Covid-19: collateral damage in Journalism and politics/governance

di Joe Volpe del 27 April 2020

TORONTO - There has been a veritable blizzard of statistics, “information”, “science”, and now government programs to tackle the inevitable consequences on our economic foundations, that it has been “hard to see the forest for the trees”. Who wants to take chances with a merciless, unseen enemy?

We should never let our guard down. Our scrutiny of those in positions of authority be they scientific advisors, economists or political strategists should always operate at its maximum. The institutions that define our society depend on it.

We will get over Covid-19. The stresses it places on our system should never dictate that we abandon the procedures for decision-making. A vigilant Press and Media have a vital role in this regard. So do political parties. Both have a duty to critique and inform. If they do not, who will? The Yahoos who demonstrate in front of Queen’s Park urging an immediate end to “lockdown”?

We rely on a thoughtful, informed press and Media, penetrating in their analysis to keep us informed and our leadership true to its obligations. It takes resources. The government has finally begun to recognize this fact, and, to its credit, is moving on it. But it should never expect supine observance of its partisan ends.

Having said that, a scan of the headlines and stories by Canadian mainstream media outlets makes one wonder where they get their facts and how they establish priorities in presenting “the news of the day.” They enjoy resources that outlets like the Corriere Canadese can only dream about and then only if we were drunk and on drugs.

For example, Canada’s national network during prime-time last week indicate that Italy had tested nearly 1,000,000 inhabitants for Covd-19. It had already tested over 1.5 million – 50% more than indicated in the “news”.

Such lax and cavalier imprecision might be forgivable were we not in the midst of a pandemic, both biological and psychological. Unfortunately, we have all become experts on how not to do things when gripped by paranoia. How we react to the inevitable expressions uttered by denizens of a world we tried to leave behind centuries ago will tell more about how far we have come.

For instance, the writers of one stellar outlet have focused their analysis and outrage on the competence of the Leader (interim) of the OŽcial Opposition for insisting that the country’s Parliament remain open and functional – in one form or another – in time of crisis. Imagine that! Or that he should immediately be replaced because they, members of the Press gallery, think that a non-descript MP in the Conservative caucus was not immediately thrown out of caucus for what they interpreted as racist motivations for his criticism of Dr. Tam, Canada’s Chief Medical OŽfficer.

Why waste ink on someone who has not condoned any such views, who is “on the way out” and has no power to oust anyone? Unless those “scribes” sense that maybe he is not leaving.

I have my own political persuasions. They do not align with those of the Leader of the OffiŽcial Opposition – or did not because in the current maelstrom of political thought processes and policies who knows where anyone will end up? Could anyone have imagined, six weeks ago, that a Liberal/Conservative government - Federal or Provincial – would increase a projected spending package by at least 25% and no one would utter a peep? Does anyone recall the fable of the cricket and the ant?

From my humble perspective, solid journalists might have rushed to the side of putative Conservative Leadership contestants to query how they countenance, and would react to, calls for dismissal of Dr. Tam. They might even ask the Prime Minister if he still agreed with his former Minister of Health – Jane Philpott (whom he fired for unrelated reasons) when she recommended Dr. Tam for the post.

Where are those Conservative “leaders”? Were I to judge from Court documents available through the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (dated 2020/04/13), they are busy trying to secure the coveted top job through the Court – not through public debate and public consensus.

By the way, it appears that “the Party” – at someone’s behest” – may have conspired to disqualify a Mr. Jim Karahalios as a candidate, even though he had met all of the requirements prior to the cut-off” date. Apparently (an)other candidate(s) took exception to his characterization of the chief fundraiser for another camp.

Justice Perell, in a 17-page determination, appears so far to side with Mr. Karahalios. We’ll know for sure when the parties represent their case in Court on May 14. One cannot help but wonder if that’s the reason why some of the scribes referred to above have taken to arguing for a quick vote on the Leadership.


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