When not rewriting Tea Makers posts a couple of days after the fact, near-useless official CBC blog Inside the CBC can occasionally deign to cover real events, like Hubie’s appearance before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on April 27. That blog gave us 343 words.
Meanwhile, I printed out and read all 56 pages of “evidence” (transcripts), published only yesterday, and can offer a highlight of what was said. You pretty much know already about anything not cited here. (All remarks from Hubie unless otherwise stated.)
Hubie: Selling assets to balance your budget, selling assets in fact to pay for your downsizing costs and your severance obligations, is not the best of management decisions, but we have no other choice.
Ruby Dhalla: The minister had also stated in the House that even if the government had provided CBC with bridge financing there still would have been a substantial amount of job losses, to the effect of 800. If the government had provided CBC with bridge financing, would you be in the dire situation that you’ve described today and that we’ve heard about from CBC employees across the country? Would jobs have been lost or would bridge financing have helped to save the CBC?
Hubie: his would have allowed us to gain time so that we could have made our voluntary retirement incentive plan perhaps a little more generous, and we could have used attrition, but unless permanent funding had been given to CBC/Radio-Canada, we would not have saved the 800 jobs. Bridge financing was about reducing the number of jobs impacted by this downturn.
Hubie: The decrease is about $64 million, but that’s simply on the numbers that are presented. I’m not saying that we have seen our budget decrease by $64.8 million. The $60 million that we hope we will be receiving when we are in front of Treasury Board in a couple of days will make that number bigger by $60 million. We have a decrease of $2 million due to the non-renewable funding for the Canadian content online program – that’s a program that was not renewed – and we have a $2.8 million decrease to the budget 2007 expenditure review.
So what you’re looking at in fact is that if you include the renewal of the $60 million, in constant dollars we have about $400 million less than the corporation received in 1990. But in terms of basic appropriation, it has been stable since 1996-97.
— But the money is less.
— In terms of constant dollars.
Hubie: Well, Mr. Angus, if the question is, “Lacroix, what kind of model would you present if you took advertising revenues out of the CBC? How many dollars would you need?,” the answer is pretty simple in terms of what amount of commercial revenues we need to balance our budget. The number is anywhere between $300 million and $325 million in 2009–10 in our budget.
Larry Bagnell: The AM tower is about to be removed for radio in the Yukon. People depend on CBC there, unlike in other areas in the south. Because of the remoteness and the –50°, weather reports – for survival, for daily jobs – are really critical things in life. Staying in the regions would not be maintained if this tower were not replaced. The local manager is doing a great job, but he says he does not have the resources to replace that.
I hope you will take this under advisement. I know you probably can’t answer now, but hopefully we’ll have an ally in you to get this service extended. Those people outside the boundaries of FM really depend on it. They’re the most vulnerable.
Hubie: If your question is what will I do about this, I will take the question under advisement. I’m not aware of the details surrounding this tower.
Charlie Angus: I want to follow up with what you said about regional losses. As you know, it’s a very serious issue in our region, and this is not being parochial. Our communities are absolutely dependent on CBC. If they don’t have CBC North service, they don’t have a voice, period. I hear the number 28%, and I’m doing the calculations across northern Canada, where we took a 50% hit in Sudbury, a 50% hit in Thunder Bay, 100% in northern Manitoba, 100% in Saskatchewan.
We don’t really get a feeling that those losses were balanced out, because when you take two jobs out of a market like that, you’re eliminating the afternoon show. When you eliminate the afternoon show, you’re eliminating the entire ability of a vast region the size of western Europe to have arts programming, to introduce northern writers, to bring voices to the region.
Tim Uppal: n April 17, a news release was sent out saying that local news will become a major priority for the CBC with the reorganization of the news department. In a variety of newspapers across the country, it was noted that the reorganization and focus towards local news has been under way for some time – for about two years – and is now being revved up because of the economic downturn.
I understand that the details were sketchy and that you have plans to elaborate more in the summer, but can you please give this committee some of the details you do have? It has been in the process for about two years, so can you give us the details you have?
Hubie: Sir, I’m sure you understand that I’m not going to describe here what we are going to do with respect to our programming and let our friends at CTV or at Canwest understand and prepare for the changes we’re going to make.
Shelly Glover: I can’t help but note that on your Web site, sir, there are job postings, and yet we’re talking about layoffs. I’m wondering why these people were being laid off.... My question is, please tell us why we are looking for new jobs and new people when we’ve considered laying off people who have expertise and experience with your corporation.
Hubie: Well, I’m not aware of the postings you’re talking about. We have rules with respect to postings and how they get to be posted. There’s one thing that has to continue.
This one is just ridiculous. Averages are susceptible to outliers, and there’s always somebody who earns more than you, even if that somebody is a salt-of-the-earth blue-collar Tory (maybe a plumber). Nonetheless, committee members tried to squeeze blood from this stone.
Dean Del Mastro: Can you give me some idea what the average salary is at CBC? Do you know that number?
Hubie: No, I don’t offhand.
— Would it surprise you if access to information indicated it was around $76,000?
— No. Do you mean for an overall employee? I think $76,000, but on the television side it may be a bit higher – $84,000 to $85,000. Those are the numbers we work with, yes.
— Okay, that’s fine.
Obviously, as I’ve indicated, these are challenging times. Everybody laments job losses – everybody does. But the people in my riding, where the average household income is about $60,000, would probably look at that and ask, how much more in taxes can I pay? How much more do you want me to pay, when you’re already paying people more than my entire household makes?
Shelly Glover: I spent almost 19 years as a police officer. I’m quite shocked to hear today, for the first time, that the average wage or salary of a CBC employee surpasses by quite a bit the average amount that a police officer makes, a police officer who puts his or her life on the line every single day. To hear you say that it may be higher than $76,000, or maybe even more than $84,000 on average, when our men and women who are living the news make far less than that and the people simply reporting it are making far more on the taxpayers’ dollar, was quite a shock to me.
The other comment I wish to make, sir, is about the $4 million that you speak about when you talk about the bonuses. I assure you that police officers aren’t getting any bonuses for doing a good job, and I would hope that all Canadians expect, when we assist corporations, that all employees are expected to do a good job regardless of any kind of bonus.
Seriously, get over it. Now you want to sub in the co-host from What’s for Dinner?
Glover: I would suggest, sir, that we do have some very talented people, very talented Canadians, in fact. If I look at the Martha Stewart show, I would argue that Ken Kostick from my home province would do as good a job, and that Canadians would be engaged. They expect Canadian identity in much of this programming.
Apart from play-by-play on the occasional hockey game, at least?
Dhalla: The demographic across the country is obviously changing very rapidly. I look at my own riding in Brampton, and it’s one of the most multicultural and multilingual ridings in the country. What impact have the job losses and closures of some of the regional and local programming had on ethnic programming and ethnic communities in the country?
Hubie: Madam, your question is very precise in nature. I would have to follow it up with a better answer than the one I could give you today.
According to one member, that really happens.
Carole Lavallée: I would like to talk to you about the Abitibi region, which is a huge area with 150,000 inhabitants. It truly is a remote region.
CBC/Radio-Canada does not have deep roots there; actually, it’s not there at all. In Rouyn-Noranda, there is a funny, screwed-up arrangement – I can’t explain it in any other terms – according to which several journalists working at Radio Nord read the same news report at the end of the day, and it is written and read in the same order. At 5:00, we hear from TQS; 5:30, they change the set and it’s TVA; and at 6:00, it’s Radio-Canada. I’m sure you understand that the people of the Abitibi–Témiscamingue region find that this news report is not at all of the same calibre as the Radio-Canada news.