I thought, naively perhaps, that during an election campaign it was the media’s job to keep all sides honest: to fact check, to analyse arguments and tactics, to point out self-interest, to foster constructive discussions centred on key principles.
The electoral reform referendum campaign suggests otherwise. The Yes side, myself included, based its arguments on independent academic research and data drawn from organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The No side based its arguments on “disinformation”, fearmongering, and specious comparisons with countries with different histories, cultures and socio-economic problems, and proportional representation systems that have little similarity to those proposed for B.C.
Despite this discrepancy in the quality of argument, Big Media including corporate chains and monopolies waged a relentless campaign against proportional representation with most opinion columnists and editorials repeating the talking points of the no PR side. For example Black Press newspapers with wide coverage across the province including the Vernon Morningstar published Tom Fletcher’s diatribes without analysis or counterbalance.
A strong and vibrant democracy depends on well-informed voters making sound decisions based on fact and intelligent analysis. According to Vivadata’s 2018 study, “Trust in News”, 70 per cent Canadians trust national daily newspapers to provide that information. The media, during the referendum campaign, betrayed that trust.