Madam Speaker, we are reaching the end of the debate on Motion M-297, which I was very happy to sponsor. I thank all the members who have taken part, even the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who unfortunately used his time to run the same old tape, which no one wants to hear anymore. I especially want to thank my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert—who was just applauding—for her dedication and her enlightened look at this issue, especially during the tour of the regions of Quebec that we had the pleasure of making together and that took us to Trois-Rivières, Joliette, Rouyn-Noranda, Rimouski, Matane, Bonaventure, Laval, Montreal, Victoriaville, Sherbrooke and Saint-Jérôme. My biggest thanks go to the artists, artisans and cultural organizers who shared their opinions on a host of issues they have to deal with every day. I also thank them for their generous support for our efforts to have this motion adopted by all the elected members in this House. I hope that the practical examples that I have taken from those meetings and will share with you in the too-short time I have left will convince even the most skeptical among us of the importance of adopting this motion.
Regarding the Canada Council of the Arts, I can make three observations. The first is that many organizations told us that they had seen their support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec increase, but that they had received nothing more from its federal counterpart. Second, other organizations such as Festival La Virée in Carleton were simply cut off. Third, a number of cultural groups would like to receive support for operating expenses instead of support for individual projects.
These are just a few examples that show that Canada Council funding needs to be increased.
As for the programs that were cut, it seems clear to me that PromArt and Trade Routes are the ones that the stakeholders we met with on our tour were most upset about.
What will become of all those artists and all those troupes that need to present their creations abroad in order to develop and innovate? In Sherbrooke, I heard a comment that does not bode well. The largest institutions that can no longer afford to travel abroad will try to save their skin in Quebec, leaving little or no room for the smallest productions that managed to survive thanks to the domestic market up to now. Our small population base and the Quebec government's limited financial resources will not be enough to support everyone. This is what we could call the loss of diversity by suffocation.
In that context, what is to become of art other than entertainment? I pass that question on to you, and it could not be more pertinent.
In Victoriaville, Suzanne Richard, representing the Quebec artistic trades council, emphasized how necessary the assistance to artisans through Trade Routes is for the international dissemination of these unique skills. Without its support, this presence in other countries is compromised, yet it constitutes one of the criteria considered by the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. To my mind, this is one more proof that the government carried out no impact studies whatsoever on the programs it abolished. That is, at the very least, an irresponsible way to proceed.
What about the Laval theatre troupe, Bluff, which was about to apply for funding from PromArt? Does it have to cancel a production it thought was well on the way to being exported? Where will the Sages Fous perform after the 375th birthday of Trois-Rivières if PromArt is not restored? There are plenty of other questions like these.
We were told in Montreal that foreign purchasers of cultural and artistic productions do not understand why Canada does not foot the bill for artists' and performers' travel and the shipping of their equipment, when this is what is done elsewhere. All this is totally unacceptable.
In addition to their direct impact, I invite my colleagues to reflect on another consequence of these cuts. Will the quality of the artists invited to teach or exhibit their art suffer because they no longer have the opportunity for professional development with artists and the public in other countries? That is a concern raised by the chair of the board of directors of the Concerts aux Îles du Bic.
At our meetings, many comments were made about cultural programs in general. The difficulty of keeping federal programs in sync with the realities of Quebec regions was often mentioned. It is obvious that, in light of this concern, the ideal approach would be for these programs and their budgets to be transferred to the Quebec government. While waiting for that to happen, we can vote for motion M-297.
We came to the same conclusion wherever we went in Quebec and I am convinced that it cannot be any different in Saguenay and Montérégie, where we will be going in a few days. Abolishing these seven programs not only creates uncertainty in the cultural sector, but it also results in the cancellation of foreign tours and layoffs by companies that are barely hanging on.