KEEPING IT REAL: Dazzled B.C. media missing the real news

Harvey Oberfeld
By Harvey Oberfeld
February 26th, 2010

 You may not like or agree with the B.C. government, but you have to give them credit for knowing and understanding how to deal with the current state of B.C. media. With the help of VANOC and the 2010 Olympic Games,  Premier Gordon Campbell and his ministers and government officials have had  the B.C. media right where they no doubt want them: mesmerized by Games fever.

And now we can see what happens when the media compromise themselves: accepting bribes in the form of special invitations to carry the torch (no lottery or need to apply for these Games participants); then gushing publicly about the thrill of it all afterwards; and, from what I hear, there were VIP passes and events tickets handed out to to B.C. media as well.

It worked.

Because while most of  the media’s attention was diverted  by the upcoming Games and especially the  Opening Ceremony, the government  apparently took another step in its war against B.C.’s paramedics.

Here’s part of a note I received from a Paramedic supporter this weekend:

“Have you heard .. the ponderings of many paramedics during the recent ’strike’ and legislation regarding what looked like a plan to privatize the service has come about? The Negotiating Committee has been at the table with BCAS since November again … and this past week all the negotiations were suspended to discuss privatization – everything they had managed to agree on was ripped up (again).”

Privatization!  That’s exactly what many critics of the government have thought was the plan all the time: turn the BC Ambulance service over to a FOR-PROFIT corporation?  Friends of the government?  Friends of a politician or some well-placed campaign contributor?

Of course, that would explain the governnment’s long “inability” to reach a negotiated settlement with the paramedics and refusal as well to submit the lengthy dispute to binding arbitration.

The implications of privatization for the public could be enormous: reduced service; loss of experienced senior paramedics;  inaquately trained replacement staff, etc.

Big questions!

And if the note I received is accurate, the implications for British Colubians are far more critical than the Olympic Games.

But believe it or not … there was only ONE major media outlet I could see that was on to this story last Thursday: The Victoria Times Colonist, in a headlined story “B.C. looks at privatizing ambulances”.

And among those quoted: a Health Ministry spokesperson pointing out there are precedents for private ambulance services in other provinces.

The privatization idea has beend floated before, but surely the fact that the paramedecs’ latest “consultation” talks  are reportedly in trouble and a ministry official has confirmed privatization is an option means that  the media should be right on it: investigating, probing, asking questions … and demanding answers.

But maybe that’s just too difficult to do when you’re enjoying and covering all the dazzling lights, events and freebies the government and its VANOC arm are providing you.

Reprinted by permission of Harv Oberfeld. This article first appeared on his blog, Keeping it Real.


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