CBC Marketplace investigator Erica Johnson hasn't lost her zeal for exposing scams
Consumer journalist Erica Johnson is in a cheerful mood as she sits down for an interview in the basement of the CBC building on Hamilton Street.
The Vancouver native reveals that her program, Marketplace, has been renewed for its 42nd season next fall.
Even though it's based in Toronto, the investigative show has a new producer and associate producer working in a Vancouver bureau with her.
So does that mean more West Coast exposés of corporate shenanigans and regulatory shortcomings?
"Yes it does," Johnson says with a laugh. "People should be quaking in their boots."
Marketplace has emerged as one of the biggest draws on CBC TV since it moved to Friday nights at 8 p.m., sometimes attracting more than a million viewers per episode.
It has dished the dirt on everything from bacteria-ridden hotel rooms to labelling deficiencies in the meat industry.
"We quietly joke that the real name of Marketplace is 'everything kills you'," Johnson quips.
Upcoming episodes will deal with the quality of advice from financial advisers and different types of health-detoxification programs. A cynic might see something in common—leeches have been known to exist in both industries.
The financial-services investigation featured hidden cameras and is timed to coincide with the RRSP season.
"I think it's going to be a real eye-opener," she promises.
Johnson has been on Marketplace for 13 years, first cohosting with Wendy Mesley and now working alongside former sports reporter Tom Harrington.
She describes Harrington as a passionate, funny colleague with an "amazing singing voice".
"We really believe in what we're doing," she adds. "We feel lucky to be able to work on Marketplace in investigative journalism. It's a dying breed. It's expensive."
Johnson didn't watch much television as a kid growing up in Vancouver, so it's a little surprising that she has found her niche in this industry.
Her dad was a political-science instructor at Langara College and her mom was a journalist and later a psychologist.
Her parents, who both died a couple of years ago, limited Johnson to two hours of television a week.
Every time she watched a show, she had to record it on a chart.
"When my parents came into the room, if you were watching something you hadn't signed up for, you lost a week of TV privileges," she recalls. "But the shows I would watch would be the Mary Tyler Moore Show or Get Smart. I thought for a while I wanted to be a spy."
Johnson attended Kerrisdale elementary and Prince of Wales secondary before moving to Los Angeles, where she obtained a degree from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Later, she studied journalism at Ryerson University.
She says that sometimes when she's walking through an airport, people will thank her for standing up for consumers. But she emphasizes that she and Harrington are members of a team of "amazing researchers, producers and executive producer".
Johnson points out that nobody else in North America does an investigative consumer show.
"People don't like it when we criticize their product or say they're misleading people or downright ripping people off," Johnson declares. "So we get threatened with a lot of lawsuits."
So far, nobody has successfully sued her or Harrington. In fact, Johnson says that in her 13 years with the show, she's never even gone to court over anything that's been broadcast.