Saturday, March 12, 2011


Canadians are letting their democracy slip from their hands, said Jim Travers

BC Mary comment:  Something about this column disturbs my peace of mind. Maybe that's because I was born, educated and have life experience in  British Columbia. Perhaps my Achilles heel is that I don't expect perfection. In fact, anyone posing as 100% perfect would be the object of suspicion because, being British Columbian, I know full well that such a state of being is well nigh impossible. I go further: a flaw here and there is, I think, what reminds us that we're human. It opens the path to the future, where virtues flourish.

Some evidence of that belief is the friendship I value highly, of a man who stood (alone!) against the criminal crippling of BC Hydro ... and the outright theft of BC Rail. I'll never forget that he stood and fought the Campbell Gang until they (drunk with power and aided by the despicable Big Media) had wiped him off the political map of BC.  When Paul Nettleton returned to British Columbia, I welcomed him home again, and yes, hoped he would return to politics. Nobody was more stunned than I, when Nettleton did eventually align himself with the revised Campbell Gang (this time, the Christy Clark  Gang). Nobody was more perplexed than I, when I received a verbal battering from all sides because I didn't turn against Nettleton and denounce him. Ridiculous thought. I ask you: Do we turn against a proven comrade, on the basis of one disagreeable decision? No. I'm British Columbian. So is Paul Nettleton ... and all the more human if, at this juncture, he has made an error of judgment. Just watch him. I think he'll do fine.

As for Jim Travers. He had many miles to travel to develop his view of what's happening in all of Canada, and in B.C. He misjudged the supreme double-crosser, David Emerson. He gave Emerson, who didn't deserve it, the benefit of the doubt -- buying into Emerson's notion that he (Emerson) is so precious that he could turn democracy on its head in order to "serve the public" better. Don't make us laugh. We're British Columbian ... we've seen this kind of "service" 1,000 times before. Jim, an easterner, misjudged Emerson; but on the other hand, Emerson (British Columbian) knew exactly what he was doing -- for himself -- and did it anyway. 

Granted, Jim didn't turn against his Big Media colleagues and denounce them as they so richly deserved to be denounced for failing to do their duty toward the public. Me, I think Jim Travers expected a duly enlightened citizenry would do that. So Jim did the near-impossible: he told us the truth as he saw it -- that democracy in Canada is sliding into oblivion --  letting us see that the truth, once told, can stand alone too.

The tragedy is that Jim Travers didn't live out his full life as a journalist. He might've pulled the other journalists along with him to better days. But he was easily so good, and so good-natured in his passions, we'll never need to ask what he believed in. He got that right, too: He believed in Canada, and in journalism as the sacred link by which the citizens are able to understand their government. I'm pretty sure he also believed in us, as citizens with power. I just wanted to say that, before you read further.

Jim Travers may not have been perfect. And yes, we need to be vigilant, as Robin is, for dangerous lapses. But Jim Travers will do very nicely, until the absolutely perfect Canadian journalist comes along.


James Travers.  Rest In Peace.  If You Can.

By Robin Mathews
March 10, 2011

Mourning for the Toronto Star national affairs reporter James Travers is widespread and real. But is it deserved? A journalists’ journalist, he evoked admiration for his wit, his acerbic mind, his concern for Canadian democracy. In the House of Commons in early March a few minutes were taken to mark his unfortunate passing. He died, young – at 62 – on March 3, 2011, and on March 5 one of his columns was reprinted.

It was a column from 2009.  It is called “Canada, we have a problem”. It won a National Newspaper Award. (Remember that fact.  It’s important.)

The column shines.  It traces the satisfaction Canadians felt for decades – looking out at the often precarious and despotically ruled world – and then at their own real democracy possessing strong democratic institutions and only minor instances of corruption. A condition, James Travers records, that has passed.

In short, he reports, Canadians are letting their democracy slip from their hands. He lists as victims and causes of the erasure of democracy the RCMP, Parliament (now a “largely ceremonial body”), an odiously politicized senior bureaucracy, and a Governor Generalship, in fact, decapitated.  (Remember his list.  It’s important.)

Expediency, writes Travers, has replaced “precedents, procedures, and even laws”.  He calls on constitutional expert Donald Savoie, writing that ‘prime ministers now operate in the omnipotent manner of kings”, “every link” in the chains connecting the people to their legislators “stressed, fractured, or broken”.

Till that point, Travers aims at the target and hits the bulls eye.  Then … and  then something goes wrong.  He discusses the unfrocking of Guiliano Zaccardelli – once RCMP Commissioner “for conflicting testimony in the Maher Arar affair”, and reports him now “ in France, safe and quiet in an Interpol sinecure.”  Travers is correct.  That fact is scandalous.  How many people know where Zaccardelli landed? (Remember the question.  It’s important.)

Travers uses David Emerson’s victory as a Liberal in Vancouver/Kingsway (2006), and his crossing the House to sit as a Conservative cabinet minister as an example of the new stresses in the system.  Travers – in a way – defends Emerson’s move. “Emerson”, he wrote, “ is an honest man and his motives genuine.”

Travers wrote that.

A man who showed contempt for the voters of the constituency who put him into Parliament, who double-crossed them, and who joined the governing party he had excoriated in order to gain a cabinet post “is an honest man and his motives genuine”.  Something has gone wrong – and not only with our democracy.  Something has gone wrong with our “trusted eyes and ears” covering national affairs.

Many would say the double-cross engaged in by David Emerson was not strange – but characteristic.  That may be arguable. Close associate of BC premier Gordon Campbell - as CEO of Canfor Mr. Emerson happened to be in that position to profit from the Gordon Campbell government’s erasure of many of British Columbia’s safety regulations. In the year when forestry deaths rose from about 16 or 17 the previous year to something in the 40s, Canfor made a record profit. David Emerson was CEO. He did not – in any record I saw – express dismay at the destruction of safety regulations … and of lives.

Unmasking as he goes, James Travers reports the 200-page manual Stephen Harper issued to Conservatives on how to defeat democracy in Parliamentary Committees, the lengths Harper has travelled to hide public information, the gagging of MPs, the gagging – too – of cabinet ministers, the appointed “apparatchiks” with more power than elected MPs, and even the leaks Harper’s ‘hirelings’ engaged in to assist the political campaign of Republicans for office in the U.S.A.

Summing up, James Travers writes: ”Extreme is now ho-hum in a country where the prime minister can override his own law to force an election, where accountability is little more than a campaign bumper sticker, where the police play politics and where there is no connection between scandal and punishment for those in privileged positions.”

True … and high sounding.  Then he tells us who can fix the evils – “mad-as-hell voters” can fix them.  And he ends writing: “If war is too serious to leave to generals, then surely democracy is too important to delegate to politicians.”

The statement is rubbish, for we do delegate to politicians, our elected MPs and MLAs, out of necessity, major (though not all) activity of our democracy.  Travers’ statement is rubbish, and it would be sentimental to pretend otherwise. But James Travers has to end the column in sentimentality, to supply a sugar-coated finish, because he hasn’t told the truth throughout.

Think of the parts above that I suggested readers remember.  (1) The column won a National Newspaper Award. (2) The institutions he listed that are victims of the destruction of democracy are the RCMP, the senior bureaucracy, Parliament, and the Governor Generalship. (3) Guiliano Zaccardelli, disgraced Commissioner of the RCMP, “is in France, safe and quiet in an Interpol sinecure”.

It is with that last little piece of information that he tells all.  The column won a National Newspaper Award because it failed to list one of the most corrupt institutions in our decaying democracy: Canada’s Mainstream Press and Media. If James Travers had told the truth about his own institution, he’d have won no Award. Those who remember know the Mainstream Press and Media didn’t follow Guiliano Zaccardelli to France, didn’t ask how – disgraced – he could win a top job, didn’t insist on knowing how his replacement was chosen … and why.  It never pursued the alleged reforms taking place in the RCMP. The Mainstream Press and Media failed in their fundamental task … failed calamitously.

They have, in fact, never pursued the alleged questionable and improper actions of the former top man in one of Canada’s most important institutions: the RCMP.

That is just the tip of the iceberg.

Remembering the shameful prorogation of Parliament that Stephen Harper wrung from a wholly inadequate Governor General Michaelle Jean, Canadians may also remember the Mainstream Press and Media came as close to supporting Harper’s assault on democracy as they could.  And then they let that massive betrayal drop, as if of no importance.

I could go on … and on.  But almost every user of the internet has to know that the Mainstream Press and Media are being more and more and more attacked and exposed for lies, failures to report, cover-ups, manufactured stories … all over the Western world.  And the Mainstream Press and Media are striking back – with lies, failures to report, cover-ups, and manufactured stories.

A real battle is in progress. The open fight for greater democratic reality in the governments of the world is being matched by the huge fight-back of the criminal corporate/government alliance intending to and narrowing democratic freedoms wherever possible in the world.  In B.C. and in federal Canada governments are in the hands of private corporations.  And to maintain that condition the Mainstream Press and Media (a part of the ‘private corporations’) are lashing out with lies, failures to report, cover-ups, and manufactured stories.

The biggest, recent one in B.C. (a manufactured story if ever there was one) – is still echoing in the heads of British Columbians.  It’s the white-washing of the corrupt B.C. Liberal Party just before its leadership race ended.  The Mainstream Press and Media failed to tell British Columbians that the BC Rail Scandal RCMP documents released as a basis for the white-wash [to a select few the Court decided were “the public”] were dubious to say the least.  The documents were untested as to their truth. The RCMP is alleged to have been (at best) inadequate in its investigations.  A huge body of other documents was withheld even from the small select group.  And if the BC Rail Scandal contains criminal action on the part of cabinet members (which it very well may), ALL the members who were running for office (who were former cabinet members) are inextricably tainted with the crimes.

Instead the Mainstream Press and Media trumpetted “disinformation”, to give the impression that the released RCMP documents cleared all the Liberals in cabinet at the time of the BC Rail Scandal, that the documents revealed only a tiny, ugly little threesome who were the whole story of the BC Rail Scandal.

That’s British Columbia.

Let’s glance at Bev Oda, Minister of International Co-operation, whose actions the Speaker of the House of Commons has just judged worthy of consideration as being in contempt of Parliament. Sitting like a robot while John Baird and Stephen Harper controlled the disinformation about her, she was clearly not in control of her Department.  She is alleged to have lied to Parliament; Baird and Harper are alleged to have compounded her ugly situation.

What does the Globe and Mail headline its big story (Feb, 19 11)? “Bev Oda: A solid minister, a muddled political message”.  The ‘story’ is I believe – intended to cover up and whitewash. “A solid minister…?”

Let’s glance at the “in and out” scandal in which the Harper Conservatives have been convicted of actively and deliberately violating Election Financing Rules in 2006 (an appeal will be heard).  One of the major actors in the seamy scandal is Harper senator Doug Finley, manager of the Harper 2006 and 2008 elections.  Clearly an important person whose role has to reflect on the deliberateness of the allegations of intended violation, he is treated by the ‘big story’ in the Globe and Mail as a colourful fellow, an amusing chap.  The headline above the story is “Retreat of the tweeting Senator”.  The story that follows is as stupid.

The reporters are happy to frame Doug Finley’s view of parliamentary honour and propriety. Finley: “Politics is an adversarial business.  Kellogg’s doesn’t make money by telling everybody General Foods are a great product.”

The Globe and Mail - I think readers may judge - is campaigning, now, hard, for a Stephen Harper election victory whenever an election comes, and without regard for Harper’s ruination of Canadian democracy, perhaps in support of it.

Which leads to a consideration of what I call the CBC Radio “Carol Off factor”.  Listening quite regularly to “As It Happens” evenings, I have become more and more sensitive to what I think may be Carol Off’s support of the Stephen Harper government.  Listen yourselves. Carefully. What do you think?

On Wednesday, March 9, Carol Off interviewed a Liberal MP concerned with Bev Oda, the “in and out” scandal, the failure of cabinet to reveal spending costs to Parliament, the Speaker’s ruling, the seriousness of contempt of Parliament.

Ms. Off went for the Liberal MP as if he had done something wrong!  Was the Liberal Party going to use the materials to call for a vote of non-confidence?  The MP was gentle, was reasonable, was informative.  The Speaker had made it clear – the MP reported – that he wanted the matter to go to a committee to be considered and ruled on before action was taken.

A perfectly reasonable response, but it didn’t satisfy Ms. Off.  She didn’t ask what was the gravity of the possible findings of contempt of Parliament. She didn’t ask what would happen to Parliament if cabinet refused to report its spending to the people – one of the primary reasons Parliament exists. She didn’t ask if someone could slip accidentally into contempt of Parliament.  She didn’t ask if the incidents could lead Canadians to believe Stephen Harper is really trying to destroy Parliament. She didn’t ask for any information Canadians might have wanted.

She merely kept putting the question almost exactly as I imagine Stephen Harper himself would put it – with equal irrationality – if he were doing the asking. Were the Liberals going to move non-confidence?

Is Carol Off another James Travers, really wanting to say truth but so entangled in the mesh of Mainstream Press and Media fundamental dishonesty that she is incapable of doing so?  I can imagine her telling her audience that in double-crossing his electors, and in selling out in order to become a cabinet minister, David Emerson was “an honest man and his motives genuine” (as long as he was crossing the House to become a Stephen Harper loyalist).

The anger in the population over the dishonesty of the Mainstream Press and Media has to grow.  It is growing. The real battle to win back democratic reality in Canada has to become sharper – and people like Carol Off have to be pulled from their comfortable sinecures if listeners decide they are campaigners for the destroyers of democracy in Canada.

Readers and admirers of people like James Travers have to be able to look at apparently excellent articles to see the truth being covered over, the facts carefully withheld, the falsehoods conveyed …  the loyalty to fascism buried in the rhetoric of a love for democratic freedoms.


I did not know Jim Travers, nor did I know of him until I read the many heartfelt salutes to him and his brand of journalism by so many internet bloggers.

My exposure to internet news has led me to align myself with people I believe to be passionate in their beliefs, knowlegeable, honest, caring individuals who truly care about sustaining and improving our society and our culture and our preferred way of life.

For lack of information on my part,I may not always agree fully with their opinions, but I do agree fully with their need and right to express those opinions.

Each time I read something new in their posts, I feel more secure in my own beliefs and the likliehood that dark times will pass and the wrongs of our world will be righted because of their efforts.

I need not name them, you all know who you are and what you do and why you do it.

Whenever it appears there may be an uncharacteristic but strong disagreement among you, and one of the dependables seems to be straying from the fold, I think it may be worthwhile to recall the tribute by Marc Antony to his friend Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play of that name.

You all know the passage, so I will offer the lines that seem to me to be pertient and germane to the conversation started here.

"...The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones."
......but Antony ends his tribute with...

"My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar
And I must pause till it come back to me."
I agree, Mary,with your statement that no-one is perfect.
I respect the opinion of the late James Travers.And so do his many,many colleagues that worked with him on the federal scene. Chantelle Hebert said on the CBC just this week that she knew that Jim covered her back when she commented on what she knew was right.
Keep the discussions going,going,going: is all I can say. We know that it will stay in front of the public. One needs to read the COMMENTS to Palmer's article in The Sun(which I never do unless someone says; hey,look at that!)to see a grudging admittance that surely the province can't put up with this any longer.
But let's not shoot down a journalist who carries a small flag of truth or holds his flag for truth not quite as high as we would like it to be waved.Little steps are good,too.
Networking social internet/ twitter etc seems to be a successful way to gather support.
When I was visiting back in Ontario in Jan.2010 and I hooked up with some who were protesting Harper's prorogation in many cities across Canada one Saturday, I was heartened by the collaboration amongst demographics and political party members to speak out, publicly.
The HST protest here in B.C.a year ago showed the same.
How many more can be saved?

There is certainly no courage or bravery attached to deeds such as the kicking of a dead horse, nor a dead grizzly bear,a dead lion. There is even less attached to kicking a dead man!
I find the timing of this article rather curious, two years after the fact of the award he received and even more curious after the man is dead.I find that rather cowardly indeed!
Whether Mr. Travers is resting peacefully I can't tell you but I can tell you he is rightfully beyond the pettiness of our words and aspirations. Perhaps as Mary has pointed out, he hoped beyond hope that someone would help share the weight. I can find no fault in him for that.
My condolences to his family and my thanks and respect for his contributions.
Don F.
Beautifully stated, ron wilton.

Thank you.
Mary, would you please re-post that indictment of the Liberals and/or Campbell from Nettleton from so long ago? The one where he talked about morality and ethics?

Is this the posting you wanted?

It's dated May 8, 2009 and titled "It can't be easy for Lara Dauphinee. But what about the rest of BC?"

Scroll down to the segment headed

"For BC Mary's blog ... on behalf of Paul Nettleton. April 2009."
yeah that would seem to be the one; but isn't there another where he gets more specific and also talks about BC Rail privatization plans, not just BC Hydro?
I am and will remain an admirer of Mr. Mathews, but I find his criticism of Jim Travers and Carol Off to be unduly harsh. Perhaps anger and feelings of betrayal (which I grant is perfectly reasonable under the circumstances) have coloured his comments but I wish to be more charitable to both Travers and Off.
I also am an avid listener of "As it Happens" and although I don't always agree with Carol I think that on the whole she acquits herself well. I would venture to say that I am not always on top of my game and I see that, as often happens, others aren't either, including Off.
We can wish after the fact that more probing or different questions should have been or needed to be asked, but I would not automatically assume that Ms. Off has or had an "agenda".
Of course I could be persuaded differently but that would require more examples/proof of said agenda.
Just my own two bits worth...
I just thought it ironic that with all this discussion of agenda and "As It Happens" that this quote would also surface:

"...The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.

So are we still talking about "As It Happens" and the evil that Barbara Frum left behind, i.e. the coiner of the absurd phrase "The Axis of Evil" for use by the Commander in Chief of the Terrorist Nation?

I must confess though, even the Son of Barbara, David Frum, is beginning to show some sense as he contemplates the vacuum that passes for logic in the TeaBagger movement that has succeeded in getting alienated poor red-necks to stand up for the hard done by rich folks and vote for policies that will free them from having any wealth or power to deal with themselves.

I am finding it more difficult by the day to take politics in BC, Canada, the US and the world in general seriously and feel that I am at a high risk of succumbing to a terrifying bout of cynicism.

So are we still talking about "As It Happens" and the evil that Barbara Frum left behind, i.e. the coiner of the absurd phrase "The Axis of Evil" for use by the Commander in Chief of the Terrorist Nation?

End of quote.

Wrong, Sweetie! How could you even think of putting that phrase into Barbara Frum's lexicon!!

It was her son, David Frum, who coined the phrase while speech-writing for Dubya. It was first "Axis of Hatred" ... then "Axis of Evil". How this could happen to a son of Barbara Frum has always been a mystery to me,


Barbara herself explained the astounding transition in her Autobiog. Not sure but I think her book was titled "As It Happened". She's an icon, in my world.

I was referring to David, as the "left behind" object, rather than the phrase. Awkwardly stated, I see clearly now.

Sorry it wasn't clear.......
Oh. OK, then ...
Re anonymous 2:22's link.....I don't know where Dix stood on it, but it was under the NDP that BC chose not to take the downstream benefits power wasn't it? Instead of using it to develop industry in BC, which was WAC's intent on securing that part of the deal.

This is a very timely question ...

I hope somebody will track this down for us.
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