Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here today.
I'm joining you from Montreal, on the traditional territory of the Mohawks and the other Haudenosaunee peoples.
With me are Hélène Laurendeau, deputy minister of Canadian Heritage, and Jean-Stéphen Piché, senior assistant deputy minister of cultural affairs. I want to thank them for their outstanding work under circumstances that have not been easy in the past few months.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all of us. Its impact on our country is significant in every part of our society.
The Department of Canadian Heritage supports the commitments of the Government of Canada, grows the country's cultural and creative industries, and shares Canada's stories both at home and around the world. As you will recall, the 2020-21 main estimates were tabled in Parliament last February 27. The total funding allocated to my department was $1.5 billion, including $1.3 billion in grants and contributions, and $203.2 million in operating expenses. Heritage portfolio organizations received $2.1 billion in funding.
In early March, we all entered a period of uncertainty. The pandemic hit the cultural, heritage and sports sectors hard. Following the Prime Minister's announcement in April of a $500-million emergency support fund to provide temporary assistance to these three sectors, I announced further details of this funding on May 8, June 18 and July 7.
A survey conducted by Canadian Heritage of the recipients of the first phase of the fund's implementation showed that we met our objectives, both in terms of supporting business continuity and jobs. With a 56% response rate, we obtained a wealth of information. For example, 77% of respondents indicated that the fund helped them a great deal or moderately to stay in business, and the vast majority of respondents, 98%, expressed satisfaction with the speed with which they received the funds.
In rolling out this emergency support fund in record time, in designing all the supplementary measures that went into effect this summer, and in doing so while the department was operating at limited capacity on a business continuity plan, we relied upon our network of dozens of portfolio organizations, thousands of partner organizations, and tens of thousands of stakeholders.
All of these partners contribute to the cultural, heritage and sports sectors which together comprise almost $62 billion of our GDP, contribute 750,000 jobs to the country, and provide us all company, comfort, community and identity in moments like these. Their work demonstrates the power of art, sport, music, literature, and the simple power of telling stories—our stories—in myriad ways.
Since the spring, I have been in close contact with these sectors, which have suffered income losses, job losses and structural changes because of the health measures. To give you an idea of the extent of these losses, according to Statistics Canada, the GDP in the information and cultural industries sub-sector declined by about $3 billion in July compared to February of this year. Similarly, GDP in the arts, entertainment and recreation sub-sector fell by more than 50%.
While this picture is incomplete, it does reveal some vulnerable sectors. This is why I participated in a series of town halls and roundtables to hear from stakeholders, so they could share their ideas about how we can work with them and better support them. Roughly 4,000 participants attended these town halls and roundtables in September and October.
These discussions allowed me to target our assistance more precisely. For example, in September, I announced a $50-million short-term compensation fund to help our film and audiovisual industries resume production activities. The fund will be administered by Telefilm Canada.
Our various assistance measures are reflected in the 2020-21 supplementary estimates (B). The increase in appropriations for Canadian Heritage and its portfolio organizations has made several things possible, including the following: the implementation of the emergency support fund that I mentioned previously; support for students and youth affected by the pandemic; support for the six national museums and the National Battlefields Commission; support for several key cultural organizations, such as the National Arts Centre and Telefilm Canada; and finally, financial relief for broadcasters through a waiver of CRTC licence fees.
Canada's cultural offering is among the best in the world, and I am pleased that our government is supporting it during this critical period.
On Tuesday, I introduced Bill C-10 to amend the Broadcasting Act. This is an important first step in modernizing the Canadian broadcasting system. I also intend to propose other measures to put in place a regulatory framework in which digital platforms contribute their fair share.
We are following developments in France, which has enacted a neighbouring right for newspaper publishers into domestic law. We are also following the situation in Australia and are examining options here in Canada.
In addition, I want to introduce a bill proposing new regulations for social media platforms, starting with a requirement that all platforms remove illegal content, including hate speech. Finally, I am committed to reviewing the Copyright Act.
I would also like to reiterate that our government has made reconciliation with indigenous peoples a priority. That is why, despite the circumstances, we are continuing to implement the Indigenous Languages Act in cooperation with our indigenous partners, and to support their projects to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen their languages.
Indigenous cultures, arts, heritage and sport are among our key priorities, and we continue to support them.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am ready to take your questions.