Was Sun News' Margie Gillis hate-on a prelude for a Harper led Tea Party North?

Canadian dance icon Margie Gillis speaks out about how Sun News attacked and deceived her, calls for its demise. "I think the station should be taken off until they can prove that they represent Canadian values," she said. 

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The late Jack Layton predicted in 2008 that Stephen Harper would try to privatize the CBC if he ever got a Conservative majority. Now that he has that majority, Sun News has been relentless in its attacks on the CBC. As it is, Harper has been described as a "control freak" toward media, allowing just five questions from reporters and screening individuals at Conservative Party events. Even though Sun News is being promoted on the premise of "free speech" and "diversity" in the media, these are two things sorely lacking in Harper's dealings with the press. 

If even a right-wing media reporter is muzzled for questioning the government's expenditures, it's unlikely that a privatized CBC would be able to maintain its duty to keep checks and balances on power. 

Toward a less compassionate Canada

Gillis was taken to task in the interview for having said in a previous documentary that she felt Canada has become a less "compassionate" country in recent years. Erickson chided Gillis, saying that she had no right to be talking about compassion at a time when soldiers were dying in Afghanistan. 

Many viewers -- even self-described Conservatives -- said that Erickson was comparing apples to oranges by dragging in Canadian soldiers to the debate. Soldiers in Afghanistan wrote Gillis, saying that although they "didn't know anything about the arts", the comments by Erickson were intolerable. 

But there was truth in Gillis' comments, even taken out of context. In terms of caring for the most vulnerable people, Canada is indeed becoming a less compassionate country since Harper came to power.

Harper has cut funding to 11 major womens’ groups, immigrants’ groups and to disability jobs training programs. And with the average artist earning just $23,000 annually, the $45 million in arts funding cuts plunged many struggling artists deeper into poverty. 

Native activists Kirsten Gilchrist and Bridget Tolley from Families of Sisters in Spirit, an organization advocating for missing and murdered aboriginal women, accused the Harper government of ignoring the plight of society's most vulnerable individuals.

"Stephen Harper cut funding for Families of Sisters in Spirit," Tolley told Rabble.ca in June. "He promised $10 million for missing Aboriginal funding but half of it went to the RCMP."

"The money went to things like expanding wiretapping," said Gilchrist. "It seems he used missing and murdered aboriginal women to expand his law-and-order agenda."

Sun News Network, meanwhile, outright ignores such issues or tackles them from the angle that such groups deserve to have their funding cut. It focuses its energy on anti-union articles, on fanning anger over CBC funding, and promoting a "Tea Party North" in Canada. 

Since its inception, Sun News has unsuccessfully tried to gain access to millions of Canadian households by having the network embedded as part of the basic cable package. Last month, the network surprised many by announcing that it would give up its current over-the-air license that gave it access to viewers who weren't already subscribers to the news service. But the network may just be keeping quiet before major changes in the future.

The Prime Minister tried on numerous occasions to push out the current Canadian broadcaster chief, Konrad von Finckenstein, who denied CRTC its special license last summer, according to a Globe and Mail report. When his term expires in 2012, people may be surprised to find the right-wing program resurface as part of peoples' cable packages. 

As laughable as the idea may seem today, the presence of a 24-hour right-wing news network may shift the political centre of Canadians toward the right. The Krista-Gillis interview, which outraged so many Canadians in June, may soon become as banal as a Glenn Beck interview in Alabama if Sun News is allowed to have its way.

In the meantime, Gillis hopes that the network, which she described as a propagator of "hatred and anger", be removed from the airwaves.

"I think the station should be taken off until they can prove that they represent Canadian values," she said.

 

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