Bradley Trost, the Conservative MP representing Saskatoon (University), introduced a private member’s bill to the House of Commons that seeks to incorporate and privatize the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The bill, Bill C-308, was introduced in September of 2016 and was debated in the House for the first time on February 15th, 2017. In this debate, the Bill was heavily criticized by members of the Liberal Party, the NDP, and surprisingly, by one MP from the Conservative Party.
Trost introduced the bill by stating that it was the wish of the late former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper to privatize the CBC. Trost analyzed the cost to taxpayers of having the CBC be a crown corporation and argued that the CBC “does very little, virtually nothing, to develop Canadian talent”. He argued that the success of Canadian productions comes from the talent of Canadian producers, rather than due to the infrastructure of the CBC. He stated that the CBC “is like adult children who live in the basement of their parents’ home, trying to discover themselves at their parents’ expense,” and that it is “time for them to move out and make their own way in the world”.
There was a decisive response to this striking rhetoric from Trost. MPs from across the aisle expressed their concern that Trost does not properly appreciate the CBC’s impact on Canadian culture.Hélène Laverdière, the NDP representative from Sainte-Marie, Quebec, noted the special role that CBC and Radio-Canada plays for francophones across the country. Sean Casey, the Liberal MP from Charlottetown, PEI noted that the CBC is extremely important to northern, remote, and indigenous communities and questioned: “Why does it have to be all about the dollar and not the character of our country?”.
Casey also laid out the historical and statutory context of the CBC. He noted that the CBC’s mandate to create programming that is distinctively Canadian and that reflects Canada as a whole comes from the 1991 Broadcasting Act, and that Bill C-308 and the incorporation of the CBC would remove this mandate entirely.
Kevin Waugh, the Conservative MP from Saksatoon-Grasswood, also spoke out in favour of keeping the CBC as a crown corporation. Waugh acknowledged that this stance would likely come as a surprise to many, not only because of his status as a member of the Conservative Party, but due to the fact that he spent 40 years working for CTV. Waugh spoke about the importance of ensuring that Canada continues to be serviced with Canadian content, and noted that the existence of the CBC as a public competitor for private broadcasters such as CTV is good for the Canadian television industry as a whole.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.