CBC cuts: This is not just about the money. The issue is parliamentary sovereignty

By Robert Peladeau

Bob Peladeau

Oh boy – the CBC cuts ! Don’t get me started folks

I have served on the on the CMG advocacy committee for seven years , analyzing the situation and trying to help the CBC become what it can be – a public broadcaster for all Canadians.

Please allow me a few political facts for a broader perspective  on this week’s axe swinging.

The founders of the CBC, Alphonse Ouimet and Graham Spry, described their creation from its early days of parliamentary inception in 1936 as being ” over politicized and underfunded by the government…”  So nothing has changed.

In the days of  Robert Rabinovitch as CBC president, from 1999-to 2007, certain MPs asked us why should the government put money in a Crown corporation that has serious employee-management problems and spending too much on legal fees to adjudicate grievances. We reacted by trying to improve the situation.

A new relationship

After Hubert Lacroix took over the reigns, the number of grievances has diminished to almost nil. A new relationship has been established, but there is no money from the government, nothing to to stop cuts and, even worse, no increase to cover the inflationary pressure on the annual budget, as received by the other Crown corporations. For the past 30 years, the CBC receives nothing in budgetary allowances to offset annual inflation and in my opinion this is identical to an annual budget cut and a hidden one.

The CMG advocacy committee successfully lobbied the Heritage Department for a parliamentary revue committee  of the CBC’s mandate and participated with its input. The Heritage committee was unanimous in voting for more CBC funding, including a recommendation to convert its 710 analogue transmitters to digital instead of shutting them down.

Even the Conservatives on the committee voted to save the transmitters. But when it came to the decision on how much to give the CBC, based on what would be required to comply with the government’s new digital conversion law, the same Conservatives went silent at the table. When the committee brought the unanimous vote for its newly proposed CBC mandate to the House of Commons, the Conservatives, including the MPs who initially voted in favour, turned down the proposals.

So today, still no support from a government that believes that the CBC is biting the hand that feeds it because it broadcasts news stories that hurt the government, whether Liberal or Conservative.

My personal view is that  the CBC came into being by an act of Parliament . It was not created by the state, which has no right under parliamentary sovereignty to alter its mandate or level of funding. What we have been facing for years at the CBC is a symptom affecting many Canadians and federal programs – the erosion of parliamentary sovereignty that began 150  years ago by the state government which believed that the Parliament and the Senate curtailed too much of the power held by the ruling party of Sir John A.  Macdonald.

Just ask me sometime …

Traditionally, Canada’s MPs were protected by parliamentary sovereignty if they voted against their own party’s legislation in the House. This democratic safe guard is gone now. An MP who votes against their party is exiled to the back benches.

So yes, this is not just about the money. The issue is parliamentary sovereignty.

What does it say about a government that doesn’t support its own Crown corporation, denying the funding needed to meet its own newly imposed federal law on digital broadcasting ?

I have many more stories about the shocking political interference at the CBC that I have personally witnessed during my 32 years at the Corporation. CBC. Just ask me sometime.

Enough said  – breathe  in … breathe out … Relax … Hey, it’s Saturday again! Funny how everyday of retirement now feels like a Saturday.

Just my two bits !