House of Commons Hansard #242 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was culture.


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11:50 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

We do not cave in. In terms of the letter, it is a very nice letter to the minister; but on an issue like this one, or any issue really, we should look at the total breadth of the issue. We should look at the debate that has taken place. It is easy for the member to pull out one letter, a nice personal letter to the minister from someone saying she did a good job.

We could pull out any number of debates, comments, media commentary and discussion around Bill C-55 which tell the member loud and clear that the real judge, the Canadian people who watch this debate and see what is going on, do not hold the same opinion. They do not think the government held tough. They do not think the Canadian government defended our cultural industries.

On balance, I believe that my comments are defensible and credible. I stand by them. We were sold out.

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11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-55. Canada has a longstanding commitment and a tradition of commitment to protecting the Canadian magazine industry. This began in 1961 with John Diefenbaker's O'Leary commission, which was designed originally to develop a plan to protect the Canadian magazine industry against dumping from the U.S. and foreign magazines.

In 1965 the split-run legislation was introduced, again to protect the Canadian magazine industry. This is an issue which combines the elements of the free market with the elements of the importance of protecting Canadian culture.

We are not alone as a country in seeking to protect our culture. Most countries in trade agreements around the world have sought and successfully attained protection for their culture in trade agreements.

The Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney was successful in protecting Canadian culture in both the FTA and in NAFTA. Unfortunately the Liberal government fervently opposed the free trade agreement and now embraces free trade. It has not even utilized the cultural protection instruments within the free trade agreement at this juncture to protect Canadian culture.

The parliamentary secretary said that he had a soft spot in his heart for the New Democrats. The only thing worse than hardness of heart is softness of head. I would argue that the U.S. arguments and threats of what would be illegal retaliation are far in excess of the dollar value of the Canadian magazine industry's advertising revenues in question. This revealed elements of an industry in the U.S. that demonstrated hardness of heart. In response we have a government whose softness of head provided very little opposition and in fact capitulated before the battle even began.

U.S. industry groups that made these threats were not the trade negotiators. They were not representatives of the U.S. government. They were members of U.S. industries with a vested interest. The threats that were made were in unrelated industries. The sanctions would have involved for instance steel and specifically targeted in a rather nefarious manner the home city of the minister of culture. The threats were in the amounts of up to $600 million when in fact the government had determined that $100 million was the actual dollar value of the advertising revenue in terms of Bill C-55.

The minister seemed to be standing firm during this debate and assured the House that Bill C-55 was tenable, was the right thing and would be consistent and defensible in our trade agreements. She provided reassurances to the House that it was a lock-tight agreement and that we would be able to protect the Canadian industry without incurring the wrath of our trading partners.

At the very last minute, after using the House in a very manipulative manner to develop Bill C-55 and providing those assurances, she gave in. It was almost as though the minister throughout that process huffed and puffed and then the Americans blew our house down. It was not the steadfast visionary leadership which is constructive in both protecting our culture and at the same time further promoting and developing our trade relationships with our trade partners.

The Reform Party has had a position from the beginning as being opposed to Bill C-55 and supporting in some ways the illegal U.S. threats. The Reform Party has said that it does not believe in regulating culture and that culture should not be regulated.

This is the same party whose literati have suggested that the book Lolita be removed from the parliamentary library because it is somehow offensive. On one hand it wants to regulate culture and on the other hand it does not want to regulate culture. I cannot quite figure it out. Perhaps we should be able to regulate tawdry publications like Lolita , but we should not be able to regulate culture to protect Canadian jobs and Canadian culture within the confines of our country. I disagree with that inconsistency demonstrated by the Reform Party.

The PC Party and the government of Brian Mulroney had the foresight to protect culture under NAFTA and the free trade agreement. During the free trade agreement negotiations the Liberals were saying that we would lose our culture and that it would not be protected. The Liberals were saying that we would lose our medicare because of the free trade agreement.

Interestingly enough, since 1993 some of the Liberals' predictions have actually occurred. Our medical system has been attacked in an unprecedented manner. Across Canada the medical systems are in a shambles or in crisis in many provinces. That has nothing to do with NAFTA. It has to do with a government whose priorities were clearly not on the health care system in Canada.

We have seen a further example of an inconsistency with the Liberal position. We see the diluted and gutted Bill C-55 potentially threatening Canadian culture. Not only have we seen our health care system attacked by the Liberals and not because of NAFTA, but we are seeing our cultural industries threatened by the Liberals' weak-kneed capitulation. They are not really fighting the good fight and utilizing the cultural protection elements and instruments in NAFTA which the Progressive Conservative government had the courage and foresight to put in there.

That is part of a larger issue. It is one of vision, foresight and understanding of public policy, of not just where the Liberal Party is going in the next election but where the country is going in the next century.

Last weekend I attended the Free Trade at Ten Conference in Montreal. The conference evaluated the impact on Canada of free trade over the past 10 years and of agreements like the FTA and the NAFTA. Donald MacDonald was there. He is a former Liberal cabinet minister and chairman of the MacDonald commission who came forward in the early eighties with a recommendation that the free trade policy with the U.S. be pursued.

It was very interesting to hear him compare former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Wilfrid Laurier. He said during his speech at the opening of the conference that Mr. Mulroney had the foresight and vision to do what would help Canadians in a new global economy. He compared Mr. Mulroney to Mr. Laurier except he added that Mulroney was able to achieve more of his vision than was Laurier.

That type of visionary leadership is very important and critical now as Canada faces more challenges in a global environment than we ever have. The protection of culture is becoming an increasingly complicated affair because of the advent of technology, globalization and the pervasive nature of the Internet and the fact that we are increasingly going to develop electronic means to effect change on issues of censorship and regulation in terms of protecting culture.

It is a new world and there are significant challenges. We should not be folding up our tent and going home. We should be rising to these challenges and fighting to protect Canadian culture.

The Liberals are responsible for the capitulation on this very fundamental agreement, this longstanding tradition of protecting Canadian culture which began in the 1960s. This has nothing to do with NAFTA. The Liberals have refused to exercise the instruments of cultural protection.

A New Democrat member said earlier that there are instruments within NAFTA and the free trade agreement to protect Canadian culture. Before utilizing those and before taking every possible step to protect Canadian culture, the Liberals gave in because of threats from the U.S.

This creates a tremendously dangerous international precedence. Whenever there are threats of trade wars, sanctions, or retaliation from any of our trade partners on any range of issues such as culture or the environment, we have demonstrated that we will give in before we exercise to their fullest extent the instruments we have within our trade agreements to defend them. This is clearly inconsistent with the principles of NAFTA and the free trade agreement.

The Liberals' gutting of Bill C-55 is inconsistent with the heritage of the Liberal Party of Canada which in the past has been consistent in the defence of culture. At this juncture the Liberals have turned their backs on a very important heritage. It appears less and less to be the Liberal Party of Pierre Trudeau. It is becoming the party of knee-jerk reaction, Earnscliffe polling, focus group economics and all types of crisis management and poll driven populism. Frankly it is the antithesis of what Canadians need at this juncture.

I mentioned earlier that the government has used parliament as a a pawn in this agreement. It has used parliament in the passing of Bill C-55 as a bargaining chip with the U.S. More offensive than that, the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-55 have dramatically changed the intent and direction of this legislation. Whether or not the legislation is in order is in question.

When a piece of legislation is changed so dramatically and completely emasculated by a government and when it is not consistent with the general principles and directions of that legislation as passed in the House, it should require a whole new legislative process and a new piece of legislation. Clearly, the end agreement is not consistent with the agreement that the minister and the Liberals were talking about for so long. Their platitude to describe this agreement was that it would allow Canadians to talk to one another and communicate with one another. When the government gets through with this, the only way Canadians will be able to communicate with one another is by telephone.

The government has turned its back on a longstanding tradition, a tradition that was protected by the government of Brian Mulroney in both free trade agreements. In its commitment to Canadians the heritage of the Liberal Party should create a sense of conscience to be consistent in its protection of Canadian culture. Instead of fulfilling the promise to Canadians and instead of the minister fulfilling her promise and commitment to the House that she would stand up and defend Canadian culture, she gave up before the fight.

I am very concerned not just about the contemptuous use of parliament as a bargaining chip and a pawn in this process, but also about the international precedent this will set, that any of our trading partners can bully us with threats of illegal sanctions and retaliatory actions without those claims being researched. Even when legal experts have advised us that these claims and retaliatory measures were untenable and would be illegal in their nature, we have given up. We have given up. That is not the signal we should be sending as we pursue more trade agreements and as we negotiate to play a larger role in a global environment, an environment that is becoming increasingly protectionist.

For instance, both on the far right and the left in the U.S. the protectionist movement is gaining steam and getting stronger. As that occurs and as we demonstrate at every possible turn that we are willing to give in, to cave in and to knuckle under when someone from another country in a specific industry group huffs and puffs, over a period of time the benefits we have gained in NAFTA and the free trade agreement will be lost significantly.

We will not have commensurate dispute settlement. We will not be utilizing the dispute settlement mechanisms that have been put in place intentionally to not only ensure access for Canadians to markets in other countries, but also to ensure that the issues and concerns that are important to Canadians, be they environmental or cultural, are protected.

While there are some who argue that this is some form of protectionism, the free trade agreement and NAFTA were both consistent in providing instruments by which we could defend our Canadian culture. Those are what we should be focusing on. We should be exercising those to the fullest extent. The government has clearly abdicated its responsibility to do so.

If we want to move forward on this and if we want to examine the types of policies that would really help further the competitiveness of the Canadian magazine industry both within domestic sales and potential opportunities for export, in the long run the best trade policy would be a sound domestic economic policy.

The PC Party would argue that the government has to couple its trade policy with a more forward thinking economic and fiscal policy. We have to address the issues of personal and business taxation in Canada.

The Mintz report on business taxation recommended that the corporate tax system in Canada be made more neutral. Treat all industries as consistently as possible and eliminate the non-neutralities and distortions within the corporate tax area.

The Mintz report also recommended that corporate taxes to the greatest extent should be based on profitability. The profit insensitive taxes should be removed. Taxes on capital which have a negative impact on investment and a negative impact on productivity should be removed.

Canada has the third highest corporate tax levels in the OECD countries. Canada has a capital gains tax regime that is twice as repressive as that in the U.S. Our personal income taxes are the highest in the G-7. All these have a negative impact on all types of Canadian enterprise and business, including the Canadian magazine industry.

While we support and believe that, we need to ensure that Canadian culture is protected through the vehicle that has been espoused by parliament since the 1960s through the split-run legislation to protect the Canadian magazine industry against dumping from the U.S. We also believe that the best way in the long term to ensure the viability of the Canadian magazine industry and all industries and small businesses in Canada is to ensure that we have a sound, innovative and forward thinking economic policy. Tax reform should be an integral part of that.

The government should utilize this opportunity now, not just for tax reduction in small politically palatable directions where the government sees fit and focused on a leadership convention or the next election, but in the long term on what Canadians need in the next century. A visionary and holistic approach to the systemic issues within the tax system is needed.

Mr. Speaker, have a good summer.

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12:10 p.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, my friend in the Conservative Party gave an eloquent defence of protectionism in the area of culture. He suggested that we need to have that. However, would my friend agree that culture really is in the eye of the beholder and that when it is in the eye of the beholder it makes it impossible to defend through any type of protectionist measure?

I wonder if my friend would not agree that when we start putting up barriers to protect culture, ultimately what we are doing is putting up barriers to protect somebody's very narrow definition of what that constitutes. I would argue that is the wrong way to do it because everybody has a different view of what constitutes culture. What we are doing is leaving it to bureaucrats and politicians to make those decisions.

I ask my friend, what is his definition of culture? How can we protect culture in Canada with legislation when it means something different to everyone?

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12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right, it is difficult to gauge or evaluate what is culture. It is fairly nebulous in some ways and it evolves over time. I know he argues that we should not even be trying to regulate culture, yet there are members within his party who feel we should remove Lolita from the parliamentary library based on some definition of what is culture. I would point to an inconsistency in that regard.

The issue of culture and the issue of what is unique to Canada, what is unique to Nova Scotia or Alberta, the distinctive elements of both our regions and our country, are clearly within the realm of Bill C-55 to protect, to ensure that there is an ability for Canadians to produce Canadian-originated stories about Canada and about the issues that are relevant to Canadians, and that there are vehicles to ensure that those stories and publications actually reach other Canadians. That is the issue.

When U.S. commercial interests are given unimpeded access to the Canadian magazine industry, the possibility for dumping magazines becomes immense. We have an 18% limit, which is a huge shift in policy. Actually, it becomes a trade issue because U.S. magazines have already covered their fixed costs.

I know that the hon. member's party has some real difficulties with the CBC. It is the same argument. However, there is a role for the CBC to deliver the stories and cover the issues that are relevant to Canadians. If we are to continue to be a knowledgeable society, a people respected globally for our global vision, a citizenry that fully supports the role that we play as Canadians as a middle power in an increasingly complicated world, we need to maintain and protect the Canadian identity. This is not, as some would argue, an anti-American view. Let us face it, we sit next to a cultural juggernaut, the U.S., and we are in a very difficult position.

The U.S. has one of the largest cultural industries in the world, particularly pop culture. We have to be very careful to ensure that the Canadian identity is not swamped as we progress into the 21st century.

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12:15 p.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think my friend is going down that same vague, muddy road. I asked him what constitutes Canadian culture and I think he was completely unable to tell me. Then he said that we need to protect the Canadian identity. I would argue that is the same sort of nebulous term that means something completely different to everybody.

What this boils down to is deciding what is culture for ourselves or what is our Canadian identity. To some people it will be toques and back bacon and drinking beer. To other people it will be going to the NAC to see the symphony orchestra. We have to decide that ourselves. If we do not decide for ourselves it will be decided for us by bureaucrats, which is how we got programs like Bubbles Galore and all of the other boondoggles we hear about.

I say to my friend again, until we can reconcile this problem, how can he possibly say that the United States can somehow put in place these protectionist policies which are completely contrary to the whole idea of free trade? How can my colleague say that we can do that when everybody has a different view of what constitutes Canadian culture and Canadian identity?

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12:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the perspective which Canadians have on Canadian culture is one of the things that makes Canadians and Canada uniquely diverse and distinct. If we ask Canadians what their definition is of culture, we are going to hear a significant breadth and depth of perspective on that issue.

I would agree with the member for Medicine Hat that culture is a difficult issue to define. It is interesting that we are having in the House of Commons perhaps an unprecedented discussion between two finance critics about culture. It really frightens me about where we are going.

Culture is very difficult to define. We have a significant amount of indigenous culture in my home province of Nova Scotia which has been successful in global markets. I would like to say that part of it is completely market driven, but often the incubation of that cultural entity is provided with some level of protection.

We have in Canada a very small population which is spread over a huge land mass. This is also part of the national unity issue, about which I remain very concerned. The ability for us to maintain some level of distinctiveness may be one of the threads which keeps the country and the regions together.

I do not think any country in the world can define culture in a paragraph or in a sentence. Most countries are interested in, devoted and dedicated to protecting some element of culture. As we get into a more global environment, as we see the decline of the role of the nation state in terms of the government's influence slowly declining and economies being integrated, it makes it increasingly important for citizens and for nations to protect their cultural entities and identities. This is very important to people. People want to participate in global trade opportunities and we can.

The U.S. agreed in both the NAFTA and the free trade agreement to a set of conditions and a set of instruments to respond to this kind of debate and specifically to protect culture. My argument and my party's argument is that they were included specifically and the government has not utilized those mechanisms.

Censorship is going to be another issue that we will have to watch very closely, as well as privacy issues, especially with the evolution of the Internet. All of these things are evolving. I would say that it is best for us to have discussions here and to collectively develop solutions. We should certainly not turn our back on Canadian culture, as nebulous as it may be. We should seek to understand culture and perhaps to define it better, but we should never stop protecting what is unique about this country and our cultural distinctiveness.

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12:25 p.m.


Michelle Dockrill NDP Bras D'Or, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government has once again caved in to American pressure. The government has once again tried to tell the Canadian people that a slap in the face is a pat on the back. The government is happy to sell out the interests of the Canadian cultural industry and happy to pretend, despite all evidence to the contrary, that this deal, this watered-down bill, is in the best interests of Canadians.

When the Minister of Canadian Heritage spoke yesterday in the House she asserted that the new requirements for Canadian content were in some way a victory for the Canadian magazine industry. Let us get some things straight.

Before these amendments were introduced, Canadian content was not even an issue. Split-run magazines were to be illegal, banned and prohibited. American companies were to be stopped from sending recycled American stories into our country and stopped from taking Canadian advertising dollars out of our economy, out of our industry and placing them in American bank accounts. For the minister to claim that these new requirements are a victory for Canadians simply beggars belief.

Perhaps, if I could be so bold as to suggest lines for the minister's speech writers, the government should shift its emphasis and tell the truth to the Canadian public. The truth is what we have with this new and neutered Bill C-55. It is a conditional surrender; not an unconditional surrender, but one where the Liberal government was allowed by its American masters to preserve a shred of its dignity in the hopes, no doubt, that this ever so pliable administration would be around for years to come to do the bidding of those in Washington.

This surrender will be the first step in a wholesale attack on the protection Canadians have erected to preserve their cultural industry. We can expect to see the American magazine industry pressure their government to launch a challenge to our laws under the provisions of the WTO and the NAFTA. This surrender, the loss of this first battle, has opened a hole in the Canadian defences which threatens the very heart of our culture.

By acknowledging the ability to negotiate Canadian content requirements for magazines, the Liberal government has laid down a carpet for the long line of American entertainment businesses which are all too eager to swamp our country with their cheap television shows, low quality radio broadcasting, American books and movies.

Now that they know we are willing to trade on our heritage, to trade on the minds of our writers, actors, painters and broadcasters, there will be no stopping them. I know that the government dismisses fears such as those that I have just expressed as being apocalyptic, anti-American and who knows what else, but I disagree.

I have no problems with the United States and I stand with all members in the House in admiring the many contributions our neighbour has made to human progress. However, that admiration is qualified, as all admiration should be if it is not to descend into fawning hero worship. That is what I fear has gripped the government: an awe at being so close to such a powerful country that it has rendered the Liberals unable to discern what is in Canada's best interests, an awe that has opened the doors of our country to ideas about American health care, American justice and American governance, thinking of the ever increasing power of the prime minister's office and making comparisons between it and the American president's white house.

Those are elements of America that I am happy to see remain on the south side of our border. The line between admiration and adulation is a thin one and I fear it may have been crossed. We are truly the mouse lying down with the elephant.

That is not a negative reflection on either party, for we in the New Democratic Party are firmly committed to the equality of all things. It is simply a reflection of the reality that America's cultural industries are the largest in the world and we, because of our close ties, are more susceptible than any other country to domination by them.

There is no reason for us to slam the doors and introduce protectionist measures that will exclude American magazines from the Canadian market. Our objection is that we should pay U.S. companies to take money out of our country. That is what Bill C-55 calls for.

At first that level may be 18%, but we can bet that in a couple of years it will increase and then increase again. Those magazines with their large budgets and market penetration will be able to attract Canadian advertisers through the simple exercise of the law of supply and demand.

We cannot blame those companies for choosing to advertise in split-run publications. They are simply making the best use of their advertising dollars. However, we can blame the government which allows those magazines to exist for choosing to cave in to American threats instead of defending Canadian businesses that will lose out because their government refused to defend them.

All too many times we have heard members opposite insult my party for our stand on business. The New Democratic Party is proud to defend Canadian businesses, to defend this whole industry, while the government is happy to serve as the B movie cast of this Hollywood controlled production.

What we are debating should not be reduced, as some have tried to do, to an argument over culture. Another battle in the war I referred to earlier is for the right of Canada to determine its own economic and cultural policies. If the bill becomes law, those whose interests may be threatened will examine every bill passed by the House. They will see that laws can be changed to suit their needs and that as long as the compliant majority government sits in the benches opposite, no law, no bill, no act or motion need pass without their veto.

In the years since the transformation of the GATT into the WTO and the FTA into NAFTA we have seen numerous violations of those agreements by the Americans. Whether it be softwood lumber, salmon and now magazines, there is a consistency to those disputes that bears mentioning. Every one was won by the Americans. Some they lost on paper, as international tribunals and other august bodies passed judgment in our favour, but when it came down to it the logic of the mouse and the elephant came into play.

The elephant knows that it can win every time. It only needs to move a bit to make us do what it wants. The elephant really has moved with the bill. The Americans have pushed the government into doing exactly what it promised would never happen by allowing new split-run magazines to be introduced with watered down requirements for Canadian content and a built-in flexibility that is bound to see the percentage of allowable Canadian advertising in split runs increase year after year after year.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage promised that whatever changes were made the spirit of the legislation would remain unchanged. She was either misled or misleading.

The original Bill C-55 presented to the House contained solid planks upon which to build a defence of the Canadian magazine industry. One by one those planks were removed under American pressure until eventually nothing was left.

The minister asked for credit because the trade dispute with the United States was avoided. How much credit should we give someone whose actions will damage Canadians in much the same way as a trade war while denying us the right to retaliate in kind?

I was elected to protect jobs in my riding. One of the few sectors of the Cape Breton economy that is booming is our cultural sector. It makes me angry when I look through the provisions and implications of the legislation and realize that government funding for local magazines, concerts, festivals and recordings could be threatened. The government may be so enamoured of American culture that it is happy to watch it engulf our own.

I believe that there is much worth fighting for in this country, not the least of which is our culture.

Once again Canadian advertisers are not at fault. They are simply trying to get by, but the failure of the government to resist the bill means that in due course there will be no Canadian magazines left to protect.

The minister's discourses on percentages and phase-in periods will amount to nothing more than sound bites to be excerpted in the latest edition of Time , the Canadian edition with George Bush Jr. on the cover, with stories about storms in Kansas and fires in California and advertisers from The Bay, Canadian Tire and CIBC on the inside. O Canada.

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12:35 p.m.


Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate Bill C-55 and the amendments that have come along with it. I would like to share my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat.

What is Bill C-55 really about? We have heard all kinds of comments involving culture, which seems to be the primary issue involved. I am being told from individuals in my riding and from my own heart, soul and mind that the bill is about big money and big government trying to impose its version of culture on Canadians. Those are the two issues the bill is all about.

I refer to the the order paper of June 8. The Senate is sending a message to the House of Commons on an act respecting advertising services supplied by foreign periodical publishers. It is very clear that it is not about culture. It is about money.

I refer to quote from a Canadian publisher that will benefit from the money aspect of Bill C-55. It is by a gentleman by the name of Jean Paré, publisher of L'actualité . He says that Bill C-55 is a fold, a capitulation. He says that the government is giving our lunch to the Americans, lunch meaning money, and is proposing to give us welfare. Canadians will be providing more money. Rarely do we see any talk about culture until we get into the House.

Maude Barlow is chairwoman of the nationalist Council of Canadians. That is almost a misnomer. The material I have seen coming from Maude Barlow literally makes me sick to my stomach. She does not represent a majority of Canadians by any means. She represents a small minority of people who end up in the NDP camp. That should be made very clear.

She says that this is total capitulation by the government and a farce. Our NDP critic says we are now in danger of not only losing our magazine industry but our national soul as well. That gigantic emphasis of an issue is not even factual.

Had Bill C-55 had not been brought to the House, could anyone say that Canadian culture would have suddenly stopped and we would no longer make progress in developing our culture as individual Canadians? It would have continued with much less waste of money and time than we have spent in the House on the bill. It has cost us gigantic sums in our relationships with the Americans. We may not be able to put an exact dollar figure to it, but why would we as a country want to literally antagonize our best friends in the whole world?

I have personal dislike for the supposed nationalists of the House and of the country slamming Americans. That is exactly what is being done in the House today. My grandfather came to the country in 1902 from Iowa. His family was in that neck of the woods. Whether or not anyone likes it, we in Canada are Americans. We are on the North American continent. We are in a relationship with people and together we comprise the North American continent. When I hear people speak against Americans and refer to the United States, in essence they are talking against ourselves.

Let us talk about the fact that our heritage minister has personalized the debate to make it evident to everybody in the country what the bill is about. I have listened to her many times in question period and in her speeches in the House going on and on about what would happen if the bill did not go through and we do not protect culture. She wants to force the culture she believes is Canadian down the throats of every Canadian. I do not believe she has a full idea of what Canadian culture is, but she certainly wants to force her version and the Liberal government's version of culture down our throats.

She refers to her daughter and providing culture for her daughter and for my daughters and those of everyone else by extension. The government's and the minister's version of culture literally makes my stomach turn. I will tell the House why. The minister and the government have put large sums of money into their version of culture, which includes among other things pornographic movies such as Bubbles Galore . She has put gigantic sums into Canadian culture as she perceives it in a dumb blonde joke book.

The National Film Board, which is funded by taxpayers, is producing movies that degrade, demonize and make our military into something that it was not. Our military was recognized worldwide for the great job it did in World War II. The veterans of the country said that our culture was not expressed in the glory and valour type movie put out by the film board. That is not what they went to Europe to fight for. They fought for the right to be free and to develop the Canadian culture which flows naturally out of the interaction of humans and is not forced.

What is happening is that Bill C-55 is an attack on freedom of speech. I have already mentioned the negative impact it has had on trade and will have in the future. I mentioned that it is force-feeding a culture that is in essence not real. It is an artificial concept of what the government believes.

I wonder how independent this great magazine industry can be when it is going to be subsidized to the tune of millions of dollars, probably per annum, which will not take too many years before it will be in the billions, in order to help it to compete with the rest of the world?

Once anyone receives money from the government, the government calls the shots. Believe me when I say that the magazine industry is going to have to pay attention when the Prime Minister calls up and says that the government would like to slam the NDP or the Reform a little bit more, or wants an article massaged to make the government look good. I wonder if that does not have a real negative impact on Canadian culture and on the country.

We saw what was done with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. If we look at its reports, its media analysis and the way it portrays this country and the various political parties, it might as well have been written by the Prime Minister's office. The Prime Minister appoints all of the directors and the chief executive officers of the CBC.

We see a loss of this ability to be independent. It is a big negative on the country to have that happen. The CBC is a good example of what the magazine industry will be coming up to. The industry will lose its independence. I do not know whether it feels it is independent now, but it will certainly become a lot less independent.

I just want to deal with the issue of culture. Canada's landmass has existed for billions of years. The best historical evidence available is that about 11,000 years ago the aboriginal people came to this country. Even without government subsidies, they somehow managed to establish a culture and have kept it going to this very day.

I look at my riding. The Icelandic people came to this country and established a tremendous culture. They have written tremendous books and magazines and have done tremendous paintings without any government subsidy. They have not been told by government that their culture is not what they think it is, that it is going to buy their culture and force-feed it to them and then they will end up being Canadian.

My final comment is that we Canadians will develop our culture. We will do a lot better developing it without the federal government telling us what it will be and how we are going to do it.

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12:45 p.m.

Halton Ontario


Julian Reed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to ask the hon. member how he can have it both ways? How can he first talk so easily about the freedom in this country and then pass an opinion about the content of certain cultural entities? I do not understand it. Is this freedom according to the Reform Party or the Reform Party's interpretation of freedom? Whose freedom is it? It seems to me it is either freedom or it is not freedom. We cannot qualify freedom. This debate has been going on for many years in this country. In the 1970s, the province of Ontario had censorship of films. That was done away with in favour of classification as society grew more mature and in the name of freedom of expression.

I ask the hon. member to search his conscience and determine in his own mind what kind of freedom he is talking about. Is it his brand of freedom, his interpretation of freedom, or is it freedom?

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12:50 p.m.


Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the freedom that we are talking about here is the freedom to be free of government propaganda. It is the freedom to develop a culture that flows naturally from our youth and and from people living in the countryside today.

Out west we spend a lot of time outdoors. Quite often, in order to protect ourselves from the sun, we wear a big hat called a Stetson. That is a kind of culture thing of the west.

If we take this to the logical conclusion, where Bill C-55 is saying that we have to protect culture, the Liberals are protecting what they think is a small little piece of culture like this in the magazine industry. However, culture is much bigger than that. By logical extension from Bill C-55, Canadians should be told by the government that, for instance, since Montreal people like to wear berets all Canadians should wear berets because that is Canadian.

I have a couple of real good quarter horses that I use for sorting cattle and working my ranch. We now have the government and the Bloc on the other side trying to tell me that the Canadian horse is some horse that is raised down here in Ontario and Quebec. Well that cultural horse is not the kind of horse we use out west. Here again is big government imposing its vision of culture on us. We want the freedom to develop it ourselves without all the propaganda that flows when the government puts money into magazines and tells the magazine industry what it should do.

I want to be free from the excessive taxation. The government puts billions of dollars into the magazine industry in order to protect it so that the magazine industry can somehow put out cultural articles so Canadians will know about each other. Why should I as a taxpayer have to pay these magazine publishers to put out a magazine? That is what we will be doing if we subsidize them through Bill C-55.

The government is talking about tax breaks. Every tax break to an industry means those are taxes that I, as a businessman without any subsidy like that, will have to kick in out of my own pocket.

I think those are the freedoms that we are talking about: freedom from big government and freedom from the Liberal government especially.

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12:50 p.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Selkirk—Interlake for an excellent speech. He told people how it is. I just want to follow up on what my friend said, because I think he was going down absolutely the right track.

I think Canadians used to have a lot of respect for the term liberalism in the classical sense at one point. One hundred years ago we had some respect for that. Do hon. members know what it stood for? It stood for limited government, one of the greatest human achievements of all time. It stood for free trade.

In fact, at the turn of the last century we know that the Prime Minister's own hero, Wilfrid Laurier, was pushing free trade. He was a free trade advocate. He believed in that because he was a liberal in the classical sense. They believed in personal freedom. That is what classical liberalism was.

I would argue that the Liberals across the way are so far from that today that they desecrate the memory of that type of liberalism. This government seems to believe that culture is what it chooses it to be, even though, as my friend pointed out, everybody has a different view of what culture is.

As I pointed out to my Conservative colleague down the road, if there are 30 million different views of what constitutes culture and Canadian identity, then who ends up choosing? Should it be each individual for himself or herself? I think it should be. That makes sense to me. Should it be bureaucrats who impose their values and vision on the rest of us and do it with our tax money? They take the money out of our pockets for what they believe is culture and we have to pay for it. We then have spectacles like Bubbles Galore being produced, a lesbian porno film that the rest of us have to pay for. That is absolutely ridiculous.

I cannot believe my friend over there is laughing and thinks it is funny. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that the Liberals would defend that so-called vision of culture.

I would argue that this party has changed to the point where it cannot be recognized anymore. The classical Liberals of 100 years ago are spinning in their graves when they consider how interventionist this government has become.

I simply want to point out that in the period when we had real classical liberalism throughout the world in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, we saw an unprecedented advancement in human happiness when governments were limited. For millennia, we had toiled under governments that imposed their own will upon the people and taxed them as they saw fit. There was no freedom.

We then saw an outbreak of freedom, going back into the 17th century. It grew and grew through the 18th and 19th centuries. We saw tremendous advancements in human happiness. We saw people become wealthier. We saw standards of living go up. We saw people become healthier. We saw people live to a much older age because there was more food and health care.

Then, in the 20th century somehow we lost sight of what it was that had happened and what the root was of all this prosperity. We started to build up these big governments again. I would argue that the bloodiest of all centuries has been the 20th century precisely because we somehow forgot the lessons of those previous centuries and started to embrace big government. We had huge government, Utopian-type governments. We had national socialism in Germany and we had communism in the Soviet Union. It was bloody and it was hell on earth for many people.

I am not suggesting this government is like that, not at all. I am suggesting that it forgets what it is that gave us all that prosperity and that today it is still the root of the prosperity, to the degree that this government allows it to show its face. I am talking about those principles I talked about before: limited government, free trade, personal freedom. Those are great things but we cannot simply say that we want to have personal freedom on Monday, but that on Tuesday, when we are dealing with culture, that we do not really want to have that because we have a better idea of what constitutes culture. I reject that.

I say that the Liberals do not have a better idea. I say that each individual has to make that decision. That is why I reject Bill C-55 on principled ground. It is a violation of the freedom of speech. It is a violation of our right to trade freely and exchange goods and services on a voluntary basis. It is ridiculous that we have the nanny state intervening and telling us what we can watch when we have to pay for it. I think it is absolutely crazy, but that is what the government defends every day.

When the government does this, I believe it desecrates the memory of classical liberalism and what it used to mean to be a real liberal in that classical sense.

I want to talk a little about some of the specifics of this legislation. I want to argue, just on a pragmatic basis, that to enter into this legislation was perhaps one of the most ridiculous, stupid political moves I have ever seen in my life. We live in a country that is very dependent on free trade, especially with the Americans, with whom our trade is worth over $1 billion every day.

What do we do? We basically poke them in the eye with a sharp stick and say that we want to defend this undefined nebulous concept called culture which means something completely different to everyone else. In doing that we are going to jeopardize this trade that we do every day and the millions upon millions of jobs that go with it.

Did the government for a moment consider that? Apparently not. It wandered into this and suggested that this nebulous concept of culture is more important than food on the table and jobs for many people. Of course, the Americans were not blind to this. They said that they would retaliate in areas like steel and plastics. Interestingly, steel is the industry we see very much of in the heritage minister's riding. As a result of that the government started to back away when it saw that the Americans were fighting hard.

I do not believe that this is an issue of backing away from the Americans. To the contrary, I believe what this issue is ultimately about is the belief that Canada can compete without protection in any field. We do not need the nanny state telling us what to do and protecting us. We can compete because we are as good as or better than the Americans and everyone else. Our people are just as competent. No, they are more competent. I believe that. I am sad that this Liberal government does not believe it.

I am sad that the Liberals do not respect their heritage, from where they came 100 years ago when they used to believe in those sorts of things. They have given that up. They have bought into this inferiority complex that has become a national joke. I think it is sick. I am embarrassed that the Liberals sit across the way and laugh about this. They smirk. I think it is absolutely ridiculous. They should be embarrassed.

We are approaching Canada Day. Some day I would like to see a Canada Day when we do not have to have all these regulations, barriers and so-called protections for the government's narrow little definition of culture. We are grown up enough to stand on our own two feet.

I am ashamed that this government would do this. I just wish we had enough people on this side to stop this ridiculous legislation.

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1 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario


Mauril Bélanger LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I want to comment on some of the comments we heard from some of the Reform members this morning.

The member for Peace River said earlier when he was criticizing the legislation before us that it was creating barriers to the American publications. I want to make sure that the people listening to this debate know that that is totally inaccurate.

The Canadian magazine market is totally accessible to all foreign publications. Anyone can go into any magazine shop in any city or town in the country and buy just about any magazine published in the United States principally, because we happen to receive about 80% to 90% of the export of American magazines in Canada.

For the member to argue that we are creating barriers is tantamount to misleading the House. I want people who are listening to be aware of that.

The member for Peace River said that the foreign publishers would be eligible for subsidies should we provide subsidies to our Canadian publishers. Under the WTO arrangements and under our national treaties, agreements of this kind have never required national treatment under subsidy programs. To make that affirmation that should we desire to help our magazine industry in Canada we would have to extend the same to the American publishers is inaccurate. I wonder on what basis the member made such a suggestion.

Then the member for Selkirk—Interlake talked about how terrible it was that the government would personalize this debate, and that the Minister of Canadian Heritage would infer that she wanted her daughter to have access to stories from Canadians about Canadians in Canadian magazines. That came from a member who just prior to that had made extremely disparaging remarks about someone else, about Maude Barlow. We may or may not agree with the views of Maude Barlow but to say comments like “whatever comes from Maude Barlow turns my stomach” and then say the government is personalizing a debate is uncalled for.

The member for Selkirk—Interlake made a comment which I think a lot of people are going to find rather strange. He said that chastizing the NDP for attacking the Americans does not matter because “we are all Americans”. I have news for him. I am not an American. I am a proud Canadian and I sure as hell want to keep it that way.

The latest intervention was from the member for Medicine Hat, the theory of social evolution à la Monte. I am starting to understand where the Reformers are coming from.

Mr. Speaker, I thought this was questions and comments.

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1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The parliamentary secretary is right. It is questions and comments but he has taken almost four minutes of the five that are available. The member for Medicine Hat does have the right of reply.

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1:05 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if in the member's comment that all things bad come from government, he has in his social theory the notion of wealth sharing for the common good, and is he prepared to abandon that? Is he showing the true colours of the Reform Party? Industries and common good do at times have precedence and do count for something in this country but the member obviously does not care about that.

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1:05 p.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to address some of the issues my colleague has raised.

He suggested that there are no barriers being created to American magazines. Of course that is completely untrue. The fact is that if American magazines want to come here and pursue advertisers, then they have to follow certain Canadian rules. Those are barriers. It does not mean they have unfettered access to come in here. They have to follow the government's regulations. Again they want to micromanage the industry and in doing that they deny Canadian advertisers the ability to advertise with whomever they want without facing a penalty.

The member mentioned the WTO and whether or not we would have to give national treatment to foreign magazines coming into Canada. There is a long established principle of reciprocity under free trade agreements. It is not beyond the pale that this would be the case. The Americans would pursue this under the WTO and ask for reciprocity and the same sort of dealing for their publications as are given to Canadian publications. I think the member is talking through his hat.

My friend across the way said that the member for Selkirk—Interlake said that we were Americans. He was talking about all of us being from the Americas, North Americans. Although my friend is trying to push the anti-American hot button, it is not going to work.

I simply want to make the case that I argued for limited government, something the member's party believed in some time ago when Canada was a country that was growing and was a lot more prosperous than it is today. The member should be ashamed that he abandoned that.

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1:05 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to make a few comments concerning Bill C-55. This is a very important issue for all of us. What we are debating embodies some very important principles.

The House of Commons, with the support of the NDP caucus, passed the Canadian version of Bill C-55. I say Canadian version because we know that what we are looking at now has a slightly different approach to it. When we passed this bill a few months back we gave our support because of the protection this bill offered to Canadian magazines from new split-run editions of American magazines. That was the reason for our lukewarm support. We had a lot of concerns about this bill but we did stick with the government and we did support the bill.

At that time we expressed frustration because the bill seemed to be the subject of bargaining behind closed doors with the Americans. This concerned us greatly. The minister gave us her assurance that the spirit of Bill C-55 would be respected in any deal that was worked out. How wrong we were to have believed that.

Let us look for a moment at the contents of what we call the Canadian bill. What did it provide?

Bill C-55 would make it an offence for a publisher to provide advertising services aimed at the Canadian market to be placed in foreign periodical publications, except for those currently receiving Canadian advertising. They could continue at the current level of Canadian advertising under the grandparenting provision.

An offence was enforceable by a Canadian court in any Canadian jurisdiction chosen by the crown after an investigation ordered by the minister using powers of investigation borrowed from the Criminal Code. The penalties ranged from a maximum of $20,000 for an individual first offence on a summary conviction to $250,000 for a corporate offender on indictment. There were also provisions for jail terms.

Offences that took place outside Canada by foreign individuals or corporations were deemed to have taken place in Canada for the purpose of enforcement of this act. The government could collect unpaid fines levied upon conviction in the same manner as a civil judgment.

There were a lot of things in this bill that perhaps merited some consideration. But what happened to this bill? The Americans became concerned and they threatened a trade war. Canadian trade experts both inside and outside government stated repeatedly that the Canadian version of Bill C-55 was WTO proof and that the cultural exclusion in NAFTA would also protect Canada in any trade war. Yet after months of behind closed door negotiations the Prime Minister directly intervened and Canada gave in. We surrendered. We caved in.

An hon. member mentioned earlier that we are all Americans, but we know full well that there is quite a difference between Canadian culture and American culture. Even though we all are part of the North American continent, there is quite a difference in approach and in cultural identity and so forth between our two countries.

Quite often we see that Canada gives in to the Americans. We give in on matters that involve our environment. We allow substances to be put into our environment because the Americans will sue us if we do not allow those substances to be used. We give in to big brother so to speak.

The heritage minister had the Senate introduce amendments which we now see in this bill in order to implement our capitulation to the Americans. After using time allocation in the Senate, the Senate passed the bill and it is before the House today.

What exactly did Canada give away? Let us look at the definitions of Canadian content, editorial content or non-advertising. It is considered Canadian as long as it is original to the magazine and aimed exclusively at a Canadian market; not if it was written by a Canadian, but as long as it is original and aimed at the Canadian market.

The precedent is now set for the Americans to challenge the definitions of Canadian content under the WTO and NAFTA. This could have a profound impact on our protections in broadcasting, book publishing, films and even our protections in all cultural institutions.

An hon. member from the Reform Party made some reference to the NDP critic's description of culture and the use of the term soul. I am proud that we in the NDP are concerned with issues that relate to the soul. We are concerned about things that are meaningful to us. We go beyond the dollar and cents value that quite often is placed upon things by so many others. Quite often that dominates and determines what the end policy is going to be, rather than the heart and soul having some role to play in terms of our Canadian culture.

With respect to control of our own market, the original Bill C-55 made it illegal for the new split-run magazines to accept Canadian advertising. Under the American deal we will allow new split runs to be created to invade our market with up to 18% Canadian advertising phased in over three years. Canadian advertisers can now write off on their taxes a portion of their ad expenses spent on Canadian magazines. In a sense the government is making the taxpayers subsidize the American industry.

The original bill grandfathered existing split runs such as Reader's Digest , Time , Sports Illustrated and so forth, but the new bill allows for new split runs and that is the real threat to our magazine industry.

I could go on at some length about some of the problems with this deal, but it is a cave-in by the Canadian government. Often the Liberal government caves in, sells out and gives up on the basic values that are important to us.

I could go through a number of examples of how this happens. I look, for example, at the need for a national shipbuilding policy. Again this is an issue on which the government has caved in. It is afraid to face up to the fact that we need a national shipbuilding policy to enable many skilled people who are looking for work in this area to pursue that work in a meaningful way.

The government constantly says that it has a policy. It gives one or two examples of a few concessions here or there but nothing that sets any sense of direction for a national shipbuilding policy.

Let us look at the most recent issue of the treatment of merchant mariners. These honourable veterans served their country well. Yet after the war they ended up being mistreated. They were not given the opportunities that were given to the regular military. These men have been fighting for years to be recognized as having contributed in a meaningful way to the protection and well-being of their country.

We get to a point where finally some recognition is given through legislation. However they are saying they want some compensation for lost opportunities. They want the government to show in a symbolic way that it understands what they went through and what they suffered, not at the hands of the enemy so much but at the hands of their own government.

The government had the opportunity to correct the situation. An all party committee listened to witnesses from across the country who felt that these men should be adequately rewarded. What did the government do when there was the opportunity to correct the situation? Again it looked at the bottom line of the dollar figure and caved in.

We receive letters from many constituents on this matter. One letter was from a navy veteran in the province of New Brunswick and concerned the article in the Times transcript today. He did not agree with the chairman of the committee that most veterans did not think they should get the $20,000 payment. He did not know to whom the chairman had been been talking but he knew the way veterans felt about it and that they did not feel that way. He wanted something to be done to ensure that the actual feelings of the veterans were heard. We feel that these merchant mariners should get this compensation.

Other veterans are speaking out on behalf of merchant mariners. People from all across the country are speaking out. Yet the government caves in.

Then we have the issue concerning the military ombudsman. Well over a year ago the government put in place a system designed to facilitate men and women in the armed forces in obtaining an independent means of redress of their concerns. Even then the government did not make it truly independent. Rather than the ombudsman being accountable to parliament, he ends up being accountable to the Minister of National Defence.

We thought we should give it a try and see how it would work. Well after a year the military ombudsman is sitting powerless. He produced a report which he called The Way Forward . He sent it on to the minister for a response. That report has been sitting on the minister's desk for over 150 days. The minister is sitting silent. He has caved in again, perhaps to the top military brass. We do not know. With hundreds of complaints waiting and thousands expected, the minister has not yet responded to the military ombudsman's report to enable him to begin his work.

There is clearly a need for the government to look seriously at accountability and fairness and how these concepts can be enhanced through an ombudsman concept for the military and perhaps even for the federal government as a whole.

Again it is an example of caving in, an example of looking at the dollars and not giving any consideration to the other principles involved in trying to help people resolve their problems.

Then again we look at employment insurance and the employment insurance grab that took place, another example of grabbing the dollars and forgetting about the unemployed men and women out there who could benefit from those funds in a meaningful way.

Recently with Bill C-78, the pension surplus grab, the pension funds of the Canadian military, the RCMP and public servants were being grabbed for the government's coffers without any consideration of how best to improve the benefits being received by survivors and contributors to the pension funds. Again it is a cave-in by the government. We could also look at pay equity, another big example of a cave-in by the government.

I return to one example that is very dear to my heart and very important to me. I am referring to a small community in my riding that is without a good, clean, healthy, drinking water supply. One might ask in this day and age how it could be possible that a community is drawing water from wells that is not suitable for drinking and not suitable for washing clothes. There are young children and older people in that community. These people are living next to the main water supply for the city of Halifax. It passes them by. It is unbelievable in this day and age.

We have been struggling to get funds to enable the project to move ahead to get these people hooked up to the central water system. We are only asking for a small contribution from the federal government for that project, a contribution which could have well been handled under the Canada infrastructure works program. Because of a slight mix-up the project did not get in under that program. Even money that had been committed by the federal government has been taken off the books. We are struggling to get some money to assist with the project.

Where are the government's priorities? Cave-in, cave-in, cave-in. That is what is happening with Bill C-55. The changes that have been made to the bill are a cave-in by the government. It is an attempt to try to avoid protecting Canadian culture. If we are to be seen as truly proud Canadians, at some point we must stand up and be counted.

I spoke to an hon. member from the government side who said to me just yesterday that it was awful to have to do something one does not want to do. I asked him if he was referring to the merchant marines and he said that was right. I told him that I thought it was time he stood and was counted and that he did not have to do something he did not want to do.

When I was campaigning I said very clearly to my constituents that I did not want politics to change me. If it ever get to a point where I will not stand up for what I believe to be right and make a decision based upon my conscience and upon what I know to be right, I will be ineffective in politics and it is the time for me to get out.

Whenever we are considering changes to legislation hon. members should remember that we have to stand and be counted. We have to base our stand upon the principles we believe in as individuals. We have to be true to ourselves if we are to be true at all in forming legislation that will be meaningful.

With those remarks I would say the amendments and changes to the bill do nothing to enhance Canadian culture. They do nothing to secure or protect our magazine industry. I urge all hon. members to consider this point, to reject what we call the American deal, and to promote a truly positive deal for Canadians.

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1:20 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this important debate on Bill C-55.

To follow the words of many of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, I remain firmly committed to our objective of preserving and enhancing Canadian culture and see the bill as exactly opposite, an anathema to that objective.

As my colleagues have done, I would also like to acknowledge the work of the hon. member for Dartmouth who has been so vigilant on the issue from the beginning. She brought her personal involvement in the cultural artistic fabric of the nation to the process and the bill, which gives them real meaning and definition. I congratulate her for leading our caucus in preserving a sense of meaning around the debate and doing everything possible to persuade the Liberal government that what it is doing is wrong when it comes to preserving Canadian culture.

I bring us back to what it means when we talk about culture. What does Canadian culture mean? Many others have done the same in this debate. They have tried to talk about how culture is the spirit of a nation. Many others have talked about culture being the mirror which reflects the lives, the history and identities of Canadians.

It is a celebration of everything that is unique, special and important about a nation. It gives expression to our struggles, our history, our values, our beliefs, our troubles and our moments of ecstasy and joy in the development of a nation.

Many have written on this subject. Many have tried to find the words that will impress upon governments everywhere the importance of acknowledging what culture is and how important cultural policy is in the pursuit of adhering to the true definition of culture.

I refer to a couple of writers who have tried to express what we are talking about. I am drawing on a document produced about a year ago by the Canadian Conference of the Arts called the “Final Report of the Working Group on Cultural Policy for the 21st Century”. I will refer to this document on several occasions throughout my speech because it encompasses much of what we are all about today, why the bill is so important, and why we are so concerned about the direction the government is taking us.

That report uses quotes from a well known author, essayist and novelist, Hugh MacLennan, who said in 1978:

We know intuitively that we will become great only when we translate our force and knowledge into spiritual and artistic terms. Then, and only then, will it matter to mankind whether Canada has existed or not.

That is the essence of what we are talking about today. We are talking about the means by which we can translate our past, our present, our hopes and our aspirations into spiritual and artistic terms. Others from all walks of life have tried to express these thoughts as well.

I also want to put on record the quote of a Vancouver businessman, David Lemon, who said in 1993:

The arts are intrinsic to a sense of nation. They are intrinsic to the cultivation of a shared identity. They are intrinsic to a prosperous economy.

This is something that has been overlooked in the debate. We talk about the importance of culture as an expression of our inner most feelings and of our history as a nation. We talk about how it is a mirror and how it gives us some identity, but we sometimes overlook the value of arts and cultural activities in terms of the economy. Certainly it is a message I would hope Reform members are listening to and trying to understand in order to rethink their policies when it comes to culture. We are not short of studies which show that this whole area of the arts and cultural industries is probably one of the most labour intensive aspects of our economy and one of the greatest contributors to our prosperity as a nation.

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1:30 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

It is one of the top five.

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1:30 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

My colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre has reminded me that culture and the arts are ranked among the top five contributors to the economic life of this country. There are many spinoff benefits. There is an incredible economic value to this whole sector which we cannot ignore.

If we put together our intrinsic belief in upholding and preserving the culture of the nation with the economic benefit, surely we have a formula that is beyond reproach in terms of support and significance in terms of government action, legislation and policy.

That obviously leads to a strong cultural policy. It is important to note that this country does not have a national cultural policy. For at least 10 years groups like the Canadian Conference of the Arts and many others across this country have been clamouring at the doorsteps of the government for a national cultural policy.

To this day, June 10, 1999, we do not have a national cultural policy. We have seen study after study after study, but no action. Another subcommittee of the heritage committee has just completed another cross-country tour trying to find out what Canadians think about cultural policy. It heard the same message again and again. Yes, we need a cultural policy to give meaning to what it is that we want to preserve as Canadian culture.

Given the fact that we are dealing with Bill C-55, I am beginning to understand why we may not have a national cultural policy. I am beginning to understand that it may have been a lot more difficult for the government to bring in this regressive American legislation on the magazine industry of this country if it had in place a national cultural policy.

I will quote again from the policy paper of the Canadian Conference of the Arts, which was released in June 1998, just one year ago. It makes a very important point. It asks the question:

Why do governments exist? What is the purpose that sustains them and gives them the moral and political grounding necessary to continue to function? The essence of the answer is sovereignty—the right of a nation to take charge of its own destiny and chart its own course through history.

According to the conference, sovereignty has three key components. The first is political sovereignty, a great deal of which we have given up in the course of the last couple of years in terms of how this place functions, how many times the government has brought in closure, how many times it has bypassed parliament, how many times it has said one thing and done another, and the list goes on.

According to the Canadian Conference of the Arts, another key component is economic sovereignty. We do not have to look too far to appreciate just how much we have sold off as a nation, how much we have given away, how much we have thrown to the wind in the interests of the globalized economy, in the interests of large multinational corporations which would like to have access to a completely unfettered marketplace without any barriers in their way, including such things as a national health care plan, which we used to have in this country, including such things as a universal pension plan, reasonable unemployment insurance, and I could go on to mention any number of areas.

There is a third key component of what it means to truly have what we all want and that is cultural sovereignty. The definition applied to that is:

The affirmation of the right of sovereign nations to foster and promote the creation, production, distribution and preservation of the works of the imagination in their many forms, or artifacts and objects of importance to the collective history of the citizenry of the nation state, through direct governmental measures.

I could add, through a proactive government, through a government that has the wherewithal and the political will to ensure that cultural sovereignty is preserved and is a reality.

The Canadian Conference of the Arts provides some very good words around just how important that is. It says in its report at page 8:

Cultural expression reflecting the common and diverse experiences, observations and aspirations of the citizens of a nation state is central to the creation and maintenance of a shared sense of identity and the promotion of understanding among diverse elements resident within the same political boundaries. Cultural expression builds a sense of common purpose and tolerance, and a respect for the differences inherent in peoples who have brought to the nation a wide array of distinctive traditions, values, and perceptions. Cultural expression fosters and expands the fundamental cohesive elements within a state.

I think that just about says it all in terms of why we on this side of the House are so concerned about the preservation and enhancement of Canadian culture and why we are so opposed to Bill C-55. We had an opportunity to use the tools of government to ensure that we create that sense of identity, that sense of tolerance, that expression of appreciation for all the diversity that makes up this nation and we blew it. In that typical scenario of the mouse beside the elephant we allowed ourselves to be squashed. Maybe it is more like the flea on the mouse sitting by the elephant. We allowed ourselves to be squashed, to be stamped out. We could have stood up to our American neighbours to the south.

I want to take us back a few years to 1986, 1987 and 1988. At that time I happened to be the minister of culture and heritage for the province of Manitoba. I, along with my colleagues in the provincial government of Manitoba, as well as many colleagues from different parts of the country, worked day in and day out to express our concerns about the proposed free trade agreement. We identified at that point that the free trade agreement would be dangerous, would be a barrier, would be devastating in our pursuit of the preservation of Canadian culture.

I hope Conservative members are listening. We were told at that time by the Brian Mulroney government of the day not to worry, there was an exemption for culture. We were told that we would never lose anything by way of cultural artistic expression in this country because there was a strong exemption which would prevent any kind of erosion as a result of American actions.

This government had a chance to test the cultural exemption in the free trade agreement and the NAFTA. It could have tested that exemption to stand firm on its earlier commitments and to show clearly that it was prepared to do everything possible to preserve Canadian culture. It caved in.

There was an indication from the WTO that Canada had a strong case. There was certainly all kinds of support from the cultural community in Canada. There were all kinds of legal arguments. There was all kinds of advice. There was all kinds of solid evidence to suggest that the government use that supposed, absolutely rock solid provision which would preserve Canadian identity, that exemption for cultural affairs in this country, and the government chose not to.

The result, as my colleague from Dartmouth said, is a sellout to the Americans. There is no question that Bill C-55, as amended by the Senate, according to the wishes of the Americans, particularly the giant media magazine corporations in the United States, is a sellout. Others have used the term cave in, but it is the same thing because we did have a choice.

In making the deal on magazines this government has shown that it is willing to sacrifice Canadian cultural policy without a fight. When the Americans come back with more threats against other cultural initiatives, whether it is Canadian content, ownership of our broadcasting industries, subsidizing the CBC or even our support for artists through the Canada Council, the precedent is set for us to cave in.

Instead of taking this opportunity, using that supposed wonderful exemption, fighting for and setting a precedent for all aspects of Canadian culture, the arts and creative enterprise, this government chose to cave in, just like we saw it do on the MMT issue. It could have stood and fought. It could have shown leadership and used the provisions that were available to make the case, but because it was threatened, because it was intimidated, because there was a question of retaliation, a question of suits, a question of financial compensation, the government chose to cave in before it had even fought the battle. The precedent is set.

Do members opposite not understand why we are so concerned about this bill? Do they not see where it might lead us? Do they not understand how dangerous this can be for the future?

It does not matter whether we are talking about culture, water or pharmaceuticals. Let us not forget what this government did when it caved in on pharmaceuticals. Liberals stood in the House before they formed the government in 1993 and said that Brian Mulroney was wrong to bring in Bill C-91, which extended patent protection to the pharmaceutical giants, because it would give profits to those big corporations and hurt the poor and the sick in this country. What did it do? It caved in to the giant pharmaceuticals.

Today this government is caving in to the giant American based magazine industry, and we will all pay the price. It is not too late for the government to reconsider, to understand that it is important to stand for Canadian culture. What we are talking about is our very identity, our very traditions around tolerance and acceptance of diversity and appreciation for struggling together for the common collective good.

I urge the government to reconsider. I urge it to stand for Canadian culture.

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1:40 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I was not intending to speak to this bill, but in listening to the NDP, the Liberals and the Tories talk about a national cultural policy, it just sounds like something I would hear from some socialist communist regime.

Canadians do not want government telling them what our culture is or government shaping and moulding it. Government will promote and foster what it values and it will unlikely reflect the values and culture of its people.

In my own view I see this as just a means of social engineering society. When I hear words like tolerance and values, I believe they are code words for “see things the way I see them or you are wrong in your views”. I am very apprehensive about government trying to shape and mould culture. That smacks of a government which thinks it knows more than the ordinary people. It is telling us what to think, filtering what we will hear and telling us what we are going to say. Generally this is a huge waste of money.

How would a cultural policy reflect the views of Canadians when the government that would implement it was elected by 38% of the vote? The hon. member talks about how dangerous it is to not bring in some strong bill like this. I think it is much more dangerous to get government into moulding culture.

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1:45 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Reform member in making those kinds of comments is insulting just about every individual and every organization that has played a part in contributing to the quality of life in Canada.

The words I used to define culture come directly from the working group of the Canadian Conference of the Arts and its report on cultural policy for the 21st century. Those organizations together said that Canadian culture is about the expression of our common and diverse experiences, observations and aspirations. It is about building a sense of common purpose, tolerance and respect for the differences among people.

Is the member from the Reform Party suggesting that is not a noble goal? Are we not all here trying to ensure that we are tolerant and respectful of one another and trying to build a sense of common purpose, trying to ensure that public good takes precedence over selfish greed? Is that not what we are all about? Is that not what culture is all about?

The Reform member can insult me all he wants. But what he has just done is insulted the Confederation Centre of the Arts, the Canadian Museums Association, the Canadian Book Publishers Council, the Specialty and Premium TV Association, Simon Fraser University, the Pacific Music Association, the Office for Cultural Affairs in the city of Vancouver and on and on. Every organization involved in this field has been absolutely committed to do the opposite of what the Reform Party is suggesting.

As my colleague from Saskatchewan has just said to me, maybe that is why the Reform Party is at 9% or 10% in the polls. The most important thing for us today is to get beyond where Reform is coming from.

I will quote once more from the Canadian Conference of the Arts paper:

When cultural sovereignty is eroded, lost or subsumed within narrow political or ideological objectives the nation state is deprived of one of the most compelling bonds of nationhood.

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1:45 p.m.


Allan Kerpan Reform Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member give her speech and my colleague make his comments. In any country of the world where culture has been a forced issue, in other words where a government or some group has been forcing culture upon any group of people, it does not work. That is quite obvious in history. A recent case is the Soviet Union where culture and politics were forced upon people and we all know what happened.

Would the NDP member like to comment on that? She quoted from a study done by a group of people who in my opinion are forcing a culture upon Canadians.

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1:45 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, when one has blinkers on, I suppose it is very hard to understand what we are talking about when we propose a cultural policy for this country and when we express our opposition to this bill.

I want the member to know that no one is trying to force anything down anyone's throat. Whenever members of the Reform Party have difficulty with something, they like to portray it that way.

We are trying to create a climate where our artists, writers, movie producers, filmmakers, book publishers, singers and dancers can have an opportunity to use their talent and express their sentiments. Surely that is something we all appreciate and enjoy, the freedom of expression.

We are not talking about forcing anything on anyone. We are talking about the fact that it is very hard as Canadians to compete with the Americans to the south of us. It requires proactive government. It requires us to do whatever we can to support the artistic cultural fabric of this nation. Otherwise it will be stamped out and I would hope that the Reform Party is not suggesting that for one moment.

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1:50 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think the member is twisting what we are saying. We support museums and all the various groups around the country that promote—

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1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

That does not sound like a point of order to me. It sounds like debate.

On questions and comments, I will go to the hon. member for Surrey Central. He has not had a chance to do that yet.