Will They or Won’t They – Canadian feds could sell CBC, NAC, VIA

I’ve been a little busy these days and have not been following a lot, but someone posted this on Facebook (thanks Barry Rueger).  This article is primarily quoting Canwest and Mcleans. This is something we should keep our eyes on, I think. If there is any chance for public input, we should all take advantage.

Having a private CBC would not be in the interest of Canadians. First of all, the Broadcasting Act specifically states that the system should be comprised of private, public, and community elements. The CBC is the only broadcaster in the public sector in Canada. So selling it off could mean that the government would be breaking the law. And of course, it would almost certainly mean a change in the content.

I don’t know all the implications of having a privatized National Arts Centre or VIA Rail, but I’m thinking there would be more harm than good for all Canadians.

So, as Paul Wells said, “now, don’t get too excited.” But just keep your eyes open.

Will Tories sell the CBC?
From The Tyee‘s newsletter/blog The Hook
By Crawford Kilian, a contributing editor of The Tyee, June 1, 2009

On Friday afternoon, when no one was paying attention, the Canwest newspapers broke a big story: The Harper government is considering selling off the CBC, the National Arts Centre, and VIA Rail.

According to Andrew Mayeda of Canwest, the government is considering privatizing a number of Crown corporations including CBC and VIA Rail. Mayeda quotes SFU professor Aidain Vining:

They’re not the classic privatization candidates, where you sell and walk away,” said Vining, an expert in Crown corporation privatizations. Unless, of course, you’re prepared to fully withdraw from the public purpose (of the Crown corporation).

Certainly, the sale of a flagship Crown asset such as the CBC would be politically controversial.

Paul Wells, blogging on the Macleans website, says:

Now, don’t get too excited. Andrew Mayeda’s story is careful to point out that there is, as yet, no plan to put the NAC or the Corp on the block. He seems to have got his hands on a departmental survey of all saleable assets. And it’s less glamorous Crown properties that are listed above the blue-chip properties Andrew mentions in his lede. It’s entirely possible for the feds to reject a sale of these marquee assets, or indeed of any assets at all.

But Paul Dewar, the NDP MP who gets quoted in the Sun story above and has archived it on his website, is right. The feds are not only airily mulling an asset sale in the abstract, they’ve booked revenue from it in this budget year, and in succeeding years, to the tune of many billions of dollars in total sales. When Dewar quizzed Jim Flaherty about it three months ago, Flaherty was nonchalant in acknowledging, broadly, the premise of Dewar’s questions.

There are really only two possibilities. The government can [sell] billions of dollars worth of stuff, or its deficit can be billions of dollars higher.

On Friday evening, The Hook found no responses yet from Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, Inside the CBC, J-Source, or CBC News.

(Links updated November 2013)


And YOU could have found out that the CBC is spending your money on theatre tickets and catering

Canada has a wonderful piece of legislation called the Access to Information Act. Thanks to this Act, by filling out the Access to Information Request Form and paying $5, you can have access to internal government information (that is not marked confidential). This includes memos and letters, as well as emails. (Find out more information through this link: Access to Information – Policies and Publications.)

And why is this in place? From the “Policy on Access to Information“:
3.1 The Government of Canada recognizes the right of access by the public to information in records under the control of government institutions as an essential element of our system of democracy. The government is committed to openness and transparency by respecting both the spirit and requirements of the Access to Information Act, its Regulations and its related policy instruments.

So you’ll understand why the last line in this article is my absolute favourite so far today: “The story of CBC executive spending only came to light because the Harper government added the broadcaster to the roster of agencies subject to Access to Information rules.” Right on!

Here’s Broadcaster Magazine’s article regarding the overspending.

Heritage Minister Warns CBC to Curb Expenses
Broadcaster Magazine

The minister for Canadian Heritage is warning CBC executives to rein in their expenses following reports of heavy spending on theatre tickets, meals and travel.

James Moore has written to the public broadcaster in response to a news story detailing lavish spending by Sylvain Lafrance, the executive vice-president for French services at the taxpayer-funded CBC.

“I am sure that you are sensitive to the fact that, at a time of fiscal restraint when Canadians are struggling to maintain their jobs and savings, this sort of reported excess does not sit well with them,” Moore wrote in a letter released Wednesday to the media.

Reports this week detailed how Lafrance signed off on almost $80,000 in 2006, including $28,000 on hotels, travel and meals, $15,000 in office catering and $33,000 in corporate expenses for benefit dinners and theatre tickets.

“As this unpopular measure was justified by the CBC as a fiscal restraint measure, the same could be expected by taxpayers with regards to CBC operating expenses,” Moore wrote in the letter to Timothy Casgrain, chairman of the CBC’s board of directors.

A CBC spokesman has said all the expenses were “fully compliant” with the broadcaster’s corporate policy.

The story of CBC executive spending only came to light because the Harper government added the broadcaster to the roster of agencies subject to Access to Information rules.

(Links updated November 2013)