Canadian community newspapers are a mixed bag. They range from little mom-and-pop publications with small circulations to big conglomerates that publish in Canada's largest cities. Whatever their size, these publications have one thing in common - they are the voice of their community, a fact not lost on some public officials. At the Canadian Community Newspapers Association's (CCNA) 86th annual national convention held in Banff last weekend, this was readily apparent.
During the three days of the event, representatives from all three of Canada's major parties addressed the delegates. All three paraded their political stripes proudly. And, as is to be expected, all three managed to zing their political opponents.
First up at the lectern was Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party of Canada. While Harper didn't endear himself to the audience when he announced he never reads community newspapers, the assembled gave him partial marks for honesty. Harper seemed more comfortable addressing the delegates than he usually appears on television. And although more than one female member of the audience wanted to muss his helmet-like coif, his self-depreciating humour endeared him to other members of the crowd.
Harper told the audience he had to break the news gently to the three accountants in his family that he didn't have the charisma to follow in their footsteps. Instead he became an economist.
It was obvious that Harper has nothing but contempt for the current government. He said the Liberals in Ottawa have abused the system as never before. Not one to back down, Harper, when questioned about the level to which debate has sunk in Canada, said he had nothing to apologize for.
"Our job is to fight them out in parliament. I don't buy the argument that the House isn't genteel enough," he stated.
Harper denied the existence of an alliance between the Conservative and the Bloc Quebecois, saying both parties want to defeat the Liberals for their own reasons.
Early Saturday it was the Liberals opportunity to regale the troops. Senator Grant Mitchell of Alberta hastened to assure the audience that he did indeed read community newspapers and always had.
The senator had a glorious speech full of such sound and fury that most of the assembled were waiting for the call to come on down and accept the Liberal lord. He mainly talked about restoring honour to Canadian politics with only one quick reference to the Gomery Inquiry. Mitchell was careful to touch on all the Conservative platforms that bring unease to most small "l" liberals. He also deplored the level of debate in the current sitting of parliament. Later Saturday, Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, spoke. Layton began his remarks by saying community newspapers are the real news, a vital link in the local goings-on in communities - large and small. He went on to say that 70 per cent of English-speaking Canadians and 80 per cent of French-speaking citizens depend on community newspapers for information.
He is embarrassed by the debate in House lately, especially when young people come to observe parliament and he hears their teachers tell them, "I don't want to ever see you behaving like that."
Unlike the other two speakers, Layton didn't spend much time talking about himself. Instead, he launched into the NDP platform as it relates to education, the environment and the economy. However, all was not politics at the convention.
For the second year in a row, Coast Reporter was honoured as number one in general excellence in our circulation category in Canada. And while the huge smile on our publisher Peter Kvarnstrom's face spoke volumes on what the award means to us, what matters the most is the reception in our community. You hold us to high standards. We're proud to share this accolade with the terrific people of the Sunshine Coast.