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.