Mr. Speaker, I am honoured and pleased to participate in the debate and to support my colleague, the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, and his motion for concurrence.
On November 2, 1936, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was first established in its present form. The CBC has since become very much a part of the fabric of Canadian life, culture and expression of our national identity.
As I have noted before in the House, nations across the world recognize the need for a strong, public broadcasting service that occupies an integral role in the vitality of our cultural life.
The British Broadcasting Corporation, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation or the NRK in Norway are examples of the commitment countries bring to public broadcasting.
In the United Kingdom, for example, the licensing fees are collected from the public and used to fund public broadcasting. The results are clear: a vibrant, world-renowned public broadcaster that is a leader in virtually every field of communication. Indeed, in the realm of news broadcasting, the BBC is recognized as the standard. The CBC here in Canada acknowledges and presents the BBC world services news each night as part of its programming.
The point is simply that public broadcasting is a vital part of the cultural, political and social life of nations across the world. We are unique in many respects to other nations throughout the world insofar as we have a large neighbour to the south that very directly impacts our daily life here in Canada, including in the realm of broadcasting.
The CBC, our nation's public broadcaster, plays a significant role in protecting, nurturing and encouraging our Canadian culture.
In view of these realities, it is imperative that decisions respecting the future of the CBC in this country are made in a fully inclusive and appropriate manner. It is for that reason that it is essential that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage occupy an important role in any review of the mandate of the CBC.
This is not simply about taking account of the services provided by just any broadcaster. It is not about reviewing the fiscal bottom line or taking a casual glance at the network's programming. This is about reviewing and perhaps redefining one of this country's great national institutions. It is about the role of a broadcasting service that has woven itself through the fabric of our modern history in this country.
In our system of parliamentary democracy, the role of Parliament is one of oversight, advice and consent. In respect of this, the institution of Parliament must also be respected and included. The standing committee is one such component of the process.
It is important to note that what my colleagues and I are calling for today is not that the standing committee be the vehicle for a review of the CBC's mandate exclusively. What we are asking for is eminently sensible and unquestionably reasonable. We are asking that a standing committee of a democratically elected Parliament be fully included in the review of one of the most important cultural institutions in this country, the nation's public broadcaster.
The CBC is more than just a vehicle for hockey or news, although there are few who would argue that the broadcaster excels in these areas like no other provider. The CBC is about drama, commentary and cultural expression.
There are enormous and emerging challenges today in the realm of broadcasting and communications generally. These challenges are not unique to Canada. Across the world the role of the Internet, specialty television services, pay on demand services and so on are increasingly complicating the communications spectrum.
There is a need to remain current in such a diverse and sometimes incomprehensibly challenging environment. It often seems that we are no sooner comfortable with a new communications innovation when another quickly appears on the horizon.
It is in this environment, this new reality, that the CBC must now operate and so there is certainly a need to review the mandate of this cultural institution. This review needs to be undertaken so that we might ensure that the CBC remains a major part of our country's communications reality.
The CBC is a forum for our national expression and a mechanism for nurturing our country's considerable cultural talent pool. The role of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is an important part of our national discussion on the future of institutions like the CBC.
It is for those reasons that the standing committee most certainly should be part of the process of determining the terms of reference for any review of the CBC or its mandate.
There is a clear and sustained logic to including the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in determining the role of any review. The committee is made up of democratically elected representatives chosen by the people to manage the affairs of this country, to chart the future direction of our nation and to ensure there is proper stewardship of Canada's important institutions.
Across the country, Canadians in communities large and small rely on the CBC for news and entertainment. This is particularly true of smaller communities in this vast country. The CBC helps to unite Canadians in a way that is important for the future of Canada. We are a vast nation with challenges unique to our country.
The Broadcasting Act states that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a national public broadcaster should provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains, which is very important.
Reading these parameters indicates very clearly the vital role of the CBC in Canada.
Once again, let us get this right. All of us have recognized that the government has the right to appoint an independent commission to review the mandate of the CBC. This is not up for the debate. However, surely this mandate review as it is undertaken should take into account the advice of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage which is comprised of people elected to represent the will of Canadians.
I encourage the government and the Minister of Canadian Heritage to reflect on this matter and to do the right thing before the mandate review is undertaken and include the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage from the beginning of the process. Let us all work together to ensure the vital and effective public broadcaster continues to be a part of our national heritage and our national identity.