Friday, March 04, 2011


James Travers, National Affairs Columnist for Canada's biggest newspaper: Toronto Star.

Never forget that there was a Jim Travers.

By BC Mary

Two of us were watching the 6:00 o'clock News on March 4, 2011 when the announcement came: Jim Travers is dead. "No!" I cried out. "No, no, no!" My companion said "Who is Jim Travers?"  and I didn't have to think twice. My definition of Jim Travers: "He's the journalist who always answered my e.mails when I kept trying to get him interested in reporting on BC Rail." But that never happened. He seemed to feel the time wasn't right for that, yet. What a benefit we've lost with Jim Travers' passing.

Jim never played toxic partisan politics with the issues facing Canada. No question, he cared deeply about the issues and wrote accordingly, with such integrity that his columns could be appreciated by Canadians of any political point of view. That's the thing, too: he wrote as a Canadian. For Canadians. Because it matters. And dammit, we need to hear that.

I had saved the following column as one of my favourite examples of Travers as a Canadian and as an outstanding journalist:

Just where is PM taking us?

Published On May 16 2009
Comments (67)

By James Travers - National Affairs Columnist

There's accidental comedy in new Conservative ads attacking the Liberal leader as a globetrotter who doesn't know the country and was only drawn home by opportunism. The dark laugh is that the Canada Stephen Harper is creating would be hard for Michael Ignatieff to recognize even if he had never wandered away.

If Ignatieff is just visiting the country, as this week's new TV spots claim, Harper is more than simply tinkering with the way it works.

This Prime Minister's Canada is as unfamiliar to those who stick close to the neighbourhood as it is to expatriates.

It grafts presidential powers and situational expediency to the Westminster democracy that has served well, if imperfectly, for 141 years and then wraps it in the rhetoric of Reform Party populism.

By incremental steps and leaps of logic, the Prime Minister is taking advantage of public confusion to advance a political hybrid. Worse, it's being finessed with little public debate and no national consensus.

There's nothing abstract about what's happening here. Piecemeal changes that erode Parliament's power are as recent as Ottawa's response to the recession and as real as the coalition crisis.

Under cover of hard times, Conservatives are distributing $3 billion in stimulus spending from behind closed cabinet doors, further eroding Parliament's defining duty to protect the public purse.

For policy and political purposes, that gives the Prime Minister spending freedom the envy of many presidents.

Less obvious, but at least as troubling, is how Harper used the Christmas crisis to paint a strikingly altered portrait of Canadian democracy on the dangerously blank canvas of public knowledge. With scant regard for process or national unity, he persuaded a remarkable number of Canadians that they directly elect prime ministers and that there can be no legitimate change of government without new elections.

Both are false. Both are also central to the populist Holy Grail of making as many public officials as possible as directly accountable to as many people as possible.

It's an appealing theory; it's just not the one that frames how Canadians consent to be governed. Surprising as it is to those influenced by U.S. presidential contests, federal elections here are more than popularity contests for aspiring prime ministers. In our responsible way, voters decide who sits in the House of Commons and then leave to them all the messy stuff, including deciding which leader and party enjoys enough confidence among the elected members to rule and for how long.

Michaëlle Jean, the otherwise effective Governor General, missed an opportunity to explain the nuts-and-bolts details of an elegantly simple, wonderfully flexible system. With Conservative ministers muttering about "coups" and threatening to somehow go over the head of the de facto head of state, Jean could have turned a roiling crisis into a unique teaching moment. A calming, non-partisan address to the nation had potential to strip away much of the hyperpartisan, unity-stressing bluster. It could have usefully explored valid solutions while educating the country at a time of extraordinary political engagement. Instead she quietly agreed to the Prime Minister's exceptional request for a parliamentary timeout and the rest, as some constitutional scholars now say, is precedent.

Where that leaves the country is tracking down the same old rut towards diminished accountability. Prime ministers who can't command the confidence of the Commons have found in proroguing yet another tactic to prolong their supremacy. Parliament's capacity to replace an infant government without resorting to a time-consuming and costly election – a useful remedy in a period of unstable minorities – has lost vital public opinion legitimacy.

Power continues to flow unabated to the Prime Minister and his appointed officials, some of whom distinguished themselves this week by "taking a day off" from running the country to unveil the attack ads.

While hardly unique to Conservatives, extreme partisanship is now the Ottawa norm. It makes nonsense of those other populist principles of accountability and broad-spectrum participation in polishing public policy. After promising transparency and open democracy, Harper is delivering arguably the most closed and controlling government of modern times.

Conservatives have a political interest as well as a right to ask where Michael Ignatieff has been. A more pressing question for the rest of us is where, exactly, is Stephen Harper taking this country and its declining democracy.


Jim Travers set an exemplary journalism example for us all, perhaps most especially for "accredited" BC journalists.


For those who see exemplary journalism as the essential connection between government and the people, read "Jim Travers - a journalist's journalist" by Don Newman HERE.
Jim Travers -- a journalist's journalist

and Jim Travers' award-winning column, "The quiet unravelling of Canadian democracy" HERE.

Now, for a sickening contrast, here's a review of BC media, titled "The Death of Canadian Journalism", by Sean Condon. Adbusters - Sept. 13, 2007 - click HERE.



There's a good twenty passages in the first half of it that apply directly to what's gone down in BC; if I weren't just waking up I'd highlight them for you, but they should leap right off the page....

Hello there,

Thanks for sharing this link - but unfortunately it seems to be down? Does anybody here at have a mirror or another source?

Thank you for posting that, BC Mary.
This piece by Jim Travers must be saved for posterity, and unveiled at least annually. Thank you for re-publishing it Mary.

It's all the more remarkable because that kind of clarity and insight usually comes after some time has passed, and by those who stand back from the day-to-day fray of the goings-on of Parliament.

Jim Travers wrote this piece from within the bowels of Ottawa, in the immediate aftermath of the aggressive attack by Harper on Canada's system of government, and Michaele Jean's shameful, mute acquiesence.

I've never understood the glowing praises for Gov. Gen Jean. She looks good in a dress and speaks in a breathy little-girl voice which appeals to some, but she did worse than nothing for our country.

We'll be paying the consequences of Michaele Jean's apathy and appeasement of Harper for many years to come. She changed Canada for the worse, without giving Citizens a chance to weigh in, or even the decency of explaining herself.

Michaele Jean exuded utterly disgraceful conduct in her capacity as a Governor-General of Canada. We are well rid of her.
The media in Canada, and our Opposition Parties, have become so "civilized" and gutless that they won't even fight for our own freedoms.

Two decades of the federal liberals lying and cheating to win have left them physically unprepared to fight for even their own rights, and the Tories know this and exploit it.

And after another in a series of phony and meaningless apologies by Harper . . . the Tories go on to do it yet again.

"Politics is War by Other Means" . . . The GREAT SATAN
Mary, I agree that we have lost such a wise,brave, truthful voice and I downloaded the reprinted piece that Don Newman added to his tribute to Jim Travers( in his honouring Jim on the CBC website). That reprinted article is the perceptive piece called "The Quiet unravelling of Canadian Democracy" that was published in The Star Apr. 04,2009.I'm going to go back and download Don's analysis of the skill of this great Canadian, Jim Travers.
I think that we need to assemble a booklet of Jim's articles from his Star column and any books he has written.
He touched so many people who work on "the Hill" in Ottawa, too. Bob Rae couldn't complete his speech in the House about Jim without breaking down. They know Jim spoke the truth. He has given us his analysis of the problem of a limping democracy; we need to use his analysis.
The excuse I've heard lately, about the media not fighting for our freedoms, is the old refrain about how this is the best country on earth and we're lucky it's not 'X' (where X=Rwanda, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Libya, Pakistan etc etc) and we should be satisified with our lot. Disputing that and pointing out what a tired old refrain it is, and they treat you like you're being delusional, unpatriotic, or just living in a paranoid unreality etc. In other words, dispute the system, you're either criminal or insane or deluded or all three.

Another refrain is how nothing can be fixed; this has a corollary of the kind where it goes "because Harper has absolute power, it's inexorable and there's nothing we can do about it". And anybody who DOES try to do something about it is bound to fail and/or deluded, criminal or insane.

The media in this country preach aqcuiescence, and hopelessness. "Oh, but they do lots to show Canadians doing humanitarian work in Rwanda, Bosnia, Afghanistan etc". Anywhere but here. Oh, well, yeah, they do cover homelessness and such here, but they always find someone who's an addict/HIV-infected to be the representatives they go talk to...
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