“We could have done the easy thing…”
The provincial election campaign in Ontari-ari-ari-o has been a tad listless, if not dull. On the one hand , the incumbent Liberals led by the somnambulant Dalton McGuinty have been self-assured if uninspiring in trotting out a laundry list of their undeniable economic and policy accomplishments.
On the other, forwards/backwards opposition leader Tim Hudak has been doing his best to whip voters into a frenzy about the need for a change from a deficit-sucking tax-happy Liberal regime that is out of touch with Hudak’s vaunted “middle class” base, while concealing his plan to drop fiscal napalm on Ontario’s “bloated” public sector.
In the midst of all this hum-drumming, the editors at The Citizen, Ottawa’s
leading, er, only newspaper decided last week to endorse one of their own employees as the “best of the bunch” in the provincial riding of Ottawa West-Nepean. Here’s how the journalista brain-trust on Baxter Road rationalized this flagrant act of bias and cronyism:
The riding of Ottawa West-Nepean puts this editorial board in an unusual position. One of the candidates is our colleague Randall Denley, on leave from the Citizen. We could have done the easy thing and sat this one out, but this riding is one of the most important (and, let’s face it, most exciting) Ottawa races….We do feel that Denley is the best candidate…His distinguished career as a columnist has been a double-edged sword during the campaign. His independent analysis in the newspaper has not always matched his political rhetoric. On the other hand, Denley’s record as a trusted columnist proves his commitment to common sense and affordability…[I]f elected, Denley would serve as one of Tim Hudak’s better angels….
It actually boggles the mind that The Citizen editorial board would describe their option not to endorse a candidate whom they actually employed as “the easy thing” to do, as opposed to what most ethicists would likely term the obvious thing to do. More to the point, when it comes to safeguarding even a pretense of journalistic objectivity, what sort of ‘heavy-lifting’ is involved for the paper in shilling for Denley’s prowess as a candidate?
Not much at all apparently, if one reads the part of the endorsement that talks about Denley’s “distinguished career” as a “a trusted columnist” with a “commitment to common sense,” glib prose that reads more like Tory ad copy than editorial argument.
Unflattering comparison of right-wingers
Quite apart from the ethics or lack thereof in pimping for their own political scribe, The Citizen’s embarrassing display of favouritism totally ignores the fact that Denley himself has cluttered journalistic cyberspace of late with less than glowing reviews of the man his overseers now tout as his angelic mentor.
As recently as December 2009, Denley savaged his new leader for failing to present effective fiscal alternatives to the McGuinty government “ill-timed sales tax increase”, calling Hudak’s “tactics in opposing the plan…juvenile and ineffective.”
Opined Denley with a sop to the local NHL fans: “Hudak plays politics like the Ottawa Senators’ Chris Neil plays hockey. There’s lots of banging and crashing, but not much to show on the scoreboard.” In the same column, Denley went on to remind voters of Hudak’s pedigree as a member of super-right Mike Harris’s “common sense” revolution, whom Denley tagged as the “bunch that took pleasure in jamming bills through the legislature.”
Taking Swipes at the PM
Back in September 2008, Denley even took a few deft swipes at Hudak’s federal counterpart Prime Minister Stepher Harper, saying that the PM “panders to fear” when it comes to “crackdowns” on crime. How that will wash if Denley joins the Hudak “inner circle” (cabinet minister) is anyone’s guess but it apparently has not dissuaded Hudak, who describes Denley as “a star candidate”.
Not to imply that Denley was ever a left-leaning, or, dare we mention the word, liberal, in his political outlook. Au contraire! In a December 2007 column on Canada’s economic woes, Denley proclaimed, without blushing presumably that:
What this country needs is more rich people, and plenty of them. We all benefit from the disproportionate share of the tax burden they carry and from their potential for philanthropy.
And in a December 2007 piece, Denley had this decidedly non-liberal and blunt comment to make about the plight of Canada’s First Nations people: “If we cut down to the reality that underlies the myth of native oppression, we’d find that aboriginal people have exactly the same rights and opportunities as every other Canadian. If they don’t take advantage of it, that’s their problem.”
If nothing else, Denley’s former beliefs, published in print, may fall prey to the same type of political opportunism that he castigated in his “distinguished” Citizen commentaries on federal, provincial and city politics. For it was only a month after writing the abovementioned snippets about Stephen Harper’s fear-pandering to the federal electorate that Denley confessed in October 2008: “Like many Canadians, I don’t vote by party affiliation, so the so-called party brand is of no value.”
And for a journal that makes a regular practice of promoting its own brand, it should probably not shock anyone too much that The Citizen would shamelessly pimp for Randall Denley as “the best in a strong group” in the west-end constituency. For, aside from his stints as a minor hockey coach and administrator, Denley has also tried his hand at novel-writing and in the summer of 2004, guess which newspaper did him the singular favour of serializing his crime novel manuscript (“twenty-two parts in all and unpublished elsewhere” according to a Citizen promo at the time) and running it as a special feature?
Ironically, Ottawa’s other excuse for a daily newspaper, has decided this election not to endorse any of the three Ontario political parties.