An important message from President Hubert: Standing up to criticism with a clear agenda

I have been reading a lot of nasty, out-of-context stuff recently about our senior executives in the papers owned by our competitors, notably a series of articles in The Sun and Le Journal de Montréal.

This Corporation prides itself on its accountability and responsible use of its limited resources, particularly since 60 per cent of our budget comes from Canadian taxpayers. This is why it is particularly irritating that the information laid out in these articles is often misleading, emphasizing dollar amounts with little or no context or comparison. The papers are less interested in reason and analysis than in a sensational headline. And, of course, they also conveniently overlook practices, financial or otherwise, in their own organizations.

Take Sylvain Lafrance for example. They lumped Sylvain’s personal expenses in with corporate activities that he approved as the executive in charge of a business, and ascribed all expenses to him personally. If Sylvain approves the presence of CBC/Radio-Canada at a social event or approves the holding of a corporate event inside our organization to thank our employees for a job particularly well done, is it fair to say that these approved expenses are his own? C’mon. Let’s be fair.

And a few weeks back, Le Journal de Montréal publicly attacked him for his expenses for a leadership program that he attended at Harvard in 2005, noting that he spent about $3,400, in expenses including hotels and meals and dry cleaning… We sent him to live in a hotel for eight weeks for god’s sake. The same paper is likely to have another go at Sylvain for the cost of the program, which was about $52,000.

Consider what Sylvain does. He has been at CBC/Radio-Canada for 30 years and is entrusted with the task of managing 4,000 employees and about a half-billion dollar a year business. Sylvain’s challenge has been to take two historically self-reliant organizations (radio and television), merge them and then integrate our Web services within those two units. The Corporation decided this Harvard course would help him do just that. This was about helping Sylvain become a better executive, and exposing him to others of like kind. There is absolutely no question in my mind that both the Corporation and Canadians got great value for their money. And it’s worth adding that this isn’t something we do regularly. Sylvain had a huge and important task to do, and we equipped him for it.

I want you to know that we will not ignore this issue or sit idly by and watch these attacks happen. We understand that we are entrusted with a billion dollars of public funds. And, in the current economic climate, we are doubly mindful of our financial responsibility to taxpayers. We get that. I don’t need to ask that you continue to be reasonable and responsible in your own conduct. I know that you are.

I truly believe that both employees and taxpayers can rest assured that we are both effective and responsible stewards of the public funds we get from government. We will stand up and say so.

I can’t speak for our competitors’ principles in this context, but I will say this about ours:

We are subject to the Access to Information Act (ATIA), and we will abide by the law. We will safeguard CBC/Radio-Canada’s strategic business interests, especially in an environment that is as competitive as ours. We will fervently defend our people – both their integrity and their privacy – at every turn.

Cheers.

Hubert
November 19, 2008

13 comments:

  1. Mark Dowling
    Posted November 22, 2008 at 11:13 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “Then there was the Heather Mallick column on CBC.ca and Cruickshank caved on that one”

    As well he should. While Mallick was free to fire away against Palin, however bitchily, I stopped reading in disbelief when I saw how Bristol Palin was described in that piece. She’s made some really bad personal choices, sure, but at the end of the day she’s a minor and hasn’t done anything illegal – certainly nothing worth having the boot put in on a national broadcaster’s website.

    It was the sort of thing one expects to (and does) read on the Globe’s comment section, especially when a webeditor has carelessly left comments open on a story about First Nations.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted November 21, 2008 at 1:34 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hubert, so what was Sylvain’s grade in the Harvard course? Did he provide a report that you could share on his eight week sabbatical?

  3. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 8:01 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Just who does Hubert think he’s managing when he says “we will fervently defend our people.” There are journalists at the CBC and those journalists can check facts (does Hubert??)

    According to the latest edition of the Guild Reporter, John Cruickshank has admitted he caved to the Karl Rove of Canada, Doug Findley of the Conservatives in the case of Krista Erickson (and ignored that reporters have been planting questions in varous legislatures for generations)

    Then there was the Heather Mallick column on CBC.ca and Cruickshank caved on that one to Fox News and the right wing bloggers over Sarah Palin.
    Yet at the same time his old competition, The Chicago Tribune, stood by a woman conservative columnist who was also under attack from her fellow conservatives for criticizing Sarah Palin. (Management is so afraid of being called “the liberal CBC” they didn’t even bother to read Google News to see who else was criticizing Palin)

    What Hubert is saying is that he will defend to the death the privileges of the management aristocrats while throwing the employees to the wolves.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 5:58 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “we will fervently defend our people”

    Thank you Hubert. Unfortunately the conduct of your team would suggest an entirely different agenda. The “people” who have dedicated their lives and careers to the CBC have not been treated fairly for a very long time.

    The CBC has achieved legendary status as an extremely unpleasant workplace. Your managers are only interested in reducing staff by making things difficult. That is their job and they have become very good at it.

    The CBC sucks the life out of you.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 3:06 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    OK, fair enough. A Harvard course for a bean counter. Ya gotta look good in Beantown, so sure, get some dry cleaning done.
    But let’s get back to the real issues like the obscene amounts paid in bonuses. Is there any way to spin yourselves out of this? Go ahead. Give it a shot. Let’s see what you can come up with.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 2:08 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “wo historically self-reliant organizations (radio and television), merge them and then integrate our Web services within those two units. The Corporation decided this Harvard course would help him do just that.”

    Is that what CTV, Canwest and other private sector companies do whenever they have to integrate a new business workflow? Spend $52,000 to ensure the exec knows his/her job?

    Smells like runaway self-entitlement to me.

  7. JLO
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 1:34 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I wonder if M. Lacroix is taking the same tone with the new Heritage minister, who seems quite miffed by the whole thing?
    Like the auto execs who appeared before Congress, it’s the perception, Hubert. And that is obviously not good.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 1:02 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    …and the $1 mill in bonuses??? Do “we” fervently defend those too?

  9. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 12:53 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Let’s see what happens if (and when) the next round of cuts come.

    Upper management and middle management is severely bloated, I’ll be impressed if they finally make some cuts there.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 12:49 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    For an organization its size CBC has a disproportionately high ratio of management to staff already. Even an MBA would tell you so. If the coming cuts addressed that first, by reducing the numbers of managers before cutting staff and programs then Hubie might begin to earn some cred.

  11. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 12:43 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    yeah, “defend our people”? What the hell?

    I’ve never met a manager who wasn’t willing to drop me like a rock at the first opportunity, ESPECIALLY when their own ass was on the line.

  12. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 12:20 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “We will fervently defend our people … at every turn.”

    Who is this “we” I wonder?

    Does this include me?

    And if so, why should I defend “our” people at every turn, when they locked me out of the building the first chance they got?

  13. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 8:51 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    A manager taking another management course to be better able to manage his many managers, of course that kind of spending is vital in these tight times. Programming, content, these are secondary. The primary function of the CBC is to create reasons to hold meetings, concoct strategies, plan for plans and invent new titles for its executives.


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