I've spent nearly four years in fear of having to write this post. The day has come nonetheless.
The Sun News Network went off the air at 5 a.m. ET Friday after negotiations to sell the troubled television channel were unsuccessful.
No on-air announcement was made as the screen went dark and was replaced moments later with the Sun TV logo.
The closure of the conservative-angled news channel follows months of uncertainty surrounding its fate, after Postmedia Network Canada Corp. announced plans to purchase the Sun Media newspapers and websites from Quebecor for $316 million.
Minutes after the station went dark, an on-screen message from Rogers Cable read: "Sun News Network is no longer available, at the discretion of the programmer."
It's a three fingers of scotch kind of day.
Let me begin by personally thanking everyone involved in the Sun News Network project. From the great on-air talents like Michael Coren, Brian Lilley and the inimitable Ezra Levant to the staff and technicians. In particular I'd like to thank Kory Teneycke for taking a crazy idea and turning into a working reality. I can only imagine how he feels. He and so many other people swung for the fences. It's how anything useful or important happens in life.
As a viewer from day one to the last I can only claim an emotional investment. There is a basic sadness here. The weeks and months ahead will see the usual finger pointing about what happened. The long and short is it failed. Had more people watched it we wouldn't be here. Their average viewership was in the 8,000 range. That's fewer people than visit Small Dead Animalson a typical day. The traffic levels of a very successful blog simply cannot sustain even a niche television station.
Why didn't they watch it? I have a very tangential relationship with some people in the entertainment industry, people who've worked in the industry for decades and had major hits. Even they'll admit that it's a roll of the dice in the best of circumstances. Sometimes you build it and they don't come. God knows why but there were somethings that certainly didn't help.
Yes the production values were terrible. Low def in the morning and then high def in the evening. The lighting was almost criminal at times. Poor Faith Goldy. She seemed to age about ten years between evening and morning. The same went for the rest of the on air personnel. It's a visual medium and there were some very photogenic people with strong personalities on SNN. Yet they didn't always look and sound as good at they should have. The whole thing felt like high-end cable access.
I'm not blaming anyone for this. There is only so much that can be done with a low budget. Citizen Kane would have looked like crap in Super 8. Fox News looked terrible at the beginning too. Then again Rupert Murdoch has very deep pockets. He also isn't running for elected office. Had Quebecor not walked away from the Sun newspaper chain, effectively orphaning SNN, it might have had a chance. There was talk of Moses Znaimer buying the station. Perhaps a quick death was the merciful alternative.
On Thursday night Brian Lilley had this on his Twitter feed:
If tonight was my last show on Sun News then at least I got to show the report proving that the RCMP broke the law
That's what you guys did. That's why you mattered. That's why I kept telling people to forget about about the production values and the sometimes repetitive themes. The SNN was breaking stories everyone else was ignoring for ideological reasons. The High River Gun Grab. The Benjamin Levin Story. These cases mattered but were given the careful look the other way by the MSM. Real journalism is necessary in a free society. That's why we should be supporting real journalists instead press release re-writers and activists playing reporter.
Remember that Glen McGregor still has a job this morning. So does Heather Mallick. That's a problem. Though it's an open question as to how long.
I was marginally involved with the old Western Standard, of which I still have fond memories. I was actually the last blogger to regularly post at the Shotgun. That died a bitter death too. Years ago when flipping through it's pages every month, amazed that this stuff was getting printed, there was a nagging voice in the back of my head: How the hell can you make money with a magazine in Canada today?
It was the same nagging thought I'd had in university. Sometime around 2000 I was sitting in the godless fortress known as John P Robarts Library, the main research library of the University of Toronto, reading the National Post online. Suddenly it dawned on me. I'm not paying to read a newspaper and there are practically no ads. How the hell are these people going to make money doing this? Fifteen years later and the answer is that they can't. The Post has been in and out of quasi-bankruptcy for nearly two decades now. I have no idea how Paul Godfrey keeps the lights on. I suspect even that Bay Street wizard is running out of tricks at this point.
The problem is overhead. Newspapers and television stations have a lot of overhead. People, buildings and equipment. Consumers don't want to pay for overhead unless it's a premium product like The Economist or Wall Street Journal. And those are global brands. A small country like Canada will have a hard time sustaining anything even remotely similar. Ten years from now it'll likely be the pallid shadows of the Globe and Star surrounded by thousands of unpaid or ill paid bloggers with varying degrees of skill.
Going back to the SNN. Back in 2013 it apparently lost $14.3 million. Divide that by say 10,000 viewers and you have about $1430 a year per viewer to cover the loss. To make the SSN a workable proposition on a subscriber-advertiser model you would either need many more viewers or far less overhead.
There is nothing preventing the now unemployed, or partially employed, on-air talent from SNN from posting videos online. Perhaps even having a kind of group video blog. It's a thought but one that's not likely to work. If I've learned anything from a decade plus of blogging it's that without payment people's interest wanes. They have families and bills and it would gradually become a time consuming hobby. Not as much fun as golf, fishing or hunting. You have to pay people if you expect them to do real work consistently.
A quarter century into the internet and we still have no idea how to fund good journalism.
The best of luck to everyone. It has a hell of a ride.
Give me a child for the first seven years of his life...
One has only to search Pinterest to see the trend. Dozens of elementary schoolteachers share cute activities that make the road to college as clear as ABC. One cut-and-paste work sheet has students using circles and squares to sequence the steps. There are four: mail your application, get accepted, graduate high school and “move in, go to class and study hard!” “College weeks” have become as much a staple of elementary school calendars as the winter band concert. And campus tours are now popular field trips.
They are indoctrinating children as young as six that they must, without exception, aspire to go to college. It goes without saying that they mean a full four year college. Parents are having anxiety attacks about their children's future in elementary school. All to then spend tens of thousands of dollars acquiring a piece of paper that is, for all intents and purposes, worthless.
It's like a cult.
Certainly a small number of these kids will graduate college in more applied fields, but as a matter of statistics only a small portion of any cohort will have the intelligence and aptitude to complete degrees in the STEMs or business courses like accounting. So when high school graduation comes around the kids realize they are not going to be engineers, doctors or lawyers. Instead they're going to be gender studies majors.
Since the pressure is so intense, and since they've been exposed to so few alternatives, these young collegians plunge themselves into debt. Remember these are American students where the cost of a four-year degree is several times the Canadian equivalent. Their parents, their teachers and their guidance counsellors have lied and manipulated them into a grossly impractical course of action.
The parents because they want to avoid the shame of NOT sending their kids to college.
The public school teachers because they are part of an educational establishment that must keep up demand for their largely discredited product.
Guidance counsellors who have to pretend that they have real jobs.
The real function of a four year degree, leaving aside that small number that actually work in their fields of study, is as a signalling and sorting mechanism for young worker drones. A mechanism being paid for by taxpayers, parents and students instead of employers. This makes the job of the HR departments easier, just throw out the applicants without the necessary credential, but it doesn't really tell you who the best applicant might be. On top of all this we have the added bonus of financing a vast featherbedded education industry. The end result is a scam perpetrated on the young.
While many are beginning to realize the Higher Ed Scam they are still caught in a Catch-22. Because of the proliferation of degrees it has become nearly impossible to get a white collar job without one. You know it's useless but what other options, aside from a life of manual labour, do you have? Leaving aside the enormous financial damage of such attitudes the psychological damage is likely just as bad.
Put yourself in the position of a reasonably bright eighteen year old. You understand that you will be spending the next four years, and an enormous sum of money, acquiring what is essentially a minimum requirement to serve coffee in a corporate office. Your parents, teachers and political leaders talk endlessly about the glories of college, while you know from your older siblings and friends that such talk is a lie or at best an exaggeration. What sort of attitude is likely to develop in the mind of that eighteen year old? It isn't admiration for their elders, more likely it is deep seated cynicism toward the older generation and society as a whole.
This is unusual only to people who've never had a real job:
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans held a "Dragons' Den"-style event where bureaucrats were asked to pitch ideas to a group of senior managers, a newly released document shows.
Unlike the popular TV show on which the exercise was based, where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists, Fisheries and Oceans asked public servants to come up with "creative solutions to policy and operational challenges."
"Employees were invited to submit ideas and 53 submissions were received from all regions and sectors, including the (Canadian Coast Guard)," says an August 2014 memo to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea from the department's deputy minister.
What's interesting is that someone thought this was a news story. What's genuinely striking is that this type of event is not a common occurrence in government departments. Not surprising just striking. This is how most private organizations pitch ideas internally. After nine years in power the Harper Tories have made this much change to how the Public Service operates. Give it another nine and perhaps the bureaucrats will figure out how to use PowerPoint.
Ottawa MPP Lisa MacLeod will drop out of the race for provincial Progressive Conservative leader Friday morning, but she hasn’t made up her mind about whether she’ll run for federal office.
“That may not be the answer anyone wants immediately, but it’s the answer I have,” she said in an interview over tea in a Barrhaven café. “I’ll make that decision in the next week.”
She’s tempted by the federal seat newly opening up by federal MP John Baird’s decision earlier this week to bow out of politics: in the next federal election, a new Nepean seat on MacLeod’s home turf will be available, unexpectedly. But “I don’t know whether it’s right for me, for my family, for my constituents,” she said.
So that leaves Christine Elliott and a bunch of other people. I could, of course, look up the names of the other people but that would be a waste of valuable electrons. No doubt they are all honourable and public spirit individuals whose contributions to the political process Ontarians eagerly acknowledge. I guess. One would assume given the circumstances.
Christine Elliott is now unofficially the leader of the official opposition. In 2019 she will have the honour of being defeated by Kathleen Wynne in another improbable landslide. To some this sounds like a daunting and terrifying prospect. Don't worry. When 2019 comes around you won't be worried about another Win for Wynne. No sir. You'll be too busy fighting for food at the burnt-out Loblaws to give a damn about politics. Change that you can believe in.
Perhaps I'm being too cynical here. Christine Elliott brings many years of experience to the table as the new leader of the Ontario PCs. Experience at what I'm not entirely sure. By all accounts she is a nice lady and was married to the late Jim Flaherty. She was a lawyer in Whitby, which I'm told is somewhere between Scarborough and Montreal. She ran in the 2009 leadership campaign against Tim Hudak. Whether he lost or she lost is still a matter of debate. What is certain is that Ontario conservatives suffered a decisive defeat.
Given the pathetic lack of bench strength in the Ontario PCs it's entirely possible that Elliott could be running the party for the next decade. She is nearly sixty now and since sixty is the new fifty that will make her nominally seventy, but really only sixty, when she gets trounced by Kathleen Wynne two more times. Ms Wynne is about two years older that Ms Elliot.
Growing up in that dark epoch known as the 1980s I well recall feminists complaining about how the world was run by cranky old men stuck in the past. Ancient dinosaurs who monopolized power and prevented those with youth and innovative ideas from coming to the fore of public life. So much has changed since that time. The male gerontocracy of the Reagan Era has been swept away by the female gerontocracy of the Wynne-Elliott Era. You've come a long way baby.
Now that feminism has utterly triumphed, with all three of the major parties run by women, we can appreciate how right the early feminists were about, well, everything. Now that women rule Ontario the economy is humming along splendidly, the finances are managed like a prudent housewife of old and peace and love has spread through out the land. Ordinary voters look to the Ontario matriarchy with a degree of trust and understanding that no male politician has ever commanded.
It probably doesn't come as a shock to many that Anglophone countries are the ones Britons are "especially favourable" to, according to Chatham House.
In a survey of 2,059 adults carried out in the summer of 2014 for the think tank, Canada, the United States and Australia were nations we favoured, although the UK appeared to appreciate the Dutch just as much as the Americans. More than thirty per cent of those surveyed said they felt favourable towards the countries.
A feeling much reciprocated on this side of the Pond.
Two weeks ago, a rumour that John Baird was going to resign bubbled up from inside the public service. It was quickly denied by the prime minister’s communications director as wishful thinking on the part of a foreign affairs bureaucracy that has no love for a minister so consistently disdainful of their advice.
Yet it looks like the rumour is true after all.
The question remains — is he jumping or is he being pushed?
He's jumping. The man's been in the game since he was knee high to a Parliamentary page. It's time to leave and Johnny, bless 'em, had the common sense to leave before his name became tarnished. By what? By the game. Few politicians escape from politics with their souls, reputation and families intact. No matter how skilled or how lucky eventually, for everyone, things go very badly. Still it requires an unusual amount of discipline to leave at the top.
John Baird has no law degree and essentially no private sector experience. It's likely that a good opportunity came along and he decided that it was better to take it now rather than wait for the hazards of an October election. A defeated cabinet minister has the marketability of a dead skunk.
A fart catcher in his early twenties Baird was elected an Ontario MPP at 26 and was a cabinet minister at the tender age of thirty. In those days he was known as Mike Harris' pit bull, a ferocious partisan who seemed to delight in taking on the Liberal opposition and, once the Dalt had slithered his way into power, a formidable critic of the government. Then came 2006. President of Treasury Board. Minister of the Environment. Every successful PM needs a ministerial bulldozer to handle the crap work. For Stephen Harper that was John Baird.
But for all that he'll be remembered as Foreign Affairs Minister, arguably the sweetest job in Canadian politics. For nearly four years he was an able and effective spokesman for his country's interests, ready to denounce the enemies of freedom through out the world. Sure Canada's military weight is but dust in the geostrategic balance, but from time to time our voice could be heard with near perfect clarity.
That's not bad for modern Canada. After nearly half a century of Pearsonian equivocation it was practically a revolution.
There's another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you're an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 -- maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn -- you're not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
Yet another figure of importance that doesn't get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find -- in other words, you are severely underemployed -- the government doesn't count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
"I informed her in writing on Jan. 29 that she would not be permitted to run for our party in the next election due to the misconduct from the Oakville North-Burlington nomination race," Walsh said in a statement.
But Adams and Trudeau cast her move as a matter of principle.
"This is not about having a tough day at the office; everybody has grumpy bosses from time to time," Adams said.
"This is about the fact that my values simply don't align with this (Conservative) team and I'd like to continue serving Canadians."
Right. They aligned last week but don't align this week. Like a 1970s era Plymouth alignment has been a serious problem for Eve Adams.
Now if Justin had a lick of sense, I repeat myself, he would have sent Ms Adams packing. Perhaps try her hand at flogging the NDP's shopworn wares. But that would have been telling. A floor crossing from the government to the opposition benches has always been an opportunity to embarrass the government of the day. So JT leapt at the chance. Thing is that this ain't much of an embarrassment.
The story as it stands is that Ms Adams' Mississauga riding was being split up for 2015. She tried to run in a more hospitable riding in nearby Oakville. The local riding association wasn't terribly keen. Then, allegedly, Ms Adams boyfriend/fiancee/nice guy she met in the House of Commons Cafeteria, a certain Dimitri Soudas, leaned on someone. There were e-mails. Accusations. Awkward press conferences. The usual thing.
The Heavy Hand of Harper soon appeared to end the matter. Dimitri, so long a staunch loyalist, was banished to the dark and cold regions of the private sector. Ms Adams was told at the end of January that she would never get a nomination anywhere in our fair Dominion as a Tory. Like Churchill during the 1930s they are now in the political wilderness. Unlike Churchill they deserve it.
There are parallels between Adams/Soudas and Guergis/ Jaffer. A power couple that fizzled and went flat before the bottle was even open. The differences are more striking. You had a feeling with Guergis/Jaffer that these were two rather foolish people who tripped over their own feet. The impression from Adams/Soudas is of professional schemers who, after a long while, have finally been caught out.
It is a political truth well established that everything in Canada, quite literally everything, ultimately relates to Justin Trudeau. Word is that a solar eclipse is scheduled for early June in his honour. What Justin of Sussex-Upon-the -Ottawa has done is rather foolish. It is clear that Eve Adams and her special friend are loose cannons or at the very least prima donnas. Are these the sorts of people you want in the Liberal caucus?
Sorry. I meant to say do you really need more people like that in the Liberal caucus?
Apparently the answer is yes. For a quick mildly embarrassing headline for the government Justin has gained a headache that will last, at least, the next eight months. Short-term gain for long-term pain. Like the fella said the boy just ain't that smart.