Christmas came early for Heather Conway (CBC executive vice-president of English services) and her Conservative bosses. Ms. Conway was awarded her job with one goal in mind; to cripple the CBC as a viable news service and thorn in the Conservative government’s side. She has set about her duties vigilantly; dismissing more than 2,000 staff, cutting programming and in-house production (including the CBC’s critically-lauded documentary production service, much-loathed by the Conservatives) and the closing of foreign-service bureaus.
One would think that, in such a climate, a political journalist such as Evan Solomon would have realized that he needed to be on guard; his colleague Amanda Lang had already had her knuckles rapped, and one would think Solomon intelligent enough to know he was in the cross-hairs. Instead, he effectively handed them the very ammunition they needed. Acting with a sense of entitlement that seems to come with too much time in the spotlight, Mr. Solomon provided Ms. Conway with all the reason she needed to terminate his employment. For anyone who may have missed it, Mr. Solomon’s crime is that he traded on his professional contacts, achieved through his position at CBC, to broker art sales for which he received a 10% cut. It should be made clear that there was no question of any action on Mr. Solomon’s part that would have affected his reporting (unlike Ms. Lang, who was in a clear conflict of interest when she accepted speaking engagements from the very banks she was reporting on) or his impartiality as a journalist. He may have sinned against the corporate rules of the CBC (and good sense), but his error in judgement did not affect his viewing public.
Evan Solomon is a very good political reporter, and his hosting of Power and Politics was excellent. Unlike all too many so-called “political news” shows, Mr. Solomon was willing to call his talking heads to account and not let obvious mendacity stand. His loss is not just to the CBC but to the entire field of national political reporting. He made an obvious error in judgement and should have been censured for it; his termination is an act of overkill and smacks of opportunism. That this has occurred in the months leading up to a federal election is all the more dire for anyone who still hopes for real, unbiased political reporting from Ottawa. Heather Conway has made her Conservative friends happy, but she has robbed the rest of us, and the CBC is poorer for it; but, of course, that is the idea.
Addendum: the recent appointment of Rob Jeffery to the CBC Board of Directors brings the number of Directors who are also significant donors to the Conservative Party of Canada up to eight. Senate patronage appointments may get all the press, but this has a truly fetid odour about it. Really, what chance does the CBC have?