The Liberal Record on the CBC

Oct 31, 2000

For Immediate Release

October 31, 2000

Jean Chrétien’s Liberals may be set to offer Canadians election goodies to improve CBC, but can we count on them to deliver?  Their record gives cause for doubt. 

This will not be the first time Mr. Chrétien has made big promises about CBC.  During the 1993 election, seven years ago, almost to the day, Mr. Chrétien promised a Liberal government would provide CBC long term stable funding.  The now famous Liberal Red Book contained this empty commitment:

“A Liberal government will be committed to stable, multiyear financing for national cultural institutions such as the Canada Council and the CBC”.

After winning a majority government in 1993, the Liberals went to work on the CBC.  During the next four years CBC’s budget was cut faster and deeper than any most other departments or agencies of government.  When the dust had settled by 1997, CBC funding had been cut by more than $400 million – or about 33%.  The Liberals' post-election cuts to CBC even exceeded the Reform Party’s 1993 campaign promise to cut $365 million from CBC.

“There will not be a promise that I make in the campaign that I will not keep."

- Jean Chrétien, September 10, 1993

During the 1997 election, Liberal policy again cited the important nation-building role of CBC and called for stable funding.  The Liberals once again promised stable CBC funding, but not before cutting its budget again.  These cuts took the form of eliminating CBC’s guaranteed access to the publicly financed Canadian Television Fund, a move that cost CBC a further $26 million per year.

During the last seven years, Prime Minister Chrétien’s government has loaded up the CBC’s Board of Directors with partisan appointments whose key credential seems to be the Liberal membership card in their wallets.

Not satisfied with controlling CBC in this fashion, the Liberal government has engaged in a campaign to tame the public broadcaster.  The Prime Minister’s Office openly and successfully intimidated CBC over the tenacious and critical journalism of national television news reporter Terry Milewski.  And were it not for massive public outcry, Mr. Chrétien’s government would have passed legislation giving the Prime Minister power to fire without cause the CBC President and members of the Board of Directors.

Mr. Chrétien allowed CBC to meander leaderless for six months last year during the critical period when the CRTC was considering the renewal of CBC’s broadcast licence at the end of former President Perrin Beatty’s term.

CBC is now a mere shadow of the public broadcaster it once was before Mr. Chrétien became Prime Minister in 1993.

After thousands of layoff and dozens of program cuts, the CBC has a shrinking pool of creative talent and a radio and television schedule full of repeats and centrally produced programs.  The CBC can no longer meet its Broadcasting Act mandate “to reflect Canada and its regions, while serving the special needs of those regions.”

In the words of current President Robert Rabinovitch, if the CBC were a private company it would be near bankruptcy. 

With a record like this, would you buy a used CBC from a salesman called Chrétien?

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For information:

Jim Thompson 613-567-9592