Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming.
At the outset, I am pleased to speak to the motion and I will support it.
This is a very important issue for all Canadians from coast to coast, particularly for Canadians who live in the regions, Canadians with linguistic minority communities, Canadians from remote communities and Canadian who live everywhere.
I am very pleased we are having this dialogue today. The issue of CBC and how it serves our country is tremendously important to all Canadians. I do not think we can look at the CBC and talk about the individual budget. I believe we have to look at it as to the role it plays in Canada.
Canada is an exceptionally large country, the second largest on earth. It is the most diverse country in the world. We have three founding nations. It is much stronger and much larger than its remarkably diverse and unique parts.
On the other side of the equation, we need the glue to keep us together. There is a social contract, for want of a better word, a shared destiny. As a country, we have to be cognizant of our history, our past and we have to go forward with a clear understanding that we build on that. We are different than other countries that surround us.
It is my premise in this debate today, and I am very pleased we are having this dialogue, that our national broadcasting corporation, the CBC, is one part, but not totally, of the glue that keeps the fabric of Canada together.
CBC is a national institution with a very important mandate. It provides an objective perception of current affairs in Canada. It serves the smaller regional communities, which the private broadcasting companies could not, would not and probably would not be expected to serve. It serves the linguistic minorities from all parts of the country and is responsible for the preservation of our culture, which makes us Canadians.
Many people are trying to a create a looser federation, a federation of self-autonomist units, each driven by the ideology of the government in power. However, my vision of Canada is larger than that. We need a strong federal government and a national broadcasting corporation.
That brings us to today's debate. I will not argue that there has to be a large dose of reality in this debate. I will not argue today for large increases to the budget of the CBC. It has to live within its means. We have economic realities in the country. I do not suggest for a moment that there should be a 10%, 20% or 30% increase in the CBC's budget. Its advertising revenues dropped dramatically. It knew it was faced with belt tightening, but it wanted to have a dialogue with the government of the day. Its proposal was that it be given $125 million bridge loan so it could make the cuts and the changes easier, more equitable and phase them in.
However, that was not the case. The CBC was met with total silence. As a result, we see the loss of 800 jobs, 393 jobs at CBC and an additional 336 at Radio-Canada. It is probably the case that this thing could not totally be avoided, but a lot of it could have been if the government had listened to public opinion on this issue.
I do not believe it is an unreasonable request. We all see what has happened to the economy over the last six to eight months. There was a dramatic decrease in its advertising revenues. It is my premise that the government should have entered this dialogue with CBC and probably should have granted the interim financing, the loan, to get it through this very difficult situation.
What has happened here is the continuation of the toxic relationship that has existed between the CBC and the Reform-Alliance wing of the Conservative Party, going right back to their constating meetings in 1994. A lot of those people who were part of that movement and part of those attacks on the CBC sit in cabinet, across the aisle.
I have a few quotes.
The first quote is, “There are subsidies to bloated crown corporations like the $1 billion annual subsidy to the CBC”. That is from the Minister of Immigration.
The second quote is, “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”. That is from the present Minister of International Trade.
The third quote is, “Do we need the CBC, in its current format, when there are so many private broadcasting channels available?” That is from the present Minister of Industry.
The fourth quote is:
I've suggested that government subsidies in support of CBC's services should be to those things that...do not have commercial alternatives...I think when you look at things like main English-language television and probably to a lesser degree Radio Two, you could look there at putting those on a commercial basis.
That is from the present Prime Minister.
I do not attribute any of these quotes, this ideology, this thinking to the Progressive Conservative wing of that party. That was not the case during the times when it was in power.
I see this as a continuation of the toxic relationship. I am sure if we spoke to many of the Reform-Alliance members, we would probably be dealing with a lot of happy campers here today. It started in the founding meeting and has continued every day.
As a member of Parliament, as a Canadian, I am disappointed with this attitude. It continues this attitude, this ideology that the federal government has no role in broadcasting or in culture, that it should withdraw its mandate to the narrowly defined issues of defence and foreign affairs and become a federation of 13 semi-autonomous units, having no shared destiny, no common purpose, no social contract.
As I said before, I am very pleased that we are having this dialogue. It is important for the fabric of Canada and what it means to be Canadian. I hope the public is watching.
It is my hope the House will support the motion as presented. It is also my hope the government will respect the will of Canadians, if the motion does pass. It is my hope a dialogue can then start between the government and CBC so we can sort of ease out some of these temporary problems. It is my hope this impasse can be overcome.