Greens’ May would restore CBC to its former glory

With the three other national party leaders campaigning in Ontario Sunday, Green Party leader Elizabeth May stayed close to home and chose to reinforce the party’s commitment to Canadian arts and culture.

Playing to a green-tinged Victoria audience in Centennial Square who were gathering for a “protect our costs” rally, May made it clear the party would attempt to return national broadcaster CBC to its former glory.

“In particular the Green Party is strongly committed to the health of the public broadcaster,” she said. “It holds this country together in a very real way ... we share our stories through the CBC.”

May pledged the party would reverse the $115 million in cuts the Conservative government made in the last year and would increase its funding by at least $100 million next year.

She said the goal was to restore the CBC to a vibrant broadcaster, bringing “news coverage to every Canadian community reflecting what’s going on in that community.”

The Green plan would include $1.5 billion provided to the CBC, Radio-Canada, the National Film Board, Canada Council for the Arts and Telefilm Canada over the next five years, tax relief for artists and a pledge to remove partisan politics from governance of arts groups.

The Green Party’s arts and culture plan would also rebuild arm’s length governance of arts and cultural institutions to prevent political interference.

“Our film industry, creative industry, our publishing houses are hanging by a thread,” May said, noting they also contribute about $80 billion annually to the Canadian economy.

Noting the fight to save the CBC was a personal one, Victoria Green Party candidate Jo-Ann Roberts, the former host of CBC Radio’s All Points West program, took Prime Minister Harper to task for suggesting recently that the CBC’s financial problems were due to low ratings.

Roberts echoed the thoughts of current CBC chief executive Hubert Lacroix, who noted the CBC’s ratings are good, but the corporation was crippled by a broken funding model.

The federal budget in 2012 cut funding to the CBC by $115 million over three years. Last year, the broadcaster said it faced a $130-million shortfall and was cutting 657 jobs.

Roberts pointed out that recent cuts have meant CBC buildings are up for sale, production and mobile units have been cut and more job losses are looming, with 200 more expected in the spring.

Calling the CBC a “critical cultural institution” Roberts, urged the crowd of about 120 to take their roles as CBC shareholders seriously and use their votes to protect it.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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