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Apparently, the Prime Minister's Office is hiring a "storyteller."

I must admit, when I first heard this bit of news, it seemed funny to me, in a "how could the government possibly do something so crazily stupid" sort of way.

Imagine using tax dollars to pay a "storyteller" nearly $100,000 a year to do nothing all day but spin yarns and tell tall tales about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government.

Isn't that what the Liberal communications staff is for?

In fact, as a joke, I even toyed with the idea of applying for the story teller job myself, submitting the following story as part of my resume:

"Once upon a time, there lived a handsome prince named Justin Trudeau, who was adored throughout the land.  His wisdom was so great, his charm so awesome, his beauty so legendary, that before long, his lucky subjects realized he was the greatest leader to ever live in the entire history of the universe.  The End."

Then I realized that joke really wouldn't work because the CBC basically tells that same story on an almost daily basis.

Moreover, I also began to realize that maybe the federal government hiring a "storyteller" wasn't so crazy after all.

Keep in mind, we humans are species which love stories.

Stories not only entertain us, but they also help us make sense of the world, which is why over the millennia we've concocted myths and legends and epics.

Indeed, we like stories so much that we even like to turn our perceptions of reality into something resembling a fictional narrative.

The ancient Greeks, for instance, began the tradition of dramatizing their history; tales of their past deeds were filled with action and suspense, heroes and villains, tragedies and triumphs.

Just read the works of Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian, who recorded the history of the Greek-Persian wars of the 5th century BC; he's the guy who portrayed the Spartans not only as fearsome bad-asses, but also gave them awesomely cool action one-liners that even Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn't match, i.e.  when the Persians threaten to blot out the sky with their arrows, Herodotus has a Spartan reply, "Then we'll fight in the shade."

Take that Dirty Harry.

Ever since then, historians have basically been storytellers, experts who take a bunch of random stuff that happened in the past, and then mold it into stirring narratives to explain the rise and fall of Empires, to justify or condemn wars or to chart the course of some supposedly preordained course of history.

And these history stories can change: 100 years ago, historians told us John A. Macdonald was a national hero, today, they're telling us he was a terrible racist.

Journalists too like to be storytellers.

They will often take complex and complicated current events and boil them down into simplistic plots, plots which typically pit one-dimensional good guys against one dimensional bad guys.

For example, many in the media depict certain political personalities, such as Donald Trump and Stephen Harper, as irredeemably bad, while others, such as Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama, are cast as irredeemably good.

It makes for better conflict, which makes for a better story.  Every Luke Skywalker needs a Darth Vader.

So, my point is stories are all around us, in history books, in our newspapers, on social media.

Is it any wonder then, that the Liberal government would want to employ a professional storyteller to help it frame its policies and agenda?

It seems only natural.

Yet, telling stories isn't easy.

Whether you're a government storyteller or a journalist or a historian, if the story you want to tell is going to click with the public, it must offer moral lessons, it must reassure us that the side of right and justice will ultimately prevail; it must, in short, lead us to believe that we'll live "happily ever after."

Understanding this truth, the media, at least, tries to deliver.  When Trudeau won the federal election in 2015, for example, it was widely promoted in the mainstream media as a victory of idealism over cynicism, of light over dark, of good over evil.

The story had ended — "Sunny ways" had won.

But, in the real world, life has a way of going on: events keep occurring, circumstances keep changing, assumptions are proven wrong, all of which can sometimes challenge the media's preferred storyline.

Trudeau, for instance, has had his share of missteps, scandals and setbacks, which have somewhat undermined the media's "Trudeau is our political savior" narrative.

What's more, when it comes to Trudeau not all Canadians are religiously following the mainstream media's story arc; some are following different stories originating from "alternativemedia, stories which have cast the prime minister as the bad guy.

All of this is leading to a disconnected society; not only are we growing increasingly disconnected from reality, but more and more we're also becoming disconnected with each other.

In other words, we're all getting so invested in media-spun stories, that we risk isolating ourselves on small intellectual islands which dot the seas of illusion.  (Hey, that's a cool metaphor.  Maybe I would make a good government story teller?)

At any rate, my point is, it's not healthy to lose sight of reality.

Is there anything we can do about this?  Is there a way we can distinguish between stories and reality?

Well, maybe science fiction writer Philip K. Dick provided an answer, when he said, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

Photo Credit: Maclean's

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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This is your daily campaign trail update with everything you need for Oct. 19, 2020.

The B.C. provincial election will be held Oct. 24.

This is your daily campaign trail update with everything you need for Oct. 19, 2020.

This page will be updated throughout the day, with developments added as they happen.


WHERE THE LEADERS ARE TODAY

Sonia Furstenau, Green:  

The Green leader will take calls with the media and stakeholders on Monday morning, before participating in a live radio broadcast from 12 to 12:30 p.m.In the afternoon, she’ll host a press conference at Brentwood Bay Resort to share the Green party’s plant for BC Ferries. In the evening, Fursteneau will participate remotely in a UBC Environmental Policy Association event.

John Horgan, NDP

: The NDP leader remains on Vancouver Island on Monday, with plans for an announcement and media availability at 10:30 a.m., followed by a brief visit to Saanich North and the Islands, before hopping over to the mainland for a another quick to visit in Cloverdale-Fleetwood where he’ll pop into candidate Mike Starchuk’s campaign office.

Andrew Wilkinson, Liberal:

The Liberal leader will hold a media availability at Pitt lake Boat Launch at 10 a.m. today. The event will be

livestreamed

.


TWEETS FROM THE TRAIL


GUIDES AND LINKS

• B.C. Election 2020: Stay informed with our daily newsletter, delivered to your inbox every day at noon. Sign up here.

Read the latest news on B.C. Election 2020

Here’s how, where and when to vote

Received a blank ballot? Here’s how to fill it out

What candidates are running in my riding?

Register to vote in the B.C. Election

Find your electoral district


CAMPAIGN TRAIL NEWS

12 a.m. – Party leaders close final pre-election weekend with deeper dives into their platforms

The leaders of each of B.C.’s major parties closed the last weekend before the election in friendly ridings, touting their promises on topics as diverse as fish, housing and telecommunications.

John Horgan, the leader of the B.C. NDP, started his four-stop day on Vancouver Island in Campbell River, where he vowed to protect wild salmon.

Horgan said his party would work to double the $143-million B.C. Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund and create a watershed security strategy, including a fund to support local and Indigenous initiatives.

“Wild salmon are crucial to the success of our economy, the prosperity of coastal communities, and the lives of Indigenous peoples,” Horgan said. “The challenges affecting wild salmon stocks in B.C. are complex. It’s important that we work with people and communities to find solutions.”

12 a.m. – Parties take different approaches to environment

Nowhere do the three main parties diverge more than on the environment. Getting a handle on what they are each planning means looking into their aspirations for the energy sector, too.

Here’s our roundup of each party’s stance on the environment.

12 a.m. – Long on promises, short on plans to pay for them

The platforms of each party contain scant information about how they intend to pay for all the things they have promised us. There is no section in any party platform listing the new taxes we can expect to pay if they are elected. So, we have to squint a little to see what’s coming.


WHAT THE LEADERS ARE SAYING:

Sonia Furstenau, Green:

“We can’t just keep promising to make life more affordable and just keep tinkering around the edges,” she said. “That’s why the B.C. Greens have set a goal of everyone having a home that they can afford and that meets their needs.”

John Horgan, NDP:

“Wild salmon are crucial to the success of our economy, the prosperity of coastal communities, and the lives of Indigenous peoples,” Horgan said in an announcement discussing what the NDP would do to protect B.C.’s salmon. “The challenges affecting wild salmon stocks in B.C. are complex. It’s important that we work with people and communities to find solutions.”

Andrew Wilkinson, Liberal:

“This is their winter of discontent,” Wilkinson said of tourism operators in B.C. “This is their winter where they’re worried sick if they’re going to be able to meet their bills.”


DAILY POLL

Take Our Poll


SOCIAL MEDIA STUMPING


B.C. Election 2020: Stay informed with our daily newsletter, delivered to your inbox every day at noon. Sign up here.



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NDP Leader John Horgan, right to left, Green leader Sonia Furstenau and Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson prepare for a debate at the Chan Centre in Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 13, 2020.

The platforms of each party contain scant information about how they intend to pay for all the things they have promised us. There is no section in any party platform listing the new taxes we can expect to pay if they are elected. So, we have to squint a little to see what’s coming.


 NDP Leader John Horgan holds a party-branded cupcake during a campaign stop at a cupcake shop, in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. A provincial election will be held in British Columbia on October 24.

The NDP

As the incumbent government, the NDP has already tipped its hand on the kinds of things the party sees as fair game to tax: Mostly wealth. A handful of new taxes have proven to be quite popular, especially the speculation and vacancy tax on empty homes. They have also introduced a foreign-buyers tax on real estate and increased the property transfer tax and the school tax on properties worth more than $3 million. This year’s budget also introduced a new top bracket of income tax on people who make more than $220,000. The elimination of Medical Services Premiums lifts the burden of paying for medical system off of working folks, and places it squarely on businesses. Are there more changes to come? You’ll have to wait and find out.


 Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. A provincial election will be held in British Columbia on October 24.

The Liberals

The Liberals have promised to suspend the provincial sales tax for one year, then bring it back at three per cent for another year. How they will replace $11 billion in revenue isn’t clear. While some economists have noted that poor and middle class people pay a larger percentage of their income on consumer goods while are subject to the sales, tax, the NDP noted that cutting the PST will not help anyone with rent, groceries or child care, but it will make yachts cheaper.

Under a Liberal government, the speculation tax would be replaced with a flipping tax aimed at condo speculators. They are promising a tax credit for seniors of $7,000 a year to assist with the cost of home care. The small business tax will be eliminated and an independent fair tax commission would review every one of “the NDP’s 23 different new or increased taxes.”


 Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau.

The Greens

The Green party has vowed to apply the carbon tax to slash burning “to reduce carbon emissions from our forestry sector and ensure that we use residual materials.” Expect a property tax surcharge on foreigners who own homes here, along with a “flipping” tax on properties bought and sold over a short period of time. Likewise, the speculation tax will be extended to condo resales. Say goodbye to bare trust property transfers as a means to avoid the property transfer tax.

The Greens’ policy document condemns “regressive” taxes and promises “a simpler, transparent and truly progressive tax system by eliminating loopholes and frivolous tax credits.” It also supports the use of taxes on carbon, tobacco, and alcohol to “encourage desired behaviour.”


The Expert

“This economic crisis isn’t like any we’ve seen. It has hit some people extremely hard in small business and the service sector,” said SFU economist Steeve Mongrain. “So policy needs to be quite targeted.”

While the Liberals’ PST pledge makes some goods cheaper for everyone, the New Democrats’ idea of giving families a $1,000 recovery benefit to spend is a “more direct approach.” The bonus is that it benefits people with modest incomes and not the rich, “but it would be even better if it could be directed to the people and sectors that have been most seriously impacted.”