An ongoing showdown between Canada’s public broadcaster and a Senate committee tasked with digging into the way it operates appears to have reached a head this week when members of the committee sniffed at a submitted document that they claimed whitewashed the amount being paid to its employees.
The Senate committee on transport and communications voted to officially receive a document on Tuesday that detailed the salaries of employees of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which was neither organized in any manageable fashion nor, according to some senators, entirely fulsome in its details.
"Those of us who have had a quick look at (the salary list) would really question its authenticity, its accuracy rather," Liberal Sen. Terry Mercer noted during the meeting on Tuesday.
"Some of this stuff looks like fiction. If you go and look at it compared to who is in the marketplace, for other competitors, then you look at reality, I don't think we're getting a full picture."
The salary document was entered into the record during a discussion described as an examination of the "challenges faced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in relation to the changing environment of broadcasting and communications."
According to Postmedia News, the document noted that the maximum salary scale for CBC News' chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge was $80,485.22. Radio host Jian Ghomeshi and TV host Amanda Lang were said to be making between $60,844.32 and $77,390.42.
As Postmedia’s Jordan Press notes:
The salaries of the country’s top TV anchors is a closely guarded industry secret. It’s estimated that Mr. Mansbridge, CTV’s Lisa Laflamme and Global’s Dawna Friesen command salaries of around $300,000.
In his recent book on suspended Senator Mike Duffy, journalist Dan Leger noted that by the end of Mr. Duffy’s career as a broadcaster at CTV, he was earning $250,000 a year plus an allowance for clothing and a vehicle. (CBC’s documents to the committee didn’t outline any allowances for any of the employees it listed.)
The document in question appears to be the latest battlefield in an ongoing war between the CBC and the Senate committee as it considers how the Crown Corporation does business. The investigation is expected to extend into next year.
Lacroix appeared at the senate committee on Feb. 26, at which time he apologized for personal spending and promised to reimburse the CBC for $30,000 in various expenses. He also faced questions about various expenses and was asked for a list of salaries for the public employees. It wasn’t an entirely pleasant affair.
Conservative Sen. Jacque Demers said this week that Lacroix had appeared to grow angry at the line on questioning and became purposely unhelpful. Liberal Sen. Terry Mercer said he felt Lacroix's appearance, and the document he later provided, showed a level of disrespect to the committee. He noted the salary list appeared to be purposely chaotic and intentionally presented out of alphabetical order.
The committee agreed that Lacroix should be recalled to testify again at a later date. Meantime, the salary document was sent to be organized, and alphabetized.
Perhaps little would have come from the CBC’s salary list, if not for the claim that Peter Mansbridge, the face of CBC News, makes less than $85,000 a year. It is an idea that defies common sense. Mansbridge is making less than market value, or perhaps some creative bookkeeping is in play.
Mercer suggested some employees were being paid more outside of their salary, which hadn't been accounted for in the document released to the Senate. Conservative Sen. Donald Plett said he also felt people were "making bonuses that are larger than what their salaries are indicated."
Mansbridge’s finances made headlines earlier this year when it was confirmed he was being paid to speak at various public event, including those hosted by newsmakers in the energy industry. But those are private earnings – not the salary and bonuses paid from taxpayer money.
One suspects the Senate committee will have more questions about what Mansbridge and others are actually paid. Once they’ve managed to alphabetize CBC’s salary document, at least.