Strong-arming the CBC. What I told my MP

I must protest Section 17 part 3 of Bill C60, which gives the “Governor in Council the authority to direct a Crown corporation to have its negotiating mandate approved by the Treasury Board.” This provision interferes with an organization’s right to free collective bargaining, which is guaranteed in Canada’s Charter. Particularly vulnerable to this legislation is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

There is a precedent in law, which should preclude this legislation. In 2002, during contract negotiations with the BC Teachers Federation, the provincial government introduced Bill 28, which removed class size and composition language from the collective bargaining process, and enshrined it in law. The BCTF took the government to court. The Supreme Court found that “the government (had) infringed teachers’ freedom of association guaranteed by s. 2 (d) of the Charter.” In her judgment, Justice Griffin stated:

 The legislation undoubtedly was seen by teachers as evidence that the government did not respect them or consider them to be valued contributors to the education system, having excluded them from any freedom to associate to influence their working conditions. This was a seriously deleterious effect of the legislation, one adversely disproportionate to any salutary effects revealed by the evidence.”

In contract negotiations with the CBC, if the Treasury board attempts to restrict what can and can’t be included in collective bargaining, it will be violating the Charter in a similar way. The precedent has already been set. The lawsuit that your legislation is sure to elicit, will be a huge waste of taxpayers’ money.

But more important than the money is the ethical issue. Freedom of association to influence working conditions (collective bargaining) is a human right. Human rights are at times inconvenient to certain powerful factions in the country, which is why they are of necessity protected in the Canadian Charter. A government’s attempt to skirt its own constitution amounts to tyranny.

Furthermore, I am concerned about your general attitude toward the CBC. A true democracy needs to have a viable public media system that is not tied to any private or government agenda. Government’s arm’s-length funding of public media is an investment in democracy. Through its broadcasting of art and dialogue, the CBC provides a critical voice that informs us in such a way as to insure our continued freedom. As inconvenient as it may be to your agenda, a viable CBC ensures that the public is able to receive non-partisan information about what is going in our government and in the world. This is critical in a free and open society. Surely this kind of society is what both my grandfathers fought to preserve in World War II. It is of immeasurable value and must be supported.

Will you please desist in this strong-arming of the CBC? Remember that yours will not be the only government in the future of this country. The pendulum swings, and we will need the CBC to continue to have the autonomy to hold policy-makers’ feet to the fire, including those of your political rivals. A well-funded public media system is certainly a responsible use of taxpayers’ dollars.


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