Shock report: many people work in the auto industry - Macleans.ca
 

Shock report: many people work in the auto industry

BY ANDREW COYNE


 

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This is just beyond bogus….

Canada would lose more than a half-million jobs if the Detroit Three auto makers went out of business, according to a new report released today.

The Ontario Manufacturing Council said the impact of a complete shutdown of the Detroit-based companies would spread through part suppliers and dealerships and into communities across the province. The council is an arms-length agency established by the Ontario government.

The “council” is not an “arms-length agency,” for starters: it’s a front group of special pleaders, set up by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development to provide cover for the McGuinty government’s industrial policy ambitions (or, in govspeak, “manufacturing stakeholders who will examine the sector’s long-term needs and recommend to government, strategic approaches on sustaining growth and increasing global competitiveness.”) The vice-chairs are the president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association and the chief economist of … wait for it … the Canadian Auto Workers.

The report, with its shock-horror estimate of 582,000 jobs lost, is founded on two premises, both of them utterly absurd. One, that all three of the Detroit-based auto manufacturers shut down all of their operations, not just in Canada, but worldwide (the study models “the impact of the Detroit Three automakers ceasing operations globally.”)

Two, that none of the other manufacturers increase production to take up the slack (“foreign vehicle manufacturers in Canada are assumed to maintain production.”)

It’s on the basis of these two extravagantly unrealistic assumptions that the minister is able to talk about “the demise of auto in Canada” or “the extinction of the auto industry” as “the economic equivalent of a nuclear freeze.”

Well, yes. If you dropped a nuclear bomb on Detroit and Windsor, it would cost a lot of jobs. But no one is proposing to do anything of the kind. What is being discussed is bankruptcy, not vaporization. The plants don’t disappear; they don’t even shut down, for the most part. The companies go on producing, albeit at lower volumes. But that’s what would happen in any event, because people are buying fewer cars.

But they’re still buying some cars. That’s the other part of this “study” that’s hard to take. Detroit sold something like 18 million cars worldwide last year. Even with a 20% decline in sales, that’s still 14 or 15 million willing purchasers of automobiles that, under the study’s assumptions, would apparently have to walk, owing to the other manufacturers’ inexplicable failure to ramp up production — or buy up Detroit’s unused capacity — to meet the demand.

It would have taken five minutes for somebody in the media to see through this obvious con job. Yet in every story I saw, the 582,000 number was reported straight, just as if it actually meant something. Go figure.

UPDATE: 300,000 JOBS “AT RISK” IN FORESTRY SECTOR

Trees will go unfelled, wood will cease use, unless forestry companies get $600 mil.

PAC’s members employ about 300,000 people and account for 12 per cent of Canada’s manufacturing activity, more than the auto and banking industries combined.

That is, until lumber became extinct…


 
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Shock report: many people work in the auto industry

  1. Nicely done!

    A few honest questions, following your critique of fellow journalists: are journalism schools letting us down by not preparing their students to approach this stuff more sceptically? Do news organizations ever do the equivalent of medical ‘M and M’ sessions to dissect how particular events were covered?

    I ask, because falling for this ‘con job’ reminds me of similar worrying trends where everything from on-line, self-selected surveys, to medical studies extrapolating incredible claims from dubious samples, seems to be simply passed on without question in many cases.

    I’m not piling on the media here – just wondering if these sorts of things are taught, discussed around the water cooler much, and so on.

  2. Andrew

    I think this study is also bogus because they often include stores and businesses that aren’t directly related to the auto industry. Like a Mac’s near one of these plants won’t get customers anymore so the corner shop will have to close as well. They just make these numbers up as they go along, it seems to me.

    Also, a US study similar to this one estimated 2-3 million job losses and there’s no way we have 1/4 to 1/6 of the employees as US so it seems the Canadian report is even more wildly inflated than the American one, which was bad enough.

    Not sure why Murray Campbell’s article is in Report On Business section when he covers Queens Park, not business. Business reporters are normally much more sane and incredulous with this type of ‘report’.

  3. Sean S

    It’s my impression most reporters have an Arts background and numbers, particularly, bamboozle them.

  4. I completely agree with you, Andrew. This figure is grossly exaggerated and what the provincial government is saying about it is certainly misleading.

    But then, I guess that’s politics.

    I really wish the feds would reconsider this $3.3 billion bailout. I’m not saying economic stimulus is a wholly bad thing, but in the case of auto it just seems silly.

  5. Nicely said. That is the first thing I checked when I saw who wrote the report… since can you say conflict of interest? It’s nice to see reporters here actually reviewing and reporting on issues rather than just reguritating impressive sounding numbers with no basis.

  6. Good work Andrew.

    Calling your fellow journos out at the end took some bravery.

    Perhaps a lot of bravery (I don’t go to your coctail parties so I wouldn’t know how furrowed the brows will be when you enter the room, but I’m think’n pretty furrowed.)

  7. BTW,

    the media isn’t being ignorant,

    they’re being willfully blind.

    It fits the narrative (pro-union/leftis/statist) they want to portray so they play along, and wink/wink, pass it on.

    If Harper would have come out with figures that showed the opposite, the headlines wouldn’t be the figures, but Harper’s attempt to snow the public. You’d have “expert” after “expert” saying in nice academic sounding words that Harper is a liar.

  8. So where’s the link to the true number of jobs lost (directly and via ripple)? We’re not arguing from ideology, here, right? After all that would be the height of hypocrisy after accusing the Ontario government of having a hidden agenda.

  9. Jack,

    I think the point is that the very premise – Detroit automakers going out of business – is flawed. It puts potential bailouts into an all-or-nothing context that is hyperbolic and disingenuous.

    But even playing along with the false premise (operations all cease in coming months), the job projections assume that other opportunities (for both primary automotive and secondary service and supply sectors) will not arise. There will still be a demand for automobiles, for example. Whether they are made by Toyota or GM is not fully relevant in a more macro-economic (jobs, houses, etc…) sense.

  10. Sean — Oh, I agree, and FWIW I’m against the bailout. I’d just like to see few pieces from, say, someone with an MA from the LSE, on how whether (or how soon) Toyota would snap up the dead GM plants; or whether Japanese companies have any plans to increase production in North America for the post-Big 3 era; or whether Ontario parts manufacturers could indeed switch to making parts for Honda Civics instead of Ford F150’s; and what the ripple effect for short-term plant-closures would actually be in terms of corner stores. You know, facts. Because it’s profoundly irritating to have a well-respected journalist carping about the bailout from a position of authority and not doing a stroke of original research.

  11. The true number would have to take into account the two inaccurate assumptions in the report. All three of the ‘Big Three’ will not totally fold and the ‘transplants’ in Ontario would definitely ramp up production to meet the demand shortfall of the slower ‘domestic’ production. Demand for vehicles will be what it is. Demand will not go down because there are fewer plants in operation.

  12. Andrew you bad man, pointing out the obvious.

    You have taken a sword and chopped the legs off a good media run,

    How could the rest of the MSM ever forgive you.

    Great article

    ROTFL

  13. I believe the technique being used by he council is “spin and echo chamber”. Expect to see op-ed pieces making similar claims in the G&M by Jim Stanford directly, or ghost written for a CAW etc. guy.

    What I find somewhat interesting about this whole bailout thing is that a few years ago, both McGuinty and Buzz Hargrove were opposing California standards for fuel efficiency to meet Kyoto targets – suggesting that they would be unfairly penalized as Ontario produces mainly minivans and other gas hogs. Now that the industry has collapsed, some talk about proposed bailouts suggest imposing California standards and green cars- the very thing these guys lobbied against just a few years ago, while embracing subsidies for reintroduction of the 1970s Firebird/Camaro muscle car to be produced at Oshawa (I always get those two mixed up).

    Bizzaro world.

  14. Good point Jack. It would be equally wrong, I think, to argue that the signs would simply change on the factories overnight and there wouldn’t/won’t be some massive disruption to the lives of many. Also, I think domestic demand for automobiles cannot be predicted on the patterns of the last twenty years (it’s going to shrink), and that we will never be in position to export to growing markets in places like India. But I still think Coyne has done a service by going against the grain here.

  15. The media in general are in favor of greater and greater govt interventions because these interventions make good copy. The strife and stress created by the monopolists jumping in with their size 13 boots and “picking losers” (by kicking the sn0t out of winners) is the ultimate “man bites dog” story. Like WWII – tragic, but rivetting. The taxpayers must play the roles of Poland and France.

    “So where’s the link to the true number of jobs lost (directly and via ripple)? We’re not arguing from ideology, here, right?”

    The true number of jobs lost would be zero, after a short period of readjustment, if failing, unprofitable businesses were allowed to die a natural death. But there are great Canadian myths to be recounted. Like the one that the only thing separating a bad business from a good business is a couple or three billion dollars in good businesses’ cash. Or the myth that once a job has been lost in a bankrupt company, no new, successful company could ever possibly come along and hire the displaced workers, except if created by governmental subsidies. These myths also sell a lot of newspapers. Comic book fairy tales for the economically illiterate.

  16. Sean — Yeah, sorry, I don’t mean to attack Coyne himself, and I figure it goes without saying that he’s far more intelligent & courageous than the average editorial board (though, frankly, that isn’t saying much); it’s just that if there is to be a campaign against the bailout (or an argument against doing it again three years from now, which seems to be inevitable without a restructuring in the industry) then we need realistic and unflinching estimates about what job losses will be, short-term and long-term. Then you can point to the end of the tunnel for Sarnia, Windsor, Oshawa, etc.; it’s no good saying “You, Sir, are a victim of inevitable historical processes.” I say that not because I’m a bleeding-heart interventionist but because it’s ridiculous to stand on the sidelines waving a flag for the losing team.

  17. So if it is that bad then buy it all for $1, fire the mgt, repudiate the debt (bondholders) and crack the union…….oh they didnt mean it was THATbad

  18. Classic marketing mistake.

    If I make it people will buy it.

    And its converse:

    If I stop making it, people will no longer want it.

    Suddenly we’ll stop wanting NA built cars, after by them by the tens of thousands?

    It’s frightening how so many opinions on the economy and the market, begin, and end, with what folks think the government is or isn’t capable of.

    The market would fill the void (even assuming the co’s ‘dissappear’ – which they won’t) before you can say “Porter’s Five Forces Model”.

  19. “Because it’s profoundly irritating to have a well-respected journalist carping about the bailout from a position of authority and not doing a stroke of original research.”

    It’s not Coyne’s job to put together an analysis of the effect of no bailout of the auto sector on the Canadian economy. Only so many hours in a day and his employer probably doesn’t want him wasting his precious time on something the Canadian Taxpayers Federation should be doing.

  20. “You, Sir, are a victim of inevitable historical processes.”

    Do they still have those shops at the malls where you can get T-shirts made with custom sayings? Cuz I’d love one with that on it!

  21. Then we could look forward to Mr. Coyne parsing the headlines generated by The Canadian Taxpayers Federation ?

  22. Problem is it isnt clear what good a bailout buys other than a potentially worse outcome, an unknowable by the way.

    All politicians are running now, and can you blame them, not wanting the ones have made the decision that the press, the unions and the people will inevitably blame on them. Wasnt it only a week ago the premier was scolding the auto industry for “pulling the wool over our eyes” by demading money with no plan.

    They oulled this in 80 with the provincial conservative government as they went into an election and they would do it with Ste Therse plant every 5 years. They pulled it again in the 1990 recession. Bombardier does it regularly. The BC forest industry is learning how to do it, eventually the ALberta oil industry will start doing it.

    The steel industry did it till they were so small and fractured that government didnt care anymore. This will be the last round for the car indutstry, since they will shrink in the next cycle, the number of workers will be too small and the foreign transplants will dominate. The next strike should just about kill the CAW when they get locked out and nobody cares.

    The only collateral damage I want to prevent or minimize is the supply chain and parts. Assemblers, which is what the CAW are pretty close to low value add. And the dealers…..who cares, others will pop up.

    The last gasp of the economic arsonists.

  23. sbt: “It’s not Coyne’s job to put together an analysis of the effect of no bailout of the auto sector on the Canadian economy”

    Oh yeah? So what is his job? Looking at the RSS feed and seeing whether the latest news fits with the adamantine a priori assumptions? Man, he’s wasted at Maclean’s, he should be a blog commenter!

  24. Good comment Jack.
    What is the number from factory, transportation, to car washer at the local dealership?
    And will the big 3 be viable once credit to consumers and businesses returns to normal? Or does this have nothing to do with using government money to bridge across the the world wide credit squeeze.

  25. Andrew, I find that the Canadian media as a whole seem numerically challenged, in that they never challenge any of the numbers they are fed. Perhaps they are incapable of doing so, because of staffing cuts or deteriorating standards.

    Back during the election, the completely bogus figure of $86 billion was claimed to be the contribution of Canada’s “arts” industry to national GDP. This number was too high by a factor of 7 (!). The $86 billion figure, industriously circulated by Atwood, Pinsent, and various arts organizations, was based on a deliberate misreading of a CBOC report originally published in 2003. Once imports were taken out, the actual contribution to GDP generated by Canadian artists and businesses was less than $13 billion. However, the MSM reported the $86 billion number uncritically.

  26. Question to Mr. Coyne: if the report had spoken in terms of jobs “interrupted” or “adversely affected” or “put at risk” than “lost,” would you have the same complaint?

    Because upon reading the report, the only problem I have is the use of the word “lost.” Everything else seems quite justifiable.

    Substituting “put at risk” for “lost” addresses your argument that the industry won’t simply disappear, that other companies will increase production and create jobs, that parts companies would change hands, etc., etc. But it also acknowledges the fact that, while everything you say will happen is within the realm of possibility, you cannot predict how it will play out. For example, Toyota may hire people to ramp up production, but not at $40 per hour. Parts manufacturers may merge such that production capacity is maintained but administrative jobs are cut to eliminate duplication within the merged company. Same with dealers, service networks, financing subsidiaries.

    In other words, it is perfectly legitimate to claim that 580,000 jobs may be “put at risk” of loss or re-profiling or some other change in the event of Big 3 collapse (or 296,000 in the case of a 50% reduction in Big 3 output). They can’t predict the net effect on jobs, and they don’t try (and if they did, you’d be perfectly justifed in ripping them to shreds). But they can define the potential scope of the impact on jobs of a Big 3 collapse, and they do.

    An aside: take a scenario where you have 300,000 jobs lost within the industry due to Big 3 re-org, and 150,000 jobs created as other manufacturers ramp up capacity in response. You still end up with a net job loss of 150,000 jobs. That’s not exactly cause for celebration.

  27. My own innumeracy was a serious obstacle to my career advancement. I spent five years at The Gazette in Montreal trying to get a story onto Page 11.

  28. Careful Andrew…This kind of article will get your press pass revoked.

    Well done. It’s truly sad that you are one of the few diverging from the MSM herd on this. It’s evident to anyone who puts more than 5 minutes of thought into it.

  29. Another thing: you’d be on far more solid footing were you to focus on the ustated corollary of the report: that a Big 3 bailout – even if successful – will lead to considerably less job disruption than a Big 3 collapse – especially since both the Big 3 CEOs and the UAW have already effectively conceded that qualifying for whatever support they do get will require new concessions in terms of pay, capacity reduction, etc.

  30. “The Russians are Coming…”
    “we’ve got to get organised….Why won’t anyone listen?”

  31. Last point: during the election you and at least some of your colleagues were pointing to various economic reports, especially the September jobs report (y’know, the one that said we’d created 97,000 part-time jobs and 10,000 full-time jobs) as evidence that guys like me were being alarmist (see Inkless Wells, Oct. 10).

    If we want to critique MSM reporters’ numeracy skills, I’d start with their treatment of that report, not this one.

  32. I saw an interesting analysis today indicating that 3/4 of the automotive plants in the US will close, even if there is no bankruptcy.

    The author seemed to think that the Silverado plant in Oshawa would remain open.

    Also there was a good chart at the Financial Times indicating the extent of the impact on the parts makers. Again, even if there is no bankruptcy, these plants will be hit hard.

    Ping me if you want links.

  33. Good point. I have to admit I saw the headline and didn’t question the number initially. Hopefully there aren’t too many more as naive as I am, but I think that’s a forlorn hope.

  34. Lets consider what would happen to say… Macleans… should the big 3 fail…restructure, or whatever. Ever flip through the magazine and count the number of auto ads? Or notice the Cadilac CTS ads on this very board. Perhaps the jobs are overstated, but there will be an economic impact for a lot of people. But then on the other hand I’m sure Toyota would love to put millions of more dollars into advertising because Andrew is just so damn witty.

    Sure, the big three have made lots of mistakes, but lets all – including the report – start with some objective facts. Otherwise, anyone wanna talk about AIG? Or anyone still think that it was a good idea to let Lehmann fail?

  35. Two words – British Leyland. If you don’t know what Im talking about, google it, but essentially a country can lose most of its automobile industry and still survive.

    As far as this report is concerned, is this what is called “third-party advertising” ? And just WHY was the Ontario Minister sitting there at the press conference if this is supposedly an “unbiased” report ?

  36. “Oh yeah? So what is his job? Looking at the RSS feed and seeing whether the latest news fits with the adamantine a priori assumptions? Man, he’s wasted at Maclean’s, he should be a blog commenter!”

    There really isn’t any difference between a pundit and some blog commenter with the exception that the former tends to pay better than the latter. And if I had to guess, commenting on the news is likely the best description of his job as a pundit.

  37. sbt: “There really isn’t any difference between a pundit and some blog commenter with the exception that the former tends to pay better than the latter. And if I had to guess, commenting on the news is likely the best description of [Mr. Coyne’s] job as a pundit.”

    This is a ridiculous description of a pundit’s job, and I’m sure Mr. Coyne would not subscribe to it himself. Do you seriously require no better basis for pundits’ opinions than their own Delphic inspiration? That satisfies you, as long as said inspiration is ideologically correct? We require more than that for high school essays.

  38. And yet, it can be hard to tell the difference between a blog commenter and someone who uses our sophisticated pundit tools (Hey Andrew, have you seen my pot of Conventional Wisdom?). Which is why there is downward pressure on the market price of opinion gerbilism, and why smart newsroom managers are trying to reinforce (or, in a collapsing market, protect) reporters who actually report.

    I’m sad that nobody liked my Page 11 joke.

  39. Here’s a thought from a worried Canadian — me:

    Economics is not a science and economists can’t agree on the best course for this crisis. Nobody can predict the future, either. So what if those favouring Big 3 bankruptcy are wrong?

    Here are two estimates from Mark Zandi at Moody’s:

    Our macroeconomic model finds that a near-term bankruptcy among U.S. automakers would eliminate 2.5 million jobs, push unemployment near 11%, and cost the U.S. Treasury $240 billion.

    A Chapter 11 restructuring would likely become a liquidation, with factories shut and assets sold to pay creditors.

    Thomas L. Friedman wrote this recently for the New York Times:

    O.K., now that I have all that off my chest, what do we do? I am as terrified as anyone of the domino effect on industry and workers if G.M. were to collapse. But if we are going to use taxpayer money to rescue Detroit, then it should be done along the lines proposed in The Wall Street Journal on Monday by Paul Ingrassia, a former Detroit bureau chief for that paper.

    “In return for any direct government aid,” he wrote, “the board and the management [of G.M.] should go. Shareholders should lose their paltry remaining equity. And a government-appointed receiver — someone hard-nosed and nonpolitical — should have broad power to revamp G.M. with a viable business plan and return it to a private operation as soon as possible. That will mean tearing up existing contracts with unions, dealers and suppliers, closing some operations and selling others and downsizing the company … Giving G.M. a blank check — which the company and the United Auto Workers union badly want, and which Washington will be tempted to grant — would be an enormous mistake.”

    So Friedman and a small majority of economists favour bridge financing (bailout) to enable an ordered transition instead of a catastrophic fail.

    Seems sensible to me.

  40. I’m sad that nobody liked my Page 11 joke.

    Thing is PW, I for one didn’t get it. Doh!

    Stu Pididiot

  41. I liked your page 11 joke Paul. Much better than DeSoto…

    While you’re hanging out here, do you have any thoughts regarding my questions about journalists’ training and on-going ‘water cooler’ talk? (see the first comment in this thread).

  42. Paul,

    Get a job in Japan for an 11 page journal and you’ll always be on the front page.

  43. Surprise surprise. This really isn’t new news and it never had any effect on what cars Canadians purchased. And it seems to have even less affect on what cars Americans purchase.

    Some folks want to purchasre the best cars in the world. Some folks are religiously opposed to buying a union car. Some folks simply want the least expensive, the greenist rather than the biggest and the meanist.

  44. Does the Gazette also have a Sunshine boy? Odd location.

  45. Paul, clearly when you were at the Gaz you should have been running “who is hot and who is not” columns….then you could be a featured reporter at The Globe and be Sunday TV!

  46. Sean, I don’t hear a lot of reporters talking about numeracy skills. I hope mine might be a wee bit above average — I flunked second-year chemistry at Western, by which point I’d had to think about a lot of numbers — but I still make dumb mistakes sometimes, like writing “3 per cent” when I mean three percentage points.

    Apart from simple competence, I do think a lot of reporters are reluctant to challenge assertions in studies they’re asked to cover, because (a) contesting an assertion might be regarded by somebody, somewhere as bias; and (b) many reporters don’t like to appear as independent authorities in their own stories. In other words, if there isn’t somebody out in the public calling this a sham report, some reporters will resist saying so, because who are you, simple reporter, to be proofreading studies? And if there is somebody calling it a sham report, the temptation is to cover the controversy rather than to try to determine which side is right. Because picking a side will be met with accusations of bias.

    So if Swift Boat Veterans for Truth say a lot of stuff about a presidential candidate, the safe thing is to report their assertions without seeking to ascertain their truthiness or otherwise. I have no idea whether any of this applies in this case, I’m merely trying to demonstrate that there are social pressures (coming from readers at least as much as from colleagues) that make some reporters leery of looking too closely at numbers.

  47. Mr. Wells — No, that was a funny joke! It just took me longer to get it than I care to admit.

    For the record, one of the reasons I like the Maclean’s site so much — the magazine too — is that all the writers know more about their subjects than I do (eminently including one A. Coyne). Maybe that’s why your guys’ stock is doing so well, relatively speaking, amidst this Global Journalistic Crisis.

    The mystery to me is why newspaper editorials still exist. They would fit sbt’s description of punditry much better than the columns in Maclean’s do. It has literally been years since I either learned anything from a Globe editorial or conceived a new thought after reading one. You can literally predict exactly what they’re going to say — fun for the whole family — Mother takes a copy of the Globe and tells Dad and Betty and little Johnny what the subject of the editorial is, and even little Johnny can foretell the generalities to come. Who writes them? Who reads them? Ditto the letters to the editor — one mandatory pun, one mandatory correction on what nurses make in Nova Scotia, three mandatory finger-waggings that John Ibbitson doesn’t understand southern Ontario, one obligatory reference to the PM’s election law . . . If that’s “opinion journalism,” it deserves what it gets; but Maclean’s is something else, something (dare I say it?) new.

    Man, I’m grumpy today . . . LOVE LIFE, ladies and gentlemen! LOVE WILL SET YOU FREE!

  48. I can’t begin to imagine the minefield inherent in reporting even simple stories these days. “The Sun Rose This Morning” What about the moon? He’s biased towards the sun! The sun doesn’t move, the earth rotates! Only a liberal hack would write about the sun! Only a capitalist apologist would overlook global warming in such a report…

  49. So you’re a sun man, eh, Sean? Figures. Well, you just wait and see if your “Mr. Sun” delivers again tomorrow. Just sayin’.

  50. I’m a sun man. Unless it’s more popular to be a moon man, in which case I can change like a Harper in the wind.

  51. I personally draw a difference between a reporter writing a piece where he/she looks at the potential impact that bankruptcy of the big 3 would have on employment levels etc through his/her own interviews research etc. and a reporter writing a story of the contents of a report released by some special interest group.

    These reports are released all of the time. You do need to have some training on many occasions to cut through the b.s., or to quickly recognize what rocks to look under.

    The same thing happens, for example, when AECL supporters release an economic study of the benefits of nuclear power production/ generation, and the environmental NGOs release a counter report – both cherrypick the numbers to suit their arguments (ie the former includes all economic spin-offs, whereas the latter only use costs and no benefits), and it does take some time and expertise to figure out the “true” numbers.

    I’m not particularly offended by the reporter’s work on this report – par for the course, and subject matter of his report.

  52. I would say “good post”, except that…it would be like complimenting you for sinking a 6 inch put for par. Wait: that was too nice. It would be like complimenting yourself for not soiling yourself. Dude, you’re *supposed* to say sensible stuff, particularly when it comes to economics!

    This post isn’t remarkable except for the fact that, well, you put your finger on it nicely, Andrew: the Canadian media is colluding to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the economy, just like it did after 9/11 and just like it did in the buildup to the Iraq war. You being the only one not spreading FUD is good, I suppose, but you’re not saying anything that the more perceptive commenters (ie me) here have already said.

    Canada: the country where nobody is watching, and nobody cares. Yeah, the media is colluding against the people: whaddayagonnadoaboutit?

  53. This post isn’t remarkable except for the fact that, well, you put your finger on it nicely, Andrew: the Canadian media is colluding to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the economy,

    Well, given that the “Canadian media” will suffer from reduced advertising, subscriptions etc. from any fear induced or prolonged economic downturn, it would seem to me to be a pretty stupid strategy to collude over.

  54. Mr. Wells – In case you still haven’t found that pot of Conventional Wisdom, I think I saw it earlier today all over NNW.

    Last I noticed Greg Weston was stuffing it down his pants. Sorry.

  55. Paul, cute joke about page 11. I think your point about reporters avoiding bias is very interesting… in the end it is simply easier for reporters to avoid challenging numbers and assertions.

    First, it’s a lot less work to simply “report both sides of the issue” uncritically, and there is time pressure to meet deadlines.

    Second, as you pointed out, reporters who challenge numbers risk the appearance of bias. I can easily imagine an intrepid reporter who challenged the art community’s GDP assertions during the last election being tarred and feathered as an art-hating philistine or a neocon ideologue.

    Third, there is probably a general lack of quant skills among members of the Canadian MSM, not to mention (arguably) a lack of intellectual curiosity. I’m sure there is also a tendency towards “generalism” which discourages reporters from delving too deeply into any given issue.

    Unfortunately, of these factors lead to some pretty crappy reporting in this country. We need more reporters with the balls (metaphorically speaking) to challenge bogus assertions and numbers.

  56. “The report, with its shock-horror estimate of 582,000 jobs lost, is founded on two premises, both of them utterly absurd. One, that all three of the Detroit-based auto manufacturers shut down all of their operations, not just in Canada, but worldwide (the study models “the impact of the Detroit Three automakers ceasing operations globally.”)”

    It would not be necessary that even Detroit shut down completely. All that is required is that cuts into the capacities of the Detroit Three and their suppliers be applied preferentially in Canada. If a massive bailout by the U.S. government proceeds and is not matched by at least proportional, most likely higher than proportional bribes by the Canadian government, that outcome is likely.

    “Two, that none of the other manufacturers increase production to take up the slack (”foreign vehicle manufacturers in Canada are assumed to maintain production.”)” No foreign manufacturer can be found that is interested in picking up Volvo or Saab right now – two brands that in normal times were considered valuable. With everyone suffering from excess capacity, it is highly likely that no buyer will be found for the Canadian plants, at least not without inducements that would dwarf the ones currently under discussion.

    In case the Canadian government does nothing, I would expect a near total wreckage of Canadian car manufacturing. The “global” assumptions made in the study cited are not needed to arrive at that conclusion.

    Nice job beating up a straw man though, Mr. Coyne. You showed ’em!

  57. In case the Canadian government does nothing, I would expect a near total wreckage of Canadian car manufacturing.

    Really? That will come as quite a shock to those auto manufacturers not named GM, Ford or Chrysler-Dodge. And to all the Canadian workers in those plants.

    We’ve gotta bail ’em out! Why? Well, because there are just so gosh darn many of them, and they’re good jobs! Doesn’t that suggest there are too darn many of them, and the cost of maintaining those jobs are overpriced? Well, sure, but you can’t let them all go at once and push the dominoes over! Won’t we be back at this over and over again, throwing bad money after worse paying escalating ransom? (crickets…)

  58. WHy dont they make cars out of wood? A Canadian car, built of wood, wood-burning to be green, thus saving the environment, and keeping both the auto sector and wood sector alive.

  59. “Second, as you pointed out, reporters who challenge numbers risk the appearance of bias. I can easily imagine an intrepid reporter who challenged the art community’s GDP assertions during the last election being tarred and feathered as an art-hating philistine or a neocon ideologue. ”

    ——————-

    That’s an understatement!

    This is what caught my eye today (trying to understand how people think, or perhaps how they would wish democracy works):

    “Sometimes, it takes another column to respond to a columnist who doesn’t know what he is talking about. Lorrie Goldstein is an example of the latter. The separatist movement was founded by former federalists who were disgusted at never being listened to. Our tax money was as welcome federally as anyone else’s, but not our ideas. Mr. Harper’s plan to cut cultural funding was a threat to us, because in Quebec, culture is as important economically as oil to the West: it represents our survival. Now, both Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff know this. One dollar invested in culture is said to bring back $11 in the economy, which brings more in taxes alone than the original dollar invested. To Goldstein and Michael Coren: were you among those who came to Quebec City in 1995 to tell us that you loved us?

    Richard Turgeon

    editor’s response: (He didn’t cut cultural funding. He tried to reduce an increase.) ”

    I thought this line was particularly interesting: “One dollar invested in culture is said to bring back $11 in the economy, which brings more in taxes alone than the original dollar invested. ”

    The way he’s going about it, we might as well have the government throw around toonies which will bring in 22 dollars for every two dollars in government subsidy.

    Well, why not throw around five dollar bills, ten dollar bills, twenty dollar bills – the economy would overflow with money to be taxed to the max! Round one blending seamlessly into round two, and three, four…………

  60. Hey Paul.

    I liked your page 11 joke.
    And I tried to indulge it by clicking on the report abuse link to register my appreciation.
    One of my favourite jokes is Dyslexics of the World Untie!
    I thought by registering my faux outrage in the report abuse mechanism I might advance this guilty pleasure one happy level further.

    Even when we are full of froth and the pearls are dripping there has to be a moment taken to appreciate a good bad joke when it is thrown disarmingly into the mix.

    Then you can laugh and say, anyway, as I was saying…
    Because it’s not like we really have any control over these things anymore, if we ever did.
    The only thing that matters these days is consulting with the high priests of opinion polling to see what the entrails portend.

    A good dyslexic joke will keep me happy for a few hours since I am safe in the knowledge that I don’t see the world quite the same way that most other people do.

  61. They could have made a much stronger argument if they talked about the indirect impact of the auto job losses that are likely to happen. You know stuff like the 7-11 clerk in Oshawa that loses his job, the guys at the rubber plant, etc. That question is relevant, because if we want to get the most bang for our stimulus buck, we need to know which industries are the best choice for protecting jobs, ensuring long-term economic success. Incidentally, today’s job losses are tomorrow’s hires. The Canadian economy faces problems, but if we retool better than anybody else, and in the lead sectors of the present, we will be ahead of the game in 2011.

  62. Paul,

    except, the single, simple way to avoid turning this into parroting, and adding a little skepticism, would be to a qualifier, or how bout an explanation of who the group is and what their motives are.

    Much like the media almost universally does on issues not of a leftist bent.

    “Right wing think tank” comes to mind.

    Funny how there never, ever, ever, exists a “left wing” think tank. No. The qualifiers signifying special interests or suggestions of radicalism are reserved for the right.

    Left wing/union/statist groups?

    The media gladly parrots those without the big red warning signs the media’s reserved for more conservative groups.

    And if it comes from the Harper government?

    Well those are almost never facts, even if they are in fact….facts. No, then editorial license is granted and the words “claimed” (code words for ‘that’s what he says but we don’t necessarily believe him’) or similar such phraseology is added to the news.

    Another fun one is the use of the “expert”. If you’ve ever seen a court trial where “experts” were called, you’d notice something interesting: Two very qualified guys will be saying the opposite things.

    The newsfolks: they usually talk to one “expert”, the one who fits the narrative they want to tell.

    Funny, we didn’t see any reference to “experts” or economists, ect. in any of the stories that parroted the unionist view.

    Those are reserved for conservative leaning assertions, where it is a very commonly unsed to scrutinize/undermine the message – particularly when the message seems on its face to be realistic (unlike in the present case).

    Sorry Paul Wells, but your excuses are frankly lame.

    Simply put, the scrutinizing tools, and editorial license employed against the right, simply isn’t used against media pet issues.

  63. Woah,

    actually in this instance its worse. Rather than properly identifying the highly partisan position of the messenger,

    they whitewashed it,

    describing them as an “arms length” group.

    Not only not a red flag you’d see with a right leaning group, but the opposite: more media code words for “so you can take this to the bank as being legit”.

    Today’s agenda journalists, converting their organizations to junk bond status, one bogus, highly partisan, credibility destroying, story at a time.

  64. There’s a certain irony when non experts from the extreme not left wing complain about “lefties” not divulging their biases.

  65. The irony of an openly partisan commenter, showing frustration toward an entitiy that purports to be neutral, but in fact uniformly leans left, and in the process only “calls out” and identifies the non-left as being partisan?

    Not seeing the irony there.

  66. Let’s eliminate the middle man – reporters who report what they are told, verbatim, no matter how incredulous or tainted – and get corporations, associations, and governments to fax to Maclean’s whatever they want printed, then print it verbatim. Why not? If basic fact checking and vetting sources is considered partisan, then I see no purpose for reporters.

    Bush and Rove used this tendency of the media to sell their Iraq war and get re-elected. When the government was putting out “Orange Terror Alerts” and other nonsense, they knew they could count on the judgment-free media to just regurgitate the story with no thought to whether it was bunk or not.

    In Ottawa, home of the militantly antiConservative unionized civil service, Citizen reporters have been accepting leaked government documents from individuals with the most preposterous of stories on how they obtained them. A pissed off bureaucrat could tell Pugliese that a Martian handed him a document, or it fell off a truck, and Pugliese wouldn’t question him.

    Canada: where “good judgment” is considered an oxymoron.

  67. Havving read your posts over many months on Maleans, I know your leanings. If I was to report elsewhere on your commentary (double spaced of curse), would it be fair for me to refer to you as “openly partisan” right wing commentator Kody, or would that reveal my bias?

  68. Were the jobs losses in any other part of Canada the people there would be told to suck it up and move on, to relocate to where the work was. But Ontario, regardless of any structural changes in the economy, is entitled to better.

  69. So just to be clear:

    scrutinizing, using “expert” intervenors, editorialzing mid story with opinion ect,

    is good old fashioned hard news reporting (reserved for eeeevil conservatives who we must keep our eye on after all),

    parroting unionist/leftist/statist stories, fine.

    After all, to not parrot would be “biased”.

    Remarkable.

  70. An example from right now:

    the Globe and Mail, headline:

    “Harper’s pessimistic talk making a bad situation worse, critics say”

    The use of “critics”. Who’s the “critic”? John Macallum, a liberal MP and “former chief economist with the Royal Bank”. Wow, we know that criticism must be true then. Sure he’s a partisan liberal attack dog, but here, he’s just a humble former economist (a “chief” one no less).

    The hit piece is then followed by Harper’s “evolving” positions. One liners, taken largely out of context, with the principal dishonest context that the situation itself has been “evolving”.

    You see, every single leader’s statements will reflect “evolution” on the rapidly changing economy. But you won’t see any one line statements from them over the past many months.

    What you also will not see, is the “evolving” standards of the media: from Harper is blind to our fears (from the past month or so) to “Harper’s pessimistic talk bad for us”.

    Someone just said that all roads lead to bashing Harper, even if he’s doing what they asked him to do the day before?

    Now who was that astute commenter?

  71. Another fun headline from Reuters (one of the leftiest out there):

    “Canadian PM moves from cheer to gloom on economy”

    Wow, being cautiously optimistic that our downturn won’t be as bad as other countries, is now historically being revised to “CHEER”, as in merriment, complete happiness, gleefulness.

    Why?

    Well of course the new narrative is that Harper’s irresponsible about the economy, cheery one day, “gloomy” the next, like a raving manic leader.

    That’s “news” by the way. That’s not an editorial.

    No concerns about the appearance of bias there, eh Paul?

  72. An opposition party opposing. How scandalous.

    I must have shorted out kody’s logic circuit board with my previous ignored and unanswered question.

  73. kody, try this one – if a political leader of any stripe is principled (ie doesn’t govern or make decisions based on polls) why would they care if the media was “biased”?

  74. Dot,

    an opposition is supposed to oppose,

    but is that the media’s job? Although, I do appreaciate your confusion between the leftist media and their counterparts in their party of choice.

    As for your second point,

    the media is agenda driven. They try to influence people. It’s part of that “we’re gonna make a difference, man” mentality out of j-school, except the “difference” means taking a leftist veiwpoint.

    Yet they do it under the guise of impartial purveyors of fact. I oppose it because its wrong. Does it affect public opinion? To many who don’t follow politics closely, yes.

    Though as the public goes to alternative sources and is able to compare and contrast (say a website that will have the whole PM’s address, versus the “news” version with just the bits and pieces that the media wants to use to make him look bad, interlaced with negative commentary) it is increasingly the media that is losing out, rather than on affecting the agenda/people’s opinion.

    When old media had a lock, they had a much, much greater impact on opinion. Now they’re just killing their brand equity.

  75. Yet they do it under the guise of impartial purveyors of fact. I oppose it because its wrong.

    It seems to me you are taking issue more with one’s choice of adjectives (and your interpretation of them) than fact. A thesaurus may help.

    But there are many choices of media available to any reader/watcher/listener. It would seem to me to be self evident that in a competitive world with declining revenues, some would try to differentiate themselves – maybe less so today with alternative sources as you point out. They are not all going to look like the Western Standard, the National Post or the Sun papers. Isn’t that obvious to you? I don’t think your thesis needs to be rehashed constantly.

  76. The forest industry is a completely different situation than the automotive sector. It isn’t in trouble in the U.S. the problem is that American owned companies have for decades loaded all the costs on their Canadian fibre supply operations and derived the profit from their finishing mills state side. They’ve been selling to themselves and revinesting the profits, not in the pulp mills in Canada, not in the forests in Canada, but in high efficiency mills and plantations closer to their end markets in the U.S. We’ve been subsidizing this process with low stumpage fees, and now that they don’t really need our trees all that much, we’d be paying them to take jobs away.

    Any “bailout” should be for the single industry communities that are dependent on forest products companies that close, not for the companies themselves. And governments everywhere should take a page out of Danny Williams’ book by reclaiming any forest rights and reallocating them to viable producers that remain. If you want to do something for the forest sector, consider financing for smaller operations and locally-owned start-ups so they can use the forest and create some local employment in communities that will otherwise experience 80% unemployment, and a complete crash in housing values, followed by the forced emigration to urban areas of almost all of the adults under 50.

  77. >Apart from simple competence, I do think a lot of reporters are reluctant to challenge assertions in studies they’re asked to cover, because (a) contesting an assertion might be regarded by somebody, somewhere as bias; and (b) many reporters don’t like to appear as independent authorities in their own stories.

    That’s unfortunate. The public interest (in journalism as a profession) could certainly stand to have many more “beat” reporters who cover subjects about which they are knowledgeable – not experts, but sufficiently savvy and self-confident to assess whether a “fact” is at least of the correct order of magnitude, and to point out who is truly a non-partisan expert and who is not.

    The downside of being unwilling or insufficiently grounded to challenge the PR flacks is that one’s bias doesn’t vanish: some reporters just become cheerleaders.

  78. McGuinty is now using this report to say that $3 billion payout that’s already been proposed is just the first in what could be many payments. The car companies, and McGuinty, are going to get our money by hook or by crook it seems.

  79. Simply splendid! It is too this doesn’t come with a flow chart to show the effects of one industry that has caused so much abuse, wasted time and money, couldn’t get rid of the unions to bring down the prices, couldn’t design their way out of a wet paper bag and look how many businesses would be effected. Well I guess what I would have to say, if MacDonalds put the restaurant on the corner to serve the masses of plant – well they should have had a bad up plan for the downfall of customers should something happen to the plant or the industry.

    Actually, MacDonalds is doing extremely well as a QSR (quick service restaurant). In fact QSRs are the only group of the restaurants that making a profits – so don’t cry for MacDonald’s – we still feed our kids junk food instead of having a family meal. ’nuff said on that subject.

    It is sad that people are losing their jobs and it is sad that we, as Americans, have put our heads in the sand and just let whatever will be will be, including the Madoff situation (and that is not the only crook in the world who has stolen money) get away with stealing and then cry bloody murder when we are down and out – shame on us.

    So, the Auto industry, if they ask for my money, which they are – should have oversight by me and everyone else and all the leaders from directors and above should be fired and start over. If the factories need to be re-tooled – then re-tool them. Sounds like the argument the dry cleaners give women for over charging them for blouses and shirts (our machines are made for men’s shirts only so we charge them .99 cents and we charge you for the same material shirt 5.00). Let’s get on with life instead of crying and whinning –

    Nice post – keep up the good work – and all studies are bogus, true and somewhat slanted – but all facts are bogus, true and somewhat slanted, the truth lies with the receiver, not the giver.

  80. Sisyphus:
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  81. kody,

    yes, reporters creating news is something to be very careful about. I’m not sure how the young generation will be able to distinguish between news reporting and opinion making, for it seems that the line between the two gets more and more blurred. Will the young generation be presented with an opportunity to experience the difference? I don’t know.

    Coming back briefly to editorials on Harper’s interview on ATV. The ATV interviewer was trying hard to have Harper express his regret about what was contained within the FU. The interviewer pushed very hard, but Harper would not spit out the words being put into his mouth. Then in today’s G&M editorial, tried to force feed Harper once more.

    But Harper should never apologize for what he had put into the FU, most noteworthy the subsidy cut to political parties. Subsidies to political parties form as much an obstacle to our economic well-being as does any other program. Subsidizing a separarist party will ensure many minority governments to come. This is not solely a Conservative party problem but is a problem for all federal parties participating within federal elections.

    It is very strange how so many supporters of the coalition seem to think that the threat to Canadian unity hinges around the fact that the BQ might ask the coalitoin government to re-open Quebec unity issues (language, for instance, or unity issue related demands).

    But that is not why the participation of the BQ within the coalition poses such a danger to our federation. By including the BQ within a proposed coalition, the BQ has in essence achieved the presentation of a two-nation federation. To undo that slide-in will amount to much more mayhem than we have seen over the past few weeks. Harper was pre-warning us about what could be set into motion, and for such honest warnings, he should never have to apologize to anyone. In fact, I would be extremely disappointed if he would apologize for having expressed such forsight.

  82. No one wants to buy Domestic including the CAW:

    OSHAWA — In the old days, this shopping mall parking lot would have looked like a virtual GM dealership, with most of the spots filled with domestically built cars or their American cousins.

    Not any more. Instead, there seem to be as many Asian and German imports prowling for non-existent parking as there are vehicles built by GM, Chrysler or Ford.

    If even people in Canada’s motor city aren’t supporting the company that employs thousands here, no wonder the Big 3 automakers are perilously close to the wrecking yard.

    But how far should auto patriotism go when they’re churning out cars and trucks people don’t want to buy?

    Toronto Sun article

  83. Moe Uniting, that’s brilliant. The Mosquito Bomber was made out of wood, and it played a HUGE role in winning WWII. Maybe the answer to our future is in the past.

    Imagine, cars made out of wood, powered by wood. Rolling along on wooden wheels, on a highway made out of…. WOOD!!

    Seriously though, does anyone find it odd that government would actually subsidize companies so they could keep cutting down more trees? I’m not a tree-hugger or anything, but really – paying companies to cut more trees? Because cutting them down isn’t profitable on its own? Is that not just slightly perverse?

  84. Francien makes a very good point. The participation of the Bloc in the coalition did pose a significant challenge to the federal government. This had nothing to do with the Bloc’s promise to vote with the coalition. The Bloc had also supported the Conservative government from time to time in the last Parliament. This was no big deal.
    What was differennt ths time was the formal consultative mechanism for the Bloc. In essence a party representing only one province was to be given a veto over policy development. This distorts the principles of our federation and had the potential to undermine the smooth working of the federation. No PM should have accepted that concept. S Dion was a power hungry man, willing to subvert his long standing federalist principles merely for a chance to seize power. Thank God Stephen Harper stood up to him.
    Two Yen, formerly known as Two Cents

  85. Yes, Two Cents (do I know you formerly, or what!)

    Harper has said so himself: he is not against the formations of coalitions within our parliamentary system. He in fact does not consider the idea to be anti-democratic. But Harper is against ligitimizing the presence of a separatist/provincial party within our federal house by asking them to be formal partners.

    Had the LPC and the NDP proposed an opposition without formal inclusion of the BQ, Harper might not have asked for the house to be prorogued. The cool-off period was needed to come to an understanding of what actually had occurred.

    I find it striking that LPC and the NDP had been so eager, had been so willing to sign up an agreement with the BQ. The formal agreement does tell but half of the story; the speed at which this happened was truly historical, for it seems as if the LPC and the NDP had put no question marks beside the inclusion of a separatist party at all. It had not been given much thought at all! That is truly an historic marker for Canadian politics, and for the BQ as well, I must add.

  86. $25 Billion is what The big 3 spent just on advertising.

    $393 Billion is what the US governments spend on support for the uses of automobiles. Go figure,hey!
    Fatalities from road accidents: 47,000 Americans a year.

  87. If the big 3 all go under, the foreign auto producers will have no reason to keep their North American plants operating. They will gradually move fabrication and, perhaps more easily, their parts manufacturing back to their home countries. Opening plants in North America was done to make consumers fell less guilty and more likely to buy so called imports. It worked. But not necessary if the big 3 go down. People are really pretty naive about these guys (Toyota, Honda, VW etc).

  88. As of September, 2008 the Detroit Three employed 239,341 hourly and salary workers in the United States at the end of 2007.