I was watching a Jack Layton press conference yesterday on CPAC, the one where he “raised the spectre of the depression” by invoking R.B. Bennett, the conservative PM who governed during the worst of the Great Depression from 1930 to 1935. “Mr. Harper’s response to the crisis in the banking system is to say that everything is fine, nothing needs to change, and there are no problems,” Layton said; “R.B. Bennett couldn’t have said it better himself in 1930.” It was interesting to watch how the reporters asking questions at the conference were trying very hard to bait Layton into turning this statement into a tasty sound bite for the evening news. After he made his invocation, he was asked questions three times that rephrased his invocation in a way that made it sound scandalous, but needed only a couple seconds of airtime to cover. “So are you saying there’s going to be a recession, or a depression?” one of them asked. “Are you saying that if Harper gets elected there’s going to be a depression?” “Is this a scare tactic to raise the spectre of a depression?”
Ignoring for a moment the ability of anyone to say whether or not there is going to be a depression, let alone poli-sci-major Jack Layton, it is interesting to contrast Layton’s point with the news bite that the reporters were trying to extract from it. Layton’s point was reasonable – he was claiming that Bennett in 1930 was rallying around the same stay-the-course mentality that Harper is today, which expresses a fairly bad case of denial. He wasn’t asserting that Bennett caused the Great Depression—how could he back that up?—or that there’s going to be a depression—how could he know that? The meat of the point was that Bennett, like Harper, denied that there was a problem, which is a stance that precludes finding solutions.
About five minutes later, I was watching the evening news, and there was the story about Jack Layton “raising the spectre of the Depression.” Apparently, after failing to bait Layton into producing the soundbite they wanted, they jumped on the soundbite produced by the third reporter instead, and used that to constitute their story. Incidentally, they included the bit where Layton denies exaggerating Canada’s economic position—he wasn’t saying anything about Canada’s economic position, after all, but was merely reiterating his party’s line that Harper is a failure at everything.