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J.J. McCullough

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Media Bites: All the Many "Valuable" Lessons We Learned in 2013

Posted: 12/30/2013 8:30 am

With less than a hundred hours remaining in the year 2013, the clock is fast ticking on our ability to wallow in memories of the previous 365 days without looking like a soggy nostalgist. Fortunately, the Canadian press has been offering no shortage of year-in-review columns as of late, a phenomena I am entirely sure has everything to do with this being a very interesting topic readers just can't get enough of, and nothing at all to do with lazy journalists trying to extend their Christmas vay-cay by pre-writing date-neutral filler material.

Unsurprisingly, there seems to be a general consensus among the Canadian commentariat that the Senate mess was the nation's biggest deal of 2013. Indeed, says Tim Harper in the Toronto Star, it wouldn't be a stretch to claim that basically every other thing that happened in Canadian politics this year was a mere "afterthought in the face of the Senate story," and by "story" we of course mean the "shady deal-making and ethical transgressions taking place right under Harper's nose."

At the National Post, good ol' Rex Murphy agrees, calling the terror inflicted upon the Conservative government by Conservative-appointed senators conspiring with a Conservative-run PMO an "awkward and hypocritical spectacle" that led many Conservatives to ponder "what was the point of being Conservatives?"

More like what's the point of being anything, piles on acclaimed former Mulroney cabinet minister of something-or-other Barbara McDougall in the Globe and Mail. She's declaring scandal-plagued 2013 to be the year "Canadians turned against their political institutions" with unprecedented "cynicism," not to mention a "heightened level of malice." That's a powerful and provocative thesis to be sure, but unfortunately Babs feels the need to smother it under a lot of pointless padding about the Pope and European free trade and stuff. Be happy I fished out the best words for you.

Of course, not every backwards-looking pundit shares this obsession with Senates and cynicism. Lorne Gunter at the Toronto Sun, for instance, picks Justin Trudeau's ascension to the Liberal leadership as his top headline of 2013. It's a conclusion he draws largely through the process of elimination, after dismissing the comparable merits of the Calgary flood ("that's weather," he shrugs) the Lac-Megantic explosion ("unlikely to have lasting impact on the nation"), Rob Ford (being "the lead gag on all the late-night American talk shows doesn't make your story the most important of the year"), and the Idle No More protests (his reasons for dismissing this one are unclear -- perhaps because it's a story from 2012?).

No, says Lorne, the year 2013 clearly belonged to Justin, and all signs indicate this nation "will be battling the new Trudeaumania for the foreseeable future." And right he is -- though if the last few months are any indication, I'd say a lot of 2014's battling will be done by Justin himself.

The Globe and Mail editorial board meanwhile, demonstrating once again that they are a Big, Serious World-Class Newspaper concerned with Big, Serious World-Class Issues, picks NSA "snooping" as the year's top story, a thing that didn't really involve Canada at all in 2013. (In fact, the biggest Canadian spy story of the year -- the CBC's spectacular claim that the NSA was snooping on world leaders at the 2010 G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario with the full assent and collaboration of the Harper government -- ultimately proved itself one of the year's biggest media goofs). But still, no one should be surprised that a paper with such ostentatious ambitions for global relevance considers Edward Snowden a more compelling man of the year than some petty parochial character like (ugh) Mike Duffy.

By the way, what's my pick for top story of 2013, you ask? I don't know if I have a headline per se, but I do have a theme: the decline of Brand Canada.

If there's one thing Justin Trudeau, Rob Ford, and the Senate scandal have in common, after all, it's that they all prove, in different ways, that Canada is not nearly as serious, respectable, and mature of a country as we often like to believe.

While the damage done by Rob Ford -- who I will remind the jury, is the democratically-elected mayor of Canada's largest city -- to our reputation as the Ned Flanders of nations can't be understated, 2013 was also the year the Washington Post ran an editorial entitled "Think our Senate is horrible? Wait 'til you see Canada's," the New Yorker was sniggering about our "Trudeaux," and the Economist declared us officially "uncool."

It was a year Canada proved itself unable to unseat a municipal politician spectacularly unfit for office, spent eight months toiling under a scandal wrought by the predictable corruption of the First World's worst-designed legislative body, and embraced the hereditary principle as a reasonable method for picking the country's next ruler. And worst of all, everyone noticed.

Regardless of what 2014 has to offer, it'll have to offer an awful lot to overshadow the dark legacy of all that.

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  • Sen. Mike Duffy shields his eyes as he arrives at the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013.

  • Justin Trudeau delivers his victory speech in the Federal Liberal leadership in Ottawa on Sunday, April 14, 2013.

  • Canadian Astronaut and ISS commander Chris Hadfield is framed by spacesuits as he performs David Bowie's Space Oddity on the International Space Station, published on Sunday May 12, 2013.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks past a projector following a Chinese New Years event in Burnaby, B.C., Friday, February, 8, 2013.

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  • Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Que, Saturday, July 6, 2013. Crude oil moved along Canadian railway lines in unprecedented volumes in 2013 as delays in building new pipelines caused oil companies, clamouring to reach the most lucrative markets, to seek out alternative paths. The crude-by-rail trend had been gathering steam quietly in recent years. But after the disaster in Lac Megantic, Que., it could no longer fly under the radar.

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  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media outside office in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. Ford was responding to a new video that was released.

  • Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi celebrates his re-election as mayor at his campaign party in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Oct. 21, 2013.

  • Kevan Yeats swims after his cat Momo to safety in High River, Alta. on June 20, 2013. Momo the cat has been living a quiet life since gaining global celebrity status when he leapt from a submerged pickup truck and swam for his life in floodwaters that hit southern Alberta last June.

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  • Rita MacNeil's ashes rest in a teapot at her funeral at St. Mary's Church in Big Pond, N. S. on Monday, April 22, 2013. The 68-year-old singer died in hospital in Sydney, Nova Scotia, following complications from surgery after a recurring infection.

  • Rogers' CEO Nadir Mohamed (left) shares a joke with NHL Commissioner Gary Betman following a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday 26, 2013 as they announced a long term broadcast and multimedia agreement, which provides Rogers with all national rights. Also announced was a multi-year sub-licensing agreement with CBC and TVA sports for the NHL games.

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