Mr. Speaker, this amendment to the Telefilm Canada Act is a technical bill, an exercise in housekeeping for this agency.
Telefilm was created as the Canadian Film Development Corporation in 1967. Its mandate was to foster and promote the development of a feature film industry in Canada. Originally, it was given $10 million to invest in the film industry as a loan fund. In 1984 it was renamed Telefilm Canada.
Over the years it has nurtured creative minds in Canada who wanted to be part of our country's legacy in the field of film. The government's investment into this organization has grown from $10 million to $19 million in 1977, to $165 million in 1980, and to today's allocation of $250 million.
From its first years its attempts to create a viable film industry have been valiant and we have seen many successes. However, today, as over past decades, many films made by Canadians are unseen by Canadians. I look forward to a review of the Canadian film industry to be undertaken by the heritage committee in the new year.
Although government support for feature film development has increased over the years, it does not represent the major portion of the $250 million of Telefilm's budget. Over the years as technology evolved Telefilm has been assigned new responsibilities not by mandate nor legislative reform but by convention. These responsibilities are in other film related fields but fields not mandated through legislation to this agency. In fact, these activities are being done without a legal mandate, in some cases for over 20 years.
As its activities expanded the government directed more and more funds toward these non-legislated activities and not until the Auditor General identified these technical inconsistencies has the government acted to legalize these activities.
As the government stated earlier, through the parliamentary secretary, Bill C-18 simply places in law what it has been doing out of the legislative framework. Why does the government consistently disregard their responsibility for accountability in the use of taxpayers' dollars? The bill finally provides the legislative authority to expand Telefilm's mandate from only feature film into television programming, new media and sound recording.
Today we have an amendment to the act in response to the Auditor General's remarks, but this bill is only a first step. The ministry cannot plan to replace a real dialogue on the future of the film industry in Canada with only this exercise in housekeeping.
If the government were serious about governing and not only addressing inconsistencies when it is caught, this legislation would be bringing forward a new vision for Telefilm and not simply correcting the past. This bill should be part of a greater process. It should be part of the process of ensuring that Telefilm is relevant for the next 35 years, not simply catching up for the past 35 years.
Although Bill C-18 is better than the status quo, it is a housekeeping bill which I believe should lead to a bigger process, a process that we have been demanding in so many of the broadcasting and cultural areas.
As the parliamentary secretary stated, a review is called for, if only the government would determine its priorities. If Bill C-18 is bringing into the legislative framework activities the government has allowed it to carry on, we wonder what other activities the government is allowing to be carried on outside of the legislative framework.
What will happen to Telefilm in the future? What will happen to Telefilm Canada if its television production support program is now moved to the Canadian Television Fund to address the challenges faced by that fund? Will Telefilm's recent policy changes, to increase box office share by making movies with broader appeal, be maintained by its new executive director Wayne Clarkson?
In its annual report for 2003-04 the board of Telefilm itself also asks for a revision of the Telefilm Canada Act in order to modernize its framework and financial mechanism. Bill C-18 responds to that request. This bill is adequate for what it is, a first step. However, support for this bill should not imply that the challenges ahead have been met. There is more work to be done.
Now that Telefilm has been given a mandate that matches its activities, Canadians would like to be assured that Telefilm is not only acting in a way that is accountable to the Canadian, but that it is successful in meeting its mandate as well. The government is responsible for taking a leadership role. What Canadians need from our federal government is a vision and the courage to take hold of the future and to ensure that Canadian creators have a significant part to play in that future. I look forward to working on the future together with the creative and production community in Canada.
The audio visual industries are critical to Canada and each sector deserves the needed support through effective and meaningful programs. I find it interesting that the government has asked the opposition parties for support to convince the finance minister to ensure there is funding for the cultural communities. Support for the cultural communities was referred to in the throne speech. We would like to be convinced that not only are the cultural industries being supported by the minister and the parliamentary secretary, but by the entire government as well.