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.

The House resumed from April 10 consideration of the motion 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.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Privatization ActPrivate Members' Business

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

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.

The House resumed from February 17 consideration of the motion 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.

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 / 2:05 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 / 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 / 1:30 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.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 7th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The Chair would like to take a moment to provide some information to the House regarding the management of private members' business.

As members know, after the order of precedence is replenished, the Chair reviews the new items so as to alert the House to bills which at first glance appear to infringe on the financial prerogative of the Crown. This allows members the opportunity to intervene in a timely fashion to present their views about the need for those bills to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, following the December 6, 2016, replenishment of the order of precedence with 15 new items, I wish to inform the House that there are two bills that give the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions they contemplate.

They are Bill C-322, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act with respect to road crossings, standing in the name of the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie; and Bill C-308, an act to provide for the incorporation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and to make consequential amendments to other acts, standing in the name of the member for Saskatoon—University.

I encourage hon. members who would like to make arguments regarding the need for royal recommendations to accompany these bills, or any of the other bills now on the order of precedence, to do so at an early opportunity.

I thank honourable members for their attention.

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)