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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Politics and Public Broadcasting

CBC/Radio-Canada just announced today that former Bloc Québecois leader Gilles Duceppe will be participating once weekly on a daily programme on on La Première Chaine. I stumbled upon this because I am a fan of CBC on Facebook, and I was appalled at the responses from Anglo Canadians. My favourite being:

"this makes my head explode .... how much more $$$$ does the ROC have to "give" this man - whose whole political life has been spent trying to rip this country apart ... the whole thing disgusts me. "

But why the hate? In a poll conducted for the 2008 General Election, CBC reported that Duceppe was an "elegant separatist" with an impressive political background dating back to 1997 when he became party leader. Unlike many other Québec nationalists, he has managed to gain some popularity outside of Québec, mostly because of his fervent criticism of liberals and conservatives alike. In the past decade the Bloc has become increasingly renowned for its social democratic principles than for its desire to break out of confederation, and this is owing to Duceppe's leadership. The idea being that if Québec is not going to legally secede from Canada, then the Bloc should be a voice of representation in parliament.

And with respect to the financing issue, all Québec residents who pay their federal taxes fund the CBC/Radio-Canada. Since approximately 40 per cent of Québecers support sovereignty and social democracy, it only seems fair that the organisation is selected Duceppe to host a show in that market. This hasn't stopped large Anglo news agencies from attacking the move, such as the Toronto Sun.

So why don't we delve deeper into Duceppe's past to figure just what about him irks non-Francophones? Well, as soon as I started investigating this, I determined that it has a lot less to do with him and a lot more to do with a few other variables.

First, the longstanding Anglo-French rift in Canada. It is no surprise that the disdain directed at Duceppe is mostly because he is a symbol of this divide. I think it would be counter-productive to go on a diatribe about French-English relations in our country, but it's important to consider that this has been, and most likely will continue to be, a sensitive issue for most Canadians.

However, equally important seems to be the legitimacy of having a separatist party in our federal legislature. And of course this point is tied to the first - people seem to have trouble recognising that Québec wants to, and should have every right to, represent their interests as best as they can in parliament. We tend to forget that other political parties often have bases of support that are very regional in nature, for example, the NDP historically. A good example of this is the 1972 Federal Election, where the NDP didn't win any votes east of Ontario. The reality is this, Canada: we very rarely have political parties that can represent the will of Canadians across the country.

Given that Canada is federated (click here to learn more about federalism) we should invest in our regional differences, not look for reasons to introduce a monoculture. And if that's the case, the CBC, which is a public, national broadcaster, should certainly promote a show that is hosted by Duceppe.

What it all seems to come down to ultimately is that parliament doesn't have the right to select who should be on the radio. While the CBC/Radio-Canada is a public enterprise, it'll ultimately be listeners who decide whether or not Duceppe will make a good host. Looking forward to your first show, Mr. Duceppe.

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