The federal Liberal government denies directing CBC/Radio-Canada to cut its budget by 3.3 per cent, but executives at the public broadcaster say that’s part of the reason they’re laying off 10 per cent of its workforce. It is claimed that there is.
The Treasury Board, which oversees federal spending, said it had not issued such instructions to public broadcasters.
“Whatever Radio-Canada and the CBC do, it’s their decision,” Anita Anand of the Office of the President of the Treasury Board told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.
CBC/Radio-Canada said it received written instructions about the budget cuts but declined a request to see a copy.
CBC/Radio-Canada spokesperson Leon Marr said in an email: “We regret to inform you that it is not appropriate to share communications between governments and Crown corporations.”
The Department of Canadian Heritage announced that it has asked Crown corporations under its jurisdiction, including public broadcasters, to participate in an “exercise” and report on how the 3.3 per cent cut will impact them.
“We have asked them to present their proposals on what the 3% reduction would be,” said Pascal St-Onge, a spokesman for the Minister of Culture and Heritage.
The ministry insists it has never instructed the CBC to ensure the cuts will be made or to reduce its future budget.
The station announced in December that it would cut 800 jobs and $40 million from its production budget due to an expected $125 million shortfall next fiscal year.
President and CEO Catherine Tate, along with Sean Poulter, CBC’s executive director of strategy, communications and government relations, said part of the shortfall was due to the planned 3.3% reduction. He said it was because he was “instructed to do so.”
“We were told to cut the budget by 3.3%, and that’s what we did,” Poulter said Tuesday after a congressional committee hearing.
In his testimony, Tait told MPs that the 3.3% was contributing to the station’s financial woes and that if finances did not improve, it would have to cut staff and cut spending on independent production. .
The broadcaster said about 100 jobs have already been cut, including about 50 at the CBC and 40 at Radio-Canada, with an additional 10 corporate jobs being cut.
The Finance Committee and Canadian Heritage said Wednesday it’s too early to talk about requirements to tighten the purse strings for public broadcasters.
They said next year’s federal budget has not yet been finalized and there is no plan for how to find billions of dollars in savings across government departments, agencies and Crown corporations.
Last summer, the Treasury Committee announced that it would aim for savings of 3.3% across all government sectors.
Mr. Anand made the request in writing to his cabinet colleagues, but did not go to each organization individually and ask them to cut the 3.3% from their budgets, his office said.
Saint-Onge would also have received such a letter. She oversees Canadian Heritage, as well as 10 Crown corporations, four ministries, and the Administrative Court.
On Tuesday, MPs from all major federal parties slammed Mr Tait over his decision not to exclude bonuses for executives or himself, despite the impending cuts.
Bloc Quebecois Party Leader Yves-François Blanchette said Wednesday that she should be “shown the door.”
Mr Tait’s current term ends at the end of the year and the process to replace him has already begun, Mr St-Onge said.
On Wednesday, Conservative heritage critic Rachel Thomas blamed “Tate’s incompetence” for the CBC’s declining ratings.
Thomas said the “dramatic decline in viewership” occurred despite the station receiving $1.27 billion in taxpayer funding in the 2023-2024 fiscal year.
“Now, the CBC is removing even more programming, making it less relevant to Canadians with each passing day.”