Several media organization, including the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression have launched an advertising campaign to protest Bill C-60. “Our public broadcaster must be at arms length’s from the government,” the ad says. 

Several media organization, including the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression have launched an advertising campaign to protest Bill C-60.   

“Our public broadcaster must be at arms length’s from the government,” the ad says. “Bill C-60 would give the government veto power and a say in decisions at the largest news organization in the country.”

CBC president Hubert Lacroix said in a note to employees last week that the bill is “the most important matter on my desk” and he and his team had “numerous conversations with government officials on this piece of legislation.”

“We have clearly stated that legislation which would require us to seek a "negotiating mandate" from Treasury Board Ministers, allow Treasury Board Ministers to "determine the terms and conditions of employment" of journalists, anchors or senior executives, and/or require a Treasury Board employee to attend negotiations, may give rise to conflicts with the Broadcasting Act and the Charter, and compromise our independence. This could potentially embroil the government, CBC/Radio-Canada and its unions in litigation–not necessarily added value to Canadians.”

“I don't, and won't, fight our battles on the front pages of newspapers,” Lacroix said. “I don't see that as being useful in the pursuit of solutions. Might make some feel better (particularly the venting part!) but not conducive to level-headed conversations.”

Last Wednesday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty dismissed the arguments saying this bill would compromise the CBC’s independence, the Toronto Sun reported.

"All Crown agencies have a responsibility through ministers back to Parliament to the Canadian people," he said. "They can't just do whatever they want, particularity with taxpayers' money."

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Listen to the Financial Committee hearing last week:

In a letter to the financial committee, Lacroix said CBC and Radio-Canada supports the federal government’s efforts to ensure that Crown corporations are run efficiently and are accountable to taxpayers.

“When one looks at CBC/Radio-Canada's record on salaries, the health of its pension plan, and its accountability to taxpayers, we believe that we are, in fact, a model for efficient and responsible management at a Crown corporation,” he wrote in the letter, adding that salaries at CBC have increased on average by 1.9 per cent over the last seven years compared to three per cent in the private sector.

“With all the powers that Bill C-60 grants the government, what would stop it from delving into issues about what CBC/Radio-Canada does, particularly its coverage of political issues,” the CJFE said in a statement. “If that were to happen the flow of information from Canada’s largest news organization to the public could be curtailed or severely limited.”

Check out the relevant extracts of Bill C-60 annotated by Ian Morrison, Spokesperson – Friends of Canadian Broadcasting:

Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.