Canada: 'True blue' or not: Does Erin O'Toole still want to defund the CBC or just review it?

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TORONTO — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is taking his party's platform on the road, but it appears to be without one of his signature pledges.

Erin O'Toole et al. posing for the camera © Provided by The Canadian Press

Defunding the CBC was one of the promises he made while running as the "true blue" candidate to court the party's base in last year's leadership contest.

He pledged an O'Toole government would modernize and reform CBC by ending funding for its digital operations and slashing the CBC English TV budget by 50 per cent.

He said his goal was to make CBC English TV private within his first mandate.

But the recently released Conservative platform only states he plans to "review the mandate" of CBC English TV, CBC News Network and CBC English digital news.

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It says such a review would happen to "assess the viability of refocusing the service on a public interest model like that of PBS in the United States, ensuring that it no longer competes with private Canadian broadcasters and digital providers."

The platform promises to axe what Conservatives call Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's $600 million "media bailout," which is federal cash paid to different outlets to support the industry.

O'Toole told reporters in Toronto on Tuesday his position has not changed as he wants to protect the public interest under CBC's mandate while making sure the broadcaster is not unfairly competing with the media private sector.


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"I've always said it's time that we look at modernizing the CBC," he said.

"I think all Canadians want, particularly where we see options out there, to make sure that the state-owned broadcaster is not competing too much against the private sector, particularly in English television and digital."

Some Conservatives have called O'Toole's "true blue" credentials into question after his win last August, when he turned his attention to bringing in more support for the Tories in hopes that will drum up the votes needed to defeat Trudeau.

One change he made was the adoption of a carbon price — a Liberal policy deeply unpopular with Western Conservatives and one he promised to cancel.

Tuesday marks the first time O'Toole, joined by his wife, Rebecca, left Ottawa to campaign outside the city since the election was called on Sunday.

He travelled to Toronto where he will spend the day in the Greater Toronto Area, where Conservatives are trying to pick up seats, and then attend an evening rally in Richmond Hill, which will be the first time he will be able to bump elbows with crowds.

He released a video on social media early Monday promoting one of his platform promises to remove GST from retail purchases during December to help save Canadians money.

O'Toole spent the first two days of the race participating in virtual town halls and unveiling his party's platform from a broadcast centre in a hotel ballroom in downtown Ottawa while his opponents hit the road.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2021.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

FIRST READING: Tories leading among young people and the Battle of the Housing Plans .
From now until the bitter end of Election 44, the National Post is publishing a special daily edition of First Reading, our politics newsletter, to keep you posted on the ins and outs (and way outs) of the campaign. It’s all curated by the National Post’s own Tristin Hopper and published Monday to Friday at 6 p.m. ET and Sundays at 9 a.m. If you like our Aug. 24 edition below, sign up here. TOP STORIES In Hamilton today, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau introduced his party’s housing plan , which largely consisted of demand-side reforms such as a two-year ban on foreign ownership and measures to simplify saving for a down payment.

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