Do any readers of Sketches know a prestigious columnist? If so, why not propose that this week is a good week for Hubert Lacroix, the president of the CBC, to resign on a matter of principle.
The principle? The rule of law. The Broadcasting Act requires the CBC to do its job. At a town hall Thursday, the CBC will reveal its five-year strategic plan to employees and presumably show that the budget shortfall due to federal cuts – $130 million – will leave the Corporation limping. It can only do its job if the government gives it adequate resources. It is failing to do so.
There is a precedent.
At 3 p.m. on February 27, 1998, only 90 minutes before the federal budget was tabled in the House of Commons, CBC president Anthony Manera was handed a single sheet of paper that made him do a double take. In three neat columns, figures spelled out the bleak financial future of the Crown corporation. By 1998, the CBC was expected to chop $270 million from its $1.1 billion budget, including cuts of $100 million imposed by the Tories.
After months of rumbling from the Liberal cabinet, Manera had been suspecting the worst. But he was unprepared for the casual aside at the bottom of the page: Radio-Canada International, an overseas broadcast service operated by Foreign Affairs, was to be re-absorbed by the CBC, along with its annual $15 million price tag.
The next day, at 9 a.m., Manera resigned – citing “purely personal reasons” – in a cryptic letter to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. Only later did the president make his reason clear. “I will not preside over the dismantling of the CBC,” Manera told Macleans.
Nor should Hubert Lacroix.