TV

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

CBC chair's 2010 letter to Harper slams Tory attacks on public broadcaster

  • Print
CBC Chairman Tim Casgrain speaks with CEO Hubert Lacroix in Ottawa on Sept. 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit

Enlarge Image

CBC Chairman Tim Casgrain speaks with CEO Hubert Lacroix in Ottawa on Sept. 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit

OTTAWA - The Conservative party's public attacks on the CBC have been "wilfully destructive" and undermine its independence, says a newly uncovered letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper from the broadcaster's Tory-appointed former chair.

The sharply worded 2010 letter, released last month under the Access to Information Act, alleges that unwarranted attacks that year "disparaged the Crown corporation in order to solicit political donations for the Conservative party."

The missive from then-CBC chair Tim Casgrain warns the party and government MPs against "intruding" on the broadcaster's independence as they seek "to influence the content of programming."

"While this may be fair game in partisan politics, the charges are unfounded in fact and wilfully destructive of an asset of the Crown."

Casgrain's dyspeptic dispatch was triggered by controversy over remarks by CBC pollster Frank Graves of Ekos Research to a newspaper columnist, Lawrence Martin of the Globe and Mail.

Graves later apologized for telling Martin he had urged the Liberal party to "invoke a culture war" with the Conservatives and to not fear polarizing debate over issues such as tolerance.

Conservative MPs and party officials immediately seized on the remarks, demanding the CBC fire Graves as its pollster.

Casgrain, appointed by the Harper government to the CBC board of directors in April 2007, said Graves' polling work for CBC had integrity and reliability — and noted the government itself had hired him in the past.

"The government comes dangerously close to intruding on the independence of the broadcaster when it seeks to influence the content of programming or determine whose views will or will not be represented on its airwaves," says the letter, a highly unusual direct communication from the CBC board to a prime minister.

Casgrain's five-year CBC term ended in June 2012. An executive at a Toronto flight business, his only comment this week was that "the letter speaks for itself. I have nothing to add."

A spokeswoman for the CBC said the Prime Minister's Office never responded to the letter, which was also copied to then-heritage minister, James Moore, who also did not respond.

France Belisle said the chair and board have not sent any further letters to the prime minister touching on the public broadcaster's independence.

Harper's spokesman Jason MacDonald said the Prime Minister's Office has "no intention of getting into a play-by-play around correspondence that goes back to 2010."

"The CBC chair is entitled to his views and to expressing them. The government respects the CBC's independence, and it continues to receive significant taxpayer funds."

A spokesman for the Conservative party took issue with the Casgrain letter, saying this week that "no media organization, not even the CBC, gets to dictate how the Conservative party can and cannot fundraise."

"When the CBC invites partisan guests and treats them like neutral observers, we're going to point out their bias to Canadians," Cory Hann said in an email.

"When the CBC is being biased against our party in their 'news' coverage, we will never hesitate to inform Canadians."

An Elections Canada database indicates a Tim Casgrain twice donated $1,050 to Toronto's Eglinton-Lawrence Conservative Association in 2007 and 2008. The riding was then held by a Liberal but was won by Conservative Joe Oliver, now finance minister, in the 2011 election.

A recent fundraising letter from the Conservative party accuses a cartel of five big media groups in Canada of bias in favour of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, and pointedly asks party supporters whether the CBC should be privatized.

"The CBC receives more than $1 billion per year in taxpayer funding — yet is widely perceived as holding a Liberal bias in their news and analysis," says the letter from Fred DeLorey, the party's director of political operations.

Ian Morrison, spokesman for the pro-CBC lobby group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, said from Toronto that the letter was "serious stuff — it's troubling but not surprising."

"I'm proud of Mr. Casgrain. ... He wrote to the only guy who was capable of ending the fundraising attacks."

The 2012 federal budget chopped the CBC's budget by $115 million over three years, with the corporation shedding more than 600 jobs this year alone. The cuts were among a spate of spending reductions across government to balance the budget by 2015, and leave the CBC with just over $900 million in annual operations funding.

— With files from Steve Rennie

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter

CBC chair's 2010 letter to Harper slams Tory attacks on public broadcaster by TheCanadianPress

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Glenn January won't blame offensive line for first loss

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should political leaders be highly visible on the frontlines of flood fights and other natural disasters?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google