Cather­ine Cano

For the past quar­ter-cen­tury, Canada’s Ca­ble Pub­lic Af­fairs Chan­nel has brought the daily work­ings of Cana­dian democ­racy first into the liv­ing rooms, then onto the desk­tops and hand­helds of view­ers across the coun­try. While CPAC’s role in Ot­tawa and provi

Policy - - In This Issue - Cather­ine Cano

CPAC at 25: The Chan­nel of Record

It is the mid­dle of a beau­ti­ful March day in Ot­tawa. The sun is out, the House of Com­mons is sit­ting, CPAC’s crews have been at work since 7 or 8 o’clock plan­ning the ed­i­to­rial con­tent for the day for our TV, web and so­cial me­dia chan­nels. Cof­fees in hand, my team and I are sit­ting in si­lence in our board room, look­ing at a blank page on a gi­ant screen. On the other side of the ta­ble, the team from the Royal Cana­dian Ge­o­graph­i­cal So­ci­ety looks at us with a smile. Chris, the car­tog­ra­pher breaks the si­lence: “So, tell me more about this Route 338 mi­crosite you are de­vel­op­ing...”

I was born in beau­ti­ful Chicoutimi, Que­bec—now Sague­nay, an area known as the “berceau in­dépen­dan­tiste”. My par­ents thought me to be cu­ri­ous and at 10 years old, I was al­lowed to watch the late-night news. At that age, and through­out my teenage years, I had a cer­tain un­der­stand­ing of Canada but to be to­tally hon­est, my coun­try was more of an ab­stract con­cept. It was dif­fi­cult to re­late or feel re­ally con­nected to what we called “le Canada anglais”. I did not even speak the lan­guage, let alone un­der­stand its cul­tural ref­er­ences un­til I was for­tu­nate enough to have two in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ences: At 16, I was se­lected to par­tic­i­pate in the Fo­rum for Young Cana­di­ans, where I would get to spend a week in Ot­tawa learn­ing about our demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions. And three years later, I was se­lected to be part of the Page pro­gram in the House of Com­mons.

I was for­tu­nate enough to have great op­por­tu­ni­ties like these, which both in­creased my in­ter­est in our democ­racy and in­spired me to learn more about how it works. What bet­ter way to gain a com­pre­hen­sive un­der­stand­ing of Canada’s po­lit­i­cal cul­ture than to be im­mersed in it at such a young age.

If these ex­pe­ri­ences taught me any­thing, it’s that for democ­racy to be in­clu­sive, it must be ac­ces­si­ble.

DDemoc­ra­cies have al­ways been frag­ile. But the last few years have taught us that this isn’t just true of emerg­ing democ­ra­cies in far­away places, but also ma­ture democ­ra­cies closer to home, in­clud­ing Canada.

emoc­ra­cies have al­ways been frag­ile. But the last few years have taught us that this isn’t just true of emerg­ing democ­ra­cies in far­away places, but also ma­ture democ­ra­cies closer to home, in­clud­ing Canada. The dis­con­nect be­tween politi­cians and a pub­lic fed up with the elite has grown deeper in an era of mis­trust. We live in a world of con­fu­sion be­tween real and fake news, where the pub­lic is dis­en­gaged from the me­dia. The im­pact of this re­al­ity can only be wor­ri­some as ill-in­formed masses put democ­ra­cies at risk.

I strongly be­lieve that the ear­lier we study and learn about our democ­racy, the bet­ter our chance to have a so­ci­ety that is cu­ri­ous, knowl­edge­able and en­gaged. The more cit­i­zens ap­pre­ci­ate how im­por­tant it is to know the is­sues, com­pre­hend the im­pact of pol­icy de­ci­sions on dayto-day life, and un­der­stand the role and work of their rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the ac­count­abil­ity that goes with it, the bet­ter chance they will par­tic­i­pate in the process. Un­for­tu­nately, pol­i­tics is seen as par­ti­san and not sur­pris­ingly, there is more de­mand for trans­parency.

That’s why, in the cur­rent geopo­lit­i­cal cli­mate, I be­lieve that ac­cess to an ob­jec­tive source like CPAC is more im­por­tant than ever.

While Canada is cel­e­brat­ing its 150th, CPAC turns 25 this year. For a quar­ter cen­tury, it has pro­vided the most com­pre­hen­sive and bal­anced cov­er­age of Par­lia­ment, pol­i­tics and pub­lic af­fairs. It has chron­i­cled the elec­tions that set the coun­try’s di­rec­tion. It has cov­ered the con­ven­tions that pro­duce our lead­ers-in-wait­ing. It has ex­plored the de­bates that re­flect our val­ues. It has car­ried the com­mis­sions and in­quiries that en­force those val­ues. And ev­ery day, CPAC shines a light on the in­sti­tu­tions that form the back­bone of Cana­dian democ­racy.

We like to think of CPAC as your un­ob­structed win­dow on Canada’s demo­cratic process, your eyes and ears on the ground. It’s a unique role we take very se­ri­ously.

CPAC was cre­ated to al­low Cana­di­ans to ob­serve their democ­racy in ac­tion, born out of a de­sire to en­sure that Cana­di­ans from coast to coast to coast could ac­cess the work of Par­lia­ment.

But it emerged from hum­ble be­gin­nings. Canada was one of the first coun­tries in the world to tele­vise live par­lia­men­tary pro­ceed­ings, start­ing with cov­er­age of Queen El­iz­a­beth’s Speech from the Throne in Oc­to­ber 1977. Ini­tially, the na­tional pub­lic broad­caster pro­vided par­lia­men­tary broad­casts. In those days, the cov­er­age was quite rudi­men­tary, with footage from the House when it was con­vened and bul­letin board-style an­nounce­ments af­ter hours. In the early 1990s, when the costs of pro­vid­ing this ser­vice be­came un­sus­tain­able, the CBC dis­con­tin­ued its in­volve­ment.

In 1992, a con­sor­tium of 27 pri­vately-owned ca­ble com­pa­nies stepped to the plate, es­tab­lish­ing the Ca­ble Par­lia­men­tary Chan­nel, a non-par­ti­san, non-profit, bilin­gual, in­de­pen­dent cor­po­ra­tion that would give Cana­di­ans free and timely ac­cess to the work­ings of Par­lia­ment. The chan­nel was sub­se­quently re­named CPAC and is now owned by six ca­ble com­pa­nies—Rogers, Shaw, Videotron, Co­geco, Ac­cess and Eastlink—who have in­vested more than $50 mil­lion to pro­vide this im­por­tant ser­vice.

To­day, Cana­di­ans count on us not only for cov­er­age of House of Com­mons pro­ceed­ings and Par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tees, but also for our cov­er­age of royal com­mis­sions, in­quiries and Supreme Court hear­ings. We also pro­duce up to 30 hours a week of orig­i­nal con­tent, in­clud­ing daily po­lit­i­cal roundup and analysis, in­ter­views, con­fer­ences, pub­lic de­bates and for­eign af­fairs.

In the quar­ter-cen­tury since our found­ing, we have cov­ered eight fed­eral elec­tions, six prime min­is­ters, 40 po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tions and tens of

thou­sands of hours of Par­lia­men­tary pro­ceed­ings and com­mit­tees. And we’ve done it all in CPAC’s sig­na­ture long-form style.

Along the way, we’ve been a leader in the dig­i­tal me­dia space, too. We were the first Cana­dian net­work to stream our pro­gram­ming live 24/7, and we’ve built an ex­ten­sive dig­i­tal ar­chive with more than 30,000 hours of con­tent, avail­able for free, on-de­mand. We also foster an ac­tive so­cial me­dia com­mu­nity which be­comes seem­ingly more and more en­gaged ev­ery year.

No mat­ter the plat­form, CPAC has al­ways been—and al­ways will be— com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing un­fil­tered cov­er­age of pol­i­tics and pub­lic af­fairs. For 25 years, CPAC has shone a light on the path of that democ­racy—the twists, the turns, the de­lays and the break­throughs—it is the com­plete story, with­out spin, so Cana­di­ans can make up their own minds.

But it’s look­ing to the next 25 years that ex­cites me the most. CPAC is a shim­mer­ing jewel pro­vid­ing in­de­pen­dent, bal­anced and un­bi­ased con­tent. It’s a very spe­cial me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tion with a very unique mis­sion to ad­vance Cana­dian democ­racy. There is not a day when the team and I do not ap­pre­ci­ate how no­ble and im­por­tant this cause is.

The CPAC Route 338 ad­ven­ture started 10 months ago with a sim­ple idea: How can we con­trib­ute more ac­tively to Cana­di­ans’ un­der­stand­ing of their democ­racy? Can we be­come an even bet­ter part­ner for ed­u­ca­tors, other or­ga­ni­za­tions with like-minded mis­sions, and the me­dia to en­sure that demo­cratic lit­er­acy and me­dia lit­er­acy are front and centre?

This fall, the vi­sion be­comes a re­al­ity and stu­dents and teach­ers alike will be able to find a wealth of in­for­ma­tion on Canada’s 338 rid­ings. This mi­crosite is a vir­tual road trip aimed at help­ing stu­dents bet­ter un­der­stand the di­ver­si­ties and par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. This site will also host in-depth sec­tions on the is­sues and the in­sti­tu­tions.

We’ve also part­nered with the Royal Cana­dian Ge­o­graph­i­cal So­ci­ety— that’s where Chris and his tal­ented col­leagues came into the pic­ture—to pro­duce a se­ries of gi­ant floor maps and de­velop les­son plans themed around Cana­dian democ­racy. These gi­ant floor maps will tour schools across the coun­try, help­ing ed­u­ca­tors make demo­cratic lit­er­acy an in­ter­ac­tive class­room ex­pe­ri­ence.

Through these ed­u­ca­tional ini­tia­tives, the team at CPAC is reach­ing out to the next gen­er­a­tion to pique their po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests. Our goal: To help them un­der­stand Canada’s rich po­lit­i­cal his­tory, how Par­lia­ment works and the im­por­tance of po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Democ­racy shouldn’t ex­ist be­hind a cur­tain. Democ­racy can’t ex­ist be­hind a cur­tain. For a quar­ter cen­tury, CPAC has held the cur­tain open, invit­ing Cana­di­ans to ob­serve and en­gage with the in­sti­tu­tions and the peo­ple that de­fine their coun­try. And now, we are dou­bling our ef­forts to al­low more Cana­di­ans ac­cess via Route 338. This is our legacy, CPAC’s legacy for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and ul­ti­mately, all Cana­di­ans.

Cather­ine Cano is Pres­i­dent and Gen­eral Man­ager of CPAC. She was pre­vi­ously di­rec­tor of news at Ra­dioCanada.cather­ine.cano@cpac.ca

Photo: Troye Fleece/Cana­dian Ge­o­graphic

CPAC has part­nered with the Royal Cana­dian Ge­o­graph­i­cal So­ci­ety to pro­duce a set of gi­ant floor maps sim­i­lar to the one above. CPAC’s Route 338 map will tour schools across the coun­try, help­ing stu­dents learn about our democ­racy.

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