Mr. Chair, I will make a short statement and then get to my questions.
Since coming to power, the Conservative government has adopted an approach that involves controlling the message, and perhaps even the messenger. Fueled by its diehard dogmatism, this government, which would advocate an unrestricted, free market and unbridled capitalism, the most exaggerated incarnation of which is the Minister of Industry, clearly established the benchmarks for what we must think from now on.
A free-market, one-track approach and magical thinking—there you have the Conservative government's ideology. Anyone who has the nerve to think differently becomes suspect, if not dangerous.
Thus, to raise questions about the mission in Afghanistan would be to defend the Taliban. To suggest that telecommunications need regulation would mean judging businesses negatively. What demagoguery is this?
These defenders of one-track thinking, these Wyatt Earps of law and order who prefer the bayonet to the pen—they have no interest in the cultural development of Quebec and Canada, that much is clear. With their unconventional view of society, artists, who develop perspectives, are disturbing because their message is uncontrolled. In these circumstances, it is no surprise that the budget reflects this indifference to culture. However, we did not think that the Conservatives would demonstrate such boorish logic, such a Neanderthal attitude, to the point of threatening cultural development. No.
There are many examples of this, but too many to list them all in the time I have.
Thus, I will begin with the Canada Council, since I assume the minister will be tempted to boast about the work of her government on this topic, although I plan to dampen that temptation, I dare say, straight away.
I would remind the House that, as a result of combined pressure from the Canadian Arts Coalition, the Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres and the Bloc Québécois, in November 2005, the Liberal minister, Liza Frulla, announced a $300 million increase in the Canada Council's budget over three years.
The Conservatives did not take long to toss that commitment into the garbage can.
They might try to tell us that they increased the budget by $50 million, by $20 million the first year and another $30 million the second, but in reality, this is a shortfall of $100 million for the cultural community under this government. This community, as we all know, has many spokespeople with imaginations that go beyond the bounds of the lacklustre neo-conservative universe.
Next year, no money is budgeted, and that could mean a return to the $150 million starting point, that is, $250 million less than announced in November 2005.
If they had a majority government, they would happily, and without hesitation, cut the Canada Council's budget. The minister can brag about the $50 million for the Canada Council, but we know—the arts community knows—that this little breather is in jeopardy with the potential arrival of—God help us—a Conservative majority.
Cutting funding for artists is what their friends the oil companies are doing, in fact.
Let us be realistic. The highly anticipated museum policy—not updated since 1972—promised by this minister has so far resulted in nothing but cuts to the museums assistance program—museums, places that promote culture, timeless places that showcase who we were, who we will be and who we could be. To jeopardize the future of museums, as they are doing, is to jeopardize our collective memory.
I am trying to see the mercantile logic. Is money, then, not making identity and creativity unimportant? Not a cent was given to the feature film fund. Not a cent was given to contribute to the incredible boom in Quebec cinema, which Canadian Heritage is too dim to recognize.
The minister knows that production costs are increasing and that her stubborn determination to freeze budgets is contributing to the decline in our only national cinema: Quebec cinema.
Everything she touches falters. This minister is the worst thing that has happened to Quebec culture since Angelo, Fredo et Romeo.
Behind all this the message is dictatorial, creativity is stifled and imagination is ostracized. In very little time the minister's work has wreaked havoc and this must stop right now.
Jean-Luc Godard said that when people started talking to him about culture he got out his cheque book. That is what I invite the minister to do as soon as possible.
Can the minister promise to renew and improve next year's budget for the Canada Council or can we expect this $30 million to be non-renewable?