OTTAWA – Leaders’ Ledger – Having reached the lofty heights of 39% of the popular vote in one election campaign the Conservative Party of Stephen Harper has now set out to dismantle several of our national institutions. The latest, but certainly not last, institution to be attacked is the CBC. Conservative media outlets, Conservative Party fundraisers, and backbench Conservative MPs have all taken shots at our national broadcaster in the first six months of Harper’s majority. The question is why?
Sun Media, which is now headed by Stephen Harper’s former Director of Communications and is famous for including half-naked pictures of ‘Sun Girls’ in their print and online editions, has decided to attack the CBC because they say it is biased and lacks integrity. I’ve always thought that ‘up-was-down and down-was-up’ with the Reform-Alliance-Conservative crowd but this campaign against the CBC is a new level of hypocrisy.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not dumping on Sun newspapers. They have great sport sections. Seriously good stuff there. And who doesn’t appreciate having world events summed up in about 200 words? Need a new truck or a cheap vacation? Sun papers have your 30 pages of advertising, but good luck finding them among the 10 pages of news and 5 pages of opinion columns.
Anyhow, back to the campaign against the CBC. It would seem that operating multiple radio stations, two national television channels, and delivering information services to almost every household in Canada in English, French, or one of eight aboriginal languages for the cost of just $33 per year per Canadian has really irked some well to do Conservatives. After all, quality service at a reasonable price is a definite no-no with this crowd.
The Prime Minister’s former Director of Communications and Sun Media say that ‘left wing’ bias is really the big problem at the CBC. It must be, after all the CBC has been hiring outside consultants, Cormex Research, for years to do content analysis and ensure their “journalists” aren’t taking up any nasty liberal or socialist causes. What a waste. After all, the CBC should really be taking their cue from Sun Media which proved to the world that it was bias free when it pulled out of the Ontario Press Council this year because; “The editorial direction of our [Sun Media] newspapers, especially our urban tabloids, is incompatible with a politically correct mentality that informs OPC thinking.”
For those that don’t know the Thought Police, er the Ontario Press Council investigates complaints concerning roughly 200 of the largest newspapers in Canada, including the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. According to the preamble of the Ontario Press Council, the council’s primary objective is to; “…call Ontario newspapers to account for unfair conduct such as invading privacy without justification, condemning people by innuendo or hearsay, ignoring commonly-accepted ethical standards, reporting conjecture as fact, distorting accounts of events, or failing to acknowledge error.” As you can clearly see, this sort of non-enforceable oversight is in direct conflict with the “editorial direction” of Sun Media.
Now in fairness, the owners and employees of Sun Media can easily be dismissed as overzealous competitors who want to get rid of the CBC so that they can gain both market share and revenue, but what about the Conservative Party and a number of Stephen Harper’s MPs? Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein, who chairs the Conservative Party’s fundraising division when he is not busy defending himself in court against charges that he violated the Canada Elections Act, has been sending out fundraising letters with a Conservative membership survey asking if the CBC is a “good value.” Calgary Conservative MP Rob Anders, famous for once calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist, also sent out a survey in his riding to see if public funding for the CBC should be scrapped. Anders has even started a petition to end public funding for the CBC in case you were wondering how he really felt.
In majority governments, this sort of behavior by subordinates (ie: media allies, partisans, backbenchers) usually means that the leadership is trying to orchestrate something big, but knows that they don’t have the public support needed to pull it off – yet. I believe in this case, that we are witnessing the start of a concerted campaign by Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada to dismantle the CBC with the only remaining question being, ‘will the Canadian public let them?’ My answer, and hopefully yours, will be, ‘not without a fight.’
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River