CBC staff, supporters 'blindsided' by Catherine Tait's comments on broadcaster's future, Poilievre: emails

According to the disclosed emails, some CBC journalists 'expressed concern about the opinions shared by Catherine [Tait] around political campaigning and Canadians opposed to funding CBC.'

CBC staff, supporters 'blindsided' by Catherine Tait's comments on broadcaster's future, Poilievre: emails
Remove Ads

In February, the head of CBC scuffled with Tory leader Pierre Poilievre on its future as a mainstay in Canadian media. Now Catherine Tait has found herself at odds with senior managers from the state broadcaster.

According to internal emails, CBC employees refuted Tait's comments on shifting the publication to a digital-only product.

The Globe and Mail first reported she was preparing to end traditional TV and radio broadcasts for the publication over the next decade. 

The documents, obtained by The Canadian Press through an access to information request, show the union representing CBC staff raised concerns about the February interview. 

"This is not the reality for us at CBC," emailed a senior manager for CBC British Columbia and Alberta. "Even with a plan to advance and move towards a streaming future, no Canadian will be left behind."

The union also expressed concerns about potential job losses, shrinking newsrooms and increased workloads for employers. 

"Does this mean I will be out of a job in 10 years?" asked one staffer by email, who felt "blindsided" and "betrayed" by the digital-first language.

George Achi, head of journalistic standards at CBC, reassured staff "that statements made by our corporate leadership [outside of CBC News] are completely separate from CBC News coverage."

"We should cover this file with the same fair, accurate, balanced and fact-based approach we use for any other story," he wrote. 

Following the February interview, Poilievre and Tait exchanged pleasantries after the former accused the state broadcaster of launching a partisan attack on him. He said Tait is "not even pretending to be unbiased."

"There's a lot of CBC bashing going on — somewhat stoked by the Leader of the Opposition," said Tait, who accused Poilievre of "inciting attacks" on the broadcaster.

According to Blacklock's Reporter, she wrote to the Tory leader last September to dismiss a Conservative "fundraising ploy" to defund the state broadcaster.

In a 2021 campaign document titled Canada's Recovery Plan, the Tories proposed "refocusing the [broadcaster's] services on a public interest model" to prevent competition with privately-owned media. Direct federal funding for all newsrooms "undermines press freedom and trust in [the] media," wrote the party.

On April 13, Poilievre called the CBC "biased propaganda" that "negatively affects all media." 

"We need a neutral and free media, not a propaganda arm for the Liberal Party," he added.

The Conservatives raised $8,306,535 during the first quarter of 2023, promising to "remove the gatekeepers" and "cut wasteful spending."

Tait urged Poilievre to consider the implications of his 'defund the CBC' fundraiser.

"As head of the public broadcaster and as Leader of the Opposition, I think Canadians can rightly expect that the two of us have a responsibility to discuss the implications of your promise," she said.

According to the disclosed emails, some CBC journalists "expressed concern about the opinions shared by Catherine around political campaigning and Canadians opposed to funding CBC."

However, another email revealed that Tait would continue to discuss the importance of the state broadcaster with politicians from all parties.

Cutting the CBC's $1.2 billion annual parliamentary grant would have "implications to this country," she wrote in a letter disclosed through an access to information request.

Leon Mar, a spokesperson for CBC, said they would not comment on internal employee conversations that are "confidential."

On September 16, Tait asked to meet Poilievre to "make the case to you directly for the value of the public broadcaster in a time of greater polarization in our country."

Tait sent Poilievre a follow-up letter last November 29 — when she did not receive a response — to condemn his partisan fundraising efforts.

"Your party continues to run email blasts and Twitter and Facebook ads falsely accusing CBC journalists of bias and using the 'defund' promise to try and generate money for your party," she wrote.

A Canadian Press reporter asked Poilievre if he would change the Broadcasting Act to defund the English-language CBC. He pivoted, calling them the state broadcaster's "biggest client." 

"I just want to be careful that we don't get you into a conflict of interest here," said the Tory leader. The Canadian Press is a wire service which prominent Canadian publications like the CBC and The Globe and Mail pay into.

"There [is] a group of dissenters and detractors, and they have been given voice," claimed Tait. "They have a megaphone, and they're using it."

Poilievre returned fire, calling the crown corporation a "mouthpiece for Justin Trudeau."

Amid the continued controversy, the CBC is also facing pushback from avid supporters of the state broadcaster.

"[The] CBC is giving up on aged Canadians" whose life-long taxes have supported the broadcaster, wrote one person in an email to Tait and Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez.

"As a Liberal, I would take great exception to [having] my tax dollars used to provide services I don't want," said the individual, who identified as older than 65. 

Should the broadcaster go "online only," it could cause the person to stop supporting the broadcaster.

Tait first served as president and CEO of the state broadcaster in 2018, with the Crown corporation extending her mandate through the beginning of 2025.

Remove Ads
Remove Ads

Don't Get Censored

Big Tech is censoring us. Sign up so we can always stay in touch.

Remove Ads