(OTTAWA) Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre could not follow through on his threat to cut CBC/Radio-Canada by $1 billion, as he promises to do if he takes power in the next election, without at least violating the spirit of the new Official Languages Act that the House of Commons is about to adopt.
Bill C-13, which seeks to modernize the Official Languages Act, indeed states in its preamble that “the federal government recognizes that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation contributes through its activities to the development of English-speaking and French-speaking minorities. and the protection and promotion of both official languages”. In the English version of the bill, the same preamble is used with reference to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
This same statement is used in section 42.1 of the bill and adds: “This recognition is made with respect for freedom of expression and independence in journalism, creation and programming. enjoyed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. »
Debate on third reading of Bill C-13 is scheduled to begin Wednesday in the House of Commons. The Legault government supports the latest version of this reform and wants it to be adopted by Parliament before the end of June.
Government sources confirmed to La Presse that, according to their analysis, Pierre Poilievre could not cut off the CBC without violating this new law. “He would certainly at least violate the spirit of the new law by cutting funding to CBC. Radio-Canada would possibly be affected by these cuts. »
“The French-speaking minority communities and the English-speaking minority in Quebec could use this section of the law to challenge these cuts in court,” said a government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she does not was not authorized to speak publicly about this case.
During the study of the bill in committee last December, a Conservative MP from British Columbia, Brad Vis, spoke out against this clause of the bill. He had also tried in vain to have it removed.
“I have a problem with this paragraph, particularly because I consider Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC, to be two separate entities. I also have to say that I don’t think CBC really contributes to the promotion of the English language these days. I would therefore ask you to please review the wording, ”he then pleaded, without success.
In the Conservative ranks, none of the MPs contacted by La Presse wanted to publicly come forward about the effect of this reform of the Official Languages Act on the promise to cut funds by 1 billion to the CBC.
During the 2019 campaign, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals promised in their election platform to grant an additional layer of protection to the crown corporation in order to counter the oft-repeated Conservative intentions to cut funding to CBC/Radio- Canada.
The Liberals intended to do so by explaining the crucial role that CBC/Radio-Canada plays in the protection and promotion of the two official languages in the country, particularly in regions where English and French minority communities live.
The Trudeau government is therefore following up on this promise in Bill C-13, which enjoys the support of the government of François Legault following an agreement reached last month between the federal Minister of Official Languages, Ginette Petitpas -Taylor, and the Quebec Minister for the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, and which concerns the obligations of federally chartered companies towards French-speaking employees in Quebec and in regions with a strong French-speaking presence.
Mr. Poilievre even sent a letter to Twitter asking the social network to add labeling that CBC is “government funded.” Twitter agreed to this request on April 16 before backtracking five days later. But the day the web giant changed CBC’s labeling, Poilievre was quick to welcome the designation. “People now know this is Trudeau propaganda, not news,” he wrote on Twitter. He then launched yet another appeal to withdraw $1 billion from CBC funding.
In 2021-2022, CBC/Radio-Canada received $1.2 billion from the federal government, compared to $1.4 billion the previous year. The public broadcaster also derives revenue from advertising and subscriptions.