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Ignatieff and the media: who's telling the truth?

This one should make you laugh, shake your head or maybe even cry.  It shows perfectly why so many Canadians don’t trust our politicians or our media.

On Wednesday, the Toronto Sun carried a story headlined “Feds shouldn’t foot bill for NHL-calibre arena:Iggy”

The piece revolved around Quebec City’s dream of  building a $400 million arena and convention centre, as part of a plan to bring NHL hockey back to the Quebec capital.  Of course, with Ottawa paying a huge portion of the project. Quelle belle reve!

Now, political observers (and every Canadian taxpayer) could be forgiven for believing that, when it comes to getting huge amounts of federal bucks for pet projects, dreams can come true a lot faster in Quebec than other communities in the country.  It has to do with the fear and threat of separatism,  the accompanying fiscal extortion, voter bribery … and  traditional Tory and Liberal government desperate attempts to buy seats in Quebec. (Almost never works.)

It’s the norm.

So I was quite surprised at that Toronto Sun story: Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff  was turning his back on the tradition of vote-buying, bribery and--unless someone corrects me--putting millions of dollars into building an NHL hockey arena, when it has not done so anywhere else.

“No public subsidies for rhe National Hoickey League, no public subsidies for millionaires,” Ignatieff said in Ottawa.

Wow!  Maybe I’ve been wrong about him, I thought.  I was certainly impressed with his forthrightness, principled position and unwillingness to use our taxpayer dollars to help millionaire hockey owners and players become billionaires. If they want an arena, pay for it totally with private dollars and provincial dollars, just like the rest of us do.

Go Iggy!

Then I saw another headline THE VERY SAME DAY, this time in the National Post:  “Ignatieff suggests he’s OK with funding for Quebec NHL rink.”


In that version of the same story the same day from the same city, Ignatieff was quoted  as saying the Liberals would support federal funding for the 18,00 seat arena, provided the city comes up with a “well-put-together business plan.

“If it’s really put together well and we’ve got private participation and public participation from other levels of government, a federal government is going to be involved,” Ignatieff said.

I see.   So this is the new politics and the new journalism: you get to pick the version of the exact same story you like!!

This isn’t a politician saying one thing one day somewhere and almost the opposite somewhere else the next day: THIS is at the same time, in the same place on the same day.

I laughed, I shook my head, and I almost cried, not for Ignatieff, but for the state of Canadian journalism, at least in this instance. Two such different angles on the same subject, seemingly quoted from the exact same scrum.

The Sun did point to Ignatieff’s “good business plan” remark, saying a Liberal government wouldn’t shut the door. But the overall emphasis of the story and headline were that he was quite hardline: no public funds for the NHL; no public money for millionaires.

So you decide: as Canadian taxpayers, who do you trust in all this?

I’m afraid I already know your answer.

Harv Oberfeld is a retired journalist and blogger. This column originally appeared in his blog, Keeping it Real. Reprinted with his kind permission.