House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was customs.

Topics

Division No. 24
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from November 17 consideration of the motion.

Amendment To The Constitution Of Canada (Quebec)
Government Orders

November 18th, 1997 / 6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The next recorded division is on Motion No. 4 under Government Business. Shall I dispense?

Amendment To The Constitution Of Canada (Quebec)
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Amendment To The Constitution Of Canada (Quebec)
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The question is as follows: Mr. Dion, seconded by Mr. Chan, moved that:

WHEREAS the Government of Quebec has indicated that it intends to establish French and English linguistic school boards in Quebec;

AND WHEREAS the National Assembly of Quebec has passed a resolution authorizing an amendment to the Constitution of Canada;

AND WHEREAS the National Assembly of Quebec has reaffirmed the established rights of the English-speaking community of Quebec, specifically the right, in accordance with the law of Quebec, of members of that community to have their children receive their instruction in English language educational facilities that are under the management and control of that community and are financed through public funds;

AND WHEREAS section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees to citizens throughout Canada rights to minority language instruction and minority language educational facilities under the management and control of linguistic minorities and provided out of public funds;

AND WHEREAS section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province to which the amendment applies;

NOW THEREFORE the House of Commons resolves that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada be authorized to be made by proclamation issued by His Excellency the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada in accordance with the schedule hereto.

SCHEDULE

AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF CANADA CONSTITUTION ACT, 1867.

  1. The Constitution Act, 1867, is amended by adding, immediately after section 93, the following:

“93A. Paragraphs (1) to (4) of section 93 do not apply to Quebec.”

CITATION

  1. This Amendment may be cited as the Constitution Amendment, year of proclamation (Quebec).

(The House divided on Motion No. 4, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 25
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6.28 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

moved that Bill C-204, an act to require that in the advertising and at the opening of a cultural project supported by public money a public acknowledgement of the grant be made, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to speak on second reading of my private member's Bill C-204 which was introduced in the House on September 25, 1997.

In summary, this enactment requires recipients of grants of public funds for cultural projects to acknowledge that a grant has been made and to specify the amount of the grant at the time the program is announced or advertised or open to the public. Non-compliance may result in the recipient having to repay the grant.

The legislation is significant in that it deals with the very emotional issue of spending in the area of arts and culture with public money. The cultural industry in Canada is run by bureaucrats, financed by subsidies, yet is virtually unaccountable to the government or the taxpayer from which it gets the funding.

This is a well drafted bill which would require little amendment to the present legislation. It simply calls for the acknowledgement at the opening of an event and then the literature associated with that event of the contribution by the federal government.

We are not talking about direct parliamentary appropriations like the CBC. However, it would apply to grants provided through agencies such as, for example, Telefilm, the National Film Board, the Canada Council, the Canada Information Office and the like. It is intended that specific dollar amounts be advertised. For example, Telefilm's contribution of dollars for the film Sweet Hereafter or of the dollars for Telefilm and Canada Council contribution to the film Kissed .

People reading Hansard or watching this on television should be aware, for example, that the film Sweet Hereafter basically had a subtitle or a subtext which really was the entire plot of the film which was around the incestuous relationship between a father and his daughter. The film Kissed is a film specifically about necrophilia. Necrophilia is making love to a dead body. Canadian taxpayers have paid money into this film.

There are those of you who say art must be subsidized in order to survive. The Government of Canada has recently increased the budget of the Canada Council by $25 million a year. The government spends millions of dollars more on cultural projects through various programs operated through the bureaucracy. Taxpayers are subsidizing these projects and they have the right to know where their dollars are spent.

Many projects are funded through a number of government programs. A project may have received Telefilm Canada subsidies, Canada Council subsidies, National Film Board subsidies and then be broadcast on the subsidized CBC. Let us tally up the dollars and report them to the viewing taxpayer.

This legislation is by no means focused on one region of the country. It is clearly a national concern because these funds are provided across Canada for all kinds of events, monuments, films and festivals.

Statistics Canada recently released the amount of dollars spent on culture over the last three years. The federal government allocated $2.92 billion to culture in 1995-96. Let me repeat that. The federal government allocated $2.92 billion to culture in the year 1995-96.

Federal spending on other cultural industries, which include film and video production, book and periodical publishing and the sound recording industry, amounted to $383 million.

I say these figures very slowly because it is hard to imagine the wanton abandon with which the heritage minister seems to throw Canadians' dollars around on these issues. Federal spending on heritage activities including museums, historic sites and nature parks totalled $624 million. Spending on performing arts was up more than 3% to $109 million in 1995-96. We are talking about very substantial money here.

I am confident that few Canadians are aware of the sponsorship provided by their federal tax dollars for events even within their own communities. Clearly this bill would not discriminate in any way against any particular area of the country. As we all know, these dollars are spent on grants for events from coast to coast to coast. Again, this is reinforced by the statistics mentioned previously.

There is currently no government legislative agenda which would meet the requirements of my private member's bill. There is no partisanship involved in this legislation, as it comes under the realm of all political parties concerned with the spending and the accountability for the spending of taxpayer dollars.

I am confident that today's debate on this legislation should generate meaningful, lively non-partisan debate because it covers a number of points.

For example, acknowledgement of the contributions that Canadians are making through their tax dollars is the same as acknowledging a commercial sponsor. We have to ask do Canadians take ownership of these cultural projects that the Canada Council, Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board, the CBC and other granting agencies give to these projects? Are they proud of these programs or events that are put on? Indeed, do Canadians show any commitment to the fact that their dollars are going out for these projects?

Many individuals and groups have complained about the amount of dollars spent on culture. Some say too little, some say too much. Perhaps some of these complaints are attributable to the fact that it is not clearly indicated when the federal government has or for that matter has not funded an event.

The government is very prone to talking about the $42 billion deficit which it inherited from the Conservatives when it took over in 1993. We are looking at the fact that there have been cuts, but the cuts have occurred in areas that directly impact people's lives, ranging from post-secondary education to health issues, all the issues that are so important to Canadians in their lives.

The question is could we during this period of time continue to sponsor many of these events? Much to my chagrin and that of many people who have contacted my office, indeed we have continued to sponsor these at the expense of very vital issues in Canada. Now that we are reaching the point of having a balanced budget and are starting to focus on the very high taxes it has taken in order for us to get to this balanced budget point, can we continue to afford to spend these dollars on some of these cultural projects?

I cite by way of example an unrelated issue except in terms of comparison. There is a $400,000 expenditure happening, and let me qualify that it does not involve government money, within my own constituency that would see the expansion of recreational trails. And on the other side of the coin there are communities within my constituencies that are just begging for $200,000, $300,000 or $400,000 to put in natural gas because we are dependent on either electricity or wood in the Canadian Rockies for heating.

There are always these points of comparison and in this instance what we are saying is that when the heritage minister says it is only a cup of coffee a day when it comes to the flag program and it is only another cup of coffee a day when it comes to the Canada unity office and only five cups of coffee a day when it comes to the Canada culture grants, I think our stomachs would burn out from a bit too much coffee when it is only one cup of coffee a day for these various programs.

I believe what is important is the potential for this to assist in the unity issue by raising the level of awareness of residents of the province of Quebec. For example, the contribution that the federal government makes to their culture is very much. For example, the Just for Laughs festival is a highly successful annual event in Montreal funded by the Canadian taxpayer. Why not advertise that fact?

As mentioned, many short feature films funded by Telefilm would not have been made without taxpayer dollars. As a matter of fact, of the total number of films funded by Telefilm, over half the total number of films have been sponsored in the French language specifically with Quebec content. So why not advertise not only the government funding but the amount that the taxpayer has provided? Give credit where credit is due, to the taxpayer.

Furthermore, this could well raise the awareness in the province of Quebec to the dollar contribution provided by all Canadian taxpayers to Quebec's language and culture.

This bill is also about accountability. Because of the extended visibility of the grant as a result of this advertising it will make the adjudicators, whether it be the Canada Council or Telefilm or any of the others, more conscious of the reaction of Canadians to the choices they are making. If the choices are good, they will receive positive applause and if not, Canadians will come down on them.

I was sent to this Chamber to be accountable to the people in my constituency, indeed to all the people in Canada, for the intelligent use and the intelligent spending of taxpayer dollars.

When I took this issue to the artists at the finance standing committee in its prebudget hearing, I said that if I did not want to be a critic, how could we possibly have accountability for this?

The artists' answer was that fundamentally they would be the judge, that they would judge whether this was money well spent or not, that they would judge whether this has artistic credibility or not.

I then took it to the minister because that answer was obviously unacceptable. I would like to read in part some of the dialogue, some of the testimony that occurred between the minister and me.

I read from the proceedings of the committee. I said: “We have on a weekly basis, without any solicitation whatsoever, at least a dozen letters from people who express a tremendous concern about some of the projects that are sponsored by the Canada Council. In a letter by Andrew McDermott, one of your senior policy advisers to my colleague, when he drew to your attention the particular publication that was called Neurotic Erotica the letter said—”. The minister ended up making very light of this letter. Obviously this is a rather unusual title. In fact, the content in my humble judgment of this particular book is clearly obscene.

I went on to say, however: “I am not the censor. I do not want to become the censor as a politician or to be a censor for Canada, but I do ask the question how in the world can Canadians who are writing to me and who are writing to many of our colleagues to express extreme distaste toward some of this material, how can they hold you, the minister, accountable for the expenditure of these dollars on the production of some of this vile material?”

The minister answered: “I think you have to separate the two issues. First of all, you say you do not want to be a censor. Surely you do not want me to read every book that is funded by the Canada Council”.

She went on to say that if someone goes to the O Canada exhibit, it does a whole analysis of how the Group of Seven was treated in 1920. They were treated as artistic pariahs. Then she went on to compare today's pornographers to the Group of Seven. This is the minister of heritage. I could not believe my ears when I heard her actually say this.

The point of this is that we have today a minister who correctly boasts that the government is taking action against abominable activities such as female genital mutilation. Yet by the same token and under the Canada Council grants it is sponsoring programs about tearing off women's nipples.

This is absolutely unspeakable and uncalled for. It gets worse, but for the benefit of the members of this House and people reading this transcript or watching on television, I will simply say the problem is that some of the material is so vile, some of the material is so bad that there is no way that I would demean myself to repeat what it is all about. Yet the Canadian taxpayer is paying for it.

What this bill would do is hold the people who make these decisions accountable to the will and the position of the Canadian public at large. That is what this bill is about because at the end of the day, the Canadian taxpayer must know that this House is going to be holding the people in this House accountable for the expenditures of those dollars.

With that in mind and because of the importance of this, Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you would see if there is unanimous consent to make this bill votable.

Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent?

Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

There is not unanimous consent.

Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Reform

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and join my colleague from Kootenay—Columbia in debating his private member's bill, C-204, an act to require that in the advertising and at the opening of a cultural project supported by public money a public acknowledgement of the grant be made.

As my colleague from Kootenay—Columbia mentioned, this act requires recipients of grants of public funds for cultural projects to acknowledge that a grant has been made and to specify the amount of the grant at the time the program is announced or advertised and opened to the public. Non-compliance of this requirement may result in the recipient having to repay the grant.

I strongly support this bill. In fact, I have introduced a similar bill, namely Bill C-222, which requires the recipients of grants to specify what percentage of the project was funded with taxpayer dollars. In this day and age, taxpayers are far more observant of how their tax dollars are spent. As parliamentarians, we must act responsibly to ensure that the tax dollars are effectively being spent. I believe that this bill is a step in ensuring that tax dollars on cultural projects are being spent wisely.

Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to speak with people from all across this great land of ours and they are often quite surprised about how our tax dollars are used for certain projects, most notably in instances where cultural grants are being pursued.

In some instances, some people are appalled at the fact that their tax dollars are being spent on what some consider to be objectionable material. I have been asked who is accountable for this spending and I cannot provide them with an answer as no one is willing to take responsibility. Typically, everyone washes their hands of taking responsibility.

As tax dollars are being spent on these projects someone must be held accountable. The responsibility falls on the government to ensure that the money is spent wisely and for all parliamentarians to ensure that the government is acting responsibly.

Bill C-204 is a step in the right direction. It targets any grants that are provided through agencies such as the Canada Council and the Canada Information Office. As my colleague mentioned, this does not apply to direct parliamentary appropriation such as those for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the CBC.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage has stated that she is not responsible for agencies such as the Canada Council and leaves the decision as to who is given what for grants up to the council. I am presuming that this holds true for other arm's length agencies within the department as well.

This does give these agencies some autonomy so that they are not merely puppets of the governments of the day. However, on the flip side, it does not provide the taxpayer with any accountability for their contribution.

This leads to the question: Who is responsible? With the principle of responsible government that is one of the foundations of our parliamentary system, the answer should be the minister in charge. However, as I mentioned just a moment ago, she does not claim responsibility on how agencies related to the Department of Canadian Heritage spend our money.

This must change. Our government must take responsibility for how each and every dollar is spent. For far too long we have let governments spend money without being accountable for how it is spent. The taxpayer is demanding that an answer to the question on how we spend their hard earned money is given.

I do not think the purpose of this bill is objectionable. It is not meant to discriminate against any one agency or group that receives or gives grants for cultural events and projects.

As my colleague for Kootenay—Columbia mentioned, Bill C-204 is not focused on any one region of the country and is not meant to be discriminatory against any of these regions.

Events and projects are being funded by taxpayers dollars in every community across the country. Although there is some discussion and disagreement over the amount of funds provided by the federal government to subsidize such events, some individuals feel too much money has been spent on events. Some individuals feel more should go toward promoting cultural events. This is not the purpose of this bill. I will not be debating those arguments now.

What I will say that is that under this private members bill, the taxpayers will have some say, albeit indirectly, over how the tax dollars are being spent and a right to know when and where it is spent. Governments not held accountable succumb to pressure and go on wasteful spending sprees, resulting in higher taxes.

While the government claims credit for balancing the budget, Canadians on the street know that the budget has been balanced on their backs. They are fearful that governments not made accountable can easily run a deficit. There is no law for this government to operate within its means and I commend the Government of Alberta for introducing the law requiring future governments to operate within their means. Perhaps this government will see the light and introduce a similar bill.

By making the public aware of various cultural projects which receive grants, either in whole or in part, the arm's length agencies, such as Canada Council, will be somewhat more responsible and accountable for their choices as to who receives what. Otherwise public pressure resulting from some unwise choices may lead, in extreme cases mind you, to funding for their agencies being decreased by the federal government in the future.

One of the many facets of private members' business is to fill the gaps that the government leaves open. Bill C-204 fills one of those gaps. I would encourage all my colleagues from all sides of the House to support this initiative. It is a small step in making us more accountable.

I would like to go on record to show that the governing party in the House has denied unanimous approval to make this bill votable. It is denying accountability to the Canadian taxpayer for expenditures on cultural grants.

In closing, I would like to take a moment to express my personal gratitude to those individuals and groups who promote and preserve Canadian heritage through various projects and performances. This bill is not intended as a barrier to these groups who are receiving funding, but instead it is intended to provide some accountability with the expenditure of taxpayers funds.

Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today on Bill C-204, introduced by my hon. colleague, the Reform member for Kootenay—Columbia, the short title of which is the cultural grants acknowledgement act.

Its object as stated in the summary is, and I quote:

—[to require] recipients of grants of public funds for cultural projects to acknowledge that a grant has been made and to specify the amount of the grant at the time the program is announced or advertised and opened to the public—

More precisely, this is a bill which is aimed at making cultural organizations and artists publicize the funding they receive from the federal government.

I find this a reasonable idea. People who receive a grant ought to mention it; that would be a normal thing to do. Where I disagree is that we should have to pass legislation requiring this. As representatives of the people, as lawmakers, it is our role to solve problems affecting society and to see that public affairs are properly administered. We do not have to pass legislation on everything, endlessly multiplying the number of acts and regulations.

Before considering the bill, we must ask ourselves whether there is a problem in terms of publicizing the fact that a grant has been given, something which is far from obvious. One has to wonder whether the Department of Canadian Heritage, targeted by this bill, has serious difficulty in having its participation in artistic projects acknowledged.

This sort of problem has never been raised on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. We have not seen studies complaining of the Department of Canadian Heritage's lack of visibility. Would that cause a problem in the riding of the member for Kootenay—Columbia or in English Canada? If not, is the focus of this bill solely Quebec?

I would like to point out to my colleagues that this issue of acknowledging public funding is not a problem for artists. With the cuts to the cultural sector in recent years, the problem is often the lack of public funding.

In Quebec, even artists who are known sovereignists are not shy or ashamed to reveal the federal government's participation. For example, the credits of the film Octobre by federally blacklisted filmmaker Pierre Falardeau acknowledge the financial participation of Telefilm Canada in the film's production. It appears in big capital letters. The next line, also in big capital letters, reveals that the film is a coproduction with the National Film Board of Canada. That does not cause any problem.

Another example is Micheline Lachance's book entitled Le roman de Julie Papineau . This book gives a fictional account of the days of the Patriotes as seen through the eyes of Louis-Joseph Papineau's wife. It is mentioned at the beginning of the book that Les éditions Québec-Amérique are funded by the Canada Council's block grant program. Once again, this poses no problem.

The Reform members, and certain zealous federalists in the House, must be made to understand that, although these organizations contribute to Quebec's artistic production, the citizens of Quebec pay taxes, and Quebec and its culture are for now still part of Canada.

It would be natural for grants to be distributed equitably among artists, whatever their political persuasion, and works that are funded should reflect reality. The reality is that there is a people in Quebec and that a growing proportion of Quebec's citizens want this people to have a country.

In Quebec, there is no legislation like that being proposed today. Most organizations have guidelines and this is negotiated freely in collaboration with grant recipients. For example, Quebec's Conseil des arts et des lettres merely requires that recipients of grants display the Conseil's logo.

The Reform Party often complains of excessive government interference and too many regulations. Now it proposes a bill that seems to have no purpose. The only purpose of this bill is to increase the federal government's visibility so as to strengthen its central authority or national unity.

A closer look at the bill reveals that it gives the Minister of Canadian Heritage extensive powers of political control over the awarding and announcing of grants. Under the bill, recipients of grants would be required to submit a certificate of good conduct to the minister. The minister would have the power to decide the time and manner in which acknowledgement of grants must be made. If recipients refuse to comply with the minister's political will, the minister may retaliate by requiring the return of all or any of the grants received.

After years of progress in cleaning up politics in Quebec and in Canada, a return to an era of political patronage is out of the question, an era when artists would be subject to the whims of political power and hostages of interparty feuds. Giving such direct powers of retaliation and control over grants to the heritage minister is opening the door far too wide to arbitrary decisions.

The system for awarding cultural grants by federal bodies is intended to be a merit system, one which recognizes people's creative talents and not their political views or the values they espouse.

In English, this concept goes by the term arm's length, which would translate as something like out of the reach of the government. The reason artists are often judged by their peers or by juries of experts known more for their artistic sense and for what they know, rather than whom they know, is to ensure that the risk of political interference is minimal.

It is up to parliament to set the overall objectives of cultural policy. The government implements those objectives by funding cultural organizations. It ought not to go any further than this. The government must not interfere in the choice of artists or creators whom these organizations decide to fund.

One may disagree with certain choices of works or artists which are funded, I admit. Our criticisms, however, ought to focus on whether or not the cultural organizations are fulfilling their mission, and not on the personality or opinions of those receiving funding.

When there is an attempt, as with this bill, to subject culture to an ideology, experts sometimes talk of sovietizing culture. This refers to the absolute control exercised by the government of the former Soviet Union over means of communication such as radio, television, film, newspapers, books and plays. This approach is of no interest to either Canada or Quebec.

As members of Parliament, we should work to create laws that encourage creativity rather than control it or use it for political propaganda. Last year, the Minister of Foreign Affairs tried to get artists who were working abroad to promote national unity. When they refused, he realized his mistake and cancelled his directive.

This is what the member for Kootenay—Columbia should do as well. He should withdraw his bill and find positive ways to encourage artists rather than try to use them as pawns on his political chessboard.

Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I remind the House that we are discussing Bill C-204. Its title is very precise. It is the Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act.

The bill, as we will have gathered from its supporters, deals with grants, contributions or loans for cultural projects funded from within the portfolio of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. It has a very narrow focus. It deals with funding, but in particular it proposes that the acknowledgement of such support become a legal mandatory requirement.

Recipients would have to acknowledge support and specify the amount of the grant at the time the funded project is announced or advertised or opened to the public. This obligation would apply to individuals as well as to corporations and organizations.

The bill provides the Minister of Canadian Heritage with powers to regulate the time and manner in which an acknowledgement must be made. Such regulations would define the compliance certificate, which is the term used in the bill, the recipient would have to produce. Non-compliance would result in a recipient having to repay the financing granted by the minister or the agency.

I believe the bill in one sense is based on a sound principle. Governments are accountable to the public for financial support that they provide for projects and organizations of all kinds. Accountability starts with the faithful reporting of what is done with taxpayers' money.

I also believe it is very legitimate for governments to expect an acknowledgement when a grant contributes to the realization of a project. Government money is taxpayers' money. It is only fair that corporate or individual citizens acknowledge receipt of such support.

Private donors and sponsors routinely obtain such acknowledgement. There is no reason why governments should not. This principle should be extended to the provision of financial assistance by all government departments and agencies to any project. However the bill singles out one type of support referred to as cultural grants. These grants are singled out from within a particular ministry, the Canadian Heritage portfolio.

If such a principle is a matter to be based on law then surely we must also consider public support granted to cultural projects by other government departments, but is this a matter requiring legislation specifically applicable only to cultural projects? If we agree that such a principle is valid and requires the force of legislation to be implemented then we must consider that the government also grant support to small businesses, health groups, human rights groups, foreign aid projects and so on. We should also consider them and not just culture.

Why should we restrict legislation to cultural projects alone? Is there something in culture to be feared to such a degree that by no other means can we ensure that an individual or an organization will acknowledge support?

With reference to cultural projects funded within the heritage portfolio, it is normal practice for recipients to acknowledge support. It is well understood and documented how this should be accomplished. Applicants are instructed on minimum requirements concerning acknowledgements. They are advised of this through program criteria when they apply and through the application guidelines and standard clauses regarding acknowledgement in the case of negotiated signed agreements.

In addition to these formal requirements I would have thought that most grant recipients would acknowledge support as a common courtesy.

The policy regarding acknowledgement in the Department of Canadian Heritage is open and transparent. It is integrated throughout the process and accommodated with the express will and consent of the recipient as a condition of receiving the grant. Support can be acknowledged in advertising and at openings, in catalogues for exhibitions, and in other print or video resource material produced as a result of the grants. We heard some examples of that from the Bloc member this evening.

Recognition of public support is also acknowledged by means of annual reports including audited financial statements. In the case of incorporated organizations most proposals, if not all, include a plan for marketing and/or distribution which recognizes public support.

Amounts of grants are a matter of public record as soon as they are awarded often by means of a press release.

As a matter of principle, legislation should be used when other means are insufficient or inadequate. By and large current measures can be characterized as self-regulatory. They work reasonably well. Should there be room for improvement—and there always is—I believe that in this case anyway improvement can be accomplished without the intervention of legislation.

At the present time acknowledgement is not obtained through a coercive process. Acknowledgement policy as practised by Heritage Canada and agencies such as the Canada Council retains the integrity of the objective for providing support in the first place.

I for one am glad that the Government of Canada supports the Canada Council and I believe that most Canadians are of the same mind.

The bill would place the government in the awkward position of saying that the focus of public support for culture is not culture itself but government visibility. This would unnecessarily thwart the development of the government's relations with the cultural community and its many public and media supporters.

Compliance is presently assured by more informal means. Groups and individuals know their future funding could be placed in jeopardy should they refuse to play by the rules and respect what are very reasonable requirements for acknowledgement.

Split payments in the case of grants and the specific negotiated schedules of payment for contributions and loans additionally serve as an informal mechanism to draw attention to the importance of acknowledgement.

I believe Bill C-204 is unnecessary and will not be supporting it.

Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to Bill C-204, an act to require that in the advertising and at the opening of a cultural product supported by public money a public acknowledgement of the grant be made.

I am happy to bring the good news to the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia that what he is proposing to pass into law is already occurring. It is something which cultural industries are already doing voluntarily.

If he has ever had opportunity to attend a Canadian play he will find that in the program routine acknowledgements of all funding sources, public and private, are made. If he has been at the screening of a Canadian film lately he will be amazed at the length of the section in the credits dedicated exclusively to the funders. It seems to stretch out forever, longer than the credits acknowledging the film's crew. In fact I sometimes squirm about in my seat in the local movie theatre waiting for the acknowledgements to end so that I can get home, pay the babysitter and go to bed.

The long suffering taxpayers who attend our cultural events do know what the funding sources are in Canadian plays, films, books, magazines and concerts. It is no secret that almost every arts organization receives some level of funding and makes it public. They do not always attach the dollar amount publicly at the event. That is not why people go to an artistic event. They go to be elevated, delighted, challenged and revitalized. They go to learn something new about themselves and the world.

However, if after seeing a particular artistic event they feel the need to find out how much it costs, the dollar amount is available for anyone who wants to know through an annual Canada Council for the Arts listing.

Canadian cultural industries are grateful and eager to thank the funders of their work. Canadians working in the arts are proud of their work and proud to present it to their neighbours and fellow citizens and, yes, their fellow taxpayers. They too are an integral part of the economic landscape of the country, doing their part to reflect on and contribute to the whole of what we are as a people.

As for the desire for acknowledgement I am sure the Liberals who are still remaining across the floor tonight at this late hour are probably delighted to hear that we want to see their efforts at public funding for the arts made more public. I believe that the level of public funding to culture has reached a dangerously low level and I see no joy in this. I would like to see the level of support for our artists increased. Public funding to the arts still exists and I know of no one who is trying to keep it a secret.

If the member is really intent on educating the public about where its hard earned tax dollars go, and this is not simply another bill to harass Canadian artists, I suggest that he go even further in his public education efforts.

The next time he pulls into an Esso station he might expect to find a sign saying “This gas has been made possible by $585 million in tax breaks to western oil producers”. Or, when he buys his next Michelin tire he might see a sign saying “Brought to you by a $27 million gift from the long suffering taxpayers of Nova Scotia by the Liberals in an election year”. The next time the member for Kootenay—Columbia takes a flight back to his riding he could have a sign on the back of his jacket saying how much that flight is costing the taxpayers of Canada.

We can put a price tag on everything if we want to. There is a myth afoot that there is no accountability in the arts.

In fact, there are far more checks and balances in place around funding to the arts than there are around funding to corporations. Perhaps the member's next private member's bill might tackle that particular sector if he is concerned with the long-suffering taxpayer.

Cultural Grants Acknowledgement Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I really wish there were questions and comments because I would like to throw some questions at the hon. member who just spoke.

During his introduction of this bill, the member for Kootenay—Columbia used some examples that are very offensive, particularly to women. The use of taxpayers' money in the production of some of these so-called art things are pornographic and demeaning, particularly to women.

Surely he cannot be in favour of using taxpayers' money for that. I am not and I do not think any decent Canadian is in favour of that, yet it is done all the time with impugnity. We give money to agencies without the need for accountability. We simply say “here is the money, spend it any way you wish”. They find some of the most obscene ways to spend it.

I wish I would have known I was going to get up to speak because I would have brought along with me a little more detail on a little thing I heard one night on CBC radio. It was a usual Sunday evening and I was about to hit the pillow for the night. As always, I reached over to set my clock radio. I thought I would listen to CBC-FM a bit to hear some nice music because sometimes is does have nice music.

Well, it was after midnight on a Saturday night and the time of night when the culture of CBC does a metamorphoses. Maybe there is a connection to it being after midnight, I do not know, but I was totally appalled at what I was hearing on a publicly funded radio station, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It was incredibly obscene.

I guess maybe it is a good thing I could not research it because then I would have brought the words along. I was so offended by it that I ran downstairs to put on the tape recorder because I wanted to have a record of it. Unfortunately I could not find a tape soon enough and missed most of it.

I wanted to make a scene about that but I never did. Instead I ran for Parliament and came here with one real good purpose which is to stop the funding for this kind of obscenity. It has no market in Canadian society. We need to stop it. It is no wonder we have all the violence against women and children when we have a publicly funded radio promoting it.

I think the member's bill is a very important step to making Canadians realize that when this type of stuff is being put out it is being financed with their tax dollars, tax dollars that will not go to the education of their children or to keeping a hospital bed open for a mother who is suffering and who needs it. Instead it is being used for this kind of garbage.

The first step in stopping this flow of taxpayers' money has to be for the Canadian people to a large extent to know how it is being spent. Once they know how it is spent, they will get angry enough to tell their politicians in Ottawa to stop that flow of their money and use it for purposes that are much better and more justifiable.

I just could not resist adding that little bit to the debate on this bill. I commend my hon. colleague for presenting it.