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Unifor will run an aggressive anti-Conservative campaign even though its partisanship concerns some members who are journalists and media workers, says Jerry Dias, the union president.
In an email to Unifor members, Dias wrote the the union will run television ads during the election writ period asking Canadians to “think twice about supporting the Scheer agenda.” The union represents 12,000 journalists and media workers in Canada.
“We do not tell members how to vote, but I will be speaking out against the Conservative Party,” Dias wrote in the email. “Journalists, my own communications staff, even our Atlantic Regional Director, Lana Payne, a former journalists (sic), have all explained to me why our union’s partisan stance makes some of you uncomfortable. I hear you,” he wrote.
Payne did not respond to immediate request for comment.
Dias said he was protecting jobs, noting that Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer opposed federal funding to the news industry. The Liberals committed $600 million in the latest budget to help the news industry over the next five years.
Adding to concerns about bias, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez named Unifor as one of eight panel members in May to advise the government on how to deliver its commitments to the news industry. The other panel members included the Media Council of Canada, News Media Canada and the Canadian Association of Journalists.
Unifor members include columnists, editors and news anchors at the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Global TV and CTV stations. It also represents employees at the Winnipeg Free Press, London Free Press and the Hamilton Spectator (it does not represent employees at National Post).
Paul Adams, an associate professor of journalism and communication at Carleton University, said Unifor’s seat on the panel could influence which news outlets receive federal funding — or give the perception of influence.
“The media have a credibility issue, just as most institutions do, whether it’s governments, unions, the Catholic church, universities,” said Adams. He said almost every significant institution has seen a decline in credibility over the past 50 years and journalists are often accused of bias.
“You can already see it on social media that people get cat-called by folks because they’re seen as trying to curry favour with their journalism in order to get government help,” Adams said.
In his email, Dias noted that 250 news outlets have closed in the past decade. He said Unifor will continue to lobby for tax and regulatory changes to prevent Amazon, Facebook and Google from siphoning away ad revenue from the union members’ employers.
“We all know that what your union says publicly does not impact your objectivity or your journalistic integrity as media workers,” Dias wrote. “Paying dues to a union does not mean you have to agree with everything your union does.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019