Blog Posts by David Kilgour

  • In the ongoing debate about the roles of the CBC/Radio Canada and private broadcasters, the recently-announced cuts at the corporation of 657 jobs and some programming will add high-octane fuel. The other David will write about commercial broadcasting; the focus here will be on the public broadcaster.

    For more than 75 years, CBC/Radio Canada has attempted with varying degrees of success to be our national public broadcaster in two official and now eight aboriginal languages. Today, whether by television, radio, the Internet or social media, it continues to reach millions of households across the country every day. Many of us assert that its 82 radio stations in local communities are what provide the major appeal of the CBC for most Canadians.

    There are also 27 television stations and 11 foreign bureaus. As of March 2012, it had 7,304 permanent full-time employees, 469 temporary full-time employees and 1003 contractors. According to a mid-2011 study by Deloitte, the contribution of

    Read More »from Future of the CBC: Canada still needs a healthy public broadcaster
  • Vladimir Putin: Driven by Russian nationalism

    Apart from Catherine II and Peter I (“the Greats”), Alexander II (“the Liberator”) and Mikhail Gorbachev, few Russian leaders appear to be respected today by both Russians and the world. Boris Yeltsin demonstrated courage and democratic instincts as the twice freely-elected president of Russia in the 1990s. Most of the world’s democrats would probably say his most serious mistake was resigning his position in 2000 to Vladimir Putin, who would assert five years later that the “collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.”

    Russians have demonstrated for centuries that despotic governance can be transcended by a determined and talented population. In science, music, sports, literature, ballet and other fields, Russians continue to excel.

    Unfortunately, prosperity continues to elude most Russians, partly because from 1917 until the 1990s ideologues banned the manufacture of virtually any consumer product foreigners might wish to buy. The Organization for

    Read More »from Vladimir Putin: Driven by Russian nationalism
  • At the recent Sochi Olympics, Quebec athletes made all Canadians proud, filling numerous places on our national teams and winning a disproportionate number of medals. Many of them spoke to media in natural and moving ways about being proud to be both Canadians and Quebecers.

    Quebecers have long excelled in many fields, including culture, entrepreneurship, academics, finance, philanthropy and aeronautics. It is self-evident to many observers around the world that Quebec and Canada are stronger together, both at home and internationally, especially in the current difficult economic circumstances.

    For the April 7 provincial election, however, if truth is probably the first victim in every election campaign, the one now in full flood across the province is in a distortion field all of its own.

    One example is the province’s financial position, which has attracted little reality-based comment to date from either major party’s candidates, perhaps because government debt ballooned from

    Read More »from Quebec votes: Supporting the PQ agenda a dangerous and expensive gambit
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Paralympics.

    The Russian media and ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych are striking in their attempts to rewrite events in Kiev, calling it a “fascist coup” that justifies invading a sovereign country.

    Probably no one outside Ukraine has cut through the propaganda more effectively than Timothy Snyder, history professor at Yale and author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin: “Ukraine (under Yanukovych) was governed by probably the most financially corrupt regime in the history of the world, which by the end of its rule was not only physically oppressing, but finally killing its citizens … (for) exercising their rights to speech and assembly.”

    Snyder notes about the early protests, “Enter … an Afghan...Mustafa Nayem, the man who started the revolution. Using social media, he called… young people to rally on the main square of Kiev in support of a European choice for Ukraine. That square is called the Maidan … an Arab word. During the first few days of the protests, the students

    Read More »from Crisis in Ukraine: A lesson in Finnish history may be the key to a peaceful conclusion
  • Some dismiss concerns about security surveillance, saying that no one but spies and terrorists need worry if their phone calls and emails are monitored by government agencies.

    One response to this view came recently from U.S. President Obama. “Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power,” he said. Canadians historically are more trusting of government than Americans, but Obama’s opinion no doubt applies to Canada as well in a post-Snowden world.

    If the National Security Agency (NSA) in Washington would tap German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone for years, as it did, little appears beyond the attempted grasp of security agencies today. The otherwise beneficial security sharing and co-operation agreement among Canada, United States, Britain, Australia and France also promotes overlapping bad practices.

    Recent revelations are not reassuring. One was the approval by the commissioner of our Communications

    Read More »from Electronic spying: Surveillance can only be acceptable with a warrant from a judge
  • Pro-European Union activists sing the national anthem during a rally in Kiev, Ukraine.

    Three months of protests in Kiev and now across western Ukraine and into its Russified east are parts of a renewed struggle for post-Soviet democratic integrity and national sovereignty by a courageous and long-suffering people.

    Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence after 28 million — 92 per cent of eligible voters — voted in their 1991 referendum to declare independence from Russia. Many Canadians have a long and close history with Ukraine.

    The Ukrainian sense of nationhood survived centuries of foreign occupation and oppression. In 1918, an independent Ukraine was proclaimed, but it survived only until 1920; two years later, most Ukrainian territory was incorporated into the Soviet Union. The national poet, Taras Shevchenko, termed Ukraine “this land of ours that is not ours.”

    Canadians of origin in Ukraine (numbering about 1.2 million) have played an important role in our own history. In the three waves of immigration from what is now Ukraine,

    Read More »from Uprising in Ukraine: Western nations must heed the cries for help
  • Ford Assembly workers install a battery onto the chassis of a Ford Focus Electric vehicle.

    Canada’s economy has done better than most since mid-2009, but recent job losses, deflationary pressures and a rapidly falling dollar indicate more problems ahead. The situation calls for some major initiatives, most notably rebuilding our troubled manufacturing sector.

    Statistics Canada says that nearly 46,000 jobs were lost across the country during December alone, sending unemployment to 7.2 per cent. The loss of 60,000 full-time positions was offset by the creation of only 14,000 part-time ones. More large cuts have since been announced by Bombardier in Montreal, Sears Canada and Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. The job losses have caused our dollar to hover around 90 cents, the lowest level since 2009. But on the bright side this can help our manufacturers to compete internationally.

    According to The Economist's indicators, Canada’s unemployment level in November before the December setbacks was already 6.9 per cent, compared to 7 per cent in the U.S. and 12.1 per cent across Europe.

    Read More »from Canada’s economy: Time to resurrect the manufacturing sector to spur new growth
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to a question during Question Period.

    Representative democracy, including Canada’s parliamentary system, is ultimately based on the view that a nation’s citizens own their government, not vice versa. Even elected heads of government and their political parties can sometimes swallow their own governments in the absence of effective checks and balances. There is little doubt, for example, that some of the changes implemented in 1969 by Pierre Trudeau’s first government marginalized MPs beyond what is healthy in a Westminster-style Parliament.

    Authoritarian governments of various stripes have emerged from initially fair elections, as with Nazi Germany after 1933, when the executive branch is able to subvert democratic rights. In a number of nations in central and Eastern Europe after 1989, and earlier in the Americas, democracies were restored or created by courageous citizens fed up with bad governance. Non-violent and strategic citizen protests were important factors in achieving democracy in a number of countries. South

    Read More »from Reform Act: If leaders have lost their following, there should be a way to oust them
  • Children walk past a mural depicting Nelson Mandela during different stages of his history.

    There must be very few places on Earth, following the avalanche of words written since his death, where the basic life narrative of one of humanity’s most revered beings is not now known. What are the most important lessons Nelson Mandela taught all of us?

    The first time I grasped his unique role in modern world history was in the late 1990s during a visit to Robben Island near Cape Town, the prison from which there was no escape, certainly in the 1960s and 70s when the apartheid regime sent there its most determined political opponents. "The authorities attempted to impose a complete blackout, they did not want us to learn anything that might raise our morale or reassure us that people on the outside were still thinking about us," Mandela noted in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

    Entering Mandela’s small former cell with Eby Ebrahim, his fellow prisoner for many years, was the most unforgettable of many memories that day. Other former inmates, mostly well-known African National

    Read More »from Post-Mandela South Africa: Current leadership can learn from his lessons of the past
  • Death of Newspapers: Newspapers vital to democratic culture

    Spectators read the newspaper while waiting to see the funeral cortege of former South African president Mandela.

    Newspapers occupy a vital role in Canada and every democratic nation and probably always will, despite those who argue that electronic media can adequately replace them. To many observers, television news simply adds visuals to news carried first by print publications.

    In 1961, President John Kennedy noted, "It is to the printing press…the recorder of man's deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his newsthat we have looked for strength and assistance, confident that with its help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent."

    Daily newspaper circulation in the U.S., however, fell by 15 per cent since 2008 alone, while ad revenues dropped by 42 per cent. In Europe, both these indicators fell by a quarter during the same period. Job cuts, outsourcing, and a pay wall push in the face of plunging advertising sales at Canada’s largest-circulation newspaper chain, Post-Media, also indicate more problems on the horizon.

    Theories abound as to what is squeezing print

    Read More »from Death of Newspapers: Newspapers vital to democratic culture


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