Loading articles...

CBC's Ian Hanomansing on the future of 'The National' post-Mansbridge

Last Updated Sep 16, 2016 at 2:00 pm PDT

“To be a substantial part of ‘The National’ going forward, obviously I’d be thrilled.”

That’s about as close as Ian Hanomansing will get to saying, yes, he’d like Peter Mansbridge’s job. Mansbridge, 68, made headlines last week when he announced on-air that he would step down as CBC’s chief correspondent and anchor after the Canada 150 celebrations in Ottawa next July.

That leaves CBC nearly a year to find a successor. Many would consider Hanomansing to be the heir apparent. As host of Vancouver-produced “CBC News Network with Ian Hanomansing,” he won the most recent Canadian Screen Award as Canada’s top national news anchor. He’s also a familiar face having filled in over the years for Mansbridge on “The National.”

Plus, in the “because it’s 2016” era of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the embrace of diversity, he represents the changing face of a multicultural nation. Born in Trinidad, raised in New Brunswick, and with a CBC career launched in Halifax but spent mainly Vancouver, he is in many ways the Canada 150 candidate.

Suggest he’s waited longer than Prince Charles to ascend to the top, however, and he insists he is simply one of many in line for the throne. CBC News has a deep bench, he says, suggesting others, such as senior investigative correspondent Diana Swain, are just as worthy.

Besides, that succession question got old a long time ago, he adds.

“I think that networks in the United States and Canada are filled with people who define themselves by wanting a particular job,” he says.

One example: John Roberts, the Canadian seen by many as the logical successor at CBS to Dan Rather, never got that job. (He’s now with Fox News.)

“There were people at CTV who may have imagined they’d be the replacement for Lloyd Robertson,” says Hanomansing. “I never thought of myself in those terms. That’s just not a productive way to manage your career.”

During an interview in late May in Toronto, he admitted he’d sometimes frustrated CBC bosses who asked where he wanted to be in 10 years.

“I always tell them I don’t know — I love what I’m doing now.”

To be clear: Mansbridge’s job has not yet been offered to Hanomansing.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” he says. “No one’s talked to me; no one has talked even generally about what ‘The National’ will look like on July 2.”

A CBC spokesperson confirmed it is early days and while the process is underway, no announcement regarding Mansbridge’s successor is imminent.

Hanomansing has been with the CBC, in various capacities, for 30 years. He’s 54, although he looks a decade younger.

He did get a heads-up that the anchor job would be up for grabs — from Mansbridge.

“He sent me a very nice email the night he was going to make the announcement,” says Hanomansing. The notice helped him react properly when his own newscast followed on CBC News Network.

Hanomansing started contributing to “The National” even before Mansbridge’s long run as anchor, back when Knowlton Nash was in the big chair.

“I’ve lived through lots of changes at my time at CBC,” he says, “some incremental, some seismic.” He survived, for example, the disastrous “Prime Time News” shift to 9 p.m. in the early ’90s as well as the downsizing of the local supper hour newscasts in the 2000s.

“Who knows how dramatic the changes ahead might be?”

Change can be good, he says. The chance to experiment and cover breaking news has made his current job at CBC News Network a career favourite. Hanomansing enjoys being liberated from his teleprompter and might not be eager to be stuck behind one in a re-imagined version of “The National.”

One thing that won’t prevent him from taking the big job is location. For years, a move out of Vancouver was a deal breaker. “CBC knew that but other organizations knew that too,” he says.

Hanomansing was wooed by rival news organizations in the U.S. and Canada over the years but says he always “knew I wasn’t going to take another job.” His wife’s West Coast law career and their desire to keep their kids in the same schools led to 25 happy years in Vancouver. A move to CBC’s broadcast centre in Toronto — where “The National” has always been based — is doable now, however.

“I would say geography is not a big part of this,” he says.

It really boils down to what “The National” will look like post-Mansbridge.

“Of course I would be interested,” he says, “if at some point someone will come to me and say, ‘Hey, we’d like you to be part of what we’re doing next.’ If that happens, and depending on what they’re envisioning, then I’d have to figure that out.”

— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.