Bell Gets Raked Over the Coals in Committee Over Job Cuts

It seems everyone is pissed off at Bell over their decision to cut jobs after getting their bailouts, Bill C-11, and Bill C-18.

Bell has been one of the biggest lobbyist for both Bill C-11 and Bill C-18. They made the claims that both bills are needed to “save” journalism jobs and to ‘tell Canadian stories’. This while spewing the disinformation that the platforms are solely to blame for the decline in the sector (and, to be clear, they were far from the only ones lying about these things).

The government, for their part, bought their talking points hook, line, and sinker. Liberal party lawmakers repeatedly dismissed expert opinion and evidence that disproved the various talking points used to sell the two horrible bills. Some went so far as to call for “investigations” for anyone daring to criticize their legislative efforts. Platforms and experts alike also repeatedly warned that the Online News Act would lead to Meta pulling out of news altogether – warnings that various lawmakers dismissed as little more than a “bluff”.

The thing is, no amount of believing hard enough was ever going to overturn reality. With the failure of the Online News Act, the government was forced to empty the tool chest and use the only thing left to use in that situation – bailouts. This under the firm belief that the media companies were actually being truthful about how Canadian journalism jobs being in the balance in all of this.

Shortly after, it finally became clear to the government why so few people believed the large media companies that this was the case. Having successfully squeezed what they could out of the situation, the large media companies stopped pretending and got to work cutting those jobs anyway. Among others, the CBC slashed 10% of its workforce. Bell, for it’s part, slashed 9% of its workforce. After all, the scam they were pulling on the government has run its course in their view, so why bother hiding it at that point? It made it crystal clear that these debates were never about “saving” Canadian jobs in the first place. Those positions were just a political means to an end and the large media companies got that end they were seeking… more or less.

The Liberal government – once close allies with the likes of Bell media – finally realized they had been had. Various top Liberal MPs were furious with Bell over the company pulling the wool over their eyes. Bell, for their part, didn’t really care. The company further thumbed their nose at lawmakers and raised dividend payments for their shareholders (hey, at least we know where the taxpayer money went) and then proceeded to file an application with the CRTC to get out of paying their fair share in the process. It was basically Bell’s way of saying, “Yeah, we lied to you and tricked you into doing our bidding, you got a problem with that?”

The end result in all of this? Everyone hates Bell for this. The large media conglomerate got summoned to the House of Commons Heritage Committee to testify about their job cuts. The full video (which I’m still in the process of watching) can be found here (click on the drop down menu and click “watch”). Early reaction of the hearing didn’t seem to garner very many fans. Here’s one take from the CBC:

As members of Parliament accuse Bell Canada of corporate greed, the head of the company is defending its decision to cut thousands of jobs, citing a shift in Canadians’ viewing habits away from traditional TV.

Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats grilled CEO Mirko Bibic during often combative exchanges at a meeting of the House of Commons heritage committee on Thursday afternoon.

“The idea you saw fit to take substantial bonuses and equity packages at a time your workers, employees and journalists could have had their jobs saved is a bit disappointing,” Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed told Bibic.

“I think it’s important to think about Canadians, particularly those who subsidized your company for so long.”

Conservative heritage critic Rachael Thomas said it’s “really rich” for a company worth $40 billion that received government subsidies to lay off its workers.

She accused Bibic of evading her questions, saying it made the CEO look “shady.”

“You have not been able to answer a single one of my questions directly today,” Thomas said.

Unifor, one of the lobbyists for Bill C-11 and Bill C-18 and an organization I’ve been at odds with over this whole sorry state of affairs weren’t exactly in the mood to defend Bell either:

OTTAWA – In his appearance before the House of Commons Heritage Committee, Bell CEO Mirko Bibic failed to justify cutting thousands of jobs while Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. (BCE) increased their dividends to a record-high $3.7 billion in 2023.

“We heard nothing in today’s testimony that could possibly justify BCE’s firing of more than 6,000 people with one hand while hiking executive pay and shareholder payouts with the other,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “The fact that the corporation thought it could take both these actions at the same time shows just how out of touch they are with the Canadian public right now.”

“We know Bell can’t possibly believe cutting thousands of jobs will improve telecommunications services to customers and strengthen local news media across the country. Yet, that is exactly the message they tried to sell. No one is buying this alternate math. Workers, customers and all Canadians deserve better than corporate spin from a telecommunications giant like Bell.”

Unifor vehemently refutes statements by Bibic implying that the union agreed with the company to make the job cuts.

“I want to be very clear because facts do matter. It is blatantly false that Unifor was in any way, shape or form in favour or agreement with Bell’s deplorable decision to fire thousands of workers,” said Payne. “For Bell’s CEO to infer as such is outrageous, deceptive and delusional.”

This may mark the first time in a REALLY long time in these debates that I agreed with Unifor on something. There was exactly zero justification for Bell to lay off those employees while increasing dividend payments. What’s more, as far as I’m concerned, the fury from the union is perfectly justified here.

The press release went further:

“Faced with legitimate questions about the thousands of jobs sacrificed, Mirko Bibic is simply like a broken record, ignoring the urgent call for transparency and accountability,” said Unifor Quebec Director Daniel Cloutier.

“Workers deserve better than repetitive, evasive answers. The CEO has clearly failed to justify the major job cuts. It seems that greed is the only obvious explanation behind these actions.”

It’s kind of a funny thing that the union is finally realizing this. I’ve been pointing out for months know that the large media companies were acting out of pure greed throughout the Bill C-11 and Bill C-18 debates, yet my comments were dismissed by supporters as completely ridiculous. Yet, here we are, years later and one of the biggest supporter of both of these bills saying exactly what I’ve been saying all this time. It took a while, but at least the union is finally on the same page as me on this one.

While I’ll probably be spending parts of my day watching the hearing getting another nice healthy dose of schadenfreude at the expense of Bell, one thing is clear: everyone is pissed off at Bell at this point. Considering where we all were when we were debating Bill C-11 and Bill C-18 before both bills were passed, all of this happening has been a very vindicating experience for me.

Drew Wilson on Mastodon, Twitter and Facebook.

1 thought on “Bell Gets Raked Over the Coals in Committee Over Job Cuts”

  1. The heaŕing was a farce. Bell is a spoiled brat that was spoiled by politicians and the CRTC. The politicians need to take a good look in the mirror and realize they are there to represent their ridings and not lobbyists. Next they need to realize that the best way to deal with a brat is to make him face the consequences of his actions – let him sink or swim on his own.

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