The CBC building in Toronto
Credits: ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI AGENCY
Newly released documents show that taxpayers spent a fortune last year for CBC workers not to show up for work, another small fortune was paid to high-priced lawyers, while another set of documents showed them continuing their secret ways.
CBC spent more than a million dollars defending a lawsuit that could have been settled with an apology. Most of that money we discovered this week went to outside contract lawyers. CBC enriched the law firm of Borden, Ladner, Gervais with almost $900,000 of taxpayers money when they could have settled the lawsuit with filmmakers Claude Fournier and Marie-Jose Raymond just by saying "I'm sorry."
Oh, and of course, I forgot to add they hired the outside legal firm despite having 22 lawyers on staff. They do this all the time.
Remember, they spent an untold fortune fighting the federal information commissioner in court to keep their secrets secret. The only reason they gave up was because we made it impossible for them to continue. We pointed out the hypocrisy of an organization that demands every government department be open but didn't want to tell us basic information, like how many cars they had in their fleet, claiming it was too sensitive to release.
Taliban prisoner documents should be open to the public in CBC's world but the public shouldn't know how many vehicles they pay for at the state broadcaster.
Have they gotten any better since they gave up the court fight? Are they more open? Not really. We asked them recently to disclose details of their contract to sell the news stories that we all pay for and we got mostly blank pages. CBC is selling their news stories to Microsoft and they treat it like a state secret. We know more from access to information about Canada's role fighting in Libya than we do about CBC's deal with Microsoft. That's not right.
Now CBC has released some documents that they never would release before, their absenteeism rate. Any big organization has to deal with the problem of absentee workers, but the numbers from CBC show why they fought to keep this under wraps. While Stats Canada puts the average absentee rate at 8.9 days per year per employee, and the average public sector rate at 12.6 days per year per employee, it turns out that CBC employees play hooky an average of 16.5 days per year.
That number is not only staggering, it shows bad management. But this bad management came with a hefty price tag for the taxpayer - $17.7 million in 2010-11, the last year we have numbers for. There are a whole host of problems with CBC but none of them will be solved by cutting its budget or demanding reform. The only solution that will fix CBC is selling it off.
Seriously, can you think of any good reason why Canada should have a government-owned broadcaster but not a government-owned newspaper or grocery store? Whatever justification that once existed for CBC, it no longer holds in a 500-channel universe.