The Current

The National's Peter Mansbridge signing off for final time on Canada Day

The veteran journalist reflects on a career path full of breaking stories, cut-throat federal politics and major world events.
Since the unconventional start of his career in 1968, Peter Mansbridge has travelled the world and given voice to the biggest events that Canada and the world have ever seen.

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After nearly 30 years of bringing daily stories to Canadians across the country, Peter Mansbridge is set to retire as the anchor of CBC Television's news program, The National. 

Mansbridge fell into broadcasting by accident when he was just 19-years-old.

He was working as an airport ticket agent in Churchill, Man., at the time, when a CBC radio station manager heard him making a flight announcement. He complimented Mansbridge on his voice and asked him if he was interested in a radio job. 
Longtime CBC journalist Knowlton Nash handed over the reins of The National to Peter Mansbridge in 1988. (CBC)

"[I] went in there and had five minutes to explain how the controls worked and bingo, I was on the air," he tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti. 

Following a decade of covering politics for radio and television at the CBC, Mansbridge took over from longtime journalist Knowlton Nash as the chief correspondent and anchor of The National.

"I'd been doing The National at that point on weekends and filling in for Knowlton on occasion since 1982, but it was still a big deal," he recalls.

Suddenly it was kind of my chair and my responsibility.- Peter Mansbridge

"Suddenly it was kind of my chair and my responsibility, and I was accountable for the things that happened on the program."

Since the unconventional start of his career in 1968, he has travelled the world and given voice to the biggest events that Canada and the world have ever seen, including the September 11 attacks and the 2014 Parliament Hill shootings. 
Peter Mansbridge has covered some of the biggest events in Canada, like the 2014 Parliament Hill shootings that killed a Canadian soldier. (Giacomo Panico/CBC Radio-Canada)

Mansbridge says that throughout his lifetime, The National has been a "program of record" that informs Canadians about what happened that day, whether they had been following the news or not. 

"This will be the program of record that will tell you the truth as best we know it," he says. 

When asked about the future of Canadian public broadcasting, the veteran journalist suggests it falls into two sets of hands: the people of Canada and the people who work at the CBC. He says Canadians have consistently vocalized the need for a national public broadcaster, especially at a time when U.S. programming is having a strong influence. 

Somewhere on that dial, you need Canadian content.- Peter Mansbridge

"But it leaves a vacuum for us to fill because somewhere on that dial, you need Canadian content. Whether it's online, radio, television, you need it — if you want to understand the country you live in," says Mansbridge.

The CBC News chief correspondent will sign off from the anchor's chair for the last time on July 1, which marks Canada's 150th birthday.

"The closer it gets ... the more I realize how much I'll miss it," he tells Tremonti.

"I'll miss the comradery and the friendship I think most."

Listen to their full conversation at the top of the web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Samira Mohyeddin and Howard Goldenthal.