I could, of course, see the dark clouds rolling in when I was still at the CBC -- but these latest cuts are an epic deluge for a place where I spent a lot of time.
When a government underspends to the extent we are seeing with the Harper government, the estimates become unreliable. Parliamentarians aren't able to find out how much the government is actually spending until months after the end of the fiscal year. As a result, they can't inform the public about what programs and services have been diminished in time to make a difference. The way the underspending scheme stifles debate reminds me of the Harper government's omnibus legislation, except it's even worse.
What's really woken me up is what CBC exec Heather Conway et al. are not talking about -- at all. Instead of discussing how she plans to inform and entertain Canadians, the executive vice-president of Canada's biggest cultural institution is confessing to the CBC's chief correspondent that BDSM is out of her "comfort zone."
I am a huge fan of documentaries, good television and select media outlets but there is nothing quite like talk radio. It speaks to you as an equal and keeps you company through daily routines. It doesn't rely on sensational headlines or attractive hosts. And it is very much at risk.
Tim Hudak had no plan to address this pension crisis and the provincial Conservatives are, in fact, out of the picture on this issue. There is very little disagreement between the Ontario Liberals and the Ontario NDP when it comes to the need to restructure existing federal and provincial retirement coverage, with or without federal impetus.
Our strategy, "A Space for us All," is not about abandoning our traditional audiences for digital ones, it is about abandoning bricks and mortar in favour of content and programming.
Mr. Lacroix and his senior management team, and the Board of Directors -- each in law and precedent charged with defending public broadcasting in this country -- should resign, and call for an immediate and complete rethinking of CBC/Radio-Canada's untenable financing and governance. Then maybe, this problem can be sorted out.
As the CBC and its supporters search with growing urgency for solutions to the public broadcaster's critical funding problems, an idea gaining some traction is that CBC television be dismantled, and spun off into a clutch of subscription-based cable specialty channels.
Climate change has emerged as the single most important issue of our time, and it is nothing short of baffling that this government has chosen to bury its head in the sand and hope it goes away. Not only has the Harper government ignored the issue, but it has also gone to great lengths to suppress further research and any meaningful remedial or mitigating action. When Stephen Harper took office in 2006, he promised that we would not recognize Canada when he was done with it. He is on-track to keep that promise. For the sake of my grandchildren and all of us Muggles, I hope that Canadians prove him wrong in 2015.
Given that, in poll after poll, Canadians have expressed the view that the CBC/Radio-Canada is a public good that is both desirable and necessary, the solution to the market failure ought to be obvious: it is to provide the money necessary for the CBC. To do that will mean eliminating advertising on all CBC services, and boosting the public subsidies.
The president of CBC published an article in Huffington Post recently asking Canadians for help in deciding CBC's future. Good idea but the plea received modest reader feedback. Is it a sign that CBC has lost the public, that Canadians have stopped believing in and what CBC and its managers say?
The truth is that traditional radio and TV have not been replaced by the internet or other new technologies but instead have maintained their central role in our lives. Traditional TV viewing levels have, if anything, increased slightly in recent years. This is partly the result of improvements in picture quality (HDTV) and the inherent quality of programming.
The National Post ran a commentary saying CBC seemed incapable of reinventing itself, which may be true, and concluded that it didn't matter since TV viewing was in decline and the television industry, that is, networks, cable, etc. wouldn't exist in its present form in "maybe two years." This blissfully ignores the fact that TV viewing and cable/satellite subscriptions have shown no decline.
When I defend the CBC, it's because I'm defending the idea of Canadian culture and identity and I see the CBC as, for now, a necessary part of that. But when people criticize the CBC, I suspect it's part of a deeper and far more, well, insidious agenda that stretches well beyond public broadcasting.
CBC and Radio-Canada staff across the country are bracing for deep cuts today, as the public broadcaster aims to respond to an estimated $100-million revenue shortfall in the next year. It's likely that some Canadians may be rejoicing at the news, but I am certainly not one of them. Their raison d'être is not simple distraction, it is to be universally accessible, contribute to a sense of national identity and community, and -- most importantly -- keep a safe distance from vested financial interests. What that means is you can't necessarily assess their worth based on numbers, but rather good programming. You think we can't afford to offer intellectually-nurturing programming in these tough economic times? I think we can't afford not to!
Mr. Flaherty may indeed eliminate the deficit in 2015-16 as planned. We hope he does. But his plan as conceived still contains considerable risk that shouldn't be ignored. More conservative revenue forecasts and lower program spending would reduce these risks and help to ensure he can deliver on his promise.