CBC national political reporter Krista Erickson is the subject of debate since it was announced that she is registered as the designated traveller for Calgary Centre Conservative MP Lee Richardson, which means she is entitled to receive flights paid for by taxpayers.
According to The Chronicle-Herald’s Stephen Maher:
“The Canadian Association of Journalists and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation both said the designation raises tough questions for Erickson, Richardson and the CBC, since she covers federal politics as part of her job.”
Members of Parliament receive a certain number of travel points that they can redeem for free flights, or allocate to their designated travellers – usually the spouse or partner of the MP.
The Chronicle-Herald also reported that:
“Erickson is in an unacceptable position, says Mary Agnes Welch, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. The organization’s code of ethics says journalists should not have a personal relationship with people they report on. This is worse than that, she said.
“It’s one thing to have a personal relationship,” she said. “It’s another thing entirely to be benefiting from that relationship. Actually being able to fly for free because of that relationship kind of brings it to a new level. A reporter who covers national politics in any way who is in a relationship with an MP is clearly in conflict.”
Richardson told The Chronicle-Herald that Erickson is not covering him:
“She does have a protocol about covering me or anything involving Conservative events, so she doesn’t cover any of that stuff,” he said.”
“Any one with common sense would know that accepting free air travel from a Member of Parliament would compromise that person’s ability to be independent, or at the very least would compromise that reporter’s perceived independence. Meanwhile is Krista Erickson not familiar with the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices? “
CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices covers free travel:
1.2 Journalistic Standards and Practices
V. PERSONNEL STANDARDS
3. FREE TRAVEL
“CBC/Radio-Canada personnel will not accept offers of free travel or accommodation from outside organizations or individuals to facilitate the gathering of program, news or research material or for any other reason flowing from the person’s position or role in the CBC/Radio-Canada.
“CBC/Radio-Canada programs must be protected from improper external influence or the suspicion of such influence. Travel and accommodation costs are a form of program expense and are not to be absorbed by outside agencies.
“Any exceptions to this policy will be considered only for journalistic purposes and only when no commercial transport is available. In any event, an invoice should be demanded. Approval must be received prior to commitment from the senior officer in information programming.”
Erickson is no stranger to controversy, The Chronicle-Herald also reports:
“In 2007, when former prime minister Brian Mulroney was testifying before a Commons committee in relation to his business relationship with Karlheinz Schreiber, Erickson handed written questions to the Liberals for them to pose to Mulroney.”
“Under a hail of abuse from Conservative bloggers, CBC pulled Erickson off Parliament Hill and sent her to Toronto. She and her union fought the transfer, and in 2008 reached an agreement that saw her returned to covering national politics in 2009.”