As trucker convoy rolls into Ottawa, media faces criticism from right-leaning politicians

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As trucker convoy rolls into Ottawa, media faces criticism from right-leaning politicians
WATCH: Conservative leaders like Andrew Scheer, Pierre Poilievre and Scott Moe have recently criticized media’s reporting of issues like the trucker protest and COVID-19 – Jan 28, 2022

News media has faced heightened criticism from right-leaning politicians as a trucker convoy rolls into Ottawa, but one former conservative strategist says it’s an example of a long-standing tactic.

Tim Powers, the chair of Summa Strategies, told Global News that criticizing the media is “part of normal strategic practice” for conservative politicians, particularly when they feel like they’re in trouble.

Powers said the practice in Canada dates back to the Brian Mulroney era and was a successful tool for Stephen Harper.

“It’s effective as a holding action, so what you’re looking to do when you go after the mainstream media is to take the focus off your own challenges,” Powers said.

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The current challenge for the Conservative Party of Canada, according to Powers, is the scrutiny faced by leader Erin O’Toole. A post-election review identifies “dozens and dozens and dozens” of recommendations the party should undertake, according to sources.

Asked where there is a legitimate grievance with media to be raised by conservatives, Powers said “there’s always got to be a kernel of truth in it,” and he can point to media organizations with political bias.

“The media is not unlike any other organization in Canadian society. There’s not one homogenous view that is held by every employee, every editorialist,” Power said.

Canada-wide, right-leaning political leaders have voiced support for the convoy that arrived in Ottawa on Friday. Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer tweeted: “the corporate media are working overtime to discredit the protests.”

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In a video posted by CPAC Thursday, Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre accused the “liberal media” of applying greater scrutiny to the participants of the trucker convoy than it does to members of left-wing protests.

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In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe criticized media this week, claiming it was “irresponsible” to cover peer-reviewed research, which suggested the provincial government has under-reported COVID-19 deaths.

“The CBC, the CTV, the Global, Postmedia should …  be now putting in retractions to correct the misinformation that they have reported to Saskatchewan people,” Moe said during an interview with Saskatoon conservative talk radio host John Gormley.

Global News has reviewed the story and stands by it.

The widespread political criticism of Canadian media amounts to poisonous rhetoric, according to Mitch Diamantopoulos, associate professor of journalism at the University of Regina.

Diamantopoulos was adamant that there is no inherent liberal bias in media.

“As long as politicians are complaining about press coverage, it’s a healthy sign. When they stop complaining, it means the press is not doing its job,” he said.

Despite disdain expressed toward media, the political climate in Canada hasn’t devolved to level of the United States, according to Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt.

“We’re not in that situation yet in Canada, there are fringe groups. But Maxime Bernier got 5 per cent of the vote.”

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However, American political trends can spill over into Canada, Bratt said, like the rise of political action committees, toxic social media activity and the failed rise of the Sun News Network.

He also noted there are fringe groups in Canada, indicating the level of trust in Canada is eroding.

“That is a danger that we may be going into.”

— with files from Global News’ Alex Boutilier

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