The federal Liberal government is denying that it told CBC/Radio-Canada to cut its budget by 3.3 per cent, despite executives with the public broadcaster insisting that’s part of the reason they’re laying off 10 per cent of their workforce.
CBC/Radio-Canada to cut 10 per cent of workforce, end some programming as it faces $125M budget shortfallMickey Djuric · The Canadian Press
· Posted: Jan 31, 2024 5:46 PM EST | Last Updated: January 31
CBC president and CEO Catherine Tait waits to appear before the standing committee on Canadian heritage in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)The federal Liberal government is denying that it told CBC/Radio-Canada to cut its budget by 3.3 per cent, despite executives with the public broadcaster insisting that’s part of the reason they’re laying off 10 per cent of their workforce.
The Treasury Board, which oversees spending in the federal budget, said that no such directive was given to the public broadcaster.
“Whatever Radio-Canada and CBC is doing is their decision,” the office of Treasury Board President Anita Anand told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.
President of the Treasury Board Anita Anand speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)CBC/Radio-Canada said it was given written instructions on the budget cut, but declined a request to view a copy.
“I’m sorry, but it would not be appropriate to share communication between the government and a Crown corporation,” Leon Mar, spokesperson for CBC/Radio-Canada, said in an email.
The Department of Canadian Heritage said it asked Crown corporations under its purview, including the public broadcaster, to participate in an “exercise” and report on how a 3.3 per cent cut could affect them.
“We asked them to show us a proposal of what a three per cent reduction would look like,” said a spokesperson for Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge.
The department insists it did not tell CBC that the cut was certain to happen, or instruct it to make any such reduction in its upcoming budget.
In December, the broadcaster said it would cut 800 jobs and $40 million from its production budget because of a $125-million shortfall projected for the coming fiscal year.
President and CEO Catherine Tait — along with Shaun Poulter, CBC’s executive director of strategy, public affairs and government relations — have attributed the shortfall in part to being “told” to plan for a 3.3 per cent cut.
“We were told to budget a 3.3 per cent cut and that’s what we’ve done,” Poulter said Tuesday after a parliamentary committee hearing.
During her testimony, Tait told MPs that the 3.3 per cent is a factor in the broadcaster’s financial woes, and that if its finances don’t improve, it will need to cut jobs and spending on independent productions.
About 100 positions have already been cut, including about 50 on the CBC side and 40 on the Radio-Canada side, as well as 10 corporate jobs, the broadcaster said.
Both Treasury Board and Canadian Heritage said Wednesday that it’s premature to talk about any requirements for the public broadcaster to tighten its purse strings.
They said the federal budget for the coming year has not been finalized — nor have plans on how to find billions in savings across government departments and agencies, along with Crown corporations.
Last summer, the Treasury Board announced it was looking to find 3.3 per cent in savings within all government departments.
Anand made the request in writing to her cabinet colleagues, but didn’t go to each organization individually asking for them to cut 3.3 per cent from their budgets, her office said.
Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge speaks with reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Wednesday, November 29, 2023 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)St-Onge would have received such a letter. She oversees Canadian Heritage as well as 10 Crown corporations, four departmental agencies and an administrative tribunal.
MPs across all major federal parties grilled Tait on Tuesday over her decision not to rule out bonuses for executives — or herself — despite the looming cuts.
She should be “shown the door,” Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said Wednesday.
Tait’s current mandate ends at the end of the year and the process to replace her is already underway, St-Onge said.
On Wednesday, Conservative heritage critic Rachael Thomas blamed “Tait’s incompetence” for a decline in CBC viewership.
A “dramatic drop in ratings” happened despite the broadcaster receiving $1.27 billion in taxpayer funds in the 2023-2024 fiscal year, Thomas said.
“Now the CBC is dropping even more programming, becoming less relevant to Canadians every passing day.”