Newspaper publishers wooed by all three parties

Newspaper publishers wooed by all three parties
I have just returned from the 86th-annual Canadian Community Newspapers Association’s annual convention, this year held in Banff, Alta.
For the first time in anyone’s memory, our industry captured the attention of the Liberal, New Democratic, and Conservative parties. We heard from the leaders of both the New Democrats and Conservatives, and Sen. Grant Mitchell spoke on behalf of Paul Martin and Ann McLellan.
Stephen Harper spoke on Thursday afternoon, and in quick order managed to show his honesty while, at the same time, insulted more than 200 community newspaper publishers from across Canada.
We learned Mr. Harper receives most of his information about what is happening in Canada from clippings gathered from the big city dailies. He admitted he does not read any of the community newspapers that are dropped off at his Calgary residence nor his official residence in Ottawa.
It was almost like hearing that the needs of Canadians in small and rural communities that are found in the community press across the country are not important to the Tory leader.
For me, that was the memorable part of his speech.
Mr. Harper confirmed any spending initiative the Liberals offered Canadians would be guaranteed to Canadians under a Conservative government. Then the balance of his speech was spent bashing the Liberals and the sponsorship scandal that occurred under their watch.
He managed to smile several times, but his delivery was dreadful and he really failed to engage the publishers with any new ideas, except to tell them to wait and see what the Conservative party would offer.
I consider most of the publishers in the room as news junkies, have been following the Gomery inquiry, and would just as soon see all the parties return to providing good government while his report comes out.
Sen. Mitchell, who hails from Edmonton, delivered the Liberal party speech. He had heard of Mr. Harper’s gaff and let everyone know how well he reads community newspapers.
The Liberal speech then focused on accusing the Conservatives of trying to break up Canada by voting with the Bloc Quebecois.
Mr. Mitchell also reviewed the accomplishments of the Martin government in the past year. Health care, additional support for Newfoundland, and money for municipalities through gas taxes are all important accomplishments.
The person who perhaps delivered the best speech was NDP leader Jack Layton. He clearly offered up good ideas for discussion focusing on the future of Canada.
When challenged on the deficit of good name candidates, he admitted it was a concern of his party, but let every one know they will be surprised by some of the names that will appear on ballots next time around.
It prompted one publisher to call out, “Is Belinda on the list?” and Jack, in his quick wit, came back with, “She’s on the move.” All three parties were testing out their sound bites. They’re gearing up for the election. Many of the things tested in front of publishers will be dropped and other lines will be added.
And maybe we will hear more ideas—and how those ideas and changes will help Canadians.
And maybe we will restore decorum to Parliament. And maybe our politicians will remove the personal attacks that currently dominate the House of Commons.
Anything is possible.

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