OTTAWA - The federal Liberals are trying to tap a well of potential support by positioning themselves as defenders of the CBC.
Liberal Leader Bob Rae sent out a letter on Thursday announcing a campaign and online petition called "Hands Off our CBC." People on the party distribution list are asked to tweet about the petition or post it to their Facebook page.
Rae warned in his letter that the Conservatives are using the CBC, "as a scapegoat in the midst of Canada's current economic difficulties."
"We need to send them a strong message: CBC funding didn't cause your Conservative deficit; so don't try to fix that problem on the back of the CBC!
"The Liberal Party of Canada recognizes the profound importance of the CBC's role in our society. We will fight to ensure our national broadcaster receives the support and resources it needs to continue to do its vital job."
The Conservatives are also using the CBC as a wedge issue with supporters, but in an entirely different way. The public broadcaster is unpopular among some in the party's base and the head of the Tory fundraising arm recently sent out a letter asking for opinions on whether Canadians were getting good or bad value from the CBC.
Some Tory MPs are openly proposing to strip the Crown corporation of its $1.1 billion in government funding. At the same time, Conservative MPs on a Commons committee are scrutinizing the broadcaster over access to information.
The right-leaning National Citizens Coalition also has an online petition for Canadians to "opt-out" of the CBC.
The Liberal petition page claims that Heritage Minister James Moore is breaking a promise not to cut the CBC and has announced it will lose 10 per cent of its budget.
In fact, no announcement has yet been made on how much the CBC will have to trim. The broadcaster, like all other government departments and agencies, was ordered to offer proposals for cuts of five and 10 per cent as part of a general cost-reduction exercise.
The Conservatives have had great success in using hot-button issues as a lure for financial donations. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's support for Israel, the threat of unwanted elections brought on by a meddlesome opposition and the spectre of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition have all been used as themes for soliciting contributions.
The Liberals have struggled to bring their fundraising machine up to par with the Tories. Rae's letter on the CBC didn't include a plea for money, however.
The CBC's budget was slashed by more than $400 million by the Liberals in the 1990s as part of government-wide spending reductions.