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Enbridge is a major Walrus sponsor. Photo by Damien Gillis.

Enbridge is a major Walrus sponsor. Photo by Damien Gillis.

I am afraid I really am a gloomy Gus today. It has just struck me that there is an absence of good guys in the world. Whether it’s big business or government they mostly do it to us and reek of self interest.

We don’t seem to have anybody we can trust anymore. There was a time when, while you couldn’t trust the newspapers, you would be able to find within the paper columnists that weren’t bought and paid for. They consistently gave you points of view that challenged you and made you think. Thank God for online papers like commonsensecanadian.ca and thetyee.ca and for all of the renegades who put so much time and effort into blogging.

Whether on-line papers and bloggers have yet achieved the kind of circulation that will really move public opinion I don’t know but  they are a ray of light in an otherwise bleak picture.

And then there were three

My printed purchases now are down to three.

I subscribe to the Atlantic because it does have excellent articles and entertains and make me think too. I am looking forward to the forthcoming issue where Hillary Clinton apparently criticizes the foreign policy of President Obama and has spent every waking moment since trying to explain to the president that she really didn’t mean it.

I also subscribe to the Guardian Weekly because it provides excellent columnists and great, what British refer to as leader writers.

A couple of years ago I was turned onto a Canadian publication called the Walrus. This magazine is unique in that it refuses to accept my cancellation.

Enbridge features heavily in Walrus

Normally when I read it, I just get angry at how Toronto-centric it is. It is a view of the rest of Canada from a Toronto point of view, tailored to Toronto prejudices. This last particular issue was a huge departure because it had an article on Andrew Weaver, the BC Green party MLA. It was only a page long but there was something real and truly British Columbian. It was not terribly interesting and if you lived in British Columbia not a very new story but it was about the West Coast and that, for the Walrus, is unique.

What I had hoped to get from the Walrus was controversy. I was led to believe that there would be articles on the environment and critical of things like the Tar Sands and so on. Well, the latest issue that I have, September 2014, is anything but.

The first two pages are a huge double page ad by Enbridge. Enbridge appears again with another full-page ad and also as a sponsor of various things in which the Walrus is also involved in such as lecture series (in Toronto, of course.) There is also an insert on aboriginal art, sponsored by, guess who?

I suppose you take your advertisers where you can find them and I’m sure the Enbridge people have nothing whatever to do with the content of Walrus. Well, I wonder.

Waxing poetic about the Tar Sands

One of the feature articles this month, lo and behold, is called “If We Build It, They Will Stay” by a man named John van Nostrand. Van Nostrand’s claim to expertise is that “he is an architect, an urban planner, and the founding principal of the Planning alliance in Toronto”. (Really, I’m not making this up!)

This article looks at the whole north of Canada as one belt of resources to be exploited. British Columbia is noteworthy for a large entry at Kitimat called liquefied natural gas. Next door to it in Alberta is oil, gas, and bitumen.

When you read the article, the section on the Tar Sands is almost religious in its zeal. It could have been written by the PR department of, say, Enbridge. Needless to say there is not a critical word about any of the environmental concerns many of us have about LNG and the Tar Sands.

Now, could this have anything to do with the fact that Enbridge is such a big advertiser?

Surely only a cynic would think that. Then, of course, sensing a touch of cynicism in the back of my mind, I went back over the ads in the Walrus. They have very few  traditional ads. There was one from Subaru and the only other typical national ads I could find was were RBC and Rolex. Everything else are little ads inviting me, for example, to go to dinner at the Royal York Hotel or see Madame Butterfly at the Four Seasons Centre for the performing arts in Toronto.

Walrus’ charitable nature

Not wishing to be unfair, I thought I should take a look on the masthead and see if there were any mission statements and things of that sort. I thought it might also tell me a bit about who these cats are running this magazine.

Well, there was a surprise in store for me. It says the Walrus Magazine is a project of the charitable, nonprofit Walrus Foundation.

Now one’s first reaction would be, well charitable organizations have got to take their money wherever they can find it. Except that’s not usually how it works.

A magazine put out by charity is usually very careful not to get involved in controversy. It may write articles that are thought provoking in nature but they are in very careful not to take money from people who have a large axe to grind. One of the reasons for that, of course, is that they don’t want pressure put on them to make certain that their articles don’t offend the ” money” folks. Let me assure you there’s no danger of that happening here!

Now, I am going to admit this is not the world’s biggest deal. I frankly don’t give a rats ass what the Walrus  publishes, whose backside it kisses or who it’s target audience is. It can, for all I care, get its money directly from the Mafia.

What I find so disappointing is that here is an opportunIty for a Canadian publication to make an honest effort to expose to Canadians, Canadian issues.

A blow job for the industry, financed by the industry

“If We Build It, They Will Stay” was a glorious opportunity to lay before for the Canadian people the whole issue of northern development particularly with regard to resources. The article stretches from the the Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador and should open up a lot of controversy, provoking a lot of intelligent conversation. It is, rather, to put it somewhat indelicately, a blow job for the resource industry in a magazine that is obviously financed by the resource industry.

What is really worrying, is that there maybe some Canadian out there that doesn’t recognize this. Of course, Enbridge is banking on this.

As I said when I started, I’m grumpy today and that’s largely because there are so few places to go where you can get information that will lead you to further information and then on to a healthy public debate.

If the Walrus does nothing else, it adds fuel to the argument that the electronic and print press in this country is captive to “big money” and in the case of the Walrus, is not even very subtle about it.

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