Business Conspiracy to Elect Conservatives?

By Ryan McGreal
June 11, 2004
Swelling support for the Conservatives in Canada's upcoming federal election is widely attributed to popular anger over Liberal arrogance and corruption. However, a recent McGill University study shows a clear media bias that favours the Tories. Has the business establishment decided that it's time for regime change in Canada?

Almost by accident, I came across a message I had posted to a political email list over two years ago. I had forgotten about it, but with recent events it assumes new importance. On March 22, 2002, the Globe and Mail published an article by Jacquie McNish and Brian Laghi entitled, "Bay Street dismisses new-look Alliance". The news: big business won't support Canada's right wing until the parties merge.

The article reads in part, "Burned by the Alliance's dwindling popularity and bitter infighting, a number of prominent corporate backers said they would keep their hands on the purse strings until a more credible opposition was cobbled together out of the country's two right-wing parties."

The authors quote Stanley Hartt, chairman of Salomon Smith Barney Canada, Inc., saying "You have to put the parties together before anyone will pay attention to the Alliance. No one in the business community cares about anything else."

Pat Daniel, CEO of Enbridge Inc., agrees. "The business community wants to see a strong, national and viable alternative to the Liberal Party. ... The only way to beat the Liberals is for the Alliance and the Tories to make a deal."

Well, the Alliance and the Tories made their deal, and Bay Street got what it wanted: a credible party that represents their interests more consistently than the Liberals, who continue to cling to some vestiges of their populist, centre-left constituency.

Recent media attacks on the Liberals can only be described as a witch hunt. The sponsorship scandal was a nasty case of pork-barreling, to be sure, but as a share of total government expenditures, it was scarcely a drop in the bucket. By contrast, the Ontario Conservative Party engaged in similar influence-peddling by giving millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to Conservative-supporting "consultants" with barely a mention in the major dailies.

At the same time that the media are demonizing the Liberals, they are busy polishing the Conservative halo, glossing over inconvenient details. Where the media has been critical, it has tended to focus on the party's social conservatism rather than its reckless fiscal policy, which most economists agree will result in either deficits or cuts to social spending.

Since the media are all but ignoring the NDP and the Green Party, they are painting this election as a false alternative between the venal, corpulent, money-wasting Liberals, and the energized, fiscally prudent Tories.

The last time the Conservatives got into power, Canada was transformed radically into the image of its corporate captains and the public was left to pick up the monetary and social tab. What does Bay Street have planned for this round?

A copy of the original Globe article (at the time, the Globe only archived articles for 7 days) and my commentary are available here.


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