House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cbc.


Document quoted from during Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, during question period today the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was consistently quoting from a document. Page 518 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice states:

Any document quoted by a Minister in debate or in response to a question during Question Period must be tabled.

I would like to know when the minister will be tabling the document from which he was quoting in accordance with the rules.

Document quoted from during Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It appears no one is rising to respond to the point of order the hon. member has raised at the moment. I am sure when the matter has been considered, if there was a document quoted from, we will hear about it later and the hon. member's point will be taken up in due course.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on the Liberal motion on cultural diversity and its implications for the Government of Canada's cultural policy. As question period has just ended, the people who are watching at home may have lost track of what is happening and the reason for the debate. I would therefore like to read the motion again.

That, in view of the ratification by Canada of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the House insist that the government, its departments and agencies maintain the program policies and regulations in support of Canada's artistic sector and cultural industries, in particular, by maintaining or enhancing: (a) existing Canadian cultural content requirements; (b) current restrictions on foreign ownership in the cultural sector; and (c) financial support for public broadcasting in both official languages.

As the member for Saint-Lambert said early in the day, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this motion because its members clearly support the UNESCO convention on cultural diversity. We have always supported and defended this convention, and it must resonate here in Canada. This is particularly true of Quebec. I will come back to this.

I am especially pleased to join in this debate because I had the opportunity to see how this convention came about. I was very close to the Coalition for Cultural Diversity, headed by Robert Pilon. We had many discussions, I as Bloc Québécois critic on globalization and he as director general of the Coalition for Cultural Diversity. This organization was created in Quebec and then spread across Canada before giving rise to an international network.

I recall very clearly that in Porto Alegre, during the visit of Ms. Louise Beaudoin, the minister of international relations of the Quebec government of the time, we had discussions with certain French representatives—Mr. Bernard Cassens of the newspaper Le Monde diplomatique, among others—aimed at getting down on paper the first principles that led to this convention. As you know, there has always been a degree of collaboration between Quebec and France. To our satisfaction, the Canadian government, through Ms. Sheila Copps, the minister of the time, got on board the train which has been in motion since Porto Alegre.

After a good deal of work and, it must be acknowledged, of compromise, we finally came up with this Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, an outcome which has had the support, among others, of the Union des artistes, the Bloc Québécois, the Parti Québécois and the French and Canadian governments.

In that context, it is clear that Canada must encourage cultural diversity within Canada, but also internationally and within the framework of its trade agreements. That is the context I particularly wish to address.

However, I must first open an aside which yet seems to me essential. One of the major problems with the debate we are having in Canada on cultural diversity is that the Canadian government and the federalist parties do not recognize the existence of different national cultures within the Canadian political arena.

I will be told, of course, that they recognize the culture of the first nations, which is fine, although they do not give them the resources to adequately develop that culture. At the limit, they even recognize the Acadian culture and National Acadian Day. In the case of Quebec, they recognize a regional culture. I heard that myself from ministers of the previous government—a regional culture which is part of the greater Canadian culture.

That is not true. The Quebec culture is the culture of the Quebec nation. It is a culture that is enriched by the contribution of all of its citizens as well as by the contribution of all of its influences on the global scale. Obviously, in Quebec culture, the French influence is paramount. There is also the influence derived from the British presence. Obviously there is the influence of the aboriginal cultures. Also, as I was saying earlier, there is the influence of all the Quebeckers who have come from all over the planet, bringing with them cultural knowledge which is now blending with what we call the Quebec culture.

I often say that Quebec culture, like Canadian culture as well, is a mass of influences and that is our view of the world on the basis of where we are, that is to say, our geographic area.

I will provide an example: the Cirque du Soleil. It is a Quebec view of the circus, but obviously not only Quebec performers help to put on the Cirque’s shows. It is really a vision that arose in Quebec, in the Baie-Saint-Paul area, and took concrete shape in a company that performs all over the world. The same is true of singers, writers and directors. Think of Robert Lepage, whose Andersen Project I recently went to see: t is a Quebec view of a universal question and the action takes place in Europe, more specifically in Paris.

It is a shame, therefore, that parallel to this debate on the need for a UNESCO convention, there was not another debate in Canada about recognizing the diverse cultures that co-exist here, especially the culture of Quebec. But this subject was taboo within the Coalition for Cultural Diversity.

I cannot refrain from pointing out that, although the motion introduced by the Liberals is perfectly acceptable in our view, they did not raise this question earlier. As I was saying, this is true as well of all the federalist parties: there is no recognition of the Quebec nation and its culture.

Despite the importance of what we have gained at UNESCO and the enormous contribution that Canada and Quebec make, I would like to add that we should ensure that there is place within Canada itself for the cultural policies that we are trying to advance here.

I would remind the House that the purpose of the UNESCO convention is to recognize in international law the specific nature of cultural goods and services because they convey identity, values and meaning, as I was just saying in support of the Quebec example, and to clearly state that countries have a right to adopt cultural policies. This is as true of the federal state as it is of the Quebec state and all the states in the world.

The framers of the convention also aim to establish provisions whereby developed countries promise to help developing countries support the development of their own culture, in particular by disseminating it internationally. And the convention on cultural diversity—let us call it that for the purposes of discussion—is far from an inward-looking approach. Rather, it promotes cultural pluralism and exchanges to enrich each of our cultures instead of seeking to bring various national cultures in line with a standard dictated by American big business. In that respect, we have a very heavy responsibility on our shoulders.

As well, there is still a lot of work to do to establish the principle that this convention will not be subject to WTO trade agreements. I would like to develop this point.

Experience has shown that developed, industrialized countries in particular are very creative when it comes to trade agreements and ways of enforcing them. Unfortunately, Canada and the United States are prime examples of this.

We must make sure—we hope that this will happen and we will make sure it does—that negotiations with the World Trade Organization totally exclude cultural products, which some, especially the Americans, consider entertainment. The battle is far from won. In the wake of the Liberal motion, I hope that all members of this House will ensure that our negotiators at the World Trade Organization make no compromises regarding services and that the UNESCO convention takes precedence over not only all our WTO agreements, but also our bilateral and trilateral agreements in the case of NAFTA.

The Bloc Québécois will support this position as a first step toward a broader debate in this House.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague from Joliette a question. However, prior to doing so, I would like to say that we should be careful about drawing inspiration from Mr. Lepage's work. Mr. Lepage has recently made certain comments. We should not forget the role played by the National Arts Centre in furthering his career.

The member alluded to, among other things, an item in the motion we are debating calling on us to maintain or even increase financing for public broadcasting in both official languages. I would like to know if the member is prepared to confirm that when alluding to this possibility he is speaking primarily of Radio-Canada and CBC. There are other entities that are equally important. I would like to know if my colleague agrees with me on this matter.

For example, the Canadian government's financial support of TV-5 is quite important because TV-5 provides a window onto the francophone world.

Would my colleague accept a proposal that broadcasting entities other than the CBC and Radio-Canada should be included?

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, to come back to the remark made about Robert Lepage, I do not doubt his convictions. But this is not the point of view I was talking about.

I know that a great Quebec artist was appointed a senator by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. I have a great deal of respect for this artist, even if he is a Liberal and apparently a federalist. I do say, “apparently”, since some days, to hear him, one might think he shared some of our convictions. Nevertheless he is a Quebecker and he has contributed enormously to the development of Quebec culture.

I am in full agreement with the member. This is a question of cultural policy. There are a lot of tools in broadcasting. Obviously, television plays a major role. I should say that we are very proud—I think this sentiment is shared by all of Canada’s francophones, at least those in Quebec—to see, for example, that Radio-Canada is able to capture a large market share. That means our public television service can produce programming that might not find a place on more commercial private stations. In this respect, I am in full agreement on the question of television.

As for radio, to my mind the Première Chaîne and Espace culturel play an extremely important role, just as the other broadcasters also do.

Obviously this is true for our public radio and television services, as I mentioned, but it is also true for the Canada Council. That is why the Bloc Québécois hoped that the Liberals’ promise to double the Canada Council budget would be kept by the current government. The promise has not been kept, even though I thought I heard during the election campaign that it would be.

As the hon. member mentioned, it is also true that Quebeckers will seek a hefty share of the Canada Council budgets, for two reasons. First, because Quebeckers contribute to it like other Canadians. Second, because Quebec’s current cultural creativity in many areas is remarkable.

I completely support my colleague. TV-5, in particular, plays an extremely important role not only in acquainting people abroad with Canada and Quebec, but also in acquainting Quebeckers and Canadians with the world’s francophone community. It deserves adequate funding.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would be important for the House to know the views of the Bloc with regard to the funding of Société Radio-Canada and CBC. There has been a mixed situation with regard to support there but it would be helpful to understand where the Bloc Québécois is on the funding of our national broadcasters.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course this issue deserves some serious debate. We must agree on the principle that television in particular should be public and provided with sufficient funding to enable the medium to fulfill all of its functions, educational, informational, and so on.

Over the past few years, funds allocated to television have been slashed. We must increase funding for both the CBC and Radio-Canada. I will leave it to my colleague from Saint-Lambert to discuss dollar figures elsewhere.

I really think it is essential that we provide adequate funding for our public television providers. This applies to Quebec, as I was saying, but it also applies to Canadian identity. It is in the best interest of Quebeckers, even after achieving sovereignty, that Canada as a nation be culturally strong so that we can stand up to our American neighbours. As we know, the U.S. exerts a very strong influence on culture worldwide, regardless of the fact that there is not one single American culture as the big business of the American cultural industry would have us believe.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today. This is probably not one of the more glamorous subject matters to catch a lot of public or media attention but it is vitally important to the sovereignty of Canada.

Just by way of background, on November 23, 2005, Canada ratified the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions under the auspices of UNESCO. I listened to some of the speeches earlier today and I was a little taken aback at the cautious tone that was taken by some and the flat rejection of the premise of the motion today.

What I would like to do is perhaps fill in some of the gaps about where we came from. Canada had an idea to create an international body to protect cultural diversity and cultural sovereignty and that became a reality at the meetings of UNESCO on October 20, 2005, and was later ratified on November 23, 2005 by the Government of Canada.

The majority of the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization member countries signed the convention and recognized the dual nature of cultural goods and services which both have an economic and social value and emphasizes the right of states to take measures in support of diverse cultural expressions. It also will be on an equal footing with other international treaties.

The motion today is with regard to the convention that Canada supported. The motion before the House today for debate reads:

That, in view of the ratification by Canada of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the House insists that the government, its departments and agencies maintain the program policies and regulations in support of Canada's artistic sector and cultural industries, in particular, by maintaining or enhancing--

--that is important, maintaining or enhancing, which means not cutting:

--(a) existing Canadian cultural content requirements; (b) current restrictions on foreign ownership in the cultural sector; and (c) financial support for public broadcasting in both official languages.

I suspect that at this point people are still not very enthusiastic or excited about it so why did it come up? The premise is multifaceted and it is articulated in the preamble to the convention. If the members have not had an opportunity to look at the convention it is accessible on Heritage Canada's website.

If we look at the starting point of this, I found it very fascinating. It starts off by listing some of the premises. It states, “that cultural diversity is a defining characteristic of humanity”. It is probably the first time I ever thought about how humanity had something in common and that was our differences. As a starting point I believe that is a floor to work on.

It also states:

--that cultural diversity forms a common heritage of humanity and should be cherished and preserved for the benefit of all.

It makes some sense to me that there is, in everything, some intrinsic good in that there is an opportunity, even in this regard about the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expression in our culture, that should be looked at for the opportunities that it brings for all mankind.

It also states:

--that cultural diversity creates a rich and varied world, which increases the range of choices and nurtures human capacities and values, and therefore is a mainspring for sustainable development for communities, peoples and nations.

It continues to build on this whole philosophy of the richness that the world has today, nation by nation by nation, of the benefits of cultural diversity and being able to share cultures throughout the world.

It goes on to say:

--that cultural diversity, flourishing within a framework of democracy, tolerance, social justice and mutual respect between peoples and cultures, is indispensable for peace and security at the local, national and international levels.

Notwithstanding some of the problems we have around the world, I suspect there are a lot fewer problems simply because there is a greater understanding of cultural diversity and a respect for cultural expression, which has brought tremendous benefits to many countries. The more we know about our fellow man around the world, the better this world will be.

The convention goes on to emphasize:

--the need to incorporate culture as a strategic element in national and international development policies.

Again, it seems to indicate that there is something to offer on an international basis in terms of policy development. Canada has a rich heritage of cultural policy. I think all members are familiar with the history.

It goes on to say:

--that culture takes diverse forms across time and space and that this diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities and cultural expressions of the peoples and societies making up humanity.

Again, this is building on this view of the value and the synergies that could be created in any fora where cultural diversity was embraced.

It also recognizes:

--the importance of traditional knowledge as a source of intangible and material wealth and in particular the knowledge systems of indigenous peoples...

We do not know everything. Every country has something to offer. I am sure all hon. members are aware of situations where we have had people who have chosen Canada as their new country to make a better life and who have brought with them the skills, knowledge and ability to trade internationally much more extensively than we ever could have if we did not have rich multiculturalism and immigration policies in Canada.

The convention recognizes:

-- the need to take measures to protect the diversity of cultural expressions, including their contents, especially in situations where cultural expressions may be threatened by the possibility of extinction or serious impairment.

The first thing I thought about when I read that part of the preamble was that it had a lot to do with sovereignty. It had a lot to do with the fact that countries are different. Canada is unique and every other country is unique. We have some common elements, but we also have a distinctiveness and Canada, as a whole, is a very distinct society.

The convention emphasizes:

--the importance of culture for social cohesion in general, and in particular its potential for the enhancement of the status and role of women in society.

This is also a very important aspect of this convention.

Members will also know that in many jurisdictions in many countries around the world, the place of women is not the same as we see in Canada. Yet when we embrace other cultures and other peoples who come here, such as the European wave of immigration, Asian and other areas of the world, and when we raise the levels of refugees who have come here and who have taken on important positions in social life in Canada, the role of women who have come here from countries is been enhanced enormously. It is a model for all other countries.

The one compliment Canada gets more often than any other from other countries is about the so-called immigration experiment, where we have brought peoples from around the world, is that we have made it work to the benefit of all.

The preamble also refers to the cultural diversity as strengthening the free flow of ideas that it is nurtured by constant exchanges and interaction between cultures This translates into probably some of the most significant economic increases in terms of activity that Canada has had in many years, the ability to draw on the knowledge of peoples who have come to Canada, to be able to both import and export with other countries and to know how to do business there.

I can remember being in Taiwan probably a dozen years ago. I had an opportunity to meet with a delegation of parliamentarians and the president of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui. Since we had a negative trade balance with them, I asked him why did Canada not do more trade with Taiwan. The president said that it was because Canadians did not know how to do business in Taiwan. He basically said, in so many words, that friendship was a prelude to doing business.

Canadians always seem to think about the product, the service and the price and whether the customer wants it as opposed to whether the person is someone with whom they feel comfortable and would like to do business.

When I think of my life as a parliamentarian over a dozen years, I can think of so many examples where the cultural diversity that Canada has embraced has brought so much to us. It has made us a much stronger and a more highly respected country around the world.

I think this has painted the picture, but it also goes down and gets into some of the harder issues where this convention ranks with other international treaties. All of a sudden we are going to get into some issues such as international property rights, the WTO, free trade and a lot of other things. How are those things impacted when we provide some special attention or at least promotion of cultural diversity? Does it in any way impair the right of people to choose? Does it impair our ability to do business under other treaties?

These are interesting arguments, but by and large we are talking about culture, diversity and the vitality that it brings to any situation. Canada has demonstrated that.

There are a few objectives in the convention, but I should highlight a couple. First, it is to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions. It is a fundamental objective of the convention. Second, it is to create the conditions for cultures to flourish and to freely interact in a mutually beneficial manner. We have all recognized that in our own communities across the country and it is something the Government of Canada and members of Parliament can support.

The next objective is to encourage dialogue among cultures with a view to ensuring wider and balanced cultural exchanges in the world in favour of intercultural respect and a culture of peace. It is somewhat of a platitude, but the essence is there and I think we can buy into that.

It wants to foster interculturality in order to develop cultural interaction in the spirit of building bridges among people. We are peace makers first and Canada has a tremendous record in promoting peace among people around the world. It goes on to say that it wants to promote respect for the diversity of cultural expressions and raise awareness of its value at the local, national and international level. We have always done that. It almost looks like Canada could have written this.

It goes on to reaffirm the importance of the link between culture and development for all countries, particularly for developing countries and to support actions undertaken nationally and internationally to secure recognition of the true value of this link. It says that we cannot do this alone. This is an international convention, a convention that has been ratified by Canada. It says that we have a role to play, even outside our borders. It means that we have to share our experience, particularly Canada. I guess that is why Canada is one of the leaders in this process which started way back. I believe the former heritage minister, Sheila Copps, gave a speech in 2003 which kicked this off. I found it very interesting that the flavour of this convention reflects the values that we have reflected in our lives, even for decades I would suspect.

Of the last three, one is to give recognition to the distinctive nature of cultural activities, goods and services, as vehicles of identity, values and meaning. When I read that, I immediately thought about the francophone culture within Canada. We are a country of two official languages. I am not sure whether non-francophone Canada has a cultural identity. I suppose it does, but it is so broad, so diverse and so detailed. Because it encompasses many different nationalities, it would be difficult to articulate that. The francophone culture is a distinctive culture. It is well known in Canada for its uniqueness in many ways. It brings a dimension to Canada that few, if any, other countries can share and be proud of this linguistic and cultural duality.

Another objective is to reaffirm the sovereign rights of all the participating states to maintain, adopt and implement policies and measures that they deem appropriate for the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expression in their territory. Even international treaties respect sovereign rights.

Finally, the objective is to strengthen international cooperation and solidarity in the spirit of partnership with a view in particular to enhancing the capacities of developing countries in order to protect and promote diversity and cultural expressions.

There is a lot of language in the convention and it goes on for some 19 pages, elaborating on these themes, these values and objectives. I find I can embrace them all fully without reservation.

The convention can be found on the Heritage Canada website. The department has worked for many years assisting with the drafting and the development of this convention. It was also instrumental in having the convention adopted and ratified by the Government of Canada.

However, we have a problem. The government of the day does not support the motion. I was taken aback by one of the first comments made by the member for Kootenay—Columbia, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. He said that the government would oppose the motion. He talked about communications and referred to the technological change that had taken place with respect to television, cell phones, et cetera and how we needed a new policy. He could not tell us what the framework would look like, but he said that the government would work on it.

The CBC is a national institution. It is probably the only institution, of which I am aware, that has a unique role of being the only link to every part of Canada. It is one of the few things that we have in Canada that links us all together. I do not know what people would do if the CBC were gone or did not have the reach that it has today.

Ever since the Prime Minister became a member of Parliament, he has been opposed to strengthening the CBC. He wanted a full examination of it and recommended that it be privatized. I cannot support that. Issues like Afghanistan, softwood lumber, election dates, a number of cut and run issues, are issues that I would associate with the United States. I hope that is not true, but my fear is that we are entering the early stages of the Americanization of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba


Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, many of the member's comments through the first three-quarters of his delivery were quite constructive. However, he indicated at one point that aside from francophone culture, there was no specific unique culture in Canada. I am an aboriginal Canadian and I am sure he would agree with me that there are other very distinct cultures out there.

In relation to how he finished his comments in terms of the Americanization of Canada, I have to take issue with that. Clearly, members on this side of the House are Canadians and believe in Canada. What culture does he suggest is the only culture that represents Canada? How can that be defined? I would like to know the answer.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no one culture. The best way to define Canadian culture is that it cannot be defined. It is so diverse. We are a model to the world because of our multicultural policy and the way we have opened up our doors to people around the world.

The member seemed to be a little concerned about my feeling that we seem to be yielding to pressures from the United States. I have a son who lives in Michigan with his wife. I enjoy the United States as a neighbour, but Canada is a sovereign country and makes its own decisions.

I saw what happened with Kyoto. The United States is not part of it. Canada wanted to be part of it and now is not going to be. There was the softwood sellout. Canada took $4 billion instead of $5 billion. There is the border crossing passport requirement where the United States said it would not back away from it but decided to give us a bit of a deal. We seem to be taking bits and pieces.

With respect to the convention on cultural diversity, the United States is a melting pot and that is what it is known for. They are Americans. In Canada we are not. We are more of a tapestry. That is not to say we are anti-American. It says we are Canadian.

Even our decision on Afghanistan was a very fuzzy thing. By extending our term there for an additional two years, what we really did is free up the Brits so they can continue to fight with the U.S. in Iraq.

I have no special knowledge on this, but I continue to contend there are many things that have happened that seem to have undue influence on a sovereign nation. I would still contend that we are slowly moving to the Americanization of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest while the member spoke at length on the CBC and its value to Canada. As with the other hon. member from this side of the House, I was in agreement somewhat with most of his statement, until he began his paranoid view of all the efforts this government has made for the country.

He brought up Kyoto as one of the elements, that in some way this independent and proud sovereign nation of Canada is kowtowing to an influence south of the border. I bring to the hon. member's attention an article from the National Post of May 30, 2006, as reported by John Ivison, which states:

Ottawa won the unanimous support of developed countries at the conference in Bonn, Germany, for its reluctance to set new targets for the post-2012 period. It also received backing from several countries in arguing there should be no new commitments for countries like Canada until major polluters such as China and India sign up for their own targets.

I would like to ask the hon. member how that reflects on Canada kowtowing to the United States. Why the constant pandering for obvious political reasons, where it wins one favour with the voters in one's riding or area if one is anti-United States? I would say we should be pro-Canada. I wonder how the CBC and Kyoto seem to be associated in the member's view.

I have a supplementary question. We have other very capable Canadian networks in Canada, such as the Canadian Television Network, the CanWest Global network and several independents, such as the CHUM news agency. I worked in northern Ontario and in northern Canada there are satellite dishes from one end to the other. They produce good Canadian content. I wonder why the member wants to drag the United States into what obviously is just a Canadian discussion.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Wrong, wrong and wrong. Mr. Speaker, the member can talk about post-2012 if he wants to, but the Kyoto deal is up to there and in fact, Canada had a plan.

I did not say I am anti-American. I said that I am getting these senses and it is my own personal opinion. I am not a cabinet minister. I am not a parliamentary secretary. I am not a critic. I have been a member of Parliament for 13 years. I sense this and I am expressing how I feel to the House.

Let me quote from the Toronto Star, June 9, 2004. It states:

The Tory leader has not backed away from his party's position on eliminating subsidies for the CBC where it competes with private broadcasters. He said the Conservatives would continue to subsidize the “unique services” the CBC offers....“Where the CBC does things that are competitive with existing commercial services, we'll try and make sure those things are not subsidized and are funded on a commercial basis”.

I do not write these things. I raised that because of the attitude toward the CBC. It is the only issue that was raised by the parliamentary secretary when he addressed not supporting this motion and that was because the motion says we will not cut. We will maintain or expand. We cannot do that according to the current government. It will have to be determined by the pundits and by the people of Canada whether or not the government of the day in fact is in favour of public broadcasting and is prepared to support one of the only institutions in the country that links all Canadians very well.

We are going to find out exactly where the government stands on the CBC and Radio-Canada.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's comments with great interest. I come from the interior of British Columbia in the Okanagan Valley. We have a diverse community. Obviously part of our culture is wine. We have a great diversity of culture, vineyards and a beautiful eclectic community.

I had the opportunity to be deputy mayor of the city of Kelowna. I served nine years as a councillor. I led a delegation to Japan to look at opportunities for investment in foreign countries for exporting and importing. The member mentioned he had a delegation from Taiwan. We support Canadian business. We support working to help Canadian artists expand their artistic endeavours throughout the world.

By maintaining or enhancing the current restrictions on foreign ownership in the cultural sector, how will this foster positive relationships with countries such as Taiwan, or any country for that matter in the global economy?

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, expanding cultural diversity is a good thing, and that answers the member's question.

I will use the balance of my time to indicate that when we talk about withdrawing our commitment under the Kyoto accord, nowhere have I heard in the debate about what we are going to do about big oil. The Conservatives do not talk about big oil.

With regard to the UNESCO convention, the member should also be aware that only two countries did not support it: Israel and the United States. Again, this is another indication of where the Americans go, Canada seems to be open to where the Americans are going, and that gives me a problem.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.

I appreciate the opportunity to address the House with respect to cultural heritage in Canada, but I have to admit up front that I am against the motion as it is written. I think that the motion is well intentioned, but the motion as it is written causes me great concern. I do not believe there is anything in the motion that allows my generation and the generations to come to make the changes that are necessary to ensure that Canada remains at the forefront with regard to cultural development within our country.

There certainly have been many achievements of Canadian authors. Canadian literature is really one of Canada's great success stories. I wholeheartedly support the authors and the publishing industry as well. Individuals who creatively craft Canadian literature certainly have become important on the world stage.

Today there are nearly three times as many Canadian owned publishers as there were 25 years ago. There are four times as many books being published every year by Canadian publishers. I am pleased to note there are five times as many Canadian writers as there were in the late 1970s. This really is an incredible success story. It is a given that Canada has one of the greatest and richest literatures in the world, thanks to the efforts and creativity of our dedicated authors.

There is more to the success stories than the wealth of brilliant writers. No writer, however gifted, could travel this road alone. This Canadian success story has also been created through the tireless efforts of all the great Canadian owned book publishers who have brought our writers' voices to the world, publishers such as McCLelland & Stewart, Boréal, House of Anansi Press, Kids Can Press and Goose Lane Editions. There are so many others I could mention but there is not enough time. Many of the publishers in Canada have made important contributions not only here in Canada but around the world as well.

These Canadian book publishers are committed and insightful people who find and nurture emerging talents here in Canada. I could mention many different writers who have been brought up by Canadian publishers. Canadian book publishers are growing every year too. Since the 1970s, Canadian owned publishers have won a major market share from their foreign counterparts. They now control more than half of the Canadian market.

Also critical to this success is that Canadians love to read Canadian books. According to a national readership survey conducted by the Department of Canadian Heritage, over 70% of Canadians are interested in reading books written by Canadians. This is why Canadian author titles account for almost half of all the books that are sold in Canada every year.

The increased prominence of Canadian publishers is a great sign for our domestic industry and for Canadian cultural heritage. This increase speaks to the ability of our industry to adapt to the ever changing face of globalization. Regarding the maintenance and enhancement of current restrictions on foreign ownership which this motion addresses, I fail to understand why members of the official opposition continue to put such a negative face on the work that Canadian artists do. Why is it that they seem to believe that Canadians cannot compete on the global stage?

Although the growth in domestic publishing is a great achievement for the industry, this motion has the potential to deny Canadian authors the opportunity to be published. What do writers do when Canadian publishers cannot or will not publish their works? They often seek out foreign publishers. By limiting access to world markets, we are undermining our own potential and we are undermining our ability to be heard on the world stage.

We must ensure that the works of Canadian authors continue to be read around the globe. There are so many authors. Michael Ondaatje, Wayne Johnston, Alice Munro and Thomas King are only four of our brilliant writers who are gaining international attention. We must make sure that those in the future who have similar talents have the freedom and flexibility to get their works published as well.

Canadian children's authors have also been successful. Their books have been translated into so many languages that I cannot name them all and they are impacting young people across the globe.

I would be here all day if I mentioned every Canadian author who deserves to be named. There are many examples of many writers honing their craft in Canada today, sharing unique and inspiring stories, our stories, our ideas and our values with readers everywhere.

Our writers share our culture with the rest of the world. These storytellers describe what it is to be Canadian through their endearing characters, such as in Mordecai Richler's Duddy Kravitz, Roger Lemelin's The Plouffe Family and Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables.

This could not be more important in a globalized world. We need to know and we need to have the ability to share our history, our way of life and what makes us unique as Canadians.

Our writers transport us to the far north, to Iqaluit to live with the Inuit, to the prairie farms in Saskatchewan and to the fishing villages in Newfoundland. The world is applauding our efforts and asking Canadians to continue telling their stories. It is important that these authors continue to bring Canadian culture to the rest of the world. Any government attempt to obstruct the progress of Canadian artists with outdated rules and regulations is simply appalling.

One illustration of this superb literary reputation is the Man Booker Prize, one of the world's pre-eminent international awards. Canadian authors have been shortlisted for this prize several times and in 2002 Yann Martel became the third Canadian to receive the Man Booker Prize for his novel, Life of Pi, joining the excellent company of Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood. These are very successful people who are working on the international stage.

I am very proud to say that Canadian writers have won nearly every prize in the book world, including the Prix Goncourt, which is the most prestigious award in the French language literature; the Prix Femina, an award decided by an exclusively female jury; the Commonwealth Writers' Prize; and the International IMPAC Dublin, which was won by Alistair MacLeod in 2001 for his novel, No Great Mischief.

The success story of these authors is certainly praiseworthy and government assistance has contributed to their success. However, I would be very arrogant if I were to claim that these brilliant Canadian authors could not have done it without government assistance. They need more than just government assistance. The government provides $60 million in financial assistance every year to Canadian authors and book publishers. Programs like the Canada Council, the Public Lending Right Commission, the Governor General Literacy Award and the CBC Literacy Awards all provide assistance to our authors. Through their continued support, our government already provides much needed funding for Canadian publishers.

While these programs are great and they functioned adequately in the past, they are unfocused and do not prepare us for what media we might experience into the future. They limit the government's ability and the next generation's ability to ensure that cultural content regulations can be adjusted to meet the reality that will be faced by many sectors.

I welcome the opportunity to address this House and respect the cultural heritage of Canada but I have to say again that I am against the motion. The great achievements by many Canadian authors has been one of Canada's success stories but I would appeal to all members of Parliament to consider the impact this motion would have on my generation and the generations to come if we were to limit it to the parameters that the motion provides us as parliamentarians.

As we move forward, I hope all Canadians will recognize that we must consider what future generations might need to do to remain viable and relevant into the future.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker proudly described Canada's history with respect to the cultural sector. He noted the authors, the painters and the musicians, and all of the cultural initiatives of which Canada is very proud. Does the hon. member believe these achievements happened by accident? Does he not see a link between Canada's support for writers, the publishing sector, the music industry, the musicians, the composers, the artists and all of the broad spectrum of the cultural sector and the creation of the CBC? Does he think this happens by accident or is it not the result of intervention in the market to ensure the development of a healthy cultural sector that has been fraying at the edges over the previous government's term and hopefully will not under the current government?

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more. It is very important for a government to have a strong understanding as to how it wants to assist our cultural communities and it does have a very important role to play.

What I am concerned about is that the motion, however well-intentioned it may be, would take us back a step and would not allow us to make the important investments that were expressed. The motion states that we must “maintain the program policies and regulations”. I have a problem when we are stating that we have to stay the course and that we cannot move forward and help our cultural communities to ensure they will be viable and relevant into the future.

I could not agree more with my colleague that there needs to be a vibrant cultural community and that by working together with them into the future we, as government, in partnership with these cultural communities, will be able to do just that.

The motion is a situation where we have to be careful of what we ask for because we might get it and it might be exactly the reverse of what we wanted. That is probably the situation with this particular motion.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague from Peace River's speech. Given the description of his artistic endeavours across Canada, I would have thought he would support today's motion.

I belong to Canada's francophone culture, which must be preserved. To accomplish this, I believe that we need our government's cooperation and support. I think that Canada's anglophone community, which far outnumbers the francophone one, also needs help to maintain its distinct identity vis-à-vis the United States, a huge country.

Why then not vote in favour of this proposal, which reiterates Canada's ratification of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions?

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would go back to what I stated at the end of my last response which is that we should be careful of what we ask for because we just might get it and it might be exactly the opposite of what we wanted. This is probably what the motion would bring forward. It is a call to have the status quo remain.

I do believe important investments have been made in the past, and they continue to be made under this government, but there needs to be flexibility to ensure our cultural integrity does not become an archive, that it remains alive and able to live, breathe, grow and change.

Like all of Canadian culture, there has to be flexibility. What this motion brings forward is a provision that we have the status quo and that the status quo be maintained indefinitely. I cannot support that. I know many young Canadians who are looking for different investments from this government.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec


Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I cannot support this motion by the hon. member of the opposition for the good and simple reason that it demonstrates the opposition’s lack of flexibility, which clearly reflects the blindness of the opposition members to the complex and changing realities faced by creators, artists and filmmakers.

Permit me first of all to remind the hon. members of the opposition that this government does not regard Canadian culture as a boring backwater, but as a myriad of facets and dimensions. For each sector of Canadian culture has its own unique richness, vitality and challenges.

The opposition motion in no way reflects the diversity and multiplicity of Canadian culture. I want to point out to the opposition that the national film industry is a linchpin of Canadian culture, and in that capacity it plays a leading role in the development of communities everywhere in Canada.

Canadians spend close to a billion dollars a year going to the movies, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Canadians watch even more films in the comfort of their homes, and soon, wherever they want to watch them, thanks to the new mobile technologies. In surveys, over 80% of them say that they love our national film industry, and that our filmmakers have no reason to be jealous of anyone. We produce excellent films and have done so for decades.

This government believes in the importance of culture. We believe that each nation must have the capacity to express its identity and give free rein to its imagination.

The government therefore supports the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. That means we recognize that the governments of a great many countries, like Canada, actively support their cultural sectors, and notably the feature film industry.

That is also why we are determined to support our creators and those who make it possible for talented people and the next generation of artists to recount and create our own uniquely Canadian stories.

In that regard, the opposition will be comforted to learn that the government intends to maintain the fundamental objective of its policies and programs, namely the creation and dissemination of Canadian content, particularly in feature films. The Canadian content requirements for access to public programs will be maintained. They are key to government support.

This government knows there is little interest in investing public money in the production of films that do not reflect Canadian realities and Canadian perspectives, or that do not capture our Canadian imagination. We want every facet of Canada brought to the big screen.

Canadian feature film policies, from script to screen, play a key role in making the Canadian film industry prosperous. For the federal government, Telefilm Canada is at the forefront of the support system for Canadian feature films. The provinces also make very significant contributions to film activities all across the country. Our government will be continuing the federal commitment.

However, there is room for improvement. The opposition motion is so narrow that it does not consider the complexity of cultural issues. The hon. members of the opposition would like to see no change made to their policies and programs. I would remind the House, however, that the Liberals were far from perfect, and the voters have given us the proof of that.

Above all, this government must ensure that public funds are invested in such a way as to maximize benefits to Canadians. Furthermore, public investment must be transparent and yield results. Statements of the results must guide the decisions of the government in the pursuit of public interest.

Like many, I am very proud of the heights reached by French-language Canadian film. Our fellow citizens have clearly indicated their great appreciation for our films. Box office receipts prove it. I am referring to such films as Séraphin: Heart of Stone, Les Boys, Maurice Richard and C.R.A.Z.Y.. Many of these films were also well-received internationally, films like The Barbarian Invasions, Seducing Dr. Lewis and, again, C.R.A.Z.Y.

Canadians certainly like to travel, reflect and be entertained when watching films that appeal to them, that speak to them and are part of their passion. That is why, despite the exceptional success of our French-language films, the task is far from complete. We must keep up the good work and encourage success.

The opposition motion will not allow for the changes that will result in this expansion. The opposition must recognize that English-language Canadian films have not been as successful as the French-language ones. Our English-language films have a hard time drawing Canadians to the theatre. It is true that standing up to the Hollywood heavyweight is a huge challenge.

The measures taken by the Liberals bore no fruit. It is up to our film-makers and the film industry to persevere and find success, because they are the ones who make the films and promote them. It is not the government nor Telefilm Canada. For these reasons, the government will support the English-language Canadian film industry in its efforts to improve its performance and to win over Canadians.

The success of the federal support will be measured by the ability of the Canadian films to get a significant market share and to keep it in both linguistic markets.

The market test shows the importance Canadians place on Canadian cinema and the role the government must play to support it. Without an audience, the cinema is nothing. Its vitality today and over the long term depends on its ability to attract a sizeable audience with a variety of films.

This government supports the growth of an open, tolerant and inclusive national identity. Our culture, our cinema, our films, all contribute to this. In fact , they play a key role. Our films nourish our imagination, change our perceptions and make it possible to share our experiences. Without audiences, this fundamental objective is beyond our reach. Our films must raise questions and bring us together in order to help us unite as a strong nation, proud of its achievements and confident in its future.

Yes, this government believes that our success must be popular, but also and most importantly artistic. This is why we make sure our filmmakers have the opportunity to give expression to their visions and to continue the avant-garde tradition of Canadian film, as represented by such unique works as the animation film Ryan. We have to support the whole of the film industry, with a view to the future. New talents must be welcomed, encouraged and not underrated.

Finally, I want to inform the members of the opposition of the technological challenge facing our film industry along with all the other cultural sectors, for that matter. It is clear from the rigid opposition motion that the Liberals still do not understand the significance of the changes affecting the cultural industries, our artists and our basic culture for all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member finished off with the technological argument again. The member for Kootenay—Columbia had also argued that this is why those members were opposed to this motion. I am not sure that I fully appreciate what part of improving the technologies that make up our cultural diversity and uniqueness is at risk. I am not sure whether it has to do with our museums, literature, broadcasting policies, Canadian content or some of the other aspects that we are talking about. Perhaps this needs a little amplification from the member.

What exactly do technological changes have to do with protecting Canadian content and Canadian sovereignty?

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, change is always important, especially when it comes to technology and film. To be competitive and develop some day on the international level, we need to take what technology can offer and examine it. We have to stop wearing a straightjacket. That is why I do not support the Liberal motion. It forces a straightjacket on us that stops us from going any further. We have to become competitive and show our culture to the whole world.

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that we should target the development of the French fact in North America, especially in Quebec, in Acadia, among the francophones of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Franco-Ontarians, the Franco-Manitobans, the Franco-Saskatchewanians, the Franco-Albertans, the francophones of British Columbia, the Franco-Yukoners, the francophones of Nunavut and the Franco-Ténois to help them combat the ethnocultural assimilation that assails both Quebec—which accounts for only 2% of North America—and all these communities living under the yoke of anglophone provinces, which too often have abolished their schools, with the result that the French fact is now locked in a perpetual struggle to survive and recover lost ground.

So here is my question: why did the hon. member’s government fail to meet the budget requests made by the ADISQ and the Canada Council as well as the Acadian and francophone communities of Canada for the very purpose of helping the French fact thrive and thus combat Americanization and the assimilation into English in both these communities and Quebec?

Opposition Motion—Cultural DiversityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2006 / 4:20 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, so far as I know, we have always fought for French, I myself in the lead, and I will continue to do so.

I am of francophone origin. It is important for me, therefore, to speak on behalf of francophones. Culture is very important to us; so we work together. That is why I will oppose the Liberal motion this evening. In my view, it does away with the aspect of helping French to flourish everywhere.