Harper Handout for Friends at National Post?

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Readers of Desmog Blog know very well what we think of the outrageously inaccurate editorial position of the National Post on climate science.

We have often wondered, “Why would a paper on the verge of bankruptcy consistently print articles so clearly wrong about such a high profile issue? What’s in it for them?”

Well the murky waters are becoming slightly more clear. CanWest Global Communications, the parent company of the National Post has been bleeding red ink for years. Their crushing debt now tops a whopping $3.7 billion and the latest deadline to make a massive loan repayment is early next month.

What to do? Now comes word that CanWest has hired Ken Boessenkool to lobby the government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for concessions to keep the doors open.

Boessenkool is not just any old lobbyist. He a close confident of Harper and the reclusive Harper doesn’t have many of those. Boessenkool worked with Harper since 2000 and was his chief policy advisor in the 2004 election. He recently was with enormous PR firm Hill and Knowlton in Calgary.

Boessenkool is also registered lobbyist on behalf a number of fossil fuel and tar sands giants including Suncor, Enbridge and TransAlta. TransAlta also has an interest in Harper’s favourite climate panacea – carbon capture and storage.

Hill and Knowlton have a long and dubious record of involvement with so called science skeptics. Way back in 1954, they designed the original campaign for the tobacco industry to deny the link between cigarettes and cancer, including drafting the infamous Frank Statement.

In 1975, they worked on behalf of the CFC industry to obscure the link between chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone hole with the help of notable skeptics such as S. Fred Singer. 

Back to the National Post. Their very survival depends now depends on some kind of tax break, regulatory change or hand out from the Harper government. Being represented by close friend of the Prime Minister certainly will help. Consistently printing erroneous articles about climate change might aid their cause as well.

Harper himself has battled the entire scientific community around climate change. He has been a active opponent of international efforts to curb carbon emissions, and one of his biggest worries now is whether the Obama Administration will limit imports of tar sands oil due to concerns about climate change.

This is the largest capital project in the world, in Harper’s home province, with only one customer – the United States. To say that Harper’s friends in the tar sands business would be screwed if their one and only market dried up is an understatement.

The fate of the tar sands, as well as our changing climate, is no longer about science or public policy – it is about public opinion. The National Post been so one-sided and extreme on this front, they are almost not a newspaper at all.

In fact, we at Desmog Blog considered filing a complaint with some of the provincial press councils about the naked propaganda they regulalry publish on climate science. But guess what? The National Post is not a member of any press council in the country.

Such tiny publications as the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder, or the North Bay Nugget find time to be involved in these professional associations, but not the National Post – only one of two national papers in the country.

That means the Post has the luxury of printing whatever dangerously wrong tripe they want and the reading public does not even have a professional body to complain to. Must be nice to never have to say you’re sorry.

All this may work in their advantage in the meetings with Harper. After all, why bother running a successful and responsible newspaper when you can instead cozy up to the oil friendly Prime Minister for a hand-out that will be refused to your competition?

While CanWest may bounce happily in a government-funded safety net, the Heritage Minister has made it clear that our national public broadcaster will be allowed to hit the ground with a splat.

The CBC is looking at a budget shortfall of $100 million and may have to auction hard assets to keep the doors open. There will be no helping hand for them. Heritage Minister Moore instead suggested they should slash up to 1,200 positions.

It is no coincidence that the CBC has dug much deeper on climate issues, last year embarrassing the Harper government by debunking claims that carbon capture will solve emissions at the tar sands. They also have done fine journalism countering the mountain of misinformation from the fossil fuel lobby seeking to confuse the public around climate science.

Perhaps they will take comfort in these good works while they are cleaning out their desks.

In the meantime, the National Post might be rewarded for their journalist malpractice. It seems that far from being a liability, their shockingly irresponsible position on climate science may prove to be one of their greatest assets.

Only in Canada.

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