Source: Toronto Sun
OTTAWA — Only in the wacky world of the government would it make sense for one government agency to pay a Crown corporation money to do the job that they are already funded to do.
But that's what happens here in official Ottawa.
Last year, Parks Canada was headed to Arctic waters to look for the sunken ships of the ill-fated Franklin expedition. Sounds like a great story, the kind lots of Canadians and lots of Canadian broadcasters would be interested in.
But Parks Canada struck a secret deal with CBC to grant it the exclusive rights to the search and then paid CBC to take those broadcast rights.
Broadcasters normally pay and pay big to get exclusive broadcast rights. From CBC paying millions of taxpayer dollars to get the rights to NHL hockey, to bidding wars for events such as the Olympics or Super Bowl, broadcasters pay for the right to air a program.
Unless Parks Canada is involved.
The secret deal called for CBC to provide a documentary segment for The National, segments for the nightly news on CBC English and French and web content in both languages.
In return, Parks Canada would pay CBC $65,000 cash, plus tax. They would also pay for travel, including $10,000 to transport one part of CBC's crew up north.
Why would they agree to do this?
Apparently because the Parks Canada executive who signed off on it, VP of external relations Andrew Campbell, is a big Peter Mansbridge fan and pursued the news anchor with meeting requests and e-mails.
Mansbridge put Campbell in touch with CBC executives and the deal proceeded from there.
The documents obtained by QMI Agency show that Parks Canada spared no expense to get this deal.
When a CBC staffer complained about the cost and difficulty of getting Mansbridge and his crew up to the site, Parks Canada agreed to cover the $20,000 private charter.
Beyond the cash payments and travel costs, Parks Canada rushed to put a research ship and icebreaker at the disposal of CBC.
In a June 13, 2012, memo, Keri Spink, who works under Campbell said that Captain Noon, the man in charge of coast guard operations, was to be put at CBC's disposal.
"He is being very flexible in trying to work around ship operations and CBC needs," Spink wrote.
Now this looks like CBC is being paid for news coverage, and quite frankly it is. But we asked CBC about that and here's the kicker — the corporation told us it would have covered the story anyway.
"CBC News was going to tell this story whether or not Parks Canada wanted to get involved; their contribution was about helping CBC News gain access to a remote part of Canada to tell a great story," CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson told me in an e-mail.
So if CBC was going to do this story anyway, why have Parks Canada pay?
This is backwards. This is upside down. This is wrong in so many ways but to top it all off, when we asked Parks Canada about this very deal a few months ago, it claimed it was only partnering with CBC to build a website telling the story of the search for the Franklin Expedition.
The truth is Parks Canada paid a lot more and got a lot more.
The minister in charge of Parks Canada, Leona Aglukkaq, told QMI Agency she will be raising this issue with her department, but it's too late for taxpayers who were played for suckers by bureaucrats.
© Toronto Sun