Is this catharsis? Penance? The Globe & Mail has decided to offer up every single one of their election endorsement editorials of the past thirty years. I mean, none of it’s even redacted.
It puts stuff in an interesting context. Canada has very little in the way of a diverse national media culture. The Globe was the only national newspaper in the country until Conrad Black thought he’d shift the narrative further to the right by launching the National Post in 1998. This essentially gave us one Progressive Conservative paper, and one Reform Party paper. And nominally-independent city dailies which have long been, in the main, localist subsidiaries of the national outfits like Southam/Hollinger/Canwest/Postmedia.
Compare Britain, where there are four “quality dailies” and five more “tabloid dailies” printed nationwide,* and speaking from every point on the political spectrum (more than one in the lunatic fringe, it must be said).
Looking through the Globe’s archives, we see that they shunned the Liberals solidly, in every election from 1979 through to 1993, endorsing Clark over Trudeau twice, and Mulroney in both ’84 and ’88. And even in 1993, their endorsement of Chrétien’s Liberals was unashamedly begrudging. They declared “firmly for a minority. We do not trust the Liberals to govern unguarded.”
And why didn’t they? Because, they were convinced that:
[I]t is clear that a majority Liberal government would make no serious attempt to rescue the nation’s finances. Indeed, it’s a safe bet the Liberals would not get the deficit below $30-billion. It would be five more years of the same desperate game of catchup with the debt, just keeping pace with the remorseless growth in interest payments by nickel- and-diming spending – and raising taxes. In the same vein, the Liberals’ expressed willingness to let inflation rise again only guarantees the country will have to endure another recession before long. What that will do to the debt we can only guess.
And, they eat their hat.
Even in 1997, with budget surpluses on the books, and Québec separation averted, the Globe said, you know what, Jean Charest’s Tories look pretty good right now. Seriously? 1997’s Progressive Conservative leader, presiding over a parliamentary caucus of *two* MPs, was deemed best fit to take the reins of government in the midst of Chrétien/Martin actually balancing the budget? Wowza.
In 2000, they endorsed Paul Martin for Prime Minister despite the fact he wasn’t the leader of his party. The Globe, however, pretended to perceive Martin as simply a better political animal, cleverer, a better speaker, and uncorrupted by a lust of power for power’s sake (lolwut?). At the heart of it, Martin was further to the economic right, and the newspaper liked it. Reaganomics has always been the Globe’s North Star.
What’s so surprising in all of this is not that the Globe can admit that, since pretty much the end of the George Brown era, it has been a decidedly dyed-in-the-wool Old Blue Tory rag. The curiosity here is that, by way of setting up this new interactive editorial timeline, they are essentially declaring how wrong they’ve been. Habitually. Relentlessly. Wrongy McWrong.
Will John Stackhouse and co. be as scared of the prospect of a Liberal budget in 2011, as we wallow in historic depths of Conservative deficit? Will they deem Flaherty’s thunderous spending sprees to be “sober investments”? Will the perceived arrogance in 1997’s Liberal “Red Book” be translated into perceived arrogance in the tinted-window cloisters of Harperland and their heavily redacted “No Book”?
It shouldn’t matter. The abysmal accuracy rating and the bungled political priorities of the G&M editorial board over the course of the past thirty years should be enough to render their endorsement without real value. The problem is that this is Canada. There aren’t many newspapers. There isn’t a great, diverse, representative debate going on. Even television – there will be one televised debate (in each language), compared to the U.S. and the UK where there are normally three.
And that’s the greater shame about this election, like all Canadian elections – it happens in a stilted press environment that (aside from some provocative and engaging online outlets) is mainly dull, conservative, and more often than not, wrong.
* just for reference, the main national British papers, and who they tend to trump for. Wishing the Canadian press universe were as wide-ranging (keeping in mind that the UK Sun’s headline today is “I Eat Sofas: A Mum’s Deadly Addiction”):