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Campbell 'Getting Away with Murder' on Global Warming

Tory pundit Spector lashes media for bias.

By Richard Warnica 13 Feb 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Richard Warnica is a senior editor of The Tyee.

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Sympathy for Carole James

The Campbell government has raised expectations it will tackle global warming in today's throne speech, but an unlikely critic says the premier is getting a free ride on green issues.

Norman Spector is a former senior advisor to Brian Mulroney. He was also, at one point, the editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post. Most British Columbians, however, know him as a ubiquitous political commentator and go-to right-winger on he-said, she-said pundit panels.

Last week, in an interview on Victoria's CFAX radio station, Spector lashed out at the B.C. Liberals' environmental record.

"Gordon Campbell has essentially been getting away with murder on this issue," Spector said. "Here's a government that wants to build two coal plants. I mean, there's nothing less consistent with Kyoto than building coal plants."

Media 'asleep' on NDP stance

Spector also had harsh words for the way the province's press has covered the story.

"It used to be that the media in British Columbia were the most aggressive in the county," he told host Joe Easingwood. "You have to wonder now whether they're asleep. Everybody is blaming the opposition for being asleep. I'm wondering whether the media is asleep."

Spector was particularly critical of the treatment given to an NDP announcement last week. At a well-advertised press conference in Vancouver on Feb. 5, opposition leader Carole James presented the NDP's plan for curbing the province's greenhouse gas emissions. The Vancouver Sun ran the story, in a 313-word brief written by an anonymous Canadian Press scribe, on B2. The Province put the same brief, cut down to 270 words, on A16.

"It's like we're living in these parallel universes," Spector said later on CFAX. "We're told that it's the most important issue. It's the issue on which the federal government could fall, on which we could have an election...And Carol James and the NDP come out with a serious proposal...and it's nowhere! Where is it on the front page of our newspapers?"

Media concentration blamed

When host Easingwood brought up media concentration, Spector readily agreed that it was a factor in political coverage in this province.

"We do have the most concentrated press in the country," he said. "The McGill election study, of the last election, showed that the Vancouver Sun was one of the most biased papers in the country, in terms of its election coverage. It and the Calgary Herald stood out for election bias."

This isn't the first time B.C.'s big press has been accused of favouring the Liberals. During the 2005 election campaign, a columnist with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote: "Pro-government news stories and headlines dominate[d] Vancouver's daily newspapers and its top-rated local TV news operation, all owned by the same Winnipeg-based media conglomerate."

YouTube vs. coal-fired

On at least one environmental issue, though, the message seems to be getting out. Last year, the province announced plans to build two new coal-fired power plants, B.C.'s first. If completed, the two plants would double the annual greenhouse gas emissions from B.C.'s energy production sector, according to the Pembina Institute. (Because most of B.C.'s electricity comes from hydro, energy production only makes up a small fraction of the province's total emissions.)

The plans sparked angry local protests and a variety of non-traditional media coverage, including, most recently, an eight-minute mini-documentary on the issue by Vancouver's "How to Boil a Frog."

And in an interview in last Saturday's Vancouver Sun, (published on A1 with a double deck, above the fold headline, for those keeping track) Gordon Campbell hinted that he may have soured on coal. "I haven't seen the proposal for the plants," he said. "They're not even in the environmental assessment process yet...They're not a done deal at all."

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