House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-36.


Anti-Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Anti-Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Anti-Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Anti-Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Call in the members.

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

Anti-Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed).

Anti-Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 5.50 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I wish to inform the House that under the provisions of Standing Order 30, I am designating Thursday, December 6, 2001 as the day for the consideration of private members' Bill S-10 standing in the name of the hon. member for Saint-Lambert.

This additional private members' hour will take place from 6.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., after which the House will proceed to the adjournment proceedings pursuant to Standing Order 38.

The House resumed from October 19 consideration of the motion that Bill S-7, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2001 / 5:50 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill S-7 amends the Broadcasting Act to harmonize it with the Telecommunications Act.

This bill would give the CRTC the power to compensate groups that file a complaint under this act and who appear before the commission. It would ensure that organizations and community networks do not have to pay to appear before the CRTC.

This provision would be in the interest of the individuals, the groups and the community radio and television stations who do not have the level of resources that the big broadcasters have. We therefore should support this bill, which makes brings a small but very significant change to the Broadcasting Act.

As the majority of the members of the House already know, my colleagues on the heritage committee and myself are presently studying the whole Broadcasting Act, which dates back to 1991. In the next 18 months, we will try to make it consistent with the new realities brought about by the new technologies and the globalization of the communications sector.

My colleagues on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and I are currently reviewing the entire Broadcasting Act, which dates from 1991.

Over the next 18 months, we will work to bring it more into line with the realities created by the new technologies and the globalization of communications. Representatives of groups concerned with this law, broadcasters and distributors, authors, composers, artists, journalists and funding and regulatory bodies are beginning to make their views known through their briefs and evidence.

As the Bloc Quebecois critic, I intend to be governed by the same principles as those underlying Bill S-7, principles of equity and equal opportunities in the interest of the audience.

There are some issues I will focus on: the interest of the audience and the interest of the public in general, press concentration, cross-media ownership, diversity of content, that is, information and other programming, the work of the CRTC and the respective roles of the public and private sectors.

So that everyone can be heard, we intend to defend the interests of the audience, not only as clients or consumers, but as citizens. We want to expand the debate to include the interest of the public, that is, the interest of Canadian and Quebec societies as a whole. Therefore all the regions and community media must be assured of a place in this forum.

Press concentration and cross-media ownership are growing. These phenomena warrant our attention, because the many mergers have changed the configuration of things. How can we ensure a diversity of information sources? How can we ensure healthy competition between newsrooms if all journalists report to the same boss and there is only one microphone in front of the person being interviewed?

We must, at all cost, avoid watering down both information and general and cultural programming. Diversity is an integral part of quality radio and television.

But what is that diversity that is so enthusiastically supported by all? Some refer to multiculturalism, others to a greater number of programs, others to consumer preferences. We must expect wishes to go in all directions but, most of all, we must pay attention to quality so that our radio and television programming reflect those who produce it, who listen to it and who watch it, so that it reflects the Quebec and Canada of today.

Everyone agrees that it is essential to offer listeners and viewers the programming they want, but that does not mean that supply must be market driven only because, if certain types of programs are not made available, how can they be in demand? As in song, publishing and the arts in general, the great creativity of Quebecers and Canadians must be showcased on the radio and on television.

This is where regulation and public television come into play. Had our governments rejected all form of regulation in 1958 and 1968, members will certainly agree that we would not have the broadcasting system we have today. Of course, legislation must evolve with technological change, but one must not lose sight of the interests of listeners and viewers and of their capacity to adapt.

In these times of media convergence and the explosion of new networks, how can the CRTC and the public radio and television stations continue to fulfill their role? These are all questions the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage will have to address. We started to hear witnesses yesterday, and it is with their assistance that we will find the best responses for improving the Canadian broadcasting system. Let us hope that the government will then act accordingly.

The bill we have before us today constitutes a considerable improvement to the Broadcasting Act. In order to restore the balance between big business and the public, it makes it possible for intervenor costs to be awarded to groups representing the public. Under the Broadcasting Act, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has the power to compensate the organizations or individuals appearing before it during proceedings on telecommunications. The act also authorizes the CRTC to establish the refund criteria.

The idea is to amend the Broadcasting Act to bring it in line with the Telecommunications Act. The powers of the CRTC are based on these two acts.

The amendment on which the House will vote brings the two acts into symmetry, and this will ensure the fair treatment of individuals, regardless of under which act they appear.

Several consumer groups across Canada support this legislative amendment. These include the National Anti-Poverty Organization, the Canadian Labour Congress, Action Réseau Consommateur and the Federation of Cooperative Family Economics Associations of Quebec.

Given the extensive list of organizations that support it, this amendment is obviously a progressive measure. Indeed, the funding available to media companies is much greater than that of consumers and their representative groups.

The CRTC, which was created by an act of parliament in 1968, is a very active body that has the authority to regulate and monitor every aspect of the Canadian broadcasting system, as well as service providers and broadcasting companies under federal jurisdiction.

In 1997-98, the CRTC dealt with 1,379 applications related to television, radio, cable, pay TV and specialty channels. It made 658 decisions and issued 143 public notices. No costs were awarded. However, that same year, the commission issued a total of 15 broadcasting hearing cost orders to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation.

When Bill S-7 becomes law, the CRTC will establish criteria for the awarding of costs in the area of broadcasting, which will be paid by the regulated company or companies party to the proceedings and whose interests will be impacted by the outcome of the proceedings.

Judging by the criteria used for telecommunications, applicants will have to prove to the commission that they represent a citizens' group, that they took part in the hearings in a responsible manner, and that they contributed to the understanding of the issue at hand. The commission will set the share of costs to be paid by each company.

This amendment will increase public participation, by allowing public interest groups and consumer groups to obtain the necessary resources to intervene more often and more significantly.

This bill is aimed at democratizing the broadcasting regulatory system. I urge members of the House to support it.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Bob Wood Liberal Nipissing, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have again before the House Bill S-7 to amend the Broadcasting Act for the purpose of allowing the CRTC to set out regulations outlining standards for the awarding of costs. In particular it would enable the commission to award and tax costs among the interveners who appear before it.

Why is it important to pass the bill? It is because the principles of fairness and balance guiding the objectives of Bill S-7 are unanimously supported. It is because there are compelling reasons to harmonize the rules with respect to interveners appearing before the CRTC whether they pertain to broadcasting issues or telecommunications issues. It is equally as important to level the playing field between interveners and broadcasting companies appearing before the CRTC. For these reasons Bill S-7 should be passed at second reading and referred to committee.

The reality of convergence comes up time and again in the communications industry. The convergence of technology is one of the key factors in this debate. More and more the regulatory issues and concerns with which the CRTC must grapple are falling under the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act and are affecting a wider sweep of Canadian society. Involving citizens in decisions which affect them is a rational approach to an increasingly complex communications environment.

As the commission wrestles with these matters one way of informing its decisions as they pertains to protecting the public interest is to help defray the costs of interveners who participate in broadcasting proceedings. As we make the transition to a new innovative economy, moving from an industrial to a knowledge based economy, this is having an impact on the expectations of government by Canadians and the role of government.

It is only fitting that in a democratic society citizens are encouraged to reflect, participate and respond to decisions being made by commissioners of the CRTC and the corporations that appear before them. After all, the broadcasting system makes use of public resources and through its programming helps Canadians to connect to one another, their history and their country. Converging technologies are blurring the lines between telecommunications and broadcasting which were once formerly separate and distinct industries.

In cases where the CRTC conducted proceedings under both the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act such as the new media hearing, the CRTC awarded costs for interventions only to the extent that they touched upon telecommunications aspects. As further technological integration blurs the lines between communications industries it will be increasingly difficult to weigh the contribution of an intervention according to its impact on telecommunications versus broadcasting.

The majority of applications received for an award of costs for telecommunication proceedings come from consumers or other public interest groups such as the Consumers' Association of Canada and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. The commission does not generally award costs to commercial entities or municipalities. Few individuals apply for an award of costs.

An award of costs is usually paid by the regulated telecommunications companies as directed by the commission. The companies must pay these costs directly to the intervener. In the event that more than one telecommunications company is directed to pay the commission determines each company's share, usually based on its operating revenues. To receive an award of costs an intervener must have an interest in the outcome of the proceedings and must have contributed to a better understanding of telecommunications issues by the commission.

That leads me to believe that the proposed bill would level the playing field. It would amend the Broadcasting Act to give the commission for its broadcasting proceedings the same powers it now has under the Telecommunications Act when it conducts telecommunications proceedings. The goals of Bill S-7 are laudable in principle but it will not be an easy task to implement them.

The CRTC has stated that it supports the harmonization of rules with respect to awarding costs to broadcasting interveners and it is willing to undertake the necessary changes by holding a public proceeding with respect to this. In fact the CRTC wants the public and the industry to be involved in a process to determine what that criteria would be.

Should Bill S-7 become law, the challenge of the CRTC will be to determine how interveners will be eligible to receive an award of costs. In the telecommunications rules of procedures interveners must have an interest in the outcome of the proceedings, participate in a responsible manner and also contribute to the CRTC's understanding of the issues. Given the plural nature of broadcasting proceedings, it will not be easy to apply the same eligibility criteria without incurring considerable costs.

Our heritage minister has been unfairly attacked in the debate around this bill. Attempting to smear the minister by claiming that this Senate bill has been brought in through the back door is just that, a smear. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Part of good leadership is recognizing and supporting something the public wants and there is overwhelming public support for this legislation. The fact that the bill originated in the other place takes nothing from the bill. It really demonstrates the good work of an esteemed former member of this House and currently a ranking member of the Senate. I want to salute Senator Sheila Finestone and the heritage minister for their leadership behind Bill S-7.

In conclusion, if passed, Bill S-7 would not in any way affect the standing committee's work and recommendations since it is essentially a technical amendment with a view to harmonizing the two acts from which the CRTC derives its authority. I believe it should be passed at second reading and referred to committee for further study.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate on Bill S-7. As has been stated, I believe the bill has come in in an inappropriate way. The heritage minister should have championed this bill if she thought that it should come before the House. Furthermore, although there is some redeeming value to the bill, which I will be reciting in half a second, I also suggest that while the government does review after review, it does not pay any attention to the reviews that are actually taking place.

In this particular instance a review of the state of Canadian broadcasting is currently before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The members of the committee are undertaking a very long and onerous task. It is probably going to take at least 18 months to get through the review. Within that period of time many pressures will be brought to bear on the Department of Canadian Heritage and on the committee itself to make legislative changes that reflect the requirements of the broadcast industry at that time.

If there is a review under way, will we be getting into a situation where the minister ends up putting more postage stamps, band-aids, chewing gum and baling wire on the problem, or will we get to the end of the Broadcasting Act review and after the work of the committee is completed, then the minister will seriously consider the recommendations of the committee and will come forward with the legislation?

In the case of Bill S-7, I fully recognize that this is a very tiny part of the Broadcasting Act. Nonetheless, there is a principle here. The principle is very simple and straightforward. While the standing committee is undertaking the review of the Broadcasting Act, neither I nor the official opposition want to see the minister or her department come forward with changes to legislation that the committee is undertaking. While this is a very small part of the Broadcasting Act, it nonetheless would set the principle if we did not stand against the passage of this bill at this time, notwithstanding the value that is contained within the bill itself.

The bill has been advocated by consumer groups for consumer groups across Canada. Consumer organizations across Canada had been asking the CRTC to make cost awards available to individual consumers and consumer groups for broadcasting and cable television hearings throughout the 1990s. The CRTC made an honest effort to find a way to cover the costs for individuals and consumer groups. However, it came to the conclusion that the only way to do this was to amend the Broadcasting Act. The power of costs awarded already exists in the Telecommunications Act. The CRTC administers both the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act.

If I could insert a bracket here, this is one of the reasons I and my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance believe that the CRTC should be answering to one ministry, probably the Ministry of Industry under competition, as opposed to it having its feet in two camps at this time.

Bill S-7 has come about because of the efforts of consumer organizations. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre and several other groups have been promoting this amendment on behalf of all Canadian cable and television subscribers for the past three years. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre on behalf of a number of groups approached the Department of Canadian Heritage three years ago to ask that the government amend the Broadcasting Act to permit cost awards.

The department was reluctant to open the act just for this change and suggested the group pursue a private member's bill approach. The groups approached Senator Finestone and asked if she would champion the bill. She consented and in the spring and early summer of this year, the bill was passed in the Senate and a member was asked by Senator Finestone to champion the bill in the House of Commons.

The question is whether anyone is against the bill. We in the Canadian Alliance find ourselves in a rather unusual position because the answer is no. No one is against the principle of the bill. To the question is anyone against the bill, the answer is no. In the Senate hearings on the bill all witnesses, including industry representatives, supported the key principle of the bill that every democratic society should foster active citizen participation in public issues. Modern democratic life requires an active role from the population and needs participation from members of the community. The Department of Canadian Heritage and the CRTC also supported the bill in the Senate.

I go back to the process by which the bill came to the House. There are two problems with it. The first one I have clearly outlined. I wanted to be sure about the second problem and asked the Speaker for a specific ruling on Bill S-7. In looking at this legislation, it required a fee to be taken by the CRTC to be redistributed to the people who were appearing on appeal before the CRTC.

I brought my argument to this Chamber yesterday. It was not an attempt to stop the bill. Because the heritage department and the minister had brought the bill in through the back door by way of the Senate and it did have to do with money, I wanted it to be very clear that we were not setting a precedent that was outside parliamentary precedent that had been established for nigh on 600 years of parliamentary practice in the United Kingdom and Canada.

While we are in favour of the content of the bill, we have those two problems. One is that the minister did not bring it forward. The other one is the crux of the situation. Will the minister and the government continue to ask for a review, to ask committees to do work, to ask citizens and corporations in good faith to prepare and to come before committees and make submissions and travel to Ottawa and engage in all of the expenses that are involved in doing proper work? If so, will the minister and the government commit that the committee work, the review work, will be of some value at the end of the day or will it just be a make work project? The reason I think it could be a make work project is because of Bill S-7, the fact that we are involved in a review process, yet through a backdoor process the government has brought in this bill and says that it is just changing a small part of the act.

What is the next small part of the act the government is going to change while the review is under way? What is the next small part of the act that it is going to review? How is it going to alter, for example, the funding of television production by the finance minister? How is it going to alter, either enhance or decrease the amount of the appropriation of the CBC during this period of time?

The government has asked the committee to do some work and the people on the committee are doing it in good faith. Is the government going to leave enough latitude for the committee to get to the end of its process without having been interfered with by the minister?

With regret, although the bill itself has great merit, if there was not the Broadcasting Act review under way at this time, it would be my recommendation as the heritage critic for the Canadian Alliance that we support the bill. I think it is absolutely commendable. However, the fact that the Broadcasting Act review is under way precludes me from doing that. Therefore I am recommending that we vote against it.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-7, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act to permit the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, to make regulations to establish criteria for the awarding of costs to interveners in broadcasting proceedings as it currently has the power to award costs in telecommunications cases.

I will start by thanking both Senator Finestone and the hon. member for Charleswood St. James--Assiniboia for getting this important bill before us today. The bill would change the Broadcasting Act so the CRTC could award costs to third party interveners in broadcasting proceedings.

The idea is not radical. It is done all the time in CRTC proceedings under the Telecommunications Act. The world would not end for our telephone companies. Adopting the bill would be no real threat to our private broadcasters.

I have been my party's critic for the CRTC for four years now. The need for the bill is obvious to me and should be obvious to others as well.

I will start by reading into the record the comments of the chair of the CRTC to the heritage committee last week as part of our study into Canadian broadcasting. Mr. Colville said:

Our job is a daily delicate balance of competing vested interests...Then there is the challenge of balancing those big strong national players and the local focus that one wants to have in Winnipeg or Halifax, where I come from. So I think it's going to be a challenge as to how best we can draw that balance.

I am pleased the chair of the CRTC is concerned about balance. The reason I am so pleased to support the bill is that our system needs balance and currently lacks it. One way to regain balance is to give more voices the ability to be effectively represented at public hearings.

The current public hearing process used by the commission is problematic. The public interest seems to be getting lost. Interests with deep pockets get preferential access to the system. This makes it impossible for the public to have meaningful input.

It is easy for well paid broadcast lawyers to navigate the shoals of the CRTC. However for people approaching their regulator because they are concerned about their culture, their cable service or their community channel the process is confusing and inaccessible.

Another impediment to the public is the language used by the CRTC. It is fair to say the CRTC's use of words is close to impenetrable.

Last weekend I was in Winnipeg attending my party's successful national convention. One of the speakers was Lorne Calvert, the premier of Saskatchewan. He related to delegates a Tommy Douglas story about language in government.

After one of his victorious elections Tommy returned to his office in Regina to meet with his senior bureaucrats. He pulled a constituent's letter from his pocket, put it on the table and passed it around. The letter simply said “The buggers broke my fence”. Tommy looked at the stunned officials. He said “Okay, let me explain this to you. The noun is buggers, the verb is broke and the object is fence. Why can't any of you write like this?”

Tommy Douglas was talking about clarity of writing in government, something not generally found at the CRTC. The CRTC is always referring people to one or another of its decisions, all of which are numbered, all of which are filed and none of which are understood. Its dictionary seems to lack words like watch, write, rules, TV station, evening, person or cable company. Instead it seems to rely on its own language code which consists of words like distributor, licensee, undertaking, designated viewing times and priority programming.

Last week the CRTC denied the request of a small Newmarket radio station for a programming change so it could compete with the big market stations in nearby Toronto. The decision said:

In view of the foregoing, the Commission is satisfied that the licensee does not need additional flexibility with respect to the level of hits it broadcasts to successfully program the “Oldies Dancing” format described in its application. Accordingly, it remains a condition of licence for CKDX-FM that the licensee broadcast, in any broadcast week, less than 50% hit material as defined in Public Notice CRTC 1997-42, as amended by Circular No. 445 dated 14 August 2001--

And so on and so on.

This is CRTC code language. In effect the CRTC is saying no. It is saying it agrees with the small station's big competitors who were at the hearing with their bank of lawyers. The saddest part is that the CRTC claims to have improved its language due to public complaints. That seems to be the way with the CRTC. Big broadcasters get their way while small players are overwhelmed by the process.

Another recent example was in television. The CRTC gave CanWest Global a seven year licence renewal and policy approval for cross media ownership even though the commission's own decision stated:

Global confirmed that CIII-TV, a station that serves an audience across Ontario, was broadcasting an average of 13 hours per week of regional news. This level is below the 17.5 hours per week of regional news to which the licensee committed for the current term of licence.

Was CanWest Global punished? No, it was rewarded. If one is Global one can break the rules and get a seven year renewal.

Vision TV recently applied for a similar seven year licence. Vision is a small, non-profit, multi-faith broadcaster. It does not have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on the process. It has no bank of lawyers and has admitted to poor record keeping regarding its Canadian content logs. The CRTC came down hard on Vision TV. It granted it a limited 33 month renewal with harsh restrictions.

The rules seem to be that only big players get their way. Bill S-7 would help change this. It would allow a countervailing opinion to be heard at the hearing table, one that has the resources to penetrate the process and the language.

Until we can get cabinet to change the process so it is understandable and accessible Bill S-7 is the next best thing. In the interest of the public and the future of Canadian broadcasting I am pleased to support the bill.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-7. I support the passage of the bill. During the first debate on October 19 the House debated the wording of Bill S-7 which would amend the Broadcasting Act to allow the CRTC to award costs with respect to broadcasting proceedings.

We have learned that sections 56 and 57 of the current Telecommunications Act already authorize the CRTC to award various costs to organizations and individuals who take part in telecommunications proceedings.

This unfortunately is not the case for Canadian interveners who wish to contribute to other democratic processes, namely broadcasting proceedings. It is about time the CRTC and the Canadian broadcasting system enjoyed the same prerogatives and guaranteed access to all interveners who wish to take part in the process.

It is essential to remind the House that the principles of justice and balanced legislative powers for all Canadians which underlie Bill S-7 are fully supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage. Harmonizing the two acts would not only allow Canadian consumers and interest groups to present relevant research and significant elements to the CRTC. It would give Canadians the opportunity to be represented and, most important, to be heard by the commission when it makes broadcasting decisions that affect all Canadians directly.

As members have already heard this is not a new issue. A number of public interest groups such as the Consumers' Association of Canada and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre have on many occasions raised the issue of the imbalance between the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act.

It is important to draw to the attention of the House the fact that Canadians have the impression there is a striking contrast between the almost boundless financial resources of large media companies and the limited resources of individuals and public interest groups.

Such a situation must not be tolerated in a democratic society. It is completely logical to encourage all Canadians to take part in CRTC decisions since the broadcasting system makes use of public resources. Clearly neither the CRTC nor Canadians benefit from the inability of interveners to present well documented briefs.

If adopted, Bill S-7 would allow individuals and public interest groups that are or could be directly affected by the results of broadcasting proceedings to apply for costs to help them participate in the proceedings in a meaningful way.

Another reality that must be kept in mind when considering the need to pass Bill S-7 is the increasing convergence of telecommunications and broadcasting. This is an ever present communications phenomenon and a key element of the issue being considered by the House. Convergence of technologies and the information highway are erasing the differences between telecommunications and broadcasting.

The industries were once quite separate. When the CRTC held public hearings on new media the inequity of the current acts ensured the commission awarded costs only to interveners involved in the telecommunications aspect. As technologies became more integrated and differences between the communications industries became more blurred it grew increasingly difficult to evaluate the contribution of interventions in terms of their relevance to telecommunications as opposed to broadcasting.

During hearings at the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications the CRTC spoke in favour of harmonizing the rules with respect to awarding intervener costs. It indicated it was prepared to make the required changes through a public hearing.

Defining the criteria for a system to award costs for broadcasting will not be an easy task for the CRTC. There are many differences between the proceedings for these two industries. Telecommunications proceedings focus essentially on rate structures while broadcasting proceedings usually deal with a wide variety of issues. The latter occur much more frequently and involve many more participants, for example, radio and television stations, pay and specialized services, cable TV, satellite services, wireless systems and networks. These proceedings often involve political and social issues.

If Bill S-7 is passed, the challenge facing the CRTC will be to determine the eligibility criteria for awarding costs.

In conclusion I wish to mention once again that the Department of Canadian Heritage supports the underlying principles of Bill S-7, given the well-founded notion of giving equitable financial support to interveners, the growing convergence of telecommunications and broadcasting, and the increasing complexity of broadcasting issues.

If passed, Bill S-7 will amend the Broadcasting Act to the advantage of Canadians and the public interest, not only in the short term but in the years to come, by allowing complete and useful participation in the broadcasting decision making process.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the bill this evening. To some extent it is a minor technical amendment but it is important. More important, I am happy to speak philosophically about the importance of public participation in hearings such as this.

The CRTC is definitely very important for a riding like mine in Yukon. It is distant. We have had lots of hearings concerning Tagish Tel. From my perspective, it was a very bitter hearing related to local telephone access rates when I and others in the Anti-poverty Coalition were trying to make sure that telephone rates remained down. It is very important to all segments of society to be heard at hearings like this.

I also want to commend, as have previous members, Senator Sheila Finestone. I really have been impressed by her work over the years and this is just another example. I also commend the hon. member for Charleswood St. James--Assiniboia for bringing forward the bill.

I would like Yukoners especially to know how helpful the member has been to us. He chairs the western caucus and, in that role, he has always made sure that Yukon issues get out to all members in cabinet. He has been very helpful to us and I am pleased he is proposing the bill that I am supporting.

One of the reasons I am happy to be in the House of Commons is that in my career I have always tried to make sure that monopolies are figured into our society in the way they should. They can have a big effect on society. I have always believed in a free market capital society and in such a society monopolies must have a role, but we need to make sure they are under appropriate controls so they do not run roughshod over consumers and those who cannot afford to pay.

There are several ways to achieve that. The first way, and I think the best way, is to increase competition. The industry committee right now is trying to improve the Competition Act in the area of the airlines and in other areas where monopolies, quasi-monopolies or oligopolies might occur and people may feel helpless or our of control from those monopolies.

As far as not being able to put competition into place, in today's world there are very few instances where competition cannot be put into place. In days gone by, because of infrastructure, such as sewer lines, hydro lines, telephone lines and economies of scale in industries like the airline industry, it was not possible to have competition. There were more oligopolies or monopolies. In today's world I think it is possible to have competition in almost every field and sector. We are seeing this as communities progress.

However there are times when there is not competition. In those cases there needs to be regulation. As I said, it is second best because sometimes it pushes up prices but at least it is a control over monopolies and the people who have the only access, such as one telephone company in Yukon, for example, or certain broadcasters.

For that reason, in a regulated field when there are applications there are hearings. Everyone should have access to those hearings. For a moment I would like to try to explain the importance of those hearings.

Another example of a problem we have in Yukon with a quasi-monopoly is with Air Canada. Last week, very close to Christmas, Air Canada increased the points from 25,000 to 40,000 if someone needed to obtain a ticket. When this is the only way out and people depend on seeing their families, many of whom do not live there, it angered many of my constituents, and rightly so, to have such a surprise. It seemed fairly callous to me. I use this as an example to show why regulation or competition is needed.

I will try to explain a few items related to the bill. I will try something I have not done before. I will explain it in more simple English for people who are not used to legislation or for people of less means who wanted to appear before a hearing when they did not want their telephone rates to increase. It is important that these people have access to public processes without too much legal jargon.

For people who are not familiar with this, when a telephone company with a monopoly wants to increase prices, it must make an application because it is the only telephone company and society needs some control. If the company wants to increase prices, public hearings are held and people attend these hearings.

What if the subscribers are from Yukon, from a rural area, from a first nation or a trapper's cabin and the hearing is in the capital city. It would be almost impossible for those subscribers to be there. They could not afford it on their income.

What happens is the regulatory body, the CRTC, has the ability to pay for some of their costs to go to such a hearing. This already exists for the telecommunications industry but does not exist for the broadcasting industry. That is the purpose of this bill today.

Of course, as we all know, broadcasting in today's world is becoming much more important as there is more and more of it. Therefore it is very important that we have what we want and that Canadians have what they ought to in that field.

However there is no such remedy in the broadcasting field. There is no such provision where the CRTC can award costs to people and groups who appear before such hearings. Some might say that this could become a runaway proposal and could get out of control with everyone travelling all over to hearings. However there are very specific controls on such things.

Normally commercial entities and municipalities have not been funded in the past. I suppose I should speak up for municipalities in Yukon as not all of them have a lot of money and perhaps one day should have some funding. However, this helps keep the costs down.

First, people who are eligible are those who can show that they have an interest in the outcome.

Second, they show that they have participated responsibly in the hearings and have contributed something new to the understanding so that it is worth covering their costs. With this money they can also assemble legal and technical arguments. It just balances the public interest with industry and government interests.

In closing, this helps with public participation. People who might not be able to attend such hearings to given input would now be able to attend. This would allow more groups and more people to offer important input at such hearings. When we have more input, obviously we have better outcomes and better decisions for Canadians and Yukoners.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West—Mississauga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill S-7 which would amend the Broadcasting Act to allow the CRTC to award costs with respect to broadcast authorities.

I remind the House that the underlying principles and objectives of Bill S-7 were unanimously approved during the first debate on October 19. Our colleague from the Canadian Alliance, the hon. member for Crowfoot, questioned the need to amend the Broadcasting Act at this point in time since the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage was preparing to study and make recommendations on the entire Canadian broadcasting system.

To place the study in its proper context and prevent any misunderstanding about the timeliness of passing Bill S-7 at this moment, I will describe the mandate of the standing committee's study of the Canadian broadcasting system.

On May 10 the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage announced that it was undertaking a study of the entire Canadian broadcasting system and on the extent to which it met the objectives of the 1991 Broadcasting Act. As with previous studies by this committee Canadian content and cultural diversity issues would be central to this 18 month undertaking.

In recent months the committee devoted great attention to the globalization of broadcast communications in Canada and throughout the world. It concluded that there was an urgent need to review some major features of the 1991 Broadcasting Act to determine whether the act is still appropriate in view of the difficulties facing the broadcasting industry and its stakeholders.

I will give a brief historical overview of the evolution of the legislative framework of the Canadian broadcasting system. The first legislative measure providing a regulatory framework for Canadian broadcasters was the 1932 Canadian Broadcasting Act. With the advent of television this act was replaced with various versions of the Broadcasting Act enacted successively in 1958, 1968 and 1991.

Over time the Broadcasting Act became an instrument that confirmed the mandate of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as the national broadcaster, imposed restrictions on foreign ownership, required primary use of Canadian creators and other talent, and promoted a vision of the broadcasting system as a means to reinforcing Canada's cultural, social and economic structures.

For over 75 years Canada made every effort to preserve its Canadian identity in a world of constant change. Its efforts to find a legislative or regulatory framework that reconciles cultural, social and economic concerns led to the current broadcasting system. Since the enactment of the 1991 Broadcasting Act developments and new technologies opened up new avenues for broadcasting in Canada and elsewhere in the world.

It has become essential for the standing committee to study the key features of the Broadcasting Act to determine whether it still effectively helps the CRTC face the new challenges to the broadcasting industry and its stakeholders.

The study would be guided by the objectives of the current Broadcasting Act which state in subparagraph 3(1)(d):

The Canadian broadcasting system should:

(i) serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada,

(ii) encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity, by displaying Canadian talent in entertainment programming and by offering information and analysis concerning Canada and other countries from a Canadian point of view,

(iii) through its programming and the employment opportunities arising out of its operations, serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men, women and children, including equal rights, the linguistic duality and multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society and the special place of aboriginal peoples within that society, and

(iv) be readily adaptable to scientific and technological change.

In conducting its study the standing committee identified two main areas of interest: the current state of the Canadian broadcasting system and the future directions of the Canadian broadcasting system.

To provide a proper framework for its work the standing committee also identified six themes it intends to explore in depth: context which includes the development of broadcast technologies, globalization, new media and international perspectives; cultural diversity which includes issues of Canadian content, broadcasting in keeping with the diversity of cultures, linguistic and minority characteristics, as well as regional representation and community television; broadcast policy which includes issues surrounding the role of the government and of the CRTC, the development of a Canadian policy and rationale for new legislation or amendments; ownership which addresses ownership models, mixed ownership and vertical integration; private sector and public sector environment which includes matters pertaining to the CBC, provincial broadcasting, cable distribution and satellite services; and finally production and distribution which deals with the development of new production and distribution methods, copyright issues, specialized services and the Internet.

The scope of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage study will help assess the health of a forward looking broadcasting system. If passed, Bill S-7 would not in any way affect the work and recommendations of the standing committee since it is essentially a technical amendment with a view to harmonizing the two acts from which the CRTC derives its authority.

In the interest of democracy I support Bill S-7 and believe that it should be passed at second reading and referred to committee for further study. I am confident that if my honourable colleagues pass Bill S-7 it would have a positive impact on Canadians wishing to play a role in broadcast authorities since it would offer equal opportunities to all.

I have spent a number of vacations in the United States. The one thing that makes us different and makes our broadcasting different is the Canadian broadcasting system with our Canadian requirements that give us a special identity. The content is part of our quiet heritage. I am fully in support of the bill.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Waterloo—Wellington Ontario


Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill S-7. It is a very important bill. Like the previous speakers I lend my support and congratulate the member for Charleswood St. James--Assiniboia for the good work he has done in making this happen and bringing it to this point in time.

It is appropriate that we take a look at the various components which are part and parcel of the Broadcasting Act. I am particularly pleased in listening to other speakers and understanding what is being suggested that the committee will have ample opportunity to study the various components which should be studied in the context of the 21st century.

It is fair to say that technologies and ways of approaching business have changed. What have not changed are the core Canadian values when it comes to our identity and cultural supremacy, the great multiculturalism of the country with two languages and all that is part of the greatness that is Canada.

When we have a bill like this one and we have a committee charged with studying it in a methodical way, we get the opportunity not only as members of parliament and members of that committee but also by extension through our constituents and indeed the whole country to take a good look at where we are at in time as it relates to cultural, linguistic and other matters. I am in full support of the bill. It should be quickly referred to committee, I hope, and at the end of that we should see a much better Broadcasting Act.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Broadcasting ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in large part in response to the agriculture minister's tour of some of the drought affected areas of Canada last summer.

In July the federal minister of agriculture said that farmers would have to rely on existing safety net programs such as crop insurance. He dodged requests for government action to alleviate the effects of the drought by saying he wanted to see the results of the harvest first before assessing the damage. I did not find that to be at all unreasonable.

By October 17 I felt that the crop was in the bin and indeed it was because there was an early harvest. It was interesting that Agriculture Canada's own statistics had forecast that realized net farm income is expected to drop next year by more than 70% in agricultural provinces like Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, and by 32% across Canada.

The answer I received from the minister was churlish to put it mildly. He chose to focus on realized net farm income, stale-dated statistics from this year which show that farm income is up over previous years.

I find it extremely unfortunate that the agriculture minister at least on this occasion was deliberately obtuse, insisting that the farm outlook is rosy when every farmer out there knows that is not the case. The minister knows full well that there is a farm income crisis looming with huge implications for agricultural provinces like the two I just mentioned.

As a quick aside, the drought since August 1 continues. If we look at a moisture map of western Canada, there is 40% less moisture in many of those locales. Without significant snow pack and spring runoff and rains, we will have a deep problem again next year. Because there are apparently no answers forthcoming or ability to pressure inside the cabinet, reality is being ignored and old data is being introduced.

In Qatar, where the minister was earlier this month, there was a lot of fanfare about an agreement to negotiate a reduction in international subsidies. We have asked what plans the government had to increase support for Canadian farmers until those subsidies begin to decline. The response we continue to get is that the government has to revamp the existing safety net package, that it is not working as well as it should to address the problems created by things like the drought and trade-distorting subsidies.

Clearly the government has no plans for significant amounts of new money to assist Canadian farmers while we await the new round of negotiations to level the playing field. That new round will probably be eight to 10 years down the road and that probably is an optimistic scenario. Even at that time it is not likely to mean all that much for our Canadian farmers.

The point I am trying to make is that the government will have to seize the bull by the horns. It has to put some money into agriculture to put our farmers on a level playing field with their counterparts in Europe and the United States in particular. Then as subsidies begin to come down we will all come down in concert. To expect our farmers to live this way for the next 10 years will mean that there will be far fewer farmers at the end of that time.

Broadcasting ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington Ontario


Larry McCormick LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Palliser has raised an issue of extreme importance. The drought of 2001 is among the driest we have faced and will long be so remembered. In my own riding of Hastings--Frontenac--Lennox and Addington and across the country the drought will have a serious impact on many farm operations and farm families.

However I want to point out that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food never said and should never be quoted as saying things are rosy. We have the greatest agricultural producers in the world and that is why we support them.

While the extent of the damage will be uncertain until well after the harvest, clearly it will be substantial. So too will the response of the federal government. Indeed, $3.8 billion of assistance is available this year under federal-provincial income programs to help our producers beset by losses brought about by drought and other phenomena beyond their control. In addition, the October farm income forecast indicates that the drought will have a negative impact on revenue from the marketplace this year, but program payments and price increases will help offset some of the losses. Realized net income for Canada is expected to be $1.5 billion higher and in the province of Saskatchewan is expected to be $483 million higher in the year 2001 than in the year 2000.

We on this side of the House certainly hope that the drought's impact will be less than what we anticipated and in some measure we have had recent indications of this. Provincial crop insurance officials in Saskatchewan note that while “there are devastated areas, there is a lot more crop out there than expected”. That is a ray of good news for the many producers in Saskatchewan.

Broadcasting ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the remarks of the parliamentary secretary. The concern is that even the best devised programs in the world are of little value if we do not put enough money into them to actually benefit the farmers. The reality is that there now is less money in agriculture than there was when the government took office some eight years ago.

We can find money for other priorities. Robert Milton at Air Canada says he does not have a level playing field and suddenly there are billions of dollars going to Air Canada.

Canadian farmers have not had a level playing field for many more years than Air Canada, but we cannot seem to get the kind of programs we need to offset the international export and domestic subsidies that are paid by the Americans and the Europeans. Until we do, we will continue to lose our small and medium sized farmers in particular at an alarming rate.

Broadcasting ActAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are certainly taking concerted and comprehensive action to strengthen Canada's agriculture sector. In fact, this past June the federal, provincial and territorial agricultural ministers agreed in principle to a national action plan for Canada's agriculture and agrifood sector. This framework will enable Canada to maintain current markets and capture new customers by building on its reputation as a producer of safe, high quality food.

To that end, the framework will strengthen our farm food safety systems and accelerate the adoption of sound environmental practices on farms. The framework will also use science to create economic opportunities with innovative new products and will renew the sector through programs that address farmers' unique needs and help them adapt to change.

Finally, through a review of farm safety nets to be completed by the year 2002, the framework will ensure that all elements of risk management programs work together to effectively stabilize farm incomes.

Broadcasting ActAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.01 p.m.)