Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Government Interference in the CBC

Unlike a state broadcaster, the CBC is modeled after the BBC.  These organizations run at arms length from the government and cannot be manipulated by a government without changes in legislation.  This acts as not only a safe-guard against interference by the elected government, but also interference by governmental agencies and departments.

Though I hear lots of complaints (and have for years) about a pro-liberal bias in the CBC, what the Stephen Harper government is now doing is unprecedented.  According to CBC's Facebook update on May 1, 2013, the budget implementation act contains a hidden surprise concerning the CBC.

According to the CBC statement:  

"The new changes would allow the government to directly interfere in the day to day running of the Corporation. At the heart is a plan for direct interference in collective bargaining between the CBC and its employees. The legislation even goes so far as to place a member of the Treasury Board at the bargaining table. CBC's government appointed Board of Directors would now have to seek government approval to reach any agreement with CBC employees."

While this does not directly alter the editorial policy or independence of the CBC, it does allow direct government intervention in the labour relations of the corporation.  By doing that, the government could propose changes to employment agreements which would ensure that the government's goals are carried through by the CBC.  At present, the CBC manages it's own relations in regards to its employees.  This back door change ends that. The CBC statement said that they oppose these changes and will fight them.

This is a government that has repeatedly interfered in the operations of public organizations including forcing employees of companies back to work through legislation.  This government is also the only modern example of a government in a Westminster based system to shut down Parliament in order to avoid censure.  This is also a government who has muzzled government scientists and fired heads of agencies for opposing the government's message of the day.  This is a government that, through the back door in another budget bill, removed protection on hundreds of waterways to speed up development approval and by-pass environmental regulation.

Perhaps some of their changes are justifiable, but making such changes without a full and proper public debate is not justifiable.  Using loopholes in executive power is not an appropriate way to run a government that is supposed to be democratic.

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