Evidence of meeting #40 for Canadian Heritage in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was cbc.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Graham Flack  Deputy Minister, Department of Canadian Heritage

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

I would like to call the heritage committee meeting to order.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are studying the supplementary estimates (B) for 2016-17, vote 1b under Canada Council for the Arts, etc. However, I think that, given the date of this hearing, there will be no votes on this. It's just the subject matter only and the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, will be appearing to speak on the estimates. With her, from the Department of Canadian Heritage, is Graham Flack, deputy minister, and Andrew Francis, chief financial officer.

We shall begin, Madame Joly, for 10 minutes.

12:35 p.m.

Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Madam Chair, distinguished guests and committee members, good afternoon.

I'm pleased to be appearing before you today. With me, once again, are the deputy minister for Canadian Heritage, Mr. Graham Flack, and the department's chief financial officer, Mr. Andrew Francis.

It is a pleasure to be with you again today. I follow the work of this committee with great interest, as you all know, and deeply appreciate the work you do on behalf of Canadians.

The studies you currently have under way lend an important voice to the conversation our government is having. The study on the media and local communities, in particular, is an important one, as it comes at the same moment that we are holding consultations on the future of Canadian content.

I look forward to hearing your feedback on a range of topics and continuing to engage in conversation with you on these important initiatives.

I have now been Minister of Heritage for one year, and it is truly a privilege. All across the country, I have met talented Canadians, bold entrepreneurs, and decision-makers who are in tune with our new realities. I have listened to them, I have seen their projects, their creative spaces, their communities, and I have worked passionately to meet their expectations and to realize our government's commitments.

Today, I would like to share some of those accomplishments with you, and show how the supplementary estimates (B) for 2016-17 will help us honour our commitments.

In our first meeting together, I talked about budget 2016. Budget 2016 set aside an historic level of funding for arts and culture in Canada, in which $1.9 billion in new funding was committed over five years. Supplementary estimates (B) seeks $3.4 million in new authorizations, of which $2.8 million is for grants and contributions, and $600,000 for operating expenditures.

These funds will allow our government to continue to provide Canadians with important economic opportunities, promote Canadian talent, and celebrate our diversity. For example, additional resources, in the amount of $1.9 million, will go to the young Canada works program, which will help young people from coast to coast to coast in this country acquire jobs and earn valuable workplace skills. This sum includes $1.6 million for internships and summer jobs in the heritage sector and $300,000 for green jobs, in which young people can work while they improve their official second language skills.

I am proud that our government is increasing funding to this program, which is a key item of the mandate letter from the Prime Minister.

Supplementary estimates (B) will also authorize $1 million in funding for the Harbourfront Centre, in Toronto, which will play an important role promoting, celebrating, and supporting the arts.

Supplementary estimates (B) provide $75 million to CBC/Radio-Canada for 2016-17, funding which is part of the $675 million budgeted over a five-year period. This is a promise that we made to Canadians during the election, and it is a promise that we are keeping because we believe in the importance of a strong public broadcaster.

The supplementary estimates (B) also include $1.5 million for the National Film Board of Canada, which is part of a total of $13.5 million over a five-year period. This funding is intended to support audiovisual production, audience development, and digitalization of the heritage collection.

We will also provide funding to the six national museums. The 2016 federal budget provided for $60 million over five years for their capital projects. It also provided $45.9 million for operating costs for three national museums. In total, national museums will receive $30.5 million in 2016-17 under the supplementary estimates (B).

In addition to making massive investments in the arts sector, our government wants to create a nationwide ecosystem that will foster a true culture of innovation. This is a top priority for me. On September 13 of this year, I launched Canada-wide consultations on Canadian content in the digital world.

I wanted to open a national dialogue to help me adjust our cultural policy to current realities. I led six round tables in various regions across the country. We organized three live consultations on Facebook and made a website available to all Canadians. The consultations concluded last Friday. Thirty thousand people participated in the consultations and over 400 others made online submissions.

We discussed a wide range of topics in the context of these consultations, including flexibility in the cultural policy tool kit and the role played by private investments.

The consultations are complete, and we are now busy examining the responses. Our goal is to create an ecosystem that encourages innovation, enhances the vitality of Canada's cultural sector, and fosters economic growth. We are working hard to establish an effective cultural export strategy for Canada. We want to help our creators increase the dissemination of their works and our cultural entrepreneurs expand their business opportunities.

I have had the privilege of meeting with so many of Canada's finest artists in the past year. These encounters with their talent, passion, and creativity, have reinforced my drive and commitment to ensuring that our government is there to help them find new opportunities and to support their efforts.

In my first year as Minister of Canadian Heritage, I conducted pan-Canadian consultations on official languages. All of the round table consultations were facilitated either by me or by my parliamentary secretary, Randy Boissonnault. Several of my cabinet colleagues and fellow caucus members and MPs from all parties also took part in these important exchanges. We received more than 5,000 responses online, we held round table discussions in 22 cities, and we heard from more than 350 leaders and stakeholders. Our government understands that the best way to learn from Canadians is to listen to and engage with Canadians.

Aboriginal languages are an integral part of the Canadian identity. With the 150th anniversary of Confederation so close, we must continue to promote them. I am currently working with many stakeholders, including leaders and representatives of indigenous communities, to create a new strategy to ensure the vitality and growth of aboriginal languages and cultures. I look forward to discussing this further in the coming months.

In just 33 days, on December 31, we will be kicking off the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Confederation, here, in Ottawa, and in 18 other Canadian cities. As I mentioned earlier, the supplementary estimates (B) include $480,000 in funds re-profiled from 2018-19 to 2016-17 in support of these 2017 celebrations.

Numerous activities have been announced in the past few months that will allow Canadians from coast to coast to coast to celebrate this historic moment in their communities and with the rest of Canada. The celebrations will revolve around four themes. At this point, of course, you are aware of these four themes, which are Canadian youth, social diversity and inclusion, reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and our environment.

I am incredibly excited about the year to come and encourage all honourable members of the committee to continue their important work of promoting and celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary.

In conclusion, our government is committed to listening to Canadians so that it may best serve them. We believe in the importance of investing in Canadians and supporting the economic opportunities that they need to succeed. We believe in the importance of celebrating our culture and traditions. We believe that the path of reconciliation is one we must all be on together, and the relationship between our government and indigenous peoples will continue to be the most important.

Thank you for listening. I would now be happy to answer your questions.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Thank you very much, Minister. That was really well done, and under 10 minutes.

We will now open the meeting to questions. I will begin with sharing between Mr. O'Regan and Mr. Vandal. This is a seven-minute round. I will give you notice when you finish your first three minutes so that you can make a decision about how you will continue to share.

We are beginning with Mr. O'Regan.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Minister, in my mind, the status quo at the CBC is not going to stand. It cannot stand, and going ad-free is not nearly enough. I think our public broadcaster has a critical role to play in providing quality local and regional news to our communities—we've heard that time and again—especially in more remote and rural parts of this country where, as we've heard, viable alternatives are exceedingly hard to come by, if they exist at all.

I firmly believe that the CBC, as the public broadcaster funded by taxpayers, can fill those gaps in the marketplace. They are no longer gaps; they are gaping chasms when it comes to news. I really do believe, particularly of late, that our democracy is in peril when people do not have viable, critical journalism in the towns and cities where they live, and about the towns and cities where they live.

As Hubert Lacroix, the CEO of the CBC, has said time and again—and I couldn't agree with him more—if not the public broadcaster, who? With budget 2016 pledging $675 million in funding to CBC and Radio-Canada, how do you see that money helping to solve this critical issue of viable local news in Canada?

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Thank you. That's a very good question.

We believe, of course, in the importance of our public broadcaster, and this is exactly why we decided, in our campaign, to commit to reinvest. As a government, we reinvested, as promised, $675 million over five years.

That being said, and bearing in mind that CBC/Radio-Canada is independent, I expressed three wishes to be taken into account when reinvesting the money of the government, funded by taxpayers. The first wish was to have more local content and local news. The second was to keep in mind that CBC/Radio-Canada must be in line with the digital reality and to invest in its digital infrastructure. The third was to increase the new talent at CBC/Radio-Canada—get new, young people on board in order to have a strong public broadcaster over the next 50 years.

I think that, understanding the impacts of digital disruption.... Right now, we are looking into all the submissions from CBC/Radio-Canada and all media outlets that decided to participate. We asked the Public Policy Forum to study the news industry, and we'll get the report in the coming weeks. We also understand that Canadians...10,000 people participated in our pre-consultation process, and the importance of local news and local content was clearly outlined.

I've said that I am willing to look at everything that is on the table. The news industry is going through extreme disruption. We understand that it's important to take into account the fact that a strong media industry is the basis of sound democracy. This is why I am also looking forward to hearing your recommendations as a committee. I think your work is extremely important, and it will be read and taken into account when developing our government response.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Seamus O'Regan Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Thank you very much.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Thank you.

Mr. Vandal.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you very much, Minister Joly, for your excellent presentation.

I have a question about indigenous languages that is more important given that our 150th anniversary is 33 days from now. According to a survey in 2011, approximately 14% of indigenous citizens identified an indigenous language as their first language. Also, 64% of Inuit citizens speak their language, compared to 22% of first nations. If you look at the Métis, you see that only 2.5% speak Michif.

We know that language is intrinsically linked to a vibrant culture. What is your department doing now and what are they planning to do in the future to preserve and promote indigenous languages?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Thank you, Dan. This is a good question.

I must remind you that this is part of my mandate letter, to develop, along with my colleague Carolyn Bennett, a strategy to promote, preserve, and enhance indigenous languages and cultures. I understand that there are 90 indigenous languages in the country. Some are not at the same level; there are clearly some...but many of them are in dire straits. This is something that I'm looking into right now.

As was mentioned in my speech, in the next months I'll be coming up with our own plan to respond to this issue, but I certainly see that as an important piece of my mandate. Not only is it important in response to the mandate letter, but more than that, it's in line with the truth and reconciliation recommendations. We've committed to answer all of these recommendations, so I'll make sure that is taken into account.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Thank you very much.

Now I will go to Mr. Van Loan, for the Conservatives.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

There has been some attention in recent weeks on Liberal cash-for-access fundraisers. Have you, Minister, attended any fundraisers for Liberal riding associations or the party that have had stakeholders from your department present?

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

This is a question that you should be asking the president of my riding association, because my fundraising is done not through me but through my riding association in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, and the events I attended were in my riding or just close to my riding.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

I'm aware of an event that was held on November 7 for the Edmonton Centre Liberal association—

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

This is a discussion on supplementary estimates. I'm wondering if this question is even in order.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Traditionally, there's a wide ambit given to ask questions on any subject matter in the estimates.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

That's right.

November 29th, 2016 / 12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

I thank you again for interrupting me, just like last time.

There was a fundraiser you attended on November 7 for the Edmonton Centre Liberal association that you didn't mention. Do you know if there were any stakeholders from your department or with interests in your department present there?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

This was a fundraiser for my colleague, the parliamentary secretary. This was not for me. It was done in his own riding. My understanding is that there was a close look to see whether there would be any stakeholders, and we made sure that we were aligned with the open and transparent rules. Therefore, I was very comfortable in going to that event, because I was also working with my close parliamentary secretary, Randy Boissonnault.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Did you discuss any of your departmental responsibilities with any stakeholders at that fundraiser?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Not that I understand, no.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

There is at least one individual who is a stakeholder for the department dealing with celebrations who posted or tweeted that he or she had a conversation with you about the arts at that event. Did you discuss the arts with anybody at that event?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mélanie Joly Liberal Ahuntsic-Cartierville, QC

Well, a lot of people have an interest in the arts in general and are very favourable—

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Minister, I think Mr. Van Loan is skating very close to the line here on discussing private conversations with the minister and any Canadian who wishes.... She's a minister of the arts, and anybody who wants to ask her a question could do that.

I think we're skating pretty close to—

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

I think it's a legitimate question to ask, if somebody, at events people pay to attend, is discussing a minister's responsibilities, which they have an interest in with their portfolio. However, I'll move on to another subject then, Madam Chair.

I've looked at the table on the supplementary estimates. When you add up the initial allocations with the supplementary amounts, spending overall, whether it's been for your department or entities like the National Film Board, CBC, Telefilm...the 16 entities, goes up considerably. In fact, it is a 16% increase in spending, not surprising from a government that's spending out of control.

However, there is something that sticks out. There are two entities that have had significant reductions in funding. There are only two out of the 16. These are the National Battlefields Commission and the Canadian Museum of History, both of which are experiencing significant cuts.

Do you think this reinforces the notion many have that your government is engaged in a war on history, when everybody is getting in excess of 16%, but the two entities that deal with history are getting cuts from your department?