House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11 a.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

moved that Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act (broadcasting and telecommunications policies) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, in 2006, the Conservative government recognized Quebec as a nation. Since then, that same government has resisted giving Quebec the tools it needs to protect its identity and enable its culture to flourish.

This bill addresses the problem by making it possible for the federal government to delegate to any province that requests it authority to provide for the regulation of broadcasting and telecommunications within its boundaries. This bill would therefore enable the Government of Quebec to create its own broadcasting and telecommunications commission.

By giving the Government of Quebec the authority to regulate broadcasting and telecommunications, this bill would give Quebec full control over its cultural development and national identity. Guiding principles for the sector must take into account conditions in Quebec and the French fact, as well as regional differences within Quebec.

Given the impact of telecommunications and broadcasting on Quebec culture, oversight of this key sector must fall to Quebec. The purpose of regulation is to change the telephone services market, to determine its guiding principles and alter marketing strategies. It would also ensure the orderly development of telecommunications, ensuring access to people in all regions of Quebec. With respect to broadcasting, this bill would ensure diversity of voices and French-language content.

This is not the first time Quebeckers have asked for this. This is something they have always wanted. Since the early 20th century, Quebec has argued that broadcasting should be within its jurisdiction. In 1929, Quebec's premier, Alexandre Taschereau, passed a provincial broadcasting bill. In 1932, the Government of Canada responded by passing the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act, which established the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, forerunner to today's CRTC.

In 1968, Daniel Johnson said that Quebec should have more control over the sector. He said:

The assignment of broadcasting frequencies cannot and must not be the prerogative of the federal government. Quebec can no longer tolerate being excluded from a field where its vital interest is so obvious.

A few years later, then-Premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, said:

In cultural matters, the decision making centres we need for our own cultural security will have to be transferred, particularly in the telecommunications sector. Here again, it is a simple matter of common sense—

Jean-Paul L'Allier, when he was communications minister in the Bourassa government, said:

It is up to Quebec in the first instance to develop a global communications policy. This policy is indissociable from the development of its education system, its culture and everything that comes under Quebec's domain.

As we can see, Quebec has been claiming this right for a while now. It has been claiming this right because it affects all forms of expression of Quebec's culture, its very soul.

This claim has nothing to do with partisanship. Quebec governments, of every political persuasion, have claimed control over broadcasting and telecommunications from Ottawa. In this regard, I would like to quote the member for Pontiac, when he was communications minister in Quebec.

Quebec must be able to establish the rules for operating radio and television systems, and control development plans for telecommunications networks, service rates and the regulation of new telecommunications services—

Quebec cannot let others control programming for electronic media within its borders...To that end, Quebec must have full jurisdiction and be able to deal with a single regulatory body.

This is nothing new, you might say. But I wanted to share my colleague's statement to once again illustrate the many contradictions that are so typical of this government. Does this mean that the interests of Quebec vary based on where they are being defended?

More recently, in 2008, Quebec's minister of culture, communications and the status of women and the minister of Canadian intergovernmental affairs and the reform of democratic institutions wrote to the federal government in an attempt to negotiate agreements for the broadcasting and telecommunications sector.

The letter was written to inform the federal government of Quebec's desire to begin talks, as soon as possible, with a view to concluding a Canada-Quebec agreement for the broadcasting and telecommunications sector and an agreement relating to culture. Considering the distinct culture of Quebec, the only French-speaking state in North America, they said they felt that concluding such an administrative agreement would make it possible to better reflect the specific characteristics of Quebec content in broadcasting and telecommunications, and would serve as recognition of the importance of protecting and promoting Quebec's specific culture.

The letter also pointed out that the Government of Quebec has always insisted that it should play a role in this area and that, in 1929, it was the first government to legislate the broadcasting sector, given the need to safeguard Quebec culture and identity.

The letter goes on to say that Quebec believes that the federal government must not act alone when it comes to broadcasting and telecommunications, and that Quebec would like to see the creation of concrete input mechanisms for the development and definition of government policies, particularly concerning decisions related to activities that primarily affect Quebec and concerning content.

More recently, in 2009, the minister of culture, communications and the status of women of Quebec had this to say:

Entering into a communications agreement would guarantee that Quebec's specific content would be taken into account more in broadcasting and telecommunications. It would also mean recognition of the importance of protecting and promoting Quebec's unique character.

In light of these statements by men and women of all political stripes, there is no doubt that Quebec agrees with the basic principles of the bill.

It has become increasingly urgent to take action on these issues since this government came to power, because it is proceeding with a massive dismantling of the telecommunications regulatory framework.

This government even issued an order, which was condemned by the Union des consommateurs and thousands of small telephone service providers in Quebec, calling on the CRTC to regulate telephony as little as possible.

Action is also urgently needed because technology is evolving extremely rapidly nowadays and regulatory authority is a huge issue.

I would like to quote from the report the CRTC submitted to the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel:

On 16 December 1992, prior to coming into force of the Telecommunications Act, the Commission initiated a public proceeding to examine whether the existing regulatory framework should be modified in light of developments in the industry. In that proceeding, the Commission noted that, in an information-based economy, a modern and efficient telecommunications infrastructure is a fundamental component of, and vehicle for, the production and consumption of goods and services.

The Commission noted further that, in recent years, technological change and increasing competition had significantly altered the nature of the telecommunications industry, so that, in addition to fulfilling the basic communications requirements of all subscribers, telecommunications had evolved into a tool for information management and a productivity enhancer for business.

These changes had allowed the telephone companies to develop a wide range of new audio, video and high-speed data services to satisfy the demands of both business and residence consumers in the local and long distance markets.

It becomes essential to regulate telecommunications when you understand that they have become a “tool for information management”.

It is therefore impossible to take a purely commercial approach to telecommunications. The very nature of this business affects the transmission of information throughout Canada.

We condemn this approach, but we know that in the current context, Quebec can only play the role of a lobbyist and is unable to have any effective influence on the federal government. Telecommunications also affect the cultural sector.

As a group of Quebec cultural organizations underscored in a memoir to the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel in July 2005, “changes in technology are bringing about the convergence of computer science, telecommunications, radio and television”.

In closing, there are a number of reasons to pass this bill and there is general consensus in the nation of Quebec on its basic principles.

The CRTC makes its decisions based on Canadian realities and not on Quebec's reality. Quebec is viewed as just one of several regions in Canada, which means the regional differences within Quebec are not taken into account.

The cultural development of the Quebec nation hinges on its ability to determine its own terms of transmission. Quebec has no control over these.

Should the government deem a decision to go against the interests of Quebec, it is the National Assembly, and not the House of Commons, that would have the power to call for a review.

Partisanship aside, the nation of Quebec has been convinced for a number of years now that having its own regulatory power over the instruments essential to protecting and promoting its culture through telecommunications and broadcasting is what is required to ensure its full development.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I can remember the debate we had in this place on the question of establishing Quebec as a nation. I think all hon. members will recall that the issue of what constituted a nation was not agreed to by members of the House.

Notwithstanding that, during that period of time we also understood that Quebec and its broadcast technology and cultural agencies were representing all French-speaking Canadians, both inside and outside Quebec. There is a substantial number and, in fact, a disproportionate amount of funding for cultural development that goes to Quebec to support francophone Canadians all across the country.

I want to ask the member whether that constituency of French-speaking Canadians outside of Quebec would also be served by a new mandate for a Quebec telecommunications commission?

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, it is rather obvious to us what constitutes the Quebec nation: it is the culture of the only French-speaking state in North America.

There is a huge divide between the Quebec's cultural vision and that of Canada, as demonstrated by this government every day. It believes that culture is inherently entertaining. The Olympic relay is a good example of that.

I have spoken with a number of organizations and people in my riding. The only reason we are seeking sovereignty is because Quebec needs to develop its culture and to be master of its own house.

I am a sovereignist simply because to properly promote its culture Quebec must control 100% of its tools.

I am not alone in thinking this way. The minister of culture, communications and the status of women in Quebec's Liberal government is in full agreement with our position.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, I am somewhat surprised by the answer of the member promoting this bill to my colleague's question about Canada's French-speaking community outside Quebec. My colleague has chosen to ignore this community rather than honestly answer the question.

I will ask the question again: does he not give a damn about francophones outside Quebec?

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, that is not it at all. The French fact, and not only from a Quebec point of view, was treated in an outrageous manner during the Olympic games.

When I go to the other country, that is, west of the Outaouais River, I am often asked what will happen to francophones outside Quebec when Quebec becomes independent.

And yet, it is quite simple. When I see the statistics showing the decline of the French fact in the rest of Canada, I am just as outraged as my colleagues from across Canada.

If there were a strong francophone state in North America, we would be able to preserve the French fact at least in one corner of the continent. It would not be like Louisiana and we would be able to help our colleagues in the rest of North America.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Sherbrooke has 50 seconds, so he should keep his question brief.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, my question will also answer my Liberal colleagues. In June 2005, the CRTC approved licences for SIRIUS Satellite Radio Canada and Canadian Satellite Radio Inc. to operate subscription radio services. The licence stipulated that 10% of its services had to be Canadian, 2.5% of which were to be in French.

Is that how the CRTC and the Liberal government of the day protected the French fact?

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Repentigny has 20 seconds to respond.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be brief.

This is a strong point that bolsters what I was saying. Unfortunately, the French fact appears to be in decline, and if Quebec were to take full control of a Quebec broadcasting and telecommunications commission, we could protect the French fact in Quebec at least.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Being the lone woman among the occupants of the Chair, I take this opportunity to wish an excellent International Women's Day to all Canadian women inside and outside the House.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women has the floor.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Beauport—Limoilou
Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Madam Speaker, you took the words right out of my mouth since I was just about to wish an excellent International Women's Day to all women in Quebec and in Canada, to all our female assistants who give their all to help us day in and day out, and to all empowered women.

I have the privilege to rise today to speak to this bill that would create new regulatory authorities in Canada in the area of communications. I want to explain why we believe that this approach would be detrimental to the development and competitiveness of Quebec's communications businesses.

First of all, I want to stress the importance of communications for Canada and for Quebec as well as for our future. Broadcasting and telecommunications have a significant impact on local and regional distinctiveness throughout the country and in Quebec.

The Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications industry is transforming because of the growing presence of digital technology. Businesses in that industry are adapting to the change to maintain or even increase their competitiveness in a market where consumer expectations are more and more pressing.

Not only does this digital transformation change the way the industry operates, but it also creates numerous opportunities in Canada, in Quebec and abroad for our dynamic businesses.

In fact, our Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications companies show good potential for becoming key players in the global communications market, and we take great pride in that.

However, to achieve this potential, our companies need an efficient and responsive regulatory framework that fosters their competitiveness. We believe that Bill C-444 does not support that.

Bill C-444 would fragment regulatory control and supervision. In fact, companies would be governed by both a federal regulator and a provincial regulatory body.

Having two responsible bodies would create numerous problems which would hinder the development of these sectors of strategic importance to Quebec as well as Canada. Having two responsible bodies would create contradictory policies applicable to the regulated companies, not to mention the inevitable negotiations between the two levels of government and associated delays.

In addition, the management of the airwaves by two separate bodies raises other issues. First, to ensure interference protection for spectrum users, bilateral and international agreements have to be entered into. However, there are no simple solutions that would allow the CRTC, Industry Canada and a potential Quebec body to ensure the coordination of airwaves.

Besides, none of Quebec's major telecommunications companies are limited to that province. The key players in the private sector—the likes of Quebecor, Astral, Corus, Cogeco and Bell—have broadcasting, and some even have telecommunications, interests outside Quebec.

Cogeco, for instance, has cable broadcasting activities in Quebec, Ontario and abroad, while Quebecor has television broadcasting activities in Quebec and Ontario, with some services also being offered in other Canadian provinces.

Creating a Quebec version of the CRTC would make things more complicated rather than simpler, and it would be contrary to the wishes expressed by the industry for streamlined regulations so as to foster the competitiveness of companies.

Moreover, this would come at a time when broadcasting is facing structural challenges beyond the economic circumstances because of technological developments, new consumer habits and new business models.

For example, the transition to new digital platforms represents a major challenge that segments of the broadcasting industry, such as traditional direct-to-home broadcasters, have to address.

Given that the system needs a consistent regulatory approach as a result of media company convergence, the national scope of this industry and the need to adapt to this new reality, the creation of another regulatory authority would only add to the administrative burden and increase duplication and confusion, and would not serve consumers or businesses.

Furthermore, the cost of another regulatory authority would probably be assumed by consumers or the industry, and in the end, taxpayers would be the ones left to foot the bill.

At time when the broadcasting industry is undergoing major changes and devoting all its energy to adapting to those changes, the government must not do anything to impede innovation. On the contrary, it must ensure that the system serves the interests of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

These interests are protected by the existing system, given that the Broadcasting Act and regulatory framework take into account the interests and demands of francophone and anglophone broadcasting markets across Canada, particularly through public consultations held by the CRTC.

Our government is convinced that the current regulatory framework allows French-speaking communities and businesses in Quebec to express any concerns that may need to be addressed.

Furthermore, when a licence is granted, renewed or modified, the objectives of the Broadcasting Act must be taken into consideration.

That is how the Broadcasting Act and current regulatory structure are contributing to the protection and promotion of Quebec's social, cultural and economic objectives in the communications sector.

The current structure is also what has allowed broadcasting companies and dynamic cultural communities to thrive in Canada and especially in Quebec, which is something we can be very proud of.

Thus, we believe there is no need to change the existing regulatory framework, as Bill C-444 proposes. Nor do we need to change a system that works, one that is adapted to the needs of current markets and that protects the interests of Quebeckers and Canadians.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-444, tabled by my colleague from Repentigny.

This bill has to do with the structure of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC.

Before going any further, I would like to point out that the CRTC's mandate is to ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public. The CRTC uses the objectives in the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act to guide its policy decisions. It is very important to understand that.

The CRTC plays an important role in protecting and promoting Canadian content. To quote Ghandi:

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.

That is exactly the role of the CRTC, to ensure that the different cultures are fairly represented on radio and television. It protects Canadian culture from other more imposing cultures—in particular that of our neighbours to the south—but it also aims to reflect the face of Canada and the regional diversities within the country.

The CRTC plays an important role in protecting culture, and I believe that we must strengthen the role and mandate of the CRTC, not weaken it in the way my colleague and friend from Repentigny proposes.

In fact, I do not see how splitting up the CRTC would strengthen its mandate. Would five, seven or even ten regional or provincial CRTCs do a better job than the current CRTC?

For these reasons and many others, I will vote against the bill tabled by the hon. member for Repentigny.

I will do him a favour and make a suggestion. I know he has worked very hard on his bill. However, rather than presenting it in this form, I invite him to take our approach and to concentrate on the challenges facing the protection and promotion of Canadian content. Naturally, that includes Quebec content which, we must say, is absolutely extraordinary.

Our society is changing at a dizzying pace. Everything is moving very quickly. We are moving into a digital economy, which has an impact on just about everything, and most certainly on culture. The means of telecommunications are evolving at lightning speed, as is broadcasting.

We must react quickly to all these changes, anticipate them, and even take a leadership role in them.

With all due respect, I do not see how this bill will help achieve these objectives.

I would like to make another important point.

I have had the opportunity to meet people from just about everywhere in Quebec and I have yet to be told that this bill is a priority or that it is a step in the right direction that will deal with future challenges.

As the heritage critic, I have been able to travel to all regions of Canada to address the matter of culture.

I do it every time I have the opportunity. Just last week, I went to Île Perrault and visited the Pointe-du-Moulin museum. I also went to Chicoutimi, or I should say Saguenay, to Quebec City, to Sherbrooke and to other places. I met with artists, broadcasters, producers, people who spend every day of their lives working in the arts and culture sector. They all told me about the importance of reinforcing that sector. For example, they told me about the importance of increasing the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts, which plays an extraordinary role and has great credibility. Projects are evaluated by peers. There is unanimity, both in Canada and in Quebec, about the need to increase the budget of the Canada Council of the Arts. I am sure my colleague agrees with me on that.

People, not only across the country but also across Quebec, told me about the importance of bringing back programs that were cut by the Conservatives and that played a crucial role for our cultural institutions. I heard a lot about that in Quebec City, as well as in Montreal and in the various regions. I heard about that, but not necessarily about my colleague's bill, even though I appreciate the importance it has for him. I did not hear once about this bill. People told me about the Canada Council of the Arts, about restoring programs that were cut, about the importance of continuing to support the CBC because it plays a crucial role in the various regions of Quebec and of Canada.

Consider the role of Radio-Canada in francophone communities outside Quebec. In the regions of Quebec, Radio-Canada's role is absolutely essential. People talked to me about that. Unfortunately for my colleague, no one talked to me about the bill before us. We have to ask ourselves the following questions. Will the bill that would split up the CRTC make it possible to meet the challenges I was referring to earlier? Will it help us meet the challenges stemming from the government's decision to deregulate the telecommunications sector? In my opinion, it is clear that the answer is no. Not only does the CRTC need to be split up, but it needs to be given more power to intervene. It needs to have the necessary muscle to make decisions and apply them.

I agree that Quebec has its own unique characteristics. I am from Quebec and I am proud to be a Quebecker. There are also challenges common to all our artists, creators and broadcasters. There are challenges common to Quebec artists, artisans and creators and their counterparts in Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia. That does not detract from Quebec's unique characteristics that we recognize and will continue to defend. These characteristics have to be taken into account. The current system does that and will continue to do so.

In Quebec, the cultural sector is absolutely fascinating. It is vibrant. Real treasures are being created in Quebec, as they are elsewhere. We have to support our creators and artists. The CRTC plays an important role in doing that.

Earlier, I invited my colleague from Repentigny to join us in finding common solutions to the challenges raised by the economy of the future and by the dizzying pace of change. Similarly, I invite him to continue to fight against the ideological cuts made by the Conservative government. I am talking about the brutal cuts to the programs that are essential to our artists. As I was saying, I have toured Canada and Quebec.

I invite my colleague to fight with us to reinstate these programs in order to strengthen Canada's culture.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I would first like to offer you my congratulations on this International Women's Day.

I am proud to stand today to speak on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay, a region that reflects the inclusive character of Canada. Forty per cent of the population of Timmins is francophone, 50% is English-speaking or multicultural and perhaps 10% speak Cree of the James Bay region.

My Bloc colleague believes that the French language outside Quebec is weakened. That is not so. I invite him to come to Timmins with me and see the phenomenal efforts the Franco-Ontarian community is making to maintain a very strong and vital identity in my region.

I have seen how much the francophone and aboriginal communities have grown closer and influenced each other in my lifetime. In my riding of Timmins—James Bay, we believe that sharing our cultures with each other has made us stronger.

I have the honour today to speak as the spokesman for the NDP on matters of culture and heritage. As an artist, musician and writer, I have travelled across this country, and I know the needs of artists. I support the programs that support the development of strong cultural industries across Canada.

As the spokesperson for arts, I have met with many artist groups in Canada and Quebec. And what do the artists, actors and producers tell us? There is a need for greater support for touring and promotion of Canadian artists, including those in Quebec. There is a need to improve tax credits to support film and television projects across Canada. There is a need to support the Canada Council and support programs for musical and artistic diversity.

As for the role of the CRTC, there is much room for improvement. The artists demand more accountability, more transparency from the CRTC. The CRTC must have the ability to impose administrative financial penalties to ensure that cable companies and broadcasters meet their responsibilities under the Broadcasting Act.

Certainly, a key element of cultural policy in this country is the role of the CRTC. The issue today is whether the Broadcasting Act supports the development of Canada's cultural and linguistic communities. This is an important question for the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, of which I have been a member for six years.

In 2005, I participated in a study on the future of Canada's film industry, and in 2006, in a CBC/Radio-Canada study. We held hearings across the country. Did any witnesses suggest that we separate the CRTC into regional operations? No.

In 2007, our committee studied the Canadian television fund. Producers, actors and artists all spoke with one voice. They wanted the government to support the CRTC in its efforts to ensure that the cable giants put money into the system.

In 2009, our committee studied the local television crisis. Not a single witness called for the dismantling of the CRTC as a national agency.

Nevertheless, I do not object to studying my Bloc colleague's bill. Certainly, the NDP supports Quebeckers' efforts to maintain a strong cultural identity. We support the Canadian Broadcasting Act provisions respecting maintenance of Quebeckers' cultural voice.

However, if we do send this bill to committee, we will have to study many different issues. I would point out to my colleagues that one of the CRTC's key responsibilities is to reflect Canada's regional diversity and to serve the special needs of Canada's regions.

If we fragment the CRTC into regional units, how will we protect the rights of Acadians, Franco-Ontarians and other cultural and linguistic communities across Canada? That is a very important question.

Although we have some questions about Bill C-444, we believe that the only way to talk about the issues, hear from experts and find solutions is to study the bill in committee.

We must not forget that the House has recognized the Quebec people as a nation within Canada. The NDP supported that.

The NDP will therefore support sending this bill to committee, not because it wants to break apart telecommunications regulation in Canada, but to ensure a strong framework for protecting linguistic and cultural diversity within the province of Quebec and across our great country.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to start by congratulating my hon. colleague on a very eloquent presentation. Unfortunately, during questions and comments, I have seen two members from Quebec, one a Conservative and the other a Liberal, take the defence of the CRTC because they were under the impression that the CRTC was under attack. That is not it at all.

My friend from Honoré-Mercier should be reminded that a former colleague of his, Liza Frulla, told us that it was not likely that a body like the CRTC would be able to continue much longer to decide alone what is good for the provinces, and the French-speaking province in particular.

As for the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou, another member from Quebec, she should perhaps be reminded that, not so long ago, the hon. member for Pontiac and Minister of Foreign Affairs stated the following:

Quebec must be able to establish the rules for operating radio and television systems, and control development plans for telecommunications networks, service rates and the regulation of new telecommunications services... Quebec cannot let others control programming for electronic media within its borders... To that end, Quebec must have full jurisdiction and be able to deal with a single regulatory body.

It is clear that the Conservative MP as well as the Liberal MP, who are both from Quebec, are turning their backs not only on their former colleagues, but also on their current ones by defending the CRTC to the detriment of a potential QRTC. Also, I might add, these two members from Quebec are thumbing their noses at and turning their backs on the Quebec National Assembly.

We will recall that more recently, in a letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage dated March 23, 2009, Quebec’s Minister of Culture, Communications and the Status of Women, Christine St-Pierre, wrote:

Concluding a communications agreement would make it possible to better reflect the specific characteristics of Quebec content in broadcasting and telecommunications. It would also recognize the importance of protecting and promoting Quebec's cultural distinctiveness.

Quebec's culture is indeed a major argument, but a QRTC would also play a fundamental economic role. In fact, the Minister of Industry recently decided, in an order, that Globalife was a Canadian company, despite the fact that, in its final ruling, the CRTC had said that this was not a Canadian company and should therefore not be sold what it was seeking to buy.

This is a huge and very dangerous precedent. We are prepared to defend Canada when the interests of Quebec are also at stake.

How can a country allow a foreign takeover of its telecommunications?

Whoever has control over telecommunications has control, end of story. One day, that control will extend to content as well.

So we must understand, when we are talking about the CQRT, a Quebec radio-television and telecommunications commission, there are two important words to look at—in both the CRTC and the CQRT: telecommunications and radio-television, that is, broadcasting.

Telecommunications means the transmission, emission and remote reception of messages, signals, writing, images, sounds or information of any nature, by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic system, and any other means by which a message can be transmitted.

Under these conditions, it makes sense that a society would want to regulate this transmission capacity in order to have effective control over its territory.

Radio-television, the broadcasting component, refers to the use of waves to transmit a message, either sound over the radio or sound and images on the television. These are two important points in the definition of telecommunications, if a society wants to have effective control over its territory.

The Conservative government even wrote in its budget that it wants to sell effective control in its territory over telecommunications tools, which could be called the medium, and broadcasting, which could be called the message.

We must protect the CRTC in order to protect Canada and all of its residents. Quebec is not the only nation to want a decentralized CRTC; others want the same thing.

In 1991, the House of Commons research branch produced a document entitled Culture and Communications: The Constitutional Setting written by Mollie Dunsmuir. It stated:

In the early days of communications regulation, radio exemplified broadcast technology and telephones exemplified telecommunications. Radio seemed to fall most naturally under federal jurisdiction, as the transmission waves could not necessarily be confined within provincial boundaries, while telephone regulation seemed most amenable to provincial regulation because telephone “networks” were geographically controllable.

The inability to confine transmission waves within provincial boundaries was a major argument that justified federal jurisdiction. Yet many countries allow their provinces or regions authority over the airwaves. This is true of Germany, which has 15 provincial regulatory bodies and an association of regulatory authorities.

Spain has an audiovisual council for Navarre and another one for Catalonia. Belgium has two separate regulatory bodies, based on language: one Flemish and the other Walloon. So it is possible, despite the inability to confine waves, to regulate broadcasting at the provincial level.

Regarding Belgium and Spain, it is rather significant that the regulatory bodies are linked to the different cultures that make up those countries. Quebec's distinct culture amply justifies the creation of a regulatory body in Quebec, since those organizations basically regulate content.

It is also important to note that many countries have decided to separate telecommunications and broadcasting, opting instead for two separate bodies. Thus, in France, the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel regulates broadcasting, and the Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes regulates telecommunications. This model prevents possible conflicts of interest between the regulation of broadcasting content and telecommunications content, one of which is the responsibility of the minister of culture and communication, and the other, of industry.

This model could work for Quebec. Considering the Conservative government's approach—granting ownership of telecommunications to foreign interests—it is our duty as Quebeckers to protect this area. In fact, the competition created by this approach would not be unfair, but rather fierce, because foreigners want to invest here.

In closing, I would remind the Liberal and Conservative members that there are people in their parties who agree with us.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-444.

First, Madam Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to you today on International Women's Day. You are the first lady of this chamber. You preside over our debates with impartiality and dignity. On behalf of the hon. members in my party and on behalf of all hon. members in this House, I thank you.

This bill, if passed, would open the door to creating regulatory authorities for broadcasting and telecommunications in other Canadian provinces.

I will attempt today to shed some light on the current business environment that communications companies are facing, and why adding another regulator and bureaucracy would hinder Quebec companies from growing and competing in the new digital world.

Broadcasting and telecommunication systems around the world are in the midst of a fundamental transformation. These changes are being brought on by the rapid adoption of new digital technologies which are opening up the operational environment for communications in unprecedented ways.

Traditional gatekeeper powers are falling away. Barriers to entry are being lowered, meaning that companies are facing competition from new, unexpected players. Lines between companies, devices, platforms and content are disappearing, and consumers are beginning to control and participate in their content experiences.

The introduction of digital platforms are also dissolving the territorial and technical boundaries that formerly limited Canadian companies, including those from the province of Quebec, from reaching and exploiting global audiences.

Today, there is not a single major broadcasting or telecommunications company in Canada that is limited to a given province. In fact, the key players in the communications sector—whether Quebecor, Astral, Corus, Cogeco or Bell—have broadcasting and, in some cases, telecommunications interests outside Quebec. And it is a very good thing too, since this helps them to compete in an increasingly competitive environment.

Given the convergence of the media and the national scope of the broadcasting and telecommunications industries, an additional regulatory framework would only create overlap and confusion, which is not in the best interest of consumers or the companies.

Increasing the regulatory burden and confining one's view to provincial mindset smacks of analog thinking, thinking that is totally out of step with the borderless reality of the digital world. Adding complexity to regulation, which the bill would do, would only hinder the capacity of the industry to meet the promising opportunities ahead to further develop and prosper, and to continue to offer Canadians a diversity of content and service choices.

This government's current approach is already responsive to the needs of Canadian companies, including those that are headquartered in the province of Quebec. It recognizes that these companies are better served by just one set of rules that allows them to compete in a world of choice.

Taking such a risk at this time needs to be avoided at all costs, given not only the dramatic changes affecting communications but also global economic uncertainty.

If we want our communications companies, in Quebec and in the rest of the country that we all love, Canada, to be successful in the modern communications world, it is essential that we maintain a single, streamlined approach which encourages them to be innovative and adaptable in a world of change.

Let there be no doubt from my remarks that I have just made about where I stand on this issue.

Allow me to end the suspense as to how I intend to vote. I am voting in favour of the workers in the broadcasting and telecommunications sector. I am voting in favour of the economic development of Quebec's companies that are doing so well all across Canada. I am voting against Bill C-444.