Yesterday The Current published an article reporting on misinformation being spread by one of the incumbent candidates for Madawaska Valley (MV) Council. His ability to mislead the public has been assisted by the inexcusable refusal on the part of the Valley Gazette and The Eganville Leader to report to their readers one single fact about the abuse of power claims made against members of MV Council and the subsequent decisions of a Superior Court judge and the Court of Appeal confirming The Current’s right to bring these claims. As we have previously reported both publishers, Michel Lavigne of the Valley Gazette and Gerald Tracey of The Eganville Leader, after being urged to do so by the Township, were spectators during the Superior Court hearing held in May 2021. The Current received information shortly afterwards that both of them had been requested on behalf of the Defendants (MV Council and Township) not to publish anything about the hearing, doubtless because it did not go as well as they had hoped. That concern subsequently proved to be well-founded when Justice Doyle’s Decision dismissing their application was released a few months later.
Despite both newspapers devoting saturation coverage to litigation involving a single member of Council in Brudenell Lyndoch Raglan (BLR) and which involved a much less eye-watering expenditure on legal costs, the two newspapers continued their concerted news suppression on all aspects of The Current’s litigation against all members of MV Council and the Township. This despite the fact that The Current’s legal claim explicitly claims that the treatment of it amounted to interference with freedom of the press.
This self-imposed gagging by the two newspapers – in addition to raising serious questions about their journalistic ethics (The Leader in fact receives public funding under the Federal Government’s Local Journalism Initiative) – provides fertile ground for the dissemination of “alternative facts.” This is because most of the readers of those two newspapers, if they do not also read The Current, remain in the dark about the conduct of elected officials, the Court decisions, and the high expenditures of legal fees – all of which affect them.
This was hammered home this month with mayoral candidate Roger Prince’s attempt to set the record straight about the issue of legal costs. He sent a letter addressed as “Open Letter to MV Residents” to The Leader, the Valley Gazette and The Current for publication. Although both The Leader and the Valley Gazette declined to publish it, The Current did. Click HERE to read.
The Current reached out to Prince to see if he had been given any reason by the respective publishers for their failure to do so. He responded as follows:
“I was motivated to write a letter to the Editor after being questioned at an all-candidates meeting as to where I was getting my facts and figures. I felt it was important to let my fellow taxpayers know where I obtained the information, it is all of public record and available for anyone to review and make their own decision.”
“I approached all three local papers wanting to give them equal opportunity to report on this important matter of public interest. I was surprised to learn that both the Valley Gazette and Eganville Leader indicated they were not comfortable reporting on this story for fear of lost advertising revenue from the township. This in itself is of grave concern.”
Prince also pointed out that Michel Lavigne, publisher of the Valley Gazette, confirmed to him that he had done his own review of legal fees information posted on the Township website and found that there was a “discrepancy.” Lavigne was referring to the omission of Schedules containing the “Actual” fees claimed by their lawyers. The Current has written to CAO Suzanne Klatt requesting an explanation for this incomplete disclosure, but has not yet received a response. Prince also said that surprisingly Lavigne expressed concern about being sued for defamation even though all he was being asked to do was to publish a letter to the editor that referred to information in the public domain.
It is reprehensible if it is the case that our local officials resort to using the threat of withholding advertising revenue so as to manipulate what the media reports. This likely also explains why MV Township would not even permit The Current to tender for some of its advertising needs.
Given this sordid state of affairs, The Current is confident that voters who have only the interests of this community in mind will send a clear message on October 24 that such tyrannical, arrogant and financially wasteful conduct on the part of its elected officials should not and will not be tolerated. Thankfully voters are blessed by what appears to be a broad, well-motivated panel of alternative candidates to select from and thus are in a position to ensure that none of the incumbents or candidates who have held office during the past two council terms are returned to office.
Roger Paul, Madawaska Valley