Kill the Messengers!

Kill the Messengers  is an invaluable, thoroughly researched book written by Marc Bourrie, an expert on censorship and an award-winning  journalist with decades of exposure to politics and our parliamentary system. He documents the erosion of the values and trust so many of us take for granted in Canada in our democracy.

Bourrie illustrates the astonishing illogic and ignorance behind the Harper Conservatives’ cancellation of the Experimental Lakes Area research. Even a majority of Conservative voters opposed the cancellation, and nearly 3000 people from around the world signed petitions – all to no avail.

It was estimated to cost $50 million to close it down, yet only $2million a year to operate. Eventually the Experimental Lakes Area was saved by the Ontario government and a non-profit International Institution in Winnipeg.

Bourrie’s book offers insights which go well beyond simply recording such threats to our democratic system. For example, the communications revolution has taken a disastrous toll on parliamentary reporting by journalists. If citizens are not adequately informed about the work of the all-important committees, and they don’t get critical information because of secrecy, then citizens, the life-blood of democracy, will not be able to call to account our elected officials .

Pastor Martin Niemoller opposed Hitler, for which he was imprisoned just before the Second World War.  After the war he regretted that he had not spoken out earlier against Nazi  repression.  I have adopted his words as a lament for Canada.  They are recorded at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

First I did not speak out against Government control of information, as I was not a journalist.

Bourrie says that “many of the surviving journalists have … turned inward, trying to be insiders, covering politics as some kind of sport.” Getting meaningful information from the Harper regime is “almost impossible”. His work shows the regime has constant contempt for the media.

Pollster Allan Greg, a former insider for the Conservative Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, started worrying when the government cancelled the mandatory long-form census. Greg soon found that the government did not want  facts to get in the way of policy. He also found that the 19,000 federal job cuts planned in 2012 were precisely targeted at “researchers, statisticians, scientists …” the very groups who might use the data to contradict government.

Bourrie quotes Gregg as saying the Harper government is ceasing to use evidence, facts and science and has retreated into  “dogma, fear and partisan advantage …” .

Then they came for those criticizing their attack on the justice system;  I did not speak out because I was law-abiding.

The unprecedented Harper attacks on the justice system have been well documented by Bourrie and others, and the government’s resounding defeat at the Supreme Court was a first  in any common-law country in the world according to the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Lawrence Martin of the Globe and Mail is quoted by Bourrie about  the muzzling of environment ministry spokespeople:  “The controls aren’t that far afield from what I used to deal with once, long ago, while covering the Kremlin as a correspondent in Moscow. Never thought I’d see it in 21st century North America.” The book’s shocks don’t stop there.

Then they came for the trade unionists.

A new bill in 2014 removes any semblance of fairness in collective bargaining, says Ron Cochrane, a union negotiator. A veteran in the field, he has never seen such radical changes to the bargaining system.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

“Any MP, public servant, diplomat or military officer who wants to say anything to the media has to fill out a Message Event Proposal (MEP) and submit it to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office.” It can take weeks for these MEP’s to be processed.

Kill the Messengers should be required reading for anyone voting in the upcoming federal election.

A Book Review by Anthony Ketchum, 4RG member, of Kill the Messengers, Mark Bourrie, HarperCollins, 2015, 386 pages

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