This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cuts.

Topics

Opposition Motion--CBC Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to the Standing Orders, the hon. member for Oak Ridges—Markham will need the consent of the mover of the original motion in order to move the amendment. Does the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier grant consent for the amendment?

Opposition Motion--CBC Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me think about it. No.

Opposition Motion--CBC Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, would it be in order to defer the amendment until such time that we could have a recorded vote on the amendment?

Opposition Motion--CBC Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

No. In order for the amendment to even be moved, there needs to be consent by the mover of the original motion. As the House has heard, that consent has not been granted.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier.

Opposition Motion--CBC Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a French expression to describe my colleague's speech: he is out in the field. He is way out in left field. He is a member of a government that has made drastic cuts to culture. The Conservatives cancelled the PromArt and Trade Routes programs and at least a dozen others. They never lifted a finger, not even once, to help the CBC. They say they have increased its budget but that is completely false. They have not given one cent more. The only increase was the 1.5% allocated by Treasury Board. Therefore, their claim is completely false. Someone mentioned an additional $60 million, which is also not true.

We know that the members of this government have said, over and over for the past 10 years, that they want to abolish the CBC. I ask them today, is this a brazen attempt to use the current economic crisis as a pretext for doing what they have always wanted to do, that is, to axe the corporation?

Opposition Motion--CBC Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find the comments of the hon. member to be quite remarkable. It was this government that increased funding to the CBC to the highest level. Guess what? It was that member who voted not once, not twice but three times in favour of our economic action plan, which increased funding to the CBC to the highest level in Canadian history.

The member talks about one red cent. Let us talk about the red book of 1993 where the Liberals said that they would provide stable funding. What did they do? They cut $440 million. Why did they cut $440 million? They wanted to redirect that money to their friends so they could do something called the sponsorship program. It had nothing to do with CBC then, did it?

Opposition Motion--CBC Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I find it highly ironic and rather hard to swallow that the very government that is providing backseat driving to multinational corporations on the testing of pollution control technology when the Government of Canada has endorsed the polluter pays principle is now criticizing the party that put forward the motion that we should be allowing the CBC to compete fairly. We need a little more consistency in the proposals put forward by that party. If we are not going to be backseat drivers on one, why are we backseat drivers on others who, frankly, do not need taxpayer subsidization?

First we had the cuts to local radio and television and now it has come to my attention that the Conservative government will deliver a second blow to Canadian content that Canadians enjoy. It has been brought to my attention that the Minister of Canadian Heritage has killed the Canadian television fund and rolled it into the Canadian media fund, thereby giving preferential treatment to large media companies and cable companies over small Canadian film producers. He is giving preference to the selfsame companies who spend more--

Opposition Motion--CBC Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I will need to cut off the hon. member there to allow enough time for a response.

The hon. member for Oak Ridges—Markham.

Opposition Motion--CBC Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will say this about the members of the NDP. A least there is some consistency in what they are saying, unlike our friends in the Liberal Party who complain on a daily basis in the House about certain things that they just voted in favour of.

I will remind the hon. member that we did provide $1.1 billion of funding to the CBC, a record level. A great majority of the House voted in favour of that. Our minister has been changing the way in which we provide funding to all levels of cultural institutions. However, we are providing record levels across the board, levels that have never been seen before in this country.

In my riding, the changes have been welcome. However, we need to look at two things. We need to look at responsibility to Canadians. We have a responsibility, as the government, to ensure the funds that all Canadian taxpayers send to us are treated with the respect they are being sent to us with, which why we put in $1.1 billion and why we expect all hon. members to respect the independent decisions made by the CBC. We appreciate the work being done by the CBC in these difficult times.

Opposition Motion--CBC Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I must say that, in spite of these difficult economic times, I am pleased to learn that CBC/Radio-Canada intends to maintain the priorities that are at the heart of its mandate, especially with regard to services in French.

This was highlighted yesterday once again by the CRTC in its report on French- and English-language broadcasting services in English and French linguistic minority communities. The CRTC quotes the Fédération culturelle canadienne française and the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, both of which pointed out the important role played by regional Radio-Canada stations in official language minority communities. Many communities depend on Radio-Canada as the sole source of regional news in the minority language—

I am therefore reassured that CBC/ Radio-Canada will remain anchored in the regions, does not intend to close regional stations and, more importantly, intends to continue to honour its conditions of licence. In other words, I am reassured that CBC/Radio-Canada intends to take the necessary steps to enable it to get through this current difficult economic crisis, while concentrating on its essential activities as provided in its conditions of licence and its mandate under the Broadcasting Act.

In this regard, CBC/Radio-Canada is a key instrument in the Canadian broadcasting toolbox, and the steps it plans to take should mean it will retain that role. Among other things, CBC/Radio-Canada intends to reduce the number of positions affected by offering its employees a voluntary departure incentive plan and is working closely with its unions to find other solution options.

I am also especially proud of the fact that, despite the current extremely difficult economic climate, this government has confirmed that CBC/Radio-Canada will receive all its appropriations, including the special $60 million envelope for programming initiatives. The government is prepared to work with the corporation to enable it to sell $125 million worth of assets. The government's willingness to cooperate was illustrated publicly by Hubert Lacroix, the president and CEO of the corporation, in a speech to the metropolitan Montreal chamber of commerce, when she said she respected and got along well with the Hon. James Moore (Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, CPC).

The current economic and financial crisis, like structural changes in the broadcasting industry in Canada and around the world, obliges broadcasters to think strategically.

For CBC/Radio-Canada, it means looking at the role and nature of public broadcasting in Canada in the light of its mandate under the Broadcasting Act.

This government is reassured by the fact that CBC/Radio-Canada, despite the economic crisis, still considers it its mission to develop an identity and a community and intends to remain anchored in each of the country's regions, especially since its presence in the regions helps reduce the sense of isolation small communities may feel.

This government is also reassured by the fact that CBC/Radio-Canada intends to continue its vital role within the Canadian broadcasting system.

Today, as our national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada provides radio and television services offering a very broad range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains, in accordance with the Broadcasting Act.

This programming is distinctively Canadian and reflects Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences. It actively contributes to the flow of cultural expression, is offered in English and in French, reflecting the different needs and circumstances of each official language community, and is of equivalent quality in English and French.

The programming contributes to shared national consciousness and identity. It is made available throughout Canada and reflects the multicultural and multiracial nature of our country.

I think it is important to say as well that Radio-Canada is no longer merely a French-language broadcaster. It distributes its programming on several different platforms through a variety of services.

Radio-Canada television includes eight local, general-interest TV stations that broadcast live to 99% of French-speaking Canadians. On the radio, the Première Chaîne reaches 98% of French-speaking Canadians.

The Espace musique network has 19 local stations that reach 91% of Canadian francophones.

When it comes to analogue specialty networks, Radio-Canada operates the Réseau de l'information, which broadcasts news continuously in French, ARTV, a television network that broadcasts French-language arts and culture programming, and TV5 Monde, an international television consortium that offers a selection of news and general-interest programs produced in French from Canada, including Quebec, France, Belgium, Switzerland and francophone Africa.

Radio-Canada also provides other radio and new media services such as radio-canada.ca and bandeapart.fm, as well as Radio-Canada Nord, a network that broadcasts in northern Canada in French and aboriginal languages. The corporation is also a 40% partner in Sirius Radio Satellite Canada, a service providing 120 satellite radio stations, including some in French. There is also Radio Canada International, an international radio service that produces programs in several different languages, including French, for an international audience.

I am confident that the corporation has the ability to manage this portfolio of services in a responsible, professional way under the current difficult circumstances. I am also confident that it will be able to adapt to the profound changes in the broadcasting industry in Canada and to the economic and financial crisis, which affects us all, by focusing on its long-term strategy and on fulfilling its mandate under the Broadcasting Act.

I believe that an investment of more than $1.1 billion a year will enable it to fulfill its mandate.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

March 31st, 2009 / 4:10 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been negotiations between the parties and I believe you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

Notwithstanding Standing Order 93(1)(b), that the recorded division requested on Bill C-311, currently to take place immediately before the time provided for Private Members' Business on Wednesday, April 1, 2009, instead take place at the conclusion of question period earlier that day.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. government whip have the unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion — CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Continuing with questions and comments. The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer.

Opposition Motion — CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague from Saint-Boniface to explain the speech she just gave. She is relatively new to the House of Commons, and she is getting along very well, but the speech she gave was undoubtedly prepared by the Department of Canadian Heritage. I would like to know what she will tell her constituents in Saint-Boniface who want local news. The local news from Winnipeg has been eliminated, and from now on the news will likely come from Toronto. Programming on the French network may well come from Montreal.

I would also like our colleague to explain CBC/Radio-Canada's involvement in TV5. The speech that the department prepared for her implies that TV5 is owned by the corporation, which is not true. I would like her to explain, based on the information she has from the Department of Canadian Heritage, how CBC/Radio-Canada is involved in TV5.

Opposition Motion — CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the opposition member for his question. I want to assure everyone that I will work very hard for my constituents in Saint-Boniface, as I always do. I agree completely that the situation facing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is very important to Saint-Boniface.

But I am surprised that the member is asking questions about this when it was the Liberals who slashed funding for CBC/Radio-Canada. They are the ones who really axed that funding.

TV5 Monde is an international consortium that offers a choice of news and general interest television programs in French from Canada—

Opposition Motion — CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I must interrupt the hon. member in order to allow other questions and comments.

The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.

Opposition Motion — CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Saint-Boniface says the Liberals are the ones who made the cuts and the Conservatives recognize those cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada. Would it not therefore be time, during this economic crisis, to sit down and get something done, with an immediate allocation of funds to save the Radio-Canada jobs and its programming?

Does she take pride in knowing that in Windsor, Ontario, for example, there will now be only three people instead of nine? This is a francophone minority region in southern Ontario. We should take pride in the fact that there is a radio station there, with news and other French programming. This region is about to lose all the Radio-Canada noon programming, and will no longer have access to RDI. How can she explain that? Only by referring to the cuts made by the Liberals?

Opposition Motion — CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the opposition for his question. It is such a sad event for anyone to lose his or her job. We have a great deal of sympathy for those workers.

What should the government do about the cuts referred to by my colleague? I will quote what André Pratte said in La Presse on March 29. It is a good explanation of what our government has done.

If the CBC has hit a dead end today, it's not because the Conservatives were cheap, but because of a decline in advertising revenue as a result of the recession. In addition, the public broadcaster is facing the same structural problems that other general interest broadcasters are experiencing: costs are increasing, while revenue is being dispersed among a whole variety of new media.

Some say that the Government of Canada should simply give more money to the CBC. However, who believes there is tight management in that corporation? If the government has to support them, then there must also be assurance—

Opposition Motion — CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Once again, I must interrupt the member. I am sorry, but it is time for another speech.

The member for Hull—Aylmer.

Opposition Motion — CBC/Radio-CanadaBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver Centre.

I rise today to condemn how CBC/Radio-Canada is being treated. The corporation plays a vital role through its national, regional and local broadcasts. I am thinking here of news coverage and services for linguistic minorities throughout the country.

Access to information has become more and more restricted since the Conservatives came to power. The government's desire to control the media has taken many forms, the latest being its cuts to funding for CBC/Radio-Canada. Not that long ago, in 1995, the current Prime Minister, who was a member of this House, said:

Then we have the CBC which is mortgaged to the hilt and costs over $1 billion a year. The major reason two are winners and one is a loser is based on incentives or lack of them...

Reform policy would place the government sponsored loser in a situation where subsidies are weaned away and the future of the company is based on consumer satisfaction.

Last week, the Prime Minister made good on his promise and refused to provide CBC/Radio-Canada with the bridge financing it so badly needed, which would have enabled the corporation to maintain 2008 staffing and service levels. He set in motion the dismantling of CBC/Radio-Canada, as he had said he would do in 1995.

Members will recall that the current Minister of International Trade stated in 2000 that “The Liberals decided to throw millions and even billions in non-priority areas, while ignoring vital ones. For example, the CBC will receive $60 million.”

For his part, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said that the cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada were not deep enough and condemned the fact that “There are subsidies to bloated crown corporations like the $1 billion annual subsidy to the CBC.”

The previous Minister of Canadian Heritage promised extensive consultations on CBC/Radio-Canada's mandate. We are still waiting for that to happen. The current Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages is improvising. He told the members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that he was open to allowing CBC/Radio-Canada to run radio ads in order to supplement its funding.

The Minister does not understanding broadcasting. If he were not constantly trying to improvise, he would know that the Canadian public does not want advertising when it is listening to programming on public radio.

Today, because of the incompetence or bad faith of the Conservatives in dealing with the CBC, the CBC has been seriously undermined.

This situation could have been avoided. The president and CEO, Hubert T. Lacroix, stated, “We have been in constant discussions with the government since the beginning of January about our financial situation.” To no avail.

The interim funding would certainly not have solved all the problems, but Mr. Lacroix said that with this funding, the corporation would have been able to manage them better and minimize them.

Instead of helping the CBC weather the storm, the Conservatives are using this situation to undermine it. In fact, the CBC was not asking the government for more money, simply for more flexibility. We know that the CBC cannot go to the bank to borrow money as a majority of Canadians and businesses can do. Its status as a crown corporation prevents it from taking out bank loans. It had therefore asked the government to either give it permission to borrow or provide some bridge financing. This government, which is trying to get rid of the CBC, said no.

The media everywhere in Canada are having financing problems because of the decline in advertising revenue. The CBC is no exception. But what is the government doing to help it? Nothing! This conduct is not just unacceptable, it is unreasonable.

What are the consequences of this sombre decision? First, the head of the CBC will be forced to lay off more than 800 people. And that would just be the beginning. These cuts would amount to 10% of the corporation’s workforce.

As well, the earnings shortfall has put an end to the traditional way of dividing funding between the two networks: one third to the French-language network and two thirds to the English-language network. The cuts to the French-language network represent nearly half of the total jobs eliminated. That is shameful!

What do these layoffs mean? There are two very significant consequences. First, the government is demonstrating how little concern it has for Canada's regions. The cuts will necessarily mean that regional newscasts in Quebec will disappear and news operations will centralized in Montreal. How will the regions be represented? How will it be possible to provide coverage of the regions with so little air time? The Conservatives are quite simply abandoning the regions to their own devices. They no longer count, in the Conservatives’ game plan. Quebeckers have long memories: after all, our motto says Je me souviens.

In the Outaouais, the television newscast Téléjournal du midi will disappear. Our region will not escape the cuts; this excellent noon-hour newscast, hosted by Nathalie Tremblay, will be eliminated. That amounts to abandoning the people living in the Outaouais region—they will now be served by Montreal. While I respect the people who live in our metropolis, the problems we have in the regions are very different in their nature and scope. The unique character of the regions, with which their people identify, is gradually disappearing, being smothered by Canada’s large urban centres and by American broadcasting as well.

A second consequence, no less important, is the abandonment of the minority communities. In our region, the national capital region, along with the Téléjournal du midi, the radio program L'Ontario aujourd'hui will disappear. The Franco-Ontarian community has reacted strongly to these cuts. This is what it had to say, according to the daily Le Droit.

Nicolas Séguin, president of ACFO, the Association canadienne française de l'Ontario, Ottawa region, said, “What I find sad is that, even before these cuts, we had to ‘hog the blankets’ to get local news. Not only are they not listening to us, they are going to reduce local content”.

Claudette Boyer, general manager of the ACFO in Ottawa, “It’s terrible. I will be getting my news from Montreal. That is of no interest to me”.

Nathalie Ladouceur, president of the ACFO in Prescott-Russell, “We are fighting for our language and our cultural heritage. It’s discouraging, not just for Franco-Ontarians, but for francophiles as well. It’s another demonstration that we have to be constantly fighting”.

Ms. Lise Routhier-Boudreau, president of the FCFA, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, said, “We absolutely need to find solutions so that the crown corporation is no longer forced to make these kinds of cuts”.

Those are the reactions of francophone leaders outside Quebec. These organizations are feeling abandoned by their government. They are ignored, except when election time rolls around. Newscasts are being cut in regions like Moncton, where there is a loyal Radio-Canada audience. Spot the error!

Another consequence of this scandalous decision by the Conservatives is that the CBC is being forced to sell assets valued at some $125 million. One wonders what the logic of this is. Is it not better to sell real property when demand is high and supply low? The present economic situation is certainly not ideal.

Once the assets are sold, the CBC will then have to pay rent, which will only increase its expenses. This sale of assets seems to me a last-ditch attempt to bail out the government in the short term. What will be the long-term consequences of this decision? Did the government even consider this in its haste to butcher the CBC, or was this the intended effect all along?

The mission of the CBC is to be a public broadcaster providing radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains. Its programming should, and here I quote two obligations, first of all, “reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions”.

And second, “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”.

It is clear that in abandoning the regions and the minority communities this Conservative government has failed to meet its responsibilities. The Quebec minister of culture, communications and the status of women has said that, without wishing to interfere in this matter of federal jurisdiction, she thinks that one can only cut so far into the bone. She is right: the government is underfunding the CBC, allocating it only $34 per citizen per year, compared with France where the figure is $77.

As you seem to want to interrupt me, Mr. Speaker, I deduce that my time is up.