Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to Bill C-204, an act to require that in the advertising and at the opening of a cultural product supported by public money a public acknowledgement of the grant be made.
I am happy to bring the good news to the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia that what he is proposing to pass into law is already occurring. It is something which cultural industries are already doing voluntarily.
If he has ever had opportunity to attend a Canadian play he will find that in the program routine acknowledgements of all funding sources, public and private, are made. If he has been at the screening of a Canadian film lately he will be amazed at the length of the section in the credits dedicated exclusively to the funders. It seems to stretch out forever, longer than the credits acknowledging the film's crew. In fact I sometimes squirm about in my seat in the local movie theatre waiting for the acknowledgements to end so that I can get home, pay the babysitter and go to bed.
The long suffering taxpayers who attend our cultural events do know what the funding sources are in Canadian plays, films, books, magazines and concerts. It is no secret that almost every arts organization receives some level of funding and makes it public. They do not always attach the dollar amount publicly at the event. That is not why people go to an artistic event. They go to be elevated, delighted, challenged and revitalized. They go to learn something new about themselves and the world.
However, if after seeing a particular artistic event they feel the need to find out how much it costs, the dollar amount is available for anyone who wants to know through an annual Canada Council for the Arts listing.
Canadian cultural industries are grateful and eager to thank the funders of their work. Canadians working in the arts are proud of their work and proud to present it to their neighbours and fellow citizens and, yes, their fellow taxpayers. They too are an integral part of the economic landscape of the country, doing their part to reflect on and contribute to the whole of what we are as a people.
As for the desire for acknowledgement I am sure the Liberals who are still remaining across the floor tonight at this late hour are probably delighted to hear that we want to see their efforts at public funding for the arts made more public. I believe that the level of public funding to culture has reached a dangerously low level and I see no joy in this. I would like to see the level of support for our artists increased. Public funding to the arts still exists and I know of no one who is trying to keep it a secret.
If the member is really intent on educating the public about where its hard earned tax dollars go, and this is not simply another bill to harass Canadian artists, I suggest that he go even further in his public education efforts.
The next time he pulls into an Esso station he might expect to find a sign saying “This gas has been made possible by $585 million in tax breaks to western oil producers”. Or, when he buys his next Michelin tire he might see a sign saying “Brought to you by a $27 million gift from the long suffering taxpayers of Nova Scotia by the Liberals in an election year”. The next time the member for Kootenay—Columbia takes a flight back to his riding he could have a sign on the back of his jacket saying how much that flight is costing the taxpayers of Canada.
We can put a price tag on everything if we want to. There is a myth afoot that there is no accountability in the arts.
In fact, there are far more checks and balances in place around funding to the arts than there are around funding to corporations. Perhaps the member's next private member's bill might tackle that particular sector if he is concerned with the long-suffering taxpayer.