CBC CEO spent six figures on costly junkets since November 2021: report

Since November 1, 2021, CBC CEO Catherine Tait spent six figures on domestic and international junkets to promote the state broadcaster's mandate. The more than $119,000 in expenses took place while the network complained of 'immense pressure' on its finances.

CBC CEO spent six figures on costly junkets since November 2021: report
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The head honcho for CBC splurged six figures on costly domestic and international junkets, records show. Catherine Tait, CEO and president of the state broadcaster, takes home a salary of $497,000 per year.

An Access To Information request by Blacklock’s Reporter uncovered more than $119,000 in expenses while the network complained of "immense pressure" on its finances.

"The public broadcaster faces chronic underfunding," Tait testified January 30 at the Commons heritage committee. She said her network had to "stretch limited resources to meet our mandate."

Tait claimed a shortfall of $125 million and warned employees of job cuts at the time. "Like all media we face rising costs of operations and production and declines in revenue," she said. 

Regardless, the controversial figure filed receipts for five-figure business class junkets overseas from November 1, 2021 to November 1, 2023, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

  • $12,841 for a 2022 Tokyo conference of Public Broadcasters International;
  • $12,673 for a 2022 “European tour” to London, Brussels and Geneva;
  • $12,220 to Lausanne in 2021 for “discussions with the International Olympic Committee”;
  • $10,334 for a 2023 Prague conference of Public Broadcasters International;
  • $9,841 for a 2022 trip to Hollywood for “meetings with production industry representatives”;
  • $9,648 for a 2022 trip to London for discussion on “threats facing journalists.”

Additional expenses include a 2022 visit to the Toronto International Film Festival ($2,155), the Yorkton Film Festival last May 23 ($4,062), and the 2023 Juno Awards in Edmonton ($5,231).

Having "alerted the government to our financial challenge," the controversial billings continued through last year. Costs included an "outreach tour to Vancouver" ($4,291), attendance at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto ($1,195) and “various events at the Toronto International Film Festival” last September 7 ($3,162).

The CBC CEO recently declined to forego her $100,000 annual bonus January 30 in spite of layoff notices at the network. "We must continue to … do our very best to stretch limited resources to meet our mandate," she said. 

Tait announced last December 4 the network would cut "about" 600 of its 6,262 employees in 2024 due to the anticipated $125 million budget shortfall. She did not say whether bonuses would be paid at the time.

The Commons heritage committee in a report last December 13 said it "would be inappropriate for the CBC to grant bonuses to executive members" while it cut jobs. Marco Dubé, executive vice-president of the CBC, testified that layoff notices had already been issued.

"Since we made the announcement in December, we have sent out about 100 notices of layoff," said Dubé. "That is where we are at currently," he added.

"It is extremely difficult to not have the love and the support for the work that we do," Tait told the Commons heritage committee. "However, we continue to do it because we believe that serving Canadians, English and French and Indigenous, is worth it. It is a pillar of our democracy."

She did not disclose her bonus, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

Access To Information records indicate 1,142 of the 6,262 state broadcaster employees received $14,000 bonuses last year, totaling $16,052,148. "These are not frivolous awards given at Christmas time," claimed Tait. "This is performance pay."

"Crown corporations all have performance pay," she said. "It helps us deliver on key objectives and helps us stretch to meet ambitious goals."

An analysis of the CBC's annual reports by the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications (FRPC) uncovered significant "inconsistencies in [the] presentation" of its data, which made it difficult to track the broadcaster's funding and performance from 1937 to 2019.

It states their annual reports provide "little objective information" on the CBC fulfilling its mandate and "so little consistent historical financial information" that Parliament's support for its operations "cannot be easily assessed."

"CBC today provides little, if any, detailed information about the availability of its services in Canada and their use by the public, or about the programming that it produces each year," reads the analysis.

The FRPC estimates the state broadcaster has cost Canadian taxpayers approximately $80 billion since 1937. Since 2015, the CBC's annual funding has increased by $203 million.

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