We get letters! From a Conservative staffer on the Hill today…
Today, Canadian Pork Producers held a free BBQ on Parliament Hill to demonstrate to Canadians that Canadian pork is safe.
Hundreds of MP’s, Senators, and staffers from all parties waited in long lineups to express their support for Canadian pork producers and enjoy a delicious pork sandwich.
Unfortunately, Michael Ignatieff proved to be the exception. Instead of waiting like everyone else, he decided to cut in front of hundreds of people who were patiently waiting in line.
It’s obvious that, in his 34 years outside the country, he forgot that Canadians are usually courteous enough to wait in line with everyone else.
Pork chop sandwiches!
(headline inspired by Murray the Hun in the comments)
UPDATE: Another witness on the scene writes to inform that when staffers were grumbling that Ignatieff was cutting the line to go up front he remarked “Don’t worry, I won’t eat any pork”. Of course, the event was to support pork producers and demonstrate that Canadian pork is safe. A staffer quickly corrected Ignatieff and the Liberal leader proceeded to grab a sandwich.
UPDATE: A former Liberal staffer (and current pork lobbyist) who is a friend writes to say that MPs from other parties were also allowed to cut the line for photo-op purposes and insists that some in fact did.
According to my source that sent me this unsent internal CBC memo, this was intended to hit the inboxes of CBC employees tomorrow:
I wanted to give you an update on where things stand with respect to our financial challenges, as the SET just wrapped up a couple of days of budget planning. Not an easy task.
Our focus in this budget planning has been to do everything we can to minimize the effect of these tough times on our services, programs and our people. The decisions we will take must also be anchored in a clear vision of what we want and need to become as a 21st century public broadcaster. We must ensure we’re positioned to become a content company, the home of Canadian programming. We must be the leader in reaching Canadians on new platforms. And, we must be deeply rooted in the regions. Ultimately, what we must do to manage our way through these financial straights has to respect these priorities and sustain our ability to serve Canadians well. All of that, with the worst economic crisis in years as a backdrop.
Our industry is certainly caught up in the crisis with bad news every week – this week it was Transcontinental announcing 1,500 layoffs. As you know, we are now projecting a shortfall in advertising revenue that will be in the $55-65 million dollar range for the year ending March 31, 2009 (a drop of 17 percent from our budgeted amount, a 7 percent drop from last year), but we nonetheless still think that CBC/Radio-Canada will break-even for the current year. To do that, in addition to the freezes and cost-cutting measures we put in place in November, we have used all our reserves as well as the entire surplus carried forward from last year.
The more pressing issue is our budget for 2009-2010. The combination of a severe slump in our commercial revenues, coupled with rising costs of production is a menacing test that will demand some tough choices on our part. Tough choices that will affect, in one way or another, jobs, services and programs in our Corporation. We are still working away at finalizing plans. Nothing has yet been determined. My conversations with government are still continuing to try to obtain some financial flexibility to help our Corporation deal with these budgetary pressures, trying to find a way to spread the impact of this crunch over more than one year.
I can’t and will not predict the outcome of these discussions. Other avenues are being analysed at the same time including the sale of some of our assets to balance this budget.
You deserve to know that our situation is extremely difficult.
Let me tell you that I, and every member of your Senior Executive Team, remain entirely focused on these issues and on minimizing the effects on our Corporation, its people and its programs. But there will be consequences, even with the requested financial flexibilities. Our consolidated budgets and business plans will be reviewed one final time by the Senior Executive Team next week and will then be submitted to the Board in mid-March. You can therefore expect a more detailed picture toward the end of March. I’ll update you periodically as things evolve between now and then.
In the meantime, let’s keep CBC/Radio-Canada on course. I know that this uncertainty is not the best of times. Rest assured that I am working with SET to bring clarity to all this.
Of course, as noted, this occurs within the context of the global economic crisis. Despite this, CBC received $1.1 Billion from the taxpayer last year. According to the CRTC, CBC employs 10,200 people paying out $771,074,000 in salaries and benefits. This means that the average payout per employee at the CBC is $75,595.
Comparatively, the total numbers of employees at private broadcasters in this country is 7,402 with total salaries and benefits of $576,900,000. The average payout per employee is $77,938.
Is the CBC trimming the fat, or do they need some central planning from the government to help them do so? Months ago, it was reported that the executive VP for French-services expensed over $80,000 for travel, meals, and theatre tickets.
If any of this is making you sick, the next fact won’t make you feel any better. The CBC lost $15 million in 2006-2007 paying for 68,000 sick days for its employees.
In any self-respecting story about taxpayer abuse, there’s a no-expense-spared trip to Paris. The CBC doesn’t disappoint as that same executive VP that billed $80,000 in expenses also bought a $6,000 plane ticket to the French capital and billed over $2,000 in hotel, meal and cab expenses. Nice work if you can get it.
This lagresse is offensive when private news outlets such as Canwest and CTVGlobemedia are slashing jobs, dropping bureaus and cutting expenses. For example, CTV opted out of the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner this year while Canwest has cut 5% of their workforce and even asked reporters and staffers to voluntarily return their cellphones because the company can’t afford to equip everyone that needs one. Jobs have also been cut at the Globe and Mail. The news business is hurting across Canada and CBC asks the government for “financial flexibility”.
“Well, what the hell else do you expect us to do with a gun to our head” remarked one ministerial staffer at Hy’s last night when I delivered the verdict of conservative ideologues to a budget which increased special project spending, established an ugly deficit, and indicated that hopes of small government would be shelved, at least for the foreseeable future.
A minority government is like a constant job interview, and the employer right now is a glutton. Pass the antacid and bring more pork; 62% of Canadians voted for those without a predisposition to sound economic sense, while the rest voted for those that know better.
If they know better, something else holds them back. “You have no idea how much I bled for this budget… this made me sick” another staffer told me. It was certainly a policy delivered in the context of a deficit pushing $1 trillion in the US, where every other government in the industrialized world is running deficits and whereas Canada is a rare exception in that we’re one of those jurisdictions that is receiving permanent tax relief. But for ideologues who moonlight as paid partisans in government, this budget policy is as much dyspeptic for their stomachs as it read dyslexic to their instincts.
A political party’s first and last job is to get elected. If you thought that the Conservative Party should have held its ground, flipped off the opposition, delivered $30 billion in tax cuts and went out in a blaze of glory then you have the benefit of layering fantasy on a wholly incongruent political landscape where the pragmatists thrive. A political party, in practice, is not much more than a marketing machine to sell ideas to an electorate looking to buy them. However, elections span a meager 36 days and unless a voter is conditioned to think conservatively, they won’t vote Conservative. If a Conservative party does form government — especially a minority government — the long term goal is the same: keep the upper hand, survive when strategically beneficial, and win elections.
Let’s be clear. A majority Conservative government would implement a conservative agenda that would satiate the conservative base. In such fortunate circumstances, government action would unreservedly reflect conservative principles because this government would act comfortably without violating objective #1 — re-election from a plurality of conservative-minded voters. The underlying ideology would fortuitously overlap with winnable conditions.
How is a sustainable conservative majority-government-electing voter base in Canada achieved? While the party is focused on doing their job to win elections and form policies that are within Canada’s (ie. its electorate’s) interests, those of us who aren’t pre-occupied by such distractions must look at change as a long-term goal rather than a short-term fix. If the Conservative party is the election-winning machine, the conservative movement must be the one to give it a meaningful mandate.
By all means, we need a strong Conservative party because it is our vehicle. Do not punish the party for doing its job. However, we must also have a strong conservative movement. It is foolish to depend on an organization to change the ideological culture of Canada when its current success is inextricably bound to it as it presently exists. The political party that wins the election will always reflect the plurality of Canadian voter intent. Whether the blue team or red team wins, success is simply a jersey switched by the same central swing voters. In every election, the ideological and purist cynic bemoans the pragmatic and victory-focused party strategist that moves to capture the centre. Leave the party to appeal to the most voters and win elections, it is the job of the conservative movement to move the centre to the right.
We can lament the budget delivered by our Conservative Party and complain that it goes against our instincts as conservatives. But yesterday, the Conservative government did its job, it presented a survivable budget in the current political climate. However, the conservative movement failed because it was unsuccessful in creating the conditions of ideological survivability for what should have been a sincerely conservative budget.
So what are we going to do about it?
UPDATE: Some are reading this as a condemnation of the conservative movement. It is rather a call to action. The Conservative party is what we make of it; our model is bottom-up, not top-down. Let’s get to work at making more Canadians conservative.