Quebec politicians and organizers of the Quebec Winter Carnival are up in arms about an explosive cover story in the latest issue of Maclean’s magazine that declares the province the most corrupt in Canada.

The Oct. 4 edition of the magazine also depicts the iconic figure Bonhomme Carnaval carrying a suitcase overflowing with cash.

Two accompanying articles inside explore the question of why so many political scandals seem to happen in Quebec, from the current controversy involving judicial appointments to the patronage days of former premier Maurice Duplessis.

“As politicians and experts from every facet of the political spectrum told Maclean’s, the history of corruption is sufficiently long and deep in Quebec that it has bred a culture of mistrust of the political class,” writes Martin Patriquin in the article.

“It raises an uncomfortable question: why is it that politics in Canada’s bête noire province seem perpetually rife with scandal?”

Quebec New Democrat MP Thomas Mulcair said he is sickened by the magazine’s treatment of the issue from the cover to the content.

He said there is no evidence Quebec’s history with corruption is worse than any other province.

“It’s the worst type of group smear you could think of,” Mulcair told CBC News on Friday. “It’s beneath contempt.”

Bloc Québécois MP Pierre Paquette also criticized the publication, saying Maclean’s was engaging in “Quebec bashing.”

‘It’s the worst type of group smear you could think of. It’s beneath contempt.’—Thomas Mulcair, Quebec NDP MP

On Friday, officials with Quebec’s Winter Carnival weighed in. Carnival director general Jean Pelletier said using the world-renowned image of Bonhomme in a story about corruption was out of line.

“It is deplorable that the image of our winter ambassador for tourism in Quebec has been misrepresented in this way,” said Pelletier in a statement.

Writer defends edition

Patriquin, Maclean’s Quebec bureau chief, said the magazine is legitimately exploring the history of corruption in Quebec.

He said people should read the entire five pages dedicated to the story before casting judgment. According to the article, Quebec had been described by historians as far back as 1968 as the most corrupt region of North America.

“The idea that this is Quebec bashing is frankly moronic,” Patriquin told CBC News. “We hit hard with our covers. We have done this for other regions in Canada. [Anyone who says] that we are singling out Quebec for any reason hasn’t read any of the other issues we put out in a year.”

He said not everyone is upset with what they have read.

‘When people look past the cover and read the story, they realize there is a point to it.’— Martin Patriquin, Maclean’s Quebec bureau chief

“When people look past the cover and read the story, they realize there is a point to it. The reaction has been quite pleasantly good.”

One prominent Quebec columnist has come out in support of the magazine’s treatment of the issue.

Patrick Lagacé, a columnist with the Montreal daily La Presse, said the magazine makes a point: Quebec’s political corruption scandals run deep. He said Patriquin hit the story right on the money.

“Right now, Maclean’s is right. I would defy anyone to say that stuff like what we’re seeing in Quebec in the last two years is happening elsewhere,” Lagacé said in an interview.

The latest issue of Maclean’s comes in the same week that Premier Jean Charest has been on the stand at the Bastarache commission, defending himself against allegations of influence peddling in the appointment of judges.

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The sponsorship scandal tainted members of the Liberal Party and politics in Quebec. In its aftermath, there have been a few convictions and in Parliament, there came a call for the politicians to find ways to govern with accountability.

It all started with rumours and whispers about a fund that had been set up in the wake of the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty to help promote federalism. The money was supposed to be used to raise Canada’s profile in Quebec.

But it wasn’t clear how the money was handed out: there were no application forms for this fund that was supposed to help pay the costs of social and cultural events and programs. There were rumours that the money was little more than a vehicle to reward loyal Liberal supporters.

By the early spring of 2002, then prime minister Jean Chrétien was forced to address the issue. The Globe and Mail – under the Access to Information Act – tried to find out why the government paid $550,000 to advertising firm Groupaction Marketing for a report that could not be found. No one at Public Works or the company could explain it.

Auditor general condemns ‘scandalous’ program

Chrétien asked federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser to see what she could find out. She learned enough to launch a full investigation – and to ask the RCMP to get involved as well.

By the time Fraser released her explosive report on Feb. 10, 2004, Paul Martin was prime minister.

The scathing report used words such as “scandalous” and “appalling” to describe how the Liberal government abused the system.

She found that $100 million was paid to a variety of communications agencies in the form of fees and commissions and said the program was basically designed to generate commissions for these companies rather than to produce any benefit for Canadians.

Public Works officials “broke just about every rule in the book” when it came to awarding contracts to Groupaction, which was paid millions doing work for the government under the sponsorship program, Fraser said.

Gomery picked to head public inquiry

Martin asked Justice John Gomery to head up a public inquiry into how the sponsorship program was handled. He also fired Alfonso Gagliano — who was the Minister of Public Works during the sponsorship program — from his job as appointed ambassador to Denmark. Five days later, Martin promised to resign if there was evidence that he knew about fraud in the program.

Fraser’s report also sparked a parliamentary inquiry before the House of Commons Committee on Public Works. The committee’s mandate was to determine who created the sponsorship program, whether ministers and bureaucrats followed parliamentary rules in conducting the program, and whether politicians broke the law. Problem is, the committee never got to complete its work.

Much to the chagrin of the opposition parties, the Liberal majority on the committee voted to end its hearings in early May 2004 – weeks before the federal election called for June 28.

The RCMP were also involved, investigating allegations of fraud beginning in May 2002.

Martin suspends top Crown officials

Two weeks after Fraser’s report was released, Martin suspended the heads of three Crown corporations: Michel Vennat, president of the Business Development Bank of Canada, Via Rail president Marc LeFrançois and Canada Post president André Ouellet.

All three men would eventually be fired.

The report showed that five Crown corporations and agencies – the RCMP, VIA Rail, the Old Port of Montreal, the Business Development Bank of Canada and Canada Post – played a role in transferring money through questionable means.

Scandal costs Liberals in 2004 election

The revelations from the unravelling scandal would cost the Liberals dearly in the election of June 28, 2004: their majority evaporated and – for the first time in 25 years – Canada had a minority government.

By September, Gomery would begin hearing testimony at the inquiry into the scandal.

On Feb. 8, 2005, Chrétien appeared before the Gomery inquiry. He vigorously defended the sponsorship program as an important part of the battle against Quebec sovereigntists in the wake of the referendum.

Mistakes were made, Chrétien conceded, and people who stole money should be punished.

Two days later, Martin gave his testimony, appearing a year to the day after he ordered the inquiry. It was the first time since Canada was six years old that a sitting prime minister testified before a public inquiry.

Shocking revelations from Montreal

After Chrétien and Martin completed their testimony, the inquiry shifted to Montreal, where it would get to the meatier side of the story. Witnesses would include some of the people at the heart of the sponsorship scandal.

Among them would be Jean Brault, who ran Groupaction; Paul Coffin, who ran another advertising company that did well under the program; and Chuck Guité, who ran the program for Public Works.

But there would be complications – all three men faced criminal charges, accused of defrauding the government out of millions of dollars under the sponsorship program.

Gomery would order a ban on the publication of their testimony because their appearances before the inquiry were initially scheduled for a few weeks before the beginning of their trials.

Liberals forced to call election and lose

As the testimony heated up – a year after Martin asked Gomery to look into the sponsorship scandal – the opposition parties demanded that the government resign and call an election. Martin resisted. He went on national TV to ask Canadians to hold off judging his government until after Gomery released his final report. He promised to call an election within 30 days of the release of the final report.

For a time, it looked as though he would get that chance. But when Gomery’s first report came out on Nov. 1, 2005, the opposition parties signalled that they had had enough. In less than four weeks, they would unite to topple the government in a motion of no confidence, arguing that the Liberals no longer had the moral authority to govern.

After the parliamentary election on Jan. 23, 2006, the Liberals found that for the first time in 12 years, they did not have enough seats in the House of Commons to govern. The Conservatives picked up 10 seats in Quebec, prompting the new prime minister, Stephen Harper, to say the scandal had inflicted “enormous damage … to the image of federalism” in Quebec.

Harper’s government introduced the Accountability Act in April to crack down on unethical actions and make government transparent.

But Gomery said in October that he was disappointed that the government hasn’t resolved some problems, pointing for example how deputy ministers are appointed. “The Accountability Act isn’t an answer to my report,” Gomery told CBC Newsworld. “They seem to have dropped into something of a black hole in Ottawa.”

The criminal cases

On Feb. 1, 2006, Gomery released the final report from his inquiry, which cost taxpayers more than $14 million, according to a report later released by the Canadian Press.

But Gomery wasn’t the only judge that Coffin, Guité and Brault had to face. The RCMP investigation led to criminal charges.

In May 2005, Coffin – the first person to face charges in the scandal – pleaded guilty to 15 counts of fraud. He was later sentenced to two-years-less-a-day to be served in the community. By the time of his sentencing, he had repaid more than $1 million of the $1.5 million he had been accused of taking. However, the Quebec Court of Appeal eventually overturned his conditional sentence and ordered Coffin to spend 18 months in jail.

On Sept. 21, 2005, Guité and Brault pleaded not guilty to six charges of fraud.

But, on March 2, 2006, Brault changed his tone and pleaded guilty to five of six fraud-related charges, leaving the charge of conspiracy. The former head of Groupaction Marketing admitted to paying salaries to Liberal party workers who never did any work for his company. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison, and was granted a full parole after five months. Brault will later go to trial for the conspiracy charge.

Guité, however, headed to trial on five fraud-related charges involving a total of $1.5 million. In late March, he told a judge he couldn’t afford a lawyer, and he represented himself when he went into a Montreal court on May 5, 2006. The court heard that he authorized more than $2 million in contracts to Brault’s Groupaction Marketing Inc. without proper competition. And, testimony revealed he also doubled the value of one contract to $500,000 without demanding any additional work. On June 6, 2006, Guité was convicted of all five charges.

On June 19, 2006, Guité was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. Crown prosecutors wanted a jail sentence of three to four years for Guité. The defence recommended a two-year sentence.

More revelations

Almost a year after the Gomery report, the sponsorship scandal occasionally surfaces. In September 2006, Gagliano published his “version of the truth” in his autobiography called Les corridors du pouvoir (The Corridors of Power). He maintained his innocence and said he was a scapegoat for the Martin government. Gagliano pointed blame at Guité.


Some journalists believe they are above common laws. Canadian journalist André Noël, from La Presse, is one of those. He has recently been sued after he set illegal phone hearings over a French Canadian entrepreneur!

Craving for a scoop, André Noël did not wonder if what he was doing was legal or not. He just listened to private phone conversations between businessman Bernard Poulin and some friends of him.

These illegal phone hearings have then been taped and published in André Noël news stories… What about journalistic ethic?

Noël’s newspaper, La Presse, has also been sued since the pieces of news based on private hearings have been published on this media.

People in Zambia are angry after a Canadian journalist, Eliasha Stokes. According to them, she has been hiding bribery evidences in one of her report.
 
Kusila Kwa Cobra reported recently that Michael Sata was at Yatsani Radio station handing out K50,000 notes to people. One of their intern staff, Ms Eliasha Stokes reported these illegal actions on a website called Journalists for Human Rights.

Ms Stokes now wants to have her work removed, Kusila Kwa Cobra will consider her request. Her blog has subsquently been removed from the Journalists for Human Rights website; maybe they spotted the hypocrisy of her story? When you see what she has written then you will see why. Ms Stokes letter to us can be found under the story called ‘Sata Exposed for Bribing Journalists’. Kusila Kwa Cobra’s reply to Ms Stokes is here:

Ms Stokes,

Thank you for contacting me via the Kusila Kwa Cobra website. You did not leave your email details so this is the only way I can communicate with you. This is of course a very public forum and its contents may be picked up by other journalists, newspapers, radios etc, so I choose my words carefully.

I do not understand your concerns about false ‘investigations’, naming names, “putting false world [sic] into my mouth” as you put it and your right with regard to copyright. You withdrew your article after it was challenged which suggests that you were aware of your mistake. I however totally stand by my work. Let me explain.

First you raise the issue of our investigation proving “absolutely false”, far from it. If I am wrong then I urge you to address the following:

• Deny that you were working at Yatsani Radio when the ‘politician’ attended the premises to “buy air time for an interview”;

• Deny that you took Kw50,000 from the politician;

• Deny that four other people also took money (we accept that they were not journalist, indeed we understand that they were not employees of Yatsani radio but we do have their names);

• Deny that the politician in question was Mr Michael Sata, Presidential Candidate for the PF Party;

As you will see my ‘investigation’ is well informed and I am more than happy to furnish any authorities you choose with the evidence I have uncovered. The authorities I am thinking of are the Electoral Commission of Zambia, the Zambian Police and the Immigration Department. Should you think of any other do let me know. Of course if I am wrong then you will have no problems defending my charges. If I am proved wrong then you have my word that I will retract my story and apologise to you on the Kusila Kwa Cobra website. It would be the professional thing to do.

Your second point is that I put false words in your mouth. Again far from it. I attribute no names to you. I named Yatsani Radio and I named Michael Sata. I could name other names but I will hold back for now, unless of course you want me to.

Thirdly, that your article is not political. Your article is about political corruption, namely bribery. You yourself use the expressions, “a very prominent politician”, “the election is coming”, “The politician reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of K50,000 notes (about twenty dollars). He hands a note to each of the journalists”, “I know it is unethical for a journalist to take money, especially from a politician.”, ““That’s our future President”, remarks one of my co-workers.”, and finally, “Future President or future dictator?”. Ms Stokes you are a journalist, you know the power of words and you know the meaning they can convey; it is you who made the story political, not me.

What this really boils down to is your own hurt journalistic ego. It was you who took money off a politician during an election campaign. It was you who was silly enough to write about your stupidity and then publish it on the web. You are either very naive or you deliberately placed your story so as to attract attention to yourself as a journalist who has witnessed electoral bribery at first hand.

What is most depressing is that after conducting yourself in such an unprofessional manner you choose to hide behind imperialist USA laws. I may well have to remove your text from my website but this story will not die. Kusila Kwa Cobra is monitored in the USA, South Africa, Norway, UK to name but a few, and of course it now has a keen following in Zambia. As a journalist who has taken money off a politician I would have thought you would want to keep a low profile, not raise your head above the parapet.

This issue has nothing to do with copyright. This is a story about political corruption and your involvement in it. You are an accomplice to Mr Sata’s actions, your refusal to go to the Electoral Commission or the police damns you. In Zambia we have a problem with corruption and we expect learned people like yourself to help us in our fight. You are a Canadian; would your actions be acceptable in your own country? The answer is ‘no’, so why do you come to our country and get involved in such illegal actions.

You are nothing more than a cheap journalist who takes money from bad politicians; maybe you should go get a job at the Post.

Who own Canadian media?

Posted: October 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

“Media concentration is worse in Canada than in other industrialized countries; in New Brunswick, way worse.” Spoken by American media economics expert Robert Picard, this statement set the tone for a day-long discussion on media ownership. Organized by the Acadian Association of Journalists and held in Moncton, New Brunswick, “Media concentration in the 21st century: an international, national and provincial phenomenon” was the occasion for a diverse dialogue between journalists, politicians, editors, producers and academics.

While citizen groups in the US are putting unprecedented pressure on Congress to reinstate cross-ownership regulations that the Federal Ccommunications Commission recently attempted to roll back, those concerned about concentration of ownership are realizing that in Canada, the final step of deregulation is a fait accompli. Says Picard, “Canada backed itself into a corner–[the government] didn’t act to stop concentration when it could.” The government is now left with two choices. It can split up the existing media monopolies, or it can open up the market to foreign competition. The first choice is “messy” and will involve a major political battle, while allowing foreign ownership could mean domination by American media companies.

“The soap box in the town square is easily drowned out by high powered, corporate-owned amplification,” said Enn Raudsepp, head of Concordia University’s journalism program. According to Raudsepp, 84% of Canadian media is owned by the five largest media companies, resulting in “increasingly homogenous perspectives.” CanWest Global, the largest Canadian media company, controls over 30 per cent of the Canadian media market, including 14 metropolitan daily newspapers and hundreds of community papers.

Speakers at the conference pointed to a number of problems with concentrated media ownership, almost all of which referred to a threat to democracy. Jens Cavallin, a philosopher from Sweden, compared media empires to feudal states, with “kings and princes.” Raudsepp said that information is the “oxygen of democracy.” Jean Pelletier of Radio Canada hinted at the danger that concentration of power in the media could hold during an election.

Many of these problems were illunstrated by Izzy Asper, the former head of CanWest Global. Asper was well known for his staunch support of Jean Chretien, his intolerance of criticism of Israel, and for the institution of “national editorials,” which would appear in many of the hundreds of papers owned by his corporation. Speakers at the conference also used the example of Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s egomaniacal Prime Minister who controls a vast empire of newspapers, TV, radio and construction companies, and is the richest person in Italy. Berlusconi’s company owns the three largest TV stations, the country’s leading daily, and dozens of other outlets.

Beyond the potential for abuse of vast political power, many expressed serious concern about the quality of information. Raudsepp cited a study that found that 75% of news items in Canadian papers were not initiated by reporters, but came from a “canned event,” such as a press conference or PR campaign. Erin Steuter, a Sociology professor at Mount Allison University, said that journalists are “under siege,” having faced massive layoffs since corporations like CanWest Global, Thompson, and Hollinger began acquiring newspapers and other media outlets. “Before, journalists would only post several stories a week, and now they’re being asked to post several stories per day, which means that they stories are coming right off the newswires, with possibly an interview or an attempt to clarify or confirm something, but with none of the investigative journalism you would have seen before.”

The most heated moment of the conference arrived with the last panel which featured Erin Steuter and Kim Keirans–both long-time critics of the Irvings–with Saint John Telegraph Journal publisher Jonathan Franklin and Times-Transcript columnist Lisa Hrabluck. Both the Telegraph Journal and the Times-Transcript are owned by the Irving Group, along with all English-language dailies in New Brunswick and more than half of its community weeklies. The Irving Group is a New Brunswick-based corporate empire with major holdings in oil, timber, and manufacturing.

Opting not to respond to specific criticisms, Franklin argued that the quality of the Telegraph-Journal was better than comparable newspapers in British Columbia. Franklin said that the only directive he recieves from his employers is to put out a good newspaper. Hrabluck said that working for the Irvings is not the first thing on her mind while covering a story.

Many solutions were proposed, including the creation of a government fund to subsidize independent newspapers, stronger limitations on ownership, and various other regulation schemes. Almost everyone agreed, however, that these solutions are either incomplete or unrealistic. Unrealistic, because the public is both unaware of media concentration, and not actively interested in the issue.

The fact that most of the media chains in Canada are owned by people politically in line with the ruling Liberal party makes sources of political will for addressing media concentration scarce at best. The Acadian Association of Journalists plans to lobby the government to stop media concentration, but sees its work–especially as the business-friendly Paul Martin takes power–as a damage control campaign. President Phillipe Ricard said that the association will argue for an end to CBC budget cuts and regulation of further concentration of the media in Canada.

Kim Keirans, who is director of the King’s College journalism school, said that the government could not be counted on to stop concentration. “It’s not going to stop,” she said, arguing that the only relief from media concentration will come from the efforts of communities and independent journalists.

A friend of mine recently posted on his Facebook page that he was identifying two candidates from each party of his choice in a distinct attempt at garnering support for candidates that he felt can do the country very good if they are elected to serve.

When told that as a journalist he should not engage in such campaign owing to what is regarded by many as our noble profession, he defended himself by firmly pointing out that “… I am a photographer and this is my country so I have a right to endorse whoever I want,” While this popular photographer/journalist whatever he wants to call himself (he interchanges the position to suit whatever point he is trying to make) wants to do he must understand that as a journalist the power of influence and command is significant as many persons from the public depend upon us so as to make vital and in many cases very critical life changing decisions.

However much more of a burning issue is the recent disclosure by very popular and veteran journalist Bibi Hodge Shaw’s demand on Facebook?? that journalists /of a leading newspaper in St Maarten cease immediately their bandwagon endorsements and soft story writing which as she said evidently demonstrates their political bias and affiliation. I have deliberately decided to follow the controversy as it is my opinion that no journalist while serving actively in the profession should:

  1. Be involved in such practice
  2. Should be allowed by his/her media house to do so if that media house wants to be seen as being independent.

The journalists and their newspaper which has been able through its hard working staff and good management to build a very reputable image within the North Eastern Caribbean must know that there are rules governing print journalism and reporting in general that ought to be followed I rush to point out that the particular media house must be very cognizant that the public is looking on and more and more is becoming aware of the unprofessional and unethical behavior of some members of its staff.

Jagdish P. Sukhu quoted from the Wikipedia online: “Journalism ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics and of good practice as applicable to the specific challenges faced by professional journalists. Historically and currently, this subset of media ethics is widely known to journalists as their code of ethics or the canons of journalism.”

This clearly demonstrates that the three journalists from their writings are hiding behind the cloud of freedom of speech to assert that they are doing no wrong by clearly on a regular and sustained bases writes article for three candidates that are contesting an election. Examining the writings I am very confident and certain that the three journalists are involved as over the years I have been able to ascertain their writing style and ability thus knowing that the candidates that they represent.

The United People’s party headed by Theo Heyliger, the National Alliance headed by William Marlin, the Democratic Party headed by Sarah Wescott Williams and the Concordia Political Alliance (CPA) headed by Jeffery Richardson are fiercely contesting for political office and while it is every journalist’s right to vote for, or to support whoever he or she wishes, there is a thin line that should be respected in terms of his or her public pronouncements, endorsement and political writings – especially if working for an independent media house.

The question that one has to ask – especially of the editor and management team – is in what capacity are these journalists employed as it is evident that some of them are mouthpieces for some of the political parties and their candidates.

I specifically ask this critically important question taking into consideration recent observations by several members of the public. The newspaper in the interest of preserving its own image and that of its reporters should explain why the Guyanese media couple (man and woman) that works there has been seen on a number of occasions entering and engaging in closed-door meetings of the UP.

The Guyanese couple referred to should publicly indicate whether they are working as journalists or as mouthpieces for the UP. To make this point much clearer recently when the UP held a closed-door meeting at the Westin Resort, the only media people allowed were this couple. Not even another media colleague who, very inappropriately chaired the UP launching was allowed to sit in at the meeting.

I also call on Theo Heyliger in the fairness of public disclosure, honesty and transparency to explain if he is engaging the services of a journalist while that journalist is performing journalistic duties full time for a local media house.

I must state that we must recognize that as journalists we should guide our lives by basic ethical principles which include principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality and public accountability. I stress that like many broader ethical systems, journalism ethics includes the principle of Limitation to harm. While I will not judge the esteemed newspaper I would state that if it is aware of the current situation and has not taken any action against the individuals who are causing it to lose its credibility and also causing the public to lose its high respect for journalists, in general, then I would say that the media house is acting irresponsibly. I am sure that the editor of this media house knows the destruction irresponsible journalism can cause.

In closing, I urge all media practitioners working with independent media houses to ensure that they pursue the truth and do not allow themselves to be used by any politician or by any special interest. Their conduct should be professional and beyond suspicion and their reporting should be fair, balanced, honest and accurate.

Canadian government offered a total amount of $300.000 “scholarships” to journalists to finance their investigaitons on medical research in Canada. Not sure they’ll produce any disturbing piece nof news…

18 journalists (or so-called journalists) have received a global financing of $300.000 to “investigate” on medical research in the country.

The scholarships have been given by the IRCS… in order to promote their action? Every journalist got between $10.000 and $20.000 for their “work”.