Many citizens are familiar with the term “urban legend” that applies to stories and events that are suggested as being true or factually accurate, yet in reality they often prove to be myths that are either entirely fabricated or are very loosely based on actual events with an altered outcome. From time to time “urban legends” also cross paths with political interests and as a result various Government bills and legislation may take on new meaning. As an example you may have heard about a clause within a Bill that is rumoured to be, and I quote directly: “a dangerous clause that would give the government unprecedented control over the CBC”. This ongoing narrative further suggests there is a Government effort to “silence and control the CBC”. Is this true? As I get a number of inquiries on this subject I would like to relay further information.
The clause in question is actually from Bill C-60, the Economic Action Plan of 2013. How is the clause in Bill C-60 actually worded? “The Governor in Council may, by order, direct a Crown corporation to have its negotiating mandate approved by the Treasury Board for the purpose of the Crown corporation entering into a collective agreement with a bargaining agent for a bargaining unit”. In other words, under Bill C-60 this clause allows Treasury Board to have the option of approving a negotiating mandate at crown corporations, including the CBC.
Critics have suggested that maintaining the option of Treasury Board to provide direction on labour agreements at all crown corporations (much as already exists currently with everyday Government agencies) amounts to an effort to “silence and control” the CBC. It is quite clear that this clause does not in any way create legal mechanisms to engage in government imposed censorship or other forms of political interference. However, that debate can be saved for a future discussion.
What is also alarming is that those who suggest having the ability of Government to set a mandate for public sector agreements at CBC are in effect by extension suggesting that money would potentially impact the editorial independence of the CBC. Well-known CBC media personality Peter Mansbridge has stated publicly it is insulting to suggest that a CBC journalist’s day to day integrity is negotiable.
This particular clause in Bill 60 ensures that the democratically elected Government of the day has the ability to exercise a negotiating mandate that is affordable to taxpayers. It should also be noted that this is a discretionary option that a Government may choose to exercise and not a course of action that creates censorship and political interference. Reserving the right to respect the interests of taxpayers in public sector agreements in a manner that is equal to all agencies and crown corporations is in my view an important consideration that does not compromise the journalistic integrity of the CBC.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.