An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act (broadcasting and telecommunications policies)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Nicolas Dufour  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 2, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act so that the Québécois national identity is reflected in the Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications policies.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 31, 2010 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to once again speak to this bill, which would allow the creation of new regulatory bodies in Canada in areas of communications. I wish to explain why I sincerely believe that such an approach would actually hinder the development of French-speakers across Canada, including those in Quebec.

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

Canadians of all ages have many options for communicating with others, passing the time, getting information and getting to know their fellow citizens, whether they live in Iqaluit, Gravelbourg, Orléans, Saint-Isidore, Shediac or Gaspé. Person-to-person telecommunications make it possible to talk to others and understand them and to transmit information and data that are essential to the development of our communities and businesses.

Quality programming produced here by skilled, creative professionals and made available through networks and broadcasters from across the country provides Canadians with entertainment and information, thereby contributing to their development and allowing them to learn more about the world around them.

The broadcasting system, as we know it, enables the expression of French culture to develop not just within Quebec itself but in every corner of Canada.

In fact, the great diversity in French content created in Quebec and other parts of the country is made available from coast to coast, for the benefit of all francophone communities, including many francophone minority communities.

We firmly believe that the interests of these French-speaking communities are well served by the current broadcasting system. The Broadcasting Act and the regulatory framework reflect the interests and demands of Canada's English language and French language broadcasting markets, particularly through public hearings held by the CRTC.

We are satisfied that the current regulatory framework enables French language communities in Quebec, and elsewhere in the country, to participate in and contribute to the development of a broadcasting system that reflects their needs and expectations, and to express any of their concerns that need to be considered.

I must also mention that when a licence is granted, renewed or amended, the objectives of Canada's broadcasting policy, as stated in the Broadcasting Act, must be taken into consideration. The act states that, “English and French language broadcasting, while sharing common aspects, operate under different conditions and may have different requirements”.

The act also says that the Canadian broadcasting system should serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men, women and children, particularly in terms of official languages.

This is why the Broadcasting Act and the current regulatory structure have managed to protect and promote the social, cultural and economic objectives of our communities and our communications companies across Canada.

The people I humbly represent in this place believe that it is crucial that all Canadians continue to enjoy the benefits through a regulatory framework for the communications industry that is unified, coherent and effective, and that places a great deal of importance on recognizing the interests and aspirations of all our communities, including French language communities in Quebec and throughout Canada.

We believe, without a doubt, that it would be bad for francophone communities in Canada to amend the existing regulatory framework, as Bill C-444 proposes to do.

I am opposed to this bill, as I stated on March 8.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your careful attention and especially for keeping order during the provocative remarks that I have just made.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Lise Zarac Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech about Bill C-444, I would like to take a moment to mention Purple Day, which was started two years ago by a young girl named Cassidy Megan, from Halifax.

I am wearing purple today because of Cassidy Megan. I want to show my support for adults and children with epilepsy, and I want to promote information campaigns about this illness that affects an average of 15,500 Canadians each year. Thank you, Cassidy.

Unlike our colleagues across the way, we understand the value of culture. We know that we not only need to support it, but we also need to strengthen it in every way possible.

Previous cuts to the PromArt program, which allowed Canadian artists to promote their work and their culture abroad, and the Trade Routes program, which provided support to artistic and cultural entrepreneurs, were a slap in the face to artists and all Canadians. These cuts demonstrated the Conservative government's inability to understand the arts and its irresponsibility in this sector.

After seeing their budget, it is even more obvious that the Prime Minister and the Conservatives have no idea about culture and have not listened to the many demands from the public about this. This should not surprise us, however, because their decisions have shown that they have no interest in culture and attach no importance to it. It is the same with environmental issues. They just do not understand. If you keep artists from performing internationally, you are keeping our culture from international recognition. You are badmouthing our heritage.

Our party, the Liberal Party of Canada, believes in increasing support for Canadian artists and cultural organizations, especially in this new era of the digital economy.

However, there is another topic that concerns me today and that is Bill C-444 and the impact it will have on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission as well as on culture.

The CRTC was created to defend and promote Canadians' attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic talents. All of these things are the result of our country's history, its geographic location, its institutions and, above all, its linguistic and cultural diversity.

The CRTC's role 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.

For instance, one of the CRTC's initiatives is the local programming improvement fund, whose aim is to support and improve the quality of local television programming. This program really meets the needs and expectations of the public regarding information on what is happening in their region.

With new digital technologies, regulatory bodies are losing their powers. Barriers to entering domestic markets are becoming almost non-existent. This situation is bringing in new stakeholders that companies have to compete with.

The lines between the media, businesses, mechanisms, programs and content are blurring, and users are already beginning to control content and actively participate in creating it. In the current context, one might reasonably wonder how such legislation would help us face the challenges ahead. I will come back to this later on in my speech.

In Quebec, the CRTC has been working tirelessly to ensure that our artists can access the media and the world of broadcasting, so that the public can benefit from access to local content and our broadcasting industries can grow.

It is an ideal tool not only for ensuring the survival of Quebec culture, but also for sharing it with the rest of the country.

Bill C-444 would split up the CRTC and have it function in a vacuum in the provinces. It will not strengthen culture. On the contrary, dividing up the CRTC would weaken an institution that works for the survival of that culture. It would divide the population and block up our window on the world.

The CRTC has always been a leader in consulting the public and seeking people's opinions on matters pertaining to broadcasting and telecommunications, in order to be in tune with the needs of the people. Therefore, it is a tool of the people and not a tool of political partisanship.

I would like to know where my colleague got the idea for such a bill. No artist or cultural group could have asked for a legislative measure to create another regulatory body in Quebec. Quebec is not asking for this. It is pure political partisanship at the expense of our artists and creators.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission plays a vital role as the protector of our culture. It would make no sense to weaken it when we should be working hard to secure and strengthen its role and mandate in the current political and economic context. Adding to the number of regulatory bodies would only exponentially increase the problems faced by our cultural communities.

Given the challenges of the future, Bill C-444 is not at all a step in the right direction. It would only cloud the issues and add to existing problems that we have been trying hard to resolve for many years.

Let us not erect walls or stuff our windows. Let us protect our culture by sharing it and making it known to the entire world, not hiving it off and having it become inward-looking.

I oppose Bill C-444 and will be voting against it. I urge my colleagues to do the same. I specifically invite my colleague, the member for Repentigny, to work with us. We must focus our efforts on protecting our Canadian culture, and Quebec content makes up a significant part of that culture.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2010 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act (broadcasting and telecommunications policies), so the Québécois identity is reflected in the Canadian broadcasting telecommunications policies of our country. I am happy to say our party supports the bill moving forward to committee where it can be discussed even further.

The reason why this is such a valuable bill is because it helps us talk about extending cultural sensitivities and responsiveness in our country. I thank my colleague from the Bloc for putting this forward. Also, it allows us to debate two very important issues that are fundamental interests of Canadians, and that is public broadcasting and cultural policy.

My party, the New Democrats, is a strong believer in public broadcasting. My party, the New Democrats, is a strong supporter of the CBC and Radio-Canada. I personally am a strong supporter of the CBC and of public broadcasting in every sense of those concepts.

Canada is a large and diverse country. We have strong anglophone and francophone cultures in communities across the country. We have strong, vibrant and growing multicultural communities and first nations communities of every type in every province and territory of our federation.

My riding of Vancouver Kingsway is a wonderful diverse community of communities, where languages and cultures can be heard from every corner of the world. This incredible diversity of culture is never adequately conveyed purely and solely by the private broadcasting system.

Canadians who live in communities, small and large, coast to coast to coast need a strong public broadcasting facility and a strong cultural policy in the country in order to manifest this multicultural mosaic. Geographic diversity is also never adequately reflected in the private commercial broadcasting system and never will be adequately represented solely by the private commercial broadcasting system.

Only a strong, properly funded public broadcaster, informed and backed up by a cultural policy that reflects and embraces multiculturalism and the francophone, anglophone and multicultural and first nations quadrants of our country can actually do so, so we can all, as Canadians, tell our stories.

This bill would ensure that francophone culture and identity are adequately represented in our national broadcasting system. The NDP fully supports this important objective. I have said it before, and I will say it again: I am proud of our country's diversity.

As the multiculturalism critic for the NDP, I also want us to highlight and celebrate this diversity.

I would now like to speak for a few moments about the diversity in my riding of Vancouver Kingsway. My friends in Quebec know that my riding is geographically one of the furthest from Quebec.

However, I want all members to know that in my province there is a francophone community that is small, yes, but also vibrant and growing. I wanted to note that, because francophones in British Columbia represent an important part of the multicultural mosaic I am so proud of and all British Columbians are proud of, I am sure.

Quebec culture and literature, as well as the French language, are alive and well throughout the province. We have festivals that celebrate Franco-Canadian culture and excellent French language instruction programs in our schools, and we acknowledge the richness of the history and heritage of Quebec and francophone Canadians.

Going back to the CBC, without adequate funding, it cannot survive. Underfunded by current and previous governments as it has been, it has lost and is losing its ability to fulfill its mandate. Commercialization is not the answer.

The government has mused about putting advertising on CBC Radio. It has sold off the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song. It has dismantled the CBC Radio orchestra. As every Canadian who watches and listens to the CBC knows, there has been a distinct change in the mandate and manner in which CBC delivers its programming.

Canadians do not value CBC because it is just another commercial station. We must not go down the path of commercialization if the CBC is to fulfill its mandate to provide a forum for Canadian voices, music and ideas.

The heritage committee has called for an increase in funding to our national broadcaster. It wants it to go to $40 per citizen in this country, up from the current $33. Think of that: another $7 per person a year so that our country can have a strong national broadcasting voice from coast to coast to coast that brings Canadians together by sharing our music, our stories, our histories, our cultures, our social and political ideas of every type. Seventy-four per cent of Canadians agree with that, because they believe CBC's funding should be increased.

Last year in my riding of Vancouver Kingsway, I held a town hall about the future of the CBC. I heard that citizens in Vancouver Kingsway and the Lower Mainland of British Colombia and across the country are passionate about our public broadcaster. They want it to be well funded. They support its mandate. They want balanced, intelligent, public interest media in our country in addition to a wide and diverse private sector.

The bill before us goes beyond Canadian broadcasting. It brings up broader issues of cultural policy. Arts and culture are vital to a healthy society. A vibrant arts community makes cities, towns and rural areas livable. It is another vital avenue for Canadian stories to be told. It is a vital avenue for Canadian voices to be heard.

Vancouver Kingsway has an extremely active and vibrant community of artists and cultural workers who tell these stories and whose voices are heard. We have musicians, actors, painters and sculptors who are an important part of what makes Vancouver such a great city in which to live. Many of these people, who are from every culture, whether it be south Asian, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Caucasian or first nations, contribute to this cultural mosaic for the love of creating culture and for the love of this country. The average salary of an artist in Canada is under $15,000 a year.

These cultural artists who help build our country and who give our country depth and value need a mechanism in which to have their voices and their talents expressed. Producing great works of art or culture without government support has never happened in history. The ancient Greeks supported their artists, dramatists, musicians and their cultural producers. Investing in arts and culture is investing in healthy livable communities. It is investing in our shared history and identity. It is an investment worth making.

I thank the member for Repentigny for bringing this bill forward and allowing us to have this important discussion. We support sending the bill to committee so we can continue the discussion there, so that we can build a country that has a strong culture in Quebec, British Columbia and every other province and territory for every culture that is part of the Canadian mosaic.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2010 / 2:15 p.m.
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Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise once again in the House, this time to address Bill C-444. In reflection, I want to make a couple of comments before I get into the body of the text of my speech about the cultural identity of the various regions within Canada.

I do not think it is fair to the folks in St. John's, Newfoundland, for example, to say that they are not culturally distinct from Calgary, Alberta, or that Victoria, British Columbia does not have its own cultural identity that might be somewhat different from Peterborough. It is a strength in Canada that we have all of these culturally distinct regions and that we all come together under one flag and one nation.

We certainly saw in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. We did not just see our athletes dominate, which by the way was spectacular. We also saw our artists. We also saw Canadians celebrating in the streets. We saw a collective strength of a nation, the likes of which I have never seen. That collective strength is supported by regions of the country that are as diverse from one another as one could possibly imagine. However, they have one thing in common, and that is a love of this nation.

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to comment on matters relevant to the regulation of broadcasting and telecommunications activities in Canada. Given proposals contained in Bill C-444, I believe we must take the time to consider the impact they would have on Canadian consumers, including those in Quebec.

We strongly believe that creating additional regulatory frameworks, as proposed under Bill C-444, could only lead to extraordinary confusion and complication. Then innovation and competitiveness in Canada's vital communications would be stifled to the detriment of Canadian consumers and the businesses that serve them.

Given the current challenges confronting the broadcasting industry, the convergence of broadcasting and telecommunications, such a division of responsibilities risks introducing complexities and inefficiencies into the system that could hamper the competitiveness and the ability of companies to respond to new market and technological developments.

Let me elaborate on this point. We are all aware of the fact that Canada's broadcasting and telecommunications systems are in the midst of a fundamental transformation. We have talked about that on other matters before the House today. Important changes are being brought on by the rapid adoption of digital technologies, which are modifying Canada's communications landscape in unprecedented ways.

Established companies are facing competition from unexpected players. Lines between industries, companies, devices, platforms and content are blurring and, in some cases, completely disappearing. More and more, these developments are allowing Canadians to take greater control and participate actively in the creation and distribution of diverse Canadian content.

The rise of digital networks and platforms is also dissolving the territorial and technical boundaries that formerly limited Canadian companies, including Quebec firms, from reaching and exploiting global audiences. These very positive developments must not be restrained by additional layers of rules and regulations.

Clearly, the future economic potential of our communications companies is bright. Innovative businesses are responding with cutting-edge ideas designed to meet new consumer behaviours and expectations. We must avoid measures that could prevent them from harnessing the potential of the digital technologies that will contribute even more to Canadian competitiveness.

Canadian and Quebec entrepreneurs recognize that unnecessary complication brought on by jurisdictional splitting and the duplication of regulations in all likelihood would hinder their future growth and competitiveness. In question period, I had a number of questions from the hon. member from Quebec who spoke just previously. I quoted Mr. Pierre Karl Péladeau from Quebecor. I indicated that we as a government believed that Canadians wanted less regulation, not more.

Here is what this leading Quebec business person and leading broadcaster in Quebec had to say about the equivalent of a CRTC in Quebec. He said, “A Quebec equivalent of the CRTC would complicate, not simplify things. My position is fairly clear. I believe the solution is the deregulation of the industry”. That is what a gentleman from Quebec in the industry had to say. It is in the complete opposite direction of the Bloc's Bill C-444.

Adding complexity to regulation, which the passing of Bill C-444 would most certainly accomplish, would only hinder the capacity of our industries to meet the promising opportunities ahead to further develop and prosper and continue to offer Canadians a diversity of content and service choices.

Our government, which has a record of putting consumers first, strongly believes that fragmenting regulatory control and supervision would not be serving Canadians, including Quebeckers, well. In fact, they would be poorly served. Such action would result in additional cost and uncertainty for consumers across the country. This is of great concern to us and that is why we are formally opposed to Bill C-444.

Just previous to the debate on this bill, we talked about an issue, which I and the minister have termed as the "itax". It may be the simplest way to convey what we talked about a bit earlier. It is the recognition of digital technologies in the ever emerging landscape. We have to acknowledge that there is tremendous platform change occurring not only in this country but globally.

Today we live in an era where every person in the House, every person from coast to coast to coast in this nation could become a broadcaster if they wanted. All they need is a camera and a home computer. It is easy. That is the context in which we live.

Trying to put barriers around things and trying to put constructs up like what we built in the sixties, simply will not work in a modern media context, in a modern broadcast environment. The complexities and regulations that the bill would seek to put in place upon the province of Quebec would hinder, not assist, the Quebec cultural economy and artists in Quebec.

Everyone in the House can acknowledge that the cultural sector in Canada has really hit its stride, whether those artists are from Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, either of the territories, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, it does not matter. Canada has hit its stride culturally. We are leading the world when it comes to cultural innovations and creativity.

I am so proud of Canadian artists. What they do not need is a new regulatory body that would seek to hinder and restrict them with new regulations that would simply seek to rebuild something that existed from the past.

The Great Wall of China at one point was probably a very effective tool to keep invading armies on the one side, while those on the other side were safe. The Great Wall of China would not be very effective in defending a nation these days. The new technologies that have come in demonstrate that the walls of the past are simply very easily overcome.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2010 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak to this bill. At the outset, I want to note that the Liberals and the Conservatives seem to be onside, once again opposing this legislation. We saw them yesterday join together as one to try to support Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. Today we see them join together to try to stop Bill C-444.

At second reading we are dealing with the principle of the bill. I would think the Conservatives and particularly the Liberals should be open-minded enough to at least want to send the bill to committee so they could debate it, discuss it and try to amend it, If they do not agree with it at that point, after the amendment process is concluded, by all means, they can come back to the House and vote against it. However, to simply preclude the possibility of the bill going to committee is a very bad choice on their part.

The member who spoke for the Conservatives pointed out that we did not need a new regulatory body, that we did not need duplication of existing regulations. However, he is not prepared to give us the chance to even debate the issue further, to explore the issue in committee, perhaps call witnesses to the committee, look at the issue from all different angles and perhaps come up with a solution that would make everyone happy in the House, particularly the member who introduced Bill C-444. He is prepared to shut the door tight right at the beginning, defeat the bill and move on.

I do not think that is a good approach, particularly since the government finds itself in a minority situation. By the looks of it, it will always be in a minority situation. I see there are signs that it is beginning to accept that fact. There are some signs that it is tentatively making approaches to the opposition. I see it selectively dealing with the Liberals on the Canada-Colombia free trade issue and certainly dealing with other parties on other issues. I applaud it for that because it means it will survive longer as a minority government and it will, at a certain point, learn how to govern properly in a minority situation.

Up until now, it has been more or less a disaster for the government in the minority situation. Clearly from the very beginning, it could never accept the idea it was a minority and so it gave up on the idea, very early on, of trying to make a minority government work. It is going to take it a while to learn. There are some signs it is learning, but this is not one of them. The government should at least be open-minded enough to send the bill to committee.

My colleague from Vancouver Kingsway also spoke on this issue earlier today. He had indicated that the bill opened up a potential debate for members of the House to deal with public broadcasting and cultural policy in the country. My party and I are very strong believers in public broadcasting. I am a very strong supporter of the CBC. Many members here are of the same age or older than I am and will know that when we were growing up we only got one channel. It was the CBC and it was in black and white, so we had a very positive view of CBC programming in those days.

Things have developed and things have changed over the years. We now have multiple stations competing for the viewers and we have introduced the private sector.

The government, that is basically very dedicated to whatever the private sector wants, the private sector gets, is tied to deregulation. If we could redraw the map from a Conservative point of view, we would sell off or dismantle the CBC, turnover the whole market to the private sector, and while we did all of that, we would dismantle all the regulations. We would allow free enterprise to run its course.

We would have a situation develop where we would have the big guys gobbling up the little guys to the point where we would have just one or two broadcasters, media giants, in Canada and that is in fact what has happened.

Then we get to deal with the whole issue of the too big to fail syndrome. We have a situation right now with CanWest essentially going into bankruptcy because the original owners and founders of the company managed to load the company with $5 billion of debt. Then when the market downturn happened and the economy dove a couple of years ago, the bond holders were forced to take over the company. Now we see them basically selling off the assets to other corporate takers and that process is ongoing at this point.

Coupled with that we find ourselves in the middle of an extreme recession and the government announced last year that it was planning to sell off crown assets to, I believe, realize $2 billion.

I am not aware that it was able to do any of that last year, but I know the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance is listening very attentively and taking notes, I might add, and I am certain that this coming year the government will find a way to realize that $2 billion and maybe more by selling off public assets.

We on this side of the House have suggested that one of those public assets that it may be interested in selling off might be the CBC.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2010 / 2:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is a pivotal moment in the debate on Bill C-444, an extremely important time, because now the time has come to decide whether or not to send the bill to committee.

I listened to my colleagues' comments, from both the Conservatives and the Liberals. They had two major concerns about a vote on the bill. I will try one last time to convince them.

However, before anything else, I would like to thank the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert from the bottom of my heart for her excellent work as culture critic for the Bloc Québécois. She has done an excellent job and is always professional.

One of the first concerns brought up by the Liberals was the issue of where the bill came from. It all started with Louis-Alexandre Taschereau in 1929, who was the Liberal Premier of Quebec at the time. The letter from Ms. St-Pierre to the Conservatives' Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages shows this. Historically, the Government of Quebec has always insisted that it should play a role in broadcasting and telecommunications. In 1929, it was the first government to legislate the broadcasting sector, given the need to safeguard Quebec culture and identity.

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

A Liberal minister is calling for the creation of a CQRT. Robert Bourassa called for that as well, as did Liza Frulla. We see that the Liberals have every reason to support their provincial colleagues and even their former colleague, Liza Frulla who, at the time, was herself a minister under the federal Liberal government.

We see that it would be in the Liberals best interest to continue in the logic they are trying to apply. Of course, knowing Liberal wisdom, when it comes time to vote in the House, there may be a different outcome.

The second concern was expressed by the Conservatives. They did not understand the importance of the CQRT and said it could create new regulations, a new organization and new problems. There would not be much more administration and bureaucracy; the intent is to decentralize. The Conservatives, the right-wing ideologues, should actually be in agreement with the idea of decentralization. Is it not logical that, by allowing the provinces to legislate in this area and to manage their own broadcasting commissions, there would be less administration and bureaucracy, which is in keeping with right-wing thinking?

The Conservatives would thus be very interested in voting for this bill for this as well as another reason. They recognized the Quebec nation in the House and it was voted on. Would passing this bill not be a fantastic tool and would it not give substance to the recognition of the Quebec nation? Instead of being just window dressing, this recognition would have real benefits for Quebec.

Those are two very good arguments directed at the Conservatives. As for the Liberals, they should follow in the footsteps of such colleagues as Ms. Frulla.

Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

March 8th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

March 8th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
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Beauport—Limoilou Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

March 8th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

March 8th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

March 8th, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative 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.

Broadcasting ActRoutine Proceedings

September 28th, 2009 / 3:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-444, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act (broadcasting and telecommunications policies).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a bill that will allow the federal government to delegate the authority, to those provinces that so choose, to regulate broadcasting and communications in their territory.

By allowing the creation of a Quebec broadcasting and telecommunications council, this bill will give Quebec the opportunity to establish regulations adapted to the specific needs of the Quebec nation and reflecting its aspirations, which the CRTC cannot do currently.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)