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House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier wish to change his no vote to a yes vote?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Independent

André Arthur Independent Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to vote yes, as I intended had I been understood.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there agreement to proceed with the change in this case?

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. Liberal whip also wishes to raise a point of order.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am in total agreement with proceeding this way, but I would like it to be noted that the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River had to leave the chamber.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #140

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2008-09Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

8:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 15, the vice president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Richard Stursberg, said before the Standing Committee on Official Languages that the broadcast of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame gala last March did not show French-Canadian songwriters and composers because the anglophone audience would not appreciate the music and would change the channel. This left French-language singers without a chance to showcase their talent.

The gala was three hours and fifteen minutes long, and all of the French-language singers were cut for reasons that border on xenophobia. “Anglophones will change the channel if the francophones sing.”

It is despicable. And it has been this way for three years. It is unacceptable. Conservative, Liberal, New Democrat and Bloc members do not approve of this state of affairs. This is what we told Mr. Stursberg and his boss, Hubert Lacroix, the president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, on May 27 when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

What if Inuit singers Kashtin were to perform? Would the CBC go off air so as not to displease people who do not speak their language? You have to wonder.

Mr. Stursberg claimed that audience ratings studies supported his decision. That is out of order. Quebeckers, Acadians and Brayons, together with francophones in Newfoundland, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, not to mention francophile anglophones, all pay their taxes to the federal government, and some of that money goes to the CBC. They all have the right to hear francophone singers on the CBC, particularly during its broadcast of the hall of fame gala honouring Canadian songwriters from coast to coast.

There is every reason for members of the House of Commons to get involved in issues related to the crown corporation's programming. We were elected by citizens who want us to represent them and who want us to spend their tax money well. In this case, they want us to make sure that public television programming reflects their Quebec culture or their Canadian culture, as the case may be.

According to Canada's broadcasting policy, the crown corporation, which includes both the Société Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, must “reflect Canada”.

For the past three years, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has failed to comply with that important part of its mandate during CBC broadcasts of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame gala featuring both francophone and anglophone songwriters. That has to change.

8:45 p.m.

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, despite challenges of geography, language and proximity to the largest cultural exporter in the world, Canada has built a broadcasting system that works.

In fact, the Canadian broadcasting system stands alone as one of the great achievements of our nation. The government remains committed to a single broadcasting system comprised of public, private and community elements.

It is a system that operates in both French and English and serves official language minority communities. Since it was first established in 1936, CBC Radio-Canada has been a core institution and a unique component of the Canadian broadcasting system. Canadians have traditionally turned to their national public broadcaster as a source for news, information and entertainment.

The mandate of CBC Radio-Canada is contained in the Broadcasting Act. Its objectives present a broad mandate and challenge our national public broadcaster to produce programming that reflects Canadians across the country. The act stipulates that CBC Radio-Canada's programming is expected to actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression.

According to the act, programming offered by CBC Radio-Canada is expected to be in English and French, reflecting the different needs and circumstances of each official language community, including the particular needs and circumstances of English and French linguistic minorities.

Furthermore, CBC Radio-Canada's programming should “strive to be of equivalent quality in English and in French”. As a national public broadcaster, CBC Radio-Canada should reflect all the population it serves and offer something for all Canadians. Therefore, in March 2007, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage launched a full investigation of the role for a public broadcaster in the 21st century.

As part of its proceedings the committee heard from a wide range of witnesses. The committee also travelled to Whitehorse, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, St. John's and Montreal.

Tabled in February 2008, the report confirmed the importance of the national public broadcaster, stating that the committee regards CBC Radio-Canada as an essential public institution that plays a crucial role in bringing Canadians together.

The committee also made a recommendation to stress how important it is for CBC Radio-Canada to continue to contribute to shared national consciousness and identity as stipulated in subparagraph 3(1)(m)(vi) of the Broadcasting Act. The committee acknowledged the English language and French language television services face different challenges as a result of their respective situations, their needs and the characteristics of their audiences.

The committee considered that CBC Radio-Canada's role of building bridges and fostering mutual understanding among Canadians to be essential. The committee added that CBC Radio-Canada is a major national public institution and is supported by all Canadians. Canadians have the right to expect the corporation to tell them more about themselves and what is going on around the country.

I wish to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for their work. Having been one of them, I know that we worked hard on this highly important issue and I look forward to the continued cooperation among the committee members on issues like this.

8:50 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the CBC made a serious mistake that must be corrected. I have already made the point to the president and vice-president of the crown corporation that when a gala such as the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame gala, featuring French and English songwriters from Quebec and Canada, is broadcast, at least one quarter of the program must be in French. This is imperative. People whose language of use is French represent 25% of Canada's population, and they are entitled to hear francophone singers during such a gala.

This requirement should be included in all CBC and Radio-Canada contracts for galas similar to the one we are talking about today.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, in response, I outline some of the responsibilities of CBC Radio-Canada under the Broadcasting Act. According to the Broadcasting Act, CBC Radio-Canada is an autonomous crown corporation responsible for the management of its own day to day operations, including programming independence.

It is CBC Radio-Canada's board of directors and senior management who are responsible and accountable for programming decisions. In May, CBC President Lacroix appeared before both the official languages and the Canadian heritage committees where he assured committee members that these events have raised CBC's level of awareness on these issues and that the CBC will do a better job on these kinds of broadcasts in the future.

He also wrote an open letter for the April 23 edition of La Presse in which he stressed that building bridges between anglophone and francophone communities was obviously a priority for our public broadcaster's mandate.

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:52 p.m.)