The Conservative government's budget bill contains disturbing changes that introduce direct government interference in the public broadcaster's activities. It is a move that should concern all Canadians.
The new changes would allow the government to directly interfere in the day to day running of the Corporation. At the heart is a plan for direct interference in collective bargaining between the CBC and its employees. The legislation even goes so far as to place a member of the Treasury Board at the bargaining table. CBC's government appointed Board of Directors would now have to seek government approval to reach any agreement with CBC employees.
The legislation tabled yesterday effectively eliminates the arms-length relationship with government that's at the heart of public broadcasting.
"This is an outrageous and unnecessary violation of the principle of public broadcasting. It undermines nearly 80 years of public broadcasting in Canada and around the world by meddling with the essential arms-length relationship between the CBC and the government of the day. The change is disturbing as it has all the markings of an attempt to turn the CBC into a state broadcaster," said Carmel Smyth, National president of the Canadian Media Guild, the largest union that represents CBC workers.
Marc-Philippe Laurin, CMG Branch president at CBC, calls the change unprecedented. "This is a dangerous road to go down," he comments. "And 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."
Smyth noted that besides this aggressive intrusion into public broadcasting, there are other recent examples of this conservative government interfering in the labour relations process such as at Canada Post and Air Canada, and all Canadians should be concerned. "We oppose this change vigorously and are looking at all our options," she said.