November 1, 2010

Is it over?

We do get U.S. television stations. Sometimes I wish we didn't, especially the last month with these elections. A click of the remote can have the American living in Canada just trying to find Modern Family, land on a U.S. station and say, "WTF?" When you're not subject to 24/7 political ads in Canada and suddenly catch U.S. coverage, it's hard to distinguish fact from fiction, comedy from tragedy or satire from news. (With our cable television package we do get stations from the Boston area, as well as Seattle /Vancouver).

Lately, we prefer to watch Canadian T.V. And this N.P.R. hoopla? Canada spends A LOT more on public broadcasting, per capita. CBC provides amazing programming...from news to entertainment and of course Hockey Night in Canada. Wow, how socialist forward-thinking of Canada to spend that much in tax dollars to fund public broadcasting. It's not likely Canadians would be too happy if Hockey Night was interrupted for fundraising events. "Become a member today and get a George Forman Grill", wouldn't work.

Heck we get some of our best information about Canadian politics from Rick Mercer and 22 Minutes. (go to Imagine....government supported programming where these satirists/comedians/pundits are allowed to make fun of the government? It would be like if a mellow version of SNL aired on PBS. Rick Mercer had perhaps the the funniest skit on his show several years ago. He had a "sleep over" at Stephen Harper's house (the Prime Minister). Imagine Jon Stewart having a sleep over at the Bush White House.

There's a movement in Canada of a group that wants to bring a Canadian version of Faux Fox news up north. It's not being well received at all. Most Canadians don't want that sort of nastiness (their words, not mine for a change) on the Canadian airwaves. They don't like all the yelling. They yell in Parliament but it's not hateful. (we do get U.S. Fox news on our cable programming)

“The absolutely last thing this country needs,” fumed long-time CBC reporter and commentator Don Newman for CBC. “In the U.S., “ Newman wrote, “Fox News has been hugely polarizing. It specializes in drive-by attacks and misrepresentations, and is positively Orwellian at times, claiming to be “fair and balanced” while implying that its competitors aren’t…”Newman says that when Tenecyke told him in 2003 that Canada “needed a Fox News Channel of its own,” he wouldn’t speak to the conservative Teneycke again for four years. (Teneycke is the person trying to bring Fox News North to Canada).

All this being said, there are people who want "Fox News North," or it wouldn't be so controversial. Not so much in Quebec, but in other parts of Canada that tend to be more conservative. The issue will be whether it's funded by the government like they fund CBC.

This past weekend a group of random Americans gathered at a bar in Montreal to watch the Jon Stewart rally. We went, although Paul and Louis had to leave for basketball and Danielle was in a life guarding class so Kish stayed behind and enjoyed some beverages and watched the three hour program. Montreal TV stations were there interviewing people about why they where there and it was most interesting to hear some of the responses. Some of these people looked as if they came to Canada in 1968 and well, just decided not to leave. Sort of like what Randy Quaid is doing now. Please take him back.

Back to the elections...

Canadians are interested for many reasons in the U.S. elections. Some people are even having actual gatherings to watch the returns. We often think Canadians are more interested in U.S. politics than their own. And yet, from our perspective, Canadian politics can be oh so entertaining, and without as much mudslinging. And for that we are thankful. It doesn't really matter that much anyway....we pay the taxes but we can't vote in Canada.

From our local English language paper....

Democracy: Going, going, gone

OCTOBER 30, 2010

Our American friends will find themselves, Wednesday morning, with the most expensive Congress money can buy. The last-minute tsunami of campaign spending gives Canadians still another reason to feel smug -we really do handle this better here. But the orgy of spending in Congressional races can have negative consequences for us.

U.S. candidates are burning through a record sum this year, over $2 billion. That's 10 per cent more than in 2008, and there's not even a presidential election this year.

Many representatives elected Tuesday will start Wednesday to raise money for their 2012 races. And far too often, "raising money" is a euphemism for "selling your vote." Literally taking bribes is still fairly rare, as far as anyone knows, but legislators do sell their votes, in a sense, to raise campaign funds: They decide to vote for the positions advocated by special-interest lobbyists; those interests then make donations.

Worse, much of the money goes for poisonous negative ads, which will be unavoidable on Plattsburgh and Burlington TV this weekend. These are almost always shameful over-or mis-statements, tailored to create the impression that the other candidate is a bigot, a dupe, a fanatic, a near-criminal, a class enemy, and/or a moron. Then people wonder why respect for politicians is so low.

Part of the problem is that members of Congress are free of party constraint. Where Canadian MPs risk losing various perks or even official party renomination if they buck their leaders, Congress is in a sense 535 independents, each one taking his own position on each issue -and often raising more or less money depending on what those positions are.

Sometimes the special interests want protection against Canadian competition, or more pressure put on Canada to comply with this or that U.S. policy. There's an obvious danger there for us. But there's another risk, too: Sharp left-right polarization, and the resulting big swings in control of the House or Senate or both, make it very hard for Canadian governments and companies to predict U.S. policy. A boisterous and unpredictable neighbour can make you awfully nervous.

As if Congressional politics weren't already dysfunctional, Supreme Court and regulatory rulings this year permit almost unlimited "outside money" -from outside a district, from outside the scope of laws governing party finance, and in practice even from outside the country -in campaigns since this is considered legitimate free speech.

This has resulted in parachute drops of over $250 million of such money. Some candidates have been amazed to see their opponents suddenly sharply attacked in ads from nationwide industry groups or unions or, worse, by mysterious spenders disguised behind some shapeless label like "Citizens United." The House has already passed legislation requiring disclosure of the sources of such money; the Senate has not. Usefully, tracks what it can of such spending.

It's a mess. You know your system needs work when your Congress can be bought by anonymous bidders, like old master paintings at an art auction.
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette


Anonymous said...

Just read your column, in Toronto.
I'm a Canadian with a passion for looney-tune U.S. politics...and I wasn't disappointed with the eye-spinning dizziness caused by the American elections of Nov. 2. If I had to sum it up in one way...if the U.S. wants to remain the high and mighty power it so trepadaciously is clinging to, then get-over-yourselves! Your thin, gauzy freedom for the people is so 20th century. Elections are bought and sold in the US...voters are merely a smokescreen before a huge money driven campaing to deny the average person any so-called freedom or liberty. 99% of Americans feed 1% that have any real power (and that's being generous). Storm the Bastille! Fill the Washington Mall with honest, hardworking, middle-class Americans and demand the SCOTUS revoke the corporation-as-persons decision that will doom your nation forever and get on with being a country again...not just a bad joke...and one that is rapidly slipping away from even being funny. I wish you and others like you good luck.

Anonymous said...

Hi Just followed a link to this from Crooks and Liars - I'm an American living in Toronto the past 10 years and looking back at my country scares me. The disinformation, manipulation and every other "ation" of the voters is so extreme its beyond Orwellian. My first thought after the Citizens United decision was "oh crap - here come the Republicans" and came they did. The US needs to get the money out of the elections.

Andrew said...

In the wake of the election yesterday, I have renewed pride as a Canadian and our electoral system. I like the fact that our campaign spending has its roots in the previous election results, and that every penny of money spent must be meticulously accounted for. It means that when you vote for your party, their funding will increase as a result.

I also love the fact that the election season is only a month. The farce of American elections being dragged out for years gets tiresome, even though I'm completely addicted to american politics. At least Canadian government (when not proroguing or on their 1/3 year vacation) focuses on governing rather than reelection

Anonymous said...

Let us all read that new book,
"The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Part Deux"
so long America, Thanks for the fishes.

Bob Broughton said...

I'm near the end of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Part I. Here's a quote: "The splendid days of Augustus and Trajan were eclipsed by a cloud of ignorance; and the barbarians subverted the laws and palaces of Rome."

Peerless Cynic said...

As a Canadian who once lived in the States, I understand the U.S. media experience quite well. My first time in Ohio watching local and national news made my mind feel as though it had entered a very small room with no exit. It was claustrophobic…

Sharon said...

We came to Canada from the US in 2004. Became citizens last year.
We love it here and we're never going back.

The CBC is so "grown up" compared to any of the media in the US. And we're big fans of Rick Mercer. Seeing Pierre Berton demonstrate how to roll a proper joint was "a breath of fresh air."

Batocchio said...

(I'm in California.) The Canadian and British media have covered the influence of campaign donors, especially the influence of outside money post-Citizens United, much more often and much better than most of the American media. It's sad, but not surprising. I hope you can keep the best parts of your system. Meanwhile, some of us will continue trying to fix things down here, but the crowd that keeps setting fire to everything really doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you crazy Canucks, don't talk up Canada so much. Otherwise, you will be invaded and occupied by American progressives...if only to get away from the cesspool of insanity that our country is becoming....

kevin said...

as canadians, we're always interested in what american visitors think of our country, and as a family here for several years it is even more interesting to hear how your own country looks to you from the different angle!

that said, i just came for this article and ended up going back through all of 2010! great blog! i'm from regina and only this summer i finally visisted montreal and absolutely fell in love with the city--such incredible atmosphere and character. i also have a daughter with downs syndrome and appreciate your posts about your life in that regard.

i look forward to reading more in the future.

Anonymous said...

I used to enjoy news broadcasts from the US but since the Bush's came to power big business has taken over the airwaves. I find it very hard to distinguish between actual news from the States and Republican propaganda, so I'll stick to Canadian broadcasting for the truth.
Anonymous, BC, Canada

Kish Pisani said...

Thanks for all the comments. And thanks to C&L. Be sure to sign up as a follower!

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