August 25, 2015

FACT CHECK: CBC "should be ashamed" of biased retirement pensions story -- Here's how to tell them so

Brian LilleyArchive

It’s funny to me what passes for journalism these days, especially at CBC.

Here at The Rebel and before that at Sun News, Ezra Levant and I have been accused of being biased.

Okay, guilty as charged, but unlike most media outlets -- like, say, the CBC -- I am up front with my bias. I tell you where I am coming from. You can take what I say or ignore it knowing that I am coming to you from a specific point of view.

Then you have the others. The folks that claim to be impartial and unbiased and then produce work that brings that notion into question.

This past weekend, CBC put out a story by their Access to Information specialist Dean Beeby that is either a really lazy piece of journalism or an agenda driven piece aimed at pushing an issue.

My opinion is that this story on pensions falls in the latter category.

Now this isn’t just another rant on media and media bias. I’ve talked plenty about that, I even wrote a book called CBC Exposed that laid bare so much of what is wrong with the state broadcaster.

But I’m not just going to bash the other media outlets here.

I keep saying elections matter and we need to talk policy, so let’s do that as well, as I show you how bad this story, ostensibly about pensions, really is.

Let’s start with the headline and subheadline:

“Document raises questions about Harper retirement policies: Finance Canada review of Canada's retirement system says Canada scores poorly among OECD countries”

Did the document raise questions? No, Dean Beeby did. The document was there to answer questions.

Did the review say Canada scores poorly? No, it didn’t.

Dean Beeby said that based on one aspect, what the review calls "one pillar" of retirement saving in Canada: Public pensions.

Now after the loaded headline, which I will admit, the journalist does not always get a say in, Beeby opens his piece in this way:

“Canada scores poorly among developed countries in providing public pensions to seniors, according to an internal analysis of retirement income by the federal government.”

He keeps going back to this one feature time and again, the public pension feature.

It’s part of what makes me think this story tells you more about Dean Beeby and his worldview than it does about the report on retirement income.

Because when you read the actual Access to Information documents in full, it shows that retirement income in Canada is doing much better than reported, and that Canadian seniors are less likely to live in poverty than seniors in most OECD countries including ones that spend more on public pensions.

You can read the document for yourself here:

Beeby and CBC don’t tell you that Canadian seniors are less likely to live in poverty. It wouldn’t fit their agenda.

Here’s what they do tell you. After setting up that pensions are an election issue, comes this quote from the review conducted by Finance Canada for the Privy Council Office:

"In 2010, Canada spent 5.0 per cent of GDP on public pensions (OAS/GIS and C/QPP), which is low compared with the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) of average of 9.4 per cent," it noted.

"The OECD projects that public expenditure on pensions in Canada will only increase to 6.3 per cent of GDP by 2050 – much lower than the 11.6 per cent of GDP projected for OECD countries on average."

That’s all accurate and all in there.

As he continues on in the article, Beeby cherry picks lines that show Canada spending less than the OECD average on public pensions and social programs and then turns to Ontario Liberal MP and Kathleen Wynne cabinet minister Mitzie Hunter, unloads on Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, and claims they are burying their heads in the sand. Then he turns to Susan Eng of CARP, another advocate for expanded public pensions.

This story was agenda driven from the start and this proves it. But what gives added proof is what was not included in the story.

Like I said, if you listen to Dean Beeby and CBC, you would think Granny is left on her own, or at best put out on the ice floe by an uncaring federal government.

What is the reality? Far different.

Page 6 of the PDF shows that the number of seniors living below the Low Income Cut Off, the LICO, commonly called the poverty line, has been shrinking since 1976.

The report shows that when you take all three pillars of the retirement system in this country – meaning OAS and GIS (that is the public pillar), the second pillar being CPP, and the third pillar being private savings in RRSPs and such -- then Canadian seniors have an income replacement above the OECD average:

“With support from all three pillars, the media Canadian senior earns about 91 per cent as much as the median Canadian - well above the OECD average of 84 per cent.”

Is that in the story? No. It wouldn’t push the CBC agenda of more government spending.

Are there seniors in poverty? Yes, there are but seniors in Canada are less likely to live in poverty than the general population. The poverty rate sits at about 9%, the poverty rate for seniors is 7.2% according to a study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Oh and by the way, that is well below the OECD average of 12.8%.

You didn’t see that in Dean Beeby’s story did you?

Yet that story was given time on The National, it played on CBC radio and on CBC’s news channel. And yet it a false story built upon selective reading of a report.

It is a story guilty of the sin of omission. It didn’t tell you the whole story, in fact it didn’t come close.

But like most stories on CBC, it did the main job it was intended to do, it helped convince the audience that Stephen Harper is mean and needs to be defeated.

CBC, its news department, its editors and their management should all be ashamed of themselves over this.

If you agree, you can help them. You can EMAIL CBC’s ombudsman and tell them the problems with this story. Tell them that for $1 billion per year of taxpayer money you deserve the truth.

It’s simple: is the address and the ombudsman is Esther Enkin. Be polite, be concise and tell them you expect better.

There is an election campaign on, policy matters, reporting matters and the truth matters.

READ Brian Lilley's book CBC Exposed -- it's been called "the political book of the year.”

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commented 2015-08-25 11:14:21 -0400
The CBC would not know what the truth was if it hit them in the face. SELL THE CBC
commented 2015-08-25 11:09:21 -0400
Unfortunately, my experience with the CBC Ombudsman left me with the opinion that they were less than enthusiastic of pursuing their mandate; were to willing to find an excuse why not to pursue a complaint and if nothing else wagged by CBC’s management and culture. Maybe we need a little bit more of Andre Marin as the CBC Ombudsman now that the Ontario Liberals have taken to removing any oversight of their activities by Ombudsman or oversight controls.