Whoa! Canada

laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Bill C-60 vs. CBC, Culture and Press Freedom

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In Canada we can write or call our Member of Parliament (MP) to let them know when they are making a mistake.  I expect the legislation drafted as Bill C-60: Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 — An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures has other problems threaded throughout its 128 pages but the mistake that concerns me is the bit about Crown Corporations in general, and in particular, the CBC.

To make it easy for Canadians, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting set up an online form letter. I’m one of the 71,393 Canadians (so far) to use their form letter to tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper and my own MP, Harold Albrecht, not to threaten the CBC’s autonomy by passing Bill C-60.

I haven’t heard back from the Prime Minister’s Office, but today I heard from my own MP, Harold Albrecht.

Dear Laurel,

The MP attending a High School Commencement ceremony

Harold Albrecht, MP

Thank you for contacting my office to express your concerns regarding Bill C-60 and the CBC. I appreciate your input on this matter.

Crown Corporations, such as the CBC, receive appropriations from Parliament, and our Government would like to see consistency in wage and benefits among all Crown Corporations and the civil service. This means that any individual doing the same type of work at the CBC should be receiving the same amount of money if they were doing the same job in any other Crown Corporation or Federal Department.

This is what Bill C-60 is seeking to secure. This mandate will make certain that we have the correct instruments in place to protect taxpayer dollars at the bargaining table if it is necessary. We have a responsibility and commitment to spend taxpayer dollars wisely and will work closely with Crown corporations to ensure this happens.

I would like to ensure you that the measures in Bill C-60 do not affect the funding or the independent operation of the CBC, or any other Crown Corporations.

I thank you again for contacting my office to express your concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any future concerns or inquiries.

Sincerely,

Harold Albrecht, MP
Kitchener-Conestoga

While I am sure Harold is sincere, his government has missed a couple of key points, so I decided to help matters along by writing him back to clear a few things up.

Harold Albrecht, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Harold,

Thank you for your response. While I do understand your position, it fails to take into account two very important considerations.

The first is Canadian CultureCBC simply is not the same as any other Crown Corporation because it is tasked with delivering Canadian culture to Canadians.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has no equivalent to Mr. Dressup.

Nor is a Camera Operator a Letter Carrier. A Letter Carrier follows a set of rules laid down from above, while a Camera Operator has achieved a level of technical expertise which is used in conjunction with a certain degree of creativity.

Although I have not myself worked at CBC, I have written television drama professionally, and I very much hope that there is no job like that at the Bank of Canada.

Canadian commitment to the CBC (and the NFB) has helped grow our cultural heritage. No one is suggesting that CBC is perfect, but direct government intervention to micromanage it is not the way to go.

The second crucial consideration is the other reason CBC was established, to ensure all Canadians have access to Canadian News — which does not simply mean a regional version of American News.

Public broadcasting is important to ensure Corporate agendas don’t trump the public good, which is why Canada is not the only nation in the world delivering public broadcasting to its citizens. Even the United States – the world leader in commercial broadcasting – has independent Public Broadcasting.

For the better part of the first two years I was writing the Stop Usage Based Billing blog, the only national mainstream media outlet in Canada that reported on our peculiarly Canadian UBB issue was CBC.  Unlike its self interested commercial competitors (which worked to keep the issue away from Canadians), CBC’s mandate is not just the the bottom line, but to keep Canadians informed.

While it is appropriate for the Federal Government to disburse funds to CBC, if government dictates how the money will be spent, journalistic independence will be lost and news will become propaganda.  If the news media is controlled by government, there can be no free press.

You must appreciate that while your government has a responsibility to spend taxpayer dollars wisely, this can be done without compromising press freedom. The Broadcasting Act gave CBC total autonomy in staffing decisions to ensure a free press, which is a necessary component of democracy.

Your assurance that the measures in Bill C-60 will not affect the funding or the independent operation of the CBC, or any other Crown Corporations, rings hollow in light of your government’s rejection of the Peggy Nash motion asking the finance committee to study the measure. If we are to have accountable democratic government, legislation requires sufficient scrutiny.

Bill C-60 will do remarkable damage both to Canadian culture and Press Freedom.  For these reasons, as well as others echoed across the news media and the Internet, I ask you, as my duly elected Member of Parliament, to please vote “no” to Bill C-60.

Regards,
Laurel L. Russwurm

I didn’t go into the inappropriateness of Omnibus Bills in a democracy ~ this one contains so much disparate material that Peggy Nash wanted it split into six parts.

Since I’m not an expert on Crown Corporations, I limited myself to addressing the CBC issues.

Maybe I should have suggested it would be wise to consider why these Crown Corporations were established as independent entities in the first place.  The CBC is not a branch of the Civil Service, nor should it be.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Further Reading:
Bill C-60: An attack on CBC’s autonomy by Karl Nerenberg on Rabble

Will Bill C-60 influence Bank of Canada’s independence? Flaherty should explain by Kevin Carmichael, Globe and Mail

Canadian Press: Journalists urge fight against Bill C-60

Ottawa kicks the CBC, a wounded critter on a short leash by John Doyle, Globe and Mail

This Magazine: WTF Wednesday: CBC under attack…again

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