House of Commons Hansard #72 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was artists.


6:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

Vote #86

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion, as amended, carried.

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion.

Atlantic Lobster FisheryPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 284 under private members' business in the name of the hon. member for Cardigan.

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

Vote #87

Atlantic Lobster FisheryPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from June 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (amounts not included in earnings), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-279, under private members' business.

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

Vote #88

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion lost.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 6:29 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from March 27 consideration of the motion.

ArtistsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hardly need say that I support this motion, since it reflects what the Liberal Party of Canada has been saying for a very long time.

My party, as hon. members will know, has been fighting from the very start against the disastrous cuts the present government is making in the area of culture. We know they were not necessary and were not based on economic considerations. They were merely based on an ideology that does not in any way fit with the values of the people of Canada.

The Conservative government would like to be able to control the content of what our artists have to say abroad, and this is unacceptable. Culture must be free, and never subject to the overview of any government.

It has been clear for a long time that the government knows nothing about culture. Worst still, it views it with suspicion. That is why they have cut such programs as PromArt and Trade Routes. Those programs enabled our artists to take part in international tours and to become known abroad, which is, incidentally, excellent for this country's image. It is also part of what is called cultural diplomacy, while at the same time making a positive contribution to the economy of our country.

As the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada so aptly put it, “Cutting culture makes us invisible to the world.”

The government told us that the programs were cut as a result of an objective revision based on analysis and facts, yet when I asked for copies of these analyses in committee, none were supplied, nothing, no proof whatsoever.

Yet when the committee received and listened to dozens of artists, producers and other creators who benefited from the programs, the message was unanimous. They spoke with one voice, saying these were good programs and were made good use of, as well as meeting the objectives of the Department of Canadian Heritage. We know that these programs helped out numerous troupes and numerous artists who have performed successfully all over the world. Thanks to them, our artists and our artistic troupes, along with the culture of Canada, have been able to gain wide international exposure.

Since these programs have been cut, some tours have been cancelled, jobs have been lost, and dreams have evaporated. We know as well that Canada's image has suffered as a result.

How are we supposed to explain to our international partners that the Canadian government no longer supports its artists when it comes international tours?

What explanation can we give? None. In spite of this, some of our artists decided to go ahead with their tours, even though they knew they would lose money. It was the lesser of two evils. They preferred to lose money on a planned tour than to lose their reputation and credibility by cancelling the tour.

Our artists have always been, and continue to be, Canada's pride on the international stage. How is it even possible that we have placed them in such an embarrassing situation? The government should be ashamed of itself.

I said it before and I will say it again: funding for these programs must be restored. Similarly, why was the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund eliminated? With a budget of just $1.5 million per year, this program resulted in many high-quality documentaries that launched the careers of several independent filmmakers. There is a need for this program and its funding should be restored.

And what about the National Training Program for the Film and Video Sector, a program that will shape the future of our industry in this area? How and where will future producers, directors, filmmakers and artisans in the film and video sector be trained? This program was also absolutely essential and the government has proposed absolutely nothing in its place.

I could go on and on, because the list of programs that were cut by the government is long, much too long. This situation has to be rectified as soon as possible.

I also believe that the Canada Council for the Arts budget should be increased. This organization has a great deal of credibility in the arts community and does absolutely extraordinary work with our creators and artists in all disciplines of the arts and culture sector. There are few organizations that have such a great reputation and have such a positive and beneficial impact on the clients that the Canada Council serves.

Having said that, if the government does not like culture because of what it represents, let it at least acknowledge its extraordinary contribution in terms of economic spinoffs.

Indeed, the arts and culture sector largely contributes to our economy. Exports stemming from this industry increase year after year.

Culture is all that and much more. In fact, we must recognize culture for all that it is and all that it represents. Our culture defines us, it is our identity, it is what we are. I would even say that our culture is our past, our present and also our future.

Beyond numbers and programs, culture is alive. It is fun, stimulating, and inspiring. Just try to imagine a world without music, a world without books, or a world without films.

To have all these things that are so important to us, we need creators, dreamers and artists. These absolutely amazing creators, dreamers and artists are right in front of us. We are fortunate to have them here among us. We are fortunate to have some of the best in the world, people who make Canada and every province proud on the world stage. We are fortunate to have some of the biggest stars in dance, music and theatre.

These people are not asking for handouts or favours. They want programs that will let them keep on giving the best of themselves. They want programs that will let them keep on doing what they do best, which is making us laugh, sometimes making us cry, making us sing, making us dance, making us dream.

A government that invests in culture is a government that has confidence in itself and in its own identity. When we invest in our culture, we are investing in our own quality of life and we are helping to boost the heart and soul of our own society. The Conservatives refuse to recognize this, though, and it is up to each one of us to remind them of it.

Message from the SenatePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following public bill to which the concurrence of this House is desired: Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings).

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

ArtistsPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I, too, rise to support the motion by the hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes.

My constituents have long been supporters, defenders and contributors to our own vibrant arts community. Edmonton—Strathcona is home to a wealth of arts, theatre companies, galleries and events such as, to name a few, the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival; Catalyst Theatre; the Varscona Theatre; Timms Centre for the Arts; la Cité francophone; and Walterdale Playhouse. The TransAlta Arts Barns host countless theatre events for adults and children alike. The University of Alberta drama and fine arts departments in my riding nurture new and emerging talent, and Convocation Hall hosts a myriad of fine music events every year.

My riding is home to countless award-winning film production companies, writers and journalists. For decades, Edmontonians have come to Old Strathcona to enjoy fine jazz at the Yardbird Suite.

Each summer, Edmonton—Strathcona hosts the annual Art Walk, Nextfest, Edmonton Fashion Week, the Improvaganza theatre festival and the Edmonton International Jazz Festival.

On behalf of my constituents, I want to express my appreciation to the government for the marquee tourism events program grant provided to Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. It is an award well deserved, for this theatre event attracts performers and tens of thousands of people every summer from across Canada and across the globe.

I am choosing to ignore the pettiness of the government in not inviting me to the event announcing this grant to this wonderful theatre company based in my constituency and in my very neighbourhood. I always attend, and I intend to this summer.

Last summer I joined 400 artists, painters, poets, actors, filmmakers, musicians and dancers and supporters of the arts who rallied against cuts to arts funding. I continue to support the efforts of Edmonton's arts community in calling for increased funding, respect for and support to the arts. I laud the theatres programs in our schools and regularly attend their theatre performances.

The arts communities contribute substantially to our economy in Canada. They decried the Prime Minister's claim that artists are a privileged lot and the cuts to federal supports for the arts. It appears some of that effort has finally paid off.

In Alberta, the average artist earns about $24,000, less than the poverty line. They have no access to pensions or benefits, yet they write, produce and perform for the love of arts and share those with Canadians.

I look forward to participating in the discussion panel on arts funding sponsored by the Nextfest Emerging Artists Festival this Friday in my constituency.

The community benefits from investments in the arts. The community also benefits from the patrons of the arts who support the local economy by spending dollars in restaurants, cafés and shops throughout the theatre district.

I have been approached by award-winning filmmakers in my riding deeply concerned about the implications to the Canadian independent film production industry by the changes to their funding programs. They expressed concern that in killing the Canadian Television Fund, which historically supported Canadian independent film production, and rolling the dollars into the Canada Media Fund, their work may be jeopardized.

The board of this new fund will apparently include only the cable companies and the federal government. Broadcasters, producers and creators previously represented are being excluded.

Rather than incenting Canadian programs, the new arrangements and policies impose new barriers. In this time of economic recession, the government should be pursuing measures to incent and reward Canadian programming, local programming and our revered CBC.

In closing, I wish to congratulate Roland Pemberton, an Edmonton rap poet and recording artist known as Cadence Weapon, for his appointment as Edmonton's new poet laureate. This 23-year-old is the grandson of the beloved Edmonton Eskimo football star Rollie Miles.

I concur with Edmonton's mayor, Stephen Mandel, who has enthusiastically endorsed the appointment, which The Globe and Mail described as “clearly designed to bring Edmonton poetry from bookshelves to city streets.” It quoted Mayor Mandel as saying:

This guy will bring poetry to a whole new audience, and challenge the rest of us on our conventional perception of what it means to be a poet....

So I say to the government, bring back the funding that was cut to the arts. Restore the funds. In this time of economic recession, we need to be supporting all forms of employment. If we revere the arts, we should give it its due support.

ArtistsPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to point out how ironic it is that this motion on cultural affairs is before us today, June 10, because today is the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages' birthday and I wish him a happy birthday.

I would like to congratulate my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes who moved this motion to bring back the arts and culture programs that were cut last summer by the Conservative government. It also calls for more direct assistance to artists through the Canada Council and an increase in the annual budget of the Canada Council to $300 million.

Furthermore, I would like to thank my colleague for his generosity. He is our party's health critic. His sensitivity to arts and culture is very apparent, given his decision to move this motion.

Concerning the request to reinstate these arts and culture programs, I would like to summarize the timeline. Last summer, in the middle of summer, when everyone was busy grilling on the barbecue, we happened to notice—since there were no announcements—that the heritage minister at the time was slashing seven programs worth $26 million.

These were important programs. Two of them, Trade Routes and PromArt, were crucial in enabling artists from Quebec and Canada to tour abroad, showcase cultural products, give theatrical or dance performances or exhibit their books at shows and fairs.

Trade Routes represents $5 million plus $2 million. There is $2 million that goes directly to artists, who really need this money to export their products, but the other $5 million was like an extension of the department's own budget and was used to send officials to places around the world.

Obviously, what artists are asking is that the $2 million be restored. The department will restore the other $5 million if it sees fit to do so, but this is more an internal decision, because it has more to do with officials.

PromArt represents $4.2 million. Even though the Minister of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly washed his hands of this issue, we know that the Department of Foreign Affairs cut this $4.2 million for PromArt and today is denying any responsibility.

Continuing with this timeline, we returned to the House after the election campaign, which was quite tumultuous, by the way. Artists from Quebec, specifically, questioned this government's role in cultural affairs and caused the Conservative government some grief. Immediately after, the Bloc Québécois, true to its promises, asked questions of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages in this House. We asked him what he had done with the money for artists, the $26 million. Believe it or not, he answered, and this is taken from the November 20 Hansard: “We gave that money to the torch relay.”

The money for artists was given to the Olympic torch relay, which was a nasty thing to do, because it pitted two groups that really need money against each other. Athletes, like artists, need this money, but it was cruel to pit the two groups against each other.

The Bloc Québécois decided to conduct a study in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. That is how we discovered that the cuts were unjustified, since neither the deputy minister nor the minister was able to give us a single line, a single post-it, a single email, a single piece of paper to prove that these cuts were justified. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. One big zero. Not a word to provide a logical, coherent and intelligent justification for the cuts to these programs.

The artists came to the committee and made some truly heartfelt pleas for help. They told us how important it was. Furthermore, CINARS, the International Exchange for the Performing Arts, told us that nearly 2,200 tours will very soon have to be cancelled worldwide. It will be forced to lay off artists and shut down cultural organizations.

How did the Conservative government respond? The Conservative government did not shed a tear, did not offer any apologies, did not even say that it would maybe think about it and that maybe it had made a mistake. It does not understand that either. The Conservative government does not understand that it made a mistake.

It does not understand that this country has a cultural structure. In Quebec, we are very familiar with this structure, but it exists in the rest of Canada as well. And if we remove a single component, the whole structure will crumble. That is what artists from across Quebec told us.

I travelled across Quebec with my colleagues from Verchères—Les Patriotes and Drummond, and we met with artists and cultural organizations. They told us that they had been directly affected and that they had been forced to cancel their tours. Others told us that they had not been directly affected, but that they knew they would feel the impact indirectly. The broadcasting organizations, the cultural centres across Quebec, for example, those that showcase artists, know that they will receive less. In fact, before, dance troops would tour the world for six months, and then tour Quebec for the six remaining months. That will no longer be the case. These dance troops will no longer be able to tour Quebec because they will not have any money.

This minister and this Conservative government do not understood what they have done. They have never wanted to go back and offer something else. What are they offering in exchange? The Canada prizes. This government announced that it would invest $25 million in the Canada prizes that would be handed out in Toronto by two friends from Toronto. No one wants anything to do with these prizes. The promotional document was cut and pasted into the budget and contained mistakes about the partners. The partners identified in the Luminato brochure were not the actual partners. These people had never been contacted or knew barely anything about it.

That is $25 million wasted on the Canada prizes. What did the minister say, in this House, in reply to my questions three months ago? He said that we would soon know what would happen with the Canada prizes and that he would present his project. That was three months ago. Have we heard anything? Have we seen a document, or a piece of paper, a Post-it note, or email? We never even received a text message, nothing. It starts with an “n” and ends with an “a”: nada. I have seen nothing about these Canada prizes, which no one wants except two guys from Toronto.

It is evident that the minister and the Conservative government do not understand. Do they not like culture? I do not know. Quite frankly, I cannot even answer that question. Is it because they do not like it? They do not understand that artists are not there to please them. Artists do not exist to do a little jig for them and make them laugh once in a while. Artists are not clowns. They can be, and it can be very amusing, but most artists want to share the joy and emotions they feel in their souls. They often want to challenge the established order of things.

That is what the government did not like about Trade Routes and PromArt. Those artists had names. There was a rock group, for example, with a name I will not repeat here in the House because I would be thrown out immediately if I did. It is a four-letter word that starts with an f. It was entertaining, and its rock music was actually pretty good. But the government did not think it was good. There were two or three things like that that upset the sense of order the Conservatives established or wanted to establish. The government does not understand that. It does not understand that culture is not just a concert with some nice dancers in the background. Culture is more than that. Yes, it is that too, yes, it is interesting movies, musical comedies and comedies, but it is not just that. It can also be extraordinary films like the one that won 20-year-old Xavier Dolan three prizes at Cannes.

In closing, I would like to say that my tour around Quebec was extremely important to everyone. Artists and cultural organizations are all too aware that the Conservatives do not understand and that the Liberals are no better. The Liberals were the ones who cut $400 million from CBC/Radio-Canada's budget. The Liberals were the ones who cut $65 million from Canadian Heritage's budget, including $10 million from the Canada Council for the Arts. The Liberals are no better.

There was consensus; people were practically unanimous. The government has to provide more funding to artists, restore funding programs, and transfer arts and culture responsibilities to the Government of Quebec. That is where things happen. We are a nation and we want control over all aspects of our identity, including arts and culture.

ArtistsPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.


James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Madam Speaker, I was not originally on the schedule to speak, but I heard this debate and I had to jump in the pool and swim a little with my colleagues who want to engage in a debate on this subject and I am very pleased to do so. We are debating Motion No. 297, a private member's motion moved by a member of the Bloc Québécois. There are a number of reasons to vote against this motion.

The motion reads in part:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should give direct assistance to artists by increasing the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts to $300 million and should roll back the cuts it announced in the cultural sector--

First of all, the figure of $300 million is rather arbitrary. I should note that it was our Conservative government that has increased funding in support of arts and culture in this country in every single one of our budgets.

The member of the Bloc Québécois just stood in the House and questioned whether or not the Conservatives believe in the arts. Of course we do.

In a time of international economic difficulty and economic recession, this Conservative government made the decision to invest more money into our communities, more money into museums, more money into arts training programs, more money into culture in this country, because we recognize the value of it to our economy and to the quality of life of Canadians.

This country's arts and culture industry employs over 650,000 Canadians, that is $46 billion to our economy. It is one of the largest industries in this country. It speaks to who we are as a people. It speaks to us as a country. It improves the quality of life of communities and of Canadians. It tells the great stories of our past and allows us to imagine a better future. Arts and culture is absolutely a key element to the future health of this country.

That is why our Conservative government has increased support for arts and culture by 8%. Every single one of the three opposition parties in the House in their speeches said that the Conservatives have cut arts and culture. It is not true. It is to mislead to stand in the House and to say that the Conservatives have cut culture. We have increased it in every single one of our budgets.

With regard to the subject matter of the motion, which is the Canada Council for the Arts, our government has increased funding to record levels, $181 million this year. Joe Rotman, the chair of the Canada Council, said our investments are “proof that the federal government supports the arts” through our funding of the Canada Council. The Canada Council understands that our government is making investments that are important to the future of artists across this country.

My Bloc Québécois colleague, the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, talked about the importance of touring. We understand the importance of supporting our artists on the international stage. That is why our government invested $22 million this year to help our artists on the international stage. That is an unprecedented amount.

She wants us to reinstate the Trade Routes program. That is what the motion we are debating calls for. Trade Routes is a $7 million program. Thus, it would cost $5 million to obtain $2 million in benefits. That is clear.

When I appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, she asked me these questions. I told her I was prepared to defend all of our decisions, but she was not interested.

She was not interested. In every single one of the decisions that was made in the strategic review of last June, I was prepared to go through item by item on every single one of them for as long as the committee wanted to sit and talk about it. I was prepared to talk about why the decisions were made, how much money was reallocated and why we are getting better value for taxpayers' dollars by investing in arts and culture. They were not interested in it, because unfortunately, parliamentary committees have become an extension of question period. Reasonable debate, thorough analysis and being able to speak for longer than one or two sentences are almost not possible any more in our parliamentary committees. That is unfortunate because there are a lot of good things to say.

The Canada Council for the Arts is an important institution in this country. These are artists deciding the investments with respect to other artists, artists helping artists. The government takes its hands off and makes an investment, and artists support artists through a peer review process that is well regarded and well respected. The Auditor General has examined the Canada Council. It has always been held in high regard, and the Auditor General has affirmed that assessment.

It is because the Canada Council does such a good job of investing in the best interests of Canadians through the arts that we have increased the money for the Canada Council to $181 million, a record level for the Canada Council. It was the Bloc Québécois that voted against it. Now the Bloc members stand in the House of Commons and put forward a motion saying that we should increase the budget for the Canada Council to $300 million. It is at $181 million this year. We have increased it to that level. They voted against it.

The Bloc put forward a private member's motion. If the Bloc members really believed in what they were talking about, they would have put forward an amendment to the budget. They would have put money where their mouths are. Instead, they put forward an empty motion that means nothing, so that the Bloc Québécois members can say in their flyers and newsletters in their districts that they are great members of Parliament, and they stood up for the arts and put forward a motion to increase funding for the Canada Council.

If the Bloc believed in arts and culture, it would be in the Bloc Québécois action plan that it presented in April. There is not a single word on arts and culture in its platform. If the Bloc believed in arts and culture, it would have been a centrepiece of the Liberal-Bloc-NDP coalition. It was not mentioned at all in the governing coalition that the Bloc Québécois wanted to lead.

Instead, there is a motion to increase funding to $300 million. That and 50¢ will get us a cup of coffee, but when push comes to shove, when it comes to standing up for the arts, it is our Conservative government that in every single budget has increased funding for arts and culture, overall by 8% and the Canada Council up to $181 million. That is record funding.

Not only that, but I will talk about some of the other things we have done. Cultural Spaces is an important part. We talk in our economic action plan about the importance of investing in infrastructure, such as bridges and tunnels. It is about projects that improve not only the productivity of our economy but improve again the quality of life of Canadians.

We said that we were going to increase funding for Cultural Spaces, $60 million over two years. That is a massive increase in the budget for Cultural Spaces. That money is going to go to projects that will improve the quality of life of Canadians.

It is not just through Cultural Spaces. We have made all kinds of investments across the board on cultural infrastructure.

The Quartier des spectacles was a key project, one that was very important for the City of Montreal. We spoke with the mayor of Montreal, Mr. Tremblay. We had meetings and discussions, and we reached an agreement with him. The Conservative government is delivering the goods for the City of Montreal.

Where was the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert? Where was Gilles Duceppe? Gilles Duceppe, member of Parliament from downtown Montreal did nothing--

ArtistsPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would like to remind the hon. minister that he must refrain from naming sitting members.

ArtistsPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Of course, Madam Speaker. The leader of the Bloc Québécois and all of his colleagues, those who were elected in downtown Montreal, where were they? They did not stand and vote. They did not support the Quartier des spectacles, an important project in downtown Montreal that will make the Montreal Jazz Festival an even greater international attraction, that will support the cultural infrastructure of Montreal. They were nowhere to be seen.

That is the track record of the Bloc Québécois. I am getting a little sick and tired, after nine years of being in this House, that again and again the Bloc Québécois is totally ineffective, totally posturing with things like this, an empty motion which, at the end of the day, will mean nothing. And when it matters, in standing up for Quebec, for the Quartier des spectacles, in voting for a budget that increases funding for arts and culture and doing what will improve the quality of life of their constituents, the Bloc Québécois members would rather put forward empty motions, make empty speeches, make empty promises, put forward useless platforms, make all kinds of noise and in the end do absolutely nothing for Quebec and for Canadian culture.

ArtistsPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I am proud to stand here on behalf of my party, the NDP, to support the motion put forward by the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes and seconded by the member for Laval.

As my colleague for Edmonton—Strathcona said, we recognize a number of aspects of the motion as being very important, for example, the call for an increase in the direct assistance given to artists by increasing the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts to $300 million, noting that the government should not roll back the cuts it announced in the culture sector and that it should restore funding for a number of programs, including the arts promotion program, trade routes, the national training program for the film and video sector and many more programs that are very important to our arts community.

One of the ways in which I truly understand the importance of the arts in our country is by knowing what it means to the community from which I come. I was born and raised in Thompson, a mid-sized mining town in the north of Manitoba, about 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg. When people heard about where I came from, they thought about the mining industry. They thought of people working hard. Certainly, our community is made up of a lot of hard-working people.

However, what people from away often failed to recognize was the vibrancy of our community and how, in many ways, this vibrancy was a result of how active so many people were in the arts. This was in the visual arts, music, film, theatre and all sorts of ways. Those aspects of the community were what contributed to so many of the positive influences I had growing up. I know many people who make Thompson and northern Manitoba their home have had those positive influences as well.

One of the things that concerns my party and I a great deal is the disregard of the government for the arts. We have heard quite a bit about money and specifically the numbers, but what we are really concerned about is the mentality that has been at the bottom of many of the decisions as to which programs would and would not be funded. This motion points to that.

For example, in my riding artists are calling out for increased supports. In fact, just two weeks ago, I attended the northern juried art show in Thompson, which brought together artists from Norway House, Flin Flon, the Pas and all across northern Manitoba to showcase their visual arts. It was so exciting to see so much talent. However, one of the ongoing themes was the challenges that northern artists faced in being able to produce and sell their work and network with other artists, given our distance from the main hubs. In our case, it would be Winnipeg.

They talked about the need for greater access to broadband Internet, something to which we are still waiting for the government to respond. They were talking about the need for increased grants. Specifically, first nations artists have referenced this, given the fact that many of them come from communities that do not have an economic base and are unable to access employment in many cases. In order to be involved with their art, they need some sort of income to drive them in what they do.

I think of the art of Jasyn Lucas, who I am very proud to say I grew up with, and of Teresa Burrows, an amazing woman artist in our community who has done great work with northern women. I think of the Flin Flon Arts Council, which has brought together people from all across our region and does a lot of great work in Flin Flon to showcase singing and theatrical arts. I think of the talented musicians coming from our region, such as Tracy Bone, Highway 373, Prodiggy and Hayley McDonald.

The latest are young people who come from communities such as Nelson House, Cross Lake and Norway House. These people, despite the challenges they face, find they are able to not just entertain, but to become stronger individuals through their art. As I noted, they certainly entertain the rest of us whose talents may not lay in this area.

One thing that comes up every time we either have a chance to admire this art or listen to these musicians is how important it is for our smaller communities to have access to such artists and how important it is for us to support such artists.

I noted a few of the challenges that artists have spoken to, but I also want to focus a bit on what the opportunities would be to support the arts in the region I represent in northern Manitoba. I will specifically talk a bit about first nations communities. I have risen in the House many times to talk about the lack of extracurricular activities available to first nations youth.

We already know the high indicators in gang and criminal activities in which so many young aboriginal people become involved. Many friends of mine and many young people across the region have said that they need recreational activities to keep their young people busy and to keep them away from the negative kinds of activities.

Oftentimes, perhaps because we are such a proud country in terms of our sports, and we are certainly a proud hockey nation, one of the things we miss is how important it is to encourage the arts in our communities. First nations have been calling for money for recreation, not just for sports but also for the arts, recognizing that arts activities, whether it is music, visual arts or film and film production, would be positive, inspirational and would keep young people excited about their lives.

I mentioned some of the high rates of negative activity in which so many young people get involved. I also come from a region with very high suicide rates among aboriginal people. The need for alternatives and supports in their communities is absolutely real. So many have called out for the arts, in terms of a way that young people can be excited, become empowered and also contribute to their communities.

I remember meeting with youth leaders from the Island Lake area, one of the areas that is unfortunately dealing with what might be termed as the H1N1 pandemic. I met with them a couple of months ago in their community. One young man came up to me and told me that his dream was to become involved in multimedia, specifically documentaries.

From what I understand, there have been cutbacks and a diversion of funding away from some of the supports documentary filmmakers could receive, which concerns me. This young man has a dream. With all the technology we have here today, it should not be that difficult to provide the appropriate grants for young people like this young man so they can follow their dreams. It is absolutely incumbent on us as parliamentarians to listen to what these young people say and recognize their connection and their interest in the arts.

One of the ways in which the arts have been attacked is the cuts to the CBC. I am very proud of the region I come from and the work we did to save our CBC station. I appreciate the recognition that the CBC gave to CBC North Country and CBC Keewatin Country in Saskatchewan. It recognized how important these two stations were for our region and that they ought to be kept open.

However, I am also aware of the cuts in other northern regions, northern Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and generally in Atlantic Canada. This really concerns me. We know the extent to which our public broadcaster supports the arts and provides a venue for artists to promote their work and for Canadians to get to know their work, whether it is literary, music, theatre or whatever it might be. By cutting at the voice for so many artists and by cutting at the venue by which we as Canadians get to hear about the work they do, we are damaging the arts community.

I am very concerned about the government's demonstrated lack of support for the CBC. I recognize that is a big part of how we ought to be supporting the arts.

I would like to note again our support for the motion. We hope the government will recognize just how important the arts are to all our communities.

ArtistsPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to speak this evening on Motion M-297, presented by my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes. It calls upon the government to, on the one hand, roll back the cuts it announced to various programs in the cultural sector and to restore funding for these programs to their fiscal 2008-2009 levels, and on the other hand, to provide direct assistance to artists by increasing the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts to $300 million.

The minister who spoke a few moments ago tells us that we never mentioned this before. Every day, he tables in the House, or shows—and he is not entitled do so, moreover—the two recommendations from the Bloc Québécois recovery program. The recovery plan I am holding, dated November 24, 2008, on page 5, document 20, tells us that the immediate measures called for by the Bloc are the restoration of cultural programs, which is exactly what we are talking about.

The minister also says that he has done so much for Quebec culture that it is astounding. No doubt that is why the Conservative Party is now polling lower than the NDP in Quebec. Everyone is just so thrilled with what has happened to culture.

The truth is that, during the month of August 2008, seven federal government funding programs for culture were abolished, these being the Arts Promotion Program, Trade Routes, National Training Program for the Film and Video Sector, New Media Research Networks Fund, Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, Canada Feature Film Fund and Canadian Music Memories Program.

As we have always said, this is definitely a purely ideological decision by the government, because it has never been able, despite repeated calls from all opposition parties to do so, to provide even the tiniest bit of a cost-benefit analysis to prove the inefficiency of those programs. Lots of fine talk, but nothing in black and white. This is really a matter of nickel and diming, since we are talking in total of a measly million or so out of a budget of billions, all for culture.

Quebec is, moreover, by far the hardest hit by these cuts. According to figures from the International Exchange for the Performing Arts, CINARS, 40% of funding to Trade Routes and 68% of funding to PromArt in 2006 and 2007 went to Quebec companies. These cuts hit cultural export activities particularly hard: PromArt, at $4.2 million, and Trade Routes, at $2 million, really have no equivalent anywhere else.

Quebec culture, just like Canadian culture, absolutely has to be exported in order to prosper because the local market is too small to ensure its survival. For example, if an artist like Christine Brouillet, an author with a large audience, were to settle for the Quebec market of six million people, she would not earn a living. She needs the entire francophonie market, where she can sell many more books to make a living.

That is why any reduction in support for exporting jeopardizes the very survival of culture in Quebec. My colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes, who has already spoken about this, just completed a tour of Quebec with our colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. I tagged along for one day. All arts-related organizations told them just how much the cuts hurt them and often even wondered whether they would survive as an organization.

To improve funding for artists, the Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres and the Bloc Québécois have been asking for more than five years that the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts be increased to $300 million per year. This would have a direct effect on the income of many artists, which is still below the poverty line, and would also have positive repercussions for community enrichment. We know that culture is profitable. In times of economic crisis, we should not cut back on profitable activities, we should invest in them.

Culture in Quebec represents 314,000 jobs. This economic sector provides 171,000 direct jobs to which must be added the indirect jobs.

In a 2008 document entitled Valuing Culture: Measuring and Understanding Canada’s Creative Economy, which the Minister of Canadian Heritage should probably read, the Conference Board states that the multiplier for the cultural sector is 1.84, which means 314,000 jobs, or 171,000 direct jobs multiplied by 1.84, which adds up to 314,000 jobs.

In Canada, according to the Conference Board, the cultural industry produces some $85 billion in direct and indirect benefits, or 7.5% of Canada's gross domestic product. Clearly, it is not a minor industry. Some 1.1 million people make their living from jobs in the cultural industry alone. Yet the industry's funding is being cut in the middle of an economic crisis.

Tens of thousands of middle-class families earn their living from jobs in the cultural sector, and the average income from such jobs in Quebec in 2005 was $32,000.

In Montreal, in 2005 alone, culture generated $1.4 billion in economic spinoffs and was growing at a rate of 4.7% per year. That is not peanuts.

How many tax dollars did culture contribute to federal, provincial and municipal coffers in 2007? Nearly $25 billion. That is three times more than all governments, taken together, contributed to culture last year. Clearly, there is money to be made, and the government gets back three times more than it invests.

During our tour, we found that the arts community was not the only one criticizing cuts to culture. Members of the business community, people who know their numbers and can do cost accounting and profit analysis, were critical of the cuts too.

Among those criticizing the government were Isabelle Hudon, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, Marcel Côté, founding partner of the SECOR Group, Bernard Lamarre, one of the wealthiest men in Quebec, of SNC-Lavalin, and Hélène Desmarais, chair of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

These are business people who know that the arts are important and profitable. They are calling on the government to continue investing in the arts.

Internationally, we see proof every day that culture can be very profitable.

Take, for example, Guy Laliberté, who became a multi-billionaire—billionaire, not millionaire— just 25 years after building Cirque du Soleil from scratch and with the help of a grant from René Lévesque's discretionary budget.

Today, thousands of people work for Cirque du Soleil under excellent working conditions. Almost all the shows in Las Vegas are by Cirque du Soleil, which continues to go by its French name, even in Las Vegas. It is not called Circus of the Sun; it is called Cirque du Soleil.

There is the show Mystère at the Treasure Island hotel; , which based on martial arts, at the MGM Grand hotel; Zumanity, a slightly sexier show, at the New York, New York hotel; Believe, with a lot of magic, at the Luxor hotel; O, at the Bellagio hotel; and Love, at the Mirage hotel.

That is what happens when we decide to invest in culture. All of this started with the presentation of a show called La Nouba at Walt Disney World in Orlando. As we speak, Cirque du Soleil is developing an Elvis Presley show that will be shown at City Center in Las Vegas.

Let us not forget Celine Dion, of course, who over the years has shattered all the show and earnings records at Caesars Palace.

I must also mention Robert Lepage, who plays throughout the world, or Luc Plamondon, whose musicals, like Starmania or Notre Dame de Paris, are featured around the world.

There is also Xavier Dolan—whom my colleague mentioned— who was the producer, writer and director of the movie J'ai tué ma mère, also known as I Killed my Mother, a film that won a number of awards in Cannes a few weeks ago. His movie has been sold in 14 countries, including the United States, England and France, but Telefilm Canada refused to invest one red cent.

While English-speaking Canadians are too often willing to adopt American culture as their own, Quebeckers know that their culture is profitable and is at the very heart of their identity. They support this culture in any way that they can.

They expect the government to do the same, and that is why we are here today to support this motion.

ArtistsPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would ask the hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes to close the debate.