Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak during the third reading of Bill C-31. It was quite interesting to see how we moved through the previous discussion regarding the CBC.
I am going to make the comment at the start of my remarks that the CBC is indeed a billion dollar boondoggle. It is really unfortunate that we do not have a longer period of time to discuss the CBC, that we have not had the opportunity in this session of Parliament to have the full discussion that is required.
This opportunity permits me also to set the record straight with respect to the Reform Party's interest in advancing Canadian cultural industries and encouraging artistic freedom. Many people in the House have a definitive opinion, but there definitely is a clear lack of understanding. I am not sure if it is intentional or otherwise, but there seems to be this perception that we are disinterested in Canadian culture. That really is a rather simplistic criticism because we have been suggesting and encouraging less government involvement. Since we stood in the House in the early days of this Parliament, we have been consistent in that message; we want to see less government involvement. That is particularly elemental to this discussion.
We advance the idea that the cultural community be given the tools necessary to flourish in an open, competitive and changing marketplace. That includes less government intervention, less taxation and regulatory controls that permit competition, not strangle it.
The hon. member across the floor talked about the CBC and the CRTC. The CRTC is an excellent example of how the television and radio production sectors are impeded by an inconsistent regulatory environment.
Quite frankly the CRTC was quite arbitrary and paternalistic in its selection process and granting of licences only last week. Imagine 500 channels. We are moving toward that environment like a sputtering Model T. It is a ridiculous licensing process that does not do anything to promote the richness of our industries as indeed it could.
Our approach recognizes that Canadian cultural policy must be sustainable in a world of rapid technological change and is fostered in an environment in which individuals are free to choose.
The intent of the bill is to foster better relationships between Canadian producers and Canadian financial institutions. On this side of the House in the Reform Party we have to question whether there is a poor relationship between these groups. My colleagues spoke of their concern about that issue during second reading of the bill.
A bit later I will provide information to the House that will demonstrate why this question is worthy of an answer. The evidence I have would suggest that the industry has been thriving and is in no need of government guaranteed loans. We do not have the money to go forward with proposals like this one. We need to ensure the industry can make it on its own by less regulation and less taxation.
In the face of the overwhelming evidence that supports this conclusion we must question the motivation of the government and all the supporters of the bill, one of which is the Royal Bank of Canada interestingly enough.
I should like to go through the process of taking the bill into committee and the discussion that took place there. It was my very first experience in this kind of an environment. What happened there was of particular interest to me. At committee after second reading representatives of the Royal Bank of Canada appeared as impartial witnesses to give testimony on their appreciation of Bill C-31. The Royal Bank is the bank with which the Department of Canadian Heritage has been negotiating to establish the parameters of the bill.
I suggest they had a vested interest in speaking at committee in favour of the legislation. When other financial players were asked if they would like to address the committee on the bill they declined the opportunity, not because they were in favour of the bill but because they did not want to be seen as opposing it for fear that it would be perceived to be anti-culture. Now what a sorry comment.
We have come to a point in time where individuals and corporations do not speak their minds on an issue because they are concerned about possible recrimination. The powerful cultural lobbies and special interest groups in Canada have had such a profound impact that witnesses now feel uncomfortable to appear at committee to speak frankly. This is an issue that directly affects the operations of their businesses.
That kind of special interest pressure has little or no effect on members of my party or members of my caucus. We were elected with a mandate from our constituents to bring to this public forum their comments and their concerns, and we will not be intimidated by special interest groups. We do not support the bill in principle. Nor do we support it as it was presented.
Members of the government and people from the Department of Canadian Heritage continually reassure us that the bill will not result in financial losses for the government and that its effectiveness will be reviewed after two years.
Despite the fact that we do not agree with the principle of the bill we proposed a reasonable amendment to it. The bill states that loans will be for a maximum of 18 months. In order to provide an accurate evaluation of the performance of the program we proposed an amendment which, although defeated, I still believe to be a necessary legislative tool to evaluate the bill at some future time.
I moved that after 36 months the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage should review the progress of the guaranteed loan program introduced by the bill and report on that progress to the House. This amendment was simply a review and report amendment, which is quite similar to a sunset clause. If included as an amendment within the bill it would have legislatively assured the program of loan guarantees would receive a formal review.
The 36-month review I proposed provided a longer review period than even the government was requesting. It would allow for two full sets of loans to be completed before review, a review the government states it will conduct. How could a review be completed after only 24 months as the government suggests? There will have been only a handful of loans, the success of which we are to use to judge and evaluate the program. Why not make the trial period a little longer to give the program a solid evaluation based on historical trends? I fail to understand how the government could not support such a common sense focus within the amendment. I would like to read it for the record:
Three years after the coming into force of this act, a comprehensive review of the application and operation of the amendments to the Canadian Film Development Corporation Act as enacted by this act shall be undertaken by such committee of the House of Commons as may be designated or established by the House for that purpose.
That was to be subclause 3(1). Subclause 3(2) read:
The committee referred to in subsection (1) shall, within three months after the review is undertaken or within such further time as the House of Commons may authorize, submit a report on the review to the House including a statement of any changes the committee recommends.
Further, if there will be a review, why not require the review to be in the statutes? Is the government sincere about its intention to conduct such a review? Why not open the process to the committee to evaluate the performance of the program? Such a review would provide the standing committee with the opportunity to be involved at a more effective level, something the Prime Minister continues to talk about. Despite the Prime Minister's commitments to greater committee involvement, his caucus continues to keep standing committees from being involved.
As it now stands this legislative review and report stage will not take place. The amendment was lost. We have only the verbal assurances that this evaluation is inherent within the bill. We know from experience in the House what kind of trouble occurs on the basis of verbal assurances. Who can say if the bill will ever be addressed again?
Let me return to the question of the intent of the bill. We have heard the government, the producers and the banks that seem to be speaking in favour of the bill. If I had someone who would assume 85 per cent liability for a loan for me I would be very pleased. I would be running to the first bank that would support it.
The reality is that in the private sector and for individual taxpayers like you and me, Mr. Speaker, we do not have the government to intervene and assume liability for our business endeavours. The point is that the government should not be in the business of guaranteeing loans, period, be they for small business, big business or for cultural agencies.
The bill presupposes an ineffective working relationship between Canadian producers and Canadian financial institutions. This assumption is quite simply a false one. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the production industry has been booming in recent years. This increase in the production industry has transpired despite the difficult economic times we face.
How can the government dispute the following facts that clearly demonstrate how well the industry is doing? We certainly heard our colleague across the floor talk about how much help the CBC needs. It has a billion dollars out there every year and it still needs more help. Its offices still need to expand more.
Let me remind the House that the increased performance of the industry has come without any federally guaranteed loans. Here are some statistics I would like to present which demonstrate its healthy performance. Since 1987-88 the film industry has experienced an overall growth of 34 per cent in the number of production companies. A 39 per cent increase in full and part time employment accompanied the rise in the number of production companies since 1987-88. This growth was largely due to the creation of part time jobs, jobs which more than doubled over this period to 2,500 in 1991-92.
Interestingly the number of producers specializing in television production increased substantially from 119 in 1990-91 to 137 in 1991-92. The number of television productions measured separately for the first time in 1991-92 accounted for 38 per cent of all films produced in Canada. Corporate videos and television commercials each represented a further 20 per cent of the total volume of production. Overall between 1990-91 and 1991-92 the level of film, video and audio-visual production jumped from 17,634 to 19,891. It was an increase of 13 per cent. Feature film production remained steady in 1992 with 20 companies producing 56 theatrical productions.
The overall profitability of Canadian film producers improved dramatically in 1991-92. The profit margin of production companies jumped to 11.1 per cent from a 10-year low of 1.5 per cent the previous year. The industry is booming and it is booming on its own. It is making it on its own in the private sector without government intervention.
After accounting for inflation in the motion picture laboratory operations area, operating revenues in this sector increased by $11.9 million despite the drop in the number of films from170 to 162. Its revenues reach $286.7 million. The level of full and part time employment has increased steadily in the film laboratory and post-production services industry since 1987-88. In 1991-92 it was up by 33 per cent. These statistics cannot be denied. This industry is thriving and is indeed a vibrant one.
On the share of film distribution revenues it is interesting that the overall foreign controlled market share remained fairly stable between 1991 and 1992 levels at 57 per cent. Right now we have a great deal of involvement from outside our country.
Bill C-31 will entrench the strongest players in the market. It will allow the strong companies access to more loans in order that they may even get stronger. This is a concern certainly for those smaller production companies. This will choke off new players in the market.
What is the rationale here? How will it create jobs? I challenge the government to come up with a program without grants,
without subsidies and without loan guarantees that will treat all players equally. We cannot be passing legislation that will help companies that do not need help.
In closing, I am going to comment on an experience I had in Calgary. I guess it is in response to the Bloc member who suggested earlier that we have put too much importance on the subsidization of overprivileged commercial enterprises and not on the artistic community.
In Calgary this spring there was an arts award luncheon that was fully and totally funded between the private sector and the arts community. The city of Calgary, through its mayor and council working with the arts community, the business sector, the private sector and the patrons of Calgary, developed bridge funding for the arts community to continue to thrive through the Banff School of Management. That model is an excellent one. It is an outstanding one that others in the country could use and not have to come rushing to the government for a handout.
The industry does not need that kind of financial support. It is thriving quite well on its own. Once again I can only say that we cannot pass legislation to help companies that do not need help.