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CBC/Radio-Canada Funding - Where the Parties Stand: 2015 Federal Election Primer

Reading Time 5 minute read

Government Relations and Communications

For decades, politicians and the public have debated the role of the Federal Government in supporting the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio Canada (CBC/Radio-Canada) as the nation's public radio and television broadcaster. At various times, the government of the day has reduced the parliamentary appropriations provided to the CBC/Radio-Canada. Most recently, the Conservative government reduced funding to the CBC/Radio-Canada by $115 million in its 2012 budget over a period of three years.  

The CBC's budget is now stabilized at $1.038 million[1]. Prime Minister Harper has defended the cuts, stating that while the CBC is "an important institution", there are limits to government subsidies[2].

The issue is alive in the current federal election with the opposition parties promising to restore and in some instance increase funding to the CBC/Radio-Canada.

CBC/Radio-Canada Funding Policy

The federal Government has been a key source of funding for the CBC/Radio-Canada through annual parliamentary appropriations. In 2012, the federal Government reduced the funding it provides to the CBC/Radio-Canada by almost 11%. As a result, the annual appropriation declined by $115 million from $1.153 billion to $1.038 billion. This reduction has resulted in significant cuts to programming budgets and a loss of close to 1200 employees[3].

Players; Parties & Politics

Conservative Party: Following the decision to reduce funding in the 2012 Budget, little has been said in the current election campaign by the Conservative Party about the CBC/Radio-Canada's future funding. The recently released Conservative Party Campaign platform does not reference the CBC/Radio-Canada or government funding of the public broadcaster. The Minister of Canadian Heritage, Shelly Glover, is not running in the current federal election (Saint Boniface-Saint Vital)[4].

Liberal Party: The Liberal Party has pledged to invest $150 million in new annual funding for the CBC/Radio-Canada and has committed to provide the public broadcaster with stable and predictable multi-year funding to ensure it is able to fulfill its mandate[5]. Stéphane Dion (MP for Saint-Laurent - Cartierville) is the Liberal critic for Canadian Heritage and has raised concerns about the CBC-Radio-Canada budget in the House of Commons:

Mr. Speaker, we have learned that many more jobs at the CBC are being cut and that this round will affect local stations. Will the minister finally admit that this recurrent downsizing is due to the Conservatives' cuts? Since 2006, they have slashed $227 million, in 2014 dollars, which is about one-fifth of the CBC's budget.

Will the minister at least try to convince her government to restore that money in the next budget? We hope so[6].

New Democratic Party: The NDP has committed to restore the $115 million cut that was made to the CBC/Radio-Canada's budget in 2012 and to guarantee stable, adequate, multi-year financing for the public broadcaster so that it can continue to fulfill its mandate[7]. Pierre Nantel (MP for Longueuil - Pierre-Boucher) is the NDP critic for Canadian Heritage and has been an advocate for restoring funding to the CBC:

Text of the Motion

That, in the opinion of the House: (a) the vital role of the Société Radio-Canada (SRC) in providing information, cultural content and entertainment to francophones in Quebec and to the 2.6 million francophones and francophiles outside of Quebec should be recognized; (b) the cuts to French-language services at the SRC are a cause of great concern in Quebec and across Canada; (c) the relevance of a strong francophone public broadcaster and the importance of regional information should be reiterated; and (d) the government should support the SRC in fulfilling its mandate by providing it with the tools it needs to meet its obligations under federal legislation[8].

Green Party: The Green Party would reverse the cuts made to CBC/Radio-Canada's budget in 2012 and would invest an additional $168 million in the first year and $315 million every year thereafter to rebuild the CBC/Radio-Canada's local coverage and capacity[9].

Public Opinion

Nanos Research Group was commissioned by ACTRA, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, and Unifor to conduct a random telephone survey to determine the views of participants on a number of cultural issues[10]. The CBC funding issue was addressed. According to Nanos, 45% of surveyed Canadians would advise their federal MP to vote to increase the CBC's funding and 41% would advise their federal MP to vote to maintain current levels of funding for the CBC. Only 12% would advise their federal MP to vote to reduce funding from current levels.

The survey also found 31 per cent of voters trust the NDP to protect the CBC, while 26.9 per cent most trust the Liberal Party and 12.6 per cent believe the Conservative Party is most-likely to protect the CBC.

Polls to Watch

Conservative Party - François Catellier (website) is the Conservative Party's candidate for the riding that was held by Shelly Glover in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital. Since 1995, he has run his own Manitoba-based international marketing business.

Liberal Party - Stéphane Dion (website) is the MP for Saint-Laurent - Cartierville. He was Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs between 1996 and 2003, Minister of the Environment from 2004 to 2005 and was leader of from 2006 to 2008.

New Democratic Party - Pierre Nantel (website) is the MP for Longueuil - Pierre-Boucher. He was first elected in 2011 and succeeded Jean Dorion of the Bloc Québécois.

Green Party - Jo-Ann Roberts (website) is the Green Party's candidate for the riding of Victoria. She is a veteran journalist, known as the host of the arts and current affairs program All Points West on CBC Radio One in Victoria.

[1] National Post, "Federal budget kills the penny, cuts CBC spending," Kathryn Blaze Carlson, March 29, 2012.

[2] National Post, 'It's a problem for the CBC to fix': Stephen Harper blames broadcaster's budget woes on low ratings'

[3] Budget 2015: Culture and Arts Still a Low Priority for the Government, Annual Analysis of the Federal Budget From the Perspective of the Cultural Sector, Prepared for the Canadian Conference of the Arts Canadian Arts Coalition Saskatchewan Arts Alliance September 15, 2015 at page 21.

[4] Winnipeg Free Press, "Shelly Glover will not seek re-election in the next federal election," Bartley Kives and Mia Rabson, April 3, 2015.

[5] Press Release, "Liberals to Invest in Canadian Culture and Middle Class Jobs," Liberal Party of Canada, September 22, 2015.

[6] 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, Edited Hansard (Number 190), Thursday, March 26, 2015.

[7] News Release, "CBC/Radio-Canada asset sale should be halted: NDP," New Democratic Party, September 24, 2015.

[8] Private Members' Motion - 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, Société Radio-Canada, November 28, 2014.

[9] Press Release, Green Party Platform on CBC, Green Party of Canada, September 9, 2015.

[10] The Globe and Mail, "Canadian voters deeply divided on who they trust to protect the CBC: survey," Simon Houpt, September 29, 2015.


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