The CBC has abruptly dismissed a high-profile personality, ousting political host Evan Solomon over allegations he used his journalistic contacts to broker art deals and collect lucrative fees.
The public broadcaster announced the decision in a brief memo to staff on Tuesday evening, little more than an hour after The Toronto Star published a story detailing the popular television host's dealings with art collector Bruce Bailey.
The sudden loss of another top host is a blow to the public broadcaster, which has endured massive staff cuts and snowballing staff controversies in recent months. Many at the CBC are still reeling from the public downfall of former radio host Jian Ghomeshi over sexual assault allegations last October, allegations of a toxic work environment at some CBC programs and controversies surrounding paid speaking engagements involving high-profile personalities such as senior business correspondent Amanda Lang.
"I regret to inform you that CBC News has ended its relationship with Evan Solomon host of Power and Politics and The House," said Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News, in a memo to staff. "We will be making announcements about the interim hosting of these programs in the next few days."
CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson confirmed Mr. Solomon was fired. Neither Mr. Solomon nor Mr. Bailey responded to calls or e-mails requesting comment on Tuesday.
According to The Toronto Star, Mr. Solomon entered an agreement last year with Mr. Bailey, a characterful Toronto businessman who has been a collector, dealer and patron of fine art. The newspaper story alleges Mr. Solomon helped broker the sale of art to prominent Canadians with whom he interacted as a journalist, or who appeared on his show, including wireless magnate Jim Balsillie and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.
Mr. Solomon would collect a 10-per-cent commission on the sales he helped arrange and was paid more than $300,000 over two years through the arrangement, according to the Star's report.
Mr. Solomon only disclosed the relationship to the CBC two months ago, Mr. Thompson said.
"Evan Solomon disclosed in April of this year he was in a business partnership with his wife and Bruce Bailey, and that he was not active in the business," Mr. Thompson said in an interview. "It was made clear at the time that this business arrangement could not intersect with his work at CBC."
Mr. Solomon released a statement late on Tuesday evening. In it, the former CBC host explained his art business, apologized for the damage his activities had caused the CBC and stressed that he had 'the utmost respect for the CBC and what it stands for.'
On Monday, after a journalist contacted the CBC with further information, the CBC took Mr. Solomon off the air and conducted an "internal review."
"Based on information that came to our attention [Monday], we have determined that some of Evan Solomon's activities were inconsistent with our conflict of interest and ethics policy, as well as our journalistic standards and practices," Mr. Thompson said.
The decision to dismiss Mr. Solomon was made late on Tuesday by Heather Conway, the executive vice-president of English services, and Ms. McGuire, in consultation with senior news management.
Carmel Smyth, national president of the Canadian Media Guild, the union that represents many CBC employees, said, "we are working with Mr. Solomon as he considers his options."
Mr. Solomon came to the CBC in 1994 as a host of a technology and ideas program. He also hosted CBC News: Sunday and CBC News: Sunday Night en route to becoming one of the broadcaster's best-known figures and a fixture of the Parliament Hill political scene in Ottawa.
The CBC has, at times, come under fire for its handling of the corporation's biggest stars, several of whom did lucrative work outside their CBC roles. But Mr. Thompson said the CBC's internal probe was thorough and that the corporation's management did not consider any disciplinary options other than firing.
"Given the events of the last year, we expect the highest standards from our people as it relates to a code of conduct that we're all asked to sign on an annual basis," he said. "We will act swiftly and decisively if there are infractions with this policy and take these matters very seriously when they're brought to our attention."