The question as printed by the Kanata Kourier-Standard, read as follows:
"There has been considerable controversy in recent months concerning the recent programming changes on CBC Radio 2. Could you please tell the voters of Carleton-Mississippi Mills what you intend to do, if elected, to ensure that CBC management is made more responsive to the wishes of it's audience, the Canadian taxpayer."
The responses were as follows. First, from the incumbent, Mr. Gordon O'Connor, of the Conservative Party:
"The government finances the CBC each year, but we don't tell the CBC what to broadcast. They are bound by CRTC rules and we will not interfere with what they broadcast."
Well, this was the kind of answer I expected from Mr. O'Connor. Short, succinct, rather arrogant, and obviously neither he nor his staff has made any attempt to understand the issue or why Canadians are so angry at the CBC. I would expect Mr. O'Connor to be defeated in the next election, were it not for the strong support he receives from the rural residents of this riding. Mr. O'Connor gets an F, a failing grade, for this response.
From Mr. Jake Cole, of the Green Party:
"Our principle is grassroots democracy; Canadians should have a say in what affects them. Any changes should reflect what people want."
This is considerably better than Mr. O'Connor's response, although Mr. Cole does not state what he would do. However, I give Mr. Cole a B+ for this response, for having the right attitude. It is not surprising that the Greens have come from nearly nowhere to become a serious contender in some ridings.
From Mr. Paul Arbour, of the NDP:
"Our government has acted in the past through an order council to change the practises of Canada Post because they weren't serving the Canadian public and I am prepared to move an order in council, if necessary, so that the CBC can continue to serve Canadians."
Much better. I don't know if what Mr. Arbour says is correct; i.e. an order in council can be used to change the CBC, but I give Mr. Arbour full marks for having the right attitude and being prepared to act. Mr. Arbour receives an A-.
And finally, from Mr. Justin MacKinnon of the Liberal Party:
"The CBC is a Canadian institution and they have to respond to the needs of the country. You have to give them some flexibility, but if they are ignoring the wishes of Canadians, I would stand up and address that."
Well done, Mr. MacKinnon. You get full marks for having the right attitude, although your response is lacking specificity. Consequently, Mr. MacKinnon also receives an A-.
I note that three of the candidates did not feel it necessary to answer my e-mail as well, and were only moved to answer the question since it has been posed to them by the Kanata Kourier-Standard. However, I realize that they are all busy and forgive them for this lapse. Mr. Arbour gets full marks for courtesy, having answered my question in an e-mail that he sent to me, with substantially the same response as appeared in the newspaper.
How would I have answered this question? This is my response, assuming that I had sent the answer directly to the sender:
Dear Mr. Wooten,
Thank you for your e-mail. It is always a pleasure to receive e-mails from the voters in Carleton-Mississippi Mills and to be able to address the issues that are of concern to the constituents of Carleton-Mississippi Mills.
I agree with you that the CBC has acted in a precipitous manner in instituting the programming changes on CBC Radio 2. While they have not violated the letter of the Broadcasting Act, 1991, or their license as granted by the CRTC, I believe they have certainly ignored the CBC Radio 2 audience in implementing these changes and have therefore violated the spirit of the Act and their license. At this moment, however, the programming changes have been implemented and it would be disruptive to reverse them.
If elected, therefore, I would work to implement the following actions:
- The CBC would be required to report on the success (or lack thereof) of their initiative by displaying audience share statistics, according to time slot, comparing audience share for programs available before the changes and after the changes on the CBC web site for all to view. The audience share statistics that are presented would be those available from the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement, an independent firm. This market share data will also be included, by time slot, in the Corporations annual report.
- The CBC would be required to establish a Listener's Council, one each for CBC Radio 1 and CBC Radio 2, to participate in the strategic decisions of the Corporation. The Listener's Council would be made up of volunteers from the CBC audience, cultural organizations and performers. The Council members would be remunerated for expenses only, as this is a volunteer position. Volunteers would be appointed from a list of applicants by the Minister of Heritage's office.
- The CBC would be required to display all comments from CBC listeners, screened only to remove those comments that include profanity, racial slurs or irrelevant comments, on the CBC web site for each program.
- The CBC would be required to apply for funding each fiscal year, using a zero-based budgeting approach.
I believe these actions, if implemented, would result in a CBC that is more responsive to Canadians and an institution that we, as taxpayers, could once again be proud of.
The CBC would be given a suitable period - I suggest a year - to show that the programming changes have in fact revitalized CBC Radio 2 and have resulted in a larger, sustainable audience. If the market share data does not show this, then the CBC would be directed by the Minister of Heritage to review the programming to ensure that the interests of Canadians are better met. This could, of course, also include a return to the programming that had previously existed on CBC Radio 2.
I thank you for your support and look forward to serving as your Member of Parliament in the next House.
Now, that wasn't difficult at all, was it? I whipped that off in - let's see - under ten minutes? Why couldn't all of the candidates have done the same?
Oh well, perhaps I'll run in the next election - which I predict will be in another two years time.