“I’m from the government, how can I help . . . ?”

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

In much the same vein as the Quebec government cheerfully announced improvements to Pontiac’s health system by ending local management and
citizen-user participation, Quebec City has also just announced a budget to

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

In much the same vein as the Quebec government cheerfully announced improvements to Pontiac’s health system by ending local management and
citizen-user participation, Quebec City has also just announced a budget to
help “traditional media,” including small community newspapers. What a welcome idea!  The help?  That community newspapers stop being newspapers. 
Quebec will help fund a shift to on-line or digital “publications” – so forget the paper, the newspaper part.  Plus the newspapers themselves — financially suffering in part due to a withdrawal of all government notices — are themselves to pay fifty percent of what’s needed to carry out Quebec City’s Big Idea.
Every study I’ve read shows that digital newspapers are a losing proposition. No community papers are making enough on their web presence to pay for a wholesale shift of emphasis, resources, and personnel to digital. The huge Toronto Star closed its digital version this year after two years, losing $20 million. Is the government also ready to back up the losses they’ll cause? 
The government’s own figures used to buttress its silliness are the billions made by Google and Facebook.  “If they can do it, you can too!” – is that the ultimate reach of Liberal thinking? 
The opposite is true.  At our sister paper, the Bulletin d’Aylmer’s web version registers about 4,000 viewers per week. That’s substantial (for a local website), but the paper version of the Bulletin is read by close to 50,000 people, every week. Paper.
We shouldn’t be partisan.  The other parties seem to have given the same two minutes thought to this Big Idea . . . so let’s look at the concept itself; let’s assume going with the web IS a good idea. This should apply to more than newspapers, right? Where else would it show a lot of savings?  Provide efficiencies?
How about the government?! Let’s see the Quebec government itself go entirely digital.  There’s a Big Idea.
Imagine the savings, just from the operations of the National Assembly . . . add the cabinet ministers and their chauffeurs . . . newspapers are peanuts! Here’s
genuine savings for Quebec taxpayers. Imagine the savings just on recycling
all that official paper.  Imagine selling the National Assembly building!  Imagine then putting some of that money back into health care in the Pontiac and other rural regions.
How this might work:  We elect a government based on each party’s platform and promises, but this government needs no MNAs, no cabinet – big savings! The public service examines the winning platform (and current issues) and proposes measures for the coming year.
No more interminable discussion by MNAs in the Assembly on such profundities as women’s apparel on buses or using “Bonjour-Hi!” as a greeting.  No MNAs at all! The bureaucrats will come up with the projects (as they do, anyway) – but from here it goes digital, and we each vote, once a week, via a voting website. Digitally counted, the government algorithm announces the result – presto, we have a new law (or not). Digitized government! This gives us each a role to play, every week! Real democracy!
The Liberals would have to support this. If digital’s good for newspapers, it’s even better for government since it saves so much money. 
Downside: MNAs, cabinet ministers and consultants would have to get jobs now, but, as with the newspaper editors, that’s their problem. So, let’s hear it in Quebec City for this great Liberal idea!
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Folks, it’s ridiculous of course . . . but less ridiculous than having no newspapers?