Did The CBC Get Spooked? by Kevin Baker

Mar 29, 2008

Source : National Post

There's a theory afloat that CBC Television cancelled the unusually good drama Intelligence in fear of upsetting Canada's New Government, which is thought to be slavering for an excuse to junk the nation's public broadcaster and sell off the parts. According to this theory, expounded in the Toronto Star, one story arc of Intelligence showed secret dealings to sell Canadian water to the United States in an unfavourable light. Thus, the plot implicitly criticized the government's secret dealings, under cover of the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership. Loopy? Bonkers? Stark raving? Yes, but wait: The truth is even more fantastic. The CBC was forced to drop Intelligence because of me.

On one occasion, this column, which, in a typical week, deplores pretty near everything, professed rare admiration for Intelligence. On several occasions, this column has been less than reverent in its observations of the Prime Minister and his cahoots. Stephen Harper is known to be a tetchy breed of bear. Like a starlet to whose weight the National Enquirer has added 10 pounds, if enraged he will sue.

It behooves a leader to let gutter-sniper fire bounce off his ankles, if only to prove the steel of those bones. Stopping to retaliate -- kicking back at any spit-balling grub-urchin -- a leader makes himself look weak. (Don't get me wrong. If I were PM and I caught scent of any aspersion, my chief of staff would be on the red phone commanding gory assassinations of house pets.) Yet the order to CBC TV's programming chief, Richard Stursberg -- if the conspiracy theory is true -- emanated from the PMO. As to whether the message was transmitted in words, psychically, or via the neck and head of a Canada goose enfolded in Stursberg's duvet, full knowledge must await a public inquiry.

The easy line on Intelligence was that it was "anti-American." Did this casual slur sway the PM, a proud Yank-fancier? Obviously and superficially, Intelligence was anti-American, as anti-American as 24 is anti-Chinese, anti-Russian, anti-European and anti-Arab; as Desperate Housewives is anti-suburban; as CSI is anti-sex; as American Idol is anti-the-past-50-years-of-pop-music.

Less obviously, but essentially, Intelligence was pro-American. Mary Spalding, head of CSIS's Asian-Pacific bureau, strove to build a Canadian intelligence service capable of playing the spy game in the same league as the CIA. She respected the American service. She admired its superior efficacy and reach. She envied its resources. She knew that the way to become a better intelligence service was to become more like the Americans. The show's creator, Chris Haddock, strove to make -- and made -- a show that would not look too shabby next to the best TV made anywhere, HBO dramas. Only those crusty Canucks who watch everything on the CBC wearing Acme Anti-Americanism Detector Goggles they ordered from

a small ad in the back of a 1954 Saturday Evening Post would fail to see that Intelligence was (also) about following -- respectfully, admiringly, intelligently -- superior American models and American ways.

The ambitions of Haddock and his heroine align neatly with those of the Conservative government, which wants Canada's re-Armed Forces to play a prominent and effective role on the world stage, and whose investment in "border security," while not rivalling the Americans' expenditure, looks to the same heavenward direction. If by the curl of his lip or otherwise, the Prime Minister has effected the execution of Intelligence, it is not too late for him to smile on it instead. He may realize, upon reflection, that it serves the cause of his Canada better alive than dead.

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