Monday, February 11, 2019

Sean Holman Explains Why He Thinks The Legislative Press Gallery Gets Things Wrong


Speaking from the right (as in direction) side of the Rockies, former PublicEye guy Sean M. Holman tells us why he thinks the local legislative press gallery has often been off-base when it comes to all things Wood Splitter.

Here is Mr. Holman, speak-writing in The Tyee:

...(W)hy did the political news media seem to go out of their way to give the benefit of the doubt to (Craig) James, the clerk of the house, and cast the shadow of it over Speaker Darryl Plecas, whose allegations led to James and (Gary) Lenz being put under criminal investigation and suspended?

And why didn’t the news media themselves uncover the issues that led to those allegations?

As an investigative journalist who covered B.C. politics for 10 years, I believe that the power and secrecy of the legislature’s officials is one part of the answer to those questions. So is Plecas’s own handling of the case. But the other part is the predominant reporting biases of the press gallery, which is neither left nor right wing, but something else entirely...


I'm all in with Mr. Holman on the 'biases' bit, but I'm not entirely sure I'm on board with the notion of giving a complete pass to ideological leanings, even if you just consider who both owns and runs the overwhelming majority the proMedia outlets around here.

But what about that 'something else entirely' business he mentions?

...There may be some right-wingers in the press gallery. There may even be some left-wingers.

But more than anything else, many of its longest-serving members are establishmentarians who worship at what journalism professor Jay Rosen has called the “church of the savvy.” That means, in the main, they favour members of the province’s political establishment (regardless of their ideology) over those who would challenge its institutions, practices and traditions...


I think that's getting closer to the heart of the matter, especially because I agree with a lot of what Mr. Rosen has to say, particularly about the state of the American proMedia, but I think Mr. Holman's real kicker is still coming.

....This tendency (of savvyness) is reinforced by their sources, most of whom come from that establishment. After all, when you are looking for official comment on the story of the day at the legislature, that’s who you are going to be talking with most often....

And that's really it for me.

This 'Evils of Insider Access' business, I mean.

After all, how can you go too hard today on the fine fellow you may need to go to tomorrow for your next spoon feeding....errrr....story.

There's lots of other good detailed stuff in Mr. Holman's piece which demonstrates that he, himself, was not beholden to the go-along-to-get-along rulebook....First, it turns out that it was he who had the idea for the first FOI on 'Club Ledge' and, when he left town for good, instead of giving it to one of the fine folks from the press gallery he instead went to Dermod Travis to help make sure the story got out....And then there was the time he was intimidated by the then press gallery prez into backing down from a story after he had the temerity to ask a former Speaker of Club Ledge a hard-nosed question outside the agreed to field-of-play...The entire piece is a good read.
Off topic, but....Heard the marvelous Mr. Wilkinson on the MoCo with S. Quinn this morning blathering on about how, now that he and his have gutted it and left it for dead in a ditch, ICBC has to go....Sheesh.



Lew said...

Re your off-topic reference to Andy Wilkinson,a recent poll done for the Insurance Bureau of Canada by Maple Leaf Strategies revealed (Surprise!!) that “Seventy eight per cent of British Columbians expressed their desire for more choice and more competition in the province's auto insurance system.”

Maple Leaf’s team reads like a Conservative dream team, and it’s Vancouver partner is Dimitri Pantazopoulos, who according to his bio on their website,

“...has a 25-year track record of success in political and public policy campaigns and public opinion research. Recently, Dimitri has provided senior level advice and public opinion research on a variety of campaigns in Canada, including:
* Alberta 2017 – Jason Kenney ’s successful campaign for the leadership of the United Conservative Party.
* British Columbia 2018 – Andrew Wilkinson’s successful campaign for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party.
* Ontario 2018 – Doug Ford’s successful campaign for the leadership of the PC Party.
* Ontario 2018 – The “For the People” (Ontario PC) provincial campaign, resulting in the first successful PC government in almost two decades, and the election of Doug Ford as Premier of Ontario.”

I don’t suppose Mr. Wilkinson informed Mr. Quinn he and the Moco were being worked as part of a coordinated strategy that involves interests other than the public interest?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of selling crown corps...

How did the tax ruling go on the sale of BC Rail? Or is it still pending?

RossK said...


I don't believe the good Mr. Wilkinson did inform Mr. Quinn et al. of that point - at least not on air



Lew, who is the real expert on all things post six million dollar deal will fill us in on the bonfire of the indemnities.


Lew said...

RossK, my accountancy skills are such that I’m seldom allowed out of the house packing anything more than a twenty, but for what it’s worth, here’s my take.

BC Public Accounts for 2010/11:

“(v) The British Columbia Railway Corporation (BCRC) and BCR Properties Ltd. completed a transaction with Canadian National Railway Company (CN) on July 14, 2004. As a result of the transaction, the province and BCRC have provided commercial indemnities to CN with respect to the transaction and indemnities related to income tax attributes of BCRC at closing. As at March 31, 2011, the maximum present value (calculated at 9%) of amounts payable under the tax indemnities related to income tax attributes (excluding any reimbursement of professional fees, tax arrears, interest on taxes payable, if any, on indemnity payments) is approximately $654 million (2010: $600 million). These indemnities remain in effect until ninety days after the last date on which a tax assessment or reassessment can be issued in respect of the income tax attributes. The final period for tax reassessment will be 2015/16 at which time the contingent liability will be removed. Management believes it is unlikely that the province or BCRC will ultimately be held liable for any amounts under the commercial and tax indemnities.”

That was the last time I can see the indemnities mentioned as a contingent liability in the Public Accounts.

CN Rail’s 2010 annual report included this statement: “In Canada, the Company’s income tax returns filed for the years 2004 to 2009 remain subject to examination by the taxation authorities.”

CN Rail’s 2011 annual report included: “In Canada, the Company’s federal income tax returns filed for the years 2007 to 2010 and the provincial income tax returns filed for the years 2006 to 2010 remain subject to examination by the taxation authorities.” And, “The Company does not anticipate any significant impacts to its results of operations or financial position as a result of the final resolutions of such matters.”

It seems then, that federal returns for 2004 through 2006 were examined and nothing significant arose. Since every CN annual report through 2017 contains the same lack of anticipation for significant tax implications on its financial position, and the time limit for reassessment expired in 2015/16, we may have escaped this aspect of the debacle.

RossK said...


We shall see...