Canadian Commentary: Media and Culture

Is the Report on Business Going Socialist?

September 1999

"By contrast [to free-marked Britain], the German model shackles the entrepreneur but offers good education and training, a generous welfare state and narrow wage differentials, all of which produce social harmony ... Try to measure the success of each, and it would seem the German model has an edge. Not only has Germany outgrown Britain since 1989, it is the 11th richest nation in the world while Britain is 17th."

Who wrote this passage? Some bleeding-heart liberal at the Toronto Star? A young radical in an urban weekly? Some pinko academic in a lonely op-ed piece? No, it was Peter Cook, the Globe and Mail's oh-so-severe long-time European correspondent (June 23, 1999). Social Democracy being advocated in the Report on Business? What can the world be coming to?

But it gets worse. Eric Reguly, who replaced Terence Corcoran as the Globe's daily business columnist, has been going after corporate Canada with hammer and tongs for the past year. He has, among other things, excoriated CN's labour relations; exposed the hypocrisy of the "sustainable" environmental policies of oil companies; and sharply rebutted those who still claim that global warming is a myth (Terence Corcoran among them). Finally, he has written an alarmist article about how American companies are taking over Canada that is almost worthy of Maude Barlow.

What is going on here? The answer is, simply, that Cook and Reguly are thoughtful, intelligent men. Both of them remain strongly committed to traditional free-market capitalism, and their solution to most problems remains tax cuts and deregulation. But they can see that the free market has weaknesses and flaws, and that corporations are as likely to abuse power as governments. If their beat is the business world, they know it is their job to report and comment on the bad as well as the good. Furthermore, they are both willing to open their eyes to other ways of looking at things and doing things, and to look for ways of improving society that may fall outside the traditional bounds of the free market. They realize there is more to society, let alone to life, than the free market; this fact will inevitably be reflected in any writing about business that is thoughtful, well-researched and intelligent.

Contrast this with the writing of Terence Corcoran, David Frum, Barbara Amiel and the rest of the rabid right gathered under Conrad Black's wing at the National Post. These are people who have little experience of the difficulties of real life, and pay no attention to the complexities of the real world. They do not reasearch or write about issues to explore them, but rather to find material that reinforces the ignorant certainties they already possess. The contrast between these two conservative, business-oriented newspapers is startling, and says much about the differences between our two "national" newspapers.

September 1999

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