Immigration Minister Chris Alexander talks about the media

Here’s what Chris Alexander thinks of the mainstream media

John Geddes revisits a recent interview as the immigration minister deals with a daunting refugee challenge

Sept. 2, 2015.  Canada's Immigration Minister on CBC's Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton talking about Syrian Refugees and Canada's immigration policy.  Youtube.

Sept. 2, 2015. Canada’s Immigration Minister on CBC’s Power and Politics with Rosemary Barton talking about Syrian Refugees and Canada’s immigration policy. Youtube.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander doesn’t think much of the national news media. He told me so last month when I dropped by his storefront campaign office in Ajax, Ont., where the once-lionized, still-youthful former diplomat is seeking re-election as the Toronto bedroom community’s MP.


Transcript: Chris Alexander speaks on Syrian refugees on CBC’s Power & Politics

Battleground Ajax between Chris Alexander and Mark Holland

“I’ll tell you this,” Alexander said when I asked about some sharply critical press of which he’s been on the receiving end in recent months, “I’ve worked closely with journalists through my whole career—Russia twice, Afghanistan, now. We rely on journalists to convey our message to a larger community. I have never had a stronger sense that mainstream media, national media, were predisposed against our message.”

By “our message” he meant, of course, the Conservative take on the events of the day.

“I just don’t think,” he continued, “it’s the role of good journalists in political debate to take positions among the parties. I think it is [their] role to convey the messages, decide who’s coherent and credible. But here I think it is a different dynamic, and I didn’t see that before coming into this.”

By “before coming into this,” he meant before the 2011 election, when he first won his Ajax seat as the starriest of the new star recruits running under Stephen Harper’s banner. That had all changed well before the start of the current 2015 campaign, after Alexander utterly transformed his polished-diplomat image by becoming even better known for harsh outbursts in the House and intemperate clashes with journalists.

His attitude toward the press matters this week because Alexander has managed to turn it into an unignorable element in what’s shaping up as the biggest test he’s faced in office. He stepped away from the campaign trail today to cope with how the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe has finally crashed into the conscience of many Canadians.

What’s brought the much bigger issue home is the human-scaled story of two boys who drowned. Their Syrian family was trying to escape from Turkey to Greece, the first desperate leg of a planned attempt to make their way to Canada. By now, the heartrending photograph of one of the little boys, washed up on a beach in Turkey, is fixed as an icon of the humanitarian crisis. In a written statement, Alexander alluded to “the tragic photo,” and said he is meeting with officials to sort out the facts of their family’s case and to discuss the larger migrant problem.

But all this unfolded only hours after Alexander needlessly complicated his own political situation by blurting out a dubious criticism of the CBC in a panel discussion on its show Power & Politics. “I’m actually interested in why this is the first Power & Politics panel we’ve had on this,” he said, adding that “the biggest conflict and humanitarian crisis of our time has been there for two years, and you and others have not put it in the headlines where it deserves to be.” The show’s host, Rosemary Barton, later tallied up more than 30 times the issue had been tackled on Power & Politics, including past interviews with Alexander. (Read a full transcript of the segment, here.)

Why would he try to make CBC’s coverage of the story the issue? In part, the answer appears to be Alexander’s combative disdain for the media. It didn’t seem important to quote him at length on the subject for this story on his battle to hold his riding, but in the changed context, his comments might now be more germane. “If you look at immigration files, or the economic files that are much larger ones for our government, our message gets through, whatever may or may not be written on the pages of Toronto Star, or said on the CBC, or on a given day in your magazine,” Alexander told me.

He seemed pretty enthusiastic, however, about other avenues the government relies on. “Whether mainstream media reflects fully what Canadians think and want, that’s really up to you to decide. I’ve noticed in my time here, mainstream media matters less to us. Social media matters hugely. New media, which includes newcomer media, matters hugely. This is where people are going. They’re going where the information is. They are not going where the posturing and the precooked editorial opinion masquerading as a news report is.”

It seems unlikely, though, that over the next few days Alexander will be able to convey the government’s response to the daunting refugee challenge through only his preferred social and new media outlets. The mainstream media, whatever its faults, is on the story. And journalists who work in it will be trying to do what Alexander, after all, described as a legitimate part of their job—figuring out, on this complex set of policy and political questions, “who’s coherent and credible.”


Here’s what Chris Alexander thinks of the mainstream media

  1. To say it another way, Chris Alexander prefers only communication media that enable propoganda. Must have learned this in Russia. No wonder he is having a hard time understanding how real journalists do their job. I’ll bet he still thinks “24 Seven” is actual news media reporting too! Poor Chris, he must be so confused.

    • No, AJ

      The media (if it is to be trusted) needs to devote the same level of scrutiny for everyone they interview, or pose questions to. This is not the case in the Canadian media. Rosemary Barton (new Power and Politics) is a prime example of this. She is clearly biased, and everyone knows she is biased…….but we all pretend she is impartial. Watch the show if in doubt.

      How many years have the media been on about Duffy, Brazeau, or Wallin? Now compare it to the coverage of Liberal senators who have done much worse.

      the canadian media is pathetic…..and frankly, many of them simply lie to maintain the narrative. Look at yesterday’s coverage of this dead child. The Canadian media spent all day carrying the narrative that this young boy died because of Harper refusing the refugee request.

      turns out…no such request was ever made. Don’t expect to see as much time clarifying their error (not really an error….but we know that already) as again, it goes against the narrative.

      Remember, the media didn’t really believe Harper was to blame for this boys death….they just WANTED YOU TO BELIEVE it.

      that is why they are not trusted to tell the truth, and why more and more of us are getting our information from other more trustworthy sources.

      • I agree with you wrt Barton. Never have I seen an interviewer conduct business in this manner. When a “guest/victim” start to get on a run and begins to shoot down the baited question she immediately interrupts to the point of cutting the “guest/victim” answer off. She rarely interrupts the NDP or Liberal commentator. That Ian Capstick I could just strangle that arrogant assh#t. Don’t get me started on Don Martin. The majority of Canadians are not on board with a massive exodus of Syrian refugess to Canada. They know what is happening in London and Paris were there are established Islamic areas were the the police, nay the military won’t even go. On an unrelated topic Nik Nanos can shove his polls were the sun don’t shine. They are so skewed. The only poll that counts is the one taken on Oct 19th. At least with SNN ya got both sides of the story. CBC, CTV, G&M Torstar. not so much.

        • Boo hoo hoo. The Conservatives are the real victims in this story. They get interrupted when they try to avoid answering questions by running the clock with BS.
          Boo hoo hoo.

  2. I hear this kind of language and emotion from numerous Conservative supporters. I think it’s partly a means to cope with cognitive dissonance when the media goes beyond party spin. It goes further too – having challenged Conservative supporters on various cynical moves by Harper, the immediate response was to blame the other parties and the media for making such things “necessary” in order to win.

    If you need to remain free of doubts, it helps to have a bunker mentality.

    • TJCOOK noted:
      “I hear this kind of language and emotion from numerous Conservative supporters. I think it’s partly a means to cope with cognitive dissonance when the media goes beyond party spin”

      No, TJ….you hear this kind of thing all the time from numerous Conservative supporters because we pay attention to spin from the media, not the parties. We know the parties are going to “spin” a story…..but when the journalists play the game with the opposition parties, it is pretty clear what they want readers to believe.

      the folks at the CBC, TORSTAR are the worst, but there are many other “journalists” who would better be described as being on the payroll of the Libs or NDP. They just don’t ask the tough questions of Trudeau or Mulcair. (Granted, Trudeau couldn’t really answer a genuinely tough question, and Mulcair would simply lie….so maybe that is the reason. But I doubt it.)

      • Thanks, that’s an excellent demonstration of what I was describing.

  3. Gee John, are you actually surprised he feels disdain towards the media when you and your colleagues are not-so-subtly trying to blame him for a child’s death in Turkey? You’ve seen the polls, regular Joe’s don’t trust or have any respect for the MSM either, precisely because of the reasons that Alexander mentioned.

    • “the reasons that Alexander mentioned.”

      The part where he lied about the topic never being covered on Power and Politics?

      • I think it would be more akin to the media and oppostion parties LYING about this family being refused refugee status to Canada. Or the lie that Canada had offered this man citizenship after the tragedy, but he was so distraught and disgusted by Canada he refused.

        None of it was true of course…..but it didnt’ stop the Canadian media from reporting it as fact.

        • Sorry, your comment doesn’t contain any of “the reasons that Alexander mentioned.”

          Nor did the media ‘lie’ as part of some anti-Conservative conspiracy.
          There was misreporting resulting from confusion between the man whose family died and the family of his brother. In one case the family had formally applied and in the other they’d contacted the government for help.
          That it happened to be the family that hadn’t formally applied that died, makes little material difference.

          • “That it happened to be the family that happened formal5ly applied that died makes little material difference…”

            Okay come on! The Sister of the man whose family died decided to write a letter and give it to her NDP MP to hand to the minister so her family that was safe in Turkey could jump the cue and get into Canada (she sent them $5K last week) and that “makes little material different”. The Brother who was turned down is alone Turkey without his wife who is still in Syria working as a seamstress. It seems he abandoned his family and go himself to safety. If Canada brought him over, he would be even farther from his wife and children and could do nothing to get them out of Syria. Do you not understand, Canada gets many requests for refuges and sponsorships. Many of the candidates come from war torn countries and need immediate mediate help because they have HIV and TB (which we treat for free). We cannot let families jump the que. If you have been watching this crisis, many of these people have no desire to just get out of Syria and stop in countries where it is safe. They want to go to Germany which they perceive is rich. Some of them are crossing 6 countries with barb wire to do it. Now you are encouraging people to demand that the minister let their family member jump the que without filling out the proper documents? If the sister who asked the minister was conbot and he let her brother in, you would go ballistic.

          • The family didn’t apply because the brother had already been rejected and they knew the same would happen to them.
            So how exactly is the story materially changed in regards to Canada’s refugee policy?

  4. Richard Nixon thought the media were out to get him too.

  5. He certainly managed to avoid the main topic. Deflect, deflect, deflect….