TORONTO - Veteran foreign correspondent and CBC news anchor Brian Stewart, whose expertise on global affairs has made him one of Canada's most prominent on-air journalists, is retiring.
The award-winning host, a senior correspondent for CBC's flagship news program, "The National" and host of Newsworld's "Our World," said Thursday he had accepted an incentive retirement deal as the cash-strapped corporation grapples with a $171-million budget shortfall.
"I'd been thinking of retiring for the past two years and so the voluntary package came along at the right time," Stewart said Thursday in an email exchange.
"My reasons are simple - I've been working as a reporter without a break for 45 years this month which is a hell of a long haul. I started six months after Kennedy was shot in Dallas and four months after the Beatles hit North America, so it's probably time for a change. I've also wanted more time to devote to writing and to some non-profit activities I'm interested in."
Stewart, 67, says he will continue "to pursue broadcasting interests on an independent basis," but did not elaborate. He said he expects to continue writing his weekly foreign affairs column for CBC.ca and looks forward to travelling.
His last day with the CBC will be July 31.
Earlier this month, veteran political reporter Don Newman announced his planned retirement on air.
The retirement packages are part of cost-cutting measures by the public broadcaster that include layoffs and program cuts.
The Canadian Media Guild says more than 70 employees have taken retirement packages, including radio reporters with the Ontario and Alberta legislatures.
Layoff notices were handed out Wednesday, and more were expected Thursday, said president Lise Lareau.
Meanwhile, CBC says its Sunday morning news show airs its last episode this weekend.
A spokesman for the corporation says "CBC News: Sunday" with Evan Solomon and Carole MacNeil was cancelled as part of an ongoing "news renewal" program and was not directly related to ongoing cuts.
CBC says Solomon and MacNeil will continue hosting "CBC News: Sunday Night" until the fall, when that show will be replaced by a weekend version of "The National."
Stewart's departure comes after a respected career that included coverage from nine war zones and interviews with some of the world's leading figures, among them Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela and Henry Kissinger.
Born in Montreal in 1942, Stewart started his journalism career with the Oshawa Times in 1964 and as a political columnist with The Montreal Gazette in 1968. He joined the CBC in 1971 in Montreal, later moving to Ottawa as the network's foreign affairs and military specialist and London as a foreign correspondent.
In 1985, he joined NBC as a foreign correspondent but returned to Canada two years later to join "The Journal." He has been with "The National" since 1992, and hosted its current affairs segment The Magazine from 1998 to 2000.
Stewart said he was grateful to the CBC for the many opportunities and experiences he's had over the years.
"It has been a fabulous organization to work for and I will remain a passionate supporter of its role as public broadcaster," he said.