Evidence of meeting #8 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 media.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Walter Duszara  Board Secretary, Quebec Community Groups Network
Hugh Maynard  Past President, Quebec Community Groups Network
Ian Morrison  Spokesperson, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
Peter Miller  Expert on Local Broadcasting, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
Ann Mainville-Neeson  Vice President, Broadcasting Policy and Regulatory Affairs, TELUS
Frédéric April  Manager, maCommunauté, TELUS Télé Optik, TELUS

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Thank you very much.

Now we go to Mr. Nantel for the NDP.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I thank the witnesses who are here this morning. You are all very competent and very well prepared.

Everyone here is very interested in this issue, in light of the technological changes and the threats to our cultural diversity and our sources of information. We are all very grateful to be here.

Let me say how happy I am to see how rigorous the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting are. I hope I am going to have time to speak to you, so I will hurry up.

My comments are addressed to the gentlemen from Quebec Community Groups Network and Qu'anglo.

I think that anglophones have never before contributed so much to cultural life in Quebec. A healthy complicity has sprung up. The professionalization of the Quebec star system has opened the doors to anglophone artists. I went on the gogaspe.com website. It is very inspiring for everyone and for community media, be it the written press, radio or others, who are perhaps less used to this very community-based approach.

You said that we should update the funding of various programs and ensure that the Internet aspect is considered like the others. Would this have an impact on the majority of your members? I think it would, because the anglophone minority is in Montreal and Quebec. These are markets that have broad Internet access.

9:25 a.m.

Board Secretary, Quebec Community Groups Network

Walter Duszara

I am going to try to answer your question in English, if I may.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Of course.

9:25 a.m.

Board Secretary, Quebec Community Groups Network

Walter Duszara

The Internet of course has been a boon to be able to reach different communities and different groups from around the province and in the various centres of the province. However, it does not necessarily trickle down to the individual. In the regions in particular, access to broadband is difficult in many areas, impossible in some, and expensive everywhere.

If you look at the demographics of our population, somewhere in the vicinity of 25% of people are seniors. Not all seniors are comfortable with technology. Technology has basically invaded our space, whether we were ready or not. Some were ready, some were not. Putting all the emphasis on broadband or on digital media will necessarily respond to the needs of the individuals.

There is an important feature to the digital aspects, if you like, or the digitization of information, the digital media, but it requires a support mechanism to be able to do what it needs to do. Our big concern is with the notion of local news and local information and being able to provide information that is analyzed from the perspective of the English-speaking minority. That capacity has been eroded to the point where it has almost disappeared. That is the area we're looking at most.

Our recommendations, when you have a chance to see the report, point to directions that we as spokesmen for the English-speaking minority feel require attention: moving towards ensuring that we have quality information available to our communities; moving towards ensuring that we protect some of the services we have now; and moving towards also engaging in not the protection necessarily of the media outlets that are there, but protecting the capacity-building, to ensure that as we move forward in time, young journalists, young entrepreneurs, young people have the resources to be able to experiment, to put forward new ideas, to make mistakes, to learn from mistakes, and to go forward.

That capacity right now is not there. The capacity of our existing media sources is diminishing quickly and disappearing quickly.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

To go back to Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, Mr. Morrison and Mr. Miller, thank you so much. Thank you for that huge report that brought so much light to the situation. The reality is that hearing you speak, I realized that we really should have Mr. Blais from the CRTC back here, because we have huge issues. I think his choices, his way of seeing things, have been quite drastic.

It leads me to ask you a very specific question. I remember having the CRTC, industry representatives, and the Canadian Heritage people here.

Do you not think that the CRTC is a bit too much involved in the rights of consumers? Under the law, its mandate is to oversee telecommunications and ensure a diversity of voices; it is not consumer advocacy.

9:30 a.m.

Spokesperson, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Ian Morrison

If you look at the Broadcasting Act digitally and search for the word “consumer”, you will find it towards the end, around some of the powers of the CBC to sell goods and services to consumers. That's the only reference in the Broadcasting Act.

The former government, in the throne speech of 2013, did instruct the CRTC to unbundle. Mr. Blais got it right. He did what he was told. He forgot the last four words that came out of the Governor General's mouth: while preserving Canadian jobs.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

That's right.

9:30 a.m.

Spokesperson, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Ian Morrison

That's a sea change. I mentioned in my remarks some of the things that have gone by the wayside. For instance, no longer a majority of programs in our system are Canadian; no longer a majority of channels reaching Canadian homes are Canadian; not treating the Internet-delivered programmers the same way as others. Those things have gone by the wayside.

Fundamentally, in addition to that, what the CRTC must answer for is how it would introduce a whole new regime for television in Canada without costing it, without studying it, without finding out the economic impact.

Peter? No. Okay.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Mr. Nantel, you have 15 seconds.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

I can add something: sales tax on Netflix.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Hedy Fry

Up now for seven minutes is Mr. O'Regan, from the Liberals.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

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

Let me pick up where my colleague Mr. Nantel left off. What would your response be, then, to the proposal? This idea of taxing Netflix is something that many people hold near and dear. What would your response be to people who immediately would fill the open line shows protesting such an idea?

9:30 a.m.

Spokesperson, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Ian Morrison

First, as I mentioned, if I were in charge, I would develop a list—

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

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

[Inaudible--Editor] think of that, Mr. Morrison.

9:30 a.m.

Spokesperson, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Ian Morrison

If I were in charge, I would develop a list of things that the over-the-top providers should be doing. At the very top of the list would be that they should be collecting the same taxes from Canadians as their Canadian competitors. It's just not fair that I can.... Well, until recently it was $7.99 a month, but I see in my morning feed that Netflix raised it by 30%. Supposing it's the new fee of $9.99, then, I just send them $9.99, but if Rogers charges me $9.99 for Shomi, I send them $9.99—I live in Ontario—plus 13%.

That's number one: there should be a level playing field for Canadian consumption taxes in the audio-visual system.

Beyond that, you'll find effectively that Canadian broadcasters are not taxed. They're required, through regulation under the Broadcasting Act, to put about 30% of their revenues into Canadian content. If you go down to the distributors—the Rogers, the Shaws, the Videotrons—they're required to put about 5% of their revenues into Canadian content.

Why would we allow a foreign company to come into Canada, reaching Canadian homes, and put zero, nada, into Canadian content? It's just not appropriate.

If there were no problems with the system, maybe other things would be more important, but I think we've presented evidence, and others will, that there's a crisis in the system and that therefore everyone should be contributing something.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

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

Let me ask you something that you brought up at the end of your report, regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Let me ask you, if you could, to delve into that.

April 12th, 2016 / 9:35 a.m.

Spokesperson, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Ian Morrison

What would we have said, had we had 11—?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

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

I'm giving it to you.

9:35 a.m.

Spokesperson, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Ian Morrison

Go ahead, Peter.

9:35 a.m.

Expert on Local Broadcasting, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Peter Miller

First of all, obviously it's very hard to get clarity on the impact of that agreement on the cultural sector. What it appears to do is preserve the existing measures, the ones that we have. The risk is that it precludes future measures.

For example, there's a school of thought that says exactly what Mr. Morrison described: sometimes a contribution from a Netflix would not be allowed under the TPP.

I'm not a trade lawyer and will not give you an opinion on that—that would be overreaching—but I think it's an important area for the committee. Given the government's commitment to look at the TPP and its implication. I think Justice needs to come out and say what its view is as to what the agreement is going to mean going forward.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

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

Let me interrupt, then, just for the point of clarification.

Basically, would any interventions that this committee might recommend, depending on timing and ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, be impossible?

9:35 a.m.

Expert on Local Broadcasting, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Peter Miller

It's possible that they would be impossible, but I don't know; I'm not a trade lawyer. I'm not going to suggest equivocally one way or the other. If you've looked at this yourselves, you'll know that there's a well-known Ottawa academic, Michael Geist, who has written that it looks as if it preserves cultural protection; there's a well-known cultural nationalist lawyer named Peter Grant who said that he thinks it's okay. So you have these differing views.

9:35 a.m.

Spokesperson, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Ian Morrison

We believe Mr. Grant, Mr. O'Regan.

The main point, however, is that you're not looking at two TPP experts here, but at two people who are saying to you, why don't you investigate that? You have access to the best brains in the Department of Justice, if you choose to ask them some questions. It's a worthwhile thing to look into.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

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

How much time do I have, Madam Chair?