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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was columbia.

Topics

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion No. 1 agreed to)

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalMinister of the Environment

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in at the report stage and read the second time.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2004 / 12:50 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Liberalfor the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

moved that Bill C-18, an act to amend the Telefilm Canada Act and another act, be read the third time and passed.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-18, amendments to the Telefilm Canada Act.

I will begin by thanking the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for their excellent work on this bill. In keeping with the debate on second reading of the bill in the House, the discussion in committee was both constructive and succinct. As a result, we have arrived at third reading in a very timely fashion.

Bill C-18 is straightforward legislation. It is my hope that the bill will continue to move through the parliamentary process in a straightforward manner.

Telefilm Canada supports the production of high quality Canadian products that celebrate and reflect our cultural and regional diversity to Canadians and to the world. In this way, it plays a key role in helping the government to achieve our cultural policy objectives.

I want to remind members that Telefilm Canada was created in 1967 as the Canadian Film Development Corporation with a mandate “to foster and promote the development of a feature film industry in Canada.”

Telefilm fulfills this mandate in a most worthy way.

However Telefilm Canada's mandate as a cultural investor has, over recent years, extended beyond feature films. Telefilm is now also dedicated to the development, production, promotion and distribution of popular Canadian television programs and new media products. It is involved to some extent in the sound record industry as well.

Many of the high quality cultural products that Telefilm has helped bring to fruition have not only captivated Canadians of all ages, they have attracted audiences and acclaim around the world. These successes underline the fact that good storytelling transcends borders, language and also cultures.

I will mention some of the productions that have benefited from Telefilm's expertise and funding.

In the film world, Les invasions barbares, the Barbarian Invasions walked off with the Oscar for best foreign film in 2003. Séraphin, Un homme et son péché was a phenomenal box office success in Canada, with receipts of close to $10 million. Mambo Italiano is the most lucrative English Canada film ever, having been screened in more than 50 countries, and Atanarjuat,The Fast Runner was awarded the prestigious Gold Camera Award for a first feature film at the 2001 Cannes International Film Festival. Imagine, the first Canadian feature film in the Inuktitut language won one of the world's most prestigious film awards.

In television, the popular Da Vinci's Inquest is enjoyed in 45 countries across the world. The mini-series Trudeau attracted record-breaking audiences, proving that Canadians hunger for Canadian stories.

The format for Un gars, une fille has been sold and resold to 30 countries including Germany, France and Italy.

In the new media sector, Telefilm has invested in a new media content associated with popular television programs such as Degrassi and The Toy Castle , a wonderful Canadian program for young children.

Telefilm has also invested in new media content ranging from interactive educational games such Mia Mouse , to databases full of information about Canada and Canadians. In the sound recording industry, 13 music labels have benefited since 2001 from Telefilm's support for the implementation of forward looking business plans.

As technology has evolved, Telefilm has also evolved to meet the needs of Canadian creators in the audio-visual sector. Its original mandate, however, was never formally updated in recognition if its expanded role. Bill C-18 would simply formally extend the mandate of Telefilm to the entire audio-visual sector.

The proposed amendments to the Telefilm Act, thus, would simply confirm in law Telefilm's current activities.

Some members have wondered whether we do not need to go further in modernizing the Telefilm Canada Act. This is true. Bill C-18 has one specific objective, but as soon as it is passed, we fully intend to complete that process.

For the moment, we have the possibility of clarifying the important role Telefilm plays in the cultural life of our country, as it has evolved over time. The Auditor General has encouraged clarification of the Telefilm mandate, and the members of this House agree on the need for this.

Further, as a government, we have greater ambitions. For example, the government will be responding in detail to the Lincoln report on Canadian broadcasting. The report contained no fewer than 97 recommendations. Developing our response to such a great body of work is an exacting but most valuable exercise. However by the end of April the government will have made clear its overreaching priorities concerning broadcasting and how it plans to act on these priorities.

Canada's cultural institutions, both private and public, face complex new challenges and new possibilities in the digital age. At the same time, the demographics of our country are changing. We are more multicultural than ever before and their diversity needs to be reflected in our cultural policies and our cultural institutions.

Simply put, we need to ensure the clarity of the mandates of all of the cultural agencies in the Canadian Heritage portfolio but for now we must send to Telefilm the message that we want it to continue in its role in helping to bring Canadian experiences and viewpoints to Canadians and the world. We can do this by supporting Bill C-18.

It is heartening that during the course of debate on the bill no one has questioned the success of Telefilm. No one questions the invaluable contribution of the arts and culture to the economy and the life of our country. No one questions the importance of the audio visual sector.

I am delighted at the degree of unanimity on culture matters that has been demonstrated thus far in the House but this support of culture should not come as any surprise given the contribution of the sector to our communities and to our economy.

The audio visual sectors keep 225,000 Canadians at work in creative skilled jobs. These innovative Canadians are very much part of the knowledge based economy that is critical to Canada's future prosperity. Cultural industries help create culture rich communities, and these are exactly the kinds of places that are most attractive to today's business investors.

Let there be no doubt about where the government stands on cultural matters, whether it is film, TV, music or new media, our cultural products speak for us in words and images that reverberate across our country, in cities and in rural and remote areas, but most important, around the world. They reflect our aspirations, our values and our vision as a country. They deepen our mutual understanding across diverse cultural backgrounds. They enrich our lives and contribute to our economy.

The government unreservedly supports Canadian culture and the cultural institutions like Telefilm that serve it well.

We are not alone in that, I know. Many members of all parties and from all regions of the country support us.

I would therefore call upon all hon. members in this House to support Bill C-18.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I take the opportunity of this debate on Bill C-18 to speak about the surplus announced by the Minister of Finance. The Department of Finance has cut back on funding credits to Telefilm Canada, among others. This is a cut in the funding of a crown corporation whose activities contribute directly to the work of a great many artists and cultural creators in general. These cuts affect the quality of these people's professional lives, and these are people who contribute to the improvement of everyone's quality of life in Canadian and Quebec society.

At the same time as this reallocation exercise, the Minister of Finance is announcing an unexpected surplus of around $8 billion. It is disgraceful to attack a group of people so essential to the country's identity, who face real financial difficulties, while enjoying surpluses in the billions of dollars.

Elementary decency would tell the government to review its supplementary estimates in light of its new-found room to manoeuvre. However, it does not want the cultural sector to get its hopes up too high. The government has identified its priorities clearly. On a factual basis, it does not see the cultural sector as one of its priorities.

I would like to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage has to say to our fellow citizens, to those listening at home, about the coherent nature of her vision as a minister, if she has one.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to unequivocally state that indeed culture is definitely part of the government's priorities. It was made clear in the Speech from the Throne which was delivered by Her Excellency, the Right Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in October. In fact, it was a priority under the communities and cities agendas which acknowledged that culture was the essence of our communities and cities.

The Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear to everyone in this country that the government has three major priorities: first, health care, a deal which he has achieved already; second, child care, and he has put into place a framework which the Minister of Social Development is working on; and third, cities and communities, part of which is culture.

It is interesting to note that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently passed a unanimous resolution calling for the Minister of Finance to renew the Tomorrow Starts Today program. A few weeks ago, when the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was in Ottawa, I was delighted to see that even the federation saw culture as integral to the vibrancy, strength and vitality of communities. To say that culture is not part of the government's vision would be absolutely incorrect.

I would like to take this opportunity to address the member's comment about cutbacks to Telefilm. Let us be clear. Those were not cutbacks. When we looked at the supplementary estimates in committee, we looked at $1 billion which had been part of a review of all government programs. Each department had been asked to see how we could make the departments more efficient.

I could not agree more with the member and I would ask him to help me to advocate to the Minister of Finance how we should increase the envelope, not just for Telefilm but for other important cultural institutions such as the Canada Council, the Canada Broadcasting Corporation and Radio-Canada. It is important that we have this debate in the House to demonstrate how arts and culture is integral to our country. It is not something that we get on the side. It is as integral as our health and educational systems.

Again, I welcome the member's comments. I hope that we can work together to ensure that in the next budget the cultural component is indeed increased.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on my colleague's question because I was listening very closely, but I did not hear a straight answer.

We are talking about estimates that show major cuts to Telefilm, to the National Film Board, and to the CBC over the next two or three years. These are the estimates that the people in these organizations must be dealing with for plans. Is the money going to be restored and will it be restored fully? I appreciate the fact that it is the job of the opposition to push the government to do this, but surely if this is a commitment that was laid out in the throne speech, will this money be put back and will it be put back before March 31?

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear about what we looked at. We looked at supplementary estimates going up to March 31. These are moneys that were taken away in the past as part of the whole government looking at how to increase its efficiencies and reduce costs. It was part of a great exercise. I believe that the CBC put in $10 million. I do not have the actual estimates in front of me.

Nobody wants to see cuts and I definitely agree with that; however, to say that this is something for two and three years is incorrect. Not only is it misleading, but it is totally incorrect. One of the commitments that the government made was to look at the important role that our cultural institutions play, such as Telefilm.

As we said in committee, and as I said here today in the House, we will be moving forward to look at the role and mandate of Telefilm. Hopefully, at that time, we can look at increasing its mandate as well, that the funds will be there so that it can carry out the new mandate that I hope all parties will look at.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's speech, questions and comments. I remember sitting with her on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I remember her as a woman who, at the time, fought with great conviction to protect artists. That was seven years ago already.

Today, I am concerned by her speech, because she did not say much about artists, about their happiness, their well-being and the well-being that they provide to the community. Instead, she spoke about the Prime Minister's priorities, including health, municipalities and communities, in which she includes culture.

I do not know how she can reconcile her original interests, namely culture and artists, with communities and municipalities. I would really like her to clarify that point.

How can the hon. member rise in this House and not condemn her government, which in fact has made cuts to its funding? I wonder if the hon. member could elaborate on this.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us not forget that it was this government in 2001 who reinvested the largest amount into the arts and cultural sectors with an investment of $560 million. It was the largest investment since the creation of the Canada Council almost 50 years ago. It was originally a three year program which was then renewed for another year. As I have said before in the House, we are working through program review and hoping to work with the finance minister to renew this program as soon as possible.

With respect to defending the artists, well I do defend the artists. I personally contribute thousands of dollars to support cultural institutions for a very good reason. We must ensure that our cultural institutions are there to survive, to pay fairly what the artists deserve, to ensure that they have continuing work, and to ensure that they are able to participate in various parts of the sector from theatre, to television, to film. If those institutions are strong, then it will ensure that our artists are strong and our artists have voices, that they are paid properly. I would submit those two things go hand in hand.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

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.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Madam Speaker, we as democratic sovereignists are here today, December 13, 2004, to debate Bill C-18 not just out of respect for Canada's institutions, nor out of the respect and admiration we have for you, Madam Speaker, or all the parliamentarians here. We are here mainly to defend the interests of Quebec and its move to full and complete sovereignty.

Like many on this side of the House, it is not because of some folk tale longing or fanatical reflex that I am committed to creating the country of Quebec, but from a conscious decision. Now more than ever Quebec wants to be freed from the shackles of this Confederation in which it is trapped.

To make myself understood in the present situation, let us put a few things in perspective.

After October 1995, with hands over their hearts, they promised to improve the functioning of Canada in order to satisfy Quebec's demands concerning its interaction with the central government. They did not keep their word. They continued to run Canada as though nothing significant had happened in Quebec one night in October 1995.

In their eyes, the desire for change as expressed democratically by half the population of Quebec was nothing more than a tempest in a teapot in the government's efforts to standardize—or weaken—Quebec culturally, politically, economically and socially. What contempt.

In 1999, there was nothing but contempt in the Clarity Act, which was full of rhetoric and ideas from unenlightened dictators, an act that ridiculed Quebec's democracy and the integrity of its National Assembly. What contempt.

Also in 1999, nothing but contempt in the framework agreement on the social union, which is crushing the aspirations of Quebec. This agreement was not validated by Quebec, it does not recognize the existence of the Quebec people, but instead recognizes the equality of the provinces as such, Quebec being considered just a province, a conquered territory.

This agreement recognizes Ottawa's right to spend and deal directly with organizations or individuals without consideration for Quebec's areas of jurisdiction, even if the matters involved are under Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction.

This agreement forces Quebec to concur with Ottawa on the development of new programs in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction and then to meet Canadian standards set by the centralist government.

This agreement obliges Quebec to report to the federal government on the management of various programs; there is, however, no reciprocal arrangement.

This agreement excludes all possibility of Quebec opting out with financial compensation if, given its uniqueness and responsibilities, it wanted to implement its own such programs.

The list goes on with Ottawa's persistent refusal over the past 40 years to negotiate the transfer of responsibility for culture, communications and telecommunications.

All this reflection engendered by Bill C-18 serves to remind members that they are building a highly centralized Canada, impotently united at the expense of a beleaguered Quebec, brought to its knees and constitutionally humiliated with the complicity of its own provincialists.

Quebec is a house. It is our house and we are very attached to it. It has walls—

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not mind occasionally listening to separatist rhetoric and mythology, but this is a bill about Telefilm Canada. The member insists on using this as a forum to spew separatist mythology and rhetoric. I would ask you, Madam Speaker, to insist on the rule of relevance and ensure that he is relevant in his comments. I am not prepared to listen to things that are not relevant to the bill.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

This is a point of debate, but at the same time I would--

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I have raised a matter of relevance. Relevance is not a matter of debate, it is a matter of order. I insist that the Chair allow the House to hear debate on the subject relevant to the bill in front of the House, not the separatist rhetoric that we are getting now. It is not a matter--

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The Chair has heard the member for Scarborough—Rouge River. The Chair rules that this is a point of debate, although we would ask members to keep to what is relevant to the present debate. The issue of Quebec is relevant and, therefore, I will ask the member to keep his remarks relevant to the debate.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Madam Speaker, to continue, if our colleague over there had listened to the end, he would have seen the connection immediately. I trust he will have the patience to do so.

Quebec, as I was saying, is a house, our house. We are attached to it. It is a house with walls and a roof. We should be free to do whatever work we want on it, whenever we want to. We should be free to put in place the cultural regulations that we want.

We in Quebec live according to principles that are recognized by the great majority of “family members”. We need to be free to reflect our own image in our creativity, in our writings, to reflect our own image in our productions, our broadcasts. We have values that are ours alone, a genius that is ours alone, a sense of solidarity that is ours alone, a shared public language that is ours alone, and above all a culture that is ours alone.

Mr. Speaker, the world we live in is media saturated, globalized, dominated by market logic; it is a world exposed to cultural Darwinism, a world where film and other audiovisual media are extremely popular and powerful means of communication.

For years, in keeping with Ottawa's approach of intruding into other realms of responsibility, Telefilm Canada has imposed itself upon Quebec as a federal cultural body with a mandate for the development and promotion of the film and television industries.

Bill C-18, which we have before us here in third reading, , is intended to integrate into the mandate of Telefilm Canada the entire audiovisual industry, that is film, television and new media. Among other things, it gives Telefilm the authority to act in the sound recording industry under agreements made with the Department of Canadian Heritage.

In fact, all Bill C-18 does is to update and make official the increased responsibilities Telefilm Canada already has. The current legislation does not reflect the real mandate of this intrusive agency, Telefilm Canada and needs to be updated. So Bill C-18 makes official the new Telefilm mission that has been in place for years.

In its annual report for 1997-1998, Telefilm Canada described its mission as including the development and promotion of the Canadian film and television industry and new media products. In a March 2002 survey on client satisfaction and needs, 21% of respondents said that they worked in the new media sector among others.

The main purpose of the bill is to act in audiovisual industries including film, television and new media and to provide authority to act in the sound recording industry under agreements made with the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Bloc Québécois does not have a problem with the main purpose of the bill. We have some reservations as previously mentioned.

Essentially the bill replaces the expressions “pecuniary interest in film activity” and “feature film production” with “audiovisual industry” and “film” with “audiovisual”. Let us also recall that it provides Telefilm with the authority to act in the sound recording industry under agreements made with the Department of Canadian Heritage, and provides it with the powers of a natural person. As well, everything done before the coming into force of this enactment is deemed to be valid to the same extent as it would be if it were done after this enactment comes into force.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-18. However, I repeat, the Bloc Québécois also believes that culture is a provincial jurisdiction and that the Department of Canadian Heritage is interfering in matters of the department of Quebec culture.

Part of the mission of the Quebec department of culture reads:

The mission of the ministère de la Culture et des Communications (MCC), in partnership with government corporations and other public bodies, is to foster within Québec the affirmation, expression and democratization of culture as well as the development of communications, and to contribute to their distribution within Quebec and abroad.

It does so while respecting the values of Quebec society. It also accomplishes its mission by maximizing benefits in artistic quality, community enrichment, and encouragement of regional , national and international development of businesses and agencies involved in culture and communications.

The ministry's mission always keeps the people of Quebec at the heart of its concerns. In order to promote public access to the arts, culture and communications, the ministry and its agencies rely on a group of partners, which primarily consist of organizations and people whose activities take place at one of the stages of the cultural and communications chain, creation, broadcasting, training, production, conservation, distribution and marketing, exports and promotion.

That should make clear to those who were not aware of it that there is a real machine in Quebec, a culture machine that is operational and sufficiently mature to stand alone, without a tutor, without a guardian.

To fulfil its mission, the government of Quebec must possess all the tools it needs for the development of culture in Quebec. That is obviously not possible given its situation of dependence.

First, I want to take this opportunity to ask, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, for the complete repatriation of powers related to culture and telecommunications, which are considered an essential support for culture. The Bloc Québécois is a sovereignist party that believes Quebec must have all necessary powers to determine its own future as it wishes.

I shall read part of an open letter signed by our leader, which appeared in La Presse on June 23, 2004.

—the decisions made in Ottawa too often prevent our cinema, our theatre, our television, our literature or the songs of Quebec from developing and making the impact they deserve. In addition, electronic distribution of our culture is threatened by the federal government's laissez-faire attitude and its inability to recognize our cultural uniqueness. Regulation of telecommunications includes the regulation of radio and television as the means of distributing culture.

If we cannot achieve complete repatriation, at a minimum, the Bloc supports the unanimous report from the Quebec National Assembly requesting “a new federal-provincial administrative agreement... in the field of communications”.

The purpose of such an agreement is to clarify the responsibilities of both levels of government in the field of communications and to affirm their common desire to promote, through coordinated actions, diversity in voices and choices. More specifically, it is to give Quebec a say in the licensing of the electronic media.

Ideally, Quebec should have its own regulatory and licensing body. Federal budgetary envelopes in this area should be transferred to allow Quebec to develop a cultural policy that truly reflects its reality.

This position was clearly stated in the Bloc's complementary opinion to the Canadian heritage committee's 2003 report on broadcasting.

The Bloc Québécois asks that the federal government respond positively to the request from the Quebec Government, which is unanimous in demanding a new federal-provincial administrative agreement [...] in the field of the communications.

The Government of Quebec is in the best position to defend its culture. It is completely reasonable that this is the government to address the cultural development of Quebecers. All Quebec governments, regardless of their political allegiance, have defended their autonomy and maintained that culture is an area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction.

The Bloc Québécois recommends that the federal government recognize that Quebec has sole responsibility for arts and culture in Quebec, and to sign a framework agreement with the Government of Quebec acknowledging this responsibility and transferring the necessary funds to Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois recommends that the federal government negotiate an agreement with the Government of Quebec to make the province solely responsible for communications and telecommunications undertakings.

This position is also consistent with Quebec's demands in this respect for the past 40 years.

Repatriating powers over culture and communications is in line with Quebec's demands over this period.

Frequency allocation cannot and must not be the prerogative of the federal government. Quebec can no longer tolerate exclusion from an area where it so obviously has a vital interest.

This is a quote from Daniel Johnson senior. It is found in a submission presented at the federal-provincial conference held in Ottawa, from February 5 to 7, 1968.

The Quebec government also presented the following position in July 1980:

Quebec is asking that the provinces' legislative authority in the area of communications and communication systems be entrenched in the Constitution--

What transitional measures could be implemented to give more room to Quebec? I am putting the question as a show of reaching out to members opposite. We think that only by negotiating a partial or full delegation of powers will Quebec be able to regulate as it wants to do the use of its cultural tools, the airwaves and the broadcasting of the Quebec culture.

What can the Minister of Canadian Heritage do to give more room to Quebec? She must be consistent with herself. In 1992, the Minister of Canadian Heritage wrote the following in Quebec's cultural policy:

In the current constitutional context, I, as the Minister of Cultural Affairs, intend to reaffirm the need for Quebec to obtain full control over its own culture. Culture is of paramount importance to Quebec. Therefore, it is important that its government have the exclusive powers that it needs to fulfill its responsibilities.

Now, we are waiting for concrete action.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today and speak in the House, as it always is.

I will begin by saying that the New Democratic Party supports Bill C-18, the act to amend Telefilm.

We have come a long way since Telefilm was formed in the 1960s. I think there is a recognition out there of the convergence of new media and the need to adapt to respond to new media and to continue in our fundamental obligation as government to work in cultural industries to promote our identity.

These amendments to change the act of course also came from recommendations from the Auditor General. I think they are very well put forward.

The discussion we are having today comes at a time of a fundamental watershed in Canadian cultural identity. We see ourselves as having built a very successful entertainment export industry. In fact, I would say that our number one export in the world is our artists. We have been very successful at that. We have had a somewhat more mixed success in terms of our ability to compete internationally in our film and television, particularly because we are so close to the United States.

I think there has always been a sort of false discussion about bad U.S. content and good Canada content. The fact is that in the United States we have seen the development of massive industries of entertainment. Over the last number of years a vertical integration has happened in these various media outlets from Hollywood and in music and television, such that it is making it incredibly difficult for other voices to be heard regionally across the United States, for example, but right across Canada.

I will give an example that I read about in Benjamin Barber's book Jihad Vs. McWorld . He describes the impact of the global U.S. entertainment culture. He says that this SpongeBob culture we are seeing is of a depth of only about three or four inches, like water, and it runs on a smooth plane, right across the community. If we look across the community we will still see the church steeples, we will still see the municipal buildings and the schools, and we will ask what kind of effect this mass popular culture has.

But what he concludes with is that children can drown in even six inches of water and we are looking at the spread of this thin layer of what we call popular culture coming out of Hollywood and other massive entertainment industries. Thus we have to ask ourselves, “Where is the room for our story?” A fundamental of any country is its ability to tell its own story. And it is not just to entertain, because we have come to see culture as entertainment; culture is how people group together. It is how they understand themselves. It is how they tell their history. It is how they can reflect their politics. It is how they can see where to go forward. We have to view culture as a multi-dimensional aspect of life. It is not simply our legends. It is not simply our songs. It is a whole fabric of the way a community interprets who it is.

In which case, I would bring us to where we are with the Telefilm discussion. Telefilm has been one of Canada's great success stories. We need to find ways to start improving the tools that we Canadians have in our cultural industries. What we are looking at with Telefilm is being able to move into the new mediums that they are already having to deal with, because, again, it is not just film and it is not just television. Our new mediums go from the web to PC games; there is a whole variety. That is where Canadians are moving. We need our institutions to have the tools to do that.

I fully support where we are going in terms of the Telefilm direction. To give an example of what we are looking at, we are talking about $85 million that would be going to film; $95 million to $100 million to television; $8 million to $9 million to sound recordings; and $9 million to new media, which could be websites or video games and other new technologies. On that front, I think we are definitely moving in a very positive direction.

However, I am very concerned that what we are doing is not nearly enough. I would not want to have anyone come out of today's debate thinking that the New Democratic Party thinks we are fully on the right road in terms of where we are going with our television and our film industries, because what we have seen over the last number of years is the continual downsizing of our government's support for these industries.

These industries need our support first of all because we are going up against such powerful and sometimes almost predatory heavyweights. It is almost impossible for a small film or television company to be able to even get the access to compete against the U.S. giants. We need to support our artists.

Second, there is an economic component. We can see that the money that goes into arts and film has created thousands of jobs and has built some fantastic industries right across the country, but these industries are now in crisis and we cannot avoid that fact. We are seeing a major crisis right across the country, from Halifax to Vancouver, in terms of the power that our film and television industries have. We have to make some very clear decisions as a country and as a government about where we are going in terms of our support of our cultural entertainment industries.

There has been a real destabilizing that has gone on in the last 10 years under this Liberal government. There have been major cuts to arts, which have destabilized numerous of our grassroots, the incubators of culture. We are looking now at our upcoming estimates for future cutbacks: cutbacks to Telefilm, cutbacks to the National Film Board and cutbacks to CBC. On the one hand we are saying we support culture, but on the other hand arts groups and film people across the country are saying, “We cannot even make the fundamental decisions in order to make even basic movements forward because we have been so undermined”.

When we talk about telling our story, it is almost like kitschy Canadiana in terms of how we like to talk about ourselves, like the roller piano from the Klondike and the happy lumberjack story. But the fact is that a lot of Canadian stories are not being told because there is not the needed funding in the areas where these stories are coming up.

For example, I bring up what happened to CBC. We saw devastating cuts to our regional programming. As someone who lives in an area of Ontario that is very distinct from southern Ontario and has a population the size of Saskatchewan, let me say that we do not have even a single television transmitter in our area of northern Ontario to speak to any of the issues that come out of CBC. We have no ability to even be heard on the national scale. We do not have the reporters up there to do that.

We are looking at undermining the distinct voices right across the country. We have to engage the government. In fact, the parliamentary secretary to the minister said it was the job of the opposition parties to make the case. It is unfortunate, but I seem to agree that it has become the job of the opposition parties to articulate the need for the government to commit to restoring the money that has been cut out of fundamental areas, such as, for example, the Canada Council, where we are seeing major cuts being planned on top of the cuts that have already been made. These are cuts which will come directly out of artists.

It is all fine and well for our government to say it loves artists. Well, I love little children and I like baseball too, but that is not really relevant to the matter. What is relevant is whether the government will put back the money to support these organizations so they can continue their job.

It is particularly distressing when we have such major industries as film, television and the Canadian book publishing industry now three and a half or maybe four months away from the new fiscal year and looking at zero in front of all their budget lines because they are being told there is no money. Is there no money? Maybe there is money, because the hon. minister loves arts; so maybe there will be money, but maybe there will not be. The months are ticking down to the new fiscal year and nobody is being hired, tours are not being planned, books are not being published and films are not being made.

So we can talk about a housekeeping bill, which this is, but the house is in terrible disrepair. I support the efforts to take the broom to the front door and clean up around the door, but I really think the roof needs fixing, because there is water pouring in on all levels of our house.

I would also like to say that I brought forward an amendment and it was shot down, unfortunately, but I think it is very important to raise in terms of Telefilm. We are talking about our support for the artists and we are talking about how much we value them. Yet when these bills come forward and we are talking about who sits on these boards, who sits on Telefilm, who sits on CBC, who sits on CRTC, we have no ability to guarantee that people who are committed to the arts community, people who are committed to arts and know the grassroots issues, the front line issues, have any representation on these boards.

Maybe the Telefilm bill is a housekeeping bill, but it would have been a nice foundational structural change to this housekeeping bill if we had said that someone from the arts community, someone who is involved in the day to day business of making a living and helping create culture, was sitting on that board, but that was shot down. It disturbs me greatly, because again it undermines, I believe, Canadians' confidence in our cultural institutions if we do not know why people are being appointed to these boards and who is making the decisions about appointing them.

I brought that forward as a potential amendment and it was not supported by any of the other parties. It is unfortunate, but I think it should be put on the record that we need to say that if we are going to support our artists it is more than rhetoric. Once again, we all love our artists, do we not? But until we start making some firm commitments as Canadians, we are going to continue to see an undermining of our export industries. We are going to see a continued loss of the jobs that have previously helped many of our urban areas. And we are going to see a continual erosion of what we like to call our story. I think that would be a national travesty.

I will conclude by saying that the NDP will support this bill going forward, but we believe the government has to do more. This government has to commit to coming up very soon with some honest answers about where it is going in terms of its funding for the arts, for film and for Canada's book industry. It has to let these people know so that they can get down to the business of doing what they do well, which is creating culture, creating jobs and creating export investments for us as a nation.

Telefilm Canada ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his speech. I understand where he is coming from. He wants to stimulate and encourage the development of Canadian culture both at home and abroad and that is a very laudable goal.

I do want to point out a model that does exist in the world. I think it is showing very promising results. It is a creation of that famous socialist, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Great Britain. In his wisdom, he decided to lift ownership requirements on the media delivery system in Great Britain, to free that up and allow foreign investors and broadcasters to enter the British market and compete with the British broadcasters. In exchange for that change in policy, he had basically one requirement. It was that a certain percentage of the broadcasting that would be produced in Great Britain would be British made.

Since that policy has been initiated in Great Britain, British culture has flourished, not only in Great Britain but worldwide. I saw on the People's Network last fall an outstanding series on Churchill in the 1930s. It was a very high class production. Guess who produced that program? Lo and behold, it was HBO. The production was done with British actors, British directors and British producers. The program was being marketed around the world.

Mr. Murdoch, who I am sure is a villain for the NDP, has also flourished in that environment and has produced tons of high quality British broadcasting. I am only throwing this out because I am curious about what the reaction of the NDP would be to this policy of this famous socialist Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I think that is a very interesting suggestion. I would suggest that there are probably two fundamental differences between Great Britain and us. First and foremost would be the difference in terms of volume of audience. We are in some ways in a very difficult situation in Canada because we have people spread out so far across such a vast territory. We do not have the volume of people living in fairly close areas that the U.K. has.

I would have no problem with foreign television coming in here if it would meet a certain standard or a certain quota in terms of Canadian production. I think that would be very interesting.

However, I would question the hon. member about this, because what we have seen is that people do not seem to want to go out into rural Canada. As a member from a northern rural region, I find it very difficult to imagine that HBO is going to be interested in coming in and serving my market. I think that is a travesty. HBO might want to go in and cherry-pick Toronto because Toronto could look like any American city, and it might want to go to Vancouver or Montreal. But who is going to tell the stories of Saskatchewan? Who is going to tell the stories of Newfoundland?

If there were some way of bringing forward some serious bite in the legislation, it would be interesting. When we changed the CRTC regulations to improve to about 30% Canadian content, to allow more stations to start taking control of the market, that was a trade-off we made as Canadians. If the hon. member thinks the direction should be a 30% basic strictly Canadian content rate for Fox TV, I think that would be very interesting.

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1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I have two comments.

The first is on the CBC. A great Canadian cultural institution in this country is curling. Northern Ontario has a rich curling history. Al Hackner was the Canadian curling champion from northern Ontario.

This year, CBC squeezed out a quality private broadcaster, TSN. This curling season we are not going to get any evening draws from the Brier because the CBC does not want to do that. It is carrying American programming in the evening and that is more lucrative. We are not going to get those draws at night. It has a billion dollar subsidy that TSN does not have, so naturally it is going to win those contests. Canadian culture is the loser on that.

On the member's point about selling rural Canada, places like Saskatchewan and northern Ontario, in my riding Brent Butt is from Tisdale, a small community in Saskatchewan. A high quality weekly comedy series called Corner Gas is being done on a private broadcaster. Americans are interested in that program. I understand it might be carried in the U.S. as well. This does not have anything to do with government. It is the private system delivering high quality programming to people. It can do the job if government in some areas would get out of the way.

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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, the Saskatchewan television show the member mentioned is an excellent example of what I have been talking about which is the need to promote art, film and television right across the country.

I have never said that the television and film industries mean the CBC. CBC is one piece of a multidimensional puzzle. That is something we need to move toward on a number of fronts.

As someone who likes Men with Brooms it is too bad the CBC did not come up to, I would like to say the plate, but whatever the term is in curling. I think that does not mitigate the fact that we need to support regional programming. We need to support the people who are innovative and who are doing interesting television because they will be exporting it.

If we have any other programming coming out of rural Canada, it should be marketed around the world because it should be the best.

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1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is the House ready for the question?