by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services
NNSL (Feb 10/97) - Western Arctic MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew says CBC North is being unfairly targeted by budget cuts.
But she told Parliament last week there's nothing she can do about it.
"I do not, perhaps, share the priorities that put CBC North in its present position," Blondin-Andrew said Tuesday. "I feel there has been a disproportionate cut."
However, because she is a secretary of state and because the broadcaster is at arms-length from the government, Blondin-Andrew said she can't intervene.
"I would like to continue to work with the people who have the authority, but that would be protested. It would be interfering. I am not allowed to do that," she said.
A speech in the Commons by Yukon MP Audrey McLaughlin prompted Blondin-Andrew's comments.
McLaughlin wants the government to exempt CBC North from layoffs and funding cuts, a result of chopping $127 million from the national broadcaster's budget last year.
"I have specifically chosen to address the portion of CBC North because I have heard most about that from my constituents," she said.
She noted that territorial culture minister Charles Dent spoke to Minister of Heritage Sheila Copps, urging her to recognize the vital role of CBC in the North. And Nunatsiaq MP Jack Anawak has lent his support to the campaign to save CBC North.
"I have not heard anything from the member for the Western Arctic on this issue, but I do hope she will have the opportunity to respond to the motion today and to support CBC in the North," said McLaughlin.
In nearly a decade as an MP, McLaughlin said she has never received more calls, conversations, letters, petitions than on this issue.
In the past 28 months CBC North has dealt with budget cuts of $1.9 million and has already laid off 30 staff. The latest cuts will mean a further reduction to CBC North radio of 28 per cent and to CBC North TV of almost 40 per cent.
McLaughlin is especially concerned about cuts being made to aboriginal language programming.
"Inuktitut will be one of the two official languages of the new Nunavut territory.
"In fact it might be argued that cuts may violate the Nunavut Settlement Act since the federal government has an obligation to provide basic services in both languages," she said.
Blondin-Andrew, however, defended the cuts, saying that every part of the government -- including Crown corporations -- has had to take its share of financial reductions.
"No federal department or agency has been immune," she said. "Ministries have cut, departments have cut, Crown agencies have also had to cut. The CBC recognizes that it must do its part in this exercise."