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The truth is that traditional radio and TV have not been replaced by the internet or other new technologies but instead have maintained their central role in our lives.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.
The Harper government would do well to learn from the approach of the Conservative government in the United Kingdom which, in a difficult economic situation, has made the laudable commitment not to cut its aid budget. Scaling back our development assistance is, frankly, out of step with Canadian values.
Don Cherry's regressive rhetoric betrays Canada's reputation as a nation of inclusiveness and cultural tolerance. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has tolerated this treatment for too long. Don Cherry's distasteful diatribes belong in hockey's past, not in the Canadian national pastime's present or future.
Last week, Canadian Mennonite magazine revealed that it had been threatened by the government. A Canada Revenue audit team the magazine that it could lose its charitable status because of what it published. CRA found some 2011 articles to be in violation of the Income Tax Act which forbids "the direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party or candidate for public office." Where is this taking Canada? Will we be a nation without dissent, without criticism, without discourse? A nation where even the most well-meaning and well-respected charities must keep silent on everything or risk the wrath of government?
The Harper Conservatives are ramming another "omnibus" budget Bill (C-45) through Parliament. Coupled with "closure" to kill debate, it's all designed to be so humongous, convoluted and fast that no Parliament could possibly scrutinize the details and expose all the mistakes. (Sort of like the inspection system the Conservatives are responsible for at XL Foods -- a lot of contamination got through.)
The gap between rich and poor is widening, which is one of the key points highlighted in a recent publication by the Broadbent Institute. The policy paper entitled "Towards A More Equal Canada," highlights the problems of inequality in Canada, how we got to where we are, and how we can move forward.
Most areas of government funding are being trimmed, so why not arts grants too? A probable reason why the arts program escapes the Finance Minister's knife is because any cuts to the artsy set, results in a nation-wide howl that the Philistines are taking over. But to some, that's seen as public money funding someone's hobby.
Far-right Sun TV invited me to debate "whether or not Canada's main stream media has a left-leaning bias." Then warning flags went up. What if they wanted to tar and feather me for some of the nasty things I've written about them? Or for being soft on the CBC? Or less-than-reverent to the Queen? I accepted.
Canadian citizens may be shocked to learn that the Canadian Forces do not have the same Charter Rights as the rest of us. They give up those rights when they enlist. Maybe this law makes sense for the military -- it is used to suppress mutiny and rebellion, but at the same time, these are the people who are risking their lives for our freedom. Don't they deserve better?
Nearly half of Bill C-38 is directed at rewriting Canada's foundational environmental laws. Putting all this in a fast-track budget bill, with time allocation on debate, and heading to the Finance Committee, is a direct assault on the principles of parliamentary democracy.