Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
In many respects it is the culture of the nation that defines its values and its character. Nations across the world are often associated with the cultural institutions they have nurtured and supported.
One has only to mention institutions like the British Broadcasting Corporation and immediately there is a multitude of thoughts that come to mind. High quality news coverage, documentaries, outstanding dramas and humourous comedies, all of which reflect the essence of British culture and the perspective that the British people have on the world.
It should be noted that even during the days of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who maintained a solid commitment to privatization, the institution of the BBC was essentially retained as she had found it.
It is in this respect that we today examine, among other things, the importance of arts and culture to the preservation and promotion of our national values and vision, of institutions like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Since it was brought into existence, the CBC has been the epitome of Canadian culture and the values of this society. It is really quite remarkable when one reflects over the years upon the enormous contribution of the CBC to Canadian life. It is an institution that brings all parts of this enormously diverse country together, both geographically and in the spirit of Canada.
Whether a person lives in a remote community in Newfoundland, or in a large Ontario urban centre, or on our country's beautiful Pacific coast, the CBC carries the same message to Canadians, demonstrating that, although we may be far apart, we are all linked by this great national institution.
Today, as we discuss issues of arts and culture, we must remember that we are cheering on the Edmonton Oilers, the last Canadian team now in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and we are watching it on the CBC.
If at Remembrance Day we are marking the great sacrifices made by Canadians to preserve freedom, we are watching the ceremony on the CBC. It is the same whether it is Canadian comedy, Canadian music, Canadian talk shows, Canadian political broadcasts, Canadian drama, and the list goes on.
We need to continue to fund the CBC. In fact, we need to increase the support it requires to continue to grow in service to Canadians. We need a strong and vital CBC. To achieve that, the CBC needs the proper funding. To help sustain our cultural fabric, the CBC needs the funds required to provide the level of broadcasting that will be competitive, interesting and informative for Canadians.
As Canadians, we inherently know the value of the CBC to Canadian life. We must also match this recognition with a commitment to provide the kind of funding that makes the CBC viable and pertinent in an ever increasing competitive market.
Today's debate also brings our attention to the issue of support for our official languages policy. Language is the essence of much of our communication. Through it, we express ourselves, our beliefs and we share our identity.
Our great former prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, recognized the importance of our two founding cultures to the character of our country. It is for this reason that he facilitated the implementation of our official languages policies. They help to accentuate the character of the two founding nations of modern Canada. Across the world we are known as a nation that speaks both French and English.
Indeed, when I travel, people across the world simply assume that as a Canadian I speak both languages. It is quite a laudable ideal and one that perhaps one day will be a reality, every Canadian having the ability to communicate in both of our beautiful languages. Since language helps to define who we are, it is imperative that our official languages policies are not only retained but nurtured.
I am concerned that the new government may lack the level of commitment to official languages policies that have characterized the beliefs of Canadian governments, both Liberal and Conservative, for quite some time now. I encourage the hon. members in the chairs opposite to join with us in maintaining a solid and abiding commitment to Canada's two official languages.
Similarly, as we look at funding issues in respect of the arts, we must also continue to expand our support for the Canada Council for the Arts. This agency is an arm's length body that supports the arts in Canada through grants, services and awards. Many individual groups over the years have benefited enormously from the support they have received from the Canada Council for the Arts. Across Canada the message of what it means to be Canadian expressed in arts and culture has been supported by the great work of the council.
The previous Liberal government had committed to doubling the funding for the Canada Council for the Arts to $301 million by 2009. We do not see a commitment of this kind, or anywhere near it, from the current government.
Indeed, following the last Liberal budget it was Karen Kain of the Canada Council for the Arts who said that the budget was wonderful news, as indeed it was. In practical terms, it provides the financial resources that are so essential to continue to promote our cultural growth and diversity, these being indispensable foundations of our Canadian identity. All of these institutions play an important role in fostering the multicultural identity that has become the envy of the world.
I am pleased and honoured to represent the people of Davenport. Davenport is located in the heart of Toronto, which is widely recognized as the most diverse city in the world. This diversity is one of the city's greatest strengths. It is also one of our country's greatest strengths. It is a great honour to be recognized like this across the world.
Whether it is the CBC, the Canada Council for the Arts, or the Canadian Television Fund, we must continue to support their work, work that promotes Canada to the world, work that sustains our great multicultural identity known throughout the world. These are the foundations upon which our cultural identity rests. Time does not permit a long discussion of the many other institutions that help promote the arts and culture of Canada but we certainly are very lucky with the importance of the arts in this country.