Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at third reading of Bill C-55, an act respecting advertising services supplied by foreign periodical publishers.
The purpose of this bill is to restrict access to Canada's advertising market to Canadian magazines. The bill would prevent access to the Canadian advertising market by foreign publishers.
It is important to point out, however, that this is not in any way an attempt to prohibit the sale of foreign magazines in Canada. Through Bill C-55, the Canadian government is seeking to protect a cultural sector, in this case, magazines.
The Tassé commission on magazines and Heritage Canada studies have shown that the arrival of split run magazines on the Canadian market would substantially reduce the advertising revenues of Canadian magazines and thus imperil this cultural sector.
The impact on the Quebec market of allowing foreign magazines to supply advertising services would not be as great. The behaviour of Quebeckers in this sector is similar to their behaviour when it comes to television, which is to show a preference for what Quebec produces.
It is true, however, that certain major magazines in Quebec are produced by corporations with large interests in the anglophone sector and that francophone magazines could therefore be hurt indirectly by any weakening of the anglophone market.
The Americans have reacted to the federal government's announcement that it intends to introduce a bill to limit the advertising market to Canadian publishers only by announcing their intention to retaliate with $1 billion worth of measures against the textile, steel and plastics industries, among others. This is of considerable concern to the companies in question.
It must be remembered that total advertising sales of Canadian magazines for 1994-95 were $521 million, of which $385 million was for English language periodicals and $94 million for French language periodicals.
So the Americans are greatly overestimating their potential losses if the measure proposed today were found to be illegal by the WTO and were maintained by Canada, or if it were to become a cultural protection measure under NAFTA, which would entitle the United States to impose compensatory measures if Canada decided to maintain it after such a decision.
Since some of our industries do fear U.S. reprisals, it would be worthwhile determining exactly what mechanisms govern the international trading rules. This is all the more important because there are new developments in this area daily.
At the present time, a trade dispute is going on between the Americans and the European Union in connection with bananas. What is pitting the one against the other involves aspects which might cast some light for us on this periodicals issue.
The U.S. laid a complaint before the World Trade Organization claiming that the European Union was giving its former colonies a preferential tariff in the banana market, contrary to the WTO agreements. The WTO decided for the U.S. in this matter, so the European Union re-examined its measures in order to bring them into line with the international trade rules.
The United States reaction to implementation of the European measure was to impose reprisals against Europe under section 301 of the Trade Act, which allows the Americans to impose trade sanctions on behalf of companies whose business has suffered a negative impact from any such measure.
The European Community is appealing the very existence of this section 301 before the WTO and, according to reports, Canada will be taking the side of Europe before the international tribunal. It will, therefore, be highly informative to see how the WTO interprets section 301 of the American Trade Act. It will also be interesting to see how the WTO dispute settlement panel will rule on the dispute over bananas between the United States and Europe.
Canada too passed a measure, Bill C-103, to protect its periodical sector, and the WTO considered it illegal. Canada complied with the decision of the international panel by withdrawing the legislation. Bill C-55 is, in the opinion of government experts, legislation that will protect this sector and comply with international trade rules.
Obviously, everything must be done to avoid trade wars that benefit no one. The Bloc congratulates the Minister of Canadian Heritage's initiative in proposing this amendment, which provides that the bill will come into force under an order in council.
This legislative provision demonstrates the good faith of the federal government in its negotiations with its American colleagues, and the Bloc Quebecois strongly hopes that American trade representatives seize the olive branch tendered.
Basically, the Bloc Quebecois supports this bill because it is part of the legislative and regulatory framework necessary to protect cultural diversity. Although the measure involves trade, its effect is to protect a cultural sector, that of magazines.
In its statement in support of the bill, the Association of Canadian Broadcasters expressed very clearly its concern that, if Canada were to lose the battle on this issue, of little financial consequence to the Americans, the defeat would mean the beginning of the end of Canadian and Quebec measures to promote culture. It would be the first of a series of measures that would bring the Americans to use their human and financial resources to dismantle Canadian rules on content, on property and on direct and indirect support by the state to the cultural sector. These rules are deemed by the Americans to be harmful to their entertainment industry.
Many observers believe that if Americans are targeting the Canadian magazine sector, it is because their real objective is a different one. This is very obvious. They are acting in this fashion primarily to alleviate the concerns of their voters, who are worried about their very unfavourable trade balance. Many Americans also think that the United States is the loser in the free trade agreement signed first with Canada and then with Mexico.
Moreover, let us not forget that the American entertainment industry has never accepted the cultural exemption included in the free trade agreement and then in NAFTA.
Considering that audiovisual exports rank second in the United States, and that Hollywood producers are major contributors to the election fund of the Democratic Party, it is easy to see why American trade policy officials are condemning Canadian cultural policies so strongly.
Americans may also be targeting the upcoming negotiations of the World Trade Organization, which are scheduled to begin in November, in Seattle. They want France in particular to understand that there is no question of another stunt like the one it almost pulled off during negotiation of the WTO services accord when, because of its insistence that there be a clause in the accord to exclude audiovisual products, negotiations ended without culture being included.
Furthermore, Charlene Barshevsky, the U.S. trade secretary, told Congress in January that the United States' goal with respect to international trade with Canada is access for American magazines to the Canadian advertising market and to other entertainment media or industries on the Canadian market.
The Americans want to see the entertainment sector included in the WTO millennium accords negotiated next fall.
Bill C-55 allows them to get their message across to the world.
However, they already occupy a large part of the world's culture and communications sector. The following is taken from the report of the cultural industries sectoral advisory group on international trade:
In fact, foreign competition dominates the Canadian cultural market. Foreign businesses and products account for 45% of book sales in Canada; 81% of English language consumer magazines on newsstands and over 63% of magazine circulation revenue;
It goes on:
—79% of the retail sales of tapes, CDs, concerts, merchandise and sheet music; 85% of the revenues from film distribution in Canada;
We are talking about $165 million. I continue:
—between 94% and 97% of screen time in Canadian theatres; in fact, it is here that the situation is worst, for Hollywood studios have always treated Canada as though it were part of the American market.
Some people like the former Minister for International Trade have claimed that, in view of a major expansion in cultural exports from Canada, protectionism is no longer in order and we should go ahead and open our borders and review our cultural policies.
But, as the working group on cultural industries of the foreign affairs department has remarked, and rightly so:
If a culture is to prosper, it needs a distribution network and an investment infrastructure. It should also provide a stimulating environment for creators and artists.
Robert Pilon, the vice-president for public affairs of the Association québécoise du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo, put it more simply at the meeting held in Montreal a few days ago on the Canadian cultural policy “In any economics 101 course, you learn that, before you can export, you have to be able to produce”.
It is this creative capacity that needs to be protected and nurtured in Quebec and in Canada. That does not mean we should refrain from making major investments in the means that the cultural industries in Quebec and Canada need to get a larger share of world markets.
But if we give in now to American pressures, we run the risk of becoming more vulnerable, with the direct consequence that all industries in Quebec and Canada, cultural or otherwise, will be more fragile. We would be left to wonder what the next target would be.
Where culture and communications are concerned, Quebec and Canada hold similar views. Both states are of the opinion that every effort must be made to ensure total freedom for their cultural policies.
It is a pity, however, that in Canada imposing a Canadian identity and culture takes precedence over defending the cultural interests of Quebec and of Canada. Thus the federal government boasts about its lead role in promoting the concept of cultural diversity in the world, yet is unable to recognize the culture of Quebec and to give it pride of place beside that of Canada, both domestically and in other countries.
Instead of the Canadian government bringing all of its human and financial resources to bear on the importance of including a cultural exemption clause in upcoming international trade agreements, thus acknowledging Quebec, which shares its views on this, as a valuable ally in this battle which is far from over, it chose not to allow it to take part in last June's meeting of ministers of culture in Ottawa.
The following is what Lise Bissonnette, former editorial writer for Le Devoir , had to say on July 3, 1998 about the attitude of the Minister of Heritage:
To reduce Quebec to cultural silence while pretending, in empty resolutions in the House of Commons, and in the opportunistic Calgary declaration, that its “culture” lends it a unique character, is to be afraid of one's own shadow—
Allocating special status to Quebec would not even have created a precedent, because it has been acknowledged as a “participating government” for some fifteen years within international francophone organizations, with the agreement of Canada.
It is understandable that France would decline to be represented in Ottawa, when Iceland was given the recognition denied to Quebec. There are limits to how ridiculous things can be allowed to get. If the international network of states is to take concrete form, and move beyond mere empty words, the concept of cultures must be based on reality, not on unrealities such as these.
The credibility of the Canadian government is weakened by its irrational fear of Quebec, and major changes in strategy are called for, if it is to have the credibility to play a lead role.
Instead of changing its attitude and recognizing Quebec culture and its representative, however, the federal government has gone still further this week along the path of ridicule, by refusing to take part in a working session organized by Paris—