Fazil Follies: The Perfect End

Fazil Mihlar went from the Fraser Institute to being an editor with the Vancouver Sun to being the Assistant Deputy Minister in charge of the B.C. Liberal government’s oil & gas initiatives. Joining other journalists who have moved seemlessly from the pages and television screens of big journalism into the employ of those they were reporting on and, supposedly, serving as watchdog over on the public’s behalf (Hi, Pamela Martin!).

During his time at the Sun, Mihlar wrote countless articles in support of oil and gas projects (Example. Also: See here). Can we really say he was acting on the behalf of the public interest during his tenure?

That’s a rhetorical question.

This is a big problem for the field of journalism. A big problem, and I’m sorry that people like Vaughn Palmer don’t see what the big deal is. The public need investigative reporters, not court stenographers or industry spokespeople. Even if it’s just a perception of a conflict of interest, perception counts. And in this case I don’t think it was merely perception. The record speaks for itself.

P.S. I’m sure Mihlar is a very nice fellow on a personal level.

UPDATE: Here is Mr. Mihlar’s LinkedIn profile. You’ll note he has an M.A. in Public Administration, a B.A. in economics, a “diploma” in Marketing and, notably, no degree/certificate/diploma in journalism. Yet he was Editorial Page Editor at the Sun 2003-2012. Guess which degree diploma he got the most use out of?

Again, I’m sure he’s a very nice fellow. This is not ultimately a comment on Fazil Mihlar. What this really speaks to is the Vancouver Sun and how much faith you, the public, should put into it.



  1. Stephen Rees

    No. What this really speaks to is the end of a professional public service in BC. The civil service is supposed to be objective and above politics. Fazil Mihlar may be qualified to work as a Ministerial Assistant (an Order in Council temporary political position) but he is by no means the best candidate for an ADM – senior management position in a large organization.

    Furthermore, he has built his career to date on systematically destroying the public’s confidence in the public service, making the words “bureaucratic” and “wasteful” synonymous. He cannot command the confidence of his staff since he has up to now condemned all of them, out of hand, as lazy and incompetent. As a matter of political expedience and in the service of his masters – the rich and powerful.

    he is by no stretch of the imagination ” a very nice fellow”. He is a greedy opportunist. He is not competent or qualified for this post as his only recommendation is his political commitment to right wing ideology.

  2. Jeff Lee

    Oh Good Lord, Stephen! Quit painting Fazil as a devil with horns. Personally, I like him. I think he’s a brilliant guy, and you won’t see me writing things criticizing his mind. I am being careful, however, in how I describe him. In his capacity as an associate editor he was a journalist. But to any of us who know him, he was more of an unabashedly pro-business economist who brought that point of view to the newspaper. What I liked – and like – about Fazil is that he never pretended to be a reporter for whom expressing a personal opinion was verboten. He guided the stance of the newspaper’s editorial position in a pro-business way, yes. But he also made sure that other positions were adequately represented. He was paid for his opinions.
    What he also did – and it is something most newspaper editorialists do – is point out when government and its employees can do a better job. “Wasteful” and “bureaucatic” synonymous in his lexicon? I hardly think so.
    Being an ADM in oil and gas exploration is probably a perfectly suitable position for him, given his skills and views. Now, if he was to apply for a job as an ADM for children and families or social development, I might have a different view.
    By the way, who in the world said that journalists can’t or shouldn’t make a transition to a new career, and that their skills as inquiring minds should automatically disqualify them.
    My biggest beef with all this is that, knowing Fazil’s tight lips, journalists at The Vancouver Sun shouldn’t expect to get a leg up first on anything he’s working on!

    • Norman Farrell

      “But he also made sure that other positions were adequately represented.”

      Oh, really?

      “By the way, who in the world said that journalists can’t or shouldn’t make a transition to a new career,”

      Who? Maybe a conflict-of-interest ethicist who sees the potential for a media manager shaping public information so that he/she can enjoy rewards from groups that benefit by the media coverage.

      But then, Postmedia decided some time ago to ignore at least this inconvenient ethical barrier. The organization Free Press could easily have been talking about British Columbia:
      “If you don’t know how power works in this country — and you aren’t allowed to see the financial interests that often lurk behind prominent political voices — it’s next to impossible to make meaningful decisions at the polls.”

    • spartikus

      Hi Jeff – thanks for stopping in & defending the flag. I would love to see a reinvigorated, properly-funded Vancouver Sun that holds the feet of power to fire. One that didn’t need to outsource columns to think-tanks. The Guardian seems to be able to make it work.

      But he also made sure that other positions were adequately represented.

      Left-wing and environmental op-eds have graced and grace the pages of the Vancouver Sun, yes. But an unscientific survey through the Canadian Newstand database shows the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives mentioned 89 times in the Sun in 2011 – the top year for that result. By contrast the number of mentions for the Fraser Institute in the same year was 206. And that was not a top year.

      Of course this type of search won’t tell you whether the Fraser Institute or the CCPA are mentioned positively or negatively but I certainly suspect that articles originating out of these respective think-tanks published in the Sun would maintain the discrepancy.

      There is no requirement for the ratio to be 50-50 right-wing/left-wing – but the simple fact is the Fraser Institute consistently produces misleading & sloppy work. And that’s not my opinion, but the opinion of many economists. I’m tired of reading them, because I know the information being presented will be cherry-picked.

      Again, I’m sure Fazil Mihlar is nice guy. But as you yourself concede he was true believer in capitalism and true believers don’t look for evidence that might call their faith into question. And as we stand in the rubble of capitalisms latest little hiccup what we need is someone willing to ask those questions.

      And call me naive or old-fashioned, but I would like reporters to be graduates of a journalism school and for editors to have worked their way up through the ranks.

  3. Pingback: TEA & TWO SLICES | On Dishwashing For Free And Douchetastic Restaurant Pickets : Scout Magazine
  4. Pingback: Reader mail: On the state of journalism | The Exile