The CBC is a classic wedge issue for the Conservatives. Even talk of privatizing it is a morsel of red meat to throw to the hungry base. It’s an easy stunt to try to shore up that deep blue Conservative brand in the heartland, especially when polling suggests the brand is starting to fade. It also deflects attention and energy from the growing national consensus that the public broadcaster is under-funded and should receive more money each year from Ottawa to provide the kinds of media services that simply don’t get offered by commercial media.
So it’s not that surprising that the National Post is reporting today that CBC is indeed on the list of assets the government might sell off:
CBC, Via Rail flagged for possible sale
The federal Department of Finance has flagged several prominent Crown corporations as “not self-sustaining,” including the CBC, Via Rail and the National Arts Centre, and has identified them as entities that could be sold as part of the government’s asset review, newly released documents show.
In its fiscal update last November, the government announced that it would launch a review of its Crown assets, including so-called enterprise Crown corporations, real estate and “other holdings.” Finance Department documents, obtained by Canwest News Service under the Access to Information Act, reveal that the review will focus on enterprise Crown corporations, which are not financially dependent on parliamentary subsidies.
Such corporations include the Royal Canadian Mint and Ridley Terminals, which is a coal-shipping terminal in Prince Rupert, B. C.
But the documents also reveal that the government will consider privatizing Crown corporations that require public subsidies to stay afloat. “The reviews will also examine other holdings in which the government competes directly with private enterprises, earn income from property or performs a commercial activity,” states a Finance briefing note dated Dec. 2, 2008. “It includes Crown corporations that are not self-sustaining even though they are of a commercial nature.”
In the briefing note, the Finance Department identifies nine Crown corporations that fall in that category, including Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the CBC and Via Rail.
What’s not yet clear is if there’s anything more to the story than the boost it provides for the Conservative fundraising machine. Has anyone heard anything more substantive