Mr. Speaker, the member for Rimouski—Mitis could not be here today, but I know she has given the matter careful consideration. I simply wanted to add her voice to that of all the other political parties, the New Democratic Party, the Progressive Conservative Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the Liberal Party.
What counts is that, when we look at the policies of all the governments since Confederation, establishing structures to protect our culture is not a partisan thing.
Successive governments have understood the delicate balance needed to build a nation. Conservative governments and Liberal governments, supported by members of the opposition, have historically and continue to understand that as a nation we reserve the right to protect our culture. That has been well understood by parties which recognize that when we share the world's longest undefended border with the most powerful nation in the world, when most of us live only 100 kilometres from that border, when most of us share the love of the movies and magazines that come across that border, the challenges those things represent for our children must be balanced in law.
The average Canadian child will spend more time watching television than they do in a classroom, an average of 23 hours a week. Part of the role of government is to make sure that when they are watching television, when they are reading books, when they are perusing magazines, when they are experiencing films, they have choices that include the choices of their own country. That is what this legislation is all about.
Canada has played by the rules. We ensure that the legislation protects the interests of all magazines that are currently publishing legally in Canada.
Over and over again we have shown our willingness to listen. Over and over again we have demonstrated friendship with our American neighbours, but we maintain respect for our cultural sovereignty. The approach we have taken to this bill is fair. Canadians appreciate and understand fairness.
Almost all political parties have expressed support for this bill because they understand that for us to survive as a nation we need to have national leadership in areas of cultural diversity and cultural respect.
The support of those who work in the community, in every single magazine organization across the country, those who are at the front end of delivering Canadian content, support and understand why we have taken these measures.
For more than 100 years successive governments of different political stripes have ensured that policies are in place to respect diversity of expression. We need Canadian ideas, Canadian information and a Canadian point of view.
These policies have been balanced to create a market for American cultural products that is the most open market in the world.
The government spends an enormous amount of time on this matter. I think in this House alone we have had more than 50 people who have risen to speak to this matter.
We considered the legal, the cultural and the trade aspects of the issue. We weighed a host of possibilities. We thought long and hard about the cost of taking action and the greater cost of doing nothing.
What cabinet approved was a viable solution to meet the needs of Canadians to defend our culture and to meet the desire of Canadians to respect international law and to fulfil our international trade obligations.
To those opposite who are wringing their hands, saying “Do something else”, where are the options that they can provide? In reality, do something else means do nothing. Quite frankly, doing nothing is not an option and has never been an option.
Successive governments of different political stripes have always acted when Canada's cultural identity is at stake. Our cultural wealth and diversity is not an accident of the marketplace. It is not simply an issue of consumers. It is the result of a deliberate commitment to provide a healthy public space for our own voices.
There is also a larger purpose. Culture is a reflection of our society. It is our window to the world. It is also a reflection of our soul and the way we see ourselves as citizens of the world.
Canadians value our cultural sovereignty and will not allow any other country to tell us what legislation we can or cannot pass. That would be abdicating our rights as a sovereign nation.
Then there are those critics who say “This is no big deal. There really is no risk”. Imagine if the roles were reversed. What if over 80% of the magazines on American newsstands were Canadian? What if Canada said “That is not good enough. We want it all”. They would scream blue murder from Waikiki to Wall Street to Washington.
The United States has a huge cultural presence in our lives. That is a fact. No matter how challenging, Canadians will continue to carve out our space for the diversity of Canadian stories and the reflection of our culture. That too is a fact of life.
To use an analogy that I think the Americans will understand, let us reflect on Borg in Star Trek trying to turn everyone in the universe into one grand mass, one huge brain, one completely dominant culture. The Borg says “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated”. I am here to tell members that resistance is not futile and that Canadian cultural diversity will not be assimilated.
Then there are those who say we are just against American culture. That is plain ridiculous. We fully appreciate the many wonders of American culture. We watch TV shows. We go to Hollywood movies. We read American magazines. All we want to ensure is that there is room for Canadian voices in Canada and around the new globalized world.
It is okay for Canada. It is okay for the United States. We expect the United States to act in its own interest, but it is equally okay for us to act in our interest.
I would like to come back to an important point. Canada is, and continues to be, the world's most open country when it comes to foreign cultures. Some people are concerned that the government wants to ban American magazines. That is not the case. We simply wish to stop the American practice of dumping and siphoning off Canadian advertising revenues.
One party opposite raises the issue of free speech. I agree. The legislation is about free speech and freedom of expression. It is about Canadians having the choice to speak to each other through Canadian periodicals. It is about ensuring a magazine industry which allows for freedom of Canadian expression. It is about making sure that hundreds of scholarly magazines, religious magazines, farm magazines and economic magazines do not disappear. It is about ensuring the survival of magazines full of Canadian commentary, editorial slants and letters to the editor. In short, Canadian content.
Certain justice loving Canadians have said that Bill C-55 could do enormous harm to Canadian advertisers. The truth is that Canadian advertisers will continue to do business in an environment that is almost the same. In this regard, the bill changes nothing.
Certain Canadians who are not opposed to the bill in principle are worried about its possible repercussions and cost. They feel that we should not step in to help the Canadian periodical industry for fear of raising American ire against too many other Canadian industries.
I want to repeat it in English because I think a member opposite made reference to it. Some people say we should do nothing because the stakes we are facing in other industries, and in particular the steel industry, are higher. To do nothing would be to lie down to the schoolyard bully. To do nothing would set the stage for a regime where no international laws are respected. To do nothing would say that might means right. To do something firms the right of the steel industry, the right of the plastics industry, the right of the agricultural industry to play by fair international rules.
What we understand and respect is fairness. We believe in the final analysis that our American friends will also respect that fairness.
If we withdrew every time Americans got annoyed, we would be the laughing stock of the United States—