Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak today in this House, the symbol of Canadian democracy.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all members of this House who were elected or re-elected, especially the right hon. Prime Minister, the honourable Leader of the Opposition and the hon. member for Calgary Southwest.
My first words will be directed to the constituents of the riding of Rimouski-Témiscouata. I want to thank them for the confidence that they have shown me by choosing me to represent them in the House or that they have expressed to me since I was elected. I will do everything I can to meet their expectations and they can count on my co-operation for any individual or collective project that could contribute to their well-being.
My speech will be made up of two parts. In the first part, I want to remind you of the reasons that brought me to Ottawa and, in the second part, I want to express some comments and questions I have about certain aspects of the Department of Canadian Heritage, of which I am the official critic for the opposition. I will come right to the heart of the subject by reminding you, Mr. Speaker, that you have before you a true sovereignist, one who is determined to work relentlessly in order to defend Quebec's interests. You have before you a sovereignist who, on behalf of the people of Rimouski-Témiscouata, feels that she has the legitimate right to be here in order to claim what is owed to that region and to see to it that it is treated fairly.
Whether the Prime Minister or the hon. member for Calgary Southwest and their parties like it or not, I came here to speak about Quebec sovereignty.
I came here to fight for the MRCs of Mitis, Témiscouata and Rimouski-Neigette and their 37 municipalities in my riding which includes Rimouski, the regional capital of eastern Quebec. Besides government services, you can find in Rimouski one university, the Institut national de recherche scientifique en océanographie, the Institut de marine, one CEGEP, the Quebec Telephone head office, the Rimouski regional hospital and the archdiocesan offices.
I am also here to fight for the five eastern Quebec ridings and all Quebecers.
I stand here as an advocate of Quebec sovereignty. I grew up in Montreal, started a teaching career in Laval University in Quebec City and spent the last 25 years working in a region that honoured me by making me their elected representative. That region is well known for its vibrant cultural life, but it is plagued with deep and lingering economic problems. Up to a few years ago, the citizens there thought they could count on vital communication links for its development, but it had to weather a
devastating attack by the previous government which deprived it of its public television services and cut back its postal and railway services. Ever since that sombre day when Radio-Canada closed its doors there, that region has hardly had any means left to voice its concerns, and its protests have gone unanswered. Everyone knows that we have reached a point where communications are essential community rights.
The people of Rimouski-Témiscouata have had enough of cuts, closings, unemployment, welfare, poverty, bankruptcies, tax increases, not to mention the underground economy, smuggling and violence. These proud, courageous and hard-working people have had enough of a centralizing government which denies that there are differences and disparities between communities. They have long understood that their future depends on appropriate and concrete solutions to their problems. They understand that their sovereignty, Quebec's sovereignty, is the key to their future. In the meantime, they will have the opportunity to say yes again like they did the first time in May 1980. They want the Minister of Canadian Heritage to fairly fulfill his mandate, a mandate which is to protect the cultural and natural heritage so that when the new era comes Quebec can find its heritage untouched. I will now turn briefly to some issues before the Department of Canadian Heritage, that is amateur sport, the National Film Board, official languages, Telefilm Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and copyright.
Now that the winter and summer Olympic Games alternate every second year at the request of American broadcasters and their sponsors, amateur sport will be on the forefront of current events and could be widely talked about in a rather bad light, as we saw recently in the case of Team Canada and figure skating in the United States.
In the present context of economic austerity, Quebecers want more than games, in any case something other than a flag war. They demand, among other things, a review of the athlete status in order to put an end to dubious practices whereby so-called amateurs stash away the thousands of dollars they earn while continuing to receive their amateur sport grant. These grants should go only to those who really need them.
Moreover, since the main decision centres for participation in the Olympics are in Toronto and Calgary, Quebec is asking, and rightly so, for a review of selection procedures in some olympic sports, to do away with discrimination and inequity toward Quebec athletes and others.
Over the last four years, Canadian taxpayers have given some $4 million in grants to Team Canada. Selection of athletes is entirely left to the various coaches and, according to information given in this House by the Minister of Canadian Heritage himself, Team Canada will reveal the names of athletes selected "a few days only before the first match". Why pay for four years if, on the eve of the Olympic Games, we cannot make public the names of the 23 players selected?
Team Canada needs more than a token French speaking assistant coach in charge of relations with the French media. We have to make sure that people like Mario Lemieux will not be eliminated because they are "not good enough"; that those like Alexandre Daigle will not be excluded because they are "too strong-minded"; that those like Sylvie Fréchette will not be disregarded because they refuse to train in Calgary; that those like the Duchesnays-who gave France the gold-will not be considered "too avant-garde" by Canadian judges; finally, that those like Eric Lindros will not be given the red carpet treatment and selected against the rules.
Finally, one has only to think about fencing or figure skating to realize that all amateur sports are not equal. We must recognize that and adopt a grant policy which will protect those sports and ensure an equitable distribution of funds.
As far as official languages are concerned, it is essential that interventions be targeted properly, that they be distinct, that they fulfill specific needs and that they take into account the special situation of each of our two solitudes.
Let us not forget that the Bloc Quebecois came to Ottawa to deal with sovereignty; we are not here to promote bilingualism. For Quebec, the sole purpose of official languages is the proper operation of federal parliamentary and judicial institutions.
However, for the francophone and Acadian community of Canada, the Bloc Quebecois is simply asking for the implementation of section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms entrenched in the Constitution Act of 1982.
I want to make this clear to all Canadians from one ocean to the other and to the other, as our colleague from Yukon likes to say Mr. Speaker, I want you to listen carefully. As you know the English speaking minority of Quebec has always been well treated. These people have a complete guarantee that under a sovereign government in Quebec they will keep all their historic rights.
As critic for Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition I want to make sure that the minority known as la Communauté francophone et acadienne du Canada receives the same treatment and that its rights guaranteed by the Constitution are respected without
having to take legal proceedings and going as far as the Supreme Court of Canada.
Even though it is a magnificent concept, the cinerobotheque recently opened in Montreal has not increased the NFB's market.
Over the years, the NFB has strayed more and more from its original course which was to produce documentaries. The NFB seems to be looking for its raison d'être. It produces fewer films on its own but rather uses the funds it manages to co-produce films in co-operation or in competition with the private sector or Telefilm Canada, as was the case with "The Decline of the American Empire", "Night Zoo" and "Léolo".
On the other hand, the NFB neglects its regional role and budgetary restrictions forced it to reduce the resources and services which regions normally had access to. Preferring glamour to thriftiness, the NFB announced it was closing its regional offices in Rimouski, Chicoutimi, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Rouyn-Noranda, Charlottetown, Calgary, St. John's and Sydney, but that it will be keeping open those in Paris, London, and New York to distribute its films, something which could be done at a lesser cost by the private sector.
I am asking that the NFB's mandate be re-examined in light of the taxpayers'ability to pay and the need to support a growing film industry in Canada.
As for Telefilm Canada, one can well wonder why it is maintaining at great expense offices in Paris, London, and Los Angeles.
Moreover, through the years-thanks to a lack of control and too much opulence-several of Telefilm's employees have gotten into the habit of attending, sometimes in great numbers, numerous film festivals including the one in Cannes and the film and television fair, as well as the Marché international de la production en télévision and the Marché international de la production et des communications which are held for the same audience and the same market, twice a year in Cannes.
Before considering slashing financial support for the creation of original works, we should review the mandate of Telefim Canada, and ponder the judiciousness of keeping those offices abroad open instead of giving the responsibility for film distribution to the private sector.
As far as the CBC is concerned, we know that in 1990, it was left with a shortfall of $108 million as a result of a decision by the previous government. The president announced unprecedented cuts, closing 11 local or regional TV stations, including those in Rimouski, Matane, and Sept-Îles, and causing the loss of 1,100 jobs, 280 of which were reclassified or lost in eastern Quebec.
These cuts, which had and are still having a negative impact on regional development, did not improve the corporation's financial situation.
It should be noted that, without taking into account the cuts announced in the April 1994 budget, the CBC will have a shortfall of around $42 million in 1993-94; around $32 million in 1994-95; and around $79 million in 1998-99.
It is therefore urgent that we tackle the issue of the financing of the CBC public radio and TV networks.
I am concerned that the CBC is thinking about using the surplus generated by the employee pension fund to offset its deficit for the next two years. You can surely understand that we will oppose any attempt to resolve the CBC's financial woes by shutting down regional stations or by using pension funds for bailout purposes.
Moreover it is all the more important under the circumstances that the next CBC president be selected on the basis of ability rather than on the basis of partisan considerations.
Lastly, the mandate of the CBC must not be viewed strictly in terms of available funds, but equally in terms of the country's linguistic specificity, that is to say in terms of the cultural specificity of the country's two founding peoples.
The Crown corporation is straying from its mandate of public broadcaster because, on the one hand, of the shortfall it must make up and because, on the other hand, of the increasingly commercial approach it is being forced to take. It has modified the content and level of some of its programming to get the viewer ratings it needs to attract advertisers and in turn erase part of its revenue shortfall. It is dipping into an already limited pool of advertisers, especially in Quebec, and getting into questionable competition with private broadcasters.
It is critical that the government review the Crown corporation's mandate and be very vigilant as the CRTC prepares to hold important hearings on speciality services and digital radio broadcasting. The CRTC's rulings will have a major impact on the operation of the radio-television industry. The government must ensure that in making its ruling, the CRTC takes into consideration the country's linguistic specificity and extracts a commitment from cable operators to abide by Canadian content rules and make services available to all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to realize that the CRTC's rulings will have a considerable impact on the world of television. They will affect cable subscription costs as well as the way advertising revenues are shared at a time when broadcasters are already worried about their future.
Moving to the complex issue of copyright, I would like to point out that creators are currently out in the cold and that the government will have to act quickly by tabling as soon as possible a bill to correct this unfortunate situation.
As I far as I know, there are two ways of looking at this issue. You can view copyright as a right to reproduce a concrete piece of work-a view commonly held by the Americans and Anglo-Saxons-whereby the higher the quality of the work, the more it is reproduced and the more profitable it is.
Or you can view the very act of creation as taking precedence over any concern for protecting the work that will be produced. This is the view which allows creators to earn money as soon as their work is used, the view favoured in francophone circles.
The Bloc Quebecois believes we should favour the latter and protect copyright for 50 years after the death of the artist on all types of work.
However, we can neither stop progress nor ignore it. So, we must recognize the right to copy privately, but at the same time grant royalties to creators for every blank tape sold as well as for the recording medium. The Société de gestion des droits d'auteur, a collective, could be in charge of administering the royalties.
Further, Mr. Speaker, we should protect neighbouring and residual rights. France recognizes the former. That is how Céline Dion can receive royalties every time they play her rendition of "Power of Love"-to which she has given a personal touch and which she has made famous around the world-in France but not in the US nor in Canada, because neither recognizes neighbouring rights.
As for residual rights, they should be included in this act and also protected for 50 years. These rights relate to the royalties paid to artists as their works are sold to successive owners. This entire area of residuals will have to receive due attention out of fairness for the artists and to sustain the art production market.
The last point I want to get across to the government is that culture is a sensitive area and a financially profitable industry of vital importance to the development of communities. Just thinking about how much the Riopelles, Vigneaults, Voisines, Adams, Sutherlands and Forresters have done for the reputation of Quebec and Canada, it is easy to see that the return on investment in the cultural industry far exceeds that of any other economic activity.
The Bloc Quebecois reiterates that, to promote the cultural identity of each of the founding nations, the government must put an end to costly overlapping in culture and communications, while ensuring the transfer of the budget envelopes for these items, in accordance with the traditional demands of Quebec.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I ask the government to follow through on the suggestion of the Official Opposition requesting that a committee be struck to review extensively, item by item, expenditures of the Department of Canadian Heritage and of all federal corporations or agencies that come under it.