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Outdoor ad rejection — politics or blow to freedom of speech?

Ron Walter writes about a billboard critical of the Sask Party being rejected by Direct West
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Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

The freedoms taken for granted under democratic government are fragile.

We witnessed that on Jan. 6 when an angry mob succeeded in invading the U.S Senate; when Polish leaders fired judges who ruled against them, among other such incidents.

Freedom of speech is one of the principles underpinning our government system.

Loss of these freedoms starts by chipping away at our rights.

The recent refusal by SaskTel-owned Direct West to post an outdoor ad criticizing the Moe government is one of those little chipping away moments.

The ad criticizing the Moe government’s attitude toward health care home staffing was rejected as being “divisive.’’

Strangely it wasn’t considered divisive by two privately-owned outdoor ad agencies that accepted it and posted it on billboards.

Why the difference?

The upper management and board of Direct West and SaskTel owe their jobs to appointments by the Moe government. The practice of rewarding political supporters with cushy board of director jobs on Crown corporations is longstanding.

We don’t know if the ad was rejected after phone calls to the Sask Party or if cautious Crown corporation types just acted out of party loyalty.       

While any corporation can choose to accept or reject business it wants, Crown corporations ought to operate under a different non-political policy.

Just what was so divisive about the heymoe.ca website promoted in the ad?

The ad by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) West lobbied for better treatment of health care workers and more staffing. 

What is so divisive about that? These are legitimate issues for public discussion. Trying to censor the union presenting them is undemocratic and a restraint of free speech, and probably violates the charter of rights.

Some of the key arguments put forth by the heymoe.ca website follow:

SEIU health care employees have experienced absence of or insufficient personal protective equipment during the pandemic.

They experience ever-changing rules, increased expenses, lack of mental health support and insufficient staffing.

The website demands hiring more health care staff, ensuring workplace safety and fair pay.

It is worth noting that staffing levels in health care, especially in long-term care, have been subject of frequent requests for set standards of employees to guests.

Exactly what is so divisive about these demands?

Or is this a show of an aging government’s arrogance and eye on longevity rather than on people’s needs?

Ron Walter can be reached at ronjoy@sasktel.net

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.