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Opinion: CBC or bust

The CBC belongs to all of us, and should always be off the table for any political party. 
CBC radio programming has connected Canadians from coast to coast to coast for decades.

As a—well I guess it would be former journalist now—I’ve taken an inordinate amount of pride in my objectivity when it comes to elections. I come in with an open mind. I read platforms. I go to all-candidates meetings and read interviews. When it comes time to finally cast my ballot, I always feel like I’m making an informed decision I could back up with a math equation. I’ve even used this very space to suggest that anyone who takes politics less seriously should stay home on election day.

And yet. If a federal election were called tomorrow I would absolutely not consider casting a vote for one candidate—Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre. In fact, I will probably campaign for whichever party has the best chance of beating him. I’ve already heard enough.

It’s not because Poilievre is a conservative. I supported Progressive Conservative Kim Campbell in my first election, because I thought Mulroney got a raw deal and liked a lot of his environmental policies. I could easily vote for a true old-school Progressive Conservative tomorrow if they believed climate change is real, vaccines work, and government was right to invoke the Emergency Act.

It’s also not because of some of the ridiculous things he’s said—like Canadians should invest in crypto currency to “opt out of inflation.” It was a reckless statement, but I could also see a young Justin Trudeau—the one who did stripteases and boxed senators for charity—making a similar gaffe back in the day.

It’s not that Poilievre will meet with literally anyone, regardless of how steeped they are in conspiracies and white nationalism. Or his idiotic take on B.C.’s sensible plan to create a safe drug supply at a time when 2,200 people a year are dying from overdoses. Or his misplaced threats against the Bank of Canada, an institution that has served Canada well for 83 years.

Where Poilievre went too far is his promise to cut funding to the CBC. You keep our national broadcaster’s name out of your damn mouth!

This is a call to war, and I will fight this reckless policy with every ounce of my being. The CBC is far too important an institution to allow one thin-skinned populist to blow it up because they don’t like being fairly called out on the things they said, or to capitalize on the conservative “fake news” grievance that’s sweeping the world.

The CBC is not biased—although I imagine anything in the middle might look like it’s far left when you’re sitting as far right as Poilievre. The CBC regularly gets reviewed for bias in its news coverage and always passes with flying colours. Its online news coverage is slightly left, mainly because of its opinion writers, while its TV news leans slightly to the right, because of conservative over-representation on panel shows. Overall, though, the CBC is as fair as it gets.

And the CBC is far more than news. I grew up watching cartoons and kids shows on Channel 3, graduating to programs for teens like Street Cents. Hockey Night in Canada was on in my house every Saturday night. We watched comedies, crime dramas, and science shows and documentaries like The Nature of Things. When 6 p.m. rolled around, it was time for CBC News.

I’ve been to nine provinces, living in four of them, and practically everywhere I’ve been I could dial CBC radio, which has always been excellent. Poilievre will need to pry Quirks & Quarks and The Debaters from my cold, dead ears.

This is just scratching the surface. I could fill this entire page with the names of programs and personalities that are a credit to our nation.

Though the CBC is arguably priceless, I’ll admit that it isn’t free. A billion dollars a year sounds like a lot, but for all the arts, culture, education, music, sports, news and other Canada-centric programming it provides, it’s an incredible investment with huge returns for all of us. The CBC is part of our national identity and connects us in all kinds of ways we would miss if a guy who has never worked a regular job, who tagged his YouTube videos to target men’s rights/Incel communities, gets his way.

I do have a theory as to why so many conservatives want to pull funding from CBC: it’s because they can’t buy it or control its message. The media landscape in Canada, despite conservatives complaining non-stop about the “elite liberal media,” leans heavily to the right. In the last election, every major paper in Canada but one endorsed either the Conservatives or nobody—and since then the Toronto Star was purchased by a company that has nudged it more to the middle. Almost every major national and city paper, and every broadcast news outlet, is now owned by a company with a conservative bent. Social media has also gone conservative, with billionaires buying every platform and force feeding us conservative content.

Six out of 10 Canadians identify as being in the middle or left of the political spectrum, but I would guess that 90 per cent of media sources are owned by conservatives. The CBC, which belongs to all of us, is the exception, and should always be off the table for any political party.   

I’ve never been a single-issue or even a strategic voter, because I never had to be. Until now.