JUL 30, 2015
The CBC Ottawa Broadcast Centre and head office of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Sparks Street in Ottawa. A confidential letter published by WikiLeaks on Wednesday reveals that the Crown Corporation could be sold under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive
A secret letter leaked by WikiLeaks on Wednesday reveals that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Canada Post could be sold under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, being negotiated by Canada and 11 other countries this week in Maui, Hawaii.
The confidential letter, titled, “State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Issues for Ministerial Guidance” (PDF), reveals the perils Canada’s key Crown Corporations now face under the Harper government’s burgeoning privatization and trade agenda.
The leaked document was prepared for a TPP Ministerial Meeting held in Singapore in December, 2013. According to the whistle-blowing website, the document “indicates a wide-ranging privatisation and globalisation strategy” whose main aim is to undermine state-owned enterprises (SOEs) – publicly owned corporations whose mandate is to deliver the public good with no or minimal commercial considerations. That will change under the TPP.
“Even an SOE that exists to fulfil a public function neglected by the market or which is a natural monopoly would nevertheless be forced to act ‘on the basis of commercial considerations’,” said WikiLeaks in a press release introducing the leak. “Foreign companies would be given standing to sue SOEs in domestic courts for perceived departures from the strictures of the TPP, and countries could even be sued by other TPP countries, or by private companies from those countries.”
The Council of Canadians, which leads the Canadian campaign against the TPP and other reckless trade agreements, is concerned that the “essence and mandate” of both the CBC and Canada Post “are being traded away in favour of private corporate profit” under the TPP.
“The very mission of the CBC – telling the bilingual and multicultural story of Canada – will be reduced to simple profit making,” said Sujata Dey, the Council’s trade campaigner. “Likewise, Canada Post will no longer function as a nation builder, but as a private company.”
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting says Harper’s “hidden agenda to damage public broadcasting” started in November, 2007, when he appointed Hubert Lacroix, a Montreal lawyer and Conservative Party supporter, as the President and CEO of the CBC. In 2014, Lacroix announced that the CBC would lay off between 1,000 and 1,500 employees by 2020. He also announced plans to shut down key in-house production of popular feature documentaries.
Meanwhile, since 2012, the Harper government has slashed the CBC’s budget by a quarter of a billion dollars. Garry Neil, the Council’s executive director, noted that, due to these cuts, the CBC is “already acting too commercially and straying from its essential public service mandate.”
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