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Be fearless and bold and believe in the power of compassion and solidarity: CMG President Carmel Smyth to CMG Convention 2016
By CMG Posted on June 4, 2016

1cs convention 2016-b Check against delivery

Welcome to Toronto, traditional unceded land of the Mississauga and Haudenosaunee peoples.

Thank you to our Convention MC for Patty Ducharme.

And I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here this weekend in order to help shape the Canadian Media Guild.

It’s no secret to anyone here that these are crucial times for the media business.

So our role will continue to be just as crucial – perhaps even more so – as we work hard to ensure a healthy media industry with our central place in it intact : as media workers and as a union.

For over 20 years, our union – in its different iterations, and through thick and thin – has been key in advocating for media workers;|protecting their ability to do their jobs; get paid adequately;|to ensure fairness at work, quality journalism; to safeguard public broadcasting.

These past two years have been no different.

In fact, many of you were here at the 2014 CMG convention, when we rallied outside the Toronto Broadcast Centre, in what was to be the very first of our public rallies to stop the cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada.

That was the beginning of our campaign – the biggest for CMG – to save the largest news organization in the country.

Working together, we achieved many of the things we were fighting for, such as reversing the Conservative cuts to CBC and an increase in hundreds of millions of dollars, and a commitment from the Liberals to change the process by which the CBC President and Board are appointed.

What did this show us?

That in difficult media, economic and political circumstances CMG activists can and indeed have already made a real difference.

So whether you marched with family or, mobilized your colleagues, held up a sign or planted one on your lawn; wore black or plaid at work; or spoke out on behalf of journalism, fairness, or public broadcasting: Thank you ! Merci à tous!

Here is a visual reminder of our activism over the last two years: http://www.cmg.ca/en/convention-2016-slideshow/

Looking at these images, I am still impressed at the commitment, work ethic of great volunteers – Thank you for your help in making it happen!

Now, please raise your hand if this is your first CMG convention.

I t’s very exciting to welcome members who are new to the CMG, especially this weekend when we are here all together.

We have 600 new freelance and factual TV members!

Equally thrilling, very, very exciting:  About 120 digital workers at Vice Canada, who were convinced that CMG is the media union of choice for the next generation, have just voted at 68% to join CMG.

Can’t beat that!

All of you in this room should be proud of the legacy you are creating, of your work to make CMG the strong, progressive union it is.

Try Googling CMG: you get over one million  hits. That’s at least 10 pages of mostly us. Admittedly some of the press I could do without, but it’s par for the course.

The majority of those Google hits reflect the hard work of CMG activists speaking out, advocating in a rage of venues for our members’ interests

Our strategy and efforts have been to build a community in support of strong Canadian media on all platforms, whether they are national and provincial public broadcasters or privately-owned media; whether we are talking about local news; or whether it’s radio, television, online journalism including the work of freelancers and media veterans.

We are all in this boat together and we are looking to raise the level for everyone.

So this weekend , pat yourself on the back, and let’s celebrate the gains we’ve made.

It may be a few years before all of it pays off, but we are laying the groundwork and that’s the most difficult part done.

How did we get here and what lessons can we learn going forward?

-We’ve learned numbers talk. There’s nothing like solid research to back up political outreach

-We presented another view of the value of public broadcasting before a Senate Committee

-We fought for improvements in how local news is funded at the CRTC, and before the House of Commons Committee on Canadian Heritage

-We urged support for APTN, Francophone media and quality journalism all-news services

-we recommended to Minister Mélanie Joly that Canada should help celebrate the 100 th anniversary of the work done by Canadian Press in 2017

In addition to making our case before these regulatory and legislative bodies and at community events, we met with now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he was a regular MP; met with Finance minister Bill Morneau, as well as Heritage minister Mélanie Joly and with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Always to talk about our members’ interests and the crucial and unique service media workers provide at TVO, and TFO at APTN and at CP, at Thomson Reuters and Zoomer and Shaw Media and at CBC.

And you know what, CMG delegates?

People from all walks of life have taken notice – From Canadians who stood up with us supporting local news in communities across the country to our meetings with decision-makers at all levels of government. It`s actually humbling how much folks have been willing to hear us out and support us.

Another lesson we have learned is that you can’t do it alone. We need allies and supporters.

This is why we have also spent time and energy for the last two years building bridges: we have forged close relationships with community and professional groups such as:

-the Canadian Association of Journalists – at a recent conference in Edmonton, they thanked us for being thoughtful and outspoken advocates for media

-Canadian journalist for free expression – we are currently working with CJFE on a legal challenge – supporting a VICE Canada journalist and his right to protect his sources

-Journalism professors – Ryerson University asked us to work with its journalism school on a local news crisis summit scheduled for June 2017.

And of course we are also working closer with our union colleagues, particularly but not exclusively the Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada the union that represents 3,000 Radio-Canada members in Québec and New-Brunswick.

We joined our Québec colleagues marching in the streets of Montreal, we marched together from Montreal to Ottawa, and then on Parliament Hill with then-Liberal candidates Stéphane Dion and Mélanie Joly. Who would have guessed this fortunate coincidence would wind up with a Liberal government making good on the Liberal election promise to reinvest 675 million $ into CBC/Radio-Canada, in their first budget!

Those were the positives.

As you know, however we also continue to face many challenges:

-the cuts have been relentless

-the workload is crushing and stress levels are high for members

-work is increasingly precarious

-the industry is changing, regulations are being re-written and we still have no idea how many of those changes will impact us.

For us as an organization, these challenges have also meant some change. CMG  had to re-assess our finances and we’ve done that. We’ve adjusted staffing and finally done something we have  talked about doing for years: we’ve purchased office space, a short walk from our current office.

This purchase will allow us to save a huge amount of money on downtown rent, and just as importantly, allow us to remain close to most branch head offices.

The hope is that we will always have a place we can afford, downtown, regardless of how high office space costs get.

I think you’ll agree that it’s been a very busy two years.

I leave you with these thoughts:

You union is you. You set the priorities. You should have high expectations. We will work to meet them. Be fearless and bold and believe in the power of compassion and solidarity.

Because when we work together, incredible things that seem impossible can happen.

Who would have believed three out four federal parties would write our very words in support of CBC/Radio-Canada into their election platforms?

Who would have believed that Canadians would rally in the streets of Montreal, Ottawa, Sydney, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg and Toronto, and that thousands would put CBC signs on their lawns and sign petitions in support of public broadcasting. Next, we all woke up to changed political landscape!

Yet it happened!

To top it off, two years ago, would you have believed Canada’s most famous astronaut would sing at a concert we organized?

Yes, Chris Hatfield was out of this world on the Ottawa stage!

And Yes, Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor debuted his well-known anti-Harper song at our concert.

Improbable? Sure

Impossible? No way!

This is the stuff memories and union campaigns are built on!

Thank you all of you who made it happen!

Thank you to everyone who holds an elected position!

Thank you to all of you for your inspired work on behalf of our colleagues!

That’s what makes CMG strong.

That’s what has made digital workers at VICE Canada want to join us.

Together we will continue to make CMG the innovative and progressive union it is for media workers in Canada.

Thank you, and have a productive and inspiring convention!

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