* This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author
As Canadians we respect our crown corporations. We take pride in owning our own national and provincial services such as Canada post, Via Rail and Hydro Quebec. Owning these companies ourselves ensures we pay bottom dollar for high quality services we all need.
The Canadian Broadcast Corporation is no exception. The publicly funded broadcaster has been around for more than seventy five years providing us with uniquely Canadian content, news and entertainment. Despite the fact that we pay roughly a billion dollars a year to keep it running, nearly 70% of Canadians wish to see its funding increased or remain the same. Only 12% of us wish to see it defunded completely.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government cut the CBC’s budget by 10% with their first majority budget last year. It’s long believed that the conservative government desires to fully privatize the CBC, after all privatization is part of their small government ideology. Harper knows the public wouldn’t stand for a privately owned CBC, but I’m afraid what they’re doing instead could be much worse.
The Harper government has been quietly seizing greater control of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and has been doing so since it was first elected. Since 2006, Harper has been stacking the CBC board of directors with conservative supporters.
Currently, all eleven board members began serving since Harper’s first election victory and according to the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting; eight of them have made political donations to the Conservative Party.
It gets worse; Harper has revealed his latest omnibus budget bill (Bill C-60). Deep inside the bill is a provision giving the Conservative government new powers to direct how the CBC spends the 80% of its budget dedicated to its labor costs, including its vast amount of journalists.
By giving the government complete control over the wages and working conditions of all CBC journalists and staff, Harper becomes the definitive boss of every CBC employee. After nearly eighty years, Canada’s public broadcaster is in serious danger of becoming the Conservative’s state broadcaster.
“This is an outrageous and unnecessary violation of the principle of public broadcasting,” said Carmel Smyth, national president of the Canadian Media Guild.
The CBC along with every other crown corporation has always been kept at an arm’s length of the federal government. While the directors and the amount of funding is decided upon by the governing party, wages, budgets, working conditions and company direction is not.
The CBC provides the last independent news service in Canada. By independent, I’m referring to the CBC not being part of the corporate media. They’re among the last news services with real investigative journalism in the country and they do not have to answer to corporate sponsors in the same fashion as CTV or Global.
The Harper Government is defending their actions by stating the move was meant to help the government rein in spending at Crown corporations that receive taxpayer funds. This asinine response couldn’t be further from the truth. The directors of crown corporations know ahead of time what their available funds will be, how they choose to budget it is up to them.
Marc-Philippe Laurin, the Canadian Media Guild’s president at the CBC wasn’t buying it either: “Make no mistake; this is not about the money. The Conservative government is effectively modifying the Broadcasting Act to inject itself into decisions such as staffing that have a major impact on everything that’s done at the CBC.”
It’s as if Harper doesn’t understand, but more likely doesn’t care to understand that the federal government doesn’t own the CBC, Canadians do. The CBC is publicly owned, but what Harper is on the way to achieving is turning Canada’s voice into his own.
For more information, please check out the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting website and sign their petition. This is not an issue we can afford to turn our backs on, Harper’s government has moved to limit debate of Bill C-60 in the House of Commons and time is running out.