The Hon. Stephen Harper
Leader of the Opposition
House of Commons
Dear Mr. Harper:
We are greatly surprised and concerned by comments you made in Winnipeg Monday concerning the Conservative Party of Canada’s policy towards the CBC as reported on this morning’s CBC World Report (Bowden's Media Monitoring transcript | MP3 Audio File).
Although we recall that similar comments have been made in the past by representatives of the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties, to our knowledge this is the first policy statement on public broadcasting by the Conservative Party of Canada.
We invite you to clarify your remarks, which seem to cast into doubt your Party’s support for the public subsidy to CBC’s English Television Network. This would have the effect of dismantling Canada’s national public broadcaster and would eliminate the vast majority of Canadian programs on television during prime-time.
Your remarks also imply that you may favour the introduction of commercials on CBC Radio Two. Finally, we note that you appear to have not made similar comments about CBC’s French-language services.
This week, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting has released data from an Ipsos-Reid survey on broadcasting issues, Canada/US relations and Canadian public opinion, which I attach. We draw to your attention that a very strong majority of current supporters of your Party, and almost all Canadians whose second choice is the Conservative Party, support funding for a strong CBC and believe that government should work to build a culture and identity distinct from the US.
Drawing from the leadership of R. B. Bennett, who created the CBC, and Dalton Camp, one of the founders of the Friends, who described the CBC as one of the few national institutions that still works, we invite you to reflect on the implications of your comments and to clarify them without delay.
May 20, 2004 - Globe & Mail: Harper's CBC views draw fire by Joe Friesen
FRIENDS surprised and concerned after Conservative party leader muses that CBC English TV and CBC Radio Two be commercialized.
May 20, 2004 - Toronto Star: Harper's comments worry CBC friends by Graham Fraser
Conservative party leader echoes Asper family call for commercialization of parts of CBC that "compete" with private broadcasters.
May 19, 2004 - Opinion Poll: Broadcasting Issues, Canada/US Relations and Canadian Public Opinion (Special Political Results Summary)
Pre-election poll commissioned by FRIENDS shows strong support among voters for strengthening Canadian culture and enhancing the CBC.
May 19, 2004 - CBC News: Harper Comments on the CBC
Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper suggests his party may revisit government funding of CBC English television and Radio Two.