Evidence of meeting #3 for Canadian Heritage in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was media.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hélène Laurendeau  Deputy Minister, Department of Canadian Heritage
Jean-Stéphen Piché  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Cultural Affairs, Department of Canadian Heritage

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Hello, everyone, and welcome back. It's good to see everyone.

My goodness, we have a full house. What a very popular committee we have. Let's make a motion bragging to other committees about just how many people are watching here.

Thank you so much for being here. This of course is meeting number three. Today we have a briefing with the Minister of Canadian Heritage on his mandate letter.

The way we normally structure this is to have up to 10 minutes for the minister and officials, if need be. We're also going to take questions accordingly, and we will pass routine motions, according to the schedule, with the individual members.

Mr. Blaney, you would like to make a comment.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Yes, Mr. Chair.

I would like to mention that my office and I took steps for the appearance of the Minister of Canadian Heritage to be televised, and I was informed that it wasn't possible. I would be prepared to amend or propose a motion to ensure that the meeting is televised every time there is a ministerial appearance.

February 26th, 2020 / 3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you, Mr. Blaney, for your intervention.

I'm going to respond to that. I was notified approximately two and a half hours ago about having this televised, and it occurred to me in my conversation with the clerk that it would not be possible. We would have to do a switch with another committee and it just wouldn't be possible in the time frame that we had.

However, Mr. Blaney, I will say this. It is normal for us to have “to have it televised” at the end of the motion. It occurred to me, and it was one of those things that, as it occurred to me, it quickly left and didn't occur to me any longer. That being said, I will take the responsibility for that. I've been here 16 years. I've been in many committee meetings. I have seen that, as you've described, many times, so I will take responsibility for that, Mr. Blaney. You have my deepest apologies. I should have suggested it at the time, even though it was not in the motion. As lessons are learned, I can assure you we'll not do this again, as I'm sure my clerk will remind me.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Mr. Blaney, you have my apologies as does anyone else who feels this should be televised, since it will not be. It should be.

Minister Guilbeault, it's good to see you, sir. Thank you for joining us.

We would normally set this out from 3:30 to 4:30. With your indulgence, we would still like to fill the 60 minutes. I'm looking for some direction on this as to whether you can be here until about 4:50.

3:50 p.m.

Laurier—Sainte-Marie Québec

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Absolutely, Mr. Chair.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

We understand that the deputy minister, Madame Laurendeau, has to leave at 4:30.

3:50 p.m.

Hélène Laurendeau Deputy Minister, Department of Canadian Heritage

No, it's 5:30. I thought earlier that the question period would be longer.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

I see. You're here until 5:30.

Well, that's an extra hour. That's wonderful. Thank you for joining us.

Go ahead, Mr. Minister. You have 10 minutes.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Committee members and colleagues, I am very pleased to be here with you. I didn't have time to say hello to everyone around the table when I arrived. We are a little pressed for time.

With your agreement, Mr. Chair, and if the committee would like, I could stay longer than the scheduled 60 minutes, if necessary. It's up to you and the committee.

I had started distributing reusable mugs, in the colours of the different parties, as much as possible, but I ran out of time and ended with my colleagues in the Liberal Party. As you know, I'm from the environmental sector, and I think that governments have to make an effort, as do all of us.

We are gathered today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe. I'd like to take a moment to emphasize that this acknowledgement is not merely symbolic but demonstrates our government's commitment to reconciliation with indigenous people. It is in this spirit that we're working with our partners to address key priorities, which, in my mandate, include the implementation of the Indigenous Languages Act, and the establishment of a framework for repatriating indigenous cultural property and ancestral remains.

The Métis nation is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, a milestone that coincides with Manitoba's entry into Confederation. Our government recognizes the role that the Métis people played in this important moment in our history.

I am accompanied today by the deputy minister of Canadian Heritage, Hélène Laurendeau, and Jean-Stéphen Piché, the senior assistant deputy minister of Cultural Affairs.

I'd like to take a moment to congratulate Ms. Laurendeau and her entire team. We learned recently that the department's annual survey had a historically high response rate. 46% of employees completed the survey, and 93% of them stated that the Department of Canadian Heritage was an excellent workplace. Congratulations, Ms. Laurendeau, Mr. Piché and the entire team.

While I'm offering congratulations, I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Simms, on being elected chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Greetings also to the new and returning members of the committee.

I'd like to acknowledge the valuable support I receive from my parliamentary secretaries. Julie Dabrusin, who is returning to this committee as a member, assists me with my Canadian Heritage files, and Adam van Koeverden, who is a member of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, supports me in sport files with his lifetime of experience.

Thank you for inviting me to appear before you for the first time.

In November, I had the honour of being entrusted with the responsibilities of Minister of Canadian Heritage. Those who know me know I'm an activist at heart.

I never commit halfway to the causes I believe in. Over the past few months, I have been able to draw many parallels between the field of environmentalism on the one hand and arts, culture and sport on the other. I've met passionate, dedicated people in organizations big and small, who often have to juggle all kinds of factors to successfully get their work done. It is, above all, a very close-knit community. I've already met representatives from more than 375 organizations in five provinces, from the Atlantic to the Prairies, and I'll have the privilege of meeting with other fascinating people in the coming weeks, in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Yukon.

I know this dynamic well, and I'm already working to support that community with all the energy I'm known for.

My responsibilities go far beyond promoting culture and sport. First, I'd like to touch on a number of topics in my speech, and then I'll be happy to answer your questions about the mandate the Prime Minister has given me.

As parliamentarians, we all have a mandate to fight climate change. That is clearly stated in the Speech from the Throne and in every minister's mandate letter, not to mention that, last summer, the House passed a motion on climate emergency.

From my first meetings with the culture and sport community, I've observed a real willingness to take positive action to make our cultural and sport organizations even greener. I personally want to help all Canadians who want to move forward in that direction. We have some inspiring examples.

One of the world's biggest sport events wants to be part of the solution: the Olympic and Paralympic Games have developed sustainable practices for the Tokyo games this summer.

The Canada Games Council has signed a framework agreement on sport for climate action, an initiative of the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee.

Closer to home, the Canadian Museum of Nature is already raising awareness about climate change by reminding us that nature is one of Canada's most precious resources. The Prime Minister has asked me to work with them and other national museums to raise even more public awareness of climate change.

My work with museums doesn't stop there. I'm also going to ensure that our museum policy is aligned with the 21st century. Because our museums are exceptional showcases of Canadian history and culture, their collections must be accessible to everyone.

One of my priority files, which you heard Ms. Yale and Ms. Simard speak about on Monday, is the modernization of the Broadcasting Act. Our government understands that a strong, equitable and flexible broadcasting system is crucial to meeting the expectations of Canadians and the challenges of the digital age. To that end, urgent action is needed.

We have reviewed the report of the Legislative Review Panel. And I am hopeful that we can present a broadcasting bill in the House in the next few months.

I can assure you that we will not be regulating the news media, and that we will preserve a strong and independent information sector, as well as a free and open Internet.

The Broadcasting Act has an impact on several organizations in my portfolio, as they include a large audiovisual component that feeds the digital environment: the National Film Board, Telefilm Canada, CBC/Radio Canada. These are all independent organizations that keep us informed, provide us with high-quality content and contribute to our shared identity. We are proud to support them.

I'd like to emphasize that CBC/Radio Canada is an essential part of Canada's media ecosystem and a key contributor of Canadian content. As part of the modernization of the Broadcasting Act, we're looking at ways to strengthen the regional mandate of our national public broadcaster.

The news media environment is changing, and we are responding to the call of our newspapers with all the rigour necessary to ensure their independence. This is the very foundation of a healthy democracy. We have introduced tax measures, and we are injecting $10 million a year to increase news coverage in underserved communities.

We will also invest up to $172 million over five years to stabilize the Canada media fund and ensure the success of our creative industries in the digital age.

Finally, I am working closely with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry on a number of issues that are closely related to the information sector. This includes actions to ensure a safe and secure environment free of hate and bias on social networks—a subject you seem interested in exploring further.

We could also mention protecting Canadians' personal data, or updating the Copyright Act.

Having written three books, the last of which dealt with the positive and negative impacts of digital technologies, I'm quite interested in the issue of copyright. In this regard, I'd like to thank members of this committee from the 42nd Parliament for taking time to review the Copyright Act and the remuneration of artists and the creative industries. Your recommendations now allow us to consider how those who shape our culture can fully benefit from their work.

Before moving on to another topic, I'd like to touch on the work that has been done so far under the Creative Export Strategy. This is an important initiative that continues with Global Affairs, as well as with all our partners at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and in various past and future international missions.

Canadian cultural content is among the best in the world; we need to promote it internationally and allow our creators to profit from the international market.

Now let's venture into the world of sport. I really enjoy immersing myself in this world. I can count on a parliamentary secretary, Adam van Koeverden, who has a long track record in the world of sport. The member of Parliament for Brome—Missisquoi, who sits on this committee, can also testify to the benefits of sport, as she is an Olympic cyclist. It's kind of rare to have two Olympic athletes on one committee. I think we're very fortunate.

For several years now, our government has been working harder to make sport safe, welcoming and accessible to everyone. A great deal of work has been done, and continues to be done, to raise awareness about concussions, harassment and discrimination. I'm delighted to pick up the torch. Sport is a great school of life. It teaches us team spirit, good citizenship and the joy of healthy competition. We also have extraordinary examples of determination and perseverance in top athletes like Bianca Andreescu and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

I will continue to help the Canadian sport community build a healthy society where all young people, especially indigenous youth, can see themselves reflected and feel that they're part of something. In this Olympic year, we can expect great moments that inspire pride. I know that in my house, my family will have their eyes glued to the screen. I'll even have the privilege of being present for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

We can all be proud of the incredible work of our athletes. They have been training for a long time to get to Tokyo and secure a place on the podium. We'll all be cheering them on this summer, united and proud to see the maple leaf so well represented.

Mr. Chair, esteemed colleagues, thank you for your attention. I'd be pleased to answer your questions.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you, Minister. I appreciate that.

Yes, you're right, we do have some decorated athletes here on our committee. We welcome, of course, Madame Bessette and Mr. van Koeverden.

We also have, on the other side of the sport coin, a former broadcaster. Mr. Kevin Waugh is the former voice of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He's been here for quite some time, a hall of famer in his own right, I would say, or at least he should be.

Mr. Blaney, you have six minutes.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Minister, welcome to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Mr. Minister, in your speech, you expressed the desire to preserve a strong and independent information sector, and you also mentioned that you are responding to the call of your newspapers. My first question is this: Are you familiar with section 19?

4 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Section 19 of which act?

4 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Section 19 of the Income Tax Act.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

No, honestly, I don't know it by heart.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Minister, I invite you to take a look at section 19, because the Canadian media as a whole is specifically asking you to correct and repeal section 19. As you know, this section allows the Web giants to benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars in tax exemptions. It's very simple. As you know, we had reservations about the measure you are putting in place to help the media. Essentially, instead of giving money to the Canadian media, we need to stop giving money to the Web giants.

Would you be willing to repeal section 19 to avoid subsidizing the Web giants at the expense of our Canadian companies, when there is advertising that goes to market?

4 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Blaney.

As you probably know, the Income Tax Act does not come under the purview of the Department of Canadian Heritage. However, I would be happy to put you in touch with—

4 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Guilbeault, don't pull the Mélanie Joly trick on me by telling me that the GST falls under the Department of Finance. You have committed, among other things, to introducing measures, including imposing the GST on the Web giants. We are talking about the same kind of measures.

We want to know if you're there for the industry, for heritage, to protect our businesses, and to protect our media, who are asking you to repeal section 19. We don't want you to shovel this into the Minister of Finance's backyard. We want you to go to him and tell him that you are going to put an end to undue subsidies to the Web giants and close this tax loophole, which should not exist and which is being denounced by all media. There is the letter from the media, but all the cultural industries are also asking you to do this.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

I think that the 375 representatives of arts, culture and media organizations that I have met with over the past four months will be able to say that they don't have the impression that I'm running away from anything. However, the reality is still that I am Minister of Canadian Heritage, not Minister of Finance.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Minister, do you like cooking?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

I like many things, sir.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

I would invite you to visit the Ricardo website.

Ricardo Media is a Canadian company, which pays taxes in Canada. The company is of interest to 3.5 million Internet users. Why is it that the Canadian government has invested $52 million in the Web giants for its advertising and does not advertise on the sites of our Canadian companies, which pay taxes, like Ricardo Media?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: as far as media assistance is concerned, we're talking about more than $650 million. You're talking about $50 million, but I'm talking about $650 million.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

They don't want subsidies, Mr. Minister.

They just want taxpayers' money to go to Canadian companies that pay taxes; 3.5 million Canadian Internet users visit the Ricardo website.

How is it that the Canadian government puts advertising on the platforms of the Web giants and not on the Ricardo site, or the Véro site?

Today is anti-bullying day.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

That's why I'm wearing a pink shirt today.