Let’s see now, what’s next on the Conservative agenda?
Shut down the wheat board, despite the protests of farmers? Check.
Enact a tough-on-crime agenda that throws more and more people in jail, despite the fact that every expert in the world tells you what you’re doing is wrong? Check.
Tack the word ‘royal’ to as much crap as possible, turning back the clock to a colonial era? Check.
Withdraw from the Kyoto accord, because it’s just too much work? Upcoming check.
Yes, it’s been a busy time for Stephen Harper, who is succeeding in remaking Canada in his own image. So, what’s left to do?
Well, the CBC is still intact. But not for long.
Last week, the Conservatives gave the Destroy the CBC file over to Edmonton-St. Albert carbon blob Brent Rathgeber. If you’ve never heard of Rathgeber, don’t worry; Rathgeber isn’t a household name in his own household. (Back in my reporter days, I interviewed Rathgeber when he was running for the provincial PCs. He was, without a doubt, the single least impressive electoral candidate I have ever met. And he won, of course.)
Last week, Rathgeber tabled in the Commons four questions about the CBC. He wants to know the salaries and perks CBC gives to its star performers (a very short list), how much the CBC spent on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy (which, by the way, are the CBC’s only two American import shows, as compared to CTV and Global, who spend untold millions on American shows), how much the CBC’s bureaus in Paris, London, Washington and Rome spend on hospitality, etc, and a list of all CBC employees who make more than $100,000.
The Harper government’s loathing for all things CBC (except when Harper can use the CBC to his advantage by appearing in friendly spots with toothless satirist Rick Mercer) is well known. Conservatives believe the CBC is too liberal in its leanings, although I have yet to see or read any real evidence of this so-called bias. Given their druthers, the Harper government would turn the CBC over to private broadcasters, which would give us yet another outlet for American programming. (Rathgeber’s blog (http://www.brentrathgeber.ca/brents-blog) gives an insight into just how clueless Rathgeber is. He points to CTV as a producer of programs that are “comparable to anything produced by the CBC”, and cites Canadian Idol and the comedy Dan for Mayor. Canadian Idol, despite strong audience numbers, was cancelled three years ago. Dan for Mayor, a comedy I grew to like, was cancelled after a couple of seasons of being bumped around the schedule to make room for imported TV. Perhaps Rathgeber should have mentioned So You Think You Can Dance, Canada, which, again despite strong viewership, was cancelled this year by CTV.)
So, what’s the point of asking for the salaries of CBC employees? It’s obvious: Conservative supporters are (in the famous words of Justice John Gomery in describing Jean Chretien’s monogrammed golf balls) ‘small town cheap’. The Tories know that they could cause outrage in their base if they knew how much Peter Mansbridge made, or how much George Stroumboulopoulos is paid (once they got over the shock that someone named Stroumboulopoulos is on the CBC), or how much Kevin O’Leary is raking in for humiliating people on Dragon’s Den, or the outrageous salary of Ron MacLean gets for kissing Don Cherry’s ass on Hockey Night in Canada.
Going after the CBC also works in favour of the unofficial Conservative house organ, the Sun newpaper chain, and its hilariously amateurish ”news” channel, Sun news. Quebecor, which owns both, sees the CBC as a competitor using public dollars, and wants it gone. The Conservatives, who have a love-love relationship with Sun newspapers and TV, is only too happy to oblige.
Now, I’m not a rabid supporter of CBC Radio the way some people are (I like Q with Jian Ghomeshi sometimes), and most of what CBC TV offers up I can safely ignore (Little Mosque on the Prairie? Please.), just the way I ignore most of what American network TV offers (Glee? Please.). But we’re getting pretty good value for our $1.1 billion we spend on CBC (nation-wide English and French radio and TV networks). And CBC is a beacon of creativity compared to CTV (name one Canadian show on CTV) or Global (same question), both of which devote almost all of their prime-time hours, and hundreds of millions of dollars, to rebroadcasting American TV that we already get on cable.
The Harper government, using a deservedly obscure MP, has launched another attack on the CBC, which is driven not by responsible financing, but by perceived slights over the years. It’s the beginning of a vindictive, scorched earth attack on the CBC that Harper and his goon government know will find a receptive audience in small-town cheap Canada.