Madam Speaker, I want to thank the minister for taking the trouble to come here to get his message across. There are a few questions I would like to raise.
But first, I thought it was interesting that he had a clear itemized message for us. Last year, we spent the year, from the time we were elected until the end of June, sitting two days a week on the Canadian heritage committee and listening to people who came to talk about the electronic highway, to be told that Mr. Manley and Mr. Dupuy, the two ministers, formed a committee that would ask the CRTC to look into the information highway.
Now we are starting all over again. The same people who came before the committee will do the same before the CRTC.
The minister said earlier: "I cannot announce the budget cuts for next year or for the year after". Not according to our sources, which made it very clear in the newspapers and on television that the cuts for next year were already known. He said: "We cannot do that, because I asked a lot of people to look into the matter". Well, that is precisely what the Canadian heritage committee has been keeping itself busy with for the past six months. It has heard the testimony of many people who came and talked about the CBC. And even before our report was released, we already knew this report would be submitted to a
committee of three experts and we knew as well that the decisions had already been made.
This year, $44 million will be cut. If the government cannot announce next year's cuts because it is waiting for the findings of a committee which has yet to be appointed, on what basis did it make its cuts this year? I am not saying that the status quo is what we wanted, financially speaking. Not at all. But the government did not even wait until the committee finished its work or, because it failed to take the longer view, give it its mandate soon enough for the work done by our committee to have an impact on the budget.
We asked whether we should work a little faster so that we could have an impact on the budget. We never got an answer. The sad part is that taxpayers' money had already been invested in the SECOR studies on the situation at Telefilm and the National Film Board. Since that was not satisfactory, another study was ordered. The government thinks everything will be all right, thanks to the information highway. It is like deciding to build a controlled access highway across Canada and getting rid of our other highways. Even with the information highway, we still must keep our other highways.
The government is letting one of those highways-the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-go to pieces by putting it in a financial situation that is unacceptable at this time, without taking the time to make the right decisions and without taking the time to ask, for instance, whether it is necessary to maintain CBC headquarters, to send the corporation each year to the CRTC, and so forth. Many areas will be affected by cuts. However, when the government announces it will cut so many positions, it will not necessarily be the vice presidents, so that we can keep the people who are involved in production.
How can the minister guarantee that we can do this? Someone will have to administer the $180 million in foregone revenue, the $44 million that has just been cut and the $15 million it will take to manage Radio Canada International. Can we have the assurance that those who lose their jobs will not be the performers, producers and creators? How can the government guarantee it will remove people who are not directly involved in production but are part of a bureaucracy that has to issue cheques in Ottawa to pay people who take part in television broadcasts in Nova Scotia, for instance?