House of Commons Hansard #186 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should restore full multi-year funding to the CBC, sufficient to meet its stated public service goals.

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to move that this House adopt Motion No. M-432. I am proud to have the opportunity to address the House on a subject which is important to Canadians and to our culture.

It is also timely in the minds of the media, due to the current and impending labour disputes. The need for stable and adequate funding for the CBC is also very close to my heart.

Members on the other side of the House will undoubtedly say that after years of cuts they have made a commitment to stable funding. If they say that, I am afraid they are wrong.

Let us look at what funding for the CBC has been since the Liberals last promised full stable funding in the 1993 election campaign. Then the CBC received almost $1.1 billion to run the largest and best broadcast system in the world. The main estimates from 1998-99, however, show a different story.

In 1998-99 the Liberal government allocated only $745 million to the CBC for operating expenses. Granted the government did throw another $94 million into the pot in the supplementary estimates, but it should be noted that $88 million of that was for employment departure programs. In other words, to get rid of people. In short, the CBC operations have been slashed by this government by about $400 million and this has resulted in the loss of over 3,000 employees. It has also resulted in a drastic loss in service for Canadians.

We have seen the closing of regional TV stations. We have seen the closing of local suppertime news shows and we have seen the closing of foreign bureaus, three of them only last week.

Another result seems to have been the chaos at management level. When $3 million gets lost on the radio side of the corporation something is definitely wrong. But when the manager in charge of that problem then gets a major promotion I would say that something is drastically wrong.

Radio Canada International, Canada's voice in the world, was also almost lost and has been forced to significantly reduce its service.

We have seen cuts to the radio and stereo services as well, now called Radio one and two, meaning that almost one-third of the radio programming, before the current round of labour problems, was made up of repeat broadcasts.

Despite the cuts we have seen valiant efforts by CBC employees to finally Canadianize the prime time television schedule, but a large part of the success has been undercut because they have been forced to sell even more commercials during prime time to make up for the cuts. Thanks to this government Canadians now have to endure endless commercials in the middle of national news.

All evidence shows that the corporation is a shell of its previous self when the Liberal government promised stable funding in 1993. Some promise. Some stability.

Just before the last election the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced that there would again be stable funding. She pointed to a single line buried in an old press release.

The government's commitment to public broadcasting is similar to that kind of promise; something to be buried, to be ignored, to be lost once the votes are counted. The arrogance of this will not be lost on Canadians.

Following up on her stable funding promise the minister has, just in the last two months, presided over a significant reduction in the amount of funds available to the CBC through the Canadian broadcast television fund. She has also expressed approval for a new funding proposal for Canadian feature films which calls for an additional $25 million cut to the CBC.

This kind of treatment, saying that there is stable funding and then taking away more money, is perverse. The government has a choice to make and I call on it to make it. Either support the CBC or have the courage to admit to what is actually happening. It is basically giving it death by a thousand cuts.

Some believe that the CBC's future should be to get out of TV and to move into the new media, with specialty programming for children and news. This would be a logical conclusion if the government policy is to discontinue support, through funding, to public broadcasting. I do not believe that is what Canadians want. It may be what the government wants, but once again it is silent.

Canadians want quality radio programming, not repeats, not reruns and not mismanagement. This government even seems to have acknowledged this by giving an additional $10 million to the CBC just before the last election. Now the election is over and that $10 million is no longer part of the overall allocation. The 1997 promise for stable funding is in the same place as the 1993 promise. It has vanished.

A clear example of how hypocritical the government policy has been is reflected in the current labour dispute. During the last question period in the House the Minister of Labour said that the current labour dispute at the CBC has nothing to do with government funding levels. What an odd thing to say. Is this not a dispute about wages, working conditions and job security? Is the core of all these issues not money?

The CBC gets most of its funding from the government. The government funding cuts have created the financial problems which have resulted in the labour dispute. To suggest otherwise is to say that there is no warmth from the sun or that if you fall in the water you will not get wet.

The new Minister of Labour should know better. I had hoped she would be keeping an eye on crown corporations to prevent the use of replacement workers. I had hoped she would ensure that all crown corporations bargain fairly. That is the job of the Minister of Labour, not standing in the House denying reality.

We have recently seen Treasury Board interfering with the CBC to have it include the Canadian flag in the CBC logo. We have seen a member of the board of directors become a leading fundraiser for the Liberal Party and we have seen the CBC launch an advertising campaign, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, aimed at slandering its workers.

The workers and the programmers at the CBC are the ones who have borne the brunt of the cuts. There are 3,000 fewer employees and those still there have been accepting behind inflation settlements since the early eighties. The fact that there is still good programming on the air is mostly due to the sacrifices of these CBC employees, both in terms of the extra efforts they have made at work and in terms of the opportunities they have forgone to continue doing a job they love. For them to be treated this way by management is outrageous.

The CBC board and management were acquiescent when the Mulroney government cut them. They were totally silent when the Liberal government slashed their funding. Now they are finally speaking up to attack those who have kept them going throughout these cuts. Shame on the board, shame on the management of the CBC and shame on this government.

The Liberal government took a situation already made critical by the Tories and made it one hundred times worse. I guess one could say that the government made it $40 million dollars worse and 3,000 employees short.

Now we have a Minister of Canadian Heritage who believes that providing stable funding means cutting back and that the CBC is an arm's length organization as long as some board members help raise money for her political party. We have a Minister of Labour who believes that $400 million in government cuts to a crown corporation has nothing to do with the monetary issues in collective bargaining. These Liberal ministers should look for a career change. They should be asking for funding from the Canada Council to write fiction, not to be in charge of the greatest gutting of cultural programming in the history of Canada.

The Liberal government promised it was not going to cut the parliamentary allocation to the CBC and it did. It promised it was not going to fill the CBC board with a bunch of political hacks and it did.

The government promised it would defend the validity and the vitality of our world class broadcaster. Instead, it has plunged it into rancour and turmoil. Instead of being the saviour of public broadcasting, it in fact has been bent on destroying it.

I am calling on this government to change its disastrous course, to ditch its boisterous rhetoric about concern for public broadcasting and instead truly recommit in spirit and deed to stable multiyear funding for the CBC.

I am calling on this government to leave as its legacy not just more broken promises but a strong public broadcaster. Canadians want and deserve a confident, courageous and clear voice in this multichannel universe. Give us back our Canadian window on the world, on our communities and on our neighbourhood. Give us back the CBC.

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on private member's Motion No. 432 for more CBC funding from the member for Dartmouth.

The CBC is doing a fine job reflecting Canadian culture at this time despite continued cutbacks. The larger question should be what is the right balance, not just more money.

At present, the CBC receives approximately $800 million to $900 million in its annual appropriation from the federal government. The CBC also takes in approximately between $250 million to $300 million every year in advertising revenue.

The CBC has exclusive access to half the Canadian television fund, formerly the television and cable production fund for production.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage announced recently the CBC's exclusive access to half the Canadian television fund will end in July 1999. However, that funding has amounted to about $100 million per year.

Even when we estimate on the low side, when it is added all up, the CBC currently takes in approximately $1.2 billion or more each and every year.

Where does that $1.2 billion or more come from? The Canadian television fund of $200 million comes from both the federal government and from the television cable service providers. It comes from federal taxpayers and private cable companies.

Advertising revenues of $250 million or more come mainly from private companies, the federal government and federal crown corporations, from advertising, charities and from non-profits.

As an aside, I recently heard something very strange. A well respected Canadian charity, Athletes in Action, which provides chaplaincy support to professional athletes and which is active in youth work, launched a national advertising campaign. One broadcaster refused it, the CBC. Why would the CBC refuse a reputable charity that does laudable work with our athletes and our youth? That is an aside.

More than $250 million comes from advertisers. Finally, the CBC receives more than $800 million each and every year from the federal government. Really the CBC receives more than $800 million each and every year from federal taxpayers.

Canadians across Canada are footing an annual appropriation given to the CBC to the tune of more than $800 million. The member for Dartmouth is asking this House to restore multiyear funding to the CBC, sufficient to meet its stated public service goals.

I think the more appropriate question to ask, first of all, is why can the CBC not meet its stated public service goals on a $1.2 billion budget, and why is $1.2 billion a year not sufficient.

The second question we could raise is are the CBC stated public service goals still valid. What will the CBC's role be in the new millennium? What will be its role on the international stage?

What is the place of public broadcasters in an era of not just broadcasting but with cable, direct to home satellite service, an era of booming new media like the Internet, including web casting and a convergence of all these?

I have one more question I want to preface with some observations. Even before the recent problems between the CBC management and its technical staff, viewership for CBC TV and listenership for CBC radio has gone down and stagnated. Private broadcasters sink or swim on their ability to attract viewers and listeners. If they do not attract viewers and listeners they cannot attract the advertising dollars that keep them afloat. In fact, a key basis on which a private broadcaster gets and keeps its licence granted by the CRTC is its profitability. No advertisers, no money; no profits, no licence to broadcast. If fewer and fewer Canadians watch and listen to the CBC, is the CBC serving Canadians?

Is the CBC worth the more than $800 million it gets in its annual appropriation? Is it worth the $100 million it gets from the Canadian television fund? Is the CBC worth its combined revenues of $1.2 billion or more? More important than money for the CBC, this government needs to be at arm's length from the CBC so that the CBC can operate independently without government interference.

Should the CBC get one more cent from Canadian taxpayers? At this time without further review of the CBC I certainly would say no.

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Madam Speaker, as Parliament resumes, I am delighted to take part in the debate on Motion M-432 presented by my colleague, the NDP member for Dartmouth.

It reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should restore full multi-year funding to the CBC, sufficient to meet its stated public service goals.

Until very recently, the Bloc Quebecois would have supported this motion unconditionally. Since its inception, the CBC has been a public institution dear to the heart of Quebeckers. The CBC French-language radio and television network has made a great contribution to the development and enrichment of the Quebec culture and identity.

The Bloc Quebecois cannot therefore be opposed in principle to the Canadian government's restoring a budget that it has slashed considerably over recent years, despite numerous promises. These cuts have obliged the CBC to reduce its operating budget by more than $414 million between 1994 and 1998.

The Bloc Quebecois finds, however, that history is repeating itself and that, once again, the Liberals are trying to control the CBC. According to the National Post of Saturday, February 26, the 1984 Trudeau cabinet wanted more control over Canada's cultural institutions. The article states as follows:

“Senior members of Mr. Trudeau's cabinet wanted all the arm's length cultural agencies to carry the Canada logo more prominently and through a strict system of reporting to be brought under more direct government control”.

It goes on to say that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources was the keenest about this and that Mr. Trudeau had given him a two-fold mandate: to help draft a bill limiting CBC and the cultural agencies, and to determine the share of the federal budget to be devoted to each of these agencies.

Members will never guess the name of that minister who was so keen to control culture. Yes indeed, it was the hon. member for Shawinagan, the present Prime Minister. Unfortunately, he has not changed over the years. He is still pushing that same idea, and this time he is asking Treasury Board to do the dirty work.

On March 26, 1998, the President of Treasury Board issued a clear directive requiring all federal agencies and departments to standardize the use of the Canadian government logo. The CBC, generally exempt from such directives, was required to conform this time. Most fortunately, to date the corporation's board of directors has resisted and refused to do so, refused to commit a kind of hara-kiri.

It is public knowledge that the Prime Minister is no lover of the CBC, suspecting it of being pro-separatist. And more recently, the Prime Minister's Office's contacts with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation concerning a report on “peppergate” have done nothing to reassure the Bloc Quebecois.

We know the effect of the Prime Minister's displeasure: the journalist was suspended on the pretext that his reports were not in keeping with the rules of the art. Strange, though, that the corporation realized this only after a complaint was received from the office of the Prime Minister.

In another vein, during the latest referendum in Quebec, Quebeckers saw that for the federal government bigwigs, including the federalist Liberal Prime Minister, promoting national unity was an integral part of the official goals of the CBC public service, the goals referred to in the motion currently before the House.

I refer my colleagues to the statements made by the current Prime Minister and member for Saint-Maurice and to those made by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and member for Hamilton East in the latest referendum campaign that the corporation had failed to fulfil its mandate to promote national unity.

In addition, the Bloc Quebecois notes along with other cultural sector stakeholders and with at least two other political parties in this House that, for several years now, including following the 1995 Quebec referendum, the federal government has been putting considerable pressure on the CBC to change the independent nature of its national news service. And the article I was referring to earlier indicated, and I quote:

“With a CBC board of directors well stocked with Liberals, there is now a proposal on the table to give control of news and information programming on both CBC and its French service, Radio-Canada, to Ottawa under a senior news czar”.

This must never happen. And I take the position of Professor David Taras, director of the graduate studies in communications program at the University of Calgary, who said that distance from the government is particularly essential to the integrity of CBC journalists.

Finally, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the federal government is trying to give itself the power to intercede by ensuring it has control over cultural appointments. At least, this is the clear message of Bill C-44, which aimed to provide an ejection seat for the position of president of the CBC. Fortunately, the government dropped this idea following public outcry.

All these examples show the federal government's thrust and its desire to challenge the independence of Canadian cultural corporations. By constantly confusing culture with propaganda, the government is trying to get involved in the content of the programs presented by the CBC.

Consequently, the Bloc Quebecois has some reservations about the second part of the motion, which reads:

—to meet its stated public service goals.

The Bloc Quebecois is prepared to support a motion seeking to restore sufficient multi-year funding to the CBC to enable it to continue to present information and cultural programs while remaining fully independent of the federal government and political parties.

However, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the motion if restoring sufficient multi-year funding means that the corporation will have to serve the state and not the public, and that it will have to comply with government directives, submit its plans for government approval, or be accountable to the government and lose its independence with regard to the production of news casts or the content of its programming.

Before unconditionally supporting the motion, the Bloc Quebecois wants guarantees from the federal government that no federal cultural agency will be subjected to the directive released by the Treasury Board on March 26, 1998, demanding that such agencies display the Government of Canada logo. Everything must be done to ensure the independence of cultural institutions, and no measure that threatens that independence should be implemented.

The Bloc Quebecois is also demanding that all the provisions in Bill C-44 that have the effect of increasing the federal government's control over appointments in the cultural sector be eliminated.

Moreover, since the Prime Minister himself, through his statements and actions, has questioned the CBC's independence, the Bloc Quebecois is asking him to formally recognize the corporation's editorial independence, for both its creative and information services. That statement should apply to all the members of his government.

The Bloc Quebecois is also asking the CBC's board of directors to make a public commitment to Canadian taxpayers that it will fight tooth and nail to protect the corporation's independence, and that it will inform the public of any attempt from any party to influence the corporation.

These are the minimal assurances the Bloc Quebecois feels the federal government owes Canadians and Quebeckers if the CBC is to keep its independence. Without that independence, which has until now been a hallmark of the corporation's French and English networks, increased funding to the CBC would be seen by the public as nothing more than a boost to a federal government propaganda tool.

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

David Price Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise before the House to address the motion put forward by the hon. member from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Essentially it calls upon this government to restore adequate multi-year funding to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation so it can fulfill the mandate that was entrusted to it by the Government of Canada so many years ago.

Over the years the CBC has played an essential role in helping Canadians to develop a better understanding of themselves as a people, and of the different culture enclaves that together have helped make up this great country of ours.

The CBC was established on November 2, 1936 by an act of parliament. This new agency succeeded the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission which was first created in 1932 to help regulate a still relatively new broadcasting industry.

Canadian interest in broadcasting has existed since the beginning of this century. In 1918 the first experimental broadcasting licence was issued to the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Montreal by the department of naval service under the authority of the Radiotelegraph Act of 1913. Two years later public broadcasting was well under way in Canada.

By 1928 the number of Canadians who had access to radio broadcasting had jumped to over 400,000 and already the alarm bells were ringing about the undue influence U.S. broadcasts were having on Canadian listeners. Studies conducted back then indicated that Canadian listeners preferred U.S. broadcasting over Canadian broadcasting. These findings were largely due to inadequate coverage provided by Canadian transmitters and a superior quality of programming being offered by the U.S. industry.

The Canadian government of the day under Progressive Conservative Prime Minister R.B. Bennett recognized the danger increased U.S. programming posed to our Canadian culture and immediately set out to find ways to help bolster our broadcasting industry. The government was concerned that our culture would be engulfed by our powerful neighbours in the south and therefore it sought ways of maintaining and promoting our own distinct culture. It had the fortitude and the insight to recognize that Canadian culture is something we should be proud of and that it is something worth preserving.

In 1929 the Aird commission recommended that some form of public broadcaster be created, operated and controlled by Canadians so Canadians could be exposed to Canadian programs. Prime Minister R.B. Bennett appointed a parliamentary committee to further review the Aird commission's recommendations. In 1932 the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act became law creating the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission.

Fortunately, the Reform Party was not in existence in the 1920s for I am certain it would have fought tooth and nail against the need for encouraging any Canadian broadcasting, particularly when our airwaves were already saturated with U.S. programming.

I believe the decision to create a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has paid huge dividends over the years as Canadians from coast to coast have developed a better understanding and a greater appreciation for the different challenges facing Canadians across this great nation. Over the years the CBC has been the vital link that has helped bond this country together in both good times and bad.

There is no denying the fact that the CBC has helped shape the cultural fabric of this country. Who can question the impact the great Foster Hewitt had on Canadian hockey and on Canadian nationalism? Foster Hewitt's riveting broadcast of the 1972 Canada-Russia series brought Canadians to their feet helping create a fervour for Canadian nationalism that had not been seen or felt in years.

The CBC has helped launch the careers of so many successful Canadian performers. I think all maritimers in the late 1960s and early 1970s recognized the enormous talents of a wonderful singer from Springhill, Nova Scotia as she springboarded from CBC's Don Messer show to international stardom. Obviously I am referring to the internationally renowned recording star Anne Murray, one of my personal favourites.

What would a Friday night have been without Canadians sitting around television sets watching Canada's longest running variety show with the host the great Mr. Tommy Hunter? I could go on with many others: La Soirée canadienne , Hockey Night in Canada , Wayne and Shuster .

I do not think one can deny the importance the CBC has played in helping Canadian artists achieve their goals and success in both Canadian and international markets. The CBC helped open the doors for today's performers who, if the Grammy awards are any indication, are making a lasting impression on audiences throughout the world.

There is no questioning the importance of the CBC to the promotion of Canadian culture. Unfortunately over the past number of years the CBC has been victimized by substantial government cuts.

Despite Liberal promises in 1993 to provide stable multi-year financing for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the CBC has instead witnessed this government cut its funding by $414 million between 1994-95 and 1997-98. These drastic cuts have resulted in a reduction in services and permanent layoffs of thousands of employees.

These cuts were considered so drastic, even possibly threatening the future of the CBC, that its president, Anthony Manera, resigned in March 1995 in protest. This comes from a government that preaches the importance of protecting and promoting Canadian culture.

In February 1997 the Canadian heritage minister attempted to deflect some of the criticism being levelled against her government over broken red book promises by announcing $10 million for CBC Radio and stable funding for five years after 1998. This stop-gap measure was widely criticized, as expressed in a February 12, 1997 article in the Globe and Mail which stated, “It's half baked and it's neither here nor there. All it does is acknowledge that they made a mistake”.

Canada's broadcasting industry is in a state of flux. Canadians can likely expect many changes in the upcoming years as the CRTC recently held public hearings to review such things as Canadian content criteria, new specialty TV services, a review of the policy on Canadian TV programming, and a review of Canada's radio policy, just to name a few. As well, for the first time in seven years the CRTC will completely review all of the CBC's licences. These reviews will undoubtedly result in changes in how Canada's broadcasters conduct their everyday business.

The CBC itself is in a state of transition. CBC president Mr. Perrin Beatty has confirmed that he was not offered a second term by this Liberal government and that he will resign come October of this year. It has been widely rumoured that relations were strained between the corporation's chairperson and the president over their vision of the future role of the CBC in this ever-evolving technological world we live in.

By offering the chairperson another five year appointment to the CBC board, it appears that her vision will likely prevail in years to come which would not appear to bode well for the existing structure of the CBC.

The CBC operates independently of government. As such, the federal government has no legislative authority to intervene directly in the corporation's management of its resources and its operations. However, if recent Liberal government actions are any indication, the CBC's independence will soon be brought into question.

The proposed changes contained within Bill C-44 that would have effectively changed how the CBC board members, including the president, are appointed from serving in good behaviour to serving at pleasure of the government were only withdrawn after public protest forced the government to withdraw these proposals. This subtle little change could have effectively compromised the integrity and independence of the CBC.

It is no secret that the Prime Minister maintains a personal dislike for the CBC.

For these reasons it is important that all Canadians remain vigilant against further dismantling of a Canadian institution that has served the Canadian interests so well over these past 67 years.

If Canada is to have an identity and a culture separate from that of our southern neighbours, it is crucial that the CBC network continue to exist and prosper so Canadians separated by distance can remain bonded through technology.

I want to congratulate the member for Dartmouth for having put forth this motion that is obviously in defence of Canadian culture as well as the CBC. I am not certain that it is the appropriate time to introduce such a motion. It might be more prudent if we were to wait and see the direction the new CBC president will propose for our public broadcaster.

It would also be beneficial if we had some indication from the CRTC as to changes in the rules and regulations broadcasters will be forced to abide by in the future. Regardless of the decisions taken here today, it is vital that we maintain an effective Canadian public broadcaster so we can continue to promote Canadian culture and continue to deliver Canadian talent. Part of making this work would be for the government to sit down and put some serious offers on the table for the negotiations in the ongoing dispute.

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to have an opportunity to address the motion and on the whole to congratulate the member for her continuing support of Canadian culture and Canadian industries. To address the particular issue, I want to point out a few things.

For several years now the Canadian government has recognized the importance of giving the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the financial stability it needs to adequately fulfill its mandate as a public broadcaster. It was with that objective in mind that two years ago the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced that the CBC would receive stable funding until 2003.

In recent years CBC endured budget cuts as part of Canada's joint efforts with everyone's shoulders to the wheel to rationalize public spending and essentially reverse the growth of continuing deficits and accumulated debt, which we have now achieved. The efforts of all Canadians have borne fruit and the era of cuts to the CBC and other institutions of government, be they cultural or otherwise, are essentially over.

On February 11, 1997 the Canadian government guaranteed the CBC stable funding for a period of five years beginning in 1998 as well as additional funds to ensure the survival and development Radio Canada International.

At the dawn of the new millennium, which we all talk about regularly, Canadians can take pride in the achievement of their national public radio and television networks over the past 60 years. The CBC is the fruit of the combined efforts of many individuals from all backgrounds over the decades.

The CBC is one of the pillars of our broadcasting system. Like other members of the industry, CBC is trying to adapt to the evolution of the constantly changing universe and to diversify its services in order to allow its audience to benefit from the never ending technological improvements being made in this field, such as the Internet, and digital radio and digital television which are looming on the horizon.

The CBC occupies a central position in the Canadian audio-visual landscape. The government gave it a major social, economic and cultural role and enshrined its mandate in the Broadcasting Act.

The CBC must offer radio and television services that provide predominantly and distinctly Canadian programming that informs, enlightens, entertains and reflects Canada and its regions. At the same time the CBC's programming must actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression in French and in English, contribute in shared national consciousness and identity and reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada.

It is an ambitious mandate. That makes it all the more stimulating to fulfill it. The CBC has been meeting that challenge with enthusiasm since its creation. Over the years the CBC has become a household word and remains an integral part of Canadians' everyday lives.

With its funding assured, the CBC met the government's expectations by announcing in its business plan, the one it prepared in 1998, a new action strategy that is firmly focused on the future and on Canadian programming.

The CBC has identified a series of objectives designed to reaffirm its mandate as a national public network. It intends to be the Canadian broadcaster. More than ever, CBC's programming will be Canadian and will reflect the taste and interests of Canadians. The CBC will continue to treat its audiences as citizens of Canada and not simply as consumers of the service. Decisions about what programs to present will be based first and foremost on a desire to serve the CBC's audience, not dictated by commercial considerations.

The CBC is committed to continuing to participate actively in broadcasting amateur sports which contribute to the richness of our cultural heritage and to the health of the Canadians who practise them.

This autumn the minister told the chair of the Canadian television fund that she wanted the distribution rules for the fund amended to put the CBC on the same footing as other broadcasters.

Beginning next spring, the CBC will no longer have a reserve envelope for access to the fund. As before the CBC will have access to the fund through the independent producers whose productions it broadcasts. The minister's request does not limit that access or call it into question. However, eliminating the envelope that gave it privileged access will create a new balance among Canadian producers and broadcasters.

Canadian production has made great strides since the fund was created three years ago. There are more Canadian stories on television and movie screens than ever before. It is no longer necessary to give the CBC special treatment in the distribution of the fund. From now on each production's access to the fund will be determined strictly on the basis of its intrinsic qualities. That means the productions broadcast by the CBC will continue to be subsidized by the fund in so far as they demonstrate they possess the necessary qualities to qualify. We are confident the CBC will be able to perform in this very competitive environment.

The minister also wants to ensure that the CBC, and private broadcasters, contribute in a fair and equitable manner to the development and distribution of Canadian cinema. If the past is anything to go by, we are convinced that the CBC will continue to stand out as a broadcaster of high-quality Canadian programming.

This change will not affect the stability of the CBC's funding, which, let me reiterate, is stable until 2003. We are confident that this stability will allow the CBC to continue to fulfil its mandate and to move ahead in this universe of technology and new services.

In conclusion, the issue raised in the motion has already been addressed. The Canadian government reaffirms its commitment to the national public network which, since its creation, has gone from strength to strength and confirmed how relevant it still is to Canadians.

The service offered by the CBC is one of the best in the world. The CBC's broadcasts let Canadians keep in touch and communicate with each other, from sea to sea; and the CBC remains an essential partner in the creation of harmonious social and cultural bonds among Canadians. The CBC is part of the family, and the Canadian government is continuing to help it in its mission.

In closing, I remind everyone that the CRTC is preparing to conduct a cross-Canada consultation on the CBC's mandate, in addition to holding hearings, in May, on the renewal of the corporation's licences. These two events are public and open to all Canadians across the country.

We hope that all those who want to share their satisfaction with or concerns about the CBC will take the opportunity to express themselves to the Commission and share their vision of the CBC's future on the eve of the new millennium.

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak briefly to Motion No. 432. The bill, in its present form, would help to redress the problems we see every day in the delivery of broadcasting by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The corporation under the government opposite has no money. It has basically no vision of where it is going and the board of directors is full of Liberal Party hacks.

The member opposite in his speech would have us believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the CBC, ignoring the fact that currently 2,000 employees are walking the picket lines, some of them within a stone's throw of the House of Commons today. The member opposite said about the reduction in funding that “the deficit made us do it”. That is their standard refrain on just about everything these days.

I find interesting another refrain we hear all the time from government members. They talk about globalization, how Canada has to be competitive, and how we have to be aware of what is happening around the world.

At the same time, in the last 10 days or so, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has announced that three foreign CBC bureaus around the world would be cut and the broadcasters reassigned.

One of those bureaus is in Mexico City. As we go forward as a country on the free trade agreement of the Americas it would be extremely important in the future of North and South America. Joan Leishman, the CBC first-rate broadcaster working out of Mexico City, and her crew are one of the three groups that will be reassigned and the bureau closed. It is particularly painful and very difficult for the government to square that circle on globalization but cut foreign CBC bureaus at the same time.

Another point I would raise is the whole business of the CBC having been told by the Canadian government that it has to display Canada's logo. As a noted TV broadcast journalist has said, this is a role that is common in countries where TV and radio act as government mouthpieces. It is absolutely outrageous that the Canada logo should be included on our television sets. It is a very worrisome trend that the government seems to want to perpetuate.

In view of the absence of money and vision, the make-up of the board, the whole question of globalization on the one hand and on the other related to the broadcasters, as well as the logo, the motion would go a long way to correcting all the initiatives the government is taking.

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I was not intending to speak this morning but on listening to the debate I found it interesting and realized I have a few ideas members of the House and perhaps some of the people out there who pay the bills would be interested in hearing.

I acknowledge publicly and proudly that I have received a few letters and a few phone calls, not many, which say “please support the CBC. We like it and we do not want it to be diminished or abolished”. I put that fact on the record.

On balance I should also say that I have a greater number of communications from people in my riding who are asking me to seriously consider letting CBC stand on its own legs and stop propping it up with taxpayers dollars. We have both sides in the riding where I am from.

Who of us does not appreciate the CBC? I remember for many years listening to programs like the Royal Canadian Airfarce and enjoying the humour. I suppose those of us in the House have all been the subject of their ribbing humour. We enjoy it even when they poke fun at us because its usually very humorous.

I remember way back I used to almost religiously listen to Double Exposure on CBC Radio because again it was very funny, entertaining, and yet made a social comment. If I were asked if this defines what it means to be a Canadian, I would humbly submit that being a Canadian is much more than that.

I also think of a program like Cross Country Checkup on Sunday afternoons, with Rex Murphy; I hardly ever miss it. What a great venue it is to bring Canadians together. People can phone in from coast to coast. I do not know exactly how rigorous their screening process is, but it gives Canadians an opportunity to express their points of view and it gives all of us across the country an opportunity to hear those points of view.

Those are very good points, but the question here is with respect to funding. My constituents are telling me very strongly that we ought to be supporting those things that Canadians support. We believe the marketplace is what can do that.

I remember a number of years ago when one local magazine, whose name I do not want to give, published a very demeaning article about the daughter of the prime minister of the day. I did not read the article but I heard about it. I said I would never give that magazine a nickel because of what it did. I have the right to do that. I have kept that promise with one exception. On one occasion there was a very funny article. I do not believe in breaking copyright rules, so instead of making a photocopy of the article I in fact bought one issue of that magazine.

When the CBC or other broadcasters come up with things that we do not like, we have the right as citizens to boycott the product that is sponsoring the program or in other ways to exert pressure by saying we do not approve of what is happening.

One of the most obscene things I ever heard was on CBC Radio. It was totally demeaning to women. It was an outrage. This was before I was a member of parliament. I asked what I could do and there was nothing. They tax me. They give the money to CBC. They fund this stuff. They have the right to crank it out. There is no way that we can control it.

I agree the government ought not to be controlling broadcasting. They need to be kept at arm's length, but if they are at arm's length to whom will they be answerable and where is the final accountability.

The member proposing the motion has five minutes to speak and I would like to concede the floor at this stage. Let us carefully consider the funding of the CBC and the accountability of what is broadcast.

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the comments of my colleagues around the Chamber. In terms of the member across the floor, I had hoped Liberal governments would drop the rhetoric about stable funding for the CBC and actually in the cold light of day look at what they have wrought in the public broadcasting situation. However, that will not happen.

I would like to make some comments which I think are real wake-up calls for me. I was on the heritage committee tour across the country last week talking to people about what they want in a cultural policy. Over and over again we heard about the importance of a public broadcaster. More than that, we heard terrible concerns about the fact that we are living very much in an occupied country in that our culture is occupied.

Jack Stoddart, a respected publisher in the country, says that we are at war with another culture, the American culture. One of our main defences is institutions such as the public broadcaster, our magazine industry, our publishing industry and the Canada Council. They are the bulwarks for our defence against an unending swamp of American products.

The idea of having a strong public broadcaster is as critical at this point as ever before. We are also facing enormous media concentration. We are facing foreign ownerships in all these areas. The issue is keeping a strong public broadcaster, funding it sufficiently so that it is not constantly making deals with the devil or is not constantly trying to cut here and alter there and drop services in order to balance its ever shrinking budget.

One of the things my colleague from Yukon just told me was quite astounding but also played into the issue of globalization. We are saying we are out in the world. We are dealing and marketing ourselves all over the place. Yet for some reason we decide not to have journalists in some major centres of the world, one of them being Mexico with which we are inextricably connected by a trade agreement.

Paris and South Africa are places where we need Canadian eyes and voices and Canadian values looking at what is going on. We do not need just CNN feeds. We do not need to hear another country's particular take on issues. We need to know what we think.

Apparently there was a Catholic priest who was with the Chiapas human rights centre. He was kidnapped during the Chiapas uprising. If it had not been for the meticulous and aggressive work of the CBC reporters at that time he would have been killed. He was actually saved by their investigative reporting.

I think that these kinds of things are important. I think they are signals. I am not sure how anyone on the other side of the House can actually feel comfortable about removing our eyes and ears on the world from these important bureaus simply to cut further into the budget.

In conclusion, I would ask for unanimous consent to make this a votable motion.

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

Noon

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there unanimous consent?

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

No.

Cbc Funding
Private Members' Business

Noon

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

As no more members wish to speak, and as the motion has not been made votable, the time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the order paper.

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

Noon

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That in relation to Bill C-49, an act providing for the ratification and the bringing into effect of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage of the bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill and, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the day allotted to the consideration of the report stage and on the day allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

Noon

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am not sure, but I believe the motion which was moved by the Liberal government will limit debate to the end of today on this important bill.

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

Noon

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

That is not a point of order.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?