Skip to main content

A series of cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are hitting home this week as the broadcaster launches a series of town halls in preparation for a stark new reality: less funding, the loss of NHL broadcast rights, and a new way of doing business.

But a review of federal funding shows cutting the broadcaster's funding is a longstanding Canadian tradition. Every prime minister for the past 25 years has left the CBC with less funding at the end of their tenure than when they began, even when adjusted for inflation, according to data from the Treasury Board of Canada, which was collected by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

Cuts to federal funding have long frustrated advocacy groups who see the broadcaster as the cornerstone of Canadian culture. The bulk of recent criticism has been directed to the Conservative government for enacting the cuts. So just how much has Prime Minister Stephen Harper cut from the CBC and how does this compare to his predecessors?

Mr. Harper has slashed CBC's total parliamentary appropriation by 14 per cent since the 2006-2007 fiscal year, cutting $173-million (all figures adjusted to 2011 dollars).

CBC federal grant (parliamentary appropriation)

Operating expenditures, working capital and capital expenditures (1990-2015)

SOURCE: Treasury Board of Canada, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

How does Harper compare?

The above chart shows that while recent cuts totalled millions of dollars, Mr. Harper wasn't the biggest slasher in recent Canadian history. That title belongs to Liberal leader Jean Chrétien, who cut the CBC's parliamentary appropriation by 25 per cent by the time he left office, removing $390-million in funding for the public broadcaster.

Percent cuts to the CBC

By Prime Minister, 1990-2015

SOURCE: Treasury Board of Canada, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

What's changing at the CBC?

After the first funding cuts were announced in 2012, Hubert Larcoix, president of CBC/Radio-Canada, said they would mean about 175 fewer hours of original programming each TV season.

"It's harder and harder to continue working under that kind of atmosphere. Every six months at CBC, the world changes," said Marc-Philippe Laurin, the CBC branch president at the Canadian Media Guild, the union for the broadcaster's English services employees. "We're not talking about cutting to the bone. We're into the marrow now."

The CBC's revenue stream took another major hit last year after losing NHL broadcast rights to Rogers. Hockey brought the CBC around $100-million in annual revenue, which reached $375-million in 2011-12.

— With files from Simon Houpt