Election 2015: Q&A with the Kootenay-Columbia candidates, part 4: the CBC and the Senate

Every Friday the Star will bring you responses to a series of questions posed to the four candidates in the Kootenay-Columbia riding.

  • Oct. 2, 2015 8:00 a.m.

Every Friday until the Oct. 19 federal election, the Nelson Star will bring you responses to a series of questions posed to the four candidates in the Kootenay-Columbia riding. The questions were compiled by Black Press editors throughout the riding. This week’s questions are:

1. What is CBC’s role in Canadian society and how should it be handled by the federal government?

2. Do you support the dissolution of the senate? Why or why not?

 

BILL GREEN, Green Party

1. CBC/Radio-Canada is part of the core fabric of our country. As our national public broadcaster, it has defined what it means to be Canadian. My own life is deeply enriched by CBC Radio.

We need to re-invest in a CBC/Radio-Canada that is distinctly public and distinctly Canadian.

The Green Party will ensure CBC and Radio-Canada have adequate and stable funding. We will increase their federal core funding by $315 million per year to rebuild local coverage and capacity. We will also change the governance structure so partisan political cronies will no longer be appointed to the CBC board of directors.

2. I agree with Canadians that the senate cannot continue in its present form. Its legitimacy has been seriously undermined by scandal and hyper-partisanship, and its constitutional role to represent regional and provincial interests has been abandoned. The senate must be reformed during the next parliament.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that abolishing the senate requires the unanimous consent of all provinces. The Green Party believes the question should be put to the people of Canada.

Green MPs will advocate that parliament appoint a non-partisan commission to hold hearings across the country to listen to Canadians, explain the issues at stake, and discuss options for reform. The commission would be required to come up with a serious reform proposal that involves a Senate, either elected or independently selected, with a new distribution of seats and new powers.

The constitutional proposal should then be put to the people for approval in a national referendum. The referendum question would ask Canadians which option they favour: the reform proposal or abolition? There would be no option for the status quo.

 

DAVID WILKS, Conservative Party

1. In 1936, parliament passed the Canadian Broadcasting Act, creating the CBC as broadcast regulator of private radio broadcasters.

CBC-TV’s first broadcasts were in 1952. In 1958 CBC became a crown corporation. In 1968 the CRTC was created to control, protect and enhance Canadian content. CBC-TV transmitted 90 per cent Canadian entertainment. The majority of viewers chose to watch American content on Canadian private broadcasters.

When cable began in 1991, parliament attempted to control what Canadians could watch in their homes; however, they didn’t foresee the impact of satellite beginning in 1994.

In the 500 channel universe, broadcasters, cable/satellite companies amalgamated with Internet providers and newpapers. An explosion of entertainment fed to consumers on the Internet has further eroded influence of the CBC on Canadians’ reality.

CBC has tried to adapt with new platforms and services. As they strive to be relevant to Canadians in this new reality, reasonable taxpayer support of the CBC should continue.

2. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has shown Canadians that politics can be filled with feel-good promises that have little if any chance of being delivered.

Mulcair tells us he will abolish the senate. He intentionally ignores an April 2014 Supreme Court of Canada ruling which decided reforms require the approval of at least seven provinces representing at least 50 per cent of the population.

The Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s proposed reforms, including senate elections and term limits, were illegal.

The court also ruled that outright abolition could occur only if all 10 provinces agreed.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard insists the senate’s troubles are what he called “administrative dysfunction” that can be fixed. He vowed to fight any effort to scrap the senate. The majority of premiers, including Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, support Couillard’s position.

There is a constitutional stalemate. Saying, “I’ll just abolish it,” giving Canadians false hope, is just dishonest.

 

DON JOHNSTON, Liberal Party

1. CBC is a critically important institution and service. CBC is a place for Canadians to share the great diversity of this country and to have conversations about Canada, its uniqueness, its place in the world, and its achievements and aspirations. The role that CBC radio plays in rural areas is particularly important.

I recently did an interview on CBC radio and followed that with a tour of the riding. In every community we stopped in, at least one person commented on the interview and in some cases many did.

It was amazing to realize how many people that interview reached and only CBC could do that. Fortunately, the feedback was universally positive.

CBC binds us together in important ways and that is why the Liberal Party will invest $150 million in new annual funding and reverse the Harper cuts. I look forward to many years of CBC radio with my breakfast.

2. The dissolution of the senate would require the support of seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population. Recent attempts to make significant constitutional changes have all failed.

Regardless of what Mr. Mulcair is saying, the process would be lengthy, expensive and the likelihood of success extremely low. We need to focus on changing the hyper-partisan nature of the senate and the ideologically-driven nature of appointments.

Justin Trudeau accomplished the most significant reform in senate history simply by cutting ties with the Liberal caucus so senators are independent and no longer subject to party control.

We would implement a new, non-partisan, merit-based, broad and diverse process to advise on senate appointments (similar to the process of appointing people to the Order of Canada).

This would completely change the partisan nature of the senate and allow us to get onto important challenges like climate change and the economy.

 

WAYNE STETSKI, New Democratic Party

1. The news for CBC just got worse. We’re now hearing that the Harper Conservatives intend to sell off CBC’s assets in the middle of a highly contested election. At the very least, this is morally wrong!

The CBC is our national voice and is considered an integral part of our national fabric. When Canadians talk about Canadian values, a strong CBC is often stated as one of those values.

Canadians across the country depend on The National, As It Happens, Cross Country Check Up and the Sunday Edition to stay in touch with what is happening in our country and in our world. And here in Kootenay Columbia, stories and experiences are shared by listening to Daybreak South and Radio West.

When I decided to run for MP, I made a list of things that concerned me most about the direction that Stephen Harper is taking our Canada. On that list were my deep concerns for the CBC.

Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have slashed funding for CBC/Radio Canada, first the Liberals with a $415 million cut, followed by an additional $115 million cut by the Conservatives.

An NDP government will reverse the Conservatives’ $115 million cut and provide long-term, stable funding for the CBC. We will usher in a new era of innovation, independence and stability for Canada’s public broadcaster.

2. It is the position of the NDP that it is time to abolish the unelected, unaccountable senate. And we are seeking a mandate from Canadians to do just that. This is part of our platform for renewed democracy.

We also want to make 2015 the last election that uses the first-past-the-post electoral system which has allowed Stephen Harper’s right-wing government to attack our fundamental values with only 39 per cent of the vote. An NDP government will bring in mixed member, proportional representation voting in our first term.

 

Libertarian candidate Christina Yahn has withdrawn from the race.

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