N.B. media ownership must be capped: Greens

19 SEPTEMBER 2010

Last Updated: Thursday, September 16, 2010 | 4:51 PM ET
CBC News


New Brunswick should set a cap on media ownership and reform how it elects its politicians as a way to improve democracy, according to Green Party Leader Jack MacDougall.

MacDougall made the announcements on Thursday to outline how the Green party would invigorate public discussion and allow citizens a greater voice in their politics.

 

The Green leader has consistently criticized the concentration of media ownership in the province since he became the party's leader a year ago.

MacDougall places media reform as a key plank in his party's democratic renewal strategy.

"We cannot have a healthy democracy when almost all the print media in the province is owned by the same company that dominates the provincial economy," MacDougall said in a statement.

"It's unacceptable and we are going to change it."

The Green party does not say how it would cap media ownership in the province or what level would be appropriate.

Irving-owned Brunswick News Inc. controls the province's three English-language daily newspapers, along with several other community newspapers.

The Irvings also own the province's dominant forestry company and oil corporation along with many other businesses.

A Senate committee spent three years studying the Canadian news media and issued a report in 2006. The report made 40 recommendations, including several on concentration of ownership.

The Senate committee report cited New Brunswick as a good example of what the country should try to avoid. It said a lack of regulations allowed the Irvings to become too dominant in the newspaper sector.

Enhancing democracy

The Green party is also looking to reform how MLAs are elected.

MacDougall, who served briefly on the Commission for Legislative Democracy, which was set up by the Bernard Lord Conservatives, said New Brunswick should turn to a system of proportional representation.

The Green party is polling at roughly five per cent in recent surveys but that is unlikely to yield any of the legislature's 55 seats.

If the province adopted a system where at least some MLAs were chosen due to their share of the overall vote, MacDougall said voters would be more engaged.

The Commission on Legislative Democracy recommended a type of proportional representation and Lord had committed to putting that to a provincial referendum.

When Lord lost the 2006 election, the Liberal government did not proceed with the vote.

David Alward's Progressive Conservatives have not committed to honouring their party's past promise if they are elected on Sept. 27.

Another way the Greens want to engage citizens is by setting up citizens assemblies, according to MacDougall.

The assemblies would allow citizens to hold their locally elected politicians to account on important issues, he said.

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