Minister St-Onge fears a rapprochement between CBC and Radio-Canada

Minister St-Onge fears a rapprochement between CBC and Radio-Canada
Minister St-Onge fears a rapprochement between CBC and Radio-Canada

OTTAWA — The Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, is not particularly keen on the idea of ​​a merger between the English and French services of CBC/Radio-Canada that the senior management of the broadcasting company is considering. State.

“Any modernization effort must absolutely not be to the detriment of French-speaking services and their ability to fulfill their mandate, both for Quebec and for all French-speaking communities across the country. I will make sure that this does not happen,” she wrote in a message sent by her office.

In Quebec, the Minister of Culture, Mathieu Lacombe, argued that if the changes extend to programming, “culturally speaking, for Quebec, it would be a catastrophe.” Mr. Lacombe said he believes “unequivocally” that it is essential to maintain two distinct services.

“There is a slippery slope when we associate too many services together and we see that there is no consensus in Ottawa on the importance of the public broadcaster,” mentioned the minister in a barely veiled reference to the commitment from Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives to “defund” the CBC if they take power.

Mr. Lacombe affirmed that the future of the public broadcaster in French in Quebec is “non-negotiable” so much so that a federal party wanting to attack Radio-Canada “would find Quebec in its path”.

In a statement published online, the state-owned company ensures that its “modernization plan” revealed Thursday by the daily La Presse “does not aim to eliminate the editorial and programming independence of the English and French media.”

The project aims to “ensure the sustainability” of the public broadcaster by making “the best possible use of our limited resources, particularly in terms of technology”, it is mentioned.

But the vice-president and head of transformation at Radio-Canada, Marco Dubé, does not rule out a rapprochement at the programming level. “Not necessarily,” he replied to the journalist from La Presse according to a transcription provided by the state-owned company.

The news broke during question period in Ottawa on Thursday afternoon, when the parliamentary leader of the Bloc Québécois, Alain Therrien, affirmed that this rapprochement implies concessions which will be made “on the back of Quebec culture and its creators” and who will “necessarily remove from our cultural identity to assimilate it to that of English Canada”.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland assured him that she shares the population’s concerns “about the French language, about Quebec culture” and that “broadcasting in French will not be affected.”

Returning to the charge, Mr. Therrien said he had “a proposal”: to make CBC and Radio-Canada, conversely, more independent of each other by separating them into two distinct state companies, recognizing that “ the two do not have the same cultural identity, not the same audience, not the same corporate culture.”

When they arrived at parliament, only one elected official from the Conservative Party – the party which is well ahead in the voting intention polls – commented on the project, but only half-heartedly. “It’s a great strategy,” said the member for Lévis—Lotbinière, Jacques Gourde, without explaining further.

A request for an interview with the Conservative spokesperson for Canadian Heritage, Rachael Thomas, had remained unheeded at the time of publication. Ms. Thomas is the Alberta MP who asked Minister St-Onge a few months ago to respond to her in English before a parliamentary committee, before later apologizing, but never orally.

Its leader, Pierre Poilievre, may despise the CBC, but he nevertheless considers that the French services of Radio-Canada, and particularly those intended for the country’s French-speaking minorities, should be spared since he considers them an essential service. Mr. Poilievre assures that he can separate the two services.

A few moments later, Liberal Francis Drouin, who represents an Ontario riding with a strong French-speaking presence, explained that pooling services becomes “a problem on the day that Mr. Poilievre wants to eliminate CBC.”

In the foyer of the House of Commons, the deputy leader of the New Democratic Party, Alexandre Boulerice, said he was “extremely worried” given that CBC and Radio-Canada already pool a lot of resources.

“Are we talking about programming?,” he asked himself. Because production in French, then programming in French, must serve the stories of French-speaking communities in Quebec, then elsewhere in Canada.”

Mr. Boulerice said he feared that Radio-Canada would “become the simultaneous translation of CBC.”

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