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CBC head Catherine Tait summoned to committee over job cuts, executive bonuses

Catherine Tait, President and CEO of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) talks on the phone before appearing at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa, on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby Catherine Tait, President and CEO of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) talks on the phone before appearing at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa, on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

Members of Parliament have called CBC president Catherine Tait to testify about her announcement the public broadcaster would cut 10 per cent of its workforce, while not ruling out bonuses for executives.

The House of Commons heritage committee unanimously agreed on Thursday to have the president of the public broadcaster address the cuts and potential bonuses.

The committee summoned Tait to appear at its first meeting in the new year following the holiday recess, but a date has yet to be set.

MPs on the committee also agreed to report to the House that given the job cuts, it would be inappropriate for the CBC to grant bonuses to executive members.

CBC spokesman Leon Mar said in an email Thursday the public broadcaster was aware of the motion passed at committee.

"We look forward to answering the committee members' questions," he wrote.

In the meantime, the Bloc Quebecois took advantage of question period to call on Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge to fire Tait if the CBC boss doesn't renounce the job cuts.

Because the public broadcaster is independent, members of Parliament cannot decide how CBC and its French-language service, Radio-Canada, spend their money.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., a Crown corporation, said Monday it planned to cut 600 jobs and not fill 200 vacancies over the next year as the public broadcaster grapples with a $125-million shortfall.

Following the announcement, Tait appeared on the flagship CBC News show "The National" and was asked whether executives would be getting rewarded this year despite the cuts.

"I'm going to presume no bonuses this year," said host Adrienne Arsenault. "Can we establish that's not happening this year?"

Tait responded: "It's too early to say where we are for this year. We'll be looking at that, like we do all our line items in the coming months."

Mar confirmed following Tait's remarks the public broadcaster will not be reconsidering the bonuses it would have paid under existing contracts.

"Changes to our existing compensation agreements with employees, whether union or non-union, are not under review at this time," Mar said via email.

Liberal, Conservative and New Democrat MPs on the heritage committee expressed shock over Tait's comments.

"As a former CEO I cannot possibly imagine having fired employees before Christmas and then contemplated taking a bonus," Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed said Thursday.

He is also parliamentary secretary to the minister of Canadian Heritage.

"The government does not control the CBC and therefore we can't tell them what to do," he said.

"But I think it's very important for us as parliamentarians to ask Ms. Tait those very questions about the appropriateness of executives contemplating bonuses when she does appear."

CBC documents that were previously released through the access-to-information law show over $99 million in bonuses was awarded to employees at the public broadcaster between 2015 and 2022.

That includes $16 million doled out last year to over 1,100 employees, the highest amount in at least seven years.

CBC defines its bonus program as a "short-term incentive plan."

It is intended to encourage "employee retention and to motivate employees to achieve or exceed business targets that are aligned with our strategic plan," the CBC spokesman said earlier this week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2023.




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