Sunday, May 27, 2012

Guest Post: On Standards of Fairness

Dan Tan offers this assessment of the CP's reporting on recent polls about Thomas Mulcair's economic comments:
Harris-Decima recently asked a group of Canadians what they thought about Thomas Mulcair's "dutch disease" warnings.

A majority of Canadians responded that they had never "heard about Mulcair's comments".

Of the minority who had heard of Mulcair's comments, most were from "parts of the country most involved in the oilsands" (read: Alberta).

So naturally, the Canadian Press reached these firm conclusions:
  • The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests slightly more Canadians disagree than agree with Mulcair
  • Most people don't share Mulcair's sentiments in Ontario, the country's manufacturing heartland
  • No region seems particularly convinced that oilsands development has been hurting exports of other sectors of Canada's economy
  • Most Green party supporters also disagree with Mulcair
In case the absurdity is lost on anyone, these selected Canadians were being asked to agree/disagree with an argument most had never heard before. More importantly, they were judging a statement for which they lacked any supporting evidence or analysis.

We should not question the motives of Harris-Decima. The polling firm merely recorded the reaction uninformed Canadians had to an unevidenced statement.

However, everyone should question the manner in which Canadian Press reported these findings.

Despite knowing that a majority of Canadians are ill-informed about Thomas Mulcair's position, the Canadian Press chose to limit Mulcair's argument to brief one-liners & conclusions. Absolutely no supporting analysis or evidence was provided in support of his views.

By contrast, the Canadian Press had no trouble presenting supporting analysis & evidence on behalf of the Conservative position. Before parroting the conclusions of various Conservative politicians, readers were offered an entire paragraph of supporting analysis by the Canadian Energy Research Institute:
A study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute says Ontario enjoys the lion's share of oilsands benefits outside Alberta. The Calgary-based think-tank has suggested the oilsands will create billions of dollars in economic spinoffs in Ontario and tens of thousands of jobs over the next quarter century.
The Canadian Press never disclosed the sources of funding for the "Canadian Energy Research Institute". According to the organization's own website, they are funded by "the Federal and Provincial levels" and "a broad cross-section of private sector energy interests".

So the one piece of analysis included by the Canadian Press just happens to be funded by the very Conservative-allied politicians & industry leaders opposed to Thomas Mulcair's position.

Of course, the Canadian Press had access to government-funded research which supported Thomas Mulcair's position. The organization simply chose to ignore it. Just last week, on a Friday evening before a long-weekend holiday, the organization reported:

  • The Harper government has funded research that argues Canada's economy suffers from so-called Dutch Disease, an economic theory the prime minister and other senior officials ridiculed when raised recently by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair..
  • The paper, "Does the Canadian Economy Suffer from Dutch Disease?," concludes that a third or more of job losses in Canada's manufacturing sector can be attributed to resource-driven currency appreciation.
The Canadian Press should observe the minimum standards of fairness when reporting on Thomas Mulcair, the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.
 Update: T.C. Norris has more.

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