General + Regulatory + Telecom + Media NewsBell didn't give feds advance notice of February layoffs

Bell didn’t give feds advance notice of February layoffs

BCE did not give the federal government advance notice of its intention to layoff 4,800 employees in February.

Despite legislation compelling companies to give the government 16 weeks working notice, Bell told the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that it relayed its intention on Feb. 8, the same day it told the public and began laying off staff.

Mirko Bibic

In the company’s long-awaited appearance before the committee on Thursday afternoon, CEO Mirko Bibic maintained that Bell was still in full compliance with federal labour standards because it had provided impacted staff with a minimum 16 weeks pay.

Committee members challenged Bibic on everything from cutting local newscasts and paying dividends to shareholders on the backs of employees, to gouging consumers and allegedly firing 400 people en masse over a Zoom call.

Bibic blamed a shift toward digital advertising, difficult operating circumstances and a general economic downturn, along with competition from streaming giants like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon for the layoffs, asserting that Bell Media is now producing more news than it ever has before, albeit in a “different way.”

“Viewers today want news as it happens all the time,” Bibic told the committee. “Appointment viewing is no longer nearly as relevant as it was before, so we’ve invested massively to change how we deliver the news so the viewer can be served all day long.”

“We’re making as much investment as possible in the production of news, driving efficiencies in our infrastructure so we can invest in creating digital platforms so there is news at all times of the day for our viewers,” he continued, adding that includes having journalists file across platforms as news happens.

Among those questioning Bibic was newly-elected Durham MP and former Bell Media network talk show host Jamil Jivani, who parted ways with the company in 2021 and later sued for wrongful dismissal. He raised allegations of sexism, tokenism and ageism within Bell Media, specifically in the highly-publicized firing of former chief anchor Lisa LaFlamme, and whether diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) was considered in recent restructuring. Later, Jivani accused Bell of showing “callous disregard” for Canadian workers despite $40 million in regulatory relief last year alone.

 Kevin Waugh, the MP for Saskatoon-Greenwood and a former longtime sportscaster with CTV Saskatoon, told Bibic that Bell had “destroyed local news in this country.”

“You have gutted local newsrooms in this country, don’t tell me you’ve added,” said Waugh, who worked with CTV for four decades. “We’re down to one hour a day, live, in Saskatoon…we had six and a half hours of local news every day until you made your decision in the spring. You and your organization have destroyed local news in this country. You should be ashamed.”

Bibic responded that local noon newscasts had suffered a 43% drop in viewership as Canadians engage with news in different ways, offering Monday’s eclipse event as an example of how a record number of viewers engaged with CP24’s programming online and on YouTube.

“I’m glad I retired from CTV when I did in 2015 because when you arrived on the scene you’ve been a disgrace and Bell Media has not been the same since then,” Waugh told Bibic.

Churchill MP Niki Ashton, who earlier in the meeting asked Bibic if he would consider taking a salary reduction, accused Bell of a “staggering” disconnect.

“A company worth $40 billion, a CEO who last year made $13 million who at the same time agreed to laying off thousands of workers – 6,000 jobs over an eight-month period, has gutted local news, shut down 45 radio stations, left major centres and smaller centres in our country without the local news that they deserve,” said Ashton. “In a province like mine, the telecom side of things, we’ve seen costs go up and service go down and across the country Canadians are paying some of the highest cel phone rates in the world.”

“How much profit is enough?” asked Ashton. “How much CEO paybacks and profits are enough? How much dividends are enough? This didn’t just happen. Bell’s business approach has left Canadians worse off.”

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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessen
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email -

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