Trudeau scuffles with Bell over 'garbage' media layoffs

Bell announced 4,800 layoffs 'at all levels of the company' last Thursday — the company’s largest layoff in three decades. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the move a 'garbage decision,' and told reporters: 'I'm pretty pissed off about what’s just happened.'

Trudeau scuffles with Bell over 'garbage' media layoffs
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick and dennizn - stock.adobe.com
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Bell announced 4,800 layoffs “at all levels of the company” last week and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not a happy camper. 

Amounting to the company’s largest layoff in three decades, Trudeau did not mince words in calling the move a “garbage decision.”

“I’m pretty pissed off about what’s just happened,” he told reporters February 9. 

About one in 10 (9%) employees with Bell are now without work after the company made cuts Thursday, owing to government and regulatory decisions that undermine the industry.

Among the cuts include 45 regional radio stations, multiple television newscasts and other programs. 

“This is the erosion not just of journalism, of quality local journalism at a time where people need it more than ever, given misinformation and disinformation,” claimed Trudeau. “It’s eroding our very democracy, our abilities to tell stories to each other,” he added.

“We need those local voices and over the past years, corporate Canada — and there are many culprits on this — have abdicated their responsibility toward the communities that they have always made very good profits off of in various ways.”

But the tech behemoth attributed the corporate restructuring to the Trudeau Liberals not providing media with timely financial relief, reported True North.

“We’ve been advocating for reform for years. It’s not coming fast enough and when it does come, it doesn’t provide meaningful help,” Bell’s chief legal and regulatory officer Robert Malcolmson told CBC News.

He connected the layoffs to Bill C-11, the Broadcasting Act, to require online streaming platforms to produce and promote Canadian content. 

Malcolmson specifically blamed the CRTC for stalling on a “crisis that is immediate,” as they have yet to announce the amount foreign companies must compensate the federal government.

Federal Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge in turn blamed Bell for not producing quality local news.

“They’re still making billions of dollars. They’re still a very profitable company and they still have the capacity and the means to hold up their end of the bargain, which is to deliver news reports,” said St-Onge on Thursday.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre laid the blame solely at the feet of the Trudeau Liberals for creating a poor business environment, due to high taxes and anti-competition policies. 

“We will move quickly in the early part of my term to overturn C-11 and other censorship and put Canadians in charge of what they see and say online,” he said regarding the layoffs. 

“We continue to face a difficult economy … that undermines investment in our networks, fails to support our business in a time of crisis, and fails to level the playing field with global tech giants," reads an open letter by Mirko Bibic, President and CEO of Bell Canada Enterprises.

The telecom behemoth reported a 23% decline in fourth-quarter profits last year. They project upwards of $200 million in savings this year through restructuring measures. 

The company previously axed 1,300 media jobs in June to “significantly adapt” how it delivers the news.

“We have been stepping up over the past years, fighting for local journalism, fighting for investments that we can have, while all the while fending off attacks from Conservatives and others who say, ‘No, no, no, you’re trying to buy off journalists,'” Trudeau said in response to his Tory counterpart.

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