For the past two or so years in Montreal, "Canada’s leading city of corruption," journalists like André Noël and Alain Gravel have been obsessed with the so-called conflicts of interest between prominent businessmen and politicians. Ironically, it’s the businessmen who take the hardest hits to their reputations while warring politicians simply continue to manipulate the Canadian press to promote their own agendas.
Yet breaking stories about conflicts of interest in every country are featured on global newspapers each day. France and its media machinery have been equally occupied with releasing news stories about French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s alleged receipt of cash payments by L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.
The key difference between these "breaking scandals" – a term one should use lightly given that kick-backs, cash-payments, and the subsidizing of government officials by powerful businessmen plagues every country on earth – is that Montreal journalists have slaughtered the reputations of the businessmen in question based on heresy and rumors, whereas on the French side, L’Oreal’s Bettencourt’s reputation remains relatively unfettered.
French journalists don’t seem that traumatized or even surprised to hear of Sarkozy’s reported cash payments. In fact, an AFP news piece released on August 26, 2010 went as far as to run a headline titled, "Bettencourt saga ‘does not impact’ L’Oreal: chief executive."
But Montreal is a different story. Thanks to the work of slander-hungry Canadian journalists like André Noël, one can hardly say the same about his targets’ business standings at present, not to mention their reputations. Noël’s punching bags are losing big contracts because of the way journalists have spun the news against them, turning political wars into personal attacks. Noël probably doesn’t care about the effects his articles have on businessmen or on the public. But maybe he will care if he ends up being fired for misleading thousands of readers by failing to fact-check his work.
In light of this, one would be remiss not to point out that La Presse, André Noël’s employer, is owned by Power Corporation through its subsidiary Gesca, which just happens to own six other Canadian newspapers. Power Corporation is controlled by the Desmarais family, and the company is known for its active participation in Canadian politics through the Desmarais family’s relationships with prominent government connections. Interestingly, you can read about reclusive and powerful" Quebec billionaire Paul Desmarais’ political ties as well as those of his son, André Desmarais, in media outlets across the world — except, ironically, any of the newspapers in Canada, although Canada.com has one article exposing Desmarais connections to the likes of Sarkozy, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Biran Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, and almost every Quebec premier.
Why don’t we hear more about who finances journalists whose paychecks come from the Power Corporation? The answer is disturbingly simple. The Desmarais control what information the public hears in Canada, and who journalists like André Noël will target after they finish tearing apart Montreal’s leading business people.