Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization Act

An Act to provide for the incorporation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Bradley Trost  Conservative

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

Status

Defeated, as of May 3, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-308.

Summary

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

This enactment allocates share capital to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and authorizes the issuance of those shares to a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada. It also provides for the continuance of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a corporation to which the Canada Business Corporations Act applies and makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

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

May 3, 2017 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

April 10th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, due to the fact that my debate was cut into two pieces, I will reiterate a bit of what I was saying before. I was talking about the fact that there are definitely a lot of aspects of the CBC that I do enjoy and use from time to time. I was talking about the Vinyl Cafe and The Shepherd. This Hour Has 22 Minutes is another CBC program that I watch from time to time, and I find it very hilarious most of the time. The content of the CBC is not what my argument is about today.

I think there is a role for a public broadcaster, which is for there to be a method by which, in the case of emergency, the Government of Canada can communicate with all Canadians in a hurry. In that respect, I think there is a role for a public broadcaster in this country. I do not think there is necessarily a role for a public broadcaster to produce content. Content production could be done from a number of other sources. I know that, especially now with the modern Internet, there is lots of content being produced all over the world and all over Canada from various areas. If we had an ability to put that content on the platform, that would be great.

The platform may have to be subsidized, particularly CBC Radio, to keep the infrastructure there. I know that CBC Radio is one constant as one drives across the country and in northern Canada. Given that we have satellite radio and things like that, maybe it is not as necessary as it once was, but I think an argument could be made for that.

I also took in a speech by a Mr. Dwayne Winseck from the Carleton school of journalism, who pointed out that in countries that spend more on public broadcasting, the citizens tend to spend more on media. He said that we should therefore spend more on public broadcasting or public media so that there is a bigger market share for those who are not in the public sphere, because then people spend more. To me, however, he is making the correlation is causation argument, and there is not necessarily that case to be made. I would say the opposite is probably more true.

The very fact that the government is producing media means that it costs more to get an alternative perspective, or it costs more for other groups to even meet the threshold to be noticed or to be heard. I would argue that we should not be funding content or media because it causes the consumer, the everyday Canadian, to have to spend more money to get an alternative perspective.

He showed that Switzerland spends $150 per person on public media via the government, and then the people of Switzerland tend to spend about $100 of their own money to get media as well, so there is a media space of $250. He said that this is a great thing because there is more money for journalists like him to be producing, since money is being spent in both streams.

I would argue that because the government is funding one particular media stream, in order for any other media streams to compete with that, they have to break that threshold of $150 per person. We want to have broad discussions in this country, and we are now creating a threshold which has to be crossed. In Canada, by the way, we spend only $33 per Canadian on the public broadcaster. It may be up to $35 now; my numbers are a little old. There is a $35 threshold that we have to break, and that needs to be looked at.

As we go through this discussion today, I do not think this particular bill is going to pass, but I will be supporting it because I think that we have to look at the whole marketplace of media in this country and consider how the CBC is affecting it, not necessarily the content of the CBC, but how subsidizing one particular group has an effect. It basically places a $33 threshold per person on media that every other media group then has to break through in order to be heard.

The United States subsidizes its public media by $3, so there is a three-dollar threshold that has to be broken. That makes it make much easier for alternative media organizations to get off the ground.

With that, I conclude my comments.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

April 10th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, what a privilege it is to be able to rise on this very important, significant day. As members can see, I am wearing something a bit different, a turban. Today is turban day on the Hill. If I may, I would provide a very brief comment and then show how it is actually relevant to what we are talking about today.

The Prime Minister, and many others, would ultimately argue that Canada's greatest strength is our diversity. We should be very proud of the diversity Canada has. I really do believe that the CBC, whether it is radio or television, is one of the ways in which we can talk about that diversity.

I started by talking about today being turban day. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to get a great appreciation of Sikhism and, in particular, members from the Punjabi community and our Indo-Canadian community as a whole. We get a better appreciation once we attend the many different events, whether it is at the gurdwaras or at special occasions. That allows us to have a better appreciation of Canada's heritage and that very rich diversity we have. Over the years, I have seen first-hand the CBC, for example, getting engaged in issues surrounding the ethnic and religious makeup of our country, promoting tolerance and diversity, and raising issues surrounding that.

I must thank Baltej Singh Gill, who is in the parliamentary precinct today providing the opportunity for members of Parliament to put on a turban. The turban is very important to Sikhism. It is part of the five Ks, which were established hundreds of years ago. It helps identify and gives strength to Sikhism as a faith.

I can appreciate that the debate today is about the CBC. I want to provide my comments in regard to why I do not support what the Conservative Party has put forward. We can see a significant difference between political parties on this issue. There is a certain element within the Conservative Party that genuinely believes that the CBC should virtually not exist, or at least not exist in terms of receiving public finances.

I disagree with that. I believe the majority of individuals inside this House recognize the true value of the CBC, not only in the past and in the present, but also into the future. I have had the opportunity, over the years, to provide comments and to get engaged with the CBC, both radio and television. I believe I have a fairly good understanding and appreciation of the role that our public broadcaster, both in radio and TV, plays in society. I would not want to see us minimize that. In fact, I would suggest that we should be looking at ways in which we can continue to see the CBC playing a strong role going into the future. For example, I look at what has taken place with the Internet over the last decade-plus, and I see that there is a very robust attitude from all forms of media that look at the Internet as a way in which they can communicate with Canadians in Canada and beyond.

When I think of the CBC, I do think of the preservation and promotion of issues such as our heritage. When I was in the military, I would often hear of individuals from around the globe who listened to CBC Radio, for example, and saw CBC Radio as one of the ways to keep in touch with what was taking place here in Canada. I suspect that if members had the opportunity to talk to the many Canadians who, for a wide variety of reasons, are not living in Canada today, they would see that these individuals in fact go to the CBC in order to keep in touch with what is happening here in Canada. I think that this is a very important contribution in itself.

We have seen numerous documentaries. We will find that public broadcasting documentaries continue to grow and they have a great future. Canada is not alone. There are other countries. In fact, the U.K. has the BBC, and the BBC is fairly well known around the world. The CBC has a very strong, positive recognition. It has demonstrated leadership on the issue of public relations and broadcasting, and it has played that leading role for decades.

Millions of Canadians tune in to CBC Radio and TV, because they understand the benefits, not only of news broadcasting but other programming. The member across the way made reference to other programs that the CBC has had over the years. Not necessarily to highlight any specific programs, but there have been very successful programs that the CBC has made, a part of who we are in identifying parts of Canada's history. Different regions of our country have played an important role in CBC's development. For one, Manitoba is a better and healthier province because of the local attention that is given through the CBC.

Most important, when Stephen Harper was prime minister, he was sending a message to Canadians, if not directly then indirectly, by the cutbacks that he was putting in place and the unwillingness to have members of the Conservative government stand in their place and recognize the valuable role that the CBC has played in our society here in Canada. That is why I was very pleased when this government, in addressing its budget, committed to more than $500 million over the next five years in terms of investment into CBC broadcasts, both in radio and in television.

I believe that we have a government today that recognizes the valuable role the CBC plays, and we want to be able to support that. I have had the opportunity in the past to have discussions with Conservative members regarding the CBC, and I do not know whether it is unanimous on the other side of the chamber within the Conservative Party; I suspect we might find a couple of individuals who would recognize it.

I have heard commentaries from other broadcast associations, from individuals who are involved in media outlets that many would suggest are in competition with the CBC, compliment and provide assurances that the CBC is in fact a very important aspect of the broadcast industry as a whole. I would not want to diminish in any way CBC's role in the broadcast industry, and it concerns me that more and more Conservatives are feeling bolder on the issue of the demise of this public broadcasting station, predicting or wanting to see its demise.

Most Canadians recognize the intrinsic value of the CBC. Most Canadians would acknowledge that, whether in radio or TV broadcast, or, more and more, in its stronger presence on the Internet, the CBC has a very important role to play and there is an obligation to support the CBC. We do that with budgetary measures. With that, I believe the government is back on the right track in dealing with our public broadcaster.

I look forward to having for many years into the future a broadcaster that takes into consideration and supports the industry as a whole, showing just how important our culture and heritage are and ensuring that we have good-quality programming. It complements the broadcasting industry as a whole by having a strong and healthy public broadcasting system.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

April 10th, 2017 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, while I am disappointed that we are speaking about privatization of the CBC today, I am very happy to take this opportunity to strongly oppose this bill and support the continued existence of a stronger publicly owned and publicly funded CBC.

I have a strong history with the CBC. I have done regular spots on CBC Radio for many years and have come to know many of the fine people who work there, so I feel a strong connection with the CBC, particularly with CBC Radio. My comments today will mainly concern CBC Radio and the critical role it plays in both providing a trusted source of news and commentary for Canadians and being a common cultural thread across our country.

I represent the riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay. It is a relatively large riding, about 500 kilometres across. It comprises a series of isolated valleys and intervening mountain ranges. When I drive across my riding, it is CBC that keeps me informed and entertained over five hours and five mountain passes. Because of the terrain, I have to regularly change stations to keep in touch. My car radio is set up so that it starts with Penticton, and switches frequencies at Oliver, Osoyoos, again at Rock Creek, Grand Forks, again at Christina Lake, and finally at Castlegar, Trail, and then fades up the Slocan Valley until I have to switch to 900 AM in Nakusp and Arrow Lakes. Just as these stations on my car radio link my trips across South Okanagan—West Kootenay, the CBC links Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Like many Canadians, I have friends in all parts of the country, and they all listen to CBC Radio. My friends on the Cape Shore of Newfoundland listen to CBC Placentia at 94.1. My friends in northern Baffin Island listen to Pond Inlet 105.1, which coincidentally is the same frequency that my Yukon colleagues at the Arctic Institute on Kluane Lake tune into using the Destruction Bay repeater. My friend Peter Hamel in Masset on Haida Gwaii, or greater Masset, as he likes to call it, listens to CBC at 103.9. My Bird Studies Canada colleagues in Long Point on Lake Erie tune in to Tillsonburg 88.7, although the signal is a bit sketchy out there on the lake and it is easier to listen to stations from Erie, Pennsylvania.

These are not money-making stations or repeater services. They would not survive privatization and we would lose that unifying voice that the CBC provides, but they give my friends and me a common thread to this country.

We used to talk of Peter Gzowski's interviews and, in recent years, the wonderful stories of Stuart McLean. I was deeply moved by the heartfelt tributes in this place when Stuart passed away earlier this year. All of us here and all Canadians lost an important friend who knew what it was to be Canadian, who worked throughout his career to bring us together through his stories and the stories of listeners that he would read on air.

During the election campaign in 2015, the CBC came up in every all-candidates forum I attended. People were concerned about cuts to the CBC budget. When I replied to those concerns that the NDP would restore the CBC's budget, I was greeted with loud applause. It was clearly something the audience fully supported. The Liberal candidate would stand and repeat that pledge, as the Liberals did with everything the NDP said in that campaign, and get the same strong response from the audience.

Canadians overwhelmingly and unequivocally support the CBC. I would like to repeat here some of the poll results in recent years regarding the CBC.

In 2014, a Nanos Research poll found that 72% of Canadians had high trust and confidence in the CBC. Eighty-seven per cent of Canadians said they were in favour of increasing or maintaining funding. Only 10% said they wanted to see the broadcaster's funding cut.

A 2013 Nanos Research poll found that 80% of Canadians believe the CBC plays an important role in strengthening Canadian culture and identity. This poll also found that 80% of Canadians supported increasing CBC funding or maintaining it at its current levels. Only 16% said they would decrease it. Moreover, 57% of Conservative Party supporters said they would increase or maintain CBC funding, while only 37% would decrease it.

A 2009 Pollara survey, according to the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, said that 78% of Canadians tune into some form of CBC programming. Seventy-six per cent rate the CBC's performance in fulfilling its mandate as good to excellent. Eighty-three per cent believe the CBC is important in protecting Canadian identity and culture. Seventy-four per cent would like to see the CBC strengthened. Sixty-three per cent believe that the CBC provides value for taxpayers' money. Eighty per cent believe the CBC is best suited to provide Canadian programming on television. Seventy-four per cent believe that annual funding to the CBC should be increased. Fifty-four per cent support the Commons' heritage committee recommendation that CBC funding should increase to $40 per Canadian, and 20% believe that $40 per Canadian is too low. Finally, 70% of Canadians believe the CBC should be most responsible for ensuring that Canadian programming continues to be an integral part of the Canadian economy and culture, and only 18% favoured private broadcasters.

Last, when asked, “Assume for a moment that your federal MP asked for your advice on an upcoming vote in the House of Commons on what to do about CBC funding”, as we are doing now, 9% of Canadians said they would advise their MP to decrease funding, only 9%. Thirty per cent said they would advise to maintain funding at current levels, and 47% said they would advise their MP to increase CBC funding.

The member for Saskatoon—University actually said, perhaps in jest, that privatizing the CBC would ensure that Canadians can actually participate and own it. Canadians already own the CBC and they participate in it every day by the millions.

The CBC is one of the iconic institutions and policies that define Canada, just like universal health care. It celebrates our common culture and gives full voice to our diversity.

I think that the member for Saskatoon—University has introduced this bill to play to a very narrow base of support in his Conservative leadership campaign, and I do not think that this chamber is the right forum for this kind of messaging. Our time would likely be better spent discussing more relevant issues that are of concern to a broad spectrum of Canadians. However, I am very happy that this debate gave me the opportunity to speak strongly and unequivocally in favour of a publicly owned CBC. Our country would be infinitely poorer without it.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

April 10th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today as the official opposition critic for Canadian heritage and national historic sites. In that capacity, I of course have responsibility for such files as the Canadian public broadcaster, the CBC. Therefore, let me state clearly from the outset what the Conservative Party's position is, as endorsed by our delegates at party conventions: “The “CBC-SRC is an important part of the broadcasting system in Canada. It must be a true public service broadcaster, relevant to Canadians. We will focus the CBC-SRC services on its mandates as public broadcasting services.” That is our party policy. That is our official position as a party.

There are times when the CBC strays very far from those objectives. We are very fortunate, however, that the CBC is capable of being there. We need only look at this past weekend to see the CBC playing that role properly with the good coverage we saw around the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge. It was very positive, and the proper role, I think, of a public broadcaster. I think of the drama we are seeing this year, Anne, which is another re-creation introducing what is a Canadian classic, and indeed one that has stood the test of time very well, to a whole new generation of young Canadians, and older Canadians, too, I have to confess. Again, I think it is fine, excellent work, and something we can all be proud of, which is the sort of thing we would like to see from a public broadcaster. I am particularly encouraged to see Canada: The Story of Us, which is a focus on history.

Those are the kinds of things a public broadcaster should be doing, telling Canadians their stories about Canadian history, our literature, and the important historical events that have made us what we are today. Sadly, it is all too rare.

One hears criticism, for example, in the newspapers these days of this project, Canada: The Story of Us, from a bunch of different perspectives. However, if I can put it in a nutshell, what all of those critics are saying is one thing, “I don't hear my story there” or “I don't see my story there”. Does that mean there is something wrong with the programming being shown? I do not think so. I think it is very high quality, and I commend the CBC for doing it. Do I agree with every view expressed? Of course not. History would not be history if we all agreed on it. Of course, we all have different views and perspectives. That is as it should be, and it is great that this debate be stimulated.

However, when people are saying that they do not see their story there, they are acknowledging what has been a failure of the CBC as a public broadcaster, which is to play exactly that role. The fact is that series like Canada: The Story of Us are too few and far between, and when one occasionally comes along, people necessarily are going to be left out. Stories are going to be left out from what is a magnificent array of Canadian history. What that shows us is that it has not been doing its job properly. That is an important consideration: Is the CBC doing the right things that a public broadcaster should do? That is what our party position is. That is what I would like to see happening. That is certainly what we are seeing some good examples of right now, but we have seen too few in the past.

Does it make sense for a broadcaster in a public role to be trying cheap reality TV shows, imitations of American programming? I do not think so. That is not its proper function. At the same time, we have to ask ourselves if the CBC produces value for the tremendous volume of tax dollars that Canadians give it, which is well in excess of $1 billion a year. Are Canadians consuming that? The fact is, the numbers show that the eyeballs are dropping. The relevance is declining. The CBC is not playing that role properly. I put it to members that if that money was focused, if it spent it more sensibly on what would be the true public broadcaster role, I think we would find it would be far more heartening, and it would do a much better job of that.

I look at those stories in Canada: The Story of Us, and I have to confess that even I, a bit of a Canadian history buff, am learning things I did not know before. We can all debate the perspectives, but that is what the CBC should be doing. I know there were journalists who contacted me in the effort of getting that kind of cheap shot they wanted, because the Prime Minister did an introduction at the outset of the series. I declined to do that. They wanted me to say it was not appropriate. I know my seven-year-old thought it was not appropriate. However, I said I was heartened to see it.

I commended the CBC for taking the initiative to focus on Canada's history. I was heartened to see the Prime Minister actually encouraging it, because in his other policies, he has been doing exactly the opposite. He has been turning his back on Canadian history, adding to the vacuum in the understanding of who we are. We see that most notably with the decisions on the themes for the 150th anniversary of Confederation, which were changed by the government to include four themes, all of them merit-worthy but excluding history and the story of Confederation itself as permissible themes. That was absurd. Fortunately, the public broadcaster, in its wisdom, was wiser than the Prime Minister and is talking about exactly such things, in a dramatic fashion. For this, it is to be commended.

However, there are other things we have to trouble ourselves with that we have legitimate concerns about in terms of the role of the public broadcaster. I do not want to be a TV critic, but is another stale comedy that has been on the air for decades, that folks are kind of tired of, the right way to go? I do not know.

Certainly, the most difficult fit for any public broadcaster is that of public affairs and news broadcasting. When a state broadcaster is engaged in the news, we look at it, in most countries around the world, with a lot of skepticism. A state broadcaster in Russia or in a place like Syria, which I suppose has a state broadcaster, I do not know, we immediately conclude is propaganda. If we look at RT, which is the state broadcaster projecting abroad for Russia, it is clearly propaganda.

There is always a discomfort when taxpayers' money is used to cover the news. This controversy goes back some time. The CBC was actually created as the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission by the Conservative government of R.B. Bennett. However, it was not too long before its news and public affairs role began to land it in trouble. Once Mackenzie King was in government, lo and behold, it changed the name to the CBC and took decisions, for example, not to cover the Conservative leadership convention. This, of course, attracted a lot of attention. Why is that? It was because it looked to everyone like a deliberate effort by a state-run broadcaster to diminish attention on the opposition Conservative Party. That goes back in time. These kinds of apprehensions and perceptions of bias have been there for a long time.

It is not crazy. If we look at any academic study done of journalists over the past 50 or 60 years, we will see that not too many of them vote Conservative. I do not know why. It seems to be something about who gets drawn into what professions, but that is the case. I will bet that is the case today. In those circumstances, we can understand why people are quick to perceive bias and concern.

Then, of course, there is the fundamental question, with the CBC, of value for money. A tremendous amount of money is being spent, and there are real questions based on how Canadians are voting, and voting with their feet.

At the heritage committee, we have been hearing criticism about how the public broadcaster is using those massive subsidies of billions of dollars. As the world is changing and we are seeing more and more people going online, the criticism we are hearing from the print journals, the newspapers that are in trouble, and other radio and television outlets is that the CBC is using its dominant position and taxpayer subsidies to squeeze everyone else out in the online news universe. It is attracting the advertising there, using the public subsidy to have an advantage in that news gathering. In the process, it is harming and putting those newspapers out of business. When the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission was established, when the CBC was established, no one contemplated a role in an online world. Is that an appropriate one for the CBC? That is an important question.

There are some real questions we as Conservatives have, but let me make it clear and understood by everyone that the party policy position is that we support a public broadcaster. We would just like the CBC to play the role of a genuine public broadcaster, bringing forward the literature, theatre, and music of Canada.

I point to what was seen in the past year as one of the rare successes of the CBC, and that was the final broadcast of the Tragically Hip concert from Kingston, which ignited the imaginations of a lot of people. These are the kinds of things that get Canadians excited and supportive of a public broadcaster, because it is being a public broadcaster.

If the CBC is to avoid facing an ongoing tide of the kind of initiative we are debating here to privatize the CBC, to abolish the CBC, it should look seriously at how it can better play the role of being a genuine public broadcaster and put on the air fine programming like Canada: The Story of Us , like the Anne miniseries, and like the coverage we saw of Vimy this weekend. It was CBC at its best. It is capable of doing it. Sadly, it is all too rare.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

April 10th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to this legislation this morning.

Like my colleague, when I was asked to speak to the bill, I decided I needed to go to our policy and see whether this is something I can support, and I actually came to the opposite conclusion of that of my colleague.

I will read again the part he read, that we believe that the “CBC-SRC is an important part of the broadcasting system in Canada”. That is true. It plays a major role in Canada across the country. It says that “[i]t must be a true public service broadcaster”. When I read that, I wondered what this is specifically talking about. The bill says “public service broadcaster”. It does not say publicly owned broadcaster. We heard some comment earlier about what this would imply. Does it mean the CBC should be covering emergency services? Should it be covering cultural events, as my colleague just spoke about? Is it about public information? I do not know that it says that the CBC has to be a publicly owned, taxpayer-funded regular broadcaster. That is not how I read that.

It says that the CBC needs to be “relevant to Canadians”. As we have heard in the debate in the House, both from the Liberal side and our side, there is some concern about whether the CBC is relevant to Canadians and how relevant it really is.

What could show public support for a broadcaster more than having private shares issued and having the public decide if it wants to support it? Those Canadians who want to step forward could then put their money where they want it to be. It would be a test of whether the CBC has the support of the public if the bill successfully passes.

I am here to speak to Bill C-308, a bill brought forward by my colleague from Saskatoon—University. I was going to discuss the CBC and its potential future, but I want to talk a bit about the history of the CBC as well, which has been covered a bit here.

During the 1920s in Canada, a number of private media outlets were being set up, particularly radio stations across Canada. It is my understanding that the Canadian National Railways was one of those companies that was establishing media outlets across Canada. It had stations in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Moncton, and Vancouver and covered things like concerts and comic opera, school broadcasts, and historical drama, the kinds of things my colleague just talked about. At that time, no full national program had been developed, but it was coming along.

A Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting, under the chairmanship of John Aird, was appointed by Mackenzie King in 1928. The concern was that some of the private Canadian stations were falling into U.S. hands. The BBC was also being held up as an example. There were those who felt that private broadcasting in Canada could not provide an adequate Canadian alternative to the United States. It is interesting to note that almost 100 years later, we are still hearing some of those same arguments.

The private CNR radio stations and other private broadcasting stations were seen to be not enough to stop the idea that public ownership of the media was important. There was a feeling among some that the taxpayer needed to contribute to this media as well.

The moving force within the Aird commission was Charles Bowman, who was the editor of The Ottawa Citizen at the time. He argued that public ownership of broadcasting was necessary to protect Canadians against American penetration. It would be interesting to understand a bit more about the politics that would have been revolving around those decisions at that time as well.

In 1929, just before the stock market crash, the Aird commission presented its report. It recommended the creation of a national broadcasting company. The commission saw it being set up as a public utility but funded by the taxpayer. It would have a responsibility for “fostering a national spirit and interpreting national citizenship”.

Specifically, the report called for the elimination of private media stations. The commission did not want any private stations at all. It thought they should be compensated but removed from the networks. Obviously, when the stock market crashed, that changed a number of things.

It took a while for CBC/Radio-Canada to be set up, but it was established as a crown corporation in 1936. While it may have had a mandate to foster national spirit right from the start, it has always been controversial. My colleague just talked about some of the early controversy even about that.

The question Canadians asked then and are asking now is whether Canadians need a taxpayer-funded broadcaster. For many years it was argued that the CBC was necessary because Canadians did not have direct media service. I come from probably one of the least populated areas of the country, but I think that argument only holds true as new technology is introduced and as it takes time to spread across the country.

I would like to use a couple of examples. There was radio service across Canada in the twenties, thirties, and forties. As TV developed, obviously it took a while longer for TV to get into the rural areas. Would it not have been a better argument at the time to actually spend taxpayers' money to provide the hard infrastructure, the things like the towers, so that people in rural communities actually had the infrastructure to carry those signals, rather than having control of the content, which is what the argument was about the CBC?

Our first TV station was the CBC, in the early 1960s. CTV followed a few years later, and, it was interesting, so did stations from Montana. We were served by five national broadcasters in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan in what many would have considered the back of beyond.

I remember CBC in those days. Hockey Night in Canada was one of the first programs I remember watching on a black and white TV. We had to get fairly close to it. We could not see the puck. We could just see these grainy figures moving around. In those days, I was actually a Montreal Canadiens fan. Over the years there was a whole pile of other teams and it kind of got diluted, but obviously, the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins were what we watched on Hockey Night in Canada.

There were other things like Bonanza and Red Skelton that came up from the States, and we thought they were great entertainment. Front Page Challenge was another one people watched. I think it was Sunday night when people sat in front of the TV and watched Front Page Challenge.

However, times changed, and other networks were developing with private money. The CBC lost its uniqueness long before Front Page Challenge went off the air, I would argue, as other commercial alternatives developed. Even in our remote part of the world, as I mentioned, we had three U.S. networks, CBC, and CTV, and certainly there was nothing we saw that was unique about CBC. It was mostly the same types of shows, the same types of news, just maybe at different times. Hockey Night in Canada stood out as one thing that was unique, as I mentioned, but even a new CTV without the subsidy was able to develop and go head to head with CBC with its taxpayer assistance.

From my Conservative viewpoint, I think what a shame it was that a company, trying to develop, would have to compete directly with taxpayers' money, and on the flip side of it, that taxpayers were stuck paying for the development of a structure that was being duplicated commercially. It was just, from my perspective, a lot of wasted money. The opportunity for change came and went without adaptation, guaranteeing that CBC would become more and more irrelevant.

CBC and its supporters have always tried to convince Canadians that it is some sort of national institution, but practically, it never has been. The only thing that has made it national is that taxpayers across this country have been stuck paying the bill. The notion that it provides some sort of unbiased Canadian content has not been proven, even as recently as last week, when two provinces were already taking great exception to the latest history project that is going on.

A second example of this failure, I would think, was evident yesterday. I went on the online website, and among dozens of headlines on there, I could not find one, not one, that was critical in any way of the present government. That seems to be quite a change from a couple of years ago. There was not a single critical headline on its website, in spite of the fact that we have a government that is mired in corruption, following a budget that has been universally panned, and in the midst of an attempt to unilaterally change the rules of the national legislature . I do not know where all of their investigative reporters went to. Perhaps they have left, but I doubt it. I think it is just that they actually cannot find anything to criticize.

A constituent called me a couple of weeks ago disgusted by some of the content he saw on TV early in the evening. It was 8 o'clock at night, and his seven-year-old son was with him, and he said it was completely inappropriate content for young people. He contacted the CBC. They told him that he did not actually watch it and that it was not shown at that time of night, so what he thought he saw, he did not see. That was their way of dealing with his complaint about content. I do not think the CBC is actually listening to Canadians at all.

The establishment of the CBC meant that right from the beginning, the taxpayers were paying the bill. Right from the beginning, I would argue, the cost was just too high to be justified. It still is in this day of media expansion.

Let us talk about the taxpayers. We sit here with 100 or 200 TV channels on most of our televisions. We have 1,000 or 2,000 internet channels. We have instant news from all over the world. We have movies and videos from dozens of sources. We have cable TV that has the capacity to charge for what people use but that is burdened with having to carry unpopular subsidized channels, and we have private companies delivering professional production and news services that are paying their own way.

In the middle of all this, there is a $1-billion-plus annual bill to the taxpayer for a provider that no longer provides anything that is unique, and a provider that many Canadians believe fails to provide a balanced and comprehensive view of the issues.

If we look at the mandate, it is not successfully addressing that. It is unnecessary that the CBC be supported by governmental intervention in order for it to continue to exist. It should have been done decades ago. Taxpayers have borne the burden for many years longer than they should have. It is time to make this a commercial entity and let it compete directly with its competitors.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

April 10th, 2017 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all my gracious colleagues, both the ones who will vote in favour of the bill and those who will not be, for providing their insights, their viewpoints, and for being of assistance in this debate.

Let me very quickly go through a few of the major points I have made and then close with an appeal, particularly for my fellow Conservative MPs.

The bill does not propose to do away with the CBC. We need to understand that the CBC will exist. It will just not exist as a government subsidized corporation. The CBC can exist. Other broadcasters exist as do other radio networks. This would privatize it and would relieve the taxpayers of the burden of subsidizing it.

The bill does not seek to deprive Canadians of necessary services. In fact, as my hon. colleague has pointed out, most of these necessary services can be provided in other ways. As one of my colleagues pointed out earlier, the development of Canadian content can be done in a myriad of different ways. The bill would not eliminate the development of Canadian content. Many of the things, the most beloved program in CBC history, Hockey Night in Canada, are done through other ways.

What the bill would do, however, is change the CBC from an entity that is supported by the taxpayers and not responsible to the taxpayers to one of many diverse Canadian voices. I have taken measures in the legislation to provide protection to ensure this would still be a Canadian corporation. Future governments, future parliamentarians may wish to change that, but I have done that to try to calm and assuage some of the concerns.

In summary, I would point out a few reasons why I have done this.

I am very much aware that the legislation is unlikely to pass through the House for a variety of reasons. When the original debate kicked off on the Wheat Board, it was not passed through with one government. Conservative MPs, philosophically free enterprise members of Parliament, became involved and began to talk about it. The Mulroney administration philosophically should have done it, just as the previous Harper administration philosophically should have been prepared to privatize the CBC. However, someone needed to take the first steps to get things going. Someone needed to take the first steps to open the debate, to break the taboo around discussing this subject. That is one of reasons I am trying to do this.

People talk about how CBC brings up together, how it does various things across the country. That may be, but I do not share this view. However, for those who argue this, that was back in the two or three channel universe with one national radio program. That has completely changed. It has moved on and it is gone. We need as members of the House of Commons is discuss what the essential and useful function of government is. If we are to argue as Conservative MPs for tax cuts and for limited government, we cannot spend $1 billion on things like this.

I understand there may be issues, particular things, small things that people may want for the CBC, but that should not prevent members from actually voting for this at second reading. If members believe the radio portion of CBC should continue, move amendments at committee to sever the two. That can be done. Today I am asking members to endorse the bill, to have a vote so we can discuss the principle of restructuring the CBC and make it private. My preference is private across the board, but if we do not move and support it on this in principle, we will not be able to go forth.

Again, I do not see the CBC as representative of all Canadians. I do not see it as good for the taxpayers. That is why I call on members of Parliament to support my the bill to open the debate, to move forward, and to move into the modern era. I thank all members for their support and I appreciate their votes and input in the future.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

moved that Bill C-308, An Act to provide for the incorporation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to introduce my bill, the concept of which has been talked about for a long time by various members, predominantly on this side of the House. I want to make special note of the late former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, who I approached on this subject a few times in the past. He spoke to me about how it was one of his wishes to privatize the CBC. Jim and I discussed it.

Prime Minister Harper had certain feelings on this, even though he never acted on it. Many Conservatives have talked about this for a long time and it is one of my motivations for getting the debate going on this. This is a large institution in our country's history, an expensive institution, so it is important we discuss this and begin to decide what the future holds. That is the background.

I rise to speak in favour of Bill C-308, an act to privatize the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Perhaps the best place to start my remarks today is to emphasize what this legislation does not propose. This bill does not propose to do away with the CBC. It does not propose to dismantle it, reform it, replace it, or tinker with it in other ways.

What the bill actually proposes to do is very simple. It proposes to privatize the CBC, thereby relieving taxpayers of the burden of subsidizing it, freeing it from the amateur influence of meddling politicians and government bureaucrats, and giving average Canadians the opportunity to freely choose whether to participate in its ownership by purchasing shares and exercising the rights and privileges that come with ownership. However, the bill does more than that. It lays out a responsible plan, a road map, so to speak, on how this can be done.

The CBC was first established in the early 1930s, by a Conservative government under R.B. Bennett, as a way of bringing Canadians together when broadcasting was still in its infancy. At the time, the sheer size of Canada, the relative sparseness of its population, and the remoteness of many of its communities made direct participation of the government in the project a necessity. Those days have long since passed.

For decades, privately owned and operated radio and television broadcasters have been providing precisely the same services that the CBC was created to provide. Today there are three networks, with very professional broadcast news services, plus a host of excellent regional English and French news operations. On top of the news provided by each of these networks, there are three full-time cable news channels. These entities have demonstrated that state ownership and taxpayer support of a national broadcaster is largely unnecessary. With the emergence and growing availability of the Internet and satellite communications, that need has been reduced to absolutely zero.

Let me be clear. The bill is not a reflection of the quality of the CBC's products. Everyone in the House will have an opinion about that. Some will be very supportive, while others very critical. None of this matters, though, because the focus of Bill C-308 is neither the character of the CBC nor the quality of its products and services. The focus of the bill is the CBC's status as a state-owned entity and its consequent cost to taxpayers. Let us take a few minutes to discuss those costs.

Each year, taxpayers provide the CBC with more than $1 billion in subsidies. That is in addition to the approximately $600 million a year in revenue it receives from subscribers through cable companies and advertisers, including, among other advertisers, the Government of Canada and other governments.

Last November, the CBC delivered a position paper to the government, proposing that its television operations become ad free and that $500 million be added to its current annual appropriation to make up for the anticipated shortfall in revenue. That would make the CBC's annual cost to taxpayers more than $1.5 billion. Imagine what $1.5 billion dollars a year could do. Instead, we are using that money to ensure that the CBC continues to provide allegedly vital services to Canadians.

However, here is my challenge to those who make that claim. Name one service, vital or otherwise, that the CBC provides that is not provided by other broadcasters or through other media, such as the internet or satellite. The answer is, none.

Even the Minister of Canadian Heritage's own briefing book admits that the CBC/Radio-Canada's indigenous language broadcasts, which are in eight aboriginal languages, would be better produced and managed by first nation peoples themselves. Page 133 of the minister's brief book admits that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission prefers that aboriginal language initiatives, that is, the production and broadcast of radio content in indigenous languages, “are best managed by Aboriginal people and communities”.

Some people may say, but what about developing Canadian talent? The truth is that contrary to popular belief, the CBC does very little, virtually nothing, to develop Canadian talent. Consider, for example, the popular series Murdoch Mysteries. It is wonderful entertainment, I am told, though to be truthful, and perhaps I should apologize for this, I have never seen the program.

The CBC has made a great deal in the past of how it made this the highest-rated Canadian-produced show in the country. This may be, but conveniently forgotten in that narrative is that Murdoch Mysteries was developed and produced by Shaftesbury films, a private production house. It was not picked up by the CBC until 2013, its sixth season. The show was aired on City TV during its first five full seasons. Prior to it becoming a television series, Murdoch Mysteries was a made-for-TV movie under the name Murder C19, broadcast by the American television network Bravo.

This is worth repeating, not because it is the exception, but rather because it is becoming quite typical of Canadian production these days. Murdoch Mysteries was originally developed by a private Canadian production company for an American television network, and when it became a television series, it was broadcast by a private Canadian network for five seasons before the CBC became involved.

The success of this and so many other Canadian productions is due to the quality of the product, the talent of the Canadian producers and actors, not to unique support of the CBC. Yes, many of these productions have received help through special tax credits and artistic grants, but none of that assistance is tied to the CBC. Privatizing the CBC, or even eliminating it, would in no way impact the availability of that assistance.

So, why privatize the CBC? Why not dismantle it altogether, as some of my colleagues on this side of the House have suggested? I do not think that is a fair solution. Whatever one thinks of the character or quality of the services that the CBC provides, the fact is that it does provide those services to a real audience. Simply shutting down the corporation would deprive many Canadians of a product they have come to know and, in some cases, love. I see no reason to do this. Moreover, the CBC employs, directly and indirectly, thousands of workers. I do not believe that these workers should be arbitrarily kicked to the curb.

Privatization will preserve most, if not all, of these jobs, and ensure that the products and services that the CBC currently provides remain available to consumers who want them, so long as those products and services can be delivered in a cost-effective manner consistent with free market principles. Who will determine the cost effectiveness? Who will be the final arbitrators? They will not be faceless bureaucrats, but average consumers.

I have often heard complaints raised in this House, and elsewhere, about the high cost to taxpayers and the manifest unfairness of corporate welfare schemes. A case in point this recent week was an announcement by the government that it plans on providing Bombardier with a cash infusion loan of a little over $370 million. This news provoked a great deal of criticism among hon. members, particularly on this side of the House.

It seems to me that the case of the CBC is the most blatant example of corporate welfare the government engages in. How can members oppose a one-time subsidy of $370 million, which I am not defending, yet turn a blind eye to an ongoing corporate subsidy of more than $1 billion annually? This makes little sense to me.

It also makes little sense to taxpayers who support the idea of privatizing the CBC. Their support is strong and non-partisan. A January 2014 poll by Abacus Data found that 45% of those surveyed supported or strongly supported selling the CBC, compared to 34% who were opposed to the move, while 21% were undecided. The same poll found that 45% of self-identified Liberals supported privatization versus 39% who were opposed. Self-identified New Democrats were split, with 44% supporting privatization and 45% opposed. For Conservative supporters, it is worth noting that 63% of self-identified Conservatives in the same poll supported privatizing the CBC.

This sentiment was hardly unique. A poll conducted at the time of the last budget revealed that most Canadians, by a wide margin, either outright opposed restoring funding cuts the previous government had made to the CBC or at best were ambivalent. That poll said that only 27% of respondents supported increasing funding.

Another reason privatization makes such good sense is that it would give taxpayers the opportunity to derive some financial benefit. Taxpayers would gain at least a modest return through the sale of assets, and those who chose to would be able to invest in the corporation, either directly or perhaps indirectly through mutual funds, as would other institutional investors, such as pension funds, the largest of which, ironically, belongs to public servants.

This would not be the first time Canadians moved large corporations out of the hands of government and into the private sector. During the 1980s, the government privatized both Petro-Canada and Air Canada. At the time, opponents of these privatizations said there would be great calamities. None of these dire predictions came to pass. Today these companies employ thousands of Canadians while delivering vital products and services, all while making money for millions of average Canadians. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that many elderly Canadians today who vehemently protested the decision at the time are now benefiting from the benefits of privatization in the 1980s through their pensions.

Mr. Speaker, the CBC is not a national institution, as it is so often described, but a television and radio broadcast company, no more and no less. At one time, it provided Canadians with a new and vital service that might not have been available without the direct assistance of the government. Those days are long since gone. The CBC is like adult children who live in the basement of their parents' home, trying to discover themselves at their parents' expense. Mom and Dad love them, but that does not change the fact that it is time for them to move out and make their own way in the world.

I have pointed out many reasons why I support this bill I have presented. I would ask all members of this House to give it thorough and thoughtful commentary and support it. It is time for a change. It is time we had a CBC that was private and in the hands of Canadians, not in the hands of the government.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I represent Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Compass, the local CBC news show, is on at six o'clock every evening, and 80% of the televisions that are turned on in Prince Edward Island at six o'clock are tuned in to that program. The CBC is extremely important to places like Charlottetown. The CBC is extremely important to communities that are in a minority situation with respect to official languages. The CBC is extremely important to northern, remote, and indigenous communities. Why does it have to be all about the dollar and not the character of our country?

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree it is about the character of the country, but the question is who actually should provide the voice, the people of Canada or the Government of Canada? Remember, any local news station that gets an 80% market share is not going to vanish, it is going to continue to grow. As I noted in my speech, aboriginal and northern Canadians, even by the government's own briefing books, would be better served by a different system than we have now.

This is about the character. The dollars and cents belong to Canadians. They need the right to decide what to do, but CBC is not a voice for all Canadians. It is a voice for some Canadians and therefore, all Canadians should not pay for it. Other Canadians choose other means and other methods to speak to the country. We do not need the CBC to do it.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's speech, especially the part about the fact that Murdoch Mysteries would still exist even without the CBC, which is reassuring.

CBC/Radio-Canada plays a unique and specific role in the areas of education, information, and the promotion of Canadian culture. This crown corporation has been underfunded for years, especially compared to how the Germans and British fund their independent public broadcasters, for example. Indeed, contrary to what my colleague is saying, it is not the government or bureaucrats who decide what happens at CBC/Radio-Canada. It is a model for others to follow.

However, the Conservatives slashed its budget, and now they are complaining that it has become too commercial, so we might as well fully commercialize it.

Is my colleague aware of the special role that CBC/Radio-Canada plays for francophones across the country?

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Madam Speaker, I respect my colleague and I understand her perspective. I listen to these things and I begin to wonder if people have not realized that the world has changed. People no longer put up the rabbit ears on the TV and get two stations, they get thousands. They get stations from Europe, there is programming all over the world. There are community radio stations, community broadcasts that are easy to produce. People produce them in their basements. We get unique and different voices.

Technology has changed how the world is. Whatever arguments are being made for CBC applied better in the thirties, forties, and fifties. They do not apply in the million-channel universe where we can get programming from everywhere and where individuals are empowered to do their own broadcasting.

I appreciate the hon. member's comments, but this is about looking to the future. A lot of the arguments I am hearing against this are about looking to the past. Our culture is always changing. Our institutions need to change with it.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-308, which provides for the privatization of CBC/Radio-Canada and the amendment of several acts. In studying the bill, it quickly becomes clear that it involves numerous risks for the Canadian broadcasting system, Canadian media corporations, and Canadians in general.

I would first like to point out that the bill seeks to privatize the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation by allowing for its public offering. However, there has been no assessment of the market value of the corporation or of any interest in the market for the share offering. There is no guarantee that selling it would even generate any profit. The corporation as we know it could become unrecognizable.

Let me remind my colleagues that the corporation was created in 1936 to counter the American influence on our radio waves. Today, its mandate is inscribed in the 1991 Broadcasting Act. This act states that CBC/Radio-Canada must offer radio and television services including a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens, and entertains; that is predominantly and distinctively Canadian; that reflects Canada as a whole and serves the needs of the regions and official language minority communities; and that it must be made available throughout the country.

In short, CBC/Radio-Canada represents Canadians and unites them. Bill C-308 would repeal the corporation's mandate as established in the act. Since no other private corporation has to meet the same objectives, the privatization of CBC/Radio-Canada would deprive Canadians of a unique service within the Canadian broadcasting system.

Furthermore, the other laws that govern the corporation, such as the Access to Information Act and the Financial Administration Act, ensure that CBC/Radio-Canada remains accountable. In addition, all of those laws also stipulate that the corporation must remain at arm's length from the government when it comes to its own day-to-day management. The legislation also guarantees its journalistic, creative, and programming independence.

The bill would repeal and modify all of those provisions, to the effect that, as a private corporation, CBC/Radio-Canada would be accountable only to its shareholders. Canadians would no longer be able to get information about its operations or take part in any meaningful way.

The possible economic impacts of privatizing CBC/Radio-Canada are also cause for concern. The corporation currently offers numerous radio and television services in English and French, including national networks and local stations, which includes our vital CBC bureau in Charlottetown.

CBC/Radio-Canada also offers many digital services and is considered a pillar of Canadian content broadcasting in the digital environment. In order to offer those services, the corporation uses a hybrid funding model that combines public funds and self-generated revenues, including advertising revenue.

We do not know how much revenue CBC/Radio-Canada would bring in if it were privatized and was no longer accountable to Parliament. However, we do know that cultural industries are currently transitioning to the digital environment. Some platforms, including traditional television, must overcome major obstacles such as a decrease in advertising revenue.

A privatized CBC/Radio-Canada would generate most of its revenue from advertising. This means its total revenue could be heavily reduced. It is quite probable that it would choose to reduce its offering to ensure profitability. It is also possible that it would first choose to cut its regional services, which serve official language minority communities and indigenous communities, among others. This would be a loss not only for those communities but also for the diversity of voices in the Canadian broadcasting system. We could also see a reduction in the quality and quantity of programming offered to Canadians. For example, let us take the local news. It is of vital importance for Canadian citizens.

The current government believes in a strong Canadian broadcasting system. Its approach involves supporting creative industries, investing in CBC/Radio-Canada , and renewing ties with the corporation. The government is investing $675 million in CBC/Radio-Canada over five years. The corporation has indicated that it will use that money to create new, more distinctly Canadian content, continue its transition to the digital environment, and increase its resources in the region in order to be more local.

This money will be used to recruit the next generation of Canadian talent. It will allow the corporation to continue to support indigenous programming and the services it offers to official language minority communities. Finally, CBC/Radio-Canada has committed to being accountable to Canadians on the use of this new funding. In my opinion, those commitments offer real benefits to Canadians. In contrast, the bill does not contain any meaningful measures as specific as those.

To sum up, the government believes in the importance of our national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada, for expressing Canadian culture and providing Canadian content. The bill would eliminate everything that defines the national public broadcaster and ensures its proper functioning. Privatization would fundamentally transform CBC/Radio-Canada, without guaranteeing that the result would be beneficial for the Canadian broadcasting system, Canadian media corporations, and Canadians. For all of these reasons, the government is opposed to this bill.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives are once again proposing an attack on CBC/Radio-Canada. Today, the member for Saskatoon—University is trying to resuscitate old, outdated debates that are as tired as they are tiresome. I cannot believe that we have to waste precious time in the House discussing how to undermine our public broadcaster for the umpteenth time when there are so many other urgent matters that require our attention, especially since we already know that the vast majority of Quebeckers and Canadians support the CBC. It seems to me that this matter should have been put to rest since the last election. Those watching at home must be thinking that this nonsense was supposed to be over and done with, because they already voted to put an end to it.

There comes a time when people grow tired of hearing the Conservatives' greatest hits. However, the Conservatives insist on taking us for a stroll yet again, and it seems we are not out of the woods yet. We have before us a very detailed, technical bill put together by the Conservatives. If it were to be deemed in order and passed, it would incorporate CBC/Radio-Canada and require the government to ensure that all shares were sold like those of any other publicly traded company.

In other words, what is currently a public broadcaster, as well as an important cultural symbol for countless people and especially for French-speaking people in this country, would become a private enterprise, a private broadcaster like any other that would no longer belong to Canadians. It would cease to be a public asset. This private broadcaster would no longer have to fulfil all the obligations imposed by Canadians as owners and shareholders of the CBC. At present, all Canadians have a stake in the CBC/Radio-Canada.

Make no mistake about it, this bill would take away a basic tool for expressing our culture and setting rigorous broadcasting standards, especially with respect to the news, which impact the entire broadcasting system. A public broadcaster is a tool and its role is to better inform us, and to tell us more about who we are.

Honestly, I cannot believe that we are still talking about this. Just two years ago we had an election where the vast majority of Canadians voted to support the CBC, or at least voted for parties that defended the CBC's role and also promised to increase its funding.

When I say that we are wasting time on this fringe proposal, I mean that there is no time to waste on this type of issue.

I have often said that my two main goals in politics, and here in Ottawa, are climate urgency and defending our distinct culture. I am my party's critic for culture. I spent 25 years in the music industry in Quebec, including at Audiogram, Sony Music, Cirque du soleil, and at various television stations. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, which I am honoured to co-chair, and I can attest to the fact that we have our work cut out for us. We just spent the past few months speaking with many representatives of a sector that has been completely turned upside down, a sector that is tyring to figure out how to come up with new revenue streams, considering all the new platforms.

As everyone knows, our cultural industries are facing a real disaster.

We are very proud of what Quebec has built. We are proud of Bill 101, which strengthens our language rather than letting it fade away. We are very proud of what has been built here in Ottawa: the CBC, the NFB, Telefilm Canada, Canadian content rules, this entire television and cultural ecosystem, the creative works of a generation of builders who were trying to do more than just make it to the end of the week.

We are proud of this framework, this whole sophisticated infrastructure, this work, and these investments that are paying off today all around the world, whether we are talking about Denis Villeneuve, Degrassi, The Weeknd, or Robert Lepage.

Today, all of that is in jeopardy. Unbeknownst to us, the cultural and linguistic treasures that our parents and grandparents fought to defend have all but vanished.

What do our children watch? At the time, it was Passe-Partout, Cornemuse. Today, fewer and fewer programs are produced here at home with voices that will perpetuate our accents and our world view. Netflix Kids is the flavour of the day.

With this upheaval that is at our doorstep and on our screens, we are starting at square one, and we know that everything we do and decide in the coming year, in the coming months, will have to be as good as what was done by the greats, such as Pierre Juneau.

That is why I feel compelled to say that we have no time to lose. We are out of time. We have no time to waste dealing with ideologically-motivated legislation like the one that was dropped on our lap today. We have no time for it because, even though the Conservatives may not realize it, we have serious work to do to defend our culture and defend what they seem to take for granted or worse, what they seem simply to know nothing about.

However, if we must spend time on this, then let us do it. I note that the hon. member for Saskatoon—University made a preposterous statement when he introduced this bill in September. He told the House that privatizing CBC would make the corporation a true public broadcaster instead of a state broadcaster, which will allow Canadians to participate in it and be owners of it.

Mr. Speaker, I will spare you my comments on that.

The bill would result in a fire sale of CBC/Radio-Canada. It would be controlled by a limited number of investors. The bill would dissolve the board of directors and remove all references to CBC/Radio-Canada in the Broadcasting Act and other acts that ensure transparency and accountability.

Today, CBC/Radio-Canada is 100% owned by Canadians. It is an independent broadcaster that operates at arm's length from the state. Most industrialized countries have similar broadcasters. It is not a state broadcaster. It is kind of absurd to suggest that privatizing our public broadcaster would make it more participatory or more democratic. On the contrary, it would become a private broadcaster like any other.

I have to say that I do not really understand why this bill was introduced now that we have left behind a decade of rule by the most right-wing government in our history. We were governed by the right-wing Conservative Party, which spent years getting all worked up about CBC/Radio-Canada and taking aim at it at every opportunity. It was actually kind of undignified.

For years, the Conservatives have been threatening CBC/Radio-Canada and making cuts to the public broadcaster. However, they still took the opportunity to shamelessly appoint to the corporation's board of directors their best friends; their best contributors; Conservative Party lawyers, accountants, and campaign managers; and former Conservative Party MPs.

We understand what is happening here. The member for Saskatoon—University is introducing this bill today because he is now a candidate in the Conservative Party leadership race, the embarrassing spectacle that we have been witnessing over the past few months. It is a race to the bottom where each candidate tries to outdo the other with increasingly right-wing proposals and they all try to stand out by making the most ludicrous suggestions.

The reality is that, despite their relentless efforts and all the breath they wasted in the leadership debates, the Conservatives would never be able to afford to privatize CBC/Radio-Canada because, in one fell swoop, they would lose one of their best sources of funding. In fact, every time they attacked CBC/Radio-Canada by cutting its budget, the next day they would bombard their supporters with outraged emails begging them for another $5.

I have here an email dated November 23, 2016, from the leadership campaign of the member for Saskatoon—University. He signed this letter and sent it to his supporters shortly after introducing the bill that we are discussing today. It reads:

Leaders act while followers talk. That's why I introduced legislation this year to sell the CBC. Bill C-308 is more than just a tool to raise funds for my campaign -- it's an actual plan.

He sent that letter to his political supporters. Just to be sure members understand, I repeat:

“This bill is more than just a tool to raise funds for my campaign”.

What gall. Some people have no shame.

What we should understand is that here, in Parliament, we have better things to do than talk about ideas that are being floated in order to finance a leadership campaign. Is that not what is happening right now? It is inexcusable to waste Parliament's time like this.

I feel like telling my colleague from Saskatoon—University that instead of going to Quebec once every four years to participate in a leadership debate, he should visit us more often to understand our culture and our cultural industries. That is what differentiates us and makes us proud. It is also what has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in our music, recording, film, and dubbing industries, not to mention in theatre and the video game industry.

My colleague should visit francophone communities across Canada and Acadian communities, which trust Radio-Canada to open a window onto the future of their community, to provide cultural ideas for new generations, and to create new enticing projects, both big and small. We could say the same about Quebec anglophones in the Eastern Townships and communities all across the country, including cities.

There was a reason why there were tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets of Montreal in November 2014 in support of CBC/Radio-Canada at the height of the Conservative cuts. We know how much people care about CBC/Radio-Canada. They are proud of it.

As we leave our safe harbour for deeper and unknown waters, I believe it is this pride and sense of belonging that will, more than ever, make CBC/Radio-Canada the flagship of Canadian culture.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 2:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure this afternoon in the House to speak to the private member's bill, Bill C-308.

As an almost 40-year veteran of CTV, it may seem a little peculiar, I am sure, that I would rise today to plead the merits of keeping the CBC as a crown corporation, but I am here to do it.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as we know, has functioned as Canada's public broadcaster for over eight decades. Private broadcasters, and I have worked for them all my broadcasting career, need competition. CBC gives a different perspective and certainly gives private broadcasters that much needed competition. When we have competition, I believe we have innovation. I believe we have diversity. That has elevated, I feel, the quality of journalism in this country and added to our freedom of speech.

As we have heard this week in the heritage committee from the Competition Bureau, there are concerns about not enough competition in this industry. The big private telcos have dominated the private radio and television sector.

Now, being a traditionalist, I respect the fact that the CBC is the oldest existing broadcasting network in this country, with certainly a unique mandate. The mission statement of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as set out in their annual report from the year 2007, is to present programs “designed to inform, enlighten and entertain.... that reflect Canadians and Canada's regions” in both official languages.

Independent polls conducted by Forum Research back in 2011, and again in 2013, revealed that really, the majority of Canadians, 53% in 2011 and 51% in 2013, support the public funding of CBC. Back then, only 25% believed in its privatization.

Privatization of the CBC, as we all know, could save the federal government well over $1 billion, $1.2 billion and more. However, let us ask this question before we talk about the money: what would we lose? We would most certainly lose local broadcast news in many remote regions of this country, plus in minority language communities. Believe me, the private industry has no appetite, zero, to serve these regions in our country. I know, because I have worked for them.

The CBC, with its distinct programming, excels in the educational component of helping Canadians learn about this country, showcasing Canadian culture, showcasing our art, our literature, our history, and probably most important, our geography.

For example, let us just take last summer. Over 11 million people, on a Saturday night, tuned in to CBC to watch the concert by the Tragically Hip. They performed with lead singer Gord Downie. The almost three-hour performance was carried live on CBC TV and CBC Radio and streamed online on its website. It was an opportunity for many to say goodbye, their final farewell to Gord Downie, who had bravely announced earlier in the year that he had terminal brain cancer. No surprise, Gord gave his first interview after the tour to CBC.

To me, this was a prime example of Canadian culture at its best. Private broadcasters had absolutely zero interest in producing this distinct Canadian historic moment. May I say this? Eleven million tuned in. That is nearly a third of the population in this country.

As technology, consumer preferences, and market conditions have changed, the CBC has had to adapt to maintain its role as a leading creator and distributor of Canadian content in this country. There is no doubt that in today's ever-evolving news market, with Canadians increasingly consuming non-traditional media and utilizing non-traditional news sources and social media sites, the appetite for both news and information in this country, believe it or not, has never been higher. Canadians want to consume a variety of sources of information.

The CBC has also nurtured significant talent in this country in the journalism and the entertainment industries: people like Barbara Frum, Lorne Greene, John Candy, Don Cherry, Pierre Burton, Tommy Hunter, Wayne and Shuster, and I could go on and on. Let us not forget the three women who went on to become Canada's governors general: Jeanne Sauvé, Adrienne Clarkson, and Michaëlle Jean are all CBC alumni. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to the award-winning author, journalist, producer, and professor, Stuart McLean, who just passed away on Wednesday. Who will ever forget his humorous stories from Vinyl Cafe?

It should be also noted that the CBC has been and continues to be a source for Canadian expats just to keep up to date with news from home. Back in 1978, I know that seems like a long time ago, CBC became the first broadcaster in the world to use an orbiting satellite for television service. It linked Canada from east to west and, maybe more important, to the north.

Let me quote Hubert Lacroix, president and CEO of CBC, who, in the corporate plan summary from 2016-17 to 2020-21, stated:

The evolution of our regional services also reflects the changing pattern of audience consumption, with mobile and digital services telling stories in new ways and engaging with our audiences. By leveraging web and digital platforms, and adjusting the length of TV supper-hour news shows, we were able to find resources to provide audiences with news updates at different times throughout the day, segments from local morning radio shows simultaneously broadcast on TV, and more news coverage on regional sites and social media. As important as web and digital platforms have become, TV continues to be the place where the majority of Canadians watch content, especially in the evening. In Strategy 2020, we promised that we would not leave TV and radio behind as we transform ourselves into a modern, more relevant public broadcaster.

Lacroix goes on to say CBC/Radio-Canada currently has local programming from its 21 television stations; 88 radio stations; one digital station; two main television networks, one in English, one in French; five specialty TV channels; and four Canada-wide radio networks, two in each official language.

Advertising is CBC/Radio-Canada's second largest source of revenue. In the fiscal year 2015-16, it generated over $250 million. It was only 16% of total revenue and sources of funds. CBC is witnessing some profound shifts in the advertising market that are negatively affecting the outlook of traditional media companies like CBC/Radio-Canada. CBC, though, is not unlike the private broadcasters, which are all experiencing a downturn in advertising revenues. This is an industry-wide problem. We have heard that for the last year in our Canadian heritage committee.

TV is still the king of media. Time spent with it surpasses time spent with any other media. However, some viewers are now watching TV on the Internet, which is becoming particularly evident in the English market. Over time, the CBC expects, and I think we all do, that the Internet and online TV will continue to grow. According to Lacroix, as well as being Canada's largest cultural institution CBC/Radio-Canada is one of the most influential brands in Canada across all industries. Believe it or not, it is the highest-ranked media. Recent tracking shows 57% of Canadians consider one or more of CBC/Radio-Canada's services to be personally important to them, and 73% of Canadians strongly agree there is a clear need and a role for CBC/Radio-Canada in the future.

The media landscape is changing and we all know that what the future holds for any public or even private broadcaster is uncertain. I will say this. We know Canada is a big country; it needs to be serviced with unique Canadian programming. Canadians have enriching stories, and they need to be told so the future generations have a better understanding of how greatly this country has evolved. All of these important points should be taken into consideration when we are looking at Bill C-308.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 2:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I am astonished at the speech by my good friend, the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood. What an amazing defence of our Canadian broadcaster. I thank him.

I want to share some observations and experiences that I have had with the CBC. I heard about the CBC before I even came to Canada. I was probably seven or eight years old. I was living in Dublin, Ireland. There were four channels there. There were two Irish channels, BBC One and BBC Two. CBC had pictures of Expo 67 and the Olympics from Montreal. On occasion, it had pictures of the north and small vignettes of Canada. That was my vision of this country when I came here as a 10-year-old. This service defined to me what Canada was, a vast, beautiful, gorgeous, diverse country, with so many different peoples, languages, and cultures. That was my initial snippet of the country.

When I came here, I think I was 11 or 12. I was an avid reader of the news, and I tuned in to The National virtually every day. I would fight with my mother, who would tell me it was too late and I had to go to bed, but I wanted to see The National, with Knowlton Nash. He would have the world's best journalists from around the world giving us the news. There was Schlesinger. Members know the names. They would give us a good sense of what the world was. I grew up on that. I remember the day when Knowlton Nash appeared on television and said that Canadian broadcasting is so important to him that he was not going to let Peter Mansbridge go. He was going to step aside so we could have another Canadian broadcaster take over as CBC national anchor. Those are the types of value that this broadcaster has given us.

I grew up watching that over the years. There were very few days in my life that I missed the newscast. Last November, I was trying to look at what was happening in the U.S. election and I was turning the channels. I went to the virtually million channels that my friend, the member for Saskatoon—University, was talking about, trying to figure out what was going on. I kept switching, and finally I came back to the CBC, which had exceptional coverage. It also had exceptional coverage on Brexit. When any major event around the world takes place, we end up going back to the CBC.

Every time that I have travelled across the world, and I travel quite a bit, there are very few days where I do not try to get an Internet version of The National to look at what is going on, not just in our country, but around the world. It is something that only CBC can do.

Therefore, I am quite astonished, in fact, shocked that on Canada's 150th birthday, we have a bill here that is effectively trying to destroy the very core of our Canadian identity. It is offensive. I am beyond words to describe why on earth we would have a such a frivolous debate in this House in this year, such an important milestone year for us.

It is shameful that we are even having this debate. Nevertheless, we are having it, and I want to add my voice to those eloquent voices who have spoken in defence of this national institution. I want to take this opportunity to present to my colleagues the reasons that I am opposing Bill C-308, which would privatize the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and amend several acts, including the Broadcasting Act.

In September, when he presented the bill, the member for Saskatoon—University described the CBC/Radio-Canada as a state broadcaster. According to him, privatizing the corporation would make it a public broadcaster that truly belonged to Canadians. We disagree. CBC/Radio-Canada is our national public broadcaster, and, as such, it already belongs to Canadians. This crown corporation was created in 1936 in response to the increasing American influence on Canadian radio. It was then and remains today essential to Canadian democracy and our cultural sovereignty.

As the national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada must fulfill its mandate as described in the 1991 Broadcasting Act. This duty is not to be taken lightly. The act stipulates that the corporation should provide radio and television services, incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens, and entertains Canadians.

That programming should be predominantly and distinctively Canadian, be in English and in French, and strive to be of equivalent quality. It should reflect Canada and serve the special needs of its regions. It should represent both official language communities, including official language minority communities. It should also reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada. It should do all of this in an effort to contribute to shared national identity and cultural expression.

In short, programming should be relevant to Canadians, and it should reflect who they are.

In addition, the legislative framework that currently governs the corporation gives it great autonomy from the government as far as its daily activities are concerned. It also guarantees that it is independent in terms of journalism, creativity, and programming. What is more, since CBC/Radio-Canada receives public funding, the legislative framework requires it to be accountable to Parliament, and consequently to all Canadians.

Bill C-308 would repeal the legislative framework that makes CBC/Radio-Canada a unique entity in the Canadian broadcasting space. As a private company, CBC/Radio-Canada would be accountable only to its shareholders. The risk is that it would become unrecognizable to us, and that we would no longer recognize ourselves in it.

To fulfill its mandate, CBC/Radio-Canada currently provides numerous services. CBC/Radio-Canada's television services include two national television networks, 27 conventional television stations, and the five specialty services: ICI RDI, CBC News Network, Documentary Channel, EXPLORA and ARTV. Meanwhile, CBC/Radio-Canada's radio services includes four national radio networks, including 50 English language radio stations via CBC Radio One and CBC Radio 2, more than 30 French language radio stations via ICI Premiere and ICI Musique, and a radio service in northern Canada. I would like to see the private broadcasters be able to emulate this even 10% of the way.

Moreover, CBC/Radio-Canada offers programming in eight indigenous languages through CBC North, broadcasts an advertisement-free online international radio service in five languages, and participates in the TV5MONDE international consortium.

It should also be mentioned that CBC/Radio-Canada provides numerous digital services to keep pace with the evolution of broadcasting in Canada and the content consumption habits of Canadians, and to ensure that its programming is offered everywhere in our country. In addition to ici.radio-canada.ca, cbc.ca, and icimusique.ca, CBC/Radio-Canada operates curio.ca, a site that allows teachers and students to stream Radio-Canada's and CBC's educational content.

It also produced a documentary in virtual reality to investigate the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. In doing so, CBC/Radio-Canada plays an essential role in presenting Canadian content in the digital universe of today, and I would argue tomorrow.

This bill is very problematic. We as Canadians need to celebrate our identity. There are very few ways we do that. We are not like other countries where we wear our identity on our sleeve. We are a relatively young country at 150 that is trying to grapple with its past, and trying to explain the current realities for many Canadians. However, one of the few outlets we have to do that is the CBC.

I want to ask my colleagues to support the CBC unconditionally. It is not a perfect organization and it does need improvement. However, it is ours, and it is a true reflection of our identity, one that is still being developed, and one in which we can all take pride. For our 150th anniversary, let us reaffirm our support for the CBC and our national institutions.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to stand today to speak about the CBC.

I am not sure if members have ever left a telephone message or sent an email, immediately regretted it, and wanted to take it back. Such a thing happens to Dave in one of the Dave and Morley stories on the Vinyl Cafe, one of the shows that I much appreciate listening to on Sunday afternoon. He goes through a number of things to try to erase his message on his neighbour's answering machine, which involves going to a local auto wrecker, getting a very large magnet, climbing up a ladder, plugging the extension cord into this very large electromagnet, falling down, getting hurt, the whole nine yards, and still the message is not erased. I think eventually he switches the tape and it is the wrong tape. It is a disaster. People who listen to it end up having to pull onto the side of the road if they are driving or, if they are home, lie on the floor laughing. It is hilarious. I love it.

The CBC has been a large part of my life living in northern Alberta, the radio, in particular. I do not have a television, but I listen to the radio a lot. The hockey game was on 630 CHED, so I definitely switched over for that all the time. When it came to the storytelling on CBC, for me, it was one of the great things about the radio.

The other one is a tradition. I believe it happens on Christmas Eve. It is called The Shepherd. It is on at 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve. It is a Second World War story that is on every year. The first time I heard it, I was on the way to pick up my now wife, then girlfriend, from the airport. I was late picking her up because I sat in the car to wait for the story to finish before finding her in the airport. I am sure it will be on again this year and I would recommend that everybody tune into CBC radio at 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

For those who have family gatherings, believe me, this will calm the room. People will be able to hear a pin drop as everybody holds on to their seats and, with bated breath, waits for what is going to happen. It is about a fighter pilot arriving home in England. Everyone else has gone home for Christmas dinner and he is all alone in the sky with inclement weather. People will want to hear the rest of the story.

The radio in northern and remote communities such as mine is the link to the rest of the world, there is no doubt about that. Satellite radio is now coming from around the world, which has a similar effect, no doubt, but it comes with a cost. Where I am, it is $8 a month for satellite radio. The regular digital radio is still preferred by folks in my neck of the woods.

That said, I have some criticisms of the CBC and I think there are some reforms that could be made. I think there is a mandate to go forward as a public broadcaster, specifically in radio.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActRoutine Proceedings

September 29th, 2016 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-308, An Act to provide for the incorporation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is very simple. It takes the CBC and moves it from being a state broadcaster to actually making it a public broadcaster such that Canadians can actually participate and own it. It is good for the taxpayers, and it brings CBC into the modern era. I do hope the House will support it.

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