I am sorry, I got confused in my presentation.
I will now go back to the motion presented by the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata. It reads as follows:
That the House condemn the government for the refusal by the Minister of Canadian Heritage to publish the government's decision concerning funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for the next three years, thus causing an ominous threat to loom over the CBC's French-language network.
This motion got my attention and my support right from the start for various reasons. First of all, it clearly identifies the Minister of Canadian Heritage as being responsible for the very ambiguous situation the CBC-SRC is in at the present time, which affects both its listeners and employees. There is great uncertainty regarding the future role of the corporation and the Minister of Canadian Heritage is to be blamed for it.
The minister's attitude discredits any expertise that might have developed within the Canadian public service and the CBC-SRC. It also discredits the function of the minister since we have repeatedly and systematically been told by the president who resigned, Mr. Manera, and by the vice-president, Mrs. Fortin, that there will be significant and drastic cuts at the CBC-SRC. These statements were not made on the sly. Mrs. Fortin held a two hour televised teleconference which was broadcasted across the country, during which she explained the impact of the cuts to all the services of Radio-Canada. One of her listeners said that Mrs. Fortin had shared her anguish and feelings of powerlessness with her audience. She said she did not know what the future holds for the French network of the CBC.
Therefore, following this evaluation by an employee which reflects the feelings of people following this presentation, the official opposition asked the minister to tell us what the impact of the cuts would be. The only answer we got was that no cuts were planned when, in fact, documents available from the CBC show that a program of cuts is in the works. They mention cuts of $44 million for 1995-96, more than $96 million for 1996-97 and $165 million for 1997-98.
Such cuts are already part of the CBC's future and it must plan its actions accordingly. When dealing with television or radio production, decisions must be made months in advance to determine which serials will be shown in the years ahead and what will be the direction followed by the corporation. The vagueness of the minister and the lingering uncertainty he is fostering are doing tremendous damage to the future of the corporation.
Why did the official opposition consider important to draw the attention of the House on this subject on a designated day? It is because we realized that, after all is said and done-and there is a lesson to be drawn here for both networks of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-because of the quality of programming, because of the way Radio-Canada has managed to identify with Quebec, there is during prime time about 87 per cent of Canadian programming and only 13 per cent of foreign programming. Its impact was that TVA, a private network, followed suit and used a mix of 73 per cent Canadian and 27 per cent foreign programming. TQS made sure it had 65 per cent Canadian content. We realize that Radio-Canada really has the power to promote Canada's and Quebec's culture because of the content of the programs it airs and makes known.
The English network is much less able to do this because it does not capture as much of its potential audience and, for example, networks like Global carry 80 per cent foreign content during the same time slot, from 7 to 11 nightly. Pay television carries 94 per cent foreign content. The CTV network, which is
in some ways an overblown take-off from TVA, carries 75 per cent foreign content. Therefore, there is a significant difference in the audiences' perceptions, which Radio-Canada has been able to use to develop a complicity with its audience and to ensure the propagation of the country's culture in a way that the English network has not necessarily been able to do.
Some may believe that higher budgets made it possible to obtain these results. The opposite is true. If we look at the spread in production costs, the average amount allocated per hour of programming at the Société Radio-Canada is $18,390; at the CBC, the amount is $37,496. The average cost of one hour of news on Radio-Canada is $7,000; on CBC, the same thing costs $18,000. The average cost of one hour of French variety shows is $30,000; in English, it is $141,000. Therefore, we cannot attribute Radio-Canada's success in capturing a bigger audience and in propagating Canadian culture to its budget. There are other reasons.
If we stubbornly continue to cut the CBC's French-language network, this will eventually have a direct impact on the quantity and quality of production. We are no longer cutting fat and looking for surpluses. This will have a direct impact on production and, among other things, on the ways we collaborate with the cultural community.
In the past, the French network often contributed to the dissemination of all art forms by giving contracts for concerts, dance performances and other cultural activities. In the future however-as was announced at Mrs. Fortin's press conferences-spending cuts will have a negative effect on cultural production and the potential for adequate cultural dissemination. The CBC's French-language network is being unfairly penalized, since cutting 25 cents out of every dollar does not have the same effect as cutting 35 or 50 cents from $4 or $5. The cuts will have a much more detrimental impact on the French-language network. In this regard, I think it is important for the House, which is preoccupied with sound budget management, to ensure that the cuts are fair.
The cuts currently planned at the CBC do not reflect a commitment to the fair distribution of public funds. The first person responsible for this misinformation is the minister himself because, by refusing to give us the real figures, he is adding to the insecurity of CBC employees and of all those who want this network to continue providing in the future the type of collaboration for cultural dissemination that it used to offer in the past.
Mrs. Fortin also said during the closed circuit TV program in which she explained the impact of the cuts that national television would never be the same, because there will indeed be major consequences for francophones in all Canadian provinces. CBC's French-language network is somewhat like an umbilical cord linking all French-speaking Canadians to the national production made in Quebec, while also allowing the broadcast of regional productions.
During consultations on the social program review, I travelled across the country last year and I can tell you that, in several regions, the French network only has the bare minimum to survive. The decisions to be made regarding CBC's French-language network could have the effect of depriving, in a significant way, access to information in French for part of Canada, and that could go two ways, in the sense that, for example, French-speaking people in Vancouver, Edmonton or Charlottetown would neither have access to information from Quebec, nor be able to familiarize the rest of Canada with their reality.
The cuts will result in a less varied and more limited programming for these people, given the drastically reduced budget of the corporation. Choices will have to be made and the whole French-speaking community outside Quebec may end up paying the price, possibly even more so than the majority in Quebec.
Mr. Manera resigned from CBC because the commitments made to him when he joined the corporation were not adhered to. After the public announcement of cuts by the vice-president of CBC's French-language network, and after the minister's claims that he is not sure whether cuts will be made, the employees of these networks are even more disheartened.
I much prefer the attitude of Mrs. Fortin, who says they will sit down together and see if they can still make interesting things in spite of the cuts to be made, to that of the minister, who refuses to provide the exact numbers. Indeed, Mrs. Fortin seems much more aware of the needs of the corporation's employees, that is those who ensure the daily production.
What can we do to ensure that, in the future, CBC's French-language network can continue to fulfill its mandate without being adversely affected to the point where it would no longer be able to provide the same quality programming for the Canadian public? I think the minister should provide the accurate figures regarding the cuts to be made and then ask employees of the corporation, those who work there, to tell him where these cuts could be made and what their impact will be.
For example, I was told that, each year, or on a regular basis, CBC must spend $15 million to get CRTC's approval for its programming. Considering the anticipated cuts-we are talking $45 million for the first year, 1995-1996-$15 million could significantly help reduce the impact of such cuts.
People might be willing to make cuts at corporate headquarters because, as is the case with other organizations, it is obvious that in the different branches, different service points of the CBC, staff is already at the minimum required to ensure adequate production and adequate coverage of information, whether it be in the cultural or other sectors.
Would it not be possible for the corporation to make a special effort at headquarters? Could we not, as a result, possibly delay the effect the cuts might have on production in the short term? I think that these are avenues that could be studied in the future. Maybe we could ask the minister to consider these suggestions. And let us remember that this is happening in a context where the federal government is saying that francophone minorities in Canada are important to it. They want to make sure that they receive quality services. They want the French fact to be alive and well everywhere in Canada. On the other side of the House, and on this point I concur with the hon. member for Richelieu who spoke before me, they sing two different tunes. There is one for the election campaign, the election platform, and another, which is the reality that the Liberal Party is promoting as a government.
If we take away from the French communities of Canada the possibility of expressing who they are, we are going to widen the gap between elements to a point which will not leave the French fact in Canada enough vigour to survive. By taking even more from them we would be like depriving them of oxygen. I think that the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who is in a way responsible for culture in Canada, should ask himself very serious questions before taking such action.
We have the feeling that, after telling us during the first weeks following the election that he was a good friend of the CBC and would ensure that the corporation had all the resources needed to develop, the minister became a lackey to the finance minister whose job is to cut expenditures.
His inability to properly defend culture in Canada and his narrow vision which encompasses only one Canadian culture are enough to convince him that we do not necessarily need two healthy television networks and that we could cut the oxygen supply to one of them so that we would only have one Canadian identity. We could come back to the bilingual television network we had in the beginning, but that would not reflect the reality in our country.
I think it is important for this House to consider the motion before us today and to ensure, first of all, that the minister clearly indicates where the cuts will be made-what seems to me like a responsible thing to do-and second, that no cuts will be made in areas that could hurt production and the delivery of adequate services to Quebecers and Canadians alike.