House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cbc.

Topics

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-Canada
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my charming colleague, the hon. member for Ahuntsic.

I am extremely pleased to speak today on the Liberal motion put forward by my hon. colleague the member for Honoré-Mercier. The first purpose of this motion is to recognize the indispensable role of CBC/Radio-Canada, both the anglophone and francophone sections, in providing information through its broadcasts across Canada, especially those for the benefit of language minorities, including aboriginal minorities, since there are broadcasts in at least eight aboriginal languages.

Second, the motion is intended to fault the present government for the financial hardship and substantial lay-offs that CBC/Radio-Canada will soon be facing because of its refusal to grant it any financial flexibility.

Third, the motion urges this same government to provide CBC/Radio-Canada with the bridge financing it requires to maintain last year's staffing and service levels.

There is something deeply ironic about the fact that the motion today is a Liberal motion, when they are the ones mainly responsible for the crisis the corporation is experiencing. They refused to index its budget when they were in power, and in the 1990s they were the ones that started making budget cuts. In constant dollars, i.e. taking inflation into account, the budget for CBC/Radio-Canada went from $900 million to $708 million during the Liberal regime, and that was at a time of full economic growth, as has been said already today.

What more can be expected of a party that has something negative to say day after day about the multiple facets of the Conservative budget and yet, again day after day, supports what it has criticized with its votes? Day after day, that party demands more attention and more funds for the unemployed, who are the first victims of the crisis we are in. Yet, when they were in power, they systematically raided the employment insurance fund to the tune of several billions, in order to balance the books of the government of the day, while at the same time allowing the richest members of society to continue to benefit from tax havens and family trusts. Their finance minister, Paul Martin, was himself one of the biggest profiteers from the system. Our private nickname for him was “Paul, the Little Boatman”, because he had his ships built abroad and sailed them under flags of convenience, reported his profits in tax havens and then had his ships scrapped in China. All that in order to help Canada.

There are others who say he is a man who put his mouth in Ottawa but his cash in Barbados.

What more can we ask of a party that gets all worked up in the House and speaks very quaveringly against a government that abolishes the fundamental right of women to pay equity—a right for which the previous generation fought so hard—only to support this government's legislation after condemning it so harshly.

While these remarks put a damper on the real motives of the Liberals in presenting this motion, the Bloc Québécois will nevertheless review it on its merits. It is true that, in its forecasts, CBC/Radio-Canada announced a shortfall of $171 million for 2009-10. That shortfall can be explained by a combination of several factors: lower advertising revenues—of course everyone is affected by that—increase in programming costs and aging infrastructures, to name but a few. It is also true that, on March 25, the corporation's management announced the elimination of 800 positions, about which we will find out more in the coming months. Finally, it is also true that, at the time when the corporation was asking for an advance—and only that—on parliamentary votes, or to borrow money from a financial or banking institution, the Conservatives rejected both options. They did so at the very time when the minister said he was prepared to help private broadcasters and media.

After numerous delays and after being forced to do so by the three opposition parties, the Conservatives finally decided, in light of the economic crisis—the very existence of which they had first denied—to apply here the Keynesian solutions that all the other industrialized countries in the world, including the United States, had begun to implement, namely investing massively in job creation. All of a sudden, this government began announcing investments of billions of dollars in infrastructure, ports, highways, bridges, airports, skating rinks and tennis courts. It even announced the establishment of a bizarre $3 billion fund that will be invested without any monitoring by the House, and we still do not really know where exactly.

Yet, at the same time, the government cut millions of dollars in cultural programs, thus jeopardizing hundreds and even thousands of jobs in Quebec and in Canada. The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is currently reviewing this issue. It is finalizing its study, which will be tabled in the House very soon. It will not be pretty. The government refuses to support CBC/Radio-Canada, even if that means losing 800 highly specialized jobs.

I would like to give those watching a sense of how different $1 billion is from $1 million. Never having had that kind of money in our pockets, obviously that is foreign to us, but I will give a specific example. If I were to put in your bank account—assuming it was empty to begin with—$1 million and asked you to withdraw $1,000 a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, until there was no money left, it would take you a little under three years to empty your bank account. However, had I put in $1 billion and asked you to go through the same process of withdrawing $1,000 a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, even if you had started when Chris was born, it would still take you another seven centuries to empty that bank account. That is the difference between those two amounts.

On the one hand, we have billions in investments with economic benefits neither you nor I have any idea about and, on the other hand, millions in cuts with results that are immediately clear: hundreds of jobs lost while they claim to want to create jobs.

That makes absolutely no economic sense and we are forced to assume that the Conservatives made this decision for ideological reasons. In other words, they continue to apply the good old Conservative maxim, the best government is no government. Private interests take precedence over public interests.

However, the importance of CBC/Radio-Canada has long been proven. In its February 2008 report tabled last year, the Standing Committee on Heritage studied the corporation in detail and stated the following in its introduction. I will read from page 7 of the report, where it explains why the corporation was created.

The origins of what is now known as CBC/Radio-Canada date back to 1929 and the Report of the Royal Commission on Broadcasting (the Aird Commission). The Commission noted that the majority of the radio broadcasts that Canadians listened to came from the United States and worried that this would tend to inculcate young people with non-Canadian ideals and viewpoints. The Aird Commission also recognised broadcasting’s immense educational and informational potential and its ability to contribute to a shared sense of national identity. The Commission therefore recommended setting up a national public broadcasting service that had the necessary resources to create truly Canadian content.

Although I am being told that I have one minute remaining, I would nevertheless simply like to add that, today, we realize, especially in English Canada, that almost all movies watched are American movies, that almost all the music we listen to is American, that almost all television series are American and that to francophone ears, such as mine, it sounds like more and more American English and less and less British English is being spoken.

What the government needs to do right now is increase CBC/Radio-Canada activities, but it is cutting its funding. And both the Liberals and the Conservatives had a hand in that.

If the Canadian government is incapable of providing adequate funding for the survival of Canadian culture, why should we, Quebeckers, trust it to ensure the survival of our culture? We will take control of our own affairs and it is about time.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-Canada
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Drummond for speaking so passionately about the CBC.

In my riding, Nickel Belt, CBC Radio One is losing eight jobs. This affects half the employees. Fortunately up to now, Radio-Canada has not been affected, but, in the long term, it will be.

I know how staff cuts at CBC/Radio-Canada hurt small towns in northern Ontario. I have a lot of relatives in northern Quebec, in small town like Fabre, Ville-Marie and Latulippe.

I would ask the member for Drummond to tell me how these small towns will be affected by the cuts being made today at the CBC.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-Canada
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. People living in remote communities are probably affected most by these cuts, and it is they who need the CBC the most. Radio is often the only contact people living in remote regions have with the rest of the country—when they have access to it. It may not be available at times because the technical requirements to serve them are unavailable. However, when it is available, radio is often their sole contact and the only way they have to feel connected.

In addition, local television or radio gives them a sense of belonging to their community. I think the cuts will indeed affect them. The cuts are much deeper and more harmful than might be generally thought, and I think it is a real pity that this government could literally not care less.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-Canada
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to put a question to my colleague from Drummond. I would like to know whether he agrees that the CBC needs stable funding.

Suppose a memorandum of understanding is signed for a seven year period, and that the government provides stable funding of $40 per capita—those are the conclusions of the study completed in February 2008—that the additional $60 million is included in its stable indexed budget, and that serious thought is given to funding it so it can gradually reduce its dependence on advertising. I would like to know whether the member for Drummond supports these ideas.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-Canada
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do indeed. Culture is not simply merchandise, and funds must be injected to support it. I would remind you that, in France, $77 per capita is invested to support broadcasting. In Britain—with the BBC, which is absolutely extraordinary and well worth watching—the amount is $124 per capita. Here a mere $34 is injected, and the government is boasting about how wonderful that is.

In my opinion, the amount should be increased to at least $40 and provided with regularity so that the corporation can, like all intelligent businesses, manage its affairs on the basis of data that is predictable annually and not on the whim of a minister or another, who might be subject to change, or who might be catching a cold.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-Canada
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

As there is one minute left, there is 30 seconds for the question and 30 seconds for the reply.

The member for Nickel Belt.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-Canada
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague from Drummond whether he knows why the Conservative government would not provide CBC/Radio-Canada with temporary funding during these difficult times.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-Canada
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government currently has $3 billion, and it has no idea where it is going to spend that money, or at least, it does not want to tell us. It could easily take $171 million and make a one-year loan to CBC/Radio-Canada. No one would die, and CBC/Radio-Canada would at least get a short reprieve.

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-Canada
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague from Drummond on his excellent speech. Bravo!

I am pleased to rise today to speak to this motion, which concerns the short- and long-term future of CBC/Radio-Canada.

On March 25, the corporation's president and CEO, Mr. Lacroix, announced that 800 full-time positions would be eliminated between May and September, including 335 at the French network. This amounts to a loss of around 8% of the corporation's workforce across Canada.

The positions are being cut because of rapidly declining advertising revenues owing to the difficult economic situation, rising production costs and aging infrastructure.

Unfortunately, I have to point out that it is rather odd, even paradoxical, that the Liberal Party is behind this motion today. During the final years they were in power, successive Liberal governments refused to index CBC/Radio-Canada's budget. In the 1990s, they even cut its budget repeatedly, most notably in 1998, when they slashed it by $94 million.

More recently, on February 1, 2005, a newspaper in the greater Montreal area wrote the following:

Yesterday, all the CBC/Radio-Canada news anchors sounded the alarm. They do not accept the new $4 million cuts to the news sector.

They were all there, saddened and asking Prime Minister Paul Martin and minister Liza Frulla to be receptive.

Those people are not Conservatives.

In constant dollars, that is, taking inflation into consideration, the CBC's budget under the Liberals went from $900 million to $708 million. This means that the Liberals are also directly responsible for the state of the CBC's infrastructure and partially responsible for the current crisis that is shaking the corporation. The tabling of this motion by the Liberal Party once again shows the political hypocrisy that is so ingrained in that party. This way of doing things is not the exception for the Liberal Party. It is its trademark.

I will provide an example that affects me directly, because it is happening in my riding, and also in other Montreal ridings. I am referring to the noise caused by aircraft, ever since flights were moved from Mirabel to Dorval. In Ahuntsic we are disturbed by the noise of these aircraft. That is also the case in Saint-Laurent and, oddly enough, in Lachine as well. It is rather funny to see some Liberal members cry wolf regarding the noise made by aircraft, considering that they are directly responsible for this unacceptable situation, which prevails in several ridings in Montreal. That is a small example, but I could give other ones. This shows why, when we look at the facts, both Quebeckers and Canadians are disappointed by the Liberals.

But let us get back to the main issue, namely, the financial crisis that the corporation is facing. The CBC has to deal with a shortfall of $171 million. The corporation's management has confirmed that it asked for the government's assistance, but the government refused to help. It merely authorized the CBC to benefit from the proceeds generated by the sale of some of its assets. Such a sale would take place at the worst moment, in the midst of an economic crisis. It is claimed that these assets are worth about $125 million, but one wonders how much the corporation will get for them, in the context of the economic crisis. It is obvious that this sale will mortgage the corporation's future. The sad thing in all this is that the government prefers to invest huge amounts of money in military equipment and war, rather than preserving jobs in Canada and in Quebec. That is the reality and that is unacceptable. This government does not understand anything and it continues on its military path.

I would point out that 85% of these cuts will affect television and 13.5% will affect radio. For example, in Montreal, the cuts will mean the loss of approximately 250 jobs, including 85 in news programming. In Quebec City, about 15 jobs will be lost as a result of the cuts, and the local noon program will disappear altogether. That means two and a half fewer hours of news from Quebec City every week, beginning June 29. The 6 p.m. news program, Téléjournal Québec, will be shortened by 30 minutes from June 29 to September 4, and return to 60 minutes in the fall. We are seeing real cuts to news and jobs. In addition to the people who will be left without a job, Canadians will also see a reduction in the amount of information they receive. This reminds of what happened with TQS.

Mr. Lacroix said that, beyond the CBC's walls, these cuts will also “dramatically” affect independent producers. The broadcaster has insisted that they reduce their production costs by 10% to 25%, which most have agreed to do.

We can therefore assume that a lot more than 800 jobs will be eliminated, if we include jobs outside the CBC, that is, jobs with private producers.

Mr. Lacroix was very clear. The Conservative government's decision to deny the crown corporation temporary financial assistance made things very difficult for its administrators. According to Mr. Lacroix, with bridge financing, the CBC would have been in a better position to manage the situation it now faces. This leads me to vigorously emphasize that the Conservatives' decision not to grant the CBC temporary assistance is unacceptable. As we know, the Conservative government has finally acknowledged the global economic crisis and admitted that it is also being felt here in Canada. They keep telling us, loud and clear, that their action plan has four main priorities, the first of which is, and I quote, “to take measures to protect jobs.” This is a little strange, is it not? They say they want to protect jobs, yet they refuse to give money, and people are losing their jobs. Some 800 people are being laid off.

Confronted with the financial crisis rocking CBC/Radio-Canada, the government is failing woefully its own test. Its inaction is a pure show of economic incompetence in these times of crisis. The fundamental role of any responsible government in these times is to preserve jobs. Through its inaction, this government which is currently in power thanks to the support of the Liberals, including my friend from Honoré-Mercier, is directly responsible for the loss of 800 well-paying full-time jobs. On the one hand, the government wants to be seen to be actively creating infrastructure jobs by pressing Parliament to support its $3 billion plan, even though it not clear where exactly this money will go. On the other hand, it is deepening the crisis by refusing to provide CBC/Radio-Canada with $171 million in temporary funding. I just do not get them anymore. They will hire more people to process the EI claims of the 800 plus employees losing their jobs.

On March 26, a renowned CBC/Radio-Canada journalist with 50 years' experience expressed concern about the future of the Crown corporation. He said that what was most worrisome in the medium and long term was the future of public television in Canada. He added that we can always overcome difficult economic conditions. But when such conditions are combined with a lack of political will, things get pretty rough at the shop.

What this government is doing is shameful. From a strictly financial and human perspective, the Conservatives should support the preservation of these jobs without hesitation. Unfortunately, the Conservative government does not seem to understand that or to embrace that economic truth. It would appear that the Conservatives' plan is to take advantage of the current economic situation to starve CBC/Radio-Canada and compromise its influence and future across Quebec and Canada. This is all the more shocking given that the Conservatives are apparently considering helping private broadcasters. As the saying goes, charity begins at home.

The Bloc will be voting in favour of this motion, but in reality we want more than it calls for. Since my time is nearly up, I will just list a few points. That the public funding for CBC/Radio-Canada be raised from $34 to $40 per capita. In other countries in the world it is far more than that. That the annual additional funding of $60 million be maintained. That the funding be stable, multi-year, predictable and indexed. The worst part of all this is that all this was in the February 2008 report of the standing committee on Canadian heritage. Many witnesses were heard. Many briefs were submitted. There was endless discussion. It took the time it took. A fine report was produced. That report did not really question the importance of funding CBC/Radio-Canada. But now it is as if we did all that for nothing. Nothing came of it. The Liberal motion is interesting but unfortunately it is a matter of too little, too late. The demands I have listed are not part of it. As far as the government is concerned, that is not one of its concerns.

Moreover, those recommendations went much further than this Liberal motion. They were supported by the Liberal Party, even if our colleagues who were on the committee did not seem very comfortable with this request for increased and maintained corporation funding. I would have expected this motion to have far more teeth than it does.

WIll the Liberals do the same as our Conservative colleagues? That is the major question and one for which I think the future will provide an answer.

If this Liberal motion seems to be bold in its demands of the government, it is more than timid when compared to what all my Liberal colleagues were backing a little over 12 months ago.

Unfortunately, with the Conservatives—

Opposition Motion—CBC/Radio-Canada
Business of Supply
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. member for Ahuntsic, but I have some documents to table.

Auditor General of Canada
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the status report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table, pursuant to subsection 23(5) of the Auditor General Act, the status report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons.

This document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Orangeville Lions Club
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House today to recognize the 60th anniversary of the Lions Club of Orangeville. This enthusiastic club has a long history of making a difference in the community by hosting many highly anticipated events such as LobsterFest, the annual home and garden show, and Murray's Mountain. This anniversary is particularly special as it will recognize the last remaining member of the charter group of 21, who started the club back in 1949.

Mr. Bill Teeter is a 60-year member who has continued to exemplify community service and dedication. His many contributions are appreciated and our community owes him a debt of gratitude. On behalf of the Government of Canada and the residents of Dufferin—Caledon, I congratulate Bill Teeter and the Lions Club of Orangeville on its 60th anniversary and for making our community a better place.

Community Leaders
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to invite all members of the House in recognizing two outstanding members of the Portuguese Canadian community. On April 18, members of the Portuguese Canadian community will gather to honour Mr. Avelino Fonseca and Mr. Joe Botelho for their years of service.

Both Avelino and Joe are very active and successful members of the business community who have achieved a great deal through years of hard work and dedication. As well as being successful business people, Avelino and Joe have worked tirelessly to give of their time and resources to assist many individuals and groups throughout their communities. They have been especially committed and dedicated to providing support and assistance to those who are physically challenged.

It is indeed appropriate that we join with all of our communities in recognizing outstanding community leaders like Avelino Fonseca and Joe Botelho.

Desjardins Tourism Awards
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 24th annual Desjardins tourism awards for the Eastern Townships were handed out on March 20.

Many of the winners in the 18 categories are from my riding.

I would like to congratulate the Chocolatière d'Hatley on its award in the lodging—bed and breakfast category; Camping de Compton in the lodging—camping category; Fitch Bay's Bleu Lavande in the agrotourism and regional products category; and the Eastern Townships tourism office in the tourism services category.

In 2008, businesses in the region took home five gold awards, more than in any other region in Quebec. I believe that our regional representatives will perform well during the national gala on May 15 in Quebec City.

These businesses have a significant impact on our region's tourism and economy. I would therefore like to wish them the best of luck.