CONFERENCE BOARD MEETING

HARRISON HOT SPRINGS. MAY 30TH – JUNE 1ST, 1980

THE RESPONSIBLE CRITIC

“Mediocrity is the easiest thing in the world to achieve. Just start attacking the people who have been working like slaves to establish things, make money scarce, concentrate on errors of judgement rather than the successes and you’ll get it sure enough. That’s not criticism you know, that’s bitching and it’s a very effective instrument of destruction.”

– Erik Bruhn (Quoted by John Fraser, Globe and Mail, December 2nd, 1972).

Last week, I spent four days at a CRTC Hearing;

– about three days were occupied with interventions by groups representing small minority interests.

– many good and responsible comments were heard as well.

– no question, such groups must be heard, but I have a growing concern about the influence of irresponsible minorities in society.

I say irresponsible because these groups often offer no real alternative and have no responsibility for developing new businesses, taking risks, or creating or running anything at all.

The answer is not to deny them the right to protest – far from it.

The approach we should take is to make sure that such comments are seen in perspective.

– we need to ensure that we have an informed and responsible press, i.e. responsible critics.

THE ROLE OF CRITICISM

In my view, the role of criticism is to encourage change for the better.

Many critics, however, recognize the rights of minorities but ignore their obligations to use those rights responsibly.

Regrettably, many of those in the news media have come through an educational system with little orientation toward business. Young graduates of journalism school move right into reporting jobs never having had the responsibility of managing anything.

These well intentioned but inexperienced reporters who do most of the interviewing these days tend to pick up the inflammatory positions of the minority protest groups and often give a very unbalanced picture in the media.

The consequences of this can be very costly. I am one who believes that governments in the industrialized West in general try to do a conscientious job. However, with the constant irresponsible criticism fewer and fewer competent people will run for public office. As you and I know as business men, the best approach is always to put the right person in the right job. Without the right people in our top political jobs the country will be in a serious problem.

I believe the irresponsibility of much of the media is a major cause of the declining ability of governments to cope.

Decisions become less and less rational as minorities* views tend to dominate. An example is the uranium mining decision in British Columbia.

A POTENTIAL SOLUTION

Obviously not all of us can run for elected office, but we could play a more active role in ensuring a balanced view is presented to the public. We could do this through letters, articles and speeches.

We can contact our universities and offer co-op programmes for students to expose them to business. We can offer to talk to students. We can go as far as to encourage the teachers of our youth to spend time with business either on sabbaticals or through contracts.

We can encourage more dialogue with government which is not as difficult as many imagine. It only takes time and effort. We can, as many of us do, volunteer time to serve on government committees.

In making these suggestions, I am trying to be helpful and be a responsible critic of the critics because I believe this is a serious problem in modern democratic society.