media and think-tank researcher

Unravelling the Right

Donald Gutstein

14 Dec '10

Media “disappear” 50% of Canadians

In a recent Toronto Star column, Chantal Hebert opined that Stephen Harper is correct to wrap himself in a flag of austerity and budget cuts because that’s what the majority of Canadians want.

“There has been a sea change in public attitudes about deficits since the last time Canada was burdened with a massive one in the early nineties. The notion that they need to eradicated is almost universally accepted from coast to coast to coast.”

Aside from framing her argument in conservative language–deficits are a “burden” that must be “eradicated,” rather than an opportunity that can be exploited to create jobs­–Hebert presents no statistics to back her claim. So I’ll do it for her.

She is correct if she is referring to that subgroup of Canadians called chief executive officers. A July, 2010 Canadian Business online poll of CEOs found that nearly 90 percent of them want governments to pay down debt and do this by reducing spending on social services rather than by raising taxes.

No surprise there.

More to the point is a November, 2010 Ipsos Reid poll conducted for Postmedia News and Global Television. This poll asked Canadians what should be the best direction for Canada in the next couple of years. The poll found that respondents held two very different views on the direction the country should take. About half supported policies focused on fiscal restraint. They believe government should cut government services, cut the deficit, repay debt and cut personal and corporate taxes.

Fifty percent, though, is a long way from “almost universally accepted from coast to coast to coast.”

The other fifty percent expressed the opinion that Ottawa should enact policies centred on investing more money in social programs like healthcare and infrastructure, protecting the environment, foreign aid, and stimulating the economy through government spending.

This narrative was supported by 54% of those living in Quebec and 50% of Albertans and Ontarians.

It’s unlikely that most Canadians are aware of this interesting fact about their fellow Canadians, who want policies that are the opposite of those Harper is implementing and which are being boosted by Hebert and the corporate media.

Even the Postmedia papers, which paid for the survey­Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen, National Post, Calgary Herald­didn’t report this important finding, choosing instead to focus solely on the finding that the Harper Conservatives would be the best party to manage the economy.

The sad fact is that the opinions of fifty percent of Canadians have been expunged from public discourse.

Given Hebert’s conservative slant, it’s curious she’s billed as the liberal on CBC TV’s At Issue panel. Her job is to provide balance for the two conservatives on the panel, Allan Gregg and Andrew Coyne.

Hmmm.

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Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy

“North Americans have expressed themselves loud and clear on a wide range of issues–like the need for expanded and affordable health care-but it often feels like the politicians in power aren’t really listening.

The truth is, maybe they aren’t.

In Not a Conspiracy Theory, Donald Gutstein skillfully documents one of the most important but least recognized political developments in the last thirty years: the prolonged propaganda campaigns mounted by business to change our minds on fundamental issues of social life.”