Pierre Juneau sat in an off-white upholstered armchair, legs crossed and hands clasped over his stomach, and talked with clinical detachment about the fact that a growing number of Conservative politicians are demanding his resignation as president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “It hasn’t affected me very much,” he said, choosing his words like a tutor patiently trying to salvage a delinquent student. “It would be untruthful and unrealistic—and you wouldn’t believe me anyway—if I said it didn’t have any effect.”
Outside the windows of the sixth-floor office in the CBC’s Ottawa headquarters, storm clouds, literally and figuratively, were closing in. But Juneau, in the week of his 64th birthday, was assured, precise and dispassionate as he talked about himself and continuing federal government cutbacks which, he said, had pushed the CBC to the wall.
Squeezing: “We have a basket of oranges that is too heavy to carry,” he said, displaying his fondness for metaphor. “Up to now, we have been squeezing the oranges to reduce the weight, but we have come to the point where we will have to drop some of the oranges.” Juneau has been getting the orange juice by reducing the CBC’s administrative and program budgets. The oranges he may have to drop are television stations, Canadian content—currently more than 75 per cent on the English television network—and such special services as the Northern Service.
But there are members of Parliament, mostly Conservatives irritated by Juneau’s long-standing friendship with former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who say that the solution is to keep the oranges and drop Juneau, named to the presidency by Trudeau on Aug. 1, 1982, for a seven-year term. In fact, Juneau was a Tory target long before he went to the CBC. In August, 1975, when his friend Trudeau appointed him minister of communications—fresh from his job as head of the Canadian Radio-Television Commission—Quebec Tory MP Heward Grafftey said that the action had “severely damaged the political independence of the civil service.”
Later that year Juneau ran as a Liberal in a Montreal byelection and was defeated. It was his only venture into politics and the only major setback of his career. He was born in the Montreal suburb of Verdun, one of five children of a building materials salesman and his
wife. At 14, Juneau was enrolled in the city’s Jesuit Collège Ste-Marie. During eight years of classical studies, he was strongly influenced by the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century Christian philosopher and apostle of logic and reason.
In 1947 Juneau married Fernande
Martin, a colleague from a Roman Catholic youth movement. They went to Paris, where he studied philosophy at the Catholic Institute of Paris and the University of Paris, and spent hours discussing social reform with another student in Paris at the time, Pierre Trudeau. In 1950, back in Montreal, Juneau joined Trudeau and others in
launching the intellectual review Cité libre.
That same year Juneau went to work for the National Film Board (NFB). Over the next 17 years he kept his friendship with Trudeau and climbed the bureaucratic ladder, ending up as senior assistant to the commissioner and director of French-language production. Jacques Bobet, an NFB executive producer, once said that he admired Juneau’s administrative talents but that he had “a sterilizing effect” on creative personnel. Juneau spent two years as vice-chairman of the Board of Broadcast Governors, the federal regulatory agency. When the BBG was replaced by the CRTC in 1968, Juneau became its first chairman.
By the time his term ended in 1975, Juneau had done more to change the face of Canadian broadcasting than anyone before or since. The federal government decreed that radio and TV stations had to be at least 80-per-cent Canadianowned, and Juneau showed his determination to enforce that order to the letter. He also wrote the rule that set a minimum Canadian content for radio stations. The man sometimes called “the lay priest” became the patron saint of Canadian rock ’n’ roll by giving a tremendous boost to the domestic recording industry— which named its annual Juno Awards after him.
Skills: After he left the CRTC, Juneau honed his bureaucratic skills further as an adviser to then-prime minister Trudeau. He also worked as chairman of the National Capital Commission and undersecretary of state, advising the prime minister on cultural matters. In the months ahead, Juneau will need all those skills. St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire, and to know what he ought to do.” For Pierre Juneau, the first two are easy; the last one is especially challenging.
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