CBC funding: thank you, Mr. HarperPosted in Reality Check Posted on October 7, 2008 05:56 PM | Permalink
By Ira Basen
"We looked at all the programs and reallocated those and then increased the funds for the Canadian arts and increased the funds for the museums and actually the CBC, you may be surprised."
— Stephen Harper, English language leaders' debate, Oct. 2, 2008
Several of us here at Reality Check HQ have tried to untie the Gordian knot of arts funding in Canada in order to determine whether Stephen Harper is correct when he asserts that he has increased spending on arts and culture, or whether the opposition parties' claim that the Conservatives have slashed tens of millions of dollars from arts programs is closer to the truth.
And the answer is … well, it all depends what you mean by "arts," and what you mean by "programs" and what you mean by "funding." In other words, there is no simple answer to the question.
How much does the CBC get?
So today's assignment seemed much more manageable. Have the Conservatives actually increased funding to the CBC as Harper claimed at last week's debate? The Liberals say they didn't, and point to the latest CBC annual report that shows the parliamentary appropriation dropping from $946 million in 2006, to $914 million in 2007.
So who's right? It should have been pretty simple to track this one down. But like so often happens when you start diving into how much our government spends and where it spends the money, you can quickly get swamped in a sea of appropriations, supply bills, and any number of supplemental estimates. Try it one day, and you will quickly see why those office towers in Ottawa are jammed full of federal number crunchers.
Stop whining and get on with it
OK, so how much do the taxpayers spend on the CBC every year? To answer that question we are going to look at the annual appropriation bill passed by Parliament every June, formally known as "An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration."
For comparison purposes, we are going to go start with the last appropriation act passed by the Martin government in June 2005, and end with the most recent one passed by the Harper government last June.
Here's what the numbers tell us:
2005 — $982,414,000.
2006 — $1,114,039,002.
2007 — $1,043,953,000.
2008 — $1,115,424,000.
But what about adjusting for inflation? OK, let's put these numbers through the Bank of Canada inflation calculator. In inflation adjusted 2008 dollars, the figures are:
2005 — $1,056,437,750.
2006 — $1,172,886,230.
2007 — $1,080,402,560.
2008 — $1,115,424,000.
Now, let's get a little more precise. The CBC budget breaks down into two sections; capital expenditures, which basically means spending for the infrastructure that a broadcaster needs to get on the air, and operating expenditures, which is spending on actual programming. It is this last number that makes up about 90 per cent of the CBC budget and that most affects what you see on the air or read on this website. So let's look at the inflation-adjusted numbers for operating expenditures …
2005 — $953,731,190.
2006 — $1,025,775,230.
2007 — $981,431,581.
2008 — $1,020,405,000.
So here's the bottom line. Harper was correct. The inflation-adjusted operating budget of the CBC has increased by approximately 6.5 per cent between the last Liberal appropriation of June 2005, and the last Harper appropriation of June 2008. However, that last appropriation is actually lower than the one passed in June 2006.
And one last point about the CBC budget. Those numbers include a $60 million annual grant that the government has been adding to the CBC budget since 2001. According to Conservative spokesperson Lynn Meahan, "the Liberals' budgets planned for this annual $60 million grant to end after 05-06. Contrary to Liberal plans, we have renewed it every year."
This is only partly true. The Liberal's renewed the grant on an annual basis, which is why it was destined to come to an end after 2005-6. There is no indication that it would not have been renewed at that time as it had been every year since 2001.
In March 2007, the Conservatives agreed to extend the $60 million top-up for two years, until 2009. They have not indicated what they would do after that.
About the Authors
Ira Basen joined CBC Radio in 1984 and was senior producer at Sunday Morning and Quirks and Quarks. He was involved in the creation of three network programs The Inside Track (1985), This Morning (1997) and Workology (2001), and produced the award- winning radio documentary series Spin Cycles (2007). He has also written for Saturday Night, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus. He taught at the University of Toronto, the University of Western Ontario, and Ryerson. He is a co-author of the Canadian edition of The Book of Lists (Knopf, 2005).
John Gray has worked for a number of Canadian newspapers, including most recently more than 20 years with the Globe and Mail, where he served as Ottawa bureau chief, national editor, foreign editor, foreign correspondent and national correspondent
Mark Gollom has been a news writer for CBCNews.ca since 2003. He's worked as a reporter at the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and the Toronto Sun. Mark has a degree in political science from the University of Western Ontario and a diploma in journalism from Centennial College in Toronto.