Does the Edmonton Journal have an anti-Alberta Liberal party bias?
I’ll answer my own question: yes, it does.
For a number of years, I’ve noticed what short shrift Alberta Liberals get from Journal reporters and editors. When I was an MLA, there were countless times when the Journal didn’t bother to talk to Liberal MLAs about important issues, or, when they did, the comments were either buried or edited out of the piece. I thought it was just lousy reporting, but it has gone far beyond that now.
Take today’s coverage of the opening of the Legislature, which was typical of the Journal’s recent tact. The front-page story concerned the flood of legislation dumped on the legislature, accurately described as “an information dump critics say stifles debate and undermines democracy”.
The subhead declared “Wildrose leader slams move”, and five paragraphs in came the obligatory comment from NDP leader Brian Mason, the Journal’s favourite politician. Then came a statement from Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. The story went on for several hundred more words — without a single comment from the Alberta Liberals.
Why is this odd? Because the Liberals are the OFFICIAL OPPOSITION. And Raj Sherman is the LEADER OF THE OFFICIAL OPPOSITION. The Liberals, despite the loss of Bridget Pastoor (more on that later) are still the second party in the Legislature, with more seats than the NDs and Wildrose combined. But not a word from a Liberal MLA.
The only extensive mention of the Liberals came in Graham Thompson’s column, which he devoted primarily to Pastoor’s departure. This is not surprising, in that Thompson never misses a chance to dump on the Liberals. (If you want to read a superior column on provincial politics, check out Don Braid in the Calgary Herald.)
The Journal’s anti-Liberal bias has been on display for some time. Just a few weeks ago, I read a story (can’t remember the topic) online at the Journal, which contained a comment from a Liberal MLA. When the story appeared in the paper, the quote disappeared. This, sadly, is not uncommon.
The Journal has decided, based on opinion polls, that the Wildrose Alliance (four members, three of whom were elected as Tories, and whose leader is not in the legislature) is the Official Opposition, and the NDP (two members, third in voting last election) is the back-up party, and the go-to people for quotes on anything. The Liberals (second in seats and votes in the last election) will be included as an afterthought … if they get in at all.
I’m not saying that the ALP deserves to get top placement in every story, or that they should be allowed a comment for everything, or that its continuing struggles do not deserve coverage. But willfully ignoring the no. 2 party is unfair, and bad journalism. I admit to being biased, but the Journal shouldn’t be.
Now, on to the departure of Bridget Pastoor.
Pastoor’s departure is a blow to the party, no doubt. Losing an MLA from a nine-person caucus hurts, and it hurts Raj Sherman’s leadership. But if you look at Pastoor’s quotes, it says a lot more about her than it does about him.
“It certainly is not any reflection on Raj,” Pastoor said. “I have very, very deep respect for somebody who believes so strongly in what he did. He put everything on the table and left. That takes a lot of courage, and a lot of guts.”
Former leader Kevin Taft quoted Pastoor as saying that when she departed, Pastoor looked right at Sherman and said: ‘Raj, you are a great leader and you’ll do really well in the next election.”
Incredibly, she downplayed the party switch, saying it is like going from one brand of car to another, which displays her quite stunning lack of understanding of politics.
So, what kind of person walks out on a “great leader” and someone for whom she has “great respect”, and people she has worked with, some for almost eight years? I don’t want to go too negative on Bridget — I worked with her for four years, and I liked her — but I’ve lost a lot of respect for her. Dumping your party, your leader, and your co-workers for no other reason than you like the leader of the other party is pathetic.