Effective: May 23, 1995
In view of its executive responsibilities under Canada’s parliamentary system, the government of the day has access to the facilities of the national broadcasting service to discuss issues of urgent importance to the Canadian public, or to explain or seek its cooperation with important current issues.
There are two classes of free time broadcasts on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s facilities (separate from free time party political broadcasts2) to assist in carrying out this right.
Broadcasts under both classes normally will be carried on the English and French radio and television networks within the framework of regular programs, and scheduled when appropriate during prime time.
Under this category, the Prime Minister of Canada, under legislation enabling the Governor in Council to act, has the pre-emptive right to have air time to discuss urgent issues of national importance by invoking and abiding by Subsection 26(2)(3) of the Broadcasting Act:
“(2) Where the Governor in Council deems the broadcast of any program to be of urgent importance to Canadians generally or to persons resident in any area of Canada, the Governor in Council may, by order, direct the Commission to issue a notice to licensees throughout Canada or throughout any area of Canada, of any class specified in the order, requiring the licensees to broadcast the program in accordance with the order, and licensees to whom any such notice is addressed shall comply with the notice.
(3) An order made under subsection ... (2) shall be published forthwith in the Canada Gazette and a copy thereof shall be laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first fifteen days on which that House is sitting after the making of the order.”
There is no right of reply by the Opposition with regard to broadcasts under this category.
The Prime Minister of Canada has occasional access to air time to raise issues of exceptional national importance in order to inform the public or to seek its cooperation. Any request for air time in this category will be made to the Corporation at least 24 hours in advance of broadcast and will specify its subject matter.
Access under this category is not available after the writs for a federal general election have been issued. During by-election campaigns programs in this category will not be broadcast in the constituencies involved.
The right to reply by the Opposition is automatic with programs under this category. The Leader of the Opposition and the leaders of the other recognized political parties in the House of Commons will be offered time to reply in a comparable format and at a comparable and mutually agreeable time.
All requests for prime ministerial access are to be referred to the Office of the President.