dominant force in society.
In the recent (Oct. 2005) teachers strike in B.C. CanWest editorials matched what columnists wrote which matched carefully written news stories, all – to my mind – planned to over-simplify and assail Canadian democracy. A wide range of people in CanWest wrote about the strike. Almost without difference they wrote the same thing, over and over and over. When a different note was sounded, it was washed over by the “support for Gordon Campbell’s government because it makes the law (whatever law)” line.
Corporate concentration in the media affects – and mars - political opposition. In B.C. the opposition NDP simply adopted the “crude rule of law” position in relation to the teachers, abandoning them. Perhaps the NDP of leader Carole James isn’t bright enough to make the arguments against the “crude rule of law” position. Or it could be that advisors to Carole James and James herself were afraid of the CanWest Monopoly battering ram in favour of the Gordon Campbell, anti-democratic values.
A monopoly press and media situation is one in which opposition is often coerced into silence or complicity. The power of a monopoly in press and media is anti-democratic by definition.
Pause a moment to look at the larger picture. In Europe during the recent campaign to have a “new” European constitution, the vast majority of private corporations which own press and media snowed Europeans with false propaganda on behalf of the change. The more than 600 page “constitution”, in fact, was a document that would create the beginning of a situation in which private corporate policies would gain priority over human rights and social securities. A French group made a concerted educational effort to inform, until Europeans in referendums trashed the so-called “constitution”. They had to work against the major press and media in Europe.
The rejection of the neo-liberal constitution was only a set-back for the forces determined to create what can only be called a new fascism in Europe. One of the best journalists there, Bernard Cassen, writing in the most recent edition of Le Monde diplomatique, makes that clear. Looking at the world at large, he says: “the end of 2005 presents us with a dense focus of meetings and measures pointing to a single end: to speed up the precariousness of employment, to set salaried workers on a constantly descending spiral, and to make social insecurity the general condition.” (Nov. 05 3)
In the latest election in Germany, the voters refused to elect a majority government because the two major German parties – like Gordon Campbell’s Liberals in B.C. - intended to adjust Germany’s “competitive status” on the backs of the working people of Germany. In the last 40 years German private corporations have made truckloads of profit. But the argument is that to make Germany “competitive” [that is, to increase profits for the already wealthy corporations], German working people have to give up benefits and social securities. So the German people elected a mixed, minority government.
A continuing part of the attack on the working population in Europe involves an attempt to fragment education, privatize it, and break down the organizations long constructed to protect universal education of integrity.
Teachers in British Columbia have become increasingly aware that the Gordon Campbell government tried – and will go on trying – to rob them of the fundamental right of free collective bargaining. But the teachers need, also, to look across the street. The Telus union (Telecommunication Workers Union) went on strike because Telus management was about (after long, empty negotiation) to impose a contract. Imposed contracts are what workers receive in totalitarian states, and they make collective bargaining a farce. Remember, too, Robert Rabinovitch of CBC locked out the CBC working people because they wouldn’t accept an imposed contract intended to make employment more precarious for many of them.
In both the case of CBC and TWU the fight is for fundamental democratic rights – whatever you may read or hear from the CanWest private media corporation.
British Columbia is without freedom of the press and without an effective political opposition aware of the real issues facing the population.
The Gordon Campbell government intends to destroy public education in the Province. Education minister Shirley Bond’s people have already (causing scandal) played with the apprenticeship program, savagely cut access offices and staff, and are alleged to have “freed” private education institutions into greater de-regulation and what might be called “un-supervision” – a part of the general move to private, corporate, class-based education across the board.
The so-called illegal teachers strike of October was relentlessly hammered by the CanWest Monopoly and the profoundly prejudiced Supreme Court of B.C. The Supreme Court and CanWest served as extensions of the Gordon Campbell Liberal cabinet. Neither undertook a serious consideration of bad legislation practice and bad law, of their implications for public behaviour, public morality, and concepts of equity, a word which means recourse to principles of justice (often to correct bad law).
Quite simply, a practiced and conscionable judge may say “this is a law, but it is one that offends primary principles of justice, and so we must do something about it.” That is why a phrase is used which combines the words justice and equity. It means that justice is not simply a matter of having a majority pass a law, but that the law must be scrutinized in relation to fundamental principles of justice. Such an idea did not invade the minds of either the puppet writers of the Asper family’s CanWest Monopoly media operation in B.C. or the relevant judge in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
B.C. is without freedom of the press, without effective political opposition, and without an unbiased, impartial Supreme Court that understands the essential defenses required by democratic society.
In B.C. expect trouble.
In my last column on the teachers strike I called attention to Vaughn
Palmer, CanWest Monopoly political columnist whom I choose to call Gordon Campbell’s personal representative at the Vancouver Sun.
Palmer played the game that Vince Ready, Liberal government employee, was neutral, that Madam Justice Brenda Brown of the B.C. Supreme Court was flexible and restrained. Palmer, in effect, supported – as I read his position – the denial of free collective bargaining rights to the teachers of B.C.
In that last column I said the Campbell Liberals intend to destroy public education in B.C. They’ve destroyed public ownership of B.C. Rail in a set of rancid transactions still scarcely examined, still kept secret, and still stinking to high heaven. They’ve destroyed public responsibility for support and care workers in hospitals and homes for the elderly. They’ve destroyed public ownership and the right of public scrutiny of the B.C. Ferries operation. They’ve destroyed the legislation assuring that what was B.C. Gas (now Terasen) would remain a British Columbia company headquartered in B.C. …and more.
I said that in the destruction of B.C. public education the B.C. teachers strike was a slight break in the plan. “Bill12 (and the repression that preceded it)”, I wrote, “was no ‘error’, no ‘misjudgement’ – as the teachers will discover. It was the carrying out of a clean, long-term strategy, which was briefly interrupted by the strike”.
A few days after the strike ended Vaughn Palmer. Gordon Campbell’s personal representative at the Vancouver Sun, gave evidence that I have been speaking the truth. He did so in such a way as to suggest the Campbell government has no alternative. He did so, I suggest, as a covert advocate for Campbell policy.
A government education bureaucrat has declared that school boards may be erased or otherwise robbed of power. Remember, many school boards publicly asked the Campbell government to negotiate with the teachers and to listen meaningfully to their complaints. How are the school boards to be silenced? Wipe them out.
Campbell tries, always, to use highly paid flacks to make political announcements. That’s why health “Authorities” attack the Health Care system, the Ferries “Commissioner” works unstintingly as an “independent” officer to dump the ferries into private hands, and so on. That’s why a bureaucrat made the first statement about castrating school boards.
“Don’t talk to me,” Gordon Campbell in effect says. “ I’m paying X three hundred thousand a year. Talk to him or her; he or she makes the decisions not me.” In effect, Gordon Campbell, metaphorically, is filling B.C. with highly paid Adolf Eichmanns whose job is not to ask questions but to make death camps work.
Vaughn Palmer doesn’t see anything ugly in the move against school boards. He admits that by having school boards in operation during the draconian schools closing period ”provincial politicians could pass the buck”. (Vancouver Sun, Oct. 29 05 A3)
Then pushing an almost pure Campbell line, Palmer pretends the new change has to come because “provincial politicians” can “no longer” “speak authoritatively on issues such as class size” since school boards divide up various kinds of administration.
But, you say, those “provincial politicians” are government. Why can’t they speak authoritatively on information about the schools? Well, because, you see, they didn’t ask for the information. Otherwise, they could have had all the information they wanted. Palmer even admits they didn’t ask for it. “Ask for it”, you say. “Don’t attack the school boards.”
Vaughn Palmer is snowing his readers for the Campbell government. Palmer admits that the teachers union found out all the things the government “no longer” could. No trouble.
It comes down to the simple truth that public education based upon the equality of British Columbians is expensive. How can we cut corporate taxes if we keep paying for public education? The thing to do is to suggest education costs can’t be born.
And so Vaughn Palmer goes into a hypnotic dance about education costs. The sums of money he mentions are connected to … nothing. There’s $230 million for special needs students. All in all, there’s half a billion for special needs – but plainly not enough according to teachers in the system.
Palmer fails to mention the Campbell government took off the cap on class size AND off the number of special needs students per class. Palmer fails to mention forecasters expect 50,000 more people to come to B.C. next year alone. Palmer fails to say Gordon Campbell is manipulating to convince British Columbians they can’t afford public education.
Nicely, neatly, sweetly, Palmer dumps the blame for costs on – you guessed it – the teachers and school boards. He says it by writing “the provincial cabinet is coming to understand why Ottawa rarely provides more money to provinces without linking it to outcomes”. The mess the teachers were striking about isn’t the government’s fault but the fault of teachers and school boards that have been throwing money into the wind. Palmer’s job is to blame greedy, wasteful, unsupervised teachers and school boards. And, skillfully, he does so.
Somehow Palmer always knows what “the provincial cabinet is coming to understand”.
He knows, too, he isn’t to talk about the betrayal of teachers and public education by the Gordon Campbell Liberal government. He isn’t to talk about the so-called government surplus available, much of it wrung from the lowest paid labour in B.C. He isn’t to talk about the role of education and its importance in democratic society. Nor is he to talk about the flood of migrants to B.C. and its effect upon schools and school costs. Nor is he to talk about the levels of tax paid by corporations, a level not intended to maintain a decent society in B.C.
What Vaughn Palmer must not do is give a whole, clear, fully-fleshed picture of B.C.’s education problems. He would only give such a picture if he was in a province possessing freedom of the press. Since he writes for a reactionary corporate Monopoly which controls all of what many British Columbians learn from journalists, he can write the gibberish he does: propaganda for a reactionary government.
His job as personal representative of Gordon Campbell at the Vancouver Sun is to do what Gordon Campbell does: manipulate, misinform, and blame others than those responsible. Vaughn Palmer does those things masterfully, using the private corporate monopoly press to support the drive for corporate totalitarianism in the province.
In B.C. expect trouble.