Mr. Speaker, last March I was approached at my constituency office by a constituent whom I had not met before and whom I have not met since, to write a letter drawing the attention of the CRTC to his application for a radio licence. I explained to this constituent that as minister responsible I could not interfere with the workings of the CRTC, but I agreed as his member of Parliament to do my best to ensure that he was treated fairly.
On March 15, I wrote to the chairman of the CRTC in my capacity as an MP for this constituent asking the commission to give the application a fair hearing. This was the letter of an MP seeking to ensure that a constituent received due process.
I wish to table the letter. The letter was not meant in any way to be an endorsement of the licence application, nor was it intended to exert pressure on the CRTC. I also understand that on March 30 the CRTC acknowledged my letter, categorizing it as a letter in support of the licence applicant. That acknowledgement letter was never brought to my attention. If it had been, I would have immediately rectified the matter.
As soon as I did learn that one of the interested parties wrote to me in September regarding my "alleged support" for the licence application, I took immediate corrective action. I wrote to the interested party, clarifying my earlier letter and clearing up any misunderstanding.
In this letter dated September 30, I wrote:
My letter of March 15, 1994 to the CRTC simply asked that due consideration be given to the application. It is not intended to convey support for or opposition to the application. The CRTC is the body mandated by law to make independent decisions on all such applications. It is therefore for the CRTC to weigh the merits of the arguments raised by the applicants and the interveners.
I wish to table the letter. Members will note that I took these actions before the matter became public. I did my best to clear up and correct the situation not because of public or media pressure which did not exist at the time but because it was the right thing to do.
Being an MP and a minister is not always easy. Among other things it is a learning experience. In hindsight it was imprudent to send that original letter to the CRTC. I regret any misunderstanding it may have caused.
I assure the House that I have never for a moment had any hesitation or misunderstanding about my role or responsibilities as a minister. As I said in the House on October 3 in answer to a question from the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata, the minister of heritage cannot dictate to an independent body like the CRTC, which is also a regulating agency. It would be quite inappropriate for the Minister of Canadian Heritage to tell it what to do.
I have held to that position every moment on this job and the House has my commitment that I will continue to do so.