This year’s Walter Gordon Symposium is co-hosted by Massey College and the School of Public Policy and Governance, and explores the oft-overlooked subject of public policy in the arts. In the week leading up to the March 26-27 event, the PPGR will be featuring writing on the subject of the arts, cultural policy, and the ‘soft’ power of civilizations.
At a moment in time when newsprint and radio media in many ways are going the way of the Dodo, the CBC in Northern Ontario continues to serve as a lynchpin for regional, provincial, and national interconnection. Growing up in Northern Ontario (North Bay to be exact) I never truly valued the work and reach CBC Radio had in my region until I left. Working as a weekend porter at a convent in downtown Toronto that required I listen to nothing but the subdued and dulcet tones of classical music, I was reintroduced to CBC Radio. In listening to the programming on CBC Radio One and CBC Radio Two, I was made aware that the span of the CBC extended far beyond just the limits of the GTA. The CBC was, and is, making a concerted effort to represent the entire country, its people and its issues as a whole, fulfilling its ultimate goal as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
As I continued my re-discovery of the CBC during those long weekends as a porter, I branched out and explored other CBC stations based out of cities and towns across the country, including CBC Sudbury. In listening to these various stations I realized that the CBC has found a niche in representing a multitude of multifaceted Canadians while branding a Canadian-specific nationalism.
In Northern Ontario, the CBC is based in Sudbury. While this has raised many issues of contention in the Northern region, it has served a multi-purpose function in advocating for and representing the North on a regional, provincial, and national stage. Programming such as Morning North and Points North, hosted by Markus Schwabe and Jason Turnbull respectively, acknowledge key issues for Northern Ontarians and provide a keen awareness of how the North fits into the greater workings of the country. Amanda Putz’s show Bandwidth has been instrumental in ensuring that great yet seemingly unknown musical artists in the region receive airplay and recognition.
The CBC has made it possible for me to maintain my Northern roots from a distance. In Toronto, where it is easy enough to fall prey to the mechanical and markedly anonymous ways of the big city, the CBC has ensured that though I’ve left the North, the North never leaves me. As the CBC has had a profound impact on my sense of place and being as a Northern Ontarian in Toronto, it came as an immense blow when the recent discussion of federal defunding arose.
The federal government, and namely, the Conservative party, do not appear to share my passion for the CBC and its far-reaching work. The CBC continues to inspire Canadians to attain a greater understanding of their country, focusing on the big picture while also examining the pressing matters of individual communities like the North. The CBC is a Canadian fixture without which we would not understand the lives, ways, and cultures of our fellow Canadians or have the voice to speak about our own.
This brief blog post is part of a plea to the federal government to recognize the immense value, worth, and function of the CBC, and to continue to fund it in order that it may deliver on its promise to serve Canadians from coast to coast to coast as it has done since its inception.
Jennifer Kolz is a Junior Fellow at Massey College at the University of Toronto.