Party leaders on the CBC

FRIENDS has worked hard to get the answers into the hands of our one-third of a million supporters and other Canadians. That’s why we invited each of the five leaders whose parties hold seats in the House of Commons to participate in 30-minute webcasts — one in French and one in English — in order to convey their views and policies about CBC’s future. Thomas Mulcair, Elizabeth May and Justin Trudeau responded to our invitation — Stephen Harper and Mario Beaulieu did not.

 

Elizabeth May

Thomas Mulcair

Justin Trudeau

ON CBC FUNDING

Our position is that restoring what was cut isn’t enough. The $115 million that was cut must be restored.

But our platform in 2011 called for $100 million next year, $150 million the year after that, $200 million after that, so $450 million additional just to get CBC back to where you don’t have the feeling that it’s being starved to death.

Governing is about priorities, and for us the CBC is just that, a top priority.

Our plan [is] to roll back, over the three-year period after forming government, the $115 million that the Conservatives cut over the last three years.

If we form the government we will reverse those [$115 million] cuts. But more than that, we need to talk about where CBC needs to go to continue to be able to fulfill its mandate in the best possible way in a rapidly changing world and media environment. We need to make sure CBC has strong, stable, predictable, long-term funding that is sufficient for it to fulfill its mandate moving forward.

ON CBC’S GOVERNANCE

We have to make sure that the Board of Directors is appointed in an impartial fashion. We shouldn’t have the party of the day and Prime Minister appointing the Board of CBC.

We need to put in place a [CBC] Board that understands the role of a public broadcaster, has expertise in areas of cultural programming and news and information – and the challenges of a digital age.

I want to have the best Canadians with the best understanding of the country and understanding of broadcasting that are doing the best job possible for all of us. That’s something we would change. We would find a neutral way of finding the best people for the job. That the Board isn’t speaking out against these cuts, that they’re sort of accepting of it, really reinforces that nine out of eleven Board members were Conservative Party donors, which for me is unacceptable. We have to make sure that the Board appointees of the CBC are picked in a non-partisan, transparent, open way by people who have the interests of the CBC/Radio-Canada and the interests of the Canadian public top of mind.

ON CBC’S MANDATE

I think the mandate for the CBC is to have a well-informed citizenry that’s equipped to participate in a democracy – not as consumers, but as participants. Local CBC service is a priority for the NDP, for the good and simple reason is – that’s the heart of what’s specific about the mandate. CBC’s mandate is to bind the country together, by informing its citizens, making them empowered agents of activity, of change in their communities, highlight local stories – and do so in both official languages, to make sure that we remember, right across this country, that those things that bind us together are much more powerful than all those differences and divisions that exist across the country. And when you weaken the CBC you actually weaken the fabric of this country’s identity.

THE NECESSITY OF TELLING OUR OWN STORIES

How much do we, as Canadians, want to save our public broadcaster? How much do we want to know that our kids and grandkids will have the same experiences of growing up and knowing what it is to be Canadian by hearing the voice of somebody on the other side of the country telling us what their experience is? It [the CBC] knits us together in a way that nothing else does. The thing that tells every Canadian we care about each other is our public broadcaster.

The very reason the CBC is there is to be able to tell the Canadian stories, tell ourselves who we are, define us, do things that nobody else is going to do – and that’s the very essence of a public broadcaster.

So, a lot of that has been lost. The Conservatives use it [lower ratings] as a further excuse to continue the vicious cycle.

How do we actually give the CBC the capacity to do what it continues to do well, which is tell our stories? But also make sure that those stories are being told by some of the brightest, most creative, and in many cases, young people coming up – either journalists, or creative artists, or producers and filmmakers.

ON POLITICAL INTERFERENCE

Members of the Conservative Party get up in Parliament, not quite every day, but quite often, and say things like: “It’s time to eliminate all funding for CBC.” And they have petitions to that effect. I see that as a real warning sign. I get to watch their [the Conservatives’] behaviour during question period and any time we ask the question about CBC funding, the hoots and hollers from the backbenchers show that a lot of this is about Conservative reaction against the CBC. They don’t like what they’re hearing on the CBC. They don’t like the CBC. But I would be very fearful for the future of the CBC at all in our country if ever they got back in. It would be definitely on the chopping block. And the fact that right now CBC is in a precarious situation, where there’s political interference at the board level, there’s a government that attacks it, its backbenchers who get up all the time to try and score cheap points off of our public broadcaster, you can understand that this is something that is really uneasy – particularly when you look at the mandate of CBC.

CBC’S ROLE IN NATION-BUILDING

CBC doesn’t exist for purposes of competing with private sector media. The CBC exists to protect us as a nation, to create a greater sense of national identity.

The vast majority of Canadians regard it as essential to our identity to continue [to have] a strong public broadcaster.

Why would we be dismantling one of the few things in the country that allows Francophones and minority situations in other provinces, and Anglophones in Quebec, that allows us to tell each other our own stories, that allows people working in close proximity in one institution to know the news of the other, and become familiar with it, and relay it to the whole country? Why, in heaven’s name, of all times, would we be dismantling that now? We have a country that is strong, not in spite of our differences, but because of those differences. And the way we celebrate those differences is by understanding each other better. It’s sharing our local stories, but also sharing those national stories. The CBC is at the heart of how we do that and how we shape Canadian identity in an ongoing way.

CBC AS AN ELECTION ISSUE

As long as I’m in the leaders’ debate, it will be an election issue because it’s critical to so many Canadians I hear from. I receive literally thousands of names on petitions.

I know Canadians want me to go out and fight for public broadcasting – and I will!

It is a top-of-mind issue right now, across the country, from coast to coast to coast. People are talking to us about it. Every stop as I go across the country, people are worried about the CBC. And they’re also worried about the intentions of the Conservatives. … and a strong, independent media, private broadcasters doing their part, but a strong public broadcaster, able to hold people to account, able to make sure that Canadians are properly informed about what people in power are doing, is an essential part of how we make sure that we’re on the right path going forward – and Canadians are worried about that.