OTTAWA – A number of journalist groups are asking Canadians to write to their MPs to demand changes to a controversial bill which would give the government a role in negotiating CBC contracts.
Arnold Amber of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression says Bill C-60 poses a grave threat by giving the government leverage that could be used to skew the CBC’s news coverage.
Carmel Smyth, president of the Canadian Media Guild, says it’s potentially dangerous legislation.
The bill would allow the cabinet to approve the CBC’s negotiating mandate and allow a Treasury Board representative to sit in on talks between the broadcaster and its unions.
Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, says the bill could turn the CBC from a public broadcaster to a state broadcaster.
The government says the legislation is a financial matter, designed to allow the government to keep tabs on spending at all Crown corporations.
Matthew Conway, a spokesman for Treasury Board President Tony Clement, said in a statement that the government has to be able to ensure that costs at Crown corporations are sustainable.
“We are ensuring that public service labour costs align and that taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars are used efficiently,” Conway wrote in an email. “We will also ensure consistency throughout government on this plan.”
The NDP says it will table an amendment Tuesday that would exclude CBC from the legislation.
The offending clauses are contained in the latest omnibus budget bill.
The journalists’ organizations also want the government to exempt CBC — and for Canadians to voice their displeasure.
“We are not bureaucrats,” said Amber. “We want the Canadian people to react as quickly as possible to bring the government to its senses.”
The bill is less about money than it is about a government bid to expand its control, Smyth said. Even the appearance of bias can erode journalistic integrity, she added.
“How much control does any government need?”