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House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was accused.

Topics

Nuclear Safety And Control ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Edmonton Northwest Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-53, an act to amend the Prisons and Reformatories Act, be read the third time and passed.

Prisons And Reformatories ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-53.

Prisons And Reformatories ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, you will find that there is unanimous consent that members who voted on the previous motion be recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House, with Liberals voting yea.

Prisons And Reformatories ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the official opposition will vote yea.

Prisons And Reformatories ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Reform Party members present will vote no, unless instructed otherwise by their constituents.

Prisons And Reformatories ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party MPs in the House tonight will vote yes on this motion.

Prisons And Reformatories ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Nunziata Liberal York South—Weston, ON

I will vote yes on this matter, Mr. Speaker.

Prisons And Reformatories ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jag Bhaduria Liberal Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Prisons And Reformatories ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed.)

Prisons And Reformatories ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

It being 6.34 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

February 4th, 1997 / 6:30 p.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Canadian Heritage should proceed immediately to exempt CBC North from layoffs and funding reductions to the operating budget resulting from the $127 million reduction in federal funding to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced in 1996, as well as future cuts should they occur.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the issue of-

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Order. Hon. members who are carrying on discussions in the Chamber could perhaps go behind the curtains. The hon. member for Yukon has the floor and members who are interested in participating in the debate this afternoon will want to hear her.

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this motion today. It is an important motion, not just for CBC and Radio Canada in the north but of course for all of Canada.

I have specifically chosen to address the portion of CBC North because obviously, I have heard most about that from my constituents. I would add that throughout many years, the New Democratic Party members in this House have supported our public national broadcasting system. We continue to do that and feel it is essential to the unity of our country and to bringing Canadians together.

With respect to CBC North, this motion has received a lot of interest in the north. MLAs in the Northwest Territories legislature very much support the motion and support the intent of the motion.

In November 1996 Charles Dent, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, wrote and spoke to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. He conveyed to her that the Government of the Northwest Territories strongly urges the minister to recognize the unique and vital role of CBC in northern Canada.

The member for Nunatsiaq has lent his support to the campaign to save CBC North and I thank him for that. I have not heard anything from the member for the Western Arctic on this issue, but I do hope she will have the opportunity to respond to the motion today and to support CBC in the north.

The Yukon government very strongly supports the motion as well and CBC in general. Both the government leader, Piers McDonald, and minister Dave Keenan have shown a strong interest in the issue.

I want to quote briefly from a letter written to the Minister of Canadian Heritage by the hon. Dave Keenan, a minister of the Yukon government. It succinctly outlines why this issue is so important to Yukoners and to people in the north:

As a national institution the CBC is mandated to strengthen Canada by reflecting and sharing the diversity of its regions and cultures. In the Yukon the requirement to build national unity is tied also with the requirement to strengthen the unity of our peoples as major changes in economic and political institutions take place. The cuts proposed to the CBC northern service threaten to remove the ability of the CBC to speak with Canadians who live and work in the north as local news and current events programming is reduced, and will direct the service toward a service that speaks to these people, often with more prepackaged programs from the south.

That succinctly says what much of the concern is by northerners. I should add that the NDP Yukon government has also passed an all-party resolution calling for an end to the cuts to the CBC. The resolution was supported by members of the Liberal Party in that legislature.

I had the opportunity today to look through Hansard and to realize once again that New Democrat MPs have been the only ones, along with perhaps one or two interveners from the Bloc Quebecois, who have stood in this place and defended the vital role of the CBC. New Democrats are the only ones who are speaking for the majority of Canadians when we say that the Liberals should keep their election promises and restore funding to the CBC.

Since Mr. Beatty announced in September the CBC board of directors plan to deal with the most recent cut to the corporation's budget, my office has been absolutely inundated with letters and telephone calls. I might say that in the almost 10 years I have been a member of Parliament, as surprising as it may seem, I have never received more calls, conversations, letters, petitions than on this issue. That is why it is so important that people across the country and in this House hear how vitally important this national broadcasting system is to the people of the north.

In December I sent the Prime Minister some 140 letters which until that time had been received by me in a two to three week period. Since that time I continue to receive calls about the future of CBC and Radio Canada. I would also like to mention the strong movement within the community again through petitions to urge the government to have adequate and stable funding for CBC and especially for CBC North in our view.

I would like to also mention the editor of the Yukon News , Peter Lesniak, who has undertaken on his own and in his own name a save the CBC campaign. Again this illustrates the real intent, the emotional attachment and intellectual attachment people have to the service of the CBC.

This is an important motion to northerners and I believe to all Canadians. It is our way to be heard by other Canadians. I have to note that without a strong CBC and Radio Canada in the south, we do not have a strong CBC North either.

We would have liked to have seen much more debate on this motion and have had it brought to a vote, however we do not have this. This has been denied but I would like to point out a few facts to the House today.

In the past 28 months CBC North has dealt with budget cuts of $1.9 million and has already laid off 30 staff. The latest cuts will mean a further reduction to CBC North radio of 28 per cent and to CBC North TV of almost 40 per cent. This is not death by a thousand cuts; this is being hung, drawn and quartered. This is not what the public want to see, nor what they expected from this government.

Aboriginal language programming in the north could be one of the first victims. I have been told that cuts could also affect programs now being broadcast in Inuktitut. Inuktitut will be one of the two official languages of the new Nunavut territory. In fact it might be argued that cuts may violate the Nunavut Settlement Act since the federal government has an obligation to provide basic services in both languages.

French language services in northern Quebec could also be affected. CBC North provides a weekly news magazine called "Boreal Hebdo". There is a good chance that this program which is widely listened to may also be seriously affected and see its last

days. So we have aboriginal languages, French language, obviously English language programs all being affected by these cuts.

There is the red book promise, which I am sure we could debate at length. I think many other Canadians believe that during the last election the Liberal government and the current Prime Minister made a commitment to maintain funding for the CBC. But like many other promises during the last election, the Liberals promised they would stabilize funding for the CBC and they did not do it. During the last election the Liberals said they would scrap the GST and they did not do that.

Pierre Berton best summed it up when he said: "The Prime Minister promised us that he would trash the GST and save the CBC and then he saved the GST and trashed the CBC". That is Pierre Berton's comment. As we know he is a national hero and has supported national unity. He and many other national figures are now speaking out on this.

In the last election the Liberals said they would make jobs the number one priority but they did not do that either. In the last election they said they would renegotiate NAFTA and they did not do that. In the last election the Liberals made 21 promises to aboriginal people. So far they have kept only three and have shelved the royal commission report on aboriginal peoples. In the last election the Liberals said they would fund the national day care system to create 150,000 new child care spaces for children and they did not do that either. In the last election the Liberals said they would protect medicare and education from Tory cutbacks but by 1997-98 they will have cut $7 billion from those programs.

There are many challenges facing the country today, including the child poverty issue which we are all aware of and the 1.5 million people who are unemployed. What do changes to the unemployment insurance mean to the Liberal Party? It means a change of name to employment insurance. Who buys that? Less than half of the unemployed now even qualify for the benefits and social program spending has been slashed.

Now at the 11th hour we are going to hear some new promises from the Liberals. They are going to say: "You know those children who have been put into poverty? We are going to do something about that. We will start to do something about it after you have voted for us in the next election". It is shameful. It is a betrayal of Canada. Canadians will not forget these broken promises, just like the CBC cuts that were not supposed to happen.

I know all members of the House do not all agree on what should be done with the CBC, but at the same time it would have been important to ensure that everyone here could have debated this issue. We should have had a debate about something as fundamental as our 60 year old national broadcasting system. It is a system which in French and in English has served Canadians well. It serves our country well. Canadians need to have the opportunity to express their views.

Throughout the north CBC North is one vehicle. We have very good radio stations which operate in the Yukon, however, it is the CBC which provides that connection with national and international events. It makes the linkages to all parts of the country possible. It allows us as Yukoners and as northerners to speak with the rest of Canada and it allows the rest of Canada to speak with us. Surely that is what this country should be about.

We have seen the destruction of many of our national symbols. Just flying the flag does not hold the country together, as important as it may be. We need a vehicle which will allow us to express our identity and to express our soul.

I want to say that the emotional reaction to the potential loss of the CBC and Radio-Canada really underscores that the government got it wrong. There are certain values, there are certain principles, there are certain things that we need to maintain to preserve the Canada that we know.

Some people have argued that people should take their complaints to Mr. Perrin Beatty, the chair of the CBC board of directors. However, I would point out that the CBC board of directors does not have anyone on it from the north speaking for northern communities. That is why this issue needs to be revisited in the House of Commons. Every other region of the country has someone in that boardroom who can say, "No, we should do this. Yes, we should do this. Here is an alternative. Here is our regional concern", but there is no one from the north.

The cuts to the CBC, as I mentioned earlier, are more than just figures in a book. We all realize that there are stringent necessities in terms of budget. However, we also realize, and it has been brought home to us very well, that it is important that we not only have symbols of our country but that we have a way to talk with each other. CBC Radio-Canada has provided that. In the north it is a vital link for us in many areas.

I would like to close with the words of the New Democratic Party leader, Alexa McDonough, who does not yet have the opportunity to speak in the House of Commons, but in the new Parliament we will be happy to see her here. We know she is a representative who will keep her word, who will speak for the people of Atlantic Canada and for all Canadians. In November, Ms. McDonough said that the CBC is one of the most important institutions in this country and that it is capable of holding Canada together. I believe that from the bottom of my heart.

A national and international public broadcasting system is important to this country. To the north and to rural areas it is the vital link that makes us the country that we are.

I would like to end by asking for unanimous consent to refer this motion to the heritage committee for further study.

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Order. The House has heard the proposal of the member for Yukon, asking for the consent of the House to refer the motion to the heritage committee for further study. Is there unanimous consent?

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

There is no unanimous consent.

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, a point of order. I see that members of the Liberal Party do not want to put this to the heritage committee. I would then ask for unanimous consent to make this motion votable.

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Is there unanimous consent that the motion be made votable?

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

There is no consent.

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Yukon. The purpose of this motion is to exempt the CBC Northern Service from the CBC cuts.

These cuts became necessary when the government decided to reduce the CBC's overall parliamentary vote by $127 million in 1996-97.

Members will recall that these cuts came on top of the $227 million in reductions imposed on the CBC by the Liberal government since it took office. These reductions of $350 million in the CBC budget, imposed by the Liberal government, will mean the loss of 4,000 jobs, jobs that will disappear because of these huge cuts.

The official opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, has always been very strongly opposed to large cuts in the CBC's funding. Since our arrival in Ottawa, we have reminded the government time and again of the promises it made in its own red book regarding vitality and funding. They promised not only to recognize our major institutions, such as the CBC, the National Film Board and Telefilm Canada, but to ensure their funding. The Bloc Quebecois has always urged the government to keep its promises.

As for the proposal made by the member for Yukon, the principle is a fundamental one. If it were to be voted on, I would expand on it and say that the whole network should be exempted from the cuts, not just the CBC Northern Service. Let us not forget that $350 million in cuts and 4,000 in lost jobs are at stake.

We are in agreement with the principle of the motion put forward by the member for Yukon, but the government must realize that it is hurting not just communities in the Yukon, but francophone communities throughout Canada.

Remember that, in northern Canada, the CBC and its 145 employees provide 220 hours of television and radio programming in eight native languages to an audience of 100,000. Under the latest cuts imposed on the CBC Northern Service, the present television budget of $14 million will be reduced by 30 to 40 per cent and radio service will be reduced by 30 per cent.

With respect to French services, remember that this government has made cuts of $70 million, including $20 million to radio. The cuts imposed on CBC radio are tragic for Canada's francophone communities, since what they are experiencing is not a reduction in service, but the outright closing of their stations, and in other cases considerably reduced services.

I would like to refer to the press release sent by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada when the cuts at CBC Radio were announced. The federation said that the federal government and the CBC were abandoning Francophone and Acadian communities. That is how they reacted.

In responding to the cuts announced by Perrin Beatty and Ghyslaine Saucier, chairperson of the CBC's board of directors, the federation said in its press release that this decision was tantamount to destroying a tool that was central to the development of our communities. Ms. Copps should have invested the money in the CBC instead of a flag campaign.

For many Francophone and Acadian communities, CBC regional programming is the only medium that reflects their community and culture in their own language. With these budget cuts, the federal government is sending a devastating message. In spite of its high-sounding commitments, it is abandoning the development of a thriving Francophone and Acadian community in this country. When will Mr. Chrétien and Ms. Copps understand the importance-

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Order. The hon. member knows perfectly well he must not mention members of this House by name. He must refer to them by the name of their riding, even when is quoting what they said. He should use only the name of their riding or their title. I hope the hon. member, who is well acquainted with the Standing Orders, will take this into account in his comments.

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have here a quote I would like to read to you. As you know, when a text is quoted, it should be quoted word for word.

So the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister were asked when they would understand the importance of their commitment to serve the community. The Liberal government should intervene and reverse the decisions and dangerous guidelines imposed by the CBC.

This government has itself admitted that it did not meet the commitments made in its red book. In fact, there are some quotes I would like to make to show how far this government has drifted away from its commitments in a number of areas, which is a complete reversal from the emotional message they sent in their red book.

I would like to quote to you what they said initially about the Conservatives' approach to cultural matters: "Culture is the very essence of national identity, the bedrock of national sovereignty and national pride. At a time when globalization and the information and communications revolution are erasing national borders, Canada needs more than ever to commit itself to cultural development".

Referring to the Conservatives, it said: "Funding cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canada Council, the National Film Board, Telefilm Canada, and other institutions illustrate the Tories' failure to appreciate the importance of cultural development. The recent attempt to consolidate the Canada Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council is but one more example of this disregard for the promotion of artistic endeavours".

In the same breath, they said: "A Liberal government will be committed to stable multiyear financing for national cultural institutions such as the Canada Council and the CBC. This will allow national cultural institutions to plan effectively".

What did they do as soon as they got into power? Since 1993, three years ago now, they imposed a total of $350 million in cuts on the CBC. They also imposed cuts on the National Film Board and abolished 4,000 Radio-Canada/CBC radio and television positions.

Here is what they did based on a statement they call their own-let us recall it to mind now: "Culture is the very essence of national identity, the bedrock of national sovereignty and national pride". We know that, we share that opinion in Quebec. That is what we say, our Quebec culture is the very essence of the pride in our country.

They said, and I repeat it here: "Funding cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canada Council, the National Film Board, Telefilm Canada, and other institutions illustrate the Tories' failure to appreciate the importance of cultural and industrial development". "When we are in power" they say "we will provide these institutions with stable financing". What a disgrace.

Not only do they make promises, but they win people's votes for this party on the strength of statements and convictions about culture and then, as soon as they get into power, they do the total opposite and bludgeon culture.

In conclusion, we must say that this government has no vision of culture-the opposite is true. The major cultural institutions still have a sword hanging over their heads, for they do not know what the next budget will bring. Will new cuts be imposed?

Let us keep in mind that this government has said that the CBC was not doing its job of promoting national unity. The Minister of Defence has even suggested doing away with it.

Cbc NorthPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but his time is up.