So What If Quebec Separates?

In an astute article of today’s (April 23) National Post, “Liberal remedy to Layton is to look in the mirror,” Kelly McParland writes,

In 21 elections between 1921 and 1993, when the Liberals won it was because of Quebec. They took the overwhelming majority of Quebec seats in every winning campaign, and only once were they popular enough in the rest of the country to have won without Quebec (and even then, in 1935, it would have been iffy). The Liberal party was about keeping Quebec happy; that’s where power lay. It all changed when the Bloc Quebecois came along and stole their meal ticket. Since 1993, when the Liberals win it’s because of Ontario, yet the party has never put the effort into pleasing Ontario that it did into Quebec.

Continue reading “So What If Quebec Separates?”

The Sponsorship Scandal Still Matters

One of the very few politically  insignificant legacies of the Sponsorship Scandal is that ever since I have been of a sympathetic disposition toward the then Minister of Human Resources Development, Jane Stewart. She more than any politician — and here I include Paul Martin, who clearly was designated by the early-retiring Jean Chrétien as the bag holder — was bespattered by the ill-will which finally brought to an end what seemed the inevitability of Liberal rule in Canada.

Continue reading “The Sponsorship Scandal Still Matters”

C.D. Howe And The Three-Point Tempest

This week the election campaign delivered another manufactured controversy in which Canadians will take no interest: should the level of corporate taxes be 15%, or 18%?

Continue reading “C.D. Howe And The Three-Point Tempest”

Is Fox News Coming To Canada?

We all knew someone was going to say it, but how appropriate that it was Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and on April Fool’s day.

News networks remain an integral part of the information and communication age, bringing audiences a fair and balanced view of the world around us. The official launch of Sun News Network in Toronto is a wonderful addition of another network offering high quality and distinctive local content. We welcome you to Toronto and we wish you much success.

Continue reading “Is Fox News Coming To Canada?”

The People Versus The Minister of Nothing

This week the Toronto Star reported the story of the death and burial of Charlie Hunter, which is also the story of his parents’ thirty-seven year effort to have their son’s remains returned to their community of Peawanuck for burial.

Continue reading “The People Versus The Minister of Nothing”

Stephen Harper’s Kairos Smear Campaign

Among the most offensive character traits of the Harper Government is the indolence of its cynicism. How stupid does the current occupant of 24 Sussex Drive take us to be, and how easily lost does he suppose we will become amidst the transparent undergrowth of non-sequitur, evasion, and the changings of the subject? Quite and very, it would appear.

Continue reading “Stephen Harper’s Kairos Smear Campaign”

The Flanagan Slip

Arriving at precisely the moment the quite probable hand of Mossad has been discerned murdering Iranian scientists in, as they say, broad daylight on the streets of Tehran, Tom Flanagan’s call for the assassination of Julian Assange is remarkable only for the lathered and laboured shock with which it has been received. If you doubt there is already an ad-hoc CIA cell at some point between prophase and telophase, just in case, you haven’t been paying much attention to real-world geopolitics. Julian Assange is a wanted man, and the people by whom he is wanted have much more than Mr. Flanagan’s meagre ounces to put behind the shove. Continue reading “The Flanagan Slip”

The Klan Comes to Campbellford

Often I find that an aid to arriving at my own understanding, as well as to the task of explaining something to others, is the drawing of an analogy. Find something familiar and which one already understands from the inside, and to that compare the unfamiliar, the novel, the exotic. It works quite well, with one noteworthy exception being racism.

Give it a try. You’ll discover there is no at-hand analogy in the Euro-Canadian cupboard for the systematic oppression and mob lynching of dark-skinned persons — nothing of which may be said, “It was like that for us, too.” For this reason, white people will never really understand the trauma of racism from the inside. Now that I have established that, let us consider what transpired this past Hallowe’en at the Campbellford Royal Canadian Legion, so that we may better separate the wheat of anti-racism from the chaff of rube blundering. Continue reading “The Klan Comes to Campbellford”

Michael Ignatieff: You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Some hours ago, votes were cast upon Liberal Member of Parliament John McKay’s Bill C-300, “An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries.” First introduced to the House of Commons on February 9, 2010, during the 2nd session of the 40th Parliament, and re-introduced on March 3, 2010, the bill was designed to hold Canada-based mining companies subsidized by Government accountable for human rights abuses committed abroad. The bill was defeated 140 to 134.

In September, former Liberal MP John Manley published a rebuttal of C-300, arguing that “the bill could result in […] companies losing business to corporations based elsewhere that do not have the same regard for environmental, safety and human rights standards” and “that it would encourage mining companies to locate in jurisdictions with less regulation and no commitment to corporate social responsibility.” Manley is today President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, a group which promotes the views and interests of (among others) Canada’s mining companies. Continue reading “Michael Ignatieff: You Can’t Have It Both Ways”

Gun Talk, Stephen Harper, and the Usefulness of Hate

On the list of things in which I myself am simply incapable of taking interest, but which appear to invoke a great deal of interest among a great many people — a list which includes Hollywood, professional sport, inspirational best-sellers, Twitter, and Lady Gaga — the issue of gun control is rather near the top. Perhaps I lack an otherwise commonplace enzyme, organ, or bit of DNA. In any case I could not care less about the current long-gun registry debate, and it is only the apparent fact that many could not care more which has my baffled attention. Continue reading “Gun Talk, Stephen Harper, and the Usefulness of Hate”

Canadian History if Necessary, But Not Necessarily Canadian History


THE CHIEF THING that I remember of high school Canadian history is that it was boring. I suspect the same is true in your case. Here is my summary of high school Canadian history, roughly as I recall it: Canada was a pristine land inhabited by some Indians, and discovered by John Cabot in 1497. Jacques Cartier later explored the interior. It’s thought Vikings were in Canada before Europeans, but in any case Samuel de Champlain first colonized the land adjacent to the St. Lawrence (Upper Canada). The French settlers took to fighting the English over control of the resources. A number of alliances with the Indians were made by each side, and trade networks were established. This was the era of the courier de bois, or ‘woods-runner,’ usually a “half-breed” who moved goods from indigenous supplier to white trader. The English gained the upper hand over the French at the Plains of Abraham, in the 1750s or so. The Treaty of Paris ceded North America to Britain. The Yankees then took to fighting the British. In the War of 1812 the Yankees were finally driven back for good. Isaac Brock fought heroically and died beside Chief Tecumseh at Queenston. Troops from Halifax invaded Washington and burnt down buildings, most famously a building which was afterward painted white and called the White House.

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The G20 and the Bullet Dodged

If you are like me, you spent the past week looking forward to the end of the Toronto G20 summit, hopeful you could ignore it entirely; and if you are very much like me, you further hoped the event would pass without cause for comment.

Just so, most of it did pass without comment. Very little appears to have been written about the discussions themselves, which involved the usual stuff: growth, reductions of deficits and of taxes on capital, increased taxation of consumption, promotion of trade liberalization. The very things forever recommended by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the agencies under whose auspices the G20 briefing documents were drafted. Now the “premier forum for international economic cooperation,” the G20 summit is a technical affair, not nearly as exciting as, say, burning police cars.

There is a patch of Canadian society which boasts the agitprop cliché that Canada is a police state. This idea is an instance of intellectual laziness, leveling the world’s moral terrain to make easier for the discontented their ascent to the heights of indignation. The Left, in Europe and North America, is now populated by “moral equivalentists” – folks who opposed the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that there is no difference between George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein. They have read enough Noam Chomsky to know that Robert McNamara and Henry Kissinger were wicked, and that U.S. foreign policy has been responsible for enormous human suffering around the world. So it has. The unfortunate legacy of Chomsky’s brilliant, original, and useful writings on, for example, East Timor, is a generation of half-educated rabble-rousers who will side with anything that is “against” the United States of America. Well, that simplifies things: The Saddamists are against America, so let’s be for that. The 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings were attacks on Capitalism and American arrogance, so of course let’s sympathise with the attackers.

This kind of reasoning — if that’s even what it is — evidently relishes the destruction and taints a good measure of the political spectrum, from liberal democrat to anarchist. But consider: the time is not far off when the U.S. won’t even be the leading player in global politics, particularly in Africa, Southeast and Central Asia. That dubious honour will go, and is already going, to China. As for the idea that violent jihadism is a response to U.S. foreign policy, I’ll only suggest that this narcissistic idea misses the point. What we are seeing today in Central Asia and the Middle East is the continuation of a civil war in the Islamic world which predates American foreign policy and which has nothing to do with it whatsoever. One is better served on this topic by an understanding of the history and demise of the Ottoman Empire than by, say, a working knowledge of the Marshall Plan. (Better yet would be both.) This may seem a straying from the topic, but it is not. The people who see no difference, or at the least claim to see no difference, between the Taliban and Starbucks, are the same who constitute the flame-and-truncheon photo-ops. So let’s be clear: Canada is not a police state, and intellectual rigour demands of us a higher standard of analysis and more careful use of language.

It is however disheartening and discouraging, don’t you find, to witness the state playing dress-up, flirting momentarily with the trappings of dictatorship? I expect it’s been pointed out to you that the G20 summit was mostly a peaceful event, and indeed that is the case. Yet it could well have been otherwise. A great deal has been said and written of the Black Bloc tactics, with particular attention to the menace of their head-to-toe black clothing. A strategy of deliberate intimidation, it perfectly mirrors the contemporary riot squad, who have adopted precisely the same look. Why on earth are governments, and in this case the Canadian Government, needlessly cultivating such a vulgar dialectic? – and in the heart of Canada’s most densely populated city? What stupidity, and what vain recklessness, to roll the dice on the public’s safety in this manner. Perhaps the next time (and there will be a next time, maybe in your city) the peaceful bits will be the anomaly. If that is the case, the Government won’t even have the benefit of our doubt. They must know, as those familiar with mass human behaviour know, that in a moment things can go terribly wrong. And when they do, the inquiries and assignments of blame will be of no use to the victims.

Nothing asserted to this point has considered the value of these meetings and the conduct of the police. Even if one assumes that the G20 summits are of great utility, and that the police have over the past week behaved in an excellent manner (and these are far from settled assertions), the brick-headed folly informing this past weekend is, I hope, apparent. For it is unnecessary, irresponsible, reckless, and grossly wasteful of Canada to abet these periodic episodes of impromptu mass political theatre. Bullets were dodged this weekend, and fortunately, this time, that is a metaphor.

The Africville Apology

Very near the moment Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly began reading an apology to former Africville residents, Kentville brothers Justin and Nathan Rehberg, aged nineteen and twenty, were in provincial court for a bail hearing in relation to charges of mischief, uttering threats, and public incitement of hatred. I doubt anyone needs to be told these charges concern a February 21, 2010 cross-burning in Newport, Nova Scotia, at the house of Shayne Howe and Michelle Lyon. And I further doubt we need be reminded that the coincidence of these events is discouraging — but reminded we shall be, for the reason that some things apparently need to be underscored, over and again.

I find it hard to rehearse the history of Africville — which may be summed up as a racism-driven story of human degredation and of promises broken, up to and beyond the initial days in 1964 when land-hungry Halifax, under the 1962 Rose Report’s pretense of urban renewal, forcibly removed community members in city dump trucks — and not feel in my bones that both the apology and its proposed reparations are rather lacking in sinew. There is quite a lot for which to apologize, and as the Mayor knows, “words cannot undo what has been done.” Then there is the charge that the modest reparation package (a hectare of land, $3 million toward a replica of the Seaview African United Baptist Church, and an “interpretive centre”) was arrived at without the participation of the former residents. Considered together, these engender a measure of skepticism in relation to the hopeful idea that a new era of Respect and Reconciliation is on its way. Already, one can discern the cracks in that notional pot.

This is bad enough, but now we have the matter of the Rehbergs to poison further the well. Their lawyer, Brian Vardigans, argued that the burning of a cross on a lawn is not a hate act. He noted that it has “some of the hallmarks of being hateful” and has “certainly got a racist overtone,” as if somewhere in the undertones and tannins one may find something a little less distasteful. (A hallmark, by the way, is individual and not a matter of degree or splitting of a difference. The sole purpose of a hallmark is to make plain the character of something, for instance precious metals.) As a lawyer, he may be expected to equivocate in this manner. Nonetheless he is wrong both in substance and in principle, having attempted to make a transparent act into one that’s as maybe, sort of like, but only kinda in a way. If the Africville apology is to have meaning and force, all must hear Shayne Howe on this point: “I shouldn’t have to dwell on what it means or what it is. It speaks for itself.” Or to put it another way, there must be a generalized ownership of responsibility for the racism in the ranks.

Putting aside the lawyer talk, I’ll offer a prospect in plain English. Most people in Kentville, and indeed most Canadians, are kind and generous. They do not approve of cross burnings. Indeed, in a passive sense they disapprove of racism. Unfortunately, this may not be enough — not in a world where the wounds of the past are wet, where children born in the 1990s have absorbed race hatred, and where white supremicists in darkened crevices pick at scabs and speculate upon the name Rehberg and the coming Jewish retribution for “burning some fricking wood.” It is true that words cannot undo what has been done, but what provision has been made for the present and future? Words, a building, and a couple acres of land. Given the depth of the wounds and the distance yet to traverse, I find it hard to believe that these will do.

Democracy Makes the Best Television

A university graduate, I have endured years of Theory. That is fine, yet were I given the opportunity I should like to teach in an inductive manner, beginning with observation. What follows are my notes toward a freshman course on Canadian Democracy, in which I consider not the Theory of Democracy, but instead the actual workings of democratic governance in Canada. The two, theory and practice, are no doubt related; one even resembles the other. There are however noteworthy distinctions to be made. Allow me to make them.

The professor often starts with a definition. How is the word democracy understood in actual practice? Well, every few years Canadians are expected to pick from among several choices a political leader. To this end, some TV commercials are produced and a few speeches are made. The politicians have learned to market themselves in the manner Procter and Gamble markets its soaps. Democracy in practice is Show folks the goods and let them select. At election time democracy is a practical affair. You can see physical evidence of an active citizenry. Between elections democracy is more an abstract, or institutional, matter. Having chosen leaders, the public lets the system do its work. Democracy is Parliament Debates and representational government. The people do not govern themselves directly, which would be ‘radical democracy,’ but instead they pick others to act on their behalf. Actual democracy is the result of compromises, between efficiency and equity, between authoritarianism and anarchy, and between idealism and realism. In theory democratic government bends to the will of the majority, who know what’s best. In practice things are much more complicated. Nonetheless, actual democracy does invite the common people to participate in the formation of governments. That is its essential empirical feature.

Are the common folk qualified to govern themselves? Here one finds controversy. There is a an argument against ‘radical’ democracy which begins from the observation that the average citizen is inadequately-informed. Modern society is complex and must therefore be run by intelligent and well-trained people. Democracy as a result ought to be restricted to popular elections. Let the people choose competent leaders, and let the leaders run the show. Indeed, existing democracy conforms to this theory. We should note however the argument’s flaws. Our experts make dreadful mistakes; educated experts are not specially qualified to promote the interests and needs of average citizens. Experts tend to be committed to expert opinion, academic theories, and the needs of people like themselves – that is, the élite. But there is a more basic misunderstanding. Democracy is not the theory that the people ought to govern themselves because they are wise, benevolent, and especially gifted. Perhaps the élite are smarter than average, or perhaps not. So what? Professional expertise is an élite obsession and has little to do with the theory of democracy. And what is the theory to which I refer? It is this: if folks bear rights and responsibilities, and if they govern their own affairs, the result will be a society of individuals more capable than before of self-government. In other words, intelligent, informed, and capable citizens are the end of democracy, and not its starting-point. The so-called élite view reverses cause and effect. Perhaps its not surprising that this is so. We should hardly expect the select to embrace a theory that threatens their exclusive and privileged state.

We shall need to isolate two features of democratic governance for further consideration. These are the selection of leaders and the representation of citizens, by no means simple facts. Citizens do choose politicians, and politicians do represent a constituency. Yet these need further clarification. For in practice there are complex webs of influence and manipulation which make governance messy. Governments respond to public opinion, but they seek to manipulate that opinion also. One should also understand that ‘public opinion’ is usually an abstraction inferred from polls, of which I shall have more to write. Does the public know what precisely they have chosen when they have supported a candidate? Do they even know for certain that they have supported a candidate? The relation of votes to a political program is, I suspect, less clear than pundits sometimes suppose. A vote may manifest many things: protest, misunderstanding, hope, ideological conviction, enthusiasm, or cynicism. As a result of low voter turn-out and a multiple party system, politicians are today put in office by a minority of voters, many of whom have only a vague understanding of the issues and a moderate commitment to the party elected. Elections tell you unequivocally who has won the race; why they have won and what is to be done about it are left to interpretation. This is actually-existing democracy.

An elected, representative government needs a base of support both to seize and hold political office. Governments must represent a constituency. The constituency itself is a matter of expedience, a necessity. It is not necessary however that governments represent ‘the people,’ only that they sell themselves to a sufficient number of consumers. Elections are today the sophisticated means by which a product is offered to a market. Success therefore depends upon successful marketing and successful fund-raising – marketing works but it is expensive. The structural conditions which inform modern election campaigns aren’t mysterious. Politicians must have votes and money. They must lodge the product in the minds of potential buyers. Gathering the votes is a tricky matter, but the techniques are rather plain and have been perfected over the years. Television ads, featuring a catch-phrase or an ‘angle,’ are a necessity. The ad agency will try to distinguish its product from the competition, employing to this end a variety of visual techniques. Psychologists, opinion polls, focus groups – in short, market-directed research – assist the product development. The essence of marketing, by the way, is Find out what will sell and then produce it. Will people be more likely to buy your product if the ad slogan is x, or y ? Would a brighter label help? Does the product image need to be updated? These are the questions which absorb the energy of the “best and brightest,” and their work does not come cheaply. Modern campaigns are after voting constituencies and paying constituencies. There are less votes to be had among the paying constituency (mostly corporate donors) and less money among the people. This is also an important feature of actually-existing democracy.

Consider this. The rabble will always dominate in a ‘pure’ democracy because there are more of them than there are élites. It is necessary for minorities who want their way to overcome the majority. The majority must either be conquered outright or subtly manipulated. In practice the only minority able to compete with the popular majority on anything approaching par are the rich. What billionaires lack in numbers of votes they make up for in numbers of dollars. Democracy in practice involves a competition between interests, between votes and money, between the organized and unorganized voter. Politicians cannot afford to alienate either votes or money, with the result that their public performances resemble a comical sort of balancing act. They must obediently serve wealth, which they need, and yet serve also the working man, who they need also. In practice, these constituencies often have competing interests. The working man wants curbs put along the avenues of the boss, but the boss wants deregulation. The worker wants better wages, but the boss wants ‘competitive industry.’ The working man wants to bring in the Red Book, and the boss wants to chase out the Red Menace, or some equivalent. Most of the contortions of political life can be explained in relation to these and other competing interests. Put in this unenviable position, what would you do? The professional lobbyists represent the people who donate the bulk of your funding, and who pay careful attention to the job you do. Most ordinary folks however have other things than politics on their mind: that is what makes them ordinary. So you appease the constituency that is looking over your shoulder and worry about the opinion polls a bit closer to the election, right?

The point I am trying to make is that the democracy Canadians actually have now is reasonable, practical, and even necessary – at least from the point of view of the people who have to make a living within it. If it doesn’t quite live up to the Theory of Democracy, well, that’s a problem for university professors. Besides, there is a good deal of decency to the form of democracy in which currently live. Canada is still a reasonable and tolerant country where dissension is allowed. Now and again there are anti-democratic displays, such as the treatment of the APEC protesters in British Columbia. Overall however Canada has a functioning democracy. Again, it is the character of Canada’s democracy that is under investigation.

I stated already that I would return to opinion polls. These are the principal technique by which the will of the people is divined. Opinion polls are apparently thought by some to be of great use. Politicians, I am led to believe, use them to interpret the public mood and thereby to decide upon ‘themes’ for upcoming speeches. Whether the intended use of the opinion poll is to facilitate democracy or manipulate it (or both, or neither), the actual effects of these devices are clear. As the poll industry grew, the media increasingly began to publish the silly things in their papers. At first they served a decorative function, usually appearing beside a column, in the form of a colourful graph. Then they became the news itself, so that it is now common to hear journalists discussing the polls as if they were the very voice of the people. There are reasons however to suspect the polls are something else. First, the character of a poll must be considered. How is it conducted? What questions are asked, and of what audience, under what conditions? Imagine that the Financial Post asked its subscribers the following question: ‘Dalton McGuinty opposes Mike Harris’ plan to modernize and improve the health care system. Given that Dalton McGuinty has no plans for health care of his own, would you consider voting for him?’ Then imagine the result showed up in the same newspaper as follows: ‘55% of Canadians said they will not vote for Dalton McGuinty in the upcoming election.’ Imagine the rest of the information is not provided; only this dubious ‘scientific’ conclusion appears. So 55% of Canadians reject McGuinty? No, not really. Analysis of the question itself, which clearly contains a good deal of misleading assertions, would reveal that respondents (are Financial Post subscribers representative Canadians?) reject an obstructionist politician with no ideas of his own. Maybe that’s your McGuinty. In any case, the poll hasn’t really measured public support for Dalton McGuinty. It is a lie.

I’ve invented an obvious example of distortion. Most polls are likely more careful than this, but one can’t be sure. Relevant information is lacking. Polls are more than ever used to mediate between the people and their governments, so this oversight, if that’s what it is, should be a matter of great interest. To the degree that democratic discourse is managed by pollsters and their inscrutable polls, it is esoteric and possibly even rigged. Who knows? This leads us to another astonishing feature of actually-existing democracy, that it is utterly dependent upon private commercial media for its existence. The only way citizens are able to exchange ideas and criticisms and proposals is through the media. True, anyone can start a newsletter or a local organization. But political discourse at the national level is another matter. Have you tried to get your viewpoint on the national news lately? No, you wouldn’t even think of it, it’s too absurd. How about the Globe and Mail? Of course not. We’re told that debate and dissension are vital, and that democracy is the exchange of ideas. The theory is that everyone has freedom of speech, and that the voice of the people will be heard by government. The reality is that most Canadians have never experienced the debate except as a member of an audience. ‘Freedom of speech’ means throwing something at the TV. Debate and dissension are the property of media industries, who extend the privilege to a handful of well-paid professional commentators, or rent it to commercial sponsors. The idea, which you’ll find familiar, is that the conditions of democracy are satisfied by the appointment of clever people to think and talk on the public’s behalf. The opinion polls operate on this assumption, and so do the commercial newspapers.

The experts never talk the way ‘ordinary people’ do, at least not in public. I don’t mean by this that the experts are less vulgar, or more erudite. Rather, they are obsessed with the procedure of politics rather than the application of policy to real life. How did the PM’s speech go? Did it ‘resonate’? How will it ‘play’ among the back-benchers? What do the polls say? Ordinary people don’t care so much about these things. They want to know What’s it got to do with me? But as I’ve argued, the function of ordinary people (that is, folks not paid to have an opinion) is to give the experts an audience which can then be sold to advertisers. And the function of advertisers is profits. All the theories about the sanctity of public debate amount to this, Democracy in the service of Profits. This may sound cynical, but it isn’t. Most people, including media owners, are sincere advocates of public debate. The problem is that real conditions are structured in a manner that makes not-for-profit public discourse nearly impossible. Once you reach the national level of public discourse, money talks – first and last and longest and loudest.

A description of actually existing democracy is beginning to take shape, and it looks something like this. A set of candidates with political ambitions study the public in a scientific manner to determine what sort of mood they are in. A product is put together to exploit that mood and is promoted at great expense. The whole affair is managed by one group of professionals while another looks on and jabbers. Most Canadians are obliged to act as an audience, until the crucial moment when they make their selection (or don’t). Opinion polls, interpreted by pundits, tell you what you’ve just chosen and why you’ve chosen it, and the discovery is presented, glossed, analysed, and debated by TV and newspaper ‘personalities’ hired for these purposes. In short, democracy is industry. After the election, Canadians are freed from even the suggestion of civic responsibility, while the civil servants tend to the necessary business at hand – holding onto power, voting on legislation, raising money, and coping with the demands of the several thousand career lobbyists that swarm centres of political power. The journalists tell the people (or don’t) what their elected leaders are up to, careful, if unsuccessfully, not to bore them or demand too much mental effort. Technical matters, like the content of bills or international treaties, make bad news; it’s better to focus on the sensational, or ‘human interest’ stories. The best news does not disturb the flow. It moves the audience along effortlessly from advertisement to advertisement. Inevitably a scandal will come along, perhaps about something trivial but emotion-charged, like the display of flags in the House of Commons. The editorials will rage, and the politicians will try to smooth things over or else to assign blame elsewhere. The system takes everyone’s interests into consideration: the interest of the leaders in their power, the interest of the papers in sales, the interests of advertisers in marketing, the interests of the pundits in their careers, and the interests of investors in the establishment. The process by which these interests are made secure is called democracy. Most Canadians know democracy as television. This is where the interests of citizens are taken into consideration. For the establishment works hard to ensure that democracy makes the best television. [-November 1998]