House of Commons Hansard #171 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cbc.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a second petition to present on behalf of 57 constituents of Saanich-Gulf Islands and surrounding area, again duly certified by the clerk of petitions.

The petitioners call on Parliament to enact legislation against serious personal injury crimes being committed by high risk offenders by permitting the use of post sentence detention orders and specifically by passing Bill C-240.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I have three sets of petitions on related matters, but the petitions are different.

The first one says that because of the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act, it will provide certain groups with special status, rights and privileges; that because the inclusion will infringe on the historic rights of Canadians such as freedom of religion, conscience, expression and association, therefore the petitioners call on Parliament to oppose any amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act or to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which would provide for the inclusion of the phrase sexual orientation.

Bill C-41
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, this is the second petition on a related matter.

It says whereas the majority of Canadians believe everyone currently has equal status under the law and whereas Bill C-41, section 718.2, would give special provisions based on sexual orientation, therefore the petitioners pray and request that Parliament not pass Bill C-41 with section 718.2 as presently written and that in any event, it not include the undefined phrase "sexual orientation", as the behaviour people engage in does not warrant special consideration under Canadian law.

Bill C-41
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, the last petition I have states that the undersigned residents of Canada draw to the attention of the House of Commons that members of Parliament have recently made hateful comments which contribute to the climate of intolerance, fear and violence for lesbian, gay and bisexual Canadians; that more than 80 per cent of Canadians believe that gay men, lesbians and bisexuals are subject to discrimination and that many gay and lesbian Canadians have been harassed, beaten or even murdered in violent expression of this discrimination; and that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees everyone equal rights.

Therefore, the petitioners call on Parliament to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Bill C-41
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present the following three petitions from my constituents of Comox-Alberni.

The first petition contains 780 signatures and calls on Parliament not to enact any further firearms control legislation, regulations or orders in council.

The second petition comes from constituents all across British Columbia and contains 454 signatures. It requests that Parliament refuse to accept the justice minister's anti-firearms proposals and insist that he bring forward legislation to convict and punish criminals rather than persecute the innocent.

Bill C-41
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, this last petition comes from across Canada and contains 550 signatures.

The petitioners request that in memory of Dawn Shaw, a six-year-old girl who was murdered in my riding of Comox-Alberni, that this petition be brought to the attention of Parliament.

The petitioners request that Parliament enact legislation to change the justice system to provide greater protection for children from sexual assault and to assure conviction of offenders.

Bill C-41
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to present a petition to Parliament calling on the House of Commons to ensure that the present provisions in the Criminal Code prohibiting assisted suicide be enforced vigorously and that Parliament make no changes in the law that would sanction or would allow the aiding or abetting of suicide or active or passive euthanasia.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all the questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supply
Government Orders

March 21st, 1995 / 10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

moved:

That the House condemn the government for the refusal by the Minister of Canadian Heritage to publish the government's decisions concerning funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for the next three years, thus causing an ominous threat to loom over the CBC's French-language network.

Madam Speaker, today's debate will be on the following motion, which I am submitting to this House with the support of my colleague from Mercier:

That the House condemn the government for the refusal by the Minister of Canadian Heritage to publish the government's decisions concerning funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for the next three years, thus causing an ominous threat to loom over the CBC's French-language network.

This motion has become necessary because of the Canadian heritage minister's refusal to be open and confirm the information his deputy minister gave the President of the CBC on the day the budget was tabled in this House. According to this information, in the next three years, the CBC will have to absorb some $350 million in cuts, despite this government's formal and oft-repeated commitment to stable multi-year financing for the CBC.

This lack of openness on the part of the minister and this stubborn denial of the facts show contempt for CBC employees. They create a climate of insecurity which can only harm our TV network. That is why our motion today condemns the minister for not disclosing all the cuts planned at the CBC. This course of conduct is also being denounced by the francophone press.

For those who know how to read and listen, the government had made clear commitments to the CBC. On October 4, 1993, the Canadian Conference of the Arts distributed a questionnaire aimed at finding out the main political parties' respective positions on culture and communications. The Liberal Party of Canada responded as follows: "By slashing funding for national institutions like the CBC, the Canada Council, the National Film Board and Telefilm Canada, the Tories have done great harm and shown how little they care about cultural development. Their savage cuts will hurt the next generation of performers, reduce the number of writers, composers, dancers and other creative artists, and undermine our cultural production. The development of our cultural organizations will be stunted. Cultural life outside the major cities will decline. In short, our country will weaken to the point that it will have to fulfil its cultural aspirations with foreign products".

The Liberal Party went on to say: "A Liberal government will be committed to stable multi-year financing for our national institutions".

This was the first firm commitment the Liberal Party made during the election campaign and it was reiterated in the red book, which says: "Canada needs more than ever to commit itself to cultural development. Instead, the Conservative regime has deliberately undermined our national cultural institutions. Funding cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canada Council, the National Film Board, Telefilm Canada and other institutions illustrate the Tories' failure to appreciate the importance of cultural development".

After this impressive illustration of Tories' failures, the Liberals go on to state in their red book that they "will be committed to stable multiyear financing for national cultural institutions such as the Canada Council and the CBC. This will allow national cultural institutions to plan effectively".

Almost as soon as he took office, the minister claimed to be a friend of the CBC. On February 3, 1994, he announced the appointment of Anthony Manera at the head of the CBC. In a letter to Mr. Manera and in the press release he issued at the

time, he stated his firm intention, as government member, not to impose further cuts to the CBC.

By the end of the fall, the word was that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would not escape the finance minister's bistoury. However, to Mr. Manera everything still appeared to be clear. Testifying before the heritage committee during the hearings on he CBC, Mr. Manera maintained that the Minister of Canadian Heritage had indeed promised him that the CBC would continue to receive multiyear funding. In his mind, the heritage minister's commitment was firm and unequivocal.

On that occasion, the hon. member for Richelieu asked Mr. Manera: "When you took the position, did you have a solemn commitment from the government to maintain that financing on a stable basis for a certain period, which is for five years starting with the 1994-95 budget? Did you have a commitment of that sort, before taking the plunge, with such a vision of the CBC?" And Mr. Manera said, directing his answer to the chairman of our committee: "Mr. Chairman, the answer is yes".

But now it would seem that all of us misunderstood, starting with Mr. Manera.

On January 25, the Minister of Canadian Heritage was reported by the Canadian Press as stating that anyone who understood that there would be no cuts to the CBC misunderstood him.

I am quoting from a Canadian Press article. It says the heritage minister did not rule out further cuts to the CBC, saying that the government had never promised that the corporation would be spared in the upcoming budget. The federal plan announced last year to stabilize CBC finances should not be seen as a pledge to keep the broadcaster's budget at current levels, said Mr. Dupuy. He added, and I quote: "If it was interpreted as freezing the situation, it was the wrong interpretation".

Oh, dear. Then everyone who read the Liberal Party's response to the Canadian Conference of the Arts was mistaken. Then, we all misinterpreted what was written in the red book, the press release and the letter signed by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the last two which were issued to the press on February 4 and in which the minister firmly committed himself to maintaining CBC's funding.

The budget confirmed what the minister had been hinting at. The budget plan tabled in the House on February 27 announced that the CBC's budget for the next fiscal year would be cut by 4 per cent, which translates into $44 million.

The budget plan also stated that, over the next three years, the government would be cutting $676 million from the budget for funding crown corporations which fall under the Department of Canadian Heritage's mandate. The same day, the deputy minister sent the CBC president an information brief on the breakdown of the $676 million in cuts. The table in the brief clearly showed that the CBC would have to absorb $44 million in cuts for 1995-96, $97 million in 1996-97 and $165 million in 1997-98. Unprecedented cuts, even under the Conservatives.

The $15 million which the Department of Foreign Affairs used to pay each year to fund Radio Canada International should also be added to the cuts, because the corporation will now have to pay it. The president had already stated that he would not preside over the crown corporation's demise, so he resigned.

What did the Minister of Canadian Heritage do to support his president? Nothing. He merely said that Mr. Manera was aware of the cuts and even added that Mr. Manera had informed him that he intended to resign a few weeks earlier. One day he stated that the only figures which his deputy had given to Mr. Manera were those contained in the budget; the next, he said the opposite. He admitted that Mr. Manera had obtained documents on program review.

These documents show that the government plans to cut the CBC's budget by more than $300 million over the next three years. Mr. Manera did his homework, he let the public know about it, and then, he resigned.

That was on February 28. On March 15, in the afternoon, it was the turn of the vice president of the French TV network. Meeting first with her staff and then with the press, Mrs. Fortin, in a presentation which was exceptional, I must say, insisted on setting the record straight for her employees. Seven hundred and fifty positions will be abolished on the French television network of the CBC, since it will be losing $60 million over three years as a result of the cuts agreed to by the heritage minister.

What will be the consequences of these cuts? Well, there will be fewer cultural productions, fewer in-house productions, fewer television serials and less Canadian content, and all this in the age of the information highway. However, the heritage minister continues to pussyfoot around. No, there are no other cuts than the ones announced in the budget; no, the CBC did not inform him of any layoffs. In an editorial published in La Presse , editorialist Pierre Gravel talks about the lack of openness on the part of the heritage minister, and I quote: ``Instead of being straightforward and behaving like a minister conscious of the seriousness of the issues, Mr. Dupuy only answered with a metaphor, in very poor taste, about the fact that when you let the ewe out of the barn, it comes and relieves itself on your doorstep''.

Yet, the budget mentions $676 million in cuts to the crown corporations which come under Heritage Canada, namely the CBC, Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board. Mr. Manera did, in fact, receive a letter from the minister, and the minister

now admits that under the program review a plan for cuts was indeed produced. We are now used to the pussyfooting of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Chantal Hébert, a reporter with La Presse , mentioned it in an article entitled: ``The variable time of Minister Dupuy''. His controversial statements have become his trademark.

In an article published on March 4, Mrs. Hébert said that, in the case we are dealing with, the minister "sent smoke signals in all directions, and gave as many different interpretations of events as there are days in the week. His public declarations contradicted the outgoing president, his top civil servants and what he himself has said unequivocally on the same issue". While the heritage minister is getting ready to drastically cut parliamentary appropriations to CBC-SRC through the back door, the chairman of the Canadian heritage committee, the member for Don Valley West, is appearing on the front porch, ready to talk.

He appeared twice on "Le Point médias", on Radio-Canada; he has appeared on CBC "Prime Time"; he is appearing on any possible forum available to him, more often than not replacing a heritage minister who would rather stay silent. And what is our heritage committee chairman saying on all these forums? He is saying that the future of CBC-SRC lies in a formula somewhat similar to PBS, in the United States, an under-financed public network which, according to Madeleine Poulin, of "Le Point médias", reaches only one per cent of the population.

Of course, he says, somewhat reluctantly-since he is after all a man of culture-, that French television is slightly different from English television because, as he told "Le Point médias", the Quebec environment is not yet a multi-channel one. The member for Don Valley-West was clearly implying that Quebec was slightly behind the rest of Canada, because fewer viewers have cable, but that it is only a matter of time before we are engulfed in the multi-channel universe. After all, he said, we already have TV5, and, to a degree, we are already being invaded by French-speaking European television.

It is not a coincidence if the committee chairman is displaying in such a manner his personal feelings on public broadcasting. We feel that he has been given a mission. He is preparing public opinion for a radical shift in policies regarding Canadian public broadcasting.

In the guise of sharing his personal opinion, the chairman of the committee is revealing to us the views of his government and is preparing us accordingly. Make no mistake: public television for the Liberal government amounts to a Canadian version of PBS.

This vision is perhaps fine for English Canada, which in any event seems to be having quite a bit of difficulty finding a niche in the multi-channel universe, as the committee chairman so eloquently put it. But this vision is completely wrong where French television and Radio-Canada in particular are concerned.

And that, furthermore, is what Radio-Canada, TVA, the Union des artistes, the Guilde des musiciens and the Association des producteurs de films et de télévision du Québec had to say at the information highway hearings now being held by the CRTC. In the present multi-channel universe, French television occupies a generalist niche, and this is not just some theory, but hard reality.

Of the 50 most popular French-language television productions in Canada, 47 are produced here in Quebec, where we are just as exposed to the multi-channel universe as our English-speaking cousins in Toronto. Radio-Canada reached 3.9 million viewers last February 5 with the independently produced made in Québec .

Knowing that French television is under-funded compared to its English counterpart, one wonders what we could achieve if we were on the same financial footing as the English arm of the CBC.

A recent poll by Som-Radio-Québec revealed that 53 per cent of Quebecers opposed cuts to the CBC, and 7 per cent thought there should be an increase in its parliamentary votes. Perhaps the fact that 60 per cent of Quebecers say they like their television network is not enough for English Canadians, who take decisions about the French network without even viewing it.

This is why Michèle Fortin said that the disappearance of Radio-Canada's public television from the generalist niche, where it reaches large audiences never reached by Canadian English-language stations, is collective suicide. Mrs. Fortin quite rightly recalled that, in Quebec, PBS-type public television niches are already occupied by RDI and Radio-Canada, for example.

So, as the CBC French network Vice President, Mrs. Fortin, has also noted, the member for Don Valley West does not watch French television, like others, for that matter, who wish to impose on it a solution that is perhaps better suited to the English network.

The Bloc Quebecois will oppose the loss of CBC French television. We have already lost a lot. Like my fellow citizens from Rimouski, I have witnessed the closure of three local TV broadcasting stations in the lower St. Lawrence in 1990. Acting as it did, the CBC French network deprived the region's inhabitants of the opportunity for debate, for the exercise of democracy.

In the coming debates, the government will try to make us believe that no decisions have yet been taken. Indeed, they have been taken, just not announced, that is the difference. In the coming debates, the government will try to make us believe that

it will replace parliamentary votes by new funding sources to be suggested by the heritage committee.

It is no secret that the member for Don Valley West told "Le Point médias" that the committee's mandate was to study the sex of angels, in other words, to find long term sources of funding for the CBC French network, not just for next year or the year after.

In the coming debates, the government will try to make us believe that the committee of three experts that it will soon set up to study the complementarity of the mandates of Telefilm, the National Film Board, and Radio-Canada as well as of their funding might change the situation for Radio-Canada. The government will get no one on this side of the House to believe such nonsense.

The government might attempt to say that cuts were imposed on Radio-Canada, but it will convince no one. The impact of the $10 million cuts made to Radio-Québec, as difficult as they were, has nothing in common with the $60 million cuts made to the CBC French network.

The government may also try to make English-speaking Canadians think that we do not care about their national television, but that is not true. If we are focusing more on the French CBC today, it is mainly because its vice-president has announced the effects the forthcoming cuts would have on our television.

We would not have the presumption to tell English-speaking Canadians what their television should be like. As for the Reform Party, it will probably say how pleased it is to see that the heritage minister is implementing part of its program.

Indeed, the Reform Party did propose to reduce the CBC's budget by 25 to 30 per cent in the taxpayers' budget it presented a few weeks back. This proposal in no way takes into account the role public television plays in Quebec and in French Canada nor does it meet the expectations of French-speaking Canadians.

I will conclude by quoting the French television spokespersons who appeared before the CRTC: "The policy proposals that will be drafted in the months to come will focus on one major and crucial objective, the promotion and preservation of French-Canadians' identity. Our current broadcasting system requires its partners to make a lot of room for Canadian content, and that has furthered the expression of our cultural identity and has contributed to the growth of audio-visual production in both our official languages. We should not let what we have acquired so far be jeopardized".

Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the hon. member's speech. Like her, I am a staunch supporter of CBC's French language network and of the CBC.

I listened with great sympathy to what the member opposite had to say. I am a great supporter of both radio and TV as far as the CBC is concerned. That includes Radio Canada International. I like the fact that by radio we can reach out not only to Canadians of both languages but to all those interested in Canada, whether they speak English or French, whether they be in the English speaking world abroad or in la francophonie. I am a great supporter of that.

I like the fact that from coast to coast to coast Radio Canada and the CBC are there in both languages. The northern service of the CBC is a particularly fine example of what is being talked about. It deals with the most remote areas of the country. It spills over into Greenland, which is related to Denmark, and into Alaska. Our voice is heard in both languages throughout the north.

It is partly as a result that French is one of the languages used in simultaneous translation by the legislature of the NWT in Yellowknife. It is one of the eight languages it functions in.

As a member from Ontario, from a riding where less than two per cent of the population speaks French, the French language services are a very special feature of the CBC. In Ontario we have La Chaine, a provincially based French language service and it has great support throughout the province.

The CBC is a billion dollar a year corporation. We know that like large government, large corporations have problems. They have financial problems. They have organizational problems.

Many members here have had experience with the CBC. I am told the CBC is top heavy, and in particular is middle heavy. It is heavy in the middle management area.

It has excellent artistic people on air, on camera who write and produce things. A great deal of the resources go into middle and upper management areas.

Does the member not think any billion dollar corporation in Canada should be examined from the point of view of its efficiency with great detail in these difficult financial times?

Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. It goes without saying that we must absolutely ensure that-with a budget of one billion dollars-CBC is managed efficiently. We must ask ourselves the right questions but, more importantly, we must get answers.

I sit on the heritage committee and its members almost unanimously agree that we are somewhat disturbed by the corporation's lack of transparency when it comes to really telling us how it is managed. There are many things which we do not know about. For example, we do not know the exact cost of

the corporation's head office. Only recently did we find out how much it costs to pay this group of bureaucrats, lawyers, secretaries, specialists or experts-whatever you want to call them. It costs the corporation $15 million just to appear before the CRTC every year. This $15 million is almost money thrown out the window since, after all, the CRTC cannot take away CBC's licence. The corporation is governed by an act. So these positions could be cut.

Sure, there are positions which can be cut. But I am concerned that these cuts might affect artistic workers or creators. If three or four vice-president positions are eliminated, I will not rise in this House to question that decision. It goes without saying that cuts can be made. The head office is useless, but no one can answer that question.

Do we still need a large engineering service, at a time when the information highway is becoming a reality? Unfortunately, we did not take on a leadership role in that regard. There are many questions to be asked. However, the problem is the situation in which we find ourselves; it is the uncertainty in which the minister keeps us. He does not say things the way they should be said. Will cuts be made? Yes, they are mentioned in the red book. The figure is $679 million, but the government continues to claim that it is $44 million. This is the problem.

I read an article in which a minister claimed to be a person of substance. That must be the case only when he is talking to the media, because so far we have no evidence of that when he speaks in this House.

Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay East, BC

Madam Speaker, I find it particularly unfortunate today that the Bloc has chosen to bring this issue to the House for a couple of reasons.

We have thousands if not tens of thousands of people who presently cannot get to work or even if they could get to work do not have the materials with which to conduct their jobs. It is estimated the strike by the rail workers which the Bloc is stopping will cost the economy $3 billion to 5 billion. When the Bloc comes to the House to discuss this issue, I find it really unfortunate.

Speaking specifically to the motion of the Bloc, why is it-

Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Order. Your question should be directed to the previous speaker and her comments.