Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Conservative axe fell on CBC today

The base must be ecstatic today at the news: "CBC to slash 800 jobs in bid to balance budget." Good thing the CBC had James Moore, CBC advocate, in its corner.

No doubt about it, this was an expenditure that could have been made room for and the choice of Conservatives was to say no to the CBC. Yes to $1.3 billion in moth-balled tanks and $400 million in military spending announced in a cross-country tour of the Defence Minister last week. These examples, combined with the stimulus budget that clearly makes funds available for physical infrastructure make it crystal clear that funds could well have been made available to allow CBC to simply bridge its needs into the future and not have to cut.
The cuts became necessary after the federal government turned down CBC's request for bridge financing that could have helped the public broadcaster weather the economic recession, Lacroix said.
So what are we going to see? As CanPolitico points out, disproportionate job cuts at Radio Canada.
The cash-strapped CBC will axe 800 full-time jobs across the country and slash national TV and radio programming to make up a massive budget shortfall.
The plan is to cut 393 jobs at the CBC, 336 at Radio-Canada, and another 70 corporate positions.
Programming cuts (CBC link):
Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president of English services, told employees CBC's English service has already cut $50 million from programming.

A total of $85 million will have to be cut, he said, about $14.4 million from radio and $70.3 million from television.

This will result in layoffs and could also lead to more repeat programming, Stursberg said.
The entirely appropriate reaction from the Canadian Media Guild:
"I blame the loss of 800 jobs squarely on the Conservative government," union president Lise Lareau said.

"This was an entirely avoidable layoff. The Harper government forced the CBC to make these choices over a relatively small amount of money."
Yep. And given the outcry during the last election over Conservative cuts to arts funding, this seems on its face to be suicidal. Yet there are those who view such moves as part of the current Conservative strategy:
That's the upside to being a fiscal and social conservative in Canada. Your hardcore of true believers number a solid one-third of the population; enough to win elections especially if you keep them energized. So what if you horrify the other, hopelessly divided, two-thirds of the population?
That may very well be what's going on, given the lists that are now being compiled of seemingly wrong-headed Conservative moves.

Whatever is going on in the larger background in terms of Conservative strategy, it's difficult to see how this move today is going to do anything but come back to bite them. There will undoubtedly be, once again, reams of ads and campaigns that occur to push them out of office. The list of motivated groups desiring to show the Conservatives the exit is getting long.

Update: just saw BCL's take on the WFP op-ed today, worth a read.