Opinion Editorial

Channeling past privatizations: Like Air Canada and Petro-Can before it, let’s sell the CBC

By Brian Lilley

If Stephen Harper wants to leave his mark on Canada, I have some advice for him: Sell the CBC.

 

The PM and the rest of the MPs return to Ottawa next week for the start of a new session of Parliament and a new speech from the throne. We’ve heard plenty about how the government will focus on families and consumers with small pocketbook measures to make Canadians happy and lower our bills.

 

I say that not only would selling CBC save Canadian families money, it would be the kind of change Stephen Harper came to Ottawa to accomplish. Supporters of CBC always act as if any call to sell the state broadcaster is simply an attempt to shut it down and do away with a competitor. Hardly.

 

Selling CBC would simply put my competition in private hands.

 

Truth be told, they could become a more formidable foe and actually improve under privatization.

 

It’s happened before. In 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney did what many considered impossible and privatized Air Canada over the objections of those who thought the government needed to own an airline.

 

As a frequent flyer of many airlines, I can tell you that Air Canada is a much better airline today.

The same can be said of Petro-Canada, which was sold beginning in 1990.

 

The organization learned to operate more efficiently and satisfy customers.

 

That was a privatization that was started by Mulroney but finally completed by the Liberal government of Paul Martin in 2004.

 

If Liberals and old Red Tories like Brian Mulroney can privatize government businesses, why can’t Stephen Harper?

 

There really is no reason for the government to own a broadcaster in the 500-channel universe.

 

There are plenty of Canadian broadcasters telling Canadian stories. In fact, with the digital revolution, Canadians have become major content creators.

 

An analysis done by Google last year showed that more Canadian content has been uploaded to YouTube since it was launched in 2005 than has been created by CBC and CTV since the 1950s.

 

The government doesn’t need to own a broadcaster to make sure Canadian stories are told. Canadians will do that on their own.

 

For those still worried about not having Canadian sitcoms and dramas on TV, the government could take just a portion of CBC’s annual $1.1-billion annual subsidy and put it into a production fund that would go to producers.

 

That content would then be purchased by the private networks, CBC included.

 

Does anyone actually believe that only a government-owned broadcaster can showcase Toronto Maple Leafs games Saturday night? Do we need a government-owned broadcaster to show Coronation Street in Canada?

 

Stephen Harper may have provided sound government over the last seven years.

 

He may have helped Canada weather the economic storm better than any other G8 country but when he retires in a few years time, what will be his legacy?

 

It’s no secret that Harper wants to reshape Canada in his own conservative image — but has he done it?

Will he have helped move the yardsticks in a more conservative direction or will he simply have helped manage the Liberal version of Canada so that it is ready for Justin Trudeau to take over?

 

Selling CBC would be a bold step but the right one.

 

It would help taxpayers by removing the $1.1-billion subsidy and it would also take government out of a line of business it has no right to be in.

 

Do the right thing next week Stephen: Announce that you are selling CBC.


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